FRIDAY, 16 MAY 2014
SUBJECT / S: The Abbott Government’s Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities; Tony Abbott’s Broken Promise to Pensioners.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: After a long week in parliament seeing the disaster and cruel cuts and the broken promises and the lies of the Abbott Government, it is a breath of fresh air to come back to the real world, talk to real people and hear their issues. But it's clear through talking to these pensioners that pensioners are scared of the Abbott Government. It is not the job of the Abbott Government to be the chief fear monger, the chief cause of anxiety at night for millions of Aussie pensioners. Pensioners are worried that Tony Abbott is so out of touch that he’s putting new taxes on their cost of living. Last night in the Budget Reply, on behalf of the great Australian Labor Party, I spoke to Australians, and I've said to Australians on behalf of the Labor Party, on behalf of the pensioners, on behalf of lower and middle-income earners, that if Tony Abbott wants to attack pensioners, he’ll have to come through me and the Labor Party first. If Tony Abbott wants to increase the cost of living on low and middle-income earners in Australia, the families of Australia, Tony Abbott will have to come through me and the Labor Party to do so. If Tony Abbott wants to attack universal Medicare for all, with a new GP tax, he will have to come through me and the Labor Party. We are determined that Tony Abbott's bleak vision, built upon broken promises and lies before the election, will not create a permanent underclass in this country. We will fight and fight Tony Abbott's bad ideas, his broken promises, and his lies. I’d like to just invite my colleague, Jenny Macklin, our shadow spokesperson on pensions and families to add some comments.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill. We've just heard from a group of pensioners here today who are very frightened by Tony Abbott's Budget. Bill Shorten and Labor have made it absolutely plain to pensioners today that we will oppose Tony Abbott's cuts to the pension, to the age pension, to the disability pension, to the carer pension. All of these pensions Tony Abbott wants to cut, Labor will protect these pensioners and make sure that pensioners have got enough to live on to have a decent standard of living. We also heard from the pensioners here today that they don't want the next generation of hard-working Australians having to work until they're 70. So Labor will make sure that we keep the age pension age where it's going to be. We will not agree to the increase to the age pension age to 70. That would take it too far, it would make Australia the standout country in the developed world, we would end up with the highest age pension age in the developed world, and Labor will not agree to it.
SHORTEN: Thanks. We're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can Labor successfully block an increase in the fuel excise, or will it be in an appropriation bill that will leave you unable to vote on that?
SHORTEN: Well, Tony Abbott shouldn't be breaking his promises. He lied to the Australian people on numerous occasions in those vital days and weeks before the last federal election. Tony Abbott crossed his heart and said, "You can trust Tony Abbott not to break your promises." And what he said is that there’d be no new taxes. Then after the election, when he’s in power, he’s forgotten all his promises. He has systematically and wilfully lied, so there is no way that Labor is going to vote to award Tony Abbott's lies to the Australian people, especially on a measure like a new petrol tax which will push up the cost of living for every motorist, for every Australian family. In terms of the success of Mr Abbott's big petrol tax on all Australians, it would appear that the Greens have said that they will vote for it, but we would just say to Australian motorists and Australian families, we will fight to keep the cost of living pressures off your back. The job of the nation's Budget is not to muck up the family budget.
JOURNALIST: What is your position on the debt levy for high-income earners?
SHORTEN: Well, the debt levy, and the Abbott Government, they’ve never seen a set of weasel words that they wouldn't try to pick up and offer to the Australian public. The debt levy is a new tax, it’s a 2 per cent tax being added onto the highest marginal rate of tax. The debt levy is a new income tax on people who earn more than $180,000. It is a broken promise. It is a broken promise about new taxes. It was a lie before the election, and now the lie has been proven. But in terms of where Labor fights, our priority is to stand up for the pensioners, for the people who will get hit by the new GP tax going to the doctor, for the working-class kids, for the country kids, for the children from modest means and who want to go to university who’s Tony Abbott's cuts will stop them from going to university. We will put our priority in terms of fighting for cost of living and keeping that down. In terms of the debt levy, we haven't got a final position, but what I promise every Australian is that we will not surrender on defending our pensioners, on defending sick people who want to go to the doctor who shouldn't have to pay an additional tax, and we will not surrender the fight that Tony Abbott’s doing about increasing the cost of living for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: When do you intend to make a decision on the debt levy and your position on it?
