Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Peter Costello slams Joe Hockey’s poor management of the Economy






SUBJECT/S: Peter Costello slams Joe Hockey’s poor management of the Economy; Superannuation; Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s trashing of the Economy; GST Carve up; Tony Abbott’s $80 billion cut to Schools and Hospitals; Constitutional recognition of our first Australians; Tony Abbott killing the auto-manufacturing sector.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Every day as Australia gets closer to the next Abbott Government Budget, we see their Budget unravelling in front of our very eyes. Today we've seen former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello have a massive swipe, unprecedented, against his former colleagues Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.


Peter Costello's right - Hockey is a joke but Australians stopped laughing a long time ago.


The Budget mess, dishonesty and incompetence of the Abbott Government is causing real harm to Australians. This is why it's so serious.


Taxes are up and unemployment’s up. Business confidence is down, and the Australian dollar is almost down to the New Zealand dollar. Australians are doing it hard. There's 2,000-plus jobs gone in renewable energy, pensioners are anxious about cuts to the pension, young people are worried about $100,000 degrees and of course you’ve got the Government trying to constantly put new taxes on the Medicare system to wreck Medicare.


Peter Costello is correct today - Joe Hockey is a joke but unfortunately for a lot of Australians this is a serious problem and Australians are suffering.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Who do you think is a better Treasurer - Joe Hockey or Peter Costello?


SHORTEN: Well, we don't really have a choice do we? It’s Joe Hockey’s the Treasurer that the Liberal Party are giving us but it is a complete joke what we’re seeing at the moment. We are seeing former Liberal Treasurers attack current Liberal Treasurers. You’ve got the States begging for crumbs from the bowl of Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott all because Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott cut $80 billion from state funded hospitals and schools in their last Budget. This is a Government in disarray.


JOURNALIST: How about some of the tax measures that Labor's opposed in terms of Labor wanting to get rid of the carbon tax, the mining tax, wouldn’t have that drawn in some of this revenue in billions of dollars that you’re saying has now disappeared?


SHORTEN: Just to understand your question, you’re saying that the Liberals have got rid of taxes which would have drawn in revenue or?


JOURNALIST: Well they’re saying that by companies not having to pay those taxes it's essentially allowed, for example, mining companies to be a little bit more sustainable given plunges in iron ore prices.


SHORTEN: Well it's interesting you talk about mining companies and mining prices. The truth of the matter is that with iron ore prices falling, Joe Hockey has got the economy wrong. Iron ore prices are falling and Tony Abbott and  Joe Hockey have no plan B for Australia. The transition from the mining sector to the non-mining sector’s under way and experts have been looking at this issue for two years. But what's Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott's plan? They don't have one. Instead what they’ve done is they’ve killed confidence. They are, three weeks before the last Budget they released the Commission of Audit report which proposed savage cuts to the safety net.

We’ve seen pensioners close their wallets because they don't know when the next cut from the Government’s coming. We’ve seen families giving up the idea that their kids can go to university or mature aged Australians retraining for the post mining boom world, because we’ve got a Government trying to introduce $100,000 degrees. We’ve got the health system in disarray because we’ve got the Abbott Government proposing new taxes on sick people to go the doctor. Business confidence is low, confidence amongst Australians is falling.


A lot of Australians thought that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey would improve the situation. Australians now realise that Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott have made things worse.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask do you have a plan? You condemn their plan, but do you have a plan?


SHORTEN: Absolutely condemn what they're doing in terms of their impact on confidence with their cuts to pensions, cuts to funding at schools and hospitals. We’ve put forward a plan which would see over ten years over $7 billion being paid by multinationals for their fair share of taxation which they're currently not paying. We’ve put forward costed proposals which would see over $7 billion go to the bottom line. We’ve also said very, very clearly that where the proposals are fair we’ll support them. Labor’s supported over $20 billion of the propositions put forward by Joe Hockey in his last Budget. But there's no way Labor can ever support wrecking Medicare, going after the pensioners with a Budget axe or indeed breaking their promises that they’ve made in terms of no cuts to education funding.


JOURNALIST: One of the things that Peter Costello said is he believes there should be reform of the welfare system and not superannuation. Would you support any of those sorts of measures to reform welfare with the reliance on welfare?


