Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra Hospital






SUBJECT/S: The Abbott Government’s Budget of Twisted Priorities and Broken Promises.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everyone. It is actually good to be at Canberra Hospital seeing the hard work that the health professionals and our front-line clinicians do supporting people who are ill and their families. I am here today with our Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King. Let me just make a couple of opening remarks about last night's Budget. Last night's Budget is a sledgehammer which will hit every family in Australia.


The Budget last night is full of broken promises and Australians are being made to pay Abbott's inability to keep promises he made before the election. All Australians will mark him down. We remember, all of us remember, in those critical weeks before the last election, where Mr Abbott was ruling out touching vast slabs of the Budget. Australians will never forget that when Mr Abbott wanted their votes he said ‘I won't touch health, there will be no cuts, there will be no cuts to education, no changes to the pension, no increase of taxes.’ What we have seen in the in last night's Budget was Mr Abbott launching an absolutely disgraceful attack on the cost of living of ordinary families in Australia. Last night was a cowardly and weak attack by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey on the most vulnerable in our society - our pensioners, and people who need to go to a doctor when they're sick.


I'd like to ask my colleague Catherine King to make a few remarks specifically about the Budget nasties for sick people in the Budget.


CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks, Bill. Tony Abbott hasn't just broken his promise not to cut health, he has absolutely smashed it. The Australian Medical Association says this Budget is full of pain for patients and they are absolutely right.


If you are sick, if you are trying to manage a chronic condition like diabetes or asthma, or if you have cancer or heart disease in your family and you want to go to your doctor to find out how to keep well, Tony Abbott is making you pay for it. You are paying for it. $7 GP tax every it's time you visit a doctor. And it's not just that. There is $3 billion ripped out of public hospitals, $60 million in the ACT here alone. Money that Labor historically committed to help States and Territories fix the problems in our emergency departments, get more beds, get more doctors and nurses employed, fix our elective waiting lists. That money has been ripped out of public hospitals.


Tony Abbott has twisted priorities when it comes to health. He is making every Australian pay more to go to see a doctor, more for their medicines, and punishing us through cutting funding to public hospitals. This is not system Medicare. This is not the system of health care that Australians have had supporting them for 30 years. This is Tony Abbott destroying Medicare and his twisted priorities making vulnerable Australians pay for it.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Catherine. Are there any questions?


REPORTER: Isn't it good news that this money will then go into a medical research Future Fund?


SHORTEN: What a paltry pea and thimble trick that the Government is trying to pull on the Australian people. They are so arrogant, they think that because they say that a new tax, some of it will go to medical research, that therefore that justifies breaking a promise and gutting universally accessible Medicare. If this Government believes in medical research they can pay for it out of consolidated revenue. But how dare they pretend to Australians that the only reason they're tearing up Medicare, breaking their promises, putting new taxes on people going to the doctor, is because some of new interest in medical research.


This country is smart enough, this country is generous enough to fund our medical research without taxing the sickest in our community. So there is no good news for the medical system for people who are sick in this country while Tony Abbott and his Budget are in charge.


REPORTER: Will you block the co-payment in the Senate?


SHORTEN: The new GP tax, and let's call it for what it is, no more weasel words. Australians are sick of politicians breaking their words, no more weasel words. This is an attack on Medicare. Tony Abbott is a clear and present danger to the universally accessible health care system of this country. Labor will not support taxes on Medicare, full stop.


Labor believes in Medicare. We believe that in this country, no matter what your circumstances, if you are sick you should able to go to the doctor and not pay tax. We believe for this and we will fight and fight and fight to defend Medicare.


REPORTER: Are you aware that Andrew Leigh, your Shadow Assistant Treasurer, has previously written in the newspapers that a co-payment is not such a radical idea and may actually deter people from going to a doctor, to lessen the strain on the health system?


SHORTEN: Let me make it crystal clear. For 30 years ever since Medicare was introduced, the Liberals by hook or by crook have tried to destroy universally accessible health care. They have never liked it, and yet again on the basis of broken promises and Budget lies, they're now saying they want to put new taxes.


How on earth does it help people in the health system to say to sick people at the door of the surgery ‘we're going to tax you extra so please go away.’ This is a bad idea. And it doesn't help the Australian people one jot and Labor will not have it.


REPORTER: What other specific measures will you block in the Senate?


SHORTEN: We've looked at the cost of living increases. The Abbott Government is so out of touch. I get that Tony Abbott doesn’t have to put petrol in his own car but let me tell you, Mr Abbott, there are millions of people who drove to work this morning, who dropped their kids off at school, there are people carrying out their daily tasks, the small businesses in the small towns and the big cities of Australia.


We do not support increasing the cost of living on ordinary Australian motorists. We've made it clear that a tax on Medicare is a tax on sick people is a tax on Medicare, is a broken promise, and we're not buying this shoddy bill of goods that Tony Abbott is trying to put forward.


