Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - MYEFO; Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal’s unfair cuts to Medicare and health services





SUBJECT/S: MYEFO; Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal’s unfair cuts to Medicare and health services; Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Clive Palmer

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone and welcome to Rockdale. I've been talking with Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and shoppers and people before Christmas about what they think about the new economic leadership of Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull. Australians are increasingly concerned that we have an incompetent Liberal Government who seems to have given up on running the economy and instead are just resorting to the Liberal book of tricks which involves increasing the GST to 15 per cent, putting up the price of everything that everyone pays and of course harsh cuts.

Yesterday's mid-year fiscal statement by Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull showed that we have a government who's on a road to nowhere with their Budget. After two and a half years of Liberal administration the deficit's up, debt is up, spending is up, but growth is down. And today, Australians are waking up discovering that after Malcolm Turnbull's so-called new economic leadership, spearheaded by Scott Morrison, all that Australians can see is that we've got a government engaging in a conversation about putting the price of everything up to 15 per cent and they're also making harsh cuts in particular in health.

It is wrong and Labor will oppose the idea, that Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals have, that the only way that Australia can get ahead is by attacking Medicare, making it more expensive to go to the doctor, and cutting some of the bulk-billing support for important programs which sees some of the most vulnerable in our society - people suffering from cancer, seeing cuts to radiation and pathology programs that these people desperately need.

What I'll do now is ask my Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen to talk further about yesterday's incompetent statement by the Government, and to talk further about what the prospects are for Australia with the Liberals, as we approach this Christmas.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bill. It's great to be here in Rockdale with Bill and our other colleagues this morning. As Bill said yesterday's mid-year economic update paints a very stark difference of approach between the Government and the alternative government. For two and a half years, the Government has got the big economic calls wrong, and the economy is paying the price. Of course, the Liberals had at their centrepiece increasing growth and reducing the deficit and they've done the opposite. The Liberals have no plan to return to balance; it begs the question - what is the point of a Liberal Government?

But the contrast is very clear. Yesterday as Bill said, the Government, instead of adopting Labor's plans on multinational tax or high-income superannuation, straight to cuts to health, cuts which will have a real impact, despite Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann claiming otherwise, claiming that these big cuts will have no impact on any patient, any consumers of health products around Australia. Just plain wrong. What's very clear from the last 24 hours is that the Government engaged in no consultation with anybody about these changes, these cuts; not with the AMA, not with health care professionals, not with consumer groups - with nobody.

So of course, what we're seeing is a repeat in many senses of Joe Hockey's disastrous 2014 Budget, going straight to ill thought out cuts, straight to cuts which have a real impact on people who can least afford it. And again, we know that with the budgetary situation being outlined deteriorating by this Government, they keep on the table plans for a 15 per cent GST, 15 per cent GST on fresh food, which will have a terrible impact on health as well. They get their priorities wrong. Cutting the things that can't be cut like support for oncology diagnostics, diagnostics to detect cancer. Pretty basic stuff, pretty important stuff for a fair society, a fair nation, and yet this Government goes straight to those issues. At the same time they contemplate making fresh food 15 per cent more expensive, for which no compensation could possibly be adequate. It's the sort of approach we get from Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, more of the same playbook from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey. As we say, Scott Morrison, every day proves he is WTH, worse than Hockey.

SHORTEN: Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I just confirm and clarify, you will not, you won't be backing the $650 million cuts to Medicare is that right? Labor won't be backing that move?

SHORTEN: Well, we'll study the fine print of what they're proposing, but our initial instinct is to stand up in defence of Medicare. That's what Labor does. If you want to assault Medicare like the Liberals do, well you'll have to come through me and the Labor Party first. We've been down this path before over the last two and a half years, haven't we? Where you have Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey or Scott Morrison, they don't know how to manage the economy. They said there was a budget emergency in 2014. Now they've, sort of, basically given up. They've said oh it's all too hard and we just hope eventually something good happens in the world economy and we'll just sort out our deficit and debt that way.

But in the meantime what the Liberals do is they reach for their old playbook, which is attack and assault Medicare. The assault on Medicare isn't just about cutting payments which will ultimately make it more expensive for people who are suffering cancer to get treatment. An attack on Medicare is an attack on all Australians. Having universal health care is one of the things which helps Australian families keep their head above water, to help make ends meet. They're at it again, and even the Australian Medical Association's had to come out yesterday and today and say to Malcolm Turnbull, please do not be Tony Abbott Mark II. Please do not attack Medicare and make it more expensive for people to go to the doctor, that doesn't help anyone.