SHORTEN: Well Labor’s always been up for improving means testing of welfare payments. But the Government isn’t proposing that. What we see is thought bubbles come out from government ministers barely a month before the next Budget with no detail behind them. But Labor doesn't believe that you reform the welfare system by slugging every pensioner with a pension cut. The Government's only proposition which we’ve seen and it's still in the Budget papers, is that they are proposing that every pensioner take a cut to the real level of their pension, every pensioner. If we want to have a serious conversation about the top end of where the taper rates of where pensions and assets merge, we were happy to have that intelligent discussion with the Government. But there’s no way the Labor Party I lead is going to support across the board cuts to the pension. No way, not now, not ever.


JOURNALIST: How about superannuation, should tax breaks for wealthy retirees be reined in?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, we’ve got to make sure that superannuation is achieving the purpose for which it was designed for. It was designed to make sure that people could have enough money so that in retirement - so they don't have to rely upon the aged pension. What we’ve got to make sure is that the tax concession system is not sufficiently disproportionate, that we have multimillionaires able to gain windfall profits from income which other Australians can't get. But let's be very clear, we think with superannuation the Government's done the wrong thing freezing superannuation payments as 9.5 per cent. We don't like the fact that they've made it harder for less well-off people to put money into superannuation. Superannuation is the long bargain of Australia where people in return for having compulsory savings, receive concessional tax treatment as the money goes in. We have to make sure that system is achieving that purpose, that’s what it was designed for.


JOURNALIST: What sort of position do you think Peter Costello’s coming from when he’s making these comments? Do you think he was a good Treasurer?


SHORTEN: I certainly think Peter Costello was a better Treasurer than Joe Hockey. I think everyone in Australia thinks that. I think it’s a sign of the failure of the Abbott Government that their former Treasurer champion Peter Costello has felt the need to leap into print.


Strip away all the sort of words and the rhetoric and the politics, Peter Costello has given the thumbs down to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott's Budget.


Peter Costello has belled the cat. He is right, Joe Hockey is a joke but the problem is Australians stopped laughing a long time ago. These problems are serious for Australians. Business confidence is down, taxes are up and of course we see unemployment up which is perhaps the worst indictment of the Government.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think there is a revenue problem?


SHORTEN: In terms of which area?


JOURNALIST: I guess what I’m asking is, you want to stop the cuts, but there’s not many sort of reforms increasing revenue. Is the plan solid? Do you have a plan for – I mean you just can't stop cuts and say I am not raising revenue and then solve the problem?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, there’s no doubt iron ore commodity prices are down, we acknowledge that. But it’s no surprise to seasoned economic observers that the mining boom’s over and we’re transitioning to a non-mining boom. But you have to recognise that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey just called the economy wrong last year. Instead of preparing Australia for a transition from the mining boom, what they’ve done is they’ve cut confidence and they’ve made cuts to the social safety net which is important to all Australians. In terms of revenue, Labor’s put a perfectly sound proposition on the table: make some of the foreign multinationals in Australia pay their fair share. Why is it that Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott are so reluctant to make foreign multinationals pay their fair share yet they’re willing to slug pensioners and cut their pensions? This is a Government out of touch and has the wrong priorities.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, does the Government need to address bracket creep as Peter Costello suggested?


SHORTEN: Well when we look at what’s happening with incomes what the Government needs to do is address the confidence problem that we’ve got in Australia. If there was more business confidence then we’d see more expansion and more growth. What the Government needs to do is stop cutting the safety net of Australians. This Government, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, were not elected on a platform to cut pensions, to introduce $100,000 degrees, to introduce the tax on sick people going to the doctor and certainly they never told the States that they would take $80 billion from schools and hospitals from State Governments all around Australia.


JOURNALIST: Do you think that business confidence would improve if Labor categorically ruled out bringing back a mining and a carbon tax if you were to be elected next year?


SHORTEN: We’ve categorically ruled out the carbon tax. In terms of mining we already made it clear that wouldn't do anything without talking to the mining industry first, so they’re not live issues. But for the Government, what they’ve got to do is start stimulating business confidence by not slashing pensions, by not killing the financial position of the States by cutting $80 billion from schools and hospitals. Why is it that Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott are so reluctant to make multinationals, foreign multinationals in Australia pay their fair share in taxation?


JOURNALIST: But an emissions trading scheme would be a form of a tax.


SHORTEN: I think today what we’ve seen is Peter Costello, he wasn’t talking about that, what he was talking about is that Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott and their Budget are a joke. The problem is Australians stopped laughing a long time ago. What we see is  unemployment’s up since Tony Abbott got elected. We see that taxes are up. We also see that business confidence is down. I think Australians are generally worried about their economic security in 2015 and they’re genuinely worried because we’ve got a dishonest and dysfunctional Government with a Budget that’s in disarray and today, Peter Costello, leading Liberal Treasurer, has come out and said about his former colleagues that they are a morbid joke in the way they’re handling the Budget and tax debates in this country.