SHORTEN: Well, their legislation’s not even in the Parliament. I notice today reports that their initial debt levy can be gamed because of loopholes in the system. So, this is a government who, in their rush to break their promises, probably hasn't even got some of the detail right. But let me be really straight with the Australian people: Our priority of what we're going to oppose, our priority, Labor's priorities because we believe in universal Medicare, we believe in protecting pensioners from mean Abbott, right-wing government’s and we will also stand up for cost of living pressures on ordinary families. That is where our priorities sit.
JOURNALIST: What about the federal government’s share of concession payments, is that another area where pensioners and families and students can again be hit which hasn't got as much coverage as some of the others?
MACKLIN: Well, there are so many issues in this Budget that are very serious, and particularly for Australia's pensioners, and you're right, the national partnership on concessions is being abolished, unilaterally by Tony Abbott in this Budget. And that means the help that pensioners get, whether it's with the cost of their rates, the cost of their bills, the money that previously came from the Federal Government is being cut in this Budget. So we’ll get to all of these issues, but the principle, as outlined by Bill Shorten, is that we will do everything to protect pensioners. We know that pensioners find it difficult already to make ends meet, let alone making it any harder. Tony Abbott is saying to pensioners, "You've got to tighten your belt. Keep tightening your belt." If Tony Abbott's indexation method for the aged pension had applied over the last four years, pensioners would be $1,500 worse off. That's what Tony Abbott's cut means in real money for Australian pensioners.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, would Labor consider negotiating for a lower charge on the Medicare co-payment?
SHORTEN: No, Labor does not support putting a tax on sick people to go to the doctor. Of course there are health costs in the system which need to be dealt with, but the Labor way, the way I believe, is that you sit down and you work through changes with clinicians, the people at the front line of the health service in the room while you're working out the changes. We've got no time for extra taxes on people going to the doctor, and let me also be really, really direct, why on earth is the Abbott Government turning our GPs, small businesses, our GPs, the front line, into unpaid tax collectors for the Abbott Government?
The other big problem in his whole approach on health is he is cutting $50 billion out of hospital funding’s to the states over the next 10 years. Tony Abbott is going to starve the hospitals of Australia so he forces the states as a Trojan horse to demand an increase to the GST. Mr Abbott has got no ticker. If he wants to increase the GST, come out and have that debate.
I might not have voted for John Howard, but at least he had the courage of his convictions to argue the case. Tony Abbott is trying to blackmail the states by wrecking the hospitals and wrecking the schools, starving them of money, then bang, they've got to go and ask for an increased GST. Tony Abbott is shifty. He doesn't want his fingerprints on the GST debate, he doesn't want to get any of the blame, but he just wants Australians to pay more, and that is one of the many reasons why putting a new tax on sick people is a sick idea.
JOURNALIST: Here in the western suburbs there is a particularly high level of socio-economic disadvantage, including in your own electorate.
JOURNALIST: How will Tony Abbott's Budget impact particularly on the western suburbs of Melbourne?
SHORTEN: Tony Abbott's Budget is even worse for parts of Australia who have got poorer health outcomes already. The front line medical professionals in the western suburbs of Melbourne are already stretched. Now they've got to become tax collectors. The people in the western suburbs of Melbourne are proud, but a lot don't have a lot of disposable income from fortnight to fortnight. There will be people in the western suburbs of Melbourne who will make choices not to go and get their diabetes checked on a regular basis, not to follow up the osteoporosis. If their kids have got chronic asthma, they will have to make choices: ‘do I have enough for a can of baked beans or the power bill or do I go to the doctor for that extra visit?’ Tony Abbott knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and he is dangerous for the health of people in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
MACKLIN: I might just add something on family payments. As Bill Shorten outlined there are very serious impacts from the changes to health care, but the other big hit on families is going to come from the cuts to family payments. For a family on a family budget with one earner of $65,000, if Tony Abbott gets his way That family will be around $1600 worse off in the coming year. In two years' time, that family will be $6,000 worse off, that's a family with two children, earning $65,000 with a single income earner. This is the result of his cuts to family payments, the introduction of a new GP tax, the introduction of a new fuel tax. All of these changes mean that families in a couple of years' time will be $6,000 worse off, as a result of Tony Abbott's cuts.
SHORTEN: No other questions? Alright. Thanks, everyone. Have a nice day.
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