Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Ashfield - Labor Cost of Living Committee; Iraq;






SUBJECT/S: Labor Cost of Living Committee; Iraq; National security; Abbott Government’s unfair Budget; Abbott Government back down on 40 job applications a month; Cost of prescription medicine.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I think all of us who have seen today the work that Bill Crews and his marvellous team of staff and volunteers do, feeding hundreds of people today at lunchtime shows you that there are real pressures and stresses in our community. That’s why I’m here today with Terri Butler, the Member for Griffith, Chair of our Caucus Committee on Cost of Living, and Senator Sam Dastyari, Secretary for that Committee.


Labor is greatly concerned that Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget continues to wreak havoc on the vulnerable, on ordinary families, on people who are doing it tough. As fantastic as it is to see Bill Crews and his team feeding hundreds of people from morning to lunch to night, fantastic as it is to see Bill Crews and his team lifting up the lives of little children, eight and nine and 10 and 11, and helping teach them to read – the children that fall through the cracks – surely there’s got to be a better way of running this country.


That’s why when Tony Abbott keeps insisting on backing in his unfair Budget, he is doing a great disservice to Australia. That’s why when Tony Abbott and his spokesmen get out and about and say that they will look at new taxes, that they will look at new cuts and tough measures, I really worry where this country is going under an Abbott Government.


Families are feeling cost of living pressure, ordinary Australians are. It’s time that the Abbott Government just dropped its push to put a new GP tax on the sick, to [decrease] the pension, to slug working class and middle class kids $100,000 for going to university, to increasing taxes on petrol. There is a cost of living pressure in this country which the Abbott Government is missing and we see it here today, and I’m very grateful to Bill Crews and his team for the work they do.


What I’d like to do now is ask Terri Butler, the Chair of our Caucus Committee, to say some words in terms of Labor’s push to tackle cost of living, and then I’ll ask Senator Sam Dastyari to also talk about Labor’s push to make sure cost of living pressures aren’t unfair on ordinary Australians. I’ll hand over to Terri now.


TERRI BUTLER, MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH: When it comes to cost of living pressures on households, Labor is listening. That’s why our Caucus Cost of Living Committee is listening to people across the country about the pressure on households, about the pressure on pensioners, about the pressure on families, about the pressures that everyone is facing.


As part of our national efforts to listen to Australians about the cost of living, we’re today launching a call for submissions. If you’re feeling cost of living pressures, please tell us your story. You can get in touch with our Committee via Labor’s website, and we welcome submissions from everyone.


Labor is listening on cost of living, we want to hear from you about your story. We know that the new GP tax proposal is putting further concern and worry on households already struggling to make ends meet. We know that the petrol tax is making people concerned about the already high public transport and existing private transport costs. We know that the proposition to make it much more expensive to go to university is worrying people, because cost of living isn’t just about the pressures on households today, it’s about whether your kids are going to share in our nation’s prosperity down the track.


That’s why, because of those concerns and because people are very worried and under pressure, we’re out listening to people when it comes to cost of living. I’m very grateful to Bill, who’s been doing a fantastic job listening to families on cost of living, for giving us the opportunity to conduct our listening that we’re doing at the moment. I’m also really grateful to Sam Dastyari and I’ll ask Sam to make some comments.


SAM DASTYARI, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Thanks Terri, thanks Bill. Look we are travelling around the country, we are speaking to different groups, we are speaking to different organisations, we are visiting places like the Exodus Foundation where we’re at today and really looking at developing as many ideas as we can to be able to take to the next ALP National Conference and on behalf of Bill and the leadership team present some alternative ideas. And that’s the process we’re under at the moment.


Now everyone’s under an incredible amount of pressure, and you only have to come to a place like this to realise that there are a lot of people in our society unfortunately who are falling through the cracks. What people like Bill Crews do is incredible, the work they do, the service they give. But frankly, there has to be a role in Government to do whatever it can to make sure that less people are falling through the cracks.