JOURNALIST: But these incentive payments, the Government is saying that they haven't worked and given that the pathology sector is competitive, that they can be absorbed by pathology companies.

SHORTEN: Well why is it that you're buying the argument that the top cut -

JOURNALIST: I'm not buying the argument; I'm just telling you what the Government has said.

SHORTEN: Sorry, you're quite right. Why is it the Government is putting forward that the first idea they have in the whole set of ideas for economic recovery in Australia, why is it the Liberals always go after Medicare first? If they want to save not $600 million, but several billion dollars, go after multinationals and make them pay their fair share. Why is it that you go after the system which has served Australia well for decades? Why is it that they want to have a debate about increasing - ultimately, the consumer pays - increasing the cost of going to see the doctor, putting the doctor as the meat in the sandwich between the patients and the Government? Why is it instead they don't look at superannuation tax concessions? Why is it that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison will fight so hard to protect multinationals and people who already have millions of dollars in superannuation and instead they say as their first idea, let's put up the price of everything and one example of that is attacking Medicare because if you withdraw funds from Medicare, you will invariably put up the price of health care for all Australians.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Government says they will be reconfiguring the paid parental leave scheme. Has Labor been involved in those negotiations and what do you think that reconfiguration should look like?

SHORTEN: For all those working mums in Australia, when they hear that the Liberal Party's having another look at paid parental leave, they get very, very nervous. We've seen for two and a half years the Liberal Party dabble and do-over working mums who may be able to get some paid parental leave from their workplace. And what the Government keeps doing is trying to take away the government-funded safety net. Remember Tony Abbott said it was going to be his signature policy looking after working mums - he threw that overboard - and yet again we see the Liberals keep trying to muck around with the system where they keep treating working mums as double dippers. My best advice to the Malcolm Turnbull/Scott Morrison team is please, don't penalise working mums who've got good industrial conditions where they get some paid parental leave from their workplace, and don't undermine the public safety net. I don't trust Liberal governments when it comes to the conditions of working women in this country.

JOURNALIST: You've mentioned going after multinationals, Mr Bowen, you have accused the Government of failing to cut the $1,000 Baby Bonus is that something Labor would do?

BOWEN: Well, we're opposing the introduction of the $1,000 baby bonus, yes, and that just shows the responsible approach we're taking. We recognise that decisions are necessary when it comes to the Budget, like multinational tax, high-income super, tobacco, abolishing the Government's Direct Action policy, and opposing the Baby Bonus. I mean the Baby Bonus was abolished by the Labor Government because it wasn't sustainable, and this Government, in a side deal with the National Party - which is going so well, the relationship between the Liberal Party and the National Party at the moment - but in a side deal with the National Party while they're lecturing everybody else about tightening their belts and cracking down on pathology, is introducing the baby bonus of $1,000, well we'll oppose that. It shows the responsible approach we'll take and can I just say in relation to the changes to pathology, Scott Morrison should come out today and outline very clearly today to the Parliament and the people how he intends to introduce this cut. What mechanism will he use? Will he use regulations, will he use legislation, will he try and hide it in regulations which apply to all of Medicare to try and jam the Parliament? If he's got any guts, if he's got the courage of his convictions, he will introduce as a stand-alone measure and he will let the Parliament vote on the merits of this measure. If he's got the guts to do that, I challenge him to do that today, to outline very clearly how he will introduce these cuts to pathology and let the Parliament vote on them. Otherwise if he tries something tricky to try and put it in with other things that the Parliament would support, then he simply doesn't have the courage of his convictions, and he will be engaging in his normal trick politics.

JOURNALIST: How about aged care? Are you likely to both support - is Labor likely to support the aged care changes, the cracking down on providers that may rort some of the funding that's available to them?