JOURNALIST: On the GST carve up; there is always a squabble every year about how the revenue should be distributed. It seems to be a particularly noisy fight this year, what is your take?


SHORTEN: You’re right. There is a noisy fight between the States because the States of Australia are being forced into the position of begging for crumbs from the table of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey. The truth of the matter is that in the last Budget of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, they cut $80 billion in funding to the States which the States use to fund schools and hospitals. No wonder there is a noisy argument going on between Western Australia and the eastern coast States. It is caused by the fact that they are all desperate for revenue because Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have cut funding to schools and hospitals. The source of the GST argument between the States is Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and their $80 billion worth of cuts to hospitals and schools in last year's Budget.


JOURNALIST: How would you change the carve-up?


SHORTEN: First of all, you wouldn't do the $80 billion worth of cuts in the manner in which they are doing them. That’s the first issue. If you have a smaller set of funding from the Commonwealth Government, then inevitably you will have these acrimonious arguments about carve-up. I believe the process for GST allocation should be independent. But what I also recognise is that you have the Abbott Government who are the ones who are cutting $80 billion. If you take $80 billion out of the financial system of the States, the schools and hospitals, it is little wonder that the States are turning on each other like a group of competing factions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten can I ask are you concerned about the split in the path to indigenous recognition?


SHORTEN: I believe that now is the time for Tony Abbott to step up to the plate on indigenous recognition. I have written to and spoken to Tony Abbott seven times since last September/October saying to Tony Abbott, that we need to meet, he and I need to meet with indigenous leaders to thrash out what a question for constitutional change would be.


Tony Abbott now needs to stop the playing in the traffic between the constitutional conservatives of the right wing of his own party and the legitimate expectations of many Indigenous Australians. It is time, not just for bipartisanship but for leadership. Again I say to Tony Abbott, we need to meet with the voices and the leaders of Indigenous Australia to see if we can agree on a question. Until we get that sorted out, everything else is going to be stalled.


JOURNALIST: Is Noel Pearson damaging the case for indigenous recognition by putting forward that compromised proposal of symbolic recognition outside of the Constitution?


SHORTEN: I have had a look at Noel's proposal. I have got a lot of respect for Noel Pearson individually. What it now needs though is not just individuals offering their propositions, it is a time for leadership. I strongly believe that the Constitution of this country, which I liken to the national birth certificate, should include Indigenous Australians on our national birth certificate. But what we need to do is Tony Abbott needs to sit down, as I have requested him now on half a dozen occasions to do, sit down with the range of opinions in Indigenous Australia, including Noel Pearson and many others, and let's thrash out one question. How on earth can we work out if we should vary the Constitution if we don't know what the question is that we want to see put into the Constitution? There’s been expert panel reports and a lot of work done. Tony Abbott needs to stop playing in the traffic of Constitutional recognition. He needs to bring the players into the same room and see if we can't agree on one question. I will work with him on that.


JOURNALIST: You want there to be a referendum at next year's election as part of the Federal election?


SHORTEN: Ultimately the date is not the key issue for me. What matters is getting the question right and hearing the voices of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. This debate is going off the road, it is veering out of control because Tony Abbott, I think, finds it too hard and I would again reiterate my invitation to Tony Abbott. I will work with you on Constitutional recognition. We need to have a gathering of Australia's indigenous leaders from a range of opinions. We need to then have a conversation with all of Australia but we need a common question, setting the date without understanding the proposal is not the key issue. Getting the question right which we can all unite behind, that is what matters.


Last question.


JOURNALIST: Do you share the views that the car industry of Australia will become a dumping ground if (inaudible)


SHORTEN: We’ll have to look at that proposal in detail. Everyone knows that before Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey got elected, there were a certain number of countries in the world who made cars. Once they got elected there is one less country making cars and that is Australia –


JOURNALIST: Are we paying too much here?


SHORTEN: First of all to go to your first question, Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott abandoned the car industry. Thousands of people are losing their jobs. They have no replacement plan. There is no plan to be a smart, technology, science-based manufacturing country. The car industry will be on the tombstone of this Government in terms of their lack of action in giving up thousands of quality jobs. In terms of the future in car pricing, we will see what the Government is considering in terms of their propositions.


Thanks everyone, have a loving day.