ABC RADIO NATIONAL WITH JONATHAN GREEN
WEDNESDAY, 23 APRIL 2014
SUBJECT / S: Commission of Cuts; Abbott Government GP Tax; Rebuilding Labor.
JONATHAN GREEN: Bill Shorten is the Leader of the Opposition and joins us now. Mr Shorten, good evening.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good evening Jonathan.
GREEN: Now, Joe Hockey says tonight that the demand for government programs is outstripping funding, and the Coalition inherited an unsustainable budget position. Is Labor to blame for that?
SHORTEN: I think that the only case for change which the Abbott Government is going to make for the budget is the case to break their promises and their twisted priorities. The Commission of Audit will be an alibi constructed by the Government to justify breaking the promises that they made to the Australian people before the last election.
GREEN: Surely something has to be done. This is not just the Government here, the IMF for example agrees with the Government’s assessment of its position, that spending is outstripping sustainable revenue. Surely something has to be done to address that problem.
SHORTEN: Well this is a Government with twisted priorities. If they’re truly concerned about tackling spending, why on earth are they inflicting upon Australia a $22 billion paid parental leave scheme which will see multi-millionaires receive $75,000? The challenge for the Government is to justify why they’re going to break promises they made at the last election.
GREEN: The Government would argue that parental leave scheme is fully funded by a tax on relevant businesses.
SHORTEN: Great, so the Abbott Government on one hand says that they’re not going to raise taxes, they say that they won’t touch the pension, they say that they’re on everyone’s side before the election. But after the election they’re slugging mums and dads a new tax to take their kids to the doctor, they’re telling people in their 60s they’re going to have to keep working on. By the same token, they’ve got these twisted priorities of a paid parental leave scheme which is excessively generous and will provide some people with $75,000 of taxpayer-funded paid parental leave.
GREEN: They say that their priority would be to get spending under control to bring the budget closer to balance. Shouldn’t they target the age pension, shouldn’t they target things like Medicare co-payments?
SHORTEN: They should be upfront with the Australian people before an election. Tony Abbott, when he wanted people’s vote, said on no less than nine occasions over a 30-day campaign period that he wouldn’t increase the pension, sorry, that he wouldn’t touch the pension. And in fact it appears that they’re building the case to do just that. Before the election they said ‘no new taxes’, and now they’re saying ‘well, you don’t pay extra taxes if you’re a millionaire getting paid parental leave, but you will if you want to take your children to the doctor’.
GREEN: Do you concede that there’s a problem around the balance of the budget?
SHORTEN: I concede that hard decisions have to be made. I don’t concede though that in the name of hard decisions, that the Abbott Government is allowed to break promises they specifically and clearly made in an election.
GREEN: Is this the right time of the Government to be committing to a $12 billion program to buy joint strike fighters?
SHORTEN: Well the purchase of defence procurement for weapons platforms for these aeroplanes which are meant to last us 40 years is not a small decision, it’s an ongoing process across governments and across parties. I would submit though, that this is not the right time for the Abbott Government to introduce a GP Tax, to introduce a $75,000 paid parental leave scheme for some Australians. So I believe that this is a Government whose priorities are wrong.
GREEN: Mr Shorten, a big speech yesterday on ALP reform, are you confident of seeing your proposals through the various state conferences?
SHORTEN: I am. Labor needs to rebuild. The Australian electorate need to see that Labor has changed, that we are stronger then what we were, that we are strong enough to run the case for better jobs for Australians in the future, for proper health care, for proper education policies. In order to do that Labor needs to demonstrate that we are a membership based party, not a faction based party, that we will be fielding through our pre-selection processes the best candidates possible to help guide Australian into the future, and that we will want and attract people across all walks of life. I’m confident that the case for rebuilding is one which people within the Labor Party will support. I’m also confident that more people will join the Labor Party as a result of the rebuilding process.
GREEN: While unions still have 50 per cent of votes at conferences?
SHORTEN: The real challenge here is, the test to apply is Labor rebuilding, is it genuine? The answer I would submit to that test is that we are taking power from some people who exercise it and sharing it with more people. For the Labor Party to aspire for Australia to be a confident, outward looking, democratic, progressive country, then the Labor Party itself needs to be outward looking, confident and democratic. What I’m seeking to do is redistribute power from some people who exercise it to more people, and in doing so we want Australians to become re-engaged with the political process.
GREEN: Let me read you a bit of the ALP Constitution; “the Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange to the extent necessary to eliminate the exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields.” Is a commitment to the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange what modern voters want from the ALP?
SHORTEN: What modern voters want from the Labor Party is a democratic party which represents people from all walks of life which is focused on the important issues in Australian society; fairness, social justice, the creation of good jobs in the future for people, a quality health care system universally accessible to all, quality options for education for children from pre-school right through to adult life.
GREEN: Do you have the authority to remove the socialist objective from your constitution?
SHORTEN: Our constitution is what it is, I’m interested in the Labor Party rebuilding for the future. We will engage all our members in a discussion about our policies, our platform and our values. One thing I’m completely sure about; the speech I gave yesterday about rebuilding Labor is about sharing power amongst more people, and the democratic contract that we are entering into with people who are interested in being involved with politics in Australia.
GREEN: Just one last point Bill Shorten, Clive Palmer yesterday saying that he’s likely to aid the Government in its move to repeal the carbon tax. If that happened and if the Government packaged this Direct Action proposals as part of budget appropriations would you support them in the Senate?
SHORTEN: Well there’s plenty of ifs in that question, I’ll give you some definites. One is, climate change is real. Two, the Abbott Government are sceptics or people who want to spend a lot of taxpayer money on big polluters, who are really still sceptics. And the third thing is, their Direct Action policy has no support among anyone who has considered these issues seriously. In terms of what the Senate does, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he wouldn’t negotiate with minor parties, that he wouldn’t do deals, he criticised Labor in the last term for doing that. I’ll be watching with great interest to see if Tony Abbott, just like on his election promises, says one thing before the election and does another afterwards.
GREEN: Bill Shorten, thanks for your time.
SHORTEN: Thanks, have a lovely evening.
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