Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview: 104.1 Territory FM


FRIDAY, 13 JUNE 2014


SUBJECT/S: The Abbott Government’s unfair budget; GP tax, Cuts to University funding; Gove.


JANE AAGAARD: Joining me on the line now we have a very special guest, the federal leader of the opposition, Mr Bill Shorten. Good morning Mr Shorten.


AAGAARD: It’s wonderful to have you here. Now, in the news of course is the budget, which was bought down about a month ago. What are Australians telling you as you travel around the country?

SHORTEN: Australians are upset and angry at having been lied to before the election and now have a budget which is unfair and going to put greater cost of living pressure on people, ordinary people. For instance, the new GP tax, a cost to take your sick kids to the doctor, the petrol tax is particularly galling and upsetting to people who were told by Tony Abbott that there would be no new taxes, and I think attacks on the pensioners have got people scratching their heads saying this isn’t the government that we thought we voted for.


AAGAARD: Yesterday the Treasurer, Mr Hockey, was in Darwin and was defending the budget as being very fair. He also claimed that low and middle income workers were paying a month’s salary a year for others welfare, what do you think about that?

SHORTEN: I think that this Treasurer is about dividing Australia. He fits Australia into people he praises as the ‘lifters’ but then he attacks the ‘leaners’. The truth of the matter is families on less than $100,000 do get a modest family payment but I think that if you’re going to work everyday day you’re not someone who’s taking from this county, you’re giving it taxes. So one, he’s got to stop dividing the country and it’s a bit interesting isn’t it, that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer never really went to fairness when they introduced the budget, but all their research will be telling them that everyone thinks it’s unfair, so now they’re protesting and saying, no it’s actually fair but I think they’re protesting too much because they know that in their heart of hearts this budget’s unfair. It’s new taxes, its cuts to schools and hospitals, it’s just too harsh, it’s too extreme.


AAGAARD: If passed in totality, and I’m not sure that that’s going to happen, what kind of Australia are we actually looking at?

SHORTEN: Well in Australia we’ve always prided ourselves that you can get ahead if you want to, but we don’t leave people behind. You know, we look at films about America and the beggars and the people who sleep over the grates to keep warm in winter. We look at a medical system where how rich you are determines the level of your care, not how sick you are, and we don’t want to be like that. I know that some people probably want us just to be like America but when it comes to fairness I just think the Australian way is the best way.


Also, this petrol tax, if you’ve got to fill up your petrol tank a couple of times a week, which many people in regional Australia, both people who work or people just living at home and moving around, this extra tax, and over the next three years it’s quite a slug, it’s going to drive people crazy. It’s not the job of, we already have a fuel excise and then you pay GST on your fuel excise, so when they increase the fuel excise you’re going to pay a bit more in the GST as well. This is not the government that they promised they would be. You don’t increases taxes, you don’t cut schools, you don’t cut hospital beds, you certainly don’t go after the pensioners.

AAGAARD: Today in the NT News there’s another report about another huge increase for patients who are going to be having scans, MRIs and X-rays, where the AMA and the Diagnostic Imaging Association are saying that the changes that are in the budget will mean that people will have to pay upfront, up to a $1,000 to have ordinary scans, but the actual copayment is $160, but they can’t have it unless they actually pay the $1,000 because of what’s in the budget. Are you aware of this?

SHORTEN: Yeah we’ve started to see reports about that. I was just visiting a diabetes clinic in Queensland yesterday. There’s plenty of people with chronic illnesses in this country who, if they can get timely, affordable, preventative care, are able to treat and manage their illnesses at minimum cost to themselves and the community. All that Joe Hockey’s doing and Tony Abbott, which shows they’re out of touch, is by making it more expensive to start off with, some people will defer treatment. But ultimately if you’re sick, you’re sick. So it means that you will end up going to hospitals and everyone knows it’s much more expensive to have secondary care and go to hospitals then it is to get primary care in the first instance and treat chronic conditions.


I’ve never met a diabetic or someone with osteoporosis who wants to have those conditions, but what we should be doing is recognising that that’s the way that their lives have worked out, support them, have a fulfilling and reasonable life and give them the modest support they need. It is a crazy set of priorities to say to people who can’t do anything about their illness, we’re going to tax you more because you are ill. These people aren’t leaners, there just people who are getting by and contributing, and not unreasonably want to try and do things the most cost-effective way, and this government is going completely in the wrong direction to health care.

AAGAARD: Some other proposed changes are those to Newstart and Youth Allowance for under-30s which seem pretty harsh to me, where for six months young people won’t be getting any money and it includes pregnant women. Will the Labor Party be supporting these proposals through the Senate?

