Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Launceston




SUBJECT/S: Deceit Tax, Tony Abbott’s Broken Promises, Paid Parental Leave, Age Pension

Good morning everyone. It’s great to be here in Launceston with hard-working Senator Helen Polley. Today I’ve just been speaking with pensioners from the northern part of Tasmania. Pensioners are up in arms, they are red hot angry that on one hand the Government is proposing to change pensions, make the aged pension an election issue at the next election and on the other hand, still persist with a paid parental leave scheme which will provide millionaires with money they don't need.


Pensioners all around Australia are confused at the Abbott Government's twisted priorities. On one hand they see Tony Abbott, who before the election said that pensions wouldn't be touched, now saying that he’s going to review the carers pension amongst other pensions, and even the aged pension is on the Liberal Party chopping block to be discussed over the next two years. On the other hand, he has had a signature policy for four years which would see people who don't need tens of thousands of dollars for paid parental leave, multi-millionaires receive paid parental leave, and yet the pensioners who’ve worked hard their whole life and paid their taxes, that they’ve got to worry about their future.


Indeed, in the last 24 hours, we’ve seen Prime Minister Abbott walk away from what he boasted, as late as yesterday, was his signature policy. As late as yesterday the Prime Minister said that he was sticking by his paid parental leave scheme exactly as it was, and today the Prime Minister’s broken his promise from yesterday. We don't think the expensive paid parental leave scheme, giving multi-millionaires tens of thousands of dollars they don't need for paid parental leave was ever a good idea. But what we’ve got now is a Prime Minister who said this was his main signature policy. He described himself as Nixon going to China, Abbott going to paid parental leave land, and he has walked away from it in the last 24 hours.


If Prime Minister Abbott can't even stick by his signature policy for 24 hours, how can Australians trust him on anything? And anyway, whatever his paid parental leave scheme is, it is an unfair scheme. Australians know that giving tens of thousands of dollars to people who don't need tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, and at the same time proposing a new tax for the hard-working middle class of Australia, is a terrible idea. So in the last 24 hours the Prime Minister’s broken his promises, he’s proven he is not a man of his convictions and he certainly hasn't walked away from his dumb, crazy idea to tax millions of hard working Australians because the Abbott Government doesn't know how to bring down a budget. Happy to take questions.


REPORTER: Now that the threshold’s been lowered for the paid parental leave scheme, are you saying that people who earn $100,000 a year are rich?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, on the basis of that question, Tony Abbott’s saying the people who earn $80,000 a year should have their income tax increased. Mr Abbott yesterday got caught in playing weasel words to justify his actions. He said yesterday that there would be four years of personal income tax increases, raising taxes, he said but that’s only temporary. Mr Abbott, if people are paying more tax that doesn't feel temporary. And for their paid parental leave scheme, there was already a perfectly good scheme in place. Mr Abbott can break his promises and flip-flop and one day he believes one thing and the next day he says something else. What I know is that the idea of giving multi-millionaires tens of thousands of dollars for a paid parental leave scheme is a bad idea. You can't renovate a bad idea, you should just scrap a bad idea.


REPORTER: Mr Shorten, the PM’s office are allegedly saying that the allegations are only speculation, the threshold won't be reduced.


SHORTEN: Well, the Prime Minister is in the world of all - he’s in the worst of all possible worlds. On one hand he’s pushing a policy which the whole of Australia thinks is a dud of an idea. On the other hand he’s backed himself into a corner by advocating that multi-millionaires should receive tens of thousands of dollars for money they don't need. How on earth can the Prime Minister justify increasing the income tax levels for all Australians who go to work and yet have a paid parental leave scheme which will see tens of thousands of dollars for people who don't need paid parental leave? How on earth does Mr Abbott justify playing around with the carers pension, modest incomes, scaring older Australians by saying that the age pension is up for policy debate under an Abbott Liberal Government and yet proposing that multi-millionaires get tens of thousands of dollars for a paid parental leave scheme?


REPORTER: He said that there’d be no changes to the pension until after the next election, and that’s a risky move. Surely that’s the most honest way to get a mandate for change if the government [inaudible]?


