MONDAY, 19 MAY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget lies; Tony Abbott’s broken promise to pensioners; Sir Jack Brabham; Polls; Rebuilding Labor.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s great to be at the East Bentleigh Senior Citizens club, with lots of pensioners who are coming together to catch up, talk about the goings-on and generally have a good time. This has been organised by the hard-working member for Hotham, Clare O'Neil, who's doing a great job.
Today pensioners in East Bentleigh but indeed across Australia are telling Mr Abbott that they don't like his unfair Budget. Tony Abbott's Budget is a Budget built on lies and it breaks significant election promises to the Australian people. This is a Budget which will smash family budgets. This is a Budget which cuts pensions, attacks hospitals, attacks schools, increases the cost of living by putting a new petrol tax on everything.
Today Australians are putting Tony Abbott on notice that they are angry about his broken promises, they're even angrier that Tony Abbott's pretending that he hasn't broken any promises. Tony Abbott is being told by the Australian people that they don't like his policies and they want him to change his unfair Budget. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: So how would you fix up the Budget then? What measures have you got to balance the budget?
SHORTEN: I wouldn't wreck Medicare. I wouldn't attack pensioners, I wouldn't put a new cost of living tax on petrol and therefore on everything in Australian society. I wouldn't make it harder for working class and middle class kids to go to university, and I certainly wouldn't tell young unemployed people that they can starve for six months.
If Mr Abbott needs any help in terms of finding some extra money, he should junk his paid parental leave scheme which will give $50,000 to multimillionaires. When I said that at the East Bentleigh pensioners club, regardless of their personal politics, they unanimously clapped and cheered that. Hardworking Australians do not understand why if Mr Abbott’s willing to break his promises and lie to Australians, why doesn’t he simply get rid of his paid parental scheme which is costing $22 billion over the next four years.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept that there’s a need to cut the deficit?
SHORTEN: I believe that budgets should be sustainable and that there is a budget task. I don't accept that there is a confected budget emergency justifying the creation of a permanent underclass in Australian society. I do not accept that the Abbott Government has satisfactorily made out the case to divide Australian society. I do not accept that Tony Abbott has made the case to wreck Medicare and get rid of the central principle of universality. I do not accept that Mr Abbott has made the case to attack pensioners' conditions, pensioners who've spent 50 years, 60 years in the work force, raising families, paying taxes, paying mortgages, helping make Australia the best country in the world.
I do not accept that Tony Abbott has made the case to go after pensioners, and I and the Labor Party will stand up for the users of the medical system, we will stand up for pensioners, we will stand up for families who need their motor cars and don't need to pay an extra cost of living tax.
JOURNALIST: Specifically, if you win the next election will you restore the $80 billion taken out of health and education?
SHORTEN: Well first things first, we don't believe that Tony Abbott should be allowed to get away with taking the $80 billion out. I noticed last week that Tony Abbott was lecturing the Senators and trying to bully them and bully me into going along with his mean and unfair cuts. Mr Abbott's a monarchist, he should be a student of history and the Constitution. The Constitution created the Senate as the second chamber of the Parliament of Australia. It was to give every state an equal number of Senators so it could protect the states against the capricious and unreasonable activity of a House of Representatives majority.
This Budget is most certainly an unreasonable and unfair attack on pensioners, on the sick, on the needy, on the poor, on the vulnerable in our society. Now Mr Abbott wants the Senate to ignore the fact that they are there to represent the rights of states and instead engage in an $80 billion cut which will increase hospital waiting lists, decrease hospital beds, it will lead to less classes being offered in school, and poorer outcomes for the next generation of young Australians.
So Mr Abbott, long before we get to debating what Labor does after the next election, Mr Abbott, Australians have put you on notice today. They're angry at your broken promises, they’re even angrier at the fact you keep lying about the fact that you lied, and they want Mr Abbott to change his Budget and he shouldn't cut hospitals and schools.
JOURNALIST: In your Budget reply speech though you called for Mr Abbott to bring on an election. Don't Australians have a right to know, yes or no, what you will do about that $80 billion and other key issues like that?
SHORTEN: I gave that Budget reply speech, I know exactly what I said. I said Mr Abbott if you want an election, bring it on. If you think that Labor is too weak, try us. It's not about you or I, Tony Abbott, it's about the national good, and the welfare of all Australians.
I don't want to see Australians have to have countless elections. But I tell you what, no Australian voted for Tony Abbott on the belief that we'd see a cut on pensions, we’d see a new petrol tax, we’d see Medicare trashed and wrecked and the creation of a permanent underclass in Australian society. I want this government to get on and govern but I tell you what, not at the price of wrecking this country and what makes Australia the best country in the world.
JOURNALIST: We have heard a lot about what you think is wrong with the Budget but we're still to hear what you would actually do so with that $80 billion, is it a yes or no, would you restore that if you win the next election?
SHORTEN: You assume that Mr Abbott’s going to be able to get away with wrecking this country through this Budget, I don't. I'm the Leader of the Opposition and we will, in Labor, will be the voice of Australians who are angry and upset at the extreme policies coming out of a broken promises Budget based upon a pack of lies told at the last election.
