INTERVIEW WITH LEXI METHERELL, ABC RADIO, AM
TUESDAY, 17 DECEMBER 2013
ASHLEY HALL: The Federal Government will today release its mid-year budget update, and it's expected to show a woeful picture of the country's finances.
The Government will argue that without spending cuts, the nation is facing deficits totalling $120 billion dollars over the next four years, and the budget would spend a decade in the red.
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, will place the blame for the debt and deficit on the previous Labor government.
But the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, says if the Government is serious about reigning in spending, it should scrap its plans for a generous paid parental leave scheme.
He's been speaking to Lexi Metherell.
LEXI METHERELL: Bill Shorten, the Government says that today's documents will show that with no policy change, budget deficits over the next four years would total $120 billion and there would be deficits for the next decade.
This does show, doesn't it, that Labor's plans would have had to have been reigned in if you wanted to get the budget under control?
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: This shows that Tony Abbott's baby bonus scheme for multi-millionaires is a $22 billion white elephant. It shows that giving the Reserve Bank $10 billion was a silly idea. The Abbott Government are in charge. They are paid to do their day job, which is run Australia.
METHERELL: But doesn't this show that Labor would have had to have taken similar action to what the Coalition is now preparing the ground for, and would have had to have reigned in spending?
SHORTEN: Labor would have not given multinational companies a tax break. It would not have given multimillionaires a superannuation tax refund. It wouldn't have given what everyone in the known universe recognises is a ridiculously generous parental leave scheme - $22 billion.
And probably what we would have done is make sure that we didn't lose Holden jobs on our watch, which will end up costing Australia far more than the Abbott Government think they're saving.
METHERELL: Do you dispute the forecast that deficits will amount to $120 billion in the next four years?
SHORTEN: We need to see the full MYEFO today. We're going off what the Abbott Government's selective leaks are through journalists. So we'll need to see what the full statement is.
METHERELL: On spending though, Labor's pledge was to eventually limit real spending growth to 2 per cent per annum. The Coalition will today argue that over the five years to 2013, spending was running at 3.5 per cent per annum.
SHORTEN: There's no doubt that Australia went through the toughest set of peacetime economic circumstances with the global financial crisis, and that because of Labor we still managed to keep unemployment relatively low compared to most of the modern world.
METHERELL: But should Labor have recognised that the Treasury's revenue estimates were continually falling short, and reigned in spending to compensate for that?
SHORTEN: I think seasoned economic observers recognise that we've suffered the effects of a very high Australian dollar for a very long time, and that has meant that we've seen import competing and export competing industries do it hard because of the high Australian dollar.
That's both a challenge which happened under Labor and under Liberal.
The problem for the Abbott Government is that the music stopped. They're now the Government. It's been 100 days. How long can they go on blaming everyone else? Because remember they said they'd be a government of no surprises and no excuses.
What we have is nearly- the debt's going to go up, the deficit's going up, unemployment's gone up. This has not been the hundred days that the Abbott Government promised voters at the last election. And now they just want to blame everyone else except themselves.
METHERELL: Well to stop debt and deficit going up, the Government will now need to cut spending and it says that today the repair job begins and next year's budget will put Australia back on track to a sustainable surplus.
Do you agree that spending cuts are now needed to restore the budget to surplus?
SHORTEN: I tell you where they should stop with the spending. They should be honest enough to admit that the $22 billion paid parental leave scheme is a joke, and Australia can't afford it.
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