SHORTEN: I'll get Chris to supplement some of this answer about Scott Morrison's predilection that whenever there is an issue he says he's going to have an integrity measure and Chris has got some pretty good facts and figures on that, I'll talk in particular about older Australians. Older Australians didn't sign up to a Liberal government attacking the funding they receive for complex needs including dementia. Again, we have got an economic team in Canberra, a Liberal economic team, they love to talk about economic leadership but never have I seen a government talk so much about leadership and deliver so little with such little imagination. Remember Scott Morrison yesterday in his Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement used this analogy that somehow he's driving Australia on vacation and the Australian people are the children in the background asking - in the back seat - asking are we there yet? The problem is the driver doesn't know where he's going and so what they do is they just increase the price of everything. The price on GST, going to 15 per cent. They want to make it more expensive to ultimately go to the doctor by cutting some of the money which doctors get from the government. And when it comes to aged care, is Scott Morrison's best idea about the future of Australia, taking funding away from people with complex needs including dementia in the aged care system, merely because he wants to stick with his signature scheme a $1,000 payment to mums with children under the age of 12 months who aren't working? Why on earth is the Government still sticking with their Wind Farm Commissioner? Why on earth is this Government still sticking with their discredited Direct Action plan? Why on earth is the Government so scared of multinationals that they won't ask them to make them pay their fair share? Why on earth won't the Government crackdown on superannuation tax concession loopholes for people who already have millions of dollars in superannuation, yet they manage to go out of their way to find the people who need the, you know the pathology treatments for cancer, older Australians with complex needs in aged care. This is a government who has all the wrong priorities, because they don't actually know where they're taking Australia. But I said that Chris would talk more about the integrity measures and Scott Morrison's predilection to this style of announcement.

BOWEN: Obviously there's a range of savings measures announced yesterday of cuts and various savings measures, just to deal with a couple of those to go to your question. Firstly the so-called crackdown on social security fraud well this is Scott Morrison's one trick - he's a one-trick pony. Whenever a saving is necessary he pulls this one out of the top drawer. You all remember the headlines in the last Budget when he was Social Security Minister, "Morrison to get tough on social security" and yesterday we see the same trick again. Now that's something the Government can do without legislation, it's up to them to justify the sorts of figures that are attached to this increased compliance, it's up to them to justify that it can raise that sort of money. I remember when we announced our multinational tax plan which had as one part of it increased resources to the Tax Office to crack down on multinational tax evasion, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey along with Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison laughed at it and said oh fancy having a policy to spend more money to raise more money, how's that ever going to work? Well they laugh it when it comes to multinational tax evasion and they embrace it when it comes to social security. These guys are just hypocrites and they're happy to be tough every day on social security, while they let multinational tax evasion off, to coin a phrase, scot-free.

Now in relation to some of the other measures, in relation to aged care, obviously we have concerns, unlike the government we have a proper process, consultation, I have already spoken to our Shadow Minister in this area, Shayne Neumann. We're working through the concerns, we'll have our Expenditure Review Committee go through the normal proper processes but we'll be asking all the right questions. Same with the health cuts, obviously we've outlined our deep concerns. We want to see how the Government is going to implement it. We're talking to the AMA again; Bill and I have been in contact with Catherine King our Shadow Minister. She's been pointing out all the problems with this approach. We'll go through that process and we want to see as I said before Scott Morrison, I'm sure he is out and about today, should come clean on how he intends to implement these changes, and will the Parliament get a clean, free vote or not on some of these changes. Don't be tricky about it, have the courage of your convictions and let the Parliament decide.

JOURNALIST: There that's no doubt the Government is going to want some of these savings measures to go through before the May Budget, so you'd assume that they'd want them to go through in the February sittings. Are you suggesting that if they do introduce the Bills to try and get these measures passed in February, potentially you won't wave them through?

BOWEN: I think you can take from Bill and I that we're not in any mind to wave through harsh cuts. I mean that is not our inclination at all, to give a rubber stamp to these sorts of broken promises and harsh cuts. Remember this Government's still bound by the “no cuts to health and education” commitment, they're still a Liberal government. And clearly we're very concerned about that. Now, the point I'm making about the Medicare changes in particular is that this Government's got form. They take harsh cuts, they put them in a package of things which the Parliament would want to vote for and say it's all or nothing. Well Scott Morrison shouldn't be doing that in this case. He's got a range of mechanisms available to him as to how he can do this, it's up to him not me as to how it happens, and I think not just the Labor Party but the entire Senate crossbench would want to have a good look at this proposal. It's very, very clear from the last 24 hours, no consultation with those affected by this Government. The Health Minister clearly hasn't been consulting, the Treasurer hasn't been consulting. We on the other hand have been in contact with all the groups, Catherine King, our excellent Shadow Health Minister's right across the detail of some of the impacts of this and of course we'll work that through in our normal fashion.

JOURNALIST: But do you acknowledge there is obviously, the Government does have a revenue problem if there's a slowdown in China and iron ore prices are coming down, things do need to be paid for some way?