SHORTEN: What on earth did Australia's aged pensioners do to deserve Tony Abbott? They have worked hard their whole lives and paid tax. Let's be really straight about the aged pension - it ain't as generous as Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme. The people are not doing it comfortably on the age pension. Why on earth does Tony Abbott want to make aged pensioners the subject of first his first term of Government and political reform. There are surely better ways to make hard decisions and help Australia than going after pensioners, not just aged pensioners. And this paid parental leave scheme, the quickest way for Tony Abbott to help deal with the Budget is to dump a $22 billion Rolls Royce scheme which will see multi-millionaires receive an unfair taxpayer benefit. It means that ordinary Australians will go to work and their taxes will be going straight into the pockets of multi-millionaires for paid parental leave which they don't need.


REPORTER: On income tax rates, shouldn’t high income earners be asked to contribute to reduce the deficit?


SHORTEN: We already have a progressive tax system in Australia where high income earners pay more than lower income earners. And I support a progressive tax income system. But it was Tony Abbott who said on tax that no country increases its tax and makes its way to prosperity. Labor didn't invent all the quotes that Tony Abbott said before the last election. We listened to Tony Abbott in Opposition promise one thing to Australians, there would be no new taxes, then he breaks his promises when he gets into Government and starts flying kites about increasing the personal income taxation levels of all Australians. That is not the best future for Australia. We need growth, we need incentive to work. We don't need to be taxing people who go to work every day because the Abbott Government hasn't got any better ideas. This is a Government of twisted priorities. Here is a good idea for the Budget Mr Abbott, dump your Rolls Royce paid parental leave scheme and leave the pensioners and people who go to work every day and pay taxes alone.


REPORTER: Do you have any personal knowledge of this [inaudible] account in the HSU?




REPORTER: What do you make of what you have read about it?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to speculate about what I read in the newspaper. What I do know is that when people speculate about these things, it is probably not going to help matters. Let's see what the Royal Commission does.


REPORTER: Does it sound like appropriate use of members' funds though?


SHORTEN: You are asking me to speculate about a media report, I am just not in a position to be able do that.


REPORTER: With this wave of new scandals that are emerging with the HSU and with Kathy Jackson, doesn't that justify the need for a Royal Commission?


SHORTEN: Labor will cooperate with the Royal Commission. We believe that there should be the best possible standards in workplace relations. Labor has no place for any criminality or corrupt behaviour. We are also seeing, of course, reports about what has been unfolding in the NSW ICAC and Tony Abbott's home division of the Liberal Party. So I am sure he has plenty issues to work through with his party as well.


REPORTER: At a time when the pension age is being pushed back and there is more encouragement, more than ever for Australians to fund their own retirement, perhaps you could come up with a measure to scrap contributions tax to super as an encouragement for Australians to build up their super and be more self-funded?


SHORTEN: Superannuation in Australia is compulsory savings for peoples' retirement. Labor has always supported the principle of having concessional taxation for superannuation. In other words, if you can't use the money now, it is appropriate that you get a concessional tax treatment of it for retirement. What is really disturbing about the twisted priorities of the Abbott Government is they are happy to give multi-millionaires tens of thousands of dollars extra for a paid parental leave scheme, yet they have taken a tax rebate or a $500 tax refund which Australians were getting - 3.5 million Australians who earn less than $35,000. Australians are paying extra tax on their superannuations, 3.5 million Australians courtesy of the Abbott Government. If the Abbott Government wants to make sure that people have good funding in retirement and don't have to just rely on the aged pension, the Abbott Government should revisit the new tax it is putting back onto 3.5 million Australians who will be paying more tax on their superannuation.


REPORTER: Given that Senator Polley is here today, do you support her as the number one placeholder on Labor’s Senate ticket for Tasmania following bullying allegations and the CommCare investigation last year?


SHORTEN: Senator Polley works hard for Tasmania, she works hard for Northern Tasmania in particular, but for all of Tasmania. She is a representative in terms of Labor's policy development on aged care. She works very hard and does a very good job. I believe that ultimately it is a process for the Tasmanian Labor, who they pick for their Senate. Labor is a membership-based party. We're determined to have good hard-working candidates represent Tasmania. And certainly when you see issues like we're talking about today, Helen Polley doesn't support millionaires getting the paid parental leave scheme. She doesn't believe in giving millionaires tens of thousands of dollars for paid parental leave. She certainly doesn't support the Abbott Government interfering with the aged pension or the carers pension, and she certainly doesn't believe that a dumb lazy tax on all income earners in Australia by the Abbott Government is anything other than broken promises and twisted priorities.