Bill's Transcripts

Radio: 5AA - Budget 2015; Abbott Government’s cuts to South Australian schools and hospitals






SUBJECT/S: Budget 2015; Abbott Government’s cuts to South Australian schools and hospitals; STEM; Coding; Superannuation; Iron ore  


LEON BYNER: Let’s welcome the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Bill good morning.




BYNER: Are you disappointed that a Fairfax focus group, the research from it, comes out and says the Budget that you’ve just been critical of – although positive in some areas – from their point-of-view is a winner, but more importantly in opposition where the last budget, which was such a disaster for the Libs, you were unable to really get a lot of ground in the polls to show your ascendency as the alternate Prime Minister?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, from the 2014 Budget, Labor’s been successful in defeating a lot of the unfairness.  I can’t be disappointed if Labor’s been successful in stopping the punishment of pensioners by cutting their pension. Labor’s been doing its job against the GP tax. I think this Budget is still disappointing though, because in many ways it is just a hoax, it doesn’t deal with the big issues of the future, the jobs of the future and as for South Australia it almost seems like Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott have written South Australia off because there’s nothing in the Budget for South Australians.


BYNER: Well it seems that you’re not getting the credit in the polls for the things that you say your Government or your side of the political process have done, are you worried about that, that people are not giving you the credit for it?


SHORTEN: Well it’s a long way to go to the next election.  From when I took over the Labor Party we’re much more united and we’ve been much stronger in defence of people’s conditions from the pension cuts, which we’ve successfully opposed,  to the GP tax – I don’t think the Abbott Government’s changed its stripes, what I believe is they’ve just changed their tactics. Does anyone really believe that if Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey had control of the Senate that they’d have chosen this year’s Budget over last year’s Budget? We know what they really want, they’ve shown that, this was a budget just about their own jobs and I’m interested in the jobs of the future. People often ask me how will our kids be able to afford a house in the future? How will our kids have, where will the jobs come from for our kids in the future?


BYNER: If you were Prime Minister now what would you be doing for South Australia that the Federal Government isn’t doing? Because remember, if you’re going to talk about subs and I suspect you might –




BYNER: You could have made the decision which would have taken away the ability of the present government to vacillate on this but you didn’t. So what would you do for this State if you were the PM that Hockey and Abbott are not doing?


SHORTEN: Alright very quickly - future subs is something which we would do in South Australia full stop and we’ve already outlined a process.  We’d invite the other nations of the world who are into the design of submarines to competitively tender in a transparent fashion so subs is one. Two, we would back in the renewable energy industry which South Australia is a leader across Australia. Three, we wouldn’t cut family payments to South Australians on $60,000 a year raising their children -


BYNER: So you think it’s fair for people in certain circumstances to be able to claim two sources of support for parental leave?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, the parental leave scheme which Labor introduced – and when we introduced it into the Parliament, the Liberals agreed with it then – we made clear that the government scheme was the minimum and then if nurses or Woolies workers or Myer workers or others were able to negotiate a few extra weeks from their employer then this was a good thing because we want young mums or mums to be able to spend time with their kids. So yes, this hypocritical government’s attacked working mums and is now taking away the opportunity for what they’ve already negotiated.


BYNER: So let me get this right, you have no issue at all with people, if they’re in a position to do so, to claim a benefit twice for the same thing?


SHORTEN: Let’s be clear when they say claim a benefit twice. Labor proposed a scheme which would be the minimum - the minimum condition across everyone - supported by the taxpayer. I’ve never had a hassle if in the course of their workplace relations employees and employers offsetting other conditions elect to pay this condition or receive this condition. Who does Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey think he is to start interfering with the contracts at work that individuals and employers negotiate?


BYNER: How would you pay for the child care that the Government have recently announced just before the Budget? How would you pay for it?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, we’ve got to look at how this Government structured its whole Budget. I think that the one way you don’t pay for child care is taking money off parents for six, seven year olds –


BYNER: Yeah, okay, we understand that but how would you pay for it?


