Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - Tackling alcohol-related harm; Tony Abbott’s Petrol Tax



SUBJECT/S: Tackling alcohol-related harm; Tony Abbott’s Petrol Tax; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the GST; Asylum seekers; Live exports.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone. Great to be here at the AMA Summit on the impact of alcohol-related  harm. I’m here of course with my Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King. It is good that the representative body of Australia’s medical practitioners is standing up on a matter of great public importance. Alcohol-related harm has a massive cost to Australian communities, most importantly to Australian families and individuals. The AMA are supported by the Labor Opposition, in starting an appropriate national conversation about what Australia can do together to tackle the ravages of alcohol-related harm.


I might also just briefly turn to some breaking news that I have heard that Senator Cormann has got up today in the last hour or half hour and announced a new sneaky tax on Australian motorists. Tony Abbott, on 33 occasions before the last election, said there will be no change to GST. Tony Abbott said before the last election in fact there will be no new taxes and no changes to taxes under a Government he has led. Yesterday, Tony Abbott said, somewhat unusually for him, that he wanted to be positive and work with all the political parties to have a mature and sensible long term conversation. The Victorian Premier Napthine, the Liberal, was clearly unhappy that Tony Abbott's flagged a new GST during the State election. But anyway Tony Abbott said we must have a mature discussion about taxation with all Australians. Less than 24 hours after Tony Abbott said this in Parliament, Senator Cormann has announced that the Liberal Party, the Abbott Government are going to bypass the Parliament of Australia to impose new petrol taxes on every motorist in Australia.


What is going to happen now is that Tony Abbott, who lied about no new taxes before the last election, who lied about no new GST, is now bypassing the Parliament of Australia, the elected representatives who are put there by Australians to oversight the actions of a Government. He is so addicted to new taxes, Tony Abbott is so addicted to new taxes, he is so addicted to telling lies before the election and breaking his promises afterwards that he has now decided to bypass the Parliament of Australia. What it effectively means is that every motorist who ever goes to a petrol station, every time they get out the petrol pump and put it into the car is paying a new Tony Abbott Petrol Tax. Every motorist in Australia is now a new tax collector for Tony Abbott's increased petrol taxes. These are increased petrol taxes that Tony Abbott said would never happen under a Government he led.


Tony Abbott yesterday says he wants a mature debate and yet today, he ambushes Australian motorists, he ambushes the Parliament of Australia and through the back door he has launched a sneak attack on the wallets and cost of living of every Australian. This is outrageous. He doesn't have the courage to take his new taxes to an election. He is desperate to prop up his unfair Budget, so now he is ambushing Australians and through the back door, slugging every motorist with Tony Abbott’s new Petrol Tax. Happy to take any questions people may have.


REPORTER: This process has happened before though. The Rudd Government did it with the alcopops tax.


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott is one thing in Opposition and another thing in Government. We all know that Tony Abbott’s got an unfair Budget that is sinking fast. Australians don't like the cuts to pensions, the cuts to schools, the cuts to hospitals. The case hasn't been made by Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey to ask middle and lower income Australians to bear the cost of his changes because they can't run a Government. Now what they’re doing is they are ambushing people with a Petrol Tax. This Government cannot sell a message at all and they're now not even bothering. The Budget has got so hard for the Government, they aren't even bothering testing it in the Parliament, they are just trying to sneak it through ambushes and back door stunts. The Australian people will not forgive Tony Abbott for lying about making them tax collectors for Tony Abbott.


REPORTER: You just spoke about leaders tackling the hard decisions. What is your view as ALP Leader on boat turn backs, do you think the policy should change to consider it, and do you support Richard Marles' view that they have had an impact in stopping deaths at sea?


SHORTEN: Labor's policy on boat turn backs has not changed. It remains the same in terms –


REPORTER: But should it be?


SHORTEN: In terms – no, the case hasn't been made out for change and furthermore, when we look at what has effectively helped discourage the people smugglers, the origin of the success of this measure is in Labor's regional settlement negotiations and regional processing.


REPORTER: You don't think boat turn backs have had any impact on stopping deaths at sea?


SHORTEN: No, we don't see that the argument has been made or the evidence has been made out about boat turn backs. Labor's policy hasn't changed.


REPORTER: Has Richard Marles gone rogue on you?