And it doesn’t help when you’re putting a new tax on GPs, it doesn’t help when you’re making university education more unaffordable, it doesn’t help when you’re cutting funding to schools by abolishing the future Gonski funding. And frankly there has to be another way. There is a better way, and I can’t thank Bill Shorten, our leader, enough, or Terri Butler, for giving us this opportunity to go around, talk to people around the country, and actually hear from them, their ideas.


SHORTEN: Thanks Terri, thanks Sam. Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Tony Abbott said this morning that he won’t raise taxes to pay for Australia’s role in Iraq. Do you believe him?


SHORTEN: No. Let’s be really clear – Labor has been supportive at this intervention in Iraq. When it comes to fighting terror, there are no differences between Liberal and Labor. Labor has been very supportive and again we put on record our commitment to our professional and skilled air force and other services who are going in harm’s way, and also our support for their families.


But because we’ve been supportive of doing something about the humanitarian disaster in northern Iraq doesn’t mean that Tony Abbott should look at taxes or by stealth increasing the burden to pay for this conflict on vulnerable Australians. The Commonwealth of Australia is a $370 billion operation. When Tony Abbott says that he will need to find ways to pay for this, I want to say to Tony Abbott: you don’t have a good track record on saying that you’re not going to increase taxes, and then you actually do increase taxes.


So we put Tony Abbott on notice. Labor will support the intervention in northern Iraq, but we will not support you slugging ordinary people because the Government hasn’t got any other ideas on what to do.


JOURNALIST: How should the Government fund it?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, I think it’s unfortunate that the Government is in the context of talking about its unfair Budget, starting to raise rumours and speculation about how we’d pay for the intervention in northern Iraq. Let’s make it very clear – the Abbott Government should not be talking about slugging ordinary Australians extra.


The Commonwealth of Australia already collects a lot of taxes, it has a lot of revenue coming in. Labor will not support the Government slugging the sick, slugging the vulnerable, slugging ordinary families. We’ve just seen here today the lines in this charitable service feeding people. Australians have already got a lot of cost of living pressures right down on their neck.


The Government needs to make clear that it is not going to charge ordinary Australians the price of this conflict in northern Iraq.


JOURNALIST: So how should it be funded? Where will they get the money from? Where should they get the money from?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, that’s what the Government are in Government to do, to make decisions. Secondly, we absolutely delink their unfair Budget from any discussion about the conflict in northern Iraq. The Government should not be using the conflict in northern Iraq to start selling their unfair Budget which hits ordinary Australians.


As I said in an earlier question, the Commonwealth of Australia has revenues north of $350 billion. I do not believe it is beyond the wit and wisdom of Tony Abbott to be able to find sufficient resources to be able to support our intervention in northern Iraq without making ordinary Australians pay more, or without having Australians have to swallow his lies about having to justify an unfair Budget.


JOURNALIST: Do you have any ideas on where he can get that money?


SHORTEN: Again, I have to say that the Commonwealth of Australia is a $350 billion, north of $350 billion revenue receiving enterprise in Australia. I do not accept for one second that Tony Abbott should be linking Budget cuts and his unfair Budget to the intervention and sending aeroplanes to northern Iraq. The Government has the capacity, I believe, to find the measures that they need to do without taxes on ordinary Australians to pay for this intervention.


JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] and how would you fund it?


SHORTEN: From within the existing resources of the Commonwealth Government. And as your question correctly identifies, we do support the intervention. Not an easy decision at all, not an easy decisions at all. We’ve made it clear that this is driven by the humanitarian relief of ordinary citizens in Iraq. We’ve made it clear that this intervention is driven by the request of the Iraqi Government. We’ve also made it clear that we’ve set boundaries around what the nature of this intervention should be. We do not believe, in Labor, that you can drain the swamp of terror in the Middle East by intervention alone. I am most heartened, as are my colleagues, by regional countries stepping up, by the ordinary citizens of Iraq standing up. In terms of how Australia sponsors our two flights of aircraft who are over there, I do not believe that this would warrant some discussion by the Government, a fear campaign, about a Budget emergency and Labor will not condone ordinary Australians, the sick and the vulnerable having to pass this unfair Budget because of this latest explanation.