SHORTEN: Then we get to the whole issue of the Budget – Labor’s offered up $21 billion in savings to the bottom line of the Budget.  I do not understand for the life of me –


BYNER: Can you just give us an idea, without going through much detail because there’s a lot of ground I want to get through, can you tell us where that $21 billion is just so people know?


SHORTEN: $7 billion from multinationals to stop treating us a soft touch in terms of our taxation system -


BYNER: So you reckon you can get at least 7 billion out of that?


SHORTEN: We’ve costed that, absolutely and that’s a conservative figure.  $14 billion from superannuation tax concessions at the top end.  The Government loves to call this a tax on super, it’s not. Once you’ve got several million dollars in your superannuation account in retirement you don’t need the taxpayer paying their taxes to give you a 45 cent concession. Or in other words, if you’ve got $10 million in superannuation, which most people will never have, and you get five per cent interest which is half a million dollars, why on earth does Tony Abbott want you to pay no tax on half a million dollars’ worth of interest income yet if you were that age and you were going to work you’d be paying much more tax.  It’s just unfair.


BYNER: Chris Bowen your colleague, Shadow Treasurer, is going to announce today that you are prepared to fight the next election on retirement incomes. Now obviously you believe that tax concessions on super will soon outstrip the aged pension, can you explain this more?


SHORTEN: Well the fact of the matter is that superannuation’s part of our retirement incomes policy for the nation. You have the Age Pension which is the minimum then you encourage people to save for their retirement through superannuation. But the problem is, that what Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are doing is they’re looking after the very, very, very top, top end of town and once you’ve got to a certain level of comfort, and Labor’s assessed that once you’ve got over approximately $1.5 million in your super you don’t need the same excessive tax contributions, you’re already comfortable. Labor’s dream is for most people to get into that zone, not necessarily to take those people already there and give them more taxpayer concessions to get even richer.


BYNER: See the Government says it has no plans to make any changes to super and will instead tighten the asset tests on who can receive the aged pension and that’ll save the budget over $2 billion over, what four years I think.


SHORTEN: Well we want to see what they’re actually going to do in the detail of their pension changes. But this is a Government that I don’t trust on pensions intuitively, that’s not just Labor versus Liberal. Before the last election Tony Abbott said there’d be no changes to pensions, yet what he’s done is he’s proposed cutting the pension, indexation rate which is an effective cut to the pension, this guy can’t be trusted when it comes to the pensioners of Australia.


BYNER: Do you support Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in their push, although I think the Prime Minister seems a little less warm to it then he was a couple of days ago, but do you support their push  for an ore inquiry? Because Andrew Forrest has made some pretty serious allegations about what’s going on with the price and as you would well know that’s hitting the Budget bottom line, billions and billions of dollars. Do you support a push for an inquiry?


SHORTEN: I think Tony Abbott is having a Prince Philip moment when it comes to iron ore. Last Friday he said in response to a question by Alan Jones “Well, I think we do need an inquiry, Alan”. The issue’s here is –


BYNER: What do you think though?


SHORTEN: Well the issue’s straight up. The idea that we should start setting prices in Australia and rigging a market, a global market for iron ore –


BYNER: Has that been said though?  I mean, as I understand it the inquiry would be to find out exactly what’s driving these very low prices when there’s increased demand.


SHORTEN: Well, if people think there’s a problem they should use the ACCC so I have some grave reservations about the way in which Tony Abbott’s solving the issue.  The issue for me in iron ore is the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and what’s been done to help people find the jobs.


BYNER: Well this is part of the problem, if you listen to Andrew Forrest he says ‘because the price of ore is dropping a lot of mining companies are offloading staff and families and incomes and therefore there’s no bread winner and there’s no working family’ so again do you support an inquiry or not?


SHORTEN: We have reservations to be honest –


BYNER: You don’t? You do?


