Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop Interview: Parliament House






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott cuts to the real wages of ADF personnel; Tony Abbott’s year of broken promises; Victorian Election


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I just want to thank the Defence Force Welfare Association, Veterans’ groups, individuals who’ve stood up said that the Government’s pay cut for our Defence Force is unacceptable to ordinary Australians. Tony Abbott’s announcement today is too little, too late. He is still proposing an effective pay cut for the Australian Defence Force, for the 55,000 men and women currently wearing a uniform and making our country safe. The last thing our defence forces and their family and supporters want is for the Defence Force to be caught up in a political argument about Tony Abbott’s broken promises and unfair budget. I really call upon Tony Abbott, that if you know that these cuts are unfair, don’t do a half-hearted retreat. You need to actually just get it right. There is no sensible case that has been made by this Government to justify the real wages of Australia's Defence Force and their families falling behind the cost of living. The money is in the Budget. I do not believe that this Government is so bereft of ideas that they can't find the ability to support our Defence Force men and women. The Government needs to fix this problem up fully and completely. They haven't got the right policy and they're now retreat; but they're not retreating far enough. It's too little, too late.


JOURNALIST: Are you surprised about the level of public support for this petition that your people are holding here and the level of outpouring of support for the Defence Force?


SHORTEN: The love that Australian people feel for our Defence Force doesn’t surprise me. The only surprise I’ve seen is that Tony Abbott and his team are so mean hearted that they’re trying to do whatever they can with this unfair Budget on the back of asking our Defence Force to  accept an effective real cut in the pay and conditions just so that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey can try and rescue their unfair Budget.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten have you done any figures, any calculations, on what a fair pay deal would like? And what would that figure be?


SHORTEN: There is no doubt in my mind that the Government in its Budget in May made allowances for a pay rise north of three per cent. What the Government should have done when it was making its submission to the independent tribunal, is that they should have made it clear, they should have stuck to what they had said in the Budget. I think any reasonable person says that it’s not even about a pay rise for our Defence Force, but they can reasonably expect to be keeping pace with the cost of living. I think the Government just needs to go back and sort it out straight away.


JOURNALIST: Do you know what that figure is? Was it in the billions of dollars?


SHORTEN: No let’s be straight here. The Abbott Government can easily - and Government departments frequently work out and project a certain cost for making sure that people’s wages go up slightly - there’s no doubt in my mind that no case has been made by this Government. No evidence has been offered by this Government to justify that the families of the men and women who are currently keeping Australia safe, that when they do their shopping on the weekend, that at least the pay packet should stretch to keep up with the cost of living. This is a Government who should just keep their promises. When Labor was in office, when there were three per cent increases annually for the last three years, these hypocrites now in government said that wasn’t enough. Yet when they get in, they just want to offer a paltry 1.5 per cent pay cut, and they’ve been terrorising the leave conditions of our service people which they’re only belatedly recognising has been a dreadful error of judgement.


JOURNALIST: How influential do you think Jacqui Lambie’s vow to block all government legislation has been on the Government’s decision today?


SHORTEN: I welcome the work of Senator Lambie and other cross bench Senators who have lined up alongside Labor to form a strong rejection of this Government’s crazy, mean-hearted proposals to our defence forces. But for me, this is an issue - I mean, Tony Abbott loves to talk about rebooting and taking barnacles off the hull of his Budget, what he should at least do, and you don’t need a focus group to work this out Tony Abbott, there are no Australians who support implementing a real pay cut on our defence forces. There is no support of that outside of the ministerial wing of the Abbott Government.


JOURNALIST: What did you make of Mr Abbott’s 45 minute press conference, has he effectively rebooted his agenda?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott’s so called ‘Year of Achievement’ is simply wrong; this has been a year of broken promises. Tony Abbott has had a year of dysfunction, deceit and disappointment. Australian’s know that this Government is adrift. They had the G20 debacle, where they didn’t see President Obama going, or President Xi coming.  They have got a domestic agenda which is narrow and extreme, and it is right on the rocks of the Senate because ordinary Australians don’t like this Government attacking health and education, breaking promises, telling lies, making cuts with no case.


JOURNALIST: Do you welcome the Government’s concessions on the higher education reforms? Surely that’s the right direction?


