Bill's Transcripts

Interview with Capital Hill




MONDAY, 19 MAY 2014


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget lies; Tony Abbott’s broken promise to pensioners;


LYNDAL CURTIS: We are joined from Melbourne by the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten welcome to Capital Hill.




CURTIS: If I could go back through recent history. Labor proposed the first co-payment for GPs, you introduced prescription co-payments, you finished the job John Howard started on moving single mothers on to lower Newstart payments, Labor introduced HECS, you just had five years of cuts to the public servants and Labor was the first to press the pause button the Millennium Development Goals, that’s increasing foreign aid. So what exactly does Labor stand for?


SHORTEN: The Labor I lead has found its voice. And although Tony Abbott didn't tend to help Australians galvanise around the mean and nasty cuts, the Labor that I lead will stand up for Medicare. We believe in the principle of universally accessible Medicare. The Labor that I lead will stand up for pensioners and oppose his cuts. The Labor that I lead will oppose a petrol tax because it is a massive cost of living impost upon every Australian. The Labor that I lead will never support putting people on Newstart, sending them away for six months to starve, to have no money -


CURTIS: Although, Julia Gillard did once propose a pilot scheme to end payments to teenage mothers if they hadn't gone back to school after their child turned one, didn't she?


SHORTEN: Lyndal, if what we are debating here is Tony Abbott implementing a Labor Budget, he most certainly, definitely is not. You and I remember, as much as Tony Abbott tells us that Australians hear different things, as much as he tries to lie his way out of this disaster by saying he put Australians on notice before the last election, you and I and indeed every Australian knows, that Tony Abbott lied his way into office, he is breaking promises and creating an unfair Budget which will hurt the cost of living of all Australians.


CURTIS: If I could go to a couple of the things that you talked about. If I could go to the pension age. Why 67 and not 70? What modelling work did you have done that says that three years won't, will make a difference?


SHORTEN: Australians don’t want to be forced to work until they’re 70. Some will choose to do that, some will be in jobs where they won't have physically exhausted and tired bodies -


CURTIS: But what is the difference between 67 and 70?


SHORTEN: Well Lyndal, the difference is the Liberals are proposing 70 and it is a bridge too far. I'm happy to have that argument and trust the Australian people to determine which is the better position. I’m happy for Tony Abbott - in fact, I make this invitation on your show, I will debate Tony Abbott on aspects of his Budget on your show or indeed on any television show, and I will fight for the right of not forcing and compelling people to work until they're 70. I've spent my adult life representing people in blue collar occupations, be it nurses, be it cleaners, be it concreters, be it people working in quarries. The reality is that for a lot of the these people, they started work at 15. Their bodies can't carry them through until they are 70.


CURTIS: On the question of the petrol tax, what's magical about 38.1 cents per litre excise on petrol. You don't want it to rise, but in government, Labor rejected Opposition calls for the excise to be cut?


SHORTEN: Lyndal, what is magical about putting pressure on families’ budgets? There is nothing magical about it. You said before, you made the point I think in one of your very early questions in this chat just a couple of minutes ago, you said what does Labor stand for? We don't stand for putting greater pressure on family budgets through a petrol tax.


CURTIS: Do you believe that the Commonwealth should contribute more to the State spending on schools and education? Are you still committed to funding 50 per cent of public hospitals as Kevin Rudd was?


SHORTEN: I fundamentally believe that the Commonwealth has a role to work with other levels of government to ensure that we have the best hospitals possible and the best schools possible. This Abbott Government has ripped up the rule book when it comes to the way Australia should be run. I said on Thursday night in my Budget Reply speech, Labor believes in a sustainable Budget, but we don't believe in the deliberate and calculated proposals to develop a permanent underclass in Australia.


You go back as far as Robert Menzies with state aid to private schools. I think it's laughable that the current generation of so-called Liberals led by Abbott and Pyne and Hockey, I think it is a complete joke the way they say in that disinterested way, shoulder-shrugging way, ‘we've got no role in education and health care.’ Yes, you do. If these guys don't want to have a role in education and health care, maybe they should just get out of government and leave it to people to make sure we have the best working federation. How cheeky, how presumptuous are this mob, this mob of roosters to come in and say, ‘That's not our problem.’ Yes, it is.