SHORTEN: We have reservations, we’ve asked the Government to show us their terms of reference. If the Government is just going through a sort of paper shuffling moment and they want to be seen to react to the noise but they genuinely don’t intend to interfere with the way iron ore prices are set, well then why are they having the inquiry to begin with?


Secondly, if they genuinely think there’s been a problem and that some companies have abused their market power why don’t they use the ACCC? The Government’s got six different positions on this and Tony Abbott’s got a different position for –


BYNER: Okay, well because you’re in front of me I’m asking you what you think?


SHORTEN: Well I’m sceptical at this point about what this iron ore price inquiry would solve and I haven’t heard what the solution is. What’s the problem they’re trying to solve?  If they think there’s been maleficence or inappropriate behaviour by corporates then what they should do is use the ACCC.  I want to know what the Government hopes to achieve and in the meantime I know that the competitors to Australia and iron ore – be they in Brazil and other places – must be rubbing their hands with glee when you’ve got the Government of Australia sending a message to the big customers of iron ore saying that maybe the stability which they see our iron ore industry is about to change. I think Tony Abbott really needs to pick one position and stick to it and tell us what’s going on.


BYNER: I’m going to ask you shortly about live animal exports and the news of the last 24 hours right after this.


Commercial break


BYNER: I’m talking to the Federal Leader of the Opposition, the alternate Prime Minister if you like, Bill Shorten. Bill one of the stories that has really had people most upset understandably, is the revelations of footage out of an Asian country where animals are being bashed to death. Now this live export issue has been one of those running sores for some time. I know that the photographs have just been released although a lot people won’t want to see them because they’re just horrible. Do you think we need to do anything to modify or change our live export protocols from Australia?


SHORTEN: Well the still photos that we’ve seen are shocking and I do think it’s time for Barnaby Joyce - he’s the Minister in charge of this area - to take action. When it came to Johnny Depp’s dogs he was all over the TVs proposing they be put down immediately but when it comes to the live export trade to Vietnam, the markets have grown but I want to know if the Government’s increased the auditing mechanism, the export chain assurance system. Barnaby Joyce can’t just simply say that this is a Labor sort of attack on live exports - he needs to deal with the real issue which is the welfare of these animals when they’re exported. It’s a hard issue, I get that but where is the Minister when it comes to the hard issues? As I said, with Johnny Depp’s dogs, all over it like one of those Pirates in the Caribbean but when it comes to this shocking stuff Barnaby Joyce is missing in action.


BYNER: So if you were Prime Minister you would do what?


SHORTEN: Well at this point I wouldn’t say the trade needs to be suspended, I would not say that. But what I would say to the Department is what’s going on to find out what’s happened, what are we doing to make sure that its being properly audited and where the standards are being breached there have to be penalties. It’s not good enough to say too far away and not my problem. Australians, you know, have pretty strong views on this.


BYNER: Now, Tom Koutsantonis, our state treasurer, has done some very unpopular things in SA and I can name a couple.  One is he’s massively increased the Emergency Services Levy by removing the rebate; his rationale for that is that the Abbott Government seriously reduced federal funding, alright and he said that if they reinstated that funding that he says they stopped or curtailed, that he would immediately go back to the previous ESL. If you were the Prime Minister would you reinstate the health and education funding that your counterpart here in South Australia says the Feds cut?


SHORTEN: Tom Koutsantonis and indeed Premier Jay Weatherill are not exaggerating when they say that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have basically tried to make their own budget look better by massively cutting funding to South Australia.


BYNER: What would you do?


SHORTEN: Well I’ll come to that but I just want to spell out the size of the cuts because the government didn’t refer to it in their Budget speech. They’ve hit the total state funding in the next 10 years for all states by $80 billion, so what that means in South Australia is $2.2 billion less to South Australian schools, $3.7 billion,  that’s right $3.7billion, less to hospitals. Now we need to see what shape the budget’s in at the next election. This is a Government –


BYNER: So you can’t give any guarantee to SA?


