Bill's Transcripts

3AW with Neil Mitchell






SUBJECT / S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.


NEIL MITCHELL: We have our panel of real people here who volunteered to assess the Budget from various levels, on the line in our Canberra studio first though is Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, good morning.




MITCHELL: How much blame does Labor carry for this? If there’s a problem, you caused it.


SHORTEN: No, the Government has built a Budget of broken promises based upon broken lies.


MITCHELL: Do you say that the deficit is not a problem?


SHORTEN: I say that this so called Budget emergency is nowhere near as extreme as what the Government is saying. The only reason they’re saying this is to justify very harsh cuts on hospitals and schools, and to people visiting the doctor.


MITCHELL: So, is the deficit a problem or not?


SHORTEN: Over the medium term, all conscientious governments need to constantly be making sure that sure that the revenues are greater than outlays, and that we’re encouraging growth. What you don’t do in the first Budget, is you don’t go after school kids, you don’t go after people who go to the doctor, you don’t go after motorists. We know that the Government has doubled the deficit since they got in to power. They’ve made decisions and now they want to justify their fairly tough and bleak view of the future and their extreme agenda.


MITCHELL: So what would you have cut?


SHORTEN: Well, when Labor was in we made cuts of about $180 billion over five years.


MITCHELL: What would you have cut in this Budget?


SHORTEN: Well I tell you what we wouldn’t cut, we wouldn’t put a new tax on GPs, we wouldn’t have gone to the last election making a whole lot of promises which we would have had no intention of keeping.


MITCHELL: That’s what you wouldn’t do, what would you do?


SHORTEN: Well we’d make sensible decisions, you’ve always got to look at structural changes –


MITCHELL: Like what?


SHORTEN: You’d always look at where your means tests are, you’d always look at whether you have sustainable growth –


MITCHELL: So you would have redone the means tests for pensions?


SHORTEN: Well I can refer you to Labor’s track record in this matter, but the thing is, we’re not the Government, and I’m not going to let the current government off the hook.


MITCHELL: Fair enough but if you were in government what would you do?


SHORTEN: Before the next election, and you have your current government people for years on the show so we’ll reveal our good policies before the next election. One thing we won’t be doing, is we won’t be putting a new tax on people going to the doctor. We will fight for Medicare. We won’t be saying to pensioners in 2017 that we will choose the lowest possible rate of growth for their pension. Why should the pensioners and the sick pay for the Government’s inability to make other decisions and grow the economy?


MITCHELL: So will you block in the Senate the co-payment for doctors?


SHORTEN: Yes. We do not support putting a new tax on people going to the doctor. To go to your earlier question as well – you know, there are costs to the health system, but if you are to fix them up within the system, you do it by working with the clinicians and the frontline health staff, or you just stop people from coming to the doctor.


MITCHELL: So you will block it in the Senate?


SHORTEN: We do not support the co-payment, we do not support a new tax on Medicare.


MITCHELL: I understand that. When you block it in the Senate –


SHORTEN: We won’t be voting for it, yes.


MITCHELL: Okay, what about the other bits and pieces, like the co-payment for the blood test, for x-rays, for the increase in prescriptions?


SHORTEN: We have not seen the case made out with the sick and the vulnerable having to start paying more taxes. Our GPs are on the frontline with people doing this work that you’re talking about, they are on the frontline to make sure that people get better. Does anyone seriously think that people discouraging people going to the doctor will actually make people better? I don’t buy the argument that there’s a whole lot of people who are not sick who go to doctors.


MITCHELL: Previously if I’d had a blood test, it was bulk-billed wasn’t it?


SHORTEN: Yes, in most cases yes.


MITCHELL: And now there’s going to be a five dollar payment.


SHORTEN: They want you to pay more, yes.


MITCHELL: Do you know how many of those five dollar payments you make, or is it open-ended? If you’re not a healthcare card holder?


SHORTEN: I don’t know.


MITCHELL: Joe Hockey didn’t seem to know it.


SHORTEN: Well the difference is that it is Joe Hockey’s Budget – I’ll get you an answer.


MITCHELL: No, no I see your point. We’ve got the AMA as well but I do know it’s confusing –


SHORTEN: Listen, their healthcare changes are confusing, they have left no impression of being particularly good news for the sick. The basic principle is we’ve got a very good healthcare system, it’s one of the best in the world. It doesn’t mean that we don’t constantly need to be policing costs. What you do is you work with the people in the health care industry, work with the pharmaceutical companies, work with the clinicians. What you don’t do, is you don’t just pick numbers out of the air and say “well Australians are going to the doctor on an average of 11 times a year and we’re going to tax them for it”.


MITCHELL: Famously, Kevin Rudd and repeated by Julia Gillard said that the buck stops with us on health. What’s your attitude? Does the buck stop with you?