JOURNALIST: Are you committed to any Budget cuts to the $630 million on additional national security measures?


SHORTEN: Could you ask you ask that question again [inaudible]?


JOURNALIST: Do you commit to supporting any Budget cuts to the national security measures?


SHORTEN: We’re not a blank cheque. We do support extra security measures but this Government’s goes on whinging about its Budget and saying "what can we do, what can we do?". If running the government is too hard for Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, perhaps they should hop out of the way and let other people who are prepared to do it. But I will not insult the intelligence of the Australian people and say that because we have one squadron over there, two flights of hornets, because we have a refuelling aircraft and a Wedgetail, that somehow this is going to trigger some massive excuse for swinging Budget cuts. We all know that when Tony Abbott says he’s not going to increase taxes, we know that he has form on this. If Australians have learnt one thing since the last election, 12 months ago, they know that before the election Tony Abbott said there will be no cuts to health, no cuts to hospitals, no cuts to education, no cuts to schools, he said there’d be no changes in the pensions. He said all these things and so what do we see? They want to decrease the indexation rate of pensions, which is an effective cut of up to $80 a week for pensioners, they want to take away family payments to families on $60,000 a year which are worth $4,000. They want sick and vulnerable people to pay extra money just to go to the doctor which will discourage them. This is an unfair, unimaginative government and they are sufficiently desperate to justify their unfair agenda that they will toss anything into the argument. We say to the Government you've got our support about Iraq and we continue because there shouldn’t, there shouldn’t be partisanship on matters as important as this. But when it comes to the running of the government we just say to the Government do your day job and stop asking ordinary Australians to pay the bills because you are incompetent at your day job.


JOURNALIST: But our involvement in Iraq is obviously a costly process, how would you fund it?


SHORTEN: The Government don't even know how much it will cost them. We saw the Defence Minister say he couldn't put a number on it. So again, what I say to the Government is please delink the issues in Northern Iraq from the issues of your unfair Budget. I think the Government needs to go back and do their Budget again. We've seen them today back down on another stupid idea. They backed down on the stupid idea of asking people to send 40 applications, job applications each month which is clearly going to just become a bureaucratic nightmare. Small business couldn't believe it when they heard the Government come up with this stupid idea. This is a Government who’s already backed down on their stupid ideas to raise the working age to 70. They’ve backed down on putting through some of their unfair cuts to family payments into the Budget at this point. This is a Government who keeps backing down from stupid ideas because they haven't thought out what they're doing, they don't really know what they're doing and they’re quite incompetent. I think Australians are realising not only were they lied to before the election, not only have they seen an unfair Budget brought down which harms and doesn’t help Australia, but now they realise they’ve got an incompetent Government who doesn't know how to do their day job properly.


JOURNALIST: Does Labor support the decision to have welfare recipients apply for 20 jobs per month?


SHORTEN: 20 applications is more realistic than 40 applications but let's look at the Government's back down. Remember this is the Government who was going to go to the barricades, they were so full of their own bravado and hot air that it’s taken them months to recognise that asking people to send 40 applications a month, one, doesn't understand the nature of the situation people are in, two, how do they expect Australian small businesses to be able to read 40 applications a month? If you think about it there’s over 800,000 people on the DSP, there’s a significant - hundreds of thousands of people - on the unemployment benefit, and there’s probably 80,000, 90,000 jobs available. This is a government who was going to strangle small business and the red tape of reading job applications for jobs that don't exist. If the Government really wants to help unemployed people -  which I’m sceptical about, they just want a headline bagging them - what they would do is they would do more about creating jobs in this country, they would fight harder to save the jobs that are going overseas, they would stop trying to divide this country and punish people on measures which everyone thinks are stupid. The Government today has backed down from another stupid idea and, in fact, what they need to do is to back down from their stupid idea of their unfair Budget.


JOURNALIST: What about applying for 20 jobs a month?


SHORTEN: Sorry, you both spoke at the same time.


JOURNALIST: What about applying for 20 jobs a month? Do you support that? Yes or no.