SHORTEN: Yeah, I can give you a couple of guarantees, these are the guarantees, whenever Labor has been in power in Canberra we’ve increased funding for schools and hospitals, that is our record, we increase funding. We’re committed to needs based funding in schools –


BYNER: You’ve got to find the money from somewhere though and again you would get it from the cuts you talked about before?


SHORTEN: We’ve made it clear these cuts to the excessive concessions – Labor’s the only Party in Canberra offering a reduction in some of the excessive taxpayer concessions to the top end by $14 billion and multinationals –


BYNER: So let’s get this right, so you’d take it off the top end of retirees, pensioners?


SHORTEN: No, not pensioners. These are retirees who are unlike you or I, they have multiple millions already amassed in their superannuation –


BYNER: Some of them get part pension so you’d stop that obviously?


SHORTEN: Well I don’t know if they do, at this level I’d be amazed if they were getting the part pension –


BYNER: Yeah okay, so you’re hitting the super?


SHORTEN: We’re reducing the concessions, and this is an important distinction. We’re not increasing the tax on people in retirement on superannuation, no way. But why should someone who’s got $10 million in their super, who gets five per cent return on their earnings each year which is half –


BYNER: They won’t get that from a bank, they’re lucky to get 2.2.


SHORTEN: Well the point about it why should someone who’s 67 who’s got 10 million in super get a 45 cent tax concession – if you don’t work you get nothing, you pay taxes


BYNER: The rich retirees you say, you’ll get it $9 billion from these?


SHORTEN: $7 billion from multinationals.


BYNER: From the Google, Yahoos.


SHORTEN: Today Chris Bowen will be speaking in Canberra at the National Press Club  and today he’ll be outlining some further approaches that Labor has to try and make sure that we work on the budget bottom line so we can repair some of the damage that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are doing to the bottom line. I mean, what they’re doing, their Budget was a triple hoax. On one hand they’ve still got a lot of their old cuts painted over with a bit of lipstick and they’re still pushing for more cuts to families. They’re also cutting the money to states and they’re relying on bracket creep – that is the sly hand of inflation which increases people’s wages into higher tax income brackets and then the Government’s relying on that to fund whatever they’re trying to do.


BYNER: The ANZ survey yesterday showed consumer confidence at a six month high. So whatever you’re saying about the Budget a lot of people are not agreeing with you. Is that a problem for you?


SHORTEN: Well let’s start at where the confidence was in this country. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were social vandals, they wrecked the confidence in this country in the last Budget so from such a low base, you know, the ANZ then records its changes. For me it’s about the future.  I broke the mould in our Budget Reply Speech on last Thursday night, where I chose to articulate our plans for the future as well as why I think their Budget’s just a hoax, it’s just a short term fix.


BYNER: Okay, in general terms Bill, how much do you have to find in savings and grabs from those who aren’t paying enough tax to do what you want to do? Give me an all-around figure, I won’t keep you to the exact dollar, but how much have you got to find to do the promises you’re saying will be delivered if you are the Prime Minister?


SHORTEN: Well for the promises that we’ve specified so far we’ve already found more than enough for that. What we proposed in higher education is to encourage more people to do science, technology, engineering and maths so that we can have people working in the service industries of the future, that we can capture the new machine age that we live in, that we can do advanced manufacturing. Now our proposal over 10 years were was about $1.4 billion and we’ve already put on the table $21 billion, Now we’ve still got to see what their budget looks like, we’re formulating the rest of our policies but what I can say to Australians and South Australians listening to us now, the Labor Party’s the only Party who seriously knows where South Australia is, that’s why we will tackle some of the cuts they’re doing in schools and hospitals –


BYNER: So you’ll reinstate part or all – you’re not sure what until you see the budget is that what you’re telling me?


SHORTEN: Well what I can say is that our record speaks for itself. When it’s come to hospital funding, health funding and schools funding the Labor Party is the Party that people can trust to do better than the current mob are doing with their current mean and unfair cuts. But for us it’s also about jobs, everything we look at is the impact of jobs –


BYNER: Where are the jobs going to come from, because particularly youth unemployment’s a big problem in many areas of our country.