SHORTEN: This Government can’t be trusted on higher education. I stood on the polling booths right around Melbourne on Saturday, and there are a lot of students, young and not so young, coming up and complaining that the Abbott Government’s cutting 20 per cent - 20 per cent - from the budget of universities. The Abbott Government cannot be trusted not to create $100,000 degrees, whilst they’re taking 20 per cent of university funding away. The mathematics leads to no other conclusion: if you’re robbing Australia’s universities, if you’re robbing our Australian students of the prospect of a good education without massive cuts, then they create the circumstances of $100,000 degrees. The Abbott Government- their so called higher education  changes - are all about cutting money to universities, making it harder for kids from ordinary working class and middle class backgrounds to be able to have the great good dream of getting a higher education.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Government’s claims that Labor is to blame for Australia’s budget position, in light of the Deloitte report out today showing that the deficit will slide even further, that we’ll slide even further into deficit?


SHORTEN: What happened to Tony Abbott’s statement this morning that the buck stops with him? This is a person addicted to blaming everyone else. He lives in a house with no mirrors because if he did he’d see who should be blamed. What we need to see here is the Abbott Government, they brought down this unfair budget. They broke the promises before the election. They are the ones trying to bring in a GP tax, they are the ones trying to introduce $100,000 degree, they’re the ones cutting the pensions and cutting the real pay of our defence forces, cutting the ABC. This is Government who is severely damaging the fabric of our society and the buck stops with Tony Abbott and he should stop trying to blame everyone else.


JOURNALIST: Do you accept a substantial amount of any budget of downgrade in MYEFO will be factors outside of the federal government or any federal government control, in terms of international commodity prices?


SHORTEN: Well, we need to see the Government’s Mini-Budget straight away. You know, your question is right on the money going to this issue of where is this adrift Government going? They are at sea with no sense of their bearings, no sense of longitude or latitude, they are adrift. What they need to do is bring down their Mini-Budget. I mean, what is remarkable about this Government is again they say, they know privately and you talk to their media people and indeed some of the Ministers who are talking off the record about Tony Abbott. They know they’re not going to get their GP tax through, yet in their Mini-Budget I suspect they’re going to bank the changes, the so-called savings they make, even though they know they’re not going to get these changes through. This Mini-Budget will be a test of the honesty of Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott. In fact, in the case of Joe Hockey I suspect it’s his last chance.


JOURNALIST: Aside from policies like the GP co-payment, none the less, a substantial part of the Budget write-down will be due to international factors which a Labor Government nor this Government can control. So it’s not all politics leading the deficit write-down is it?


SHORTEN: Well Joe Hockey, when we he was in Opposition, used to say that Treasurers shouldn’t make excuses. For Joe Hockey what goes around comes around. There are measures within the control of this Government. They should stop pushing the GP Tax, they should  forget their $100,000 university degrees, they should stop their cuts to hospitals and schools at the state level - because health and education are both federal and state issues. There are measures which are in the control of this Government, and it is really rotten of the Government - if they want to have no excuses and the buck stops with Tony Abbott, why are they waiting another three weeks to bring down a Mini-Budget at you know, practically Christmas Eve. This Government will further damage Christmas retail confidence the longer they  hold off on their Mini-Budget. Last question thank you.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten Labor has said that federal issues had an impact on the Victorian state election result, how then do you explain why Mike Baird’s government is so far ahead of Labor in those polls in New South Wales?


SHORTEN: Well you’re right. There are some issues which are state issues, there are some issues which are federal and there are some which overlap. Australians know, regardless of the level of government- and they can distinguish the level of government- that some matters are influenced by both federal and state governments. Education and health are just such issues. Tony Abbott and the Victorian Liberals under Napthine conspired in terms of cuts to schools and hospitals. There’s no doubt in my mind that if former Premier Napthine had taken his orders from Victorians rather than from Tony Abbott, maybe he mightn’t have done as badly.  Nothing should take away from Daniel Andrews’ remarkable win and strong campaign and plan, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if Tony Abbott thinks that what happened in Victoria was a sort of rogue event unrelated to their unfair Budget, their broken promises, their tax on schools and hospitals, then he’s learned nothing. And I think that will be a source of great frustration for Australians as we enter the last week of Parliament. Tony Abbott does need to demonstrate this week that he’s learned and heard the message from Victoria that Australians do not like unfairness and they don’t like people cutting the quality of our education and our healthcare.


Thanks everyone. See you in Question Time.