Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; NATSEM modelling






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; NATSEM modelling; Australian Defence Force real wages cut; Ebola; China Free Trade Agreement; Action on Climate Change; Metadata
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning. I am here today with NSW Member of Parliament, Adam Searle and Senator Sam Dastyari to take a walk through Sydney’s famous market. There is a lot of life here. There are a lot of hard working small businesses here. A lot of people who’ve invested their own time, their family’s efforts and resources into providing a great service for Sydney. There are a lot of shoppers here as well, making sure they can make ends meet, balancing the books, getting fantastic bargains. We see here the spirit of competition. We see here the important role that this market and small business provide in ensuring that families have cheap quality, healthy food to eat every night of the week.


That is why the Abbott Government's unfair Budget is such diabolical news for ordinary Australians. You have got small businesses, not just in the market, but in the High Streets of Australia's suburbs and small towns complaining that confidence has evaporated since about three weeks before the Budget was brought down. Confidence has evaporated and what the small businesses here is saying is we need to make sure people feel positive, the good news is getting out and bad news takes a holiday.
Also what we see talking to shoppers, talking to people who are trying to get bargains, is they are worried. This is not just people on fixed income pensions, but middle income Australians, people who go to work every day, they are dreadfully worried that the Abbott Government’s GP tax, that the prospect of doubling and tripling the cost of sending their kids & Grandkids to universities, cuts to pensions, that these measures are harming the ability of Australians to feel they can stay ahead.
We have seen research from NATSEM which shows the Abbott Government's Budget, the burden falls unfairly on low and middle income Australia. It's all right for the senior members of the Government in their own electorates. The senior members are making sure their electorates are paying only a small increase and experiencing small cuts whereas the rest of Australia has been left to its own devices by the Abbott Government.
Talking of cost of living pressures, I might just make an observation about the Australian Defence Force’s current pay offer. I believe 1.5 per cent is on the low side. I think it's important that our men and women when they serve overseas don't lose their leave and recreational arrangements. Everyone is entitled to a holiday in the course of a year. I would ask the Government to reconsider making sure that the real wages of Australia's Defence Forces are not falling and slipping behind inflation.
One other point I’d just like to make is about Ebola at the moment. I understand there is concern in the community. You see the dramatic reports of some of the situation in West Africa. There's been a report about an Australian nurse who may have contracted Ebola. The good news is the nurse appears, all the signs appear, to be positive and I am profoundly happy about that. And again, I would like to reassure Australians that the Government and the health authorities do have arrangements in place.
Whilst Ebola is obviously a matter of topic and concern, people shouldn't be unduly worried and I would also just like to say to the nurse’s family there are some unfortunate comments made by an Australian politician in some fashion criticising her for putting herself in a position where she risked Ebola. I would just like to say to the family of this nurse and the nurse if you are listening: I understand and Labor understands that not every hero wears a uniform. I think our nurses, our nurses and our medical staff, be it in Australia or people courageously volunteering and doing work overseas, they deserve a pat on the back. They're real heroes and don't deserve any criticism for the help they provide the rest of Australia.

Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)
SHORTEN: I think that it's important that Australia does provide more support. This is a real health challenge for the people in West Africa, several thousand people have died from it. It is important that we step in and provide humanitarian relief. Australia can't pull up the draw bridge and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Just as Labor is supporting in a bipartisan fashion the intervention so far in northern Iraq, I think we also have an obligation to make sure that we can do what we can, within reason and within our budgetary resources, help other people who will doing it hard around the world. The problem you don't deal with somewhere else sooner or later becomes a problem we have to deal with here.
JOURNALIST: Just on Iraq, you said earlier this week that the Government had made that an issue for political point scoring (Inaudible)… Do you still stand by those claims that the Government is trying to score points that way?


SHORTEN: Well, they say a week is a long time in politics but this week we saw Tony Abbott and myself on one side of the argument and Treasurer Joe Hockey on the other side. I do not understand why Joe Hockey is trying to link the intervention in northern Iraq to justify his unfair Budget. It seems to me that these days every time Joe Hockey opens his mouth he puts his foot in it. No-one believes that the intervention in northern Iraq justifies the case for supporting an unfair Budget. The shoppers here today and the small businesses here today, they are the heart of Australia under these shed roofs today. They are not saying that the war in Iraq justifies cutting pensions or introducing a GP tax. I think that Joe Hockey is a desperate man rapidly running out of time to rationalise or justify his unfair Budget and he certainly shouldn't be using our military in northern Iraq to justify his rotten Budget in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Just on other matters, we have had China introduce its plans to bring Tariffs on Coal prices. What’s your view on what we should be doing about that?


SHORTEN: I think it is reasonably serious that China is introducing a tariff on Australian coal. I don’t think they have done that on Indonesian coal because Indonesia is a part of ASEAN. I believe that the Australian coal mining industry which going through a very tough patch at the moment, especially on the east coast, has been restructuring their operations. They are now getting their operations into a profitable state. A lot of people have been working hard in those mines, the miners as well as the management, to make sure that Australian coal is competitive. This is a new obstacle in the path of Australian coal. I think the Federal Government looks silly at the moment, they're talking about negotiating a free trade agreement with China. Yet the very people they're making progress in negotiations with have just chucked a new tariff to discourage Australian coal and put our people at a disadvantage. The Government certainly needs to sort this issue out and it is certainly another obstacle for a free trade agreement. It just makes me wonder what sort of deal the Abbott Government is actually getting out of other countries when they're sitting down negotiating with other countries. Other countries have such a confident view of their own position compared to Australia, they can slam on a new tariff against Australian minerals.


JOURNALIST: Similarly on that issue, will you take a Carbon Price to an election?


SHORTEN: We will not have a carbon tax. The Australian people have spoken: Labor is not going to go back to that. I do believe it's important that we use the market to - not this market - use a market to help set a priority in terms of tackling climate change. So we will have a serious and sensible policy on climate change. We do want to tackle carbon pollution but we won't be going back to what we saw in the past which is a carbon tax. No way, not at all.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Australians should be able to access their own metadata?


SHORTEN: I would have to take that question on notice. Presumably Australians know what they've been doing and who they have been calling already. But I would have to take that question on notice. There is a broader issue here about getting the balance right between the privacy of Australian citizens and our national security. Currently the Government's proposed some new laws which are in the committee stage of the Parliament and being reviewed. I look forward with interest to see the conclusions that my colleagues draw having examined the evidence from the security agencies and rights organisations who are mindful of preserving the privacy of Australians.
Thanks very much everyone. Have a lovely day.