SHORTEN: Big challenge and also we want South Australians to be able to return here with confidence, I mean you’ve got a good State Government, Jay Weatherill’s always looking to get a competitive edge –


BYNER: Which part of the economy is going to generate these jobs because they’ve got to come from somewhere, don’t they?


SHORTEN: Services and advanced manufacturing.  That’s why we think the Future Subs program, we should be spending our taxpayer resources in Australia and we can get good quality for the money we spend. What we’ve also proposed – and I’m going to Hamilton Secondary College today – is that we make sure that our kids are equipped with the skills for the future. We want them to learn what we call ‘coding’: computational thinking and understanding of how to write computer programs. We don’t want our kids just playing on the apps, we want them creating the apps and we want them driving the apps. Once upon a time the debate was between a high wage economy and a low wage economy; the truth of the matter is that automation and machines and the internet are replacing –


BYNER: Are you going to toughen up on some of these work visas?


SHORTEN: No question.


BYNER: You are?


SHORTEN: That Four Corners proposition which showed guest workers coming in on various visas being ripped off is disgraceful.


BYNER: So what are you going to do?


SHORTEN: Well first of all we’ve asked the Fair Work Ombudsman for her to do a proper investigation and I’m sure that’s underway. In addition I’m very conscious that there’s probably a roll for some of the bigger retail companies who buy products from these places where we’re seeing the rip-offs and the exploitation and we need them to make sure that they’re ensuring that their chain of supply is done with integrity, that they’re making sure that they’re not getting products from farms where people are getting ripped off.


BYNER: What about cheap goods which are coming into the country which are downright dangerous? We’ve got the ACCC telling us about infinity cables that are death traps. You’ve got phone cords for $3 that can give you a fireball if you’re not careful. Should we even be allowing these into the country for starters?


SHORTEN: Well that why you got to have better checking, better quality assurance. This Government I think doesn’t do enough to check things, we saw that frozen berries scandal –




SHORTEN: Where people contracted disease, you know the point of the matter is that the Government has to spend – they talk about borders but they need to make sure that the products in the food that are coming in here are not causing problems.


BYNER: Bill thanks for joining us today, so you’re going to Hamilton College and then where? Back on a plane?


SHORTEN: Yeah, back on a plane but I love South Australia and I come here frequently.  The point about our visit to Hamilton Secondary College is the Labor Party isn’t just worried about Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s job this year, we want to make sure that the kids are getting trained for future jobs


BYNER: Okay, the North South corridor, 78 kilometres of road, a lot of discussion about it yesterday but no-one’s put any money up. You going to pledge any money?


SHORTEN: Well not today but let me say again, look at our record. It was Labor who did a lot of the work and, you know, these points sometimes get forgotten but the South Road Superway, the Northern Expressway, we began the Torrens to Torrens link. We believe in working with the South Australian Government. One of the problems is that Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne – because they so dislike the politics of the South Australian Government – are incapable of parking the partisanship and working on the long-term –


BYNER: Well our Government have been taking ads on television having a go at them as well, do you support that?


SHORTEN: Well I think the issue is if the Abbott Government hadn’t launched an ambush attack on the budget of South Australia.  The only way that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey make their Budget look good is going after people and also going after states and cutting their funding.  What we need is a debate about the future, not just the next opinion poll but the next 15 years.


BYNER: So you will reinstate the funding that you’re saying the Feds took away but you can’t give us some idea of that until you actually get into Government and see the budget?


SHORTEN: We’ll see what the budget looks like closer to the election. This Government’s forecasts and predictions have proven to be hopeless in the past but what I am saying to listeners as I can say that Labor, when it comes to schools and hospitals we’re the Party that people can trust because whenever we’ve been in power we’ve made it our absolute priority to make sure that kids get funded according to need and that we’ve got a healthcare system which serves everyone.


BYNER: Alright Bill thanks for joining us today. Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition.