Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: Melbourne





SUBJECT/S: GP Tax; Cuts to Health; Tony Abbott’s Tax Increase; Cuts to Pensions; Relationship with Indonesia; Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. Great to be here with our hard-working shadow health spokesperson, Catherine King, the Member for Ballarat. This morning we’ve met with senior leaders of the healthcare system in Australia; people representing their members, people dedicated to making sure that Australians get the best-quality health care anywhere in the world. The message from Australia's senior health care experts to Tony Abbott's Government was crystal clear. Tony Abbott, keep your hands off Medicare.


This will be a bad news Budget for the millions of Australians who rely upon our health care system. A new GP tax, more expensive medicines, a new hospital tax. If Tony Abbott gets his way in this Budget, it will be the end of universal health care in Australia. This is proving to be a Budget of broken promises and twisted priorities. More taxes, more expensive health care, more broken promises from Tony Abbott's first Budget.


Also today there are reports that Tony Abbott's Cabinet is going to discuss the new debt tax that Tony Abbott wishes to inflict upon the incomes of all Australians who work. Tony Abbott, please listen to the voices of the millions of Australians who get up every day, go to work and make this country a better place for them, their families and all of Australia.


Tony Abbott, Australians do not want your tax increases full stop. Tony Abbott, Australians do not want your broken promises. They know that before the last election you staked your reputation on being a Prime Minister who wouldn't break promises. You made a virtue of this.


Now for the last two weeks, Australians, be they people who go to work, people who go to the doctor, pensioners are appalled and horrified and shocked at this discussion of slugging ordinary Australians to pay for Tony Abbott's Budget.


It is clear one week out from the Budget that Tony Abbott's first Budget is in complete disarray and if Australians needed further evidence, it is this: Tony Abbott, if your own colleagues won't wear your broken promises, why should Australians put up with your broken promises?


We're happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten, will Labor oppose a Medicare co-payment in the Budget?

SHORTEN: Labor believes in universal, affordable health care. We believe that the quality of health care you get in Australia should depend upon your Medicare card not your credit card. We do not support a new GP tax, be it at hospital emergency departments or for GPs, people going to take their sick child or elderly parent to the GP.


JOURNALIST: On another budget issue, will Labor support raising the pension age to 70 by 2025 and if not, why not?


SHORTEN: There are many Australians who go to work who do physically demanding work, not just construction workers or brick layers or carpet layers, they could be nurses, cleaners, people's bodies are not in the same shape at 67, 68 and 69 that they were 20 or 40 years previously. Furthermore, this Government is doing nothing to tackle the unemployment experienced by older Australians. They've dismantled, in fact, some of the measures that Labor has put in place to deal with in challenge of aged or older Australians unemployment.


We know - and we don't need the Commission of Audit to ignore this question - we know that older Australians experience longer periods of unemployment if they become unemployed. We know that there are many Australians because of their age, because of their older age, don't get the same look in when it comes to job advertisements, job applications and getting new jobs.


So long before we have the Abbott Government telling people they've got to keep doing the same physically demanding work which their bodies can't do, long before we have a discussion about Australians retiring at the age of 70, the Abbott Government's got to show it's fair dinkum about helping older Australians be able to find work and stay in work.


JOURNALIST: Didn't Labor, though, increase the pension age when you were in Government?


SHORTEN: We certainly did increase the age but we did not increase it to the age of 70. We also believe that you can't just treat older people as cost items in a budget. Aging isn't a crisis, growing older is a good thing but you've got to make sure you have in place the support for older Australians.


I believe that until this Government can demonstrate it's fair dinkum about tackling unemployment queues for older Australians, until they're fair dinkum about backing in our TAFE system and adult education and recognise not everybody can do the same physically demanding work in their late 60s as they might have been able to do at a younger age, I think the Abbott Government’s proposition about making Australians work older and longer without all these other measures being addressed is ill advised and not is not one which is in the best interests of older Australians.


JOURNALIST: What should the retirement be? Should it stay 67?


SHORTEN: I don't think the case has been made by this Government that it can be trusted to increase the retirement age. This is a Government that abolished or re-introduced a new tax on low paid workers for their superannuation. This is a Government who is making it harder for people to save money for their retirement. The only idea that this Government have is to make people just keep working so that they can help Tony Abbott's Budget. The truth of the matter is that there's lot of other sensible measures  we can do to help Australians grow older with dignity rather than just breaking promise as the Abbott Government's doing, by tinkering with the pension.