SHORTEN: No, he was engaging in a debate about hypotheticals. And what I would say very clearly is if we want to look at the source of the success of dealing with people smuggling, it was regional processing arrangements put in place by the last Labor Government.


REPORTER: The Greens are saying that there should be an overhaul of the way alcohol is taxed and also labelling for - on bottles to try and help educate people about alcohol consumption. Would you agree with that?


SHORTEN: This is a summit to start talking about ideas to deal with the problem of alcohol-related harm. I am not about to start giving answers, I am not here to start dictating my views, I am not here to talk about new taxes. The only people with new taxes today are Tony Abbott and his team. When it comes to dealing with the problems, I felt it was important that the Labor Opposition took a principled position to attend this summit. We're disappointed that the Government hasn't turned up on day one. They might send a junior minister kicking and screaming on day two to be here. Anyone who thinks alcohol-related harm is not a matter which should be debated at the national Parliament is kidding themselves.


REPORTER: Can I ask you about the class action on live cattle exports, I know it is before the courts, but Joel Fitzgibbon said this morning that it was an unsettling time in history. Obviously Labor was in charge of that ban.


SHORTEN: And the question is?


REPORTER: What is your view on that class action and your view of that period of time when the ban was in place, was it unfair to cattle producers and exporters?


SHORTEN: In terms of a mooted legal action underway, I think it will be most unwise of any political figure to start playing judge and jury on these matters so I will decline your very kind invitation. I spoke at the National Farmers Federation last week and I made clear that I believe what happened with live cattle export bans was a problem, has been a problem and I think all of us have learnt lessons from that.


REPORTER: What do you think of the Prime Minister’s call to medical researchers to lobby crossbenchers for the medical research future fund and the GP co-payment?


SHORTEN: Frankly I’m sick and tired of Tony Abbott using other people to try and get up his unfair Budget. He’s using medical researchers to justify a tax on the sick. If Tony Abbott really cares about medical research he’d dip into consolidated revenue and fund it, he wouldn’t use if to justify an attack on the sick and the poor and the destruction of universal access to Medicare. Tony Abbott’s got form about asking other people to do his dirty work for him. Just ask Premier Napthine in Victoria who’s got a state election. The Victorian Liberal Party must want Tony Abbott like a new hole in the head. Tony Abbott yesterday after 20 years of being the hard man boxer of Australian politics decides to start becoming some sort of mature basket weaver and he’s going to start talking to Australians in a sensible, mature way. Denis Napthine and the others must have gone what on earth did they do to deserve Tony Abbott having a thought bubble about a GST, unveiling plans, and what he’s really doing – a bit like he’s using medical researchers – is he’s cutting $80 billion, that’s right, $80 thousand million, from hospitals and schools. So he’s blackmailing the states into demanding a GST. Gee the Victorian Liberal Party – I just wonder how many times they’ll be asking Tony Abbott to campaign for them in Victoria.


REPORTER: Just going back to the fuel tax, during the press conference Mr Cormann put a question to you and Christine Milne asking in terms of the revenue that will come from the tax. Would you support it going to fuel manufacturers or creating job productivity?


SHORTEN: Now we’ve got the prospect of Senator Cormann asking the Opposition how to do his day job. What I’d say is Senator Cormann, don’t break your promises. That’s a good start.


REPORTER: You said in your speech that there wasn’t much point in getting elected to Parliament if you weren’t prepared to make big decisions at a national level. What exactly is your position on alcohol? We know that governments need to do something about taxation of alcohol, we know that governments need to do something about closing alcohol sale venues earlier in the evening. Is the Labor Party prepared to do anything at all to solve this problem?


SHORTEN: The very fact that we’re here today shows that Labor recognises this is a national conversation that needs to take place. As you’d probably be aware, when Labor was last in power it was Labor who pioneered the national binge drinking strategy to deal with the effects in terms of alcohol. In terms of where we go from here, and all the views on possible policies and measures, that has to be done in a sensible way working through with the experts, the law enforcement, the community workers, the health practitioners. But Labor is committed to making sure that national issues – and what I said is that national issues shouldn’t be ignored by the national Parliament - and I would call upon the Abbott Government to send a senior representative to show that they’re at least aware and interested in the challenge of alcohol related harm. Thanks everyone, see you in Question Time.