SHORTEN: The buck stops with the Government –


MITCHELL: The Federal Government?


SHORTEN: Yeah, there is a role with the Federal Government and with health care. One of the big –


MITCHELL: Well you see, Joe Hockey’s saying the buck really stops with the states. Are you saying that under you it would stop with the Federal Government?


SHORTEN: It has to be a combination of the State and Federal Government. Not all one, not all the other. What we’ve seen in this Budget – and I think it has been overlooked a bit initially, is the obvious attack on petrol and the new GP tax worries and the pensioner worries, is that this Government is saying that they are going until the next ten years, would draw $80 billion dollars from hospitals and schools. This is going to put intolerable strain on states. Thus I suspect a debate about increasing GST.


MITCHELL: Well while we’re on it – where do you stand on that?


SHORTEN: We don’t support an increase in the GST.


MITCHELL: What about broadening of the base?


SHORTEN: Well broadening the base is generally good tax policy, but we’ve got to look at the detail of it.


MITCHELL: But would you consider broadening the base of the GST?


SHORTEN: No Neil, what works best in Australia is a combination of product of workplaces, good infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, a healthy population, encouraging growth. Tell me in this Budget, how on earth it’s good for people to be paying more taxes to go to the doctor, people paying more taxes in their petrol, people wanting to send their kids to university having to pay more to send their kids to university.


MITCHELL: Will you bock petrol excise interest?


SHORTEN: We don’t support the petrol excise increase


MITCHELL: So you will block it?


SHORTEN: We do not support a fuel excise.


MITCHELL: What about the deficit levy on high income earners?


SHORTEN: Well on that one we think it’s a broken promise, we simply know it’s a broken promise. Remember when Tony Abbott before the last election – probably on your show, said that there would be no new tax increases in the Government he leads. This is a tax increase, I think you’ve pointed that out, I’m not sure he answered you but in terms of our priorities on how we vote, we’re not ruling in or out on how we vote on that. Our focus is on middle and lower income people. They’ve been hit by cost of living pressures and broken promises, and there’s no doubt the tax that has been hit on people who earn more than a hundred thousand is a tax increase and it’s a broken promise.


MITCHELL: Okay, but you will block the petrol excise, you will block the blood tests and the copayment on doctors, but you haven’t decided on deficit levy yet. Is that right?


SHORTEN: That’s right. Let me again repeat – these are all new taxes. I wish Tony Abbott would have the guts to come on to your show and say it’s a tax increase.


MITCHELL: Okay, so if this Budget is so tough, how come spending is up nearly 12%?


SHORTEN: Well, you look at the priorities of the Government, I mean this is a Government who has got the wrong priorities. I don’t know why they’re doing this paid parental leave scheme - fifty thousand dollars for those people who have a million dollars plus to have a baby. This is extra money they don’t need to have a baby. Cut that – that’d be sensible.


MITCHELL: And what would that save?


SHORTEN: Well, that’s pretty hard to find in these Budget papers, but at the election they costed it at $22 billion dollars over the next four years.


MITCHELL: [Inaudible] was it paid for?


SHORTEN: Well that’s great isn’t it. They’re giving money to people who don’t need it, and they’re putting taxes on companies. Which by the way the consumers will pay for with high prices.


MITCHELL: Joe Hockey tells me there’s plenty of safety nets there, are you concerned that people under thirty will have to wait 6 months while they struggle to survive?


SHORTEN: Yeah, this is a Budget which is out of touch with young people. There’s three or four things for young people, you’ve mentioned one of them. We don’t know the circumstances why everyone can’t find a job, but I think this sort of brushed on saying that people under thirty that can’t find a job shouldn’t get the dole for 6 months. That’s just over the top.


MITCHELL: How would you increase revenue?


SHORTEN: Well, you just asked me about young people on the Dole – parents who want their kids to do an apprenticeship or go to uni, it’s going to cost them more, so these are issues which I think the Government needs to, well, the Government is just not as interested in apprenticeships as we were, and as we are. Sorry you had your next question.


MITCHELL: How would you increase revenue?


SHORTEN: It’s a straightforward question without an easy answer. The way you form Budgets is that you’ve got to restrain your structural spending – not necessarily increase an interest in labour, automatically reaching for the tax increase button – that is a very last resort, stunt-like way the way this Government is doing it. The best way to do it over time is to grow the economy. Building infrastructure which builds greater wealth – it’s a rising tide of an economy which lifts all boats.


MITCHELL: And I’m assuming you support the medical research fund?


SHORTEN: Medical research fund is a good idea but I don’t support the way they’ve funded it. It is a good priority to have a national discussion on, but why should people who have got chronic diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis – the poorest people, be paying for medical research? Surely there’s a better way to do it.


MITCHELL: Thank you for your time.