SHORTEN: Well, we’ll see how that works. Again, this is a Government who, they are very good at giving advice to other people and absolving themselves of responsibility. The Government has had to back down on asking people to go with no money for six months. They've now had to - that was a stupid idea - and now they've backed down again on another stupid idea which is asking people to send 40 applications a month. We’ll talk to the experts about 20 job applications a month but I think we can all here today agree, when you’re looking at people here, many of whom are unemployed, you saw their faces, you probably spoke to some of them. The idea they can simply sit at a computer, which they probably don't have, to send off job applications for jobs that probably don't exist and then punish them if they can't fit into this farce shows you this is an incompetent Government who is more interested in headline hunting and attacking people and dividing people than actually doing anything about unemployment. Since this Government's come in, unemployment's gone up, not down. Tony Abbott promised a million new jobs, extra new jobs. They’re well behind on that. The best chance you can give young people and not-so-young people, give them a good education, don't force them out of universities with too expensive degrees and make sure that we fight to get them new jobs, that's something not happening in this country.


JOURNALIST: You’ve used the word ‘stupid’ numerous times today to describe the ideas in this Government, is that how you’d sum up the Government?


SHORTEN: Today we’ve seen another back down on another stupid idea by a Government who’s clearly rushing an ill thought out their measure. If you were to go and take the railway station test and speak to people going to work each morning and saying what do you think about some of these ideas of the Government, I think most people would say this Government is not keeping its word and they seem to have stupid ideas which they haven't clearly thought through. Last question.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the Budget has worsened or improved since the Government came in?


SHORTEN: There’s no doubt in my mind that this Government's decisions has worsened the Budget bottom line and what’s more having worsened the Budget bottom line, they’re now still pushing policies which everyone in Australia thinks is a stupid idea, the paid parental leave scheme, where multimillionaires can get $50,000 a year to have babies and yet, at the same time, you’ve got ordinary people, people battling to make ends meet on $50,000 a year, raising kids, going to work, who are losing money. This Government is out of touch with real Australia and today we’ve seen the Government yet again confirm they can't keep their word, they can't sell their unfair Budget, and they’re gradually backing down on some of their dumbest ideas. Thanks everyone.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten just a couple more questions on another couple of topic –

SHORTEN: I did say last question but as a result, I will.


JOURNALIST: Has Labor agreed to fully exempt the aluminium industry from the Renewable Energy Target?


SHORTEN: We’ve agreed to engage in discussions on the basis that the Government doesn't try and wreck the Renewable Energy Target. Specifically, we’re open to the suggestion that the aluminium industry with all the jobs which are involved there deserves to be looked at in a special case. We’ve been meeting with the Clean Energy Council, they seem to think that’s a good idea. We haven’t got a final proposition yet but we get the importance of jobs, but we really get the importance of having a meaningful Renewable Energy Target. This is a Government for climate sceptics run by climate sceptics. Renewable energy is working. 1.2 million Australian households who have solar power on their roof tops. There are tens of billions of dollars of investment which have come to a grinding halt because of this Government's incompetence over the last 12 months sending mixed messages and it generates thousands of jobs. So Labor's policy is what's good for the environment, what’s good for jobs, what’s good for business, that's the polices, that’s the principles we’re adopting for our approach on renewable energy.


JOURNALIST: Just finally on prescription medicines, what should the Government be doing to stop exorbitant prices to prescription medicines here compared to overseas?


SHORTEN: First piece of advice to the Federal Government if you want to keep down the price of prescription medicine don't increase the co-payment for medicine. The Government needs to junk, junk their approach which is going to see the cost of necessary prescription medicines be increased. You know, the Government gets up every day and they say "oh people have got to pay for their, they’ve got to pay their way for health care". Well people are already paying their way for health care, it’s called Medicare. Universal health care means that we have a cheaper health system than the United States for instance, where Australians spend far less. We’ve always got to keep downward pressure on the price of prescriptions but the first thing the Government could do in the light of this dramatic report coming out today, and you know, to the Government I say grab the excuse when you’ve got one to get out of the corner that you’ve backed yourself into, drop the co-payment, drop the co-payment on prescriptions. Last question, definitely? Okay, thanks everyone.