Labor hasn't given up trying to change Mr Abbott's mind about wrecking Australia. What is the case that Tony Abbott has made to wreck our hospitals? To defund our schools? To wreck Medicare? You know, you say what are you for? I tell you what Labor will be for at the next election: we will be for Medicare. We will be for standing up for the pensioners after a lifetime of work. We will be for making sure that Australians don't have to pay extra cost of living taxes because Tony Abbott has no other ideas.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about an issue in Tasmania? Senator Helen Polley there, she spent $23,000 in two years in flights between Hobart and Launceston. Is that acceptable?
SHORTEN: I would expect the whole Labor team, and indeed I would just expect elected representatives in Australia, to adhere to the legal guidelines. I haven't seen the specifics of what you're talking about, but I've got a standard which I believe is the case for people in public life, which is that you should stick to the guidelines, you shouldn't claim what you're not entitled to.
JOURNALIST: Does she need to explain it? It's a two-hour drive up the highway.
SHORTEN: Well first of all, you’re asking me to talk about individual matters which I’ve just previously said I don’t know. But what I will say is that all representatives, doesn't matter if you're Liberal, Labor, doesn’t matter if you’re a Liberal claiming to go to a wedding or anyone else, it's public money, it is taxpayer money. You’ve got to make sure that you do the right thing by the taxpayer money of Australia.
JOURNALIST: I did give your advisers notice of this question so you have had notice about this. Would you think that she should resign or explain at least, at the very least what the expenses are for?
SHORTEN: We'll find out what has happened. But again, the standard that I will set of my team and indeed the standard I think taxpayers expect of their elected representatives, is if you're getting taxpayer funding you make sure it's within the guidelines set down by the law full stop.
JOURNALIST: How do you expect to get party reform through next year when your own branch, indeed a big part of the right, failed to endorse your position?
SHORTEN: John, the Labor Party has to rebuild. The Labor Party needs to be a party which is not a faction-based party but is a membership-based party. The Labor Party is determined at the next election to present candidates from all walks of life. I do not believe that the Labor Party is the political arm of the union movement, I believe that the Labor Party is the political arm of Australians.
And Labor and I will not be diverted from opposing Tony Abbott. We will make sure that we are a conscientious Opposition, speaking up for the national good, because we believe this country works best when Australians are united. Not the creation of this divided society, that this terrible budget is doing, based upon broken promises. Australians today are justifiably angry at the broken promises and they're justifiably even angrier at Tony Abbott, not only breaking his promise and lying to them, but now using every set of weasel words known to mankind to say that what? Yesterday Australians didn't hear things right, today Tony Abbott has just made up this complete and grotesque budget fairy tale to say that Australians were on notice before the last election.
Well Tony Abbott you're on notice. If you think you’re going to get away with your broken promises and your lies, the Australian people will send you a distinctly different message.
JOURNALIST: I suppose the point is though, the SDA and the SL got together and imposed a cap. It's not what the AWU wanted. Do you think that's in the spirit of what you're trying to do?
SHORTEN: Just as Tony Abbott is discovering, I'm a very determined person. What I'm interested in is making sure that both the Labor Party is rebuilt and that Australia doesn't go off track with this unfair Budget of broken promises and lies by Tony Abbott, who is still in a period of denial thinking that he can just simply tough his way out, lie to the Australian people, cut their conditions, cut Medicare, cut the pension, introduce a new petrol tax.
So I just say to people who don't want to see the Labor Party being rebuilt: we will, because Australians want a strong alternative, they want to see the Labor Party change and we will keep, we will not be diverted from the focus of being the strongest possible choice at the next election. Last question, thank you.
JOURNALIST: Can you rule out any tax increases if you were to win the next election?
SHORTEN: John, we will have our policies ready in full time before the next election. I don't think Mr Abbott's calling any early election any time soon. What I can promise Australians if they want to know our policies at the next election, we are for Medicare which is universal and accessible. We are for pensions, we're not for cutting them. We are for making sure that family budgets can make ends a moment at the end of every fortnight. We’re not for a new petrol tax. We're for kids from whatever background, and whatever town, and whatever postcode in Australia, getting a chance to get an apprenticeship or go to university. There are four policies you can take to the bank and they're four big differences between Labor and Tony Abbott's shameful Budget of broken lies and broken promises.
JOURNALIST: Can you believe the turnaround in the polls, given that both Fairfax and The Australian have put you markedly in front at this stage of the cycle?
SHORTEN: I can believe that the Australian people are angry like they've never been before. Tony Abbott staked his political reputation, he was going to be the Prime Minister of Australia who would set new records in never breaking promises and never telling lies. Well that claim is in tatters. That's been proven to be a falsehood. What we see in these polls is the Australian people saying, saying to their political leader and in this case Tony Abbott, don't treat us as mugs. You didn't put us on notice. You told us lies to get the top job. Now you've got the top job, you are not doing what you said, you are making our lives harder and we are marking you down for that, that's the message of these polls.
JOURNALIST: Just briefly, can we ask you, Jack Brabham?
SHORTEN: Labor joins with Australia in expressing its condolences to Sir Jack Brabham's family upon the news of his passing. Sir Jack Brabham reminds us of an Australia that perhaps has become a memory. He was an arch-typical Australian modest sporting hero. He entered the national psyche through his accomplishments. He was the Bradman of the motor circuit. He invented and designed his own motor cars.
When we think about Jack Brabham, we don't think of the stereotypical modern sporting hero, with triumphalist fist pumping in the air. He was a truly modest man who perhaps has never realised how much all Australians loved him, and Australia should be grateful for what he did and we acknowledge this upon his passing. Thank you.
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