Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview - Liberal party chaos and division; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget






SUBJECT/S: Liberal party chaos and division; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Labor’s agenda for 2015


ALISON CARABINE, HOST: Bill Shorten, Good morning.




CARABINE: Tony Abbott has been given a second chance by his party room. Would it really have been in the country's best interest for the Prime Minister to be chopped down after just 16 months into his first term?


SHORTEN: What’s in the country’s interest is good government. Frankly, I'm appalled to hear the Prime Minister saying they are going to be a good government now. Where has Tony Abbott and his Cabinet ministers been for the last 521 days? This Liberal Government has taken a near-and-a-half of the nation's life and wasted it. What this Government needs to do is drop its extreme ideology. Drop the pension cuts, drop the GP tax, and drop the $100,000 degrees. The mob who sits opposite us seem to think it's about the personality of the salesman and nothing about what they are selling.


CARABINE: That takes us to the Budget. The Budget is at the centre of the Government’s problems. You have called on the Government again, to throw out the Budget and start again. GP Tax, higher education reforms pension indexation and so forth. If the Government did hit the reset button, would you take a more constructive approach to the next Budget in May?


SHORTEN: Labor has always been prepared to be constructive. We supported in what was the successful parts of this Budget, $20 billion worth of improvements to the bottom line. We called on the Government to drop their paid parental leave scheme. The scheme which would have seen millionaires get extra money for having children. This is a Government who doesn't take advice. They need to sit down with people, they don't need to be at war with the doctors and nurses about the health system. They don't need to ignore the voice of university students when they are working out what to do with universities and they certainly shouldn't be cutting pensions. This is a Government who, I think, is more extreme and their personal views are more extreme than the mainstream of Australian society.


CARABINE: But business is crying out for a more bipartisan approach to the structural problems facing the Budget. Doesn't the hard work, the hard decisions require leadership from both sides of politics?


SHORTEN: I think bipartisanship is a good thing and we are more than prepared to do it - I would demonstrate our bona fides in what we have done in national security. The problem is this Government has the wrong plans for Australia. And they have broken the covenant of trust with the Australian people. Politics isn't that complicated. When you lie to the Australian people and you lie to them about matters of great importance, including taxes or health, hospitals or schools, the Australian people just stop trusting you. The problem for Tony Abbott and his team is the Australian people have just stopped trusting them. Although there might be other contenders like Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop, the truth of the matter is there is no evidence in the last year-and-a-half they have disagreed with the unfairness at the centre of this Government's Budget.


CARABINE: Bill Shorten, if voters have given up on Tony Abbott, they no longer trust him and his Government, they will be looking more and more closely at you as an alternative Prime Minister. Now, you might be off the hook at the moment, but you can't keep playing dead politically. Don't voters deserve to know, don't they deserve to see your policies sooner rather than later?


SHORTEN: I don't accept the assumption in that question that we are playing dead or that -


CARABINE: You were barely sighted in the last few days?


SHORTEN: In the last few days you could have sent a man to the moon and it wouldn't have got over the Liberal instability and division news we have seen in Canberra. On a number of occasions last year, we have started to articulate our principles about what we believe. At the end of last year I said at the National Press Club, 2014 was the year of fierce Labor resistance and throughout 2015 will be marked by our ideas. I can assure people we are working through our issues. We are not going to get caught up in the chaos of the Liberal Party vacuum. What we are doing is talking to real people, we are talking to experts, we are talking to the various groups that take an interest in public policy and in the course of this year, we will demonstrate our bona fides but I can give you some principles right here right now. We believe education and health are not just social justice measures, they are economic measures. We believe jobs have to be at the centre of our economic policies. We believe in a strong infrastructure market to help ensure we are building the productive infrastructure. We believe in strong regions and promoting small business and of course we have signed up to national security and all of that underpinned by a strong safety net. This is a good set of principles.


CARABINE: On the broader issue of economic reform, the Prime Minister has said he won't be picking any more fights with the Senate that he knows he can't win. Does that mean that any chance for much-needed economic reform in this country is now over?


SHORTEN: No, I think what the Government has to do is learn to listen to people rather than dictate to people. What they need to learn is to rather than shove their extreme right-wing philosophy for the nation, they need to realise that some of their views are squeezing and marginalising the middle class in Australia. Take for instance the debate about the minimum wage. Periodically, you see outbreaks from the Liberals and the institute of public affairs say the minimum wage is killing things, killing jobs in Australia. The truth of the matter is that a strong minimum wage is one of the underpinnings of a strong middle class. The same goes for Medicare. The Government are telling us there a great crisis in healthcare. The problem is the only measures they come up with are ones which will add and exacerbate the costs in the system.


CARABINE: If we can take another question on economic reform. Overnight the OECD said the GST in this country is too low, it should be lifted to 15, 18%, income and business taxes could be cut boosting economic growth. Hasn't the OECD set out a pretty compelling case for this type of tax reform?


SHORTEN: I often find the people who write the reports about increasing the GST have more than the bear minimum income in the nation of which they are talking about. Specifically I don't support putting a GST on fresh food. I don't support putting a GST on private school fees of parents sending their kids to the local Catholic school. We are smarter in this country than increasing the consumption tax on the people who have the least capacity to bear the increase.


CARABINE: If the Government is being too timid on economic reform, can't the same be said on you considering changes to the GST and workplace relations, penalty rates and so forth. Where is your appetite for economic reform?


SHORTEN: My appetite for reform is based on the problems we are trying to solve. What is the problem we are trying to solve if you want to cut people's basic workplace conditions? Productivity is what we have got to be driving up, not driving wages down. There is no great spate of industrial disputation to justify the Government's anti-workplace relations rhetoric. With the minimum wage, I don't accept the case has been made that it contributes to unemployment levels in this country. The experience in Europe where they have started to increase or introduce the minimum wage has been exactly the opposite. So this is a Government who is always trying to solve or fight the last war. They are a Government stuck in the late half of the 20th Century and not thinking about the modern world of the future. The challenges in the workplace, is how do we ensure women get equal treatment, how do we ensure adults are getting retrained, TAFE plays a big part in that. How do we make sure older workers are not discriminated against? This is workplace productivity not cutting people’s minimum conditions.


CARABINE: These are issues for the remainder of this year and into next year, an election year, who do you think you’ll be facing off against when the country goes to the election in 2015?


SHORTEN: Let’s face it. The Liberal instability and division is rife. Today, we see six of the captain’s inner sanctum -


CARABINE: Unsourced reports. Someone is medalling; someone is putting that line out.


SHORTEN: Do you think that isn’t right?


CARABINE: Well, it is impossible to prove either way.


SHORTEN: Well that’s a great start for Australia today. We don’t know if six of Tony Abbott’s cabinet ministers like him or not. But the challenge about who we are going to face next year, or this year or whenever the election is, for me; it doesn’t matter who the Liberals put in charge – Bring it on. What really matter is what is their view for the future of this country? If you vote Labor at the next election, it will be about science, education and health. Jobs, small business, the regions and infrastructure. We are working on our policies. Frankly, what the Liberal party should do is spend less time worrying about the dress sense of who they pick as leader and more about what they are doing for Australian because I’m afraid they are heading more and more out-of-touch.


CARABINE: Bill Shorten, thank you for your time. 


SHORTEN: Thanks Alison.