CURTIS: What then is the task, the longer term task, in making the Budget sustainable? Can it ever be achieved without hitting the biggest spending and growth programs which are, apart from Defence, welfare, benefits, health and education?


SHORTEN: Lyndal, Labor has always been up for the hard work of rolling up your sleeves and ensuring the Budget task of having a sustainable Budget in the medium term is accomplished. What we've never done is create a false budget emergency, because after all Australia is one of only eight nations in the world with a AAA credit rating from all three international credit rating agencies. We are not going to tell Australians, tell poor people, you've got to get poorer. We are not going to tell old people that somehow you've got to pay for the cost of Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott's fairly sterile view of the future of Australia.


CURTIS: But it is the case that those are the biggest spending areas of the Budget and if you are going to look at long-term Budget sustainability, those sorts of programs have to be looked at?


SHORTEN: Lyndal, I think you and I both know as does every Australian, including the 100 pensioners I spoke to in East Bentleigh this morning, they know there’s at least one program that which could net $22 billion over the next four years, that’s Tony Abbott’s egotistical, unnecessary, unfair paid parental leave scheme. These guys say the age of entitlement’s over. Well then why are they giving millionaires $50,000? I tell you the only age of entitlement issue which the Abbott Government needs to seriously, fundamentally wrap their heads around, they are not entitled to lie to the Australian people and get away with it.


CURTIS: Is Labor prepared to look at some of the things which have become sacred cows in Australian politics like negative gearing or like changes to capital gains tax?


SHORTEN: Before the next election, we will work through our policies, but I'm not going to allow Tony Abbott off the hook. Remember what a hero he made of himself in the last three years when he was Opposition Leader? He was all things to all people. He promised before the last election, no increase to taxes. Well, he lied about that. He said no change to the pension - well, that was another porky. He said that there would be no cuts to health and education. Well, that's clearly untrue.


CURTIS: So when does Labor have to spell out –


SHORTEN: Lyndal, he even said, he even promised all the people who work at the ABC and all their watchers, there would be no cuts to the ABC. The guy just makes it up as he goes on.


CURTIS: At what point do you start spelling out some alternative policies?


SHORTEN: We've already started to spell out some of our policies, for instance, on small business, and we will keep working on them, but at this point, and we’ll reveal them before the next election, but at this point, this is their Budget. These guys have done such a bad job in this Budget that they now want to say, ‘Well, where’s the Budget that Labor brought down?’ Well, if they resign and we get the chance to form a government, we would put in place a more sensible policy which will see less pressure on family budgets, but at this point, Tony Abbott wanted to be Prime Minister of Australia and he was willing to say and do anything.


Joe Hockey thinks, you know, he’s the Treasurer with the mostest. Well, all that they've shown is that they are a mean, unfair government. What is the point in telling pensioners that you can have a cut in your pension? What's the point at telling householders and families who live in the outer suburbs of the great cities of Australia, ‘We want you to pay more for your petrol?’ What's the point of getting rid of family payments for people on $90,000?


CURTIS: You told your first press conference as Opposition Leader that, and I quote, ‘what I would say about Tony Abbott's style is that I don't believe as opposition leader that I would be as relentlessly negative as him.’ Given your view of the budget, does his style recommend itself more to you now than it did then?


SHORTEN: No, not at all Lyndal. Nothing I’ve seen about Tony Abbott recommends himself to this country, with his broken promises and lies. But if we're talking about positive and negative, I tell you Labor is positive. We are for Medicare, we're for the pensioners getting decent indexation. We are for the schools and hospitals of Australia being properly funded on a model of cooperative federalism. We are for families getting help with cost of living, not having petrol taxes slugged on them, we’re for working class –


CURTIS: But you have to be for paying for it all to don’t you?


SHORTEN: No, your question, just to go back to the question you specifically asked. You were saying ‘well aren’t you being, you know, Tony Abbott was negative, are you copying that negative style?’ We’re the positive guys, we’re the ones who actually want to see this country united, not divided. We want to see middle class and working class kids from the bush and from the city of having the aspiration of getting an apprenticeship or going to university. Our whole response to this budget has been based on a positive view of the future of Australia, not dividing this country into two.


CURTIS: And that's where we’ll have to leave it. Bill Shorten thank you very much for your time.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Lyndal. Have a nice day.