And furthermore, the pension - Tony Abbott should hang his head in shame for scaring the older Australians who have worked their whole life, paid their income taxes, they may have a modest family home as their only asset, and Tony Abbott says that courtesy of Liberal Government in 2017 - you will find that the real pension that you get will be cut.


I don't know what on earth these people were thinking before the last election. It is clear to me that the Abbott Opposition wilfully misled Australian people before the last election in order to get their votes. And now they have come to their first budget, they have an extreme agenda, they have made up a Budget emergency, not one just to deal with the medium term balancing of the Budget, but one which punishes lower and middle income people and we will vote against these measures.


REPORTER: Do you support a co-payment if it exempts children payments and not just caps their payments?


SHORTEN: Well, if you is have sick kids it's great that the Abbott Government thinks that you can pay a tax 10 times but not 11 times. My message to the Abbott Government is take your hands off Medicare. The system can always be improved by getting cost efficiencies in the system but let us not make new barriers to stop sick is people going to the doctor. It raise is a bad idea.


REPORTER: [Inaudible] to raise the GST to fund the shortfall in health care and education?


SHORTEN: What is interesting is the shock and surprise that their same political parties in the State governments have discovered when they realised they've been conned by the Abbott Government too.


We're on to the Abbott Government's strategy in this Budget. They think that if they can confect a Budget emergency, that they can just tough out a couple of weeks of people criticising them for breaking their promises, for misleading can the electorate, they think they can get away with it. Well we promise the Australian people that we will not let the Abbott Government go. They have made very clear, they staked their reputation before the last election that they were going to be something special in Australian politics, they weren't going to break their promises, they would help the cost of living.


This Budget fails the test, it doesn't help the cost of living. It is grotesquely unfair, it is a collection of broken promises and there's no doubt that they are creating a set of circumstances - they're taking over $80 billion out of State hospitals, State schools. They are trying to put the pressure to redesign the system of tax so that the States put pressure to increase the GST. That is Federal Abbott Government’s secret plan here. It's an extreme agenda of punishing the vulnerable, punishing the sick and going for the GST.


REPORTER: [Inaudible] debt tax. Will you allow it through a Senate?


SHORTEN: The debt tax is another broken promise. It is a lazy Government that simply through a sham, whacks on 2 per cent on some income earners. But I also need to be perfectly clear - Labor's priority is on middle and low income earners. We will look at all these matters including the debt tax, or the new income tax as it should be rightly called, increasing at the highest marginal tax rate. We will look at this and respond in time.


But what we will say to Australian families is we've got your back when it comes to Medicare. We will stand up and fight for pensioners in this country, and we do not support millions of motorists having to pay greater taxes on their petrol.


REPORTER: So you will block both changes to the increase in the pension age and also changes to indexation?


SHORTEN: Only people who have never had to work with their hands in backbreaking work could come up with an idea which says not just construction workers or carpet layers, but nurses and cleaners,-  the only people who have never had to do that work are out of touch with the real world would say ‘I have got a great idea for you - I am going to cut your pensions, I am going to cut your superannuation, and by the way you can work longer for the privilege.’ How dare Tony Abbott lecture the real people of Australia about working longer when he has no vision for their future, other than work longer and receive less when you retire?


REPORTER: Labor increased the age to 67, so what is the difference?


SHORTEN: 70 is distinctly older and furthermore what we need to see here is greater support for older Australians, greater encouragement for people to have more superannuation. Let me put on the record - the Australian people don't need a lecture from some cigar-chomping, out of touch Liberals who break their promises and arrogantly think they can get away with it.


People who are saving for their retirement through superannuation, people who are paying their income taxes, people who drive to work every day and shouldn't have to pay petrol tax, families have already paid for Medicare. How dare the Abbott Government make Australians pay twice, people who are already this doing the heavy lifting of this nation.


REPORTER: [Inaudible].


SHORTEN: These new roads funding proposals of the Government, a lot of them are last week's fish and chips wrapped up and presented as tomorrow's dinner. Labor had already announced much of this and funded much of the infrastructure. So when you look through the noise and smoke and huffery and puffery of last night's Budget, you will discover there's not a lot of new infrastructure spending. But one thing is for sure - Australians shouldn't be paying more petrol taxes which go to their cost of living and their bottom line.


Ordinary Aussies work very hard and they don't need the Abbott Government inventing a Budget emergency to start putting up taxes. Putting up taxes is the lazy alternative of a promise breaking Government who don't have a clue what to do with the future of this country.


REPORTER: Do you think it was appropriate that Joe Hockey was seen dancing in his office on Budget night?


SHORTEN: I don't know if he was or wasn't dancing.


REPORTER: He said he did it.


SHORTEN: If he's admitted it, what was the song, this is the best day of his life? Maybe it was for Joe Hockey but this is a terrible day for ordinary Australians.


Thanks very much.