Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Griffith




TUESDAY, 13 MAY 2014


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s good for me to be here today in the suburb of Griffith in Gai Brodtmann's electorate of Canberra, meeting with Jacqui and her son Zac.


Jacqui was diagnosed with MS several years ago. She's been working very hard her whole life. The diagnosis of MS was a real blow. Jacqui's now required to get by, because of her condition, she can't work - relying upon the Disability Support Pension. This is about $840 a fortnight. She's raising her son Zac, he's doing well at school. She's a fair dinkum single mum who's interested in the world around her and the debates, she's interested in loving and raising her son so he gets the best start in life. It is not right that Jacqui and hundreds of thousands of other people on the disability pension are made to feel demonised by a bully Government who somehow makes out that people who received the disability pension, especially if they don't have overtly physical impairments, need to be tested and retested year in, year out.


Tonight's Budget reflects a mean agenda of broken promises and twisted priorities. It is not the job of the Abbott Government's Budget to put pressure on family budgets. Australians are getting up every day, working hard, raising families, battling to make ends meet. Cost of living is a real issue for ordinary Australians, yet tonight we have a Budget of bad news for the cost of living of all Australians.


We've seen dreadful rumours emerge in the last few weeks of this chaotic approach on the Budget. There's a new petrol tax, there's a new doctors tax, a GP tax, there's new taxes on medicines, new taxes on going to the hospital. We see pensioners under attack, we see disability pensioners having to debate whether or not they are legitimate in receiving the pensions they're getting. I wish it wasn't so. Jacqui has MS. There is no cure to MS. How on earth did the Abbott Government get Australia into this divided state where people on the disability pension are told that they will have to resubmit to see if their disability's gone away? There is no cure.


But it is not just the story of Jacqui in this Budget. This is a Budget of broken promises, of twisted priorities. On one hand millions of Australian families are going to have pressure on their family budget through petrol taxes, GP taxes, medicine taxes, and pressure on the things which make it easier for people to be able to make ends meet. This is a broken promise Budget full of bad news and Australians deserve better.


I'd like to hand over to my colleague Gai Brodtmann to add some words from her perspective.


GAI BRODTMANN, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR DEFENCE: Thanks very much Bill, and it is wonderful to be here today with Jacqui and her son Zac, who I heard from late last year on Christmas Eve. She’d heard rumours about changes to the DSP, she was very, very concerned about it so she contacted me to pass on her thoughts. So it was terrific to actually meet her here today.


Now today is a black day for Canberra. Canberrans are bracing themselves for major cuts to be announced tonight. Cuts to the public service, the public servant jobs, cuts to agencies, abolition of Government agencies, merging of Government agencies. They are frightened, Canberrans are very, very frightened, and I know I join them in bracing myself for what could come tonight.


SHORTEN: Thanks. We’re happy to take questions.


REPORTER: Tony Abbott’s confirmed this morning that there will be a deficit levy tonight. What’s your reaction, will you support it?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott’s confirmed that he’s breaking promises. Never forget that before the last election, Tony Abbott said that there would be no new tax increases under a Government led by Tony Abbott. That was clearly untrue. He’s increasing taxes, we’ll wait and see the detail of what he does tonight. But no politician in Australian history has ever staked their reputation so much as he did when he was Opposition saying that he wouldn’t break promises. Him breaking promises about increases taxes, putting greater pressure on pensioners, putting pressure on the cost of living, goes to the sort of leadership he’s giving this country and it is a Government and a Budget of bad news tonight.


REPORTER: Low income earners will be spared, though, from this deficit levy. Is that not fair and reasonable?


SHORTEN: Low income earners go to the doctor, low income earners drive cars. There is no one spared from a Budget which is based upon an overblown ‘budget emergency’ to justify a very cruel and mean approach to the way to run this country. Low income earners don’t have the money, which Tony Abbott thinks in his out-of-touch world they do, to be able to afford to pay new taxes to go to the doctor, to be able to afford extra petrol taxes. Tony Abbott never told Australians that a vote for Abbott’s Liberals was going to see an increase in the cost of petrol, was going to see an increase in tax, was going to see an increase in the cost of going to the doctor. This Budget tonight is bad news, it’s broken promises, and it’s the wrong priorities.


REPORTER: Do you have [inaudible] debt levy?


SHORTEN: Sorry, could you repeat that?


REPORTER: Do you welcome the Greens’ opposition to implementing the debt levy?


SHORTEN: I haven’t seen anything that the Greens have said. I know of reports that they might support an increase in the petrol tax, that would be a mistake. The issue is – the test for this Budget is, is this Tony Abbott keeping his promises? The answer is clearly no. And the other test is, is Tony Abbott’s Budget increasing the cost of living pressure on Australian  families? Sadly the answer to that is yes. Tony Abbott’s Budget will increase the cost of living on Australian families. This is a bad news Budget for Aussie families.


REPORTER: Will you support a $10,000 incentive for businesses to hire older workers?


SHORTEN: We believe that any measures which start a debate about giving older Australians the chance to work are worth considering. But the previous Government already introduced incentives to help older Australians. The Abbott Government has never seen a good idea by the previous Government that they wouldn’t wrap up in new wrapping paper and pretend is their own. But I tell you what I don’t support: increasing the pension age to 70. Every Australian who is under the age of approximately 50 now, under Tony Abbott’s vision of the future, will have to be working towards the age of 70 before they can retire. Australians can’t keep doing – many of them are in occupations where they can’t keep doing the same physically demanding work. There’s only so many bricks you can lay in your life, there is only so much carpet you can lay, there are only so many trolleys you can push in a hospital. Tony Abbot is out of touch. It’s alright for him to give advice about everyone else working until they’re 70.


Tony Abbott’s Government is out of touch, they’ve got the wrong priorities. Why are they telling hardworking Aussies that they’ve got to work until they drop, and on the other hand they’re going to give multimillionaires tens of thousands of dollars in paid parental leave that they don’t need? This is an out of touch Government with a bad news Budget.


REPORTER: Would you support a co-payment for [INAUDIBLE]?


SHORTEN: Labor believes in Medicare. We believe in universally accessible healthcare. Labor does not want to see Tony Abbott’s Americanised healthcare system introduced into Australia. We will fight and fight and fight to defend Medicare. The idea that you charge new taxes on people going to the doctor, assumes you can somehow tax your way to making sick people better. You can’t. The way sick people get better is through medical attention and support, not through paying more taxes.


REPORTER: If the incentive for businesses is much more generous than what we’ve seen previously, can you really say that they’re neglecting older workers?


SHORTEN: This is a Government who always rob Peter to pay Paul, they’ve got the wrong priorities. How on earth are you helping older people by cutting apprenticeship funding? We still need to have apprentices in this country. I don’t know how Tony Abbott thinks he fixes the electrical wiring at the Lodge, or does the mechanics works on the cars he drives in – it’s tradespeople. And tradespeople are not just adult apprentices, they’re young apprentices. Why is it that the Abbott Government say that they want you to work to the age of 70, but by the same token they’re going to gut apprenticeships and not give the same support for apprenticeships that previously existed? Why does the Abbott Government want to make it more expensive for kids to go to university, and make it harder for them to get an apprenticeship? This Government is full of bad news for everyone in Australia who wants to have a go. The only strategy of this Government is to tax it or sell it.


REPORTER: Are you worried that the Greens are now supporting the rise in the fuel excise and you essentially won’t have a say?


SHORTEN: Well, if there is a Liberal-Green alliance to increase the cost of living through a petrol tax, it’s up to them. It’s a mistake.


Thank you.