There are a lot of Australians who are on the pension now who are incredibly anxious and in many cases just down right angry that the Abbott Government has chosen to make the aged pension a political football. If you've worked your whole life, paid your taxes, I think you have the ability to respect and expect that this Government will keep its word. The aged pension is not just a residual payment for the very poorest in our society, it is one of the three pillars of growing old and retirement income along with private savings and superannuation.


The Abbott Government looks at everything through twisted priorities and broken promises. The job of a federal government with its Budget is not to make life harder for the budgets of ordinary Australians but this is exact what the Abbott Government's doing and there could be no clearer example of that than in health care with a new GP tax, a new hospital tax and making some medicines much more expensive and discouraging people from getting the help they need when they need it rather than worrying about how much it costs.


JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, Indonesia's President has told Tony Abbott he wants to repair the diplomatic rift by August. Is this something that you welcome?


SHORTEN: Australian Labor wants to see the Australian Government be successful in improving its relationship with Indonesia. Our own shadow foreign spokesperson, Tanya Plibersek, visited Indonesia and met with senior leaders of Indonesia in the month of April. Labor wants the Abbott Government to restore our relationships with Indonesia. They're our neighbour, they're a large and successful and growing nation and we believe that this Government should put our relationship with Indonesia back on track. I don't think it's any secret that since the Abbott Government's got elected our relationship with Indonesia's gone backwards. We just wish that the Abbott Government would get things back on track.


JOURNALIST: But isn't this a sign that the relationship is on the mend?


SHORTEN: We would be pleased for the relationship to be on the mend but we also recognise that when Labor was last in office the relationship was good. It has deteriorated on this current Government's watch. We would like to see matters improve and we welcome any progress in that.


JOURNALIST: And on another issue, what do you think of the appropriateness of the police investigation into the now scuffled fight between James Packer and David Gyngell the other day?


SHORTEN: I'm not going to engage in the gossip of this argument, this fight. I'm sure it's been very embarrassing for both the people involved. There is nothing that I can meaningfully add to any analysis of this argument. What I'm interested in is the fight that Australia is having with the Abbott Government, making sure that Tony Abbott doesn't break his promises on health case, on pensions, that he doesn't increase taxes on people who go to work every day.


JOURNALIST: But doesn't it go to the appropriateness of their ability or fitness to be in such a public and high-profile position and in charge of shareholders' money that they're down there having a street scuffle?


SHORTEN: What on earth can I say that will help make this matter better? There is nothing so what I will do is focus on the real fight in this country, the real fight in this country is whether or not Tony Abbott will be able to get away with his broken promises. The real fight today is not between these two people on the Bondi foreshore, the real fight today is within the ranks of a Government who are bitterly divided. You've got the Liberal member for Brisbane coming out saying that she doesn't agree with what the Abbott Government’s doing breaking promises.


The real fight is the division in the Abbott Cabinet. The real fight here is whether or not Tony Abbott will break his promises and increase taxes, whether or not he will increase the taxes for going to the doctor, increase the taxes for going to the hospital, increase the cost of medicine, the real fight going on in Australia at the moment is will Tony Abbott be a person of sufficient character and trust that he won't have broken his promises to the Australian people and that Tony Abbott can be trusted to keep his promises to the Australian people. The signs are not promising.


JOURNALIST: Just back on the Budget, the Victorian Budget came down yesterday, big surplus with spending. Is that a sign that Tony Abbott is on the right track in pursuing for a surplus pretty hard?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott is on the wrong track going nowhere with breaking promises. How on earth it’s a good idea to make the poorest, most vulnerable, the elderly and the sick pay more for seeing a doctor is beyond me. Tony Abbott did not say before the last elections that a vote for Tony Abbott's Liberals will be a vote to pay greater income tax, will be a vote to have a national discussion about putting the family home on the asset test for the aged pension. He did not say before the last election that he would increase the cost of going to the doctor, going to hospital or buying medicine.


Tony Abbott has twisted priorities. If he wants to help Australia and help the budget bottom line, he can dump his crazy, ridiculous paid parental leave scheme which is providing tens of thousands of dollars to millionaires who don't need the money for paid parental leave. Tony Abbott's priorities are wrong. Needs to not break his promises, he needs to make sure this budget doesn't make life harder for the millions of family budgets throughout Australia.