BOWEN: I more than acknowledge it, I've been saying it! It's Scott Morrison who denies it. I mean Scott Morrison's claim that there's no revenue problem in Australia looks more ridiculous with every day that passes. I mean he's just presided over a revenue write-down of more than $30 billion and he says but there's nothing to see here, no revenue problem, at the same time as he's talking to state Treasurers about increasing the GST and putting the GST on fresh food. I mean the Treasurer's claim that there is no revenue problem in Australia just looks more and more ridiculous. We've the guts to say yes, revenue needs to be dealt with; we've got the guts to say difficult decisions on things like multinational tax and high-income super need to be dealt with. We've got the courage to drag -

JOURNALIST: But that won't be - that's not enough to deal with -

BOWEN: Well it's - the Government instead of doing these cuts to pathology yesterday, the Government could've come out and said look we've got a problem here the Budget's in a mess, we're going to take Labor's proposals. We're going to work in a bipartisan fashion, we're going to deal with multinational tax properly, we're going to deal with high-income super, we're going to deal with tobacco, we're going to work with the Labor Party. Those options are all available, we talk about a February sitting, could've sailed through the Parliament. Instead they've gone back to the well of the 2014 Budget; taken cuts which Joe Hockey thought were too harsh in his disastrous 2014 Budget, taken those cuts out of the top drawer, instead of doing something sensible.

JOURNALIST: But isn't it a bit rich for Labor to be criticising the handling of the Government's Budget when you were in office, you forecast a lot of - you forecast surplus and failed to deliver, even when at that time the iron ore prices were better than they are today?

SHORTEN: I tell you what's a bit rich - 800 days into a Liberal government in Australia and they just want to keep blaming Labor. Malcolm Turnbull justified getting rid of Tony Abbott, that he would provide new economic leadership that Hockey and Abbott couldn't provide. It doesn't wash with the Australian people anymore for the current Liberal Government, two and a half years in, to keep blaming Labor. A lot of the mess that we are now in is due to the incompetence and lack of direction of the Liberal government of the last two and a half years.

Remember at the last election, the Liberals said they could manage debt better, they can manage deficit better? Well, our debt over the next decade is heading towards $640 billion-plus under this government. Real growth, nominal GDP growth, has fallen. In the 2015 Budget, in the 2015 Budget, Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott made heroic and incorrect assumptions about a whole lot of the fundamentals of the Australian economy. Labor called them out in May of this year. Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull were senior Cabinet Ministers in the Hockey/Abbott Government. They all signed up to the 2015 Budget. That Budget didn't even last till Christmas.

The wheels have fallen off the car of the Liberal Budget, and now we've got Scott Morrison bumbling his way through a mid-year economic statement yesterday, basically disowning what Joe Hockey said in May. This is a government who has called the economy wrong, wrong, wrong since they got elected. Everyone knew the mining boom had slowed down when Liberal got in, and for two years, two and a half years, they've said there's a budget emergency one day, the next day they've said there isn't, and in the meantime, we haven't made the transition to the non-mining economy that we need to. And now we've got Malcolm Turnbull, he's now been in for over 100 days, we can't even find him to talk about economics this week. He's left it to poor old Scott Morrison to bumble his way through this mid-year economic statement. And what we have as a strategy from the Government is to put the price of everything up by 15 per cent, make harmful cuts which will affect not just the vulnerable, but will affect all wage earners in terms of the attack on Medicare, and we see they have no plan to reduce the debt, no plan to manage Australia's future beyond the mining boom. Last question, thank you.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you on Clive Palmer, do you think he's got a responsibility to outline his finances in order to save the nickel mine in Townsville?

SHORTEN: Well I don't make a practice about talking about individual businesses and whether or not they're insolvent and how they should be traded -

JOURNALIST: But as a Member of Parliament.

SHORTEN: No, I appreciate your question, I'm going to answer it I just want to set that we don't talk about trying to micro-manage individual businesses in the private sector. But I agree that for the town who rely upon his nickel refinery, for taxpayers who are being asked to support a company regardless of whoever owns it, I think there needs to be a lot more financial information out in the public marketplace before it's possible to make commitments about government or anyone else. It's important that we protect the job security of blue-collar workers. They've been knocked from pillar to post with the decline in the mining sector revenue. There isn't enough planning in Canberra about helping people who don't want to go and work in an internet startup. There's a lot of Australians facing this Christmas concerned about what will happen to their jobs, concerned about the price of everything and when you've got individual companies like Palmer's organisation and companies seek the assistance of government, I think there needs to be full transparency of financial arrangements. Thanks everyone, see you a bit later.