SHORTEN: No, Labor won’t. This government wants to divide and say that everyone who is unemployed, it’s their fault, they should just get a job. You know, that’s a bit of a dog whistle frankly, because sometimes jobs aren’t that easy to get. Then the government says, well if there are no jobs in the town you live just go and move. Sometimes it’s not that easy for people just to move their family and their kids or to simply up sticks and change.


This is a government who would let people starve for six months just to look tough and win the votes of some people who might say this is a good idea. The truth of the matter is that if you try and starve people for six months, their families will have to pay more to look after them, and if they don’t have families people just won’t stand by and starve. They will be begging or worse there will be more social disharmony, so there’s no free lunch in life which is what Joe Hockey forgets, that every action you make has a consequent reaction and can be a very negative affect to our community.


AAGAARD: Earlier this week I was talking on this station to the Vice-Chancellor of Charles Darwin University, Professor Simon Maddocks, about the deregulation of universities, and he said that in the case of Charles Darwin University fees would likely increase on average between 25 and 40 per cent, and he also emphasised the concerns about the charges, the extra charges to HECS and HELP loans, and the way the interest would compound on the debt from the day the money was used, resulting in very large debts. What’s your response to this?

SHORTEN: This is the government who bangs on and says they want to have opportunity for all. The best opportunity you can give people is the opportunity to have a quality education. We don’t want to go back to a situation where universities are just the preserve of families who are very well off. I think regardless of your background, regardless of your postcode, if you’re a bright kid and you want to go to university you should be able to do it. And it shouldn’t be a question of putting yourself into decades of debt.


What the government’s proposed is three changes which I think are particularly unprincipled. One is they want to increase the interest rate on university loans from, it was around just north of two per cent, to somewhere close to six per cent. That compounding interest across 10, 15 years is a massive increase in fees. But the second change also is that they are proposing that the cost of fees should be deregulated which will invariably mean that it goes up and up and up, which will be a distinctive to kids and their parents thinking their kids can afford to go to university. A third measure is that they say that they’re a government interested in research, and yet they’re sacking researchers and scientists and cutting funding to whole areas of research. So we’ve got a government who say that yes, we want us to be a smarter nation in the future, but we’re going to make it harder for us to be smarter which is completely contradictory.

AAGAARD: When do these measures actually reach the senate, we’ve got the last couple of weeks of the current Senate coming up. Is it going to be presented in these last two weeks?

SHORTEN: I think some of the measures will come fairly soon and start being debated in the next two weeks. I think others are just so complex they haven’t even worked out how to draft them. For a government who was elected nine months ago they seem to have done nothing particularly energetically in the first seven months and then they present on, the weeks before budget, they say there’s a budget emergency after seven months of not talking about that. And then they are using this false emergency to justify cruel and mean cuts.


Labor knows that we’ve got to have a sensible budget over the medium term which balances expenditure and revenues. But you don’t have to get there but making cuts which undermine hospital beds, resources in our schools, the pension, people going to university, a Medicare tax, a petrol tax. This is a government who’s making, actually funnily enough, despite their rhetoric, people on lower incomes do a disproportionately heavy amount of the lifting.


I mean, a pensioner’s going to get a cut in their real increase in pensions forever, where as someone on half a million dollars is going to pay an increased tax rate for only three years. So the very well off have got a temporary slug, which is still a broken promise, but those on lesser incomes are going to have permanent cuts to their income. This is a government with topsy-turvy priorities.


AAGAARD: So in terms of, just a technical question, there’s sort of two aspects to the budget to be passed aren’t there? There’s sort of supply which is just the continuing of normal government –


AAGAARD: And then there’s separate measures like the GP tax or copayment, and all these other things, so they’ll be presented as separate bills?

SHORTEN: Yes, I believe so, yes.

AAGAARD: Okay, so in terms of supply will Labor be voting for supply?

SHORTEN: Labor has an in-principle support for voting for supply and what we mean by that terms is your soldiers and your Centrelink offices and your federal police and your Customs, they’ve all still got to keep getting paid.



SHORTEN: And that political argument shouldn’t interfere with those matters. But when it comes to this government who systematically and wilfully have told lies before the election, well we’re going to hold them up on that. We’re going to stand up for ordinary people.

AAGAARD: Look, thank you very much for joining us and are you going to be coming to the Territory soon? It’s much better weather here.

SHORTEN: It certainly is, I’ve been there a few times in the last 12 months but I look forward to coming again, hopefully in August.


AAGAARD: Alright, look thank you very much for joining us this morning.


SHORTEN: Sure, and I should just put in a plug, I know you’ll have people who are listening who have got family in Gove, I’m terrible conscious that the closing of the Rio refinery operations has left a whole population stranded and we’re certainly expecting the federal government to keep its promises to that community.

AAGAARD: That sounds good; I’ll pass that on to the community.

SHORTEN: Thank you.