THURSDAY, 5 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Budget Reply; Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget for big business over battlers
LEIGH SALES: It is quite a mad dash to make it to the ABC studio from the floor of the House of Representatives but Bill Shorten has done it in record time. Thank you very much for scrambling up.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: My pleasure.
SALES: Let's go straight to the Budget, you seem upset that the Budget isn't giving every last Australian a direct handout. Is that your idea of responsible economic stewardship?
SHORTEN: Well, it's a question of priorities, Leigh. What we believe is that the Government shouldn't be giving millionaires a $17,000 tax cut whilst a working mum with two kids at high school on $65,000 is actually facing losing over $4,700, it's a matter of priorities. Not everyone - we've got to do Budget repair, but it's got to be fair. The way that the Liberals are fixing up the national Budget is putting the cost on the household budget. And I think we need to be smarter than that.
SALES: Let's unpick some of what you're saying, piece by piece. You say that high income earners are getting a tax cut. The temporary budget deficit levy was always just that - temporary. Why are you labelling the removal of something that was always a temporary level - levy as a tax cut?
SHORTEN: Because if you earn $80,000, all that Malcolm Turnbull's given you is $6 a week in tax relief. Yet if you were -
SALES: That's not what I was asking. It was always a temporary deficit levy.
SHORTEN: Well, I'm putting myself in the shoes of everyday Australians and they say, "why is it that if things are so tough for the Budget, the people who are getting reductions in their tax rates are people at the very high end?"
SALES: But if they were keeping the temporary deficit levy, I bet you'd be saying - Oh look at them, they've broken a promise?
SHORTEN: Well no, in this case if they did that, they'd receive our support.
SALES: Let's have a look also at your claim that Australians on lower incomes are getting nothing or not getting enough. Overlooking the fact that they get health, education, roads, defence, as a given every Budget -
SHORTEN: But is that something that people should be grateful for? That's why they pay their taxes.
SALES: Well, that is why they pay their taxes but they do get something in return for their taxes, they're not getting nothing.
SHORTEN: Oh yes, but what happens is that large corporations under Malcolm Turnbull are going to get a reduction in their taxes.
SALES: Sure, but let's stick for the moment with the low income earners that we've been talking about. Many people under $80,000 a year get more in Government handouts than they pay in tax.
SHORTEN: Oh, I think if you look at who does best out of the system it's the very high net worth individuals.
SALES: But that's true isn't it what I just said.
SHORTEN: Well, actually, I don't agree that Australians who get child care funding from the federal government are getting as much as the people who get the tax subsidies from negative gearing.
SALES: But the people who are paying tax subsidies are actually paying the taxes that pay for the other people who aren’t paying any tax to have child care.
SHORTEN: I think, if this country - if the argument that the Liberals are advancing is that because you're rich and you pay the taxes you're meant to pay, somehow you're at a disadvantage to people who are poor, people who are unemployed, people who've got profound and sever disabilities or indeed just working people who in earn 50 and $60,000 a year, I don't think that's the right way that Australia should go. Tonight I laid out positive markers - education, jobs, defending Medicare, real action on climate change, housing affordability, fair taxation, the equal treatment of women. They're the priorities that we would present in a budget. And unlike Mr Turnbull we have explained how we can play for things.
SALES: With - just to return to my point about households. According to the ANIU Center for Social Research, 3.6 million households get more in handouts than they pay in tax. That's about a third of families. Do you think that's acceptable?
SHORTEN: Well, the system we have is to make sure that people have got the minimum safety net. When we talk about -
SALES: But that's a lot more people - that's a third of families, that's a lot more than just people who require the basic safety net.
SHORTEN: I don't accept that. If you're raising two kids at high school and you're on $65,000, you're a working mum, I don't actually think that because you resent losing a couple of thousand dollars in family payments that somehow you're bludging off the system. The people I'm interested to see how we - what they're doing, is when someone can negative gear their tenth house and the taxpayers are paying the tax concessions so that person can write-off their claims for negative gearing. In a Government, if I was so fortunate to lead one, you have to make choices. I've just decided, and my party has decided, and we've been honest enough with the Australian people to tell them before an election, that, if it means properly funding our schools, or having bulk-billing for sick people or having negative gearing concessions at over $10 billion a year, I'm going to pick Medicare, hospitals and the education of our kids over the ability of a person to be subsidised for their tenth house.
SALES: You keep talking about the Turnbull Government protecting wealthy Australians, the top end of town and so forth. How is a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance protecting the big end of town?
SHORTEN: Well, Leigh, you know that Labor raised these issues more than 12 months ago. At five minutes to midnight in the shadow of an election, all of a sudden the Government is adopting Labor policy...
SALES: Still a crackdown on the big end of town.
SHORTEN: Oh and I said in my Budget Reply speech I'm flattered that Mr Turnbull is happy to adopt Labor's ideas.
SALES: But you're claiming this is a Budget for big business, when they're actually tackling some of their constituency - big business, superannuation for wealthy Australians.
SHORTEN: I think that they've been dragged kicking and screaming to be seen to do something on multinationals but it's been Labor leading the debate. I can't get them to have a Royal Commission into the banking sector. They're determined to defend the banking sector. They're not interested in not having a tax cut for large corporations. They won't even level with the Australian people and tell them how much these cuts to corporate tax for big companies is going to cost the Budget.
SALES: You asked tonight in your speech, who do you trust to make multinationals pay their fair share. Based on Labor's design and implementation of the mining tax on multibillion dollar companies, forecast to raise $3 billion and delivering $126 million is that a wise question to ask voters?
SHORTEN: Well I think the question which people are asking Mr Turnbull, is why doesn't he trust voters -
SALES: I'm asking about your record.
SHORTEN: Yeah, yeah, what I'm going to is you raise the issue of trust. We've got our research costed independently by the Parliamentary Budget Office, so that answers that question. But you've gone to the deeper issue of trust which is an important one for all Australians. Mr Turnbull today on 22 different occasions refused to trust the Australian people and tell them how he's going to fund $55 billion, or $49 billion our latest costings, in tax cuts.
SALES: If you want Australians to trust you, and that's what the choice is going to come down to, who do they trust; why not answer that question that I just asked you?
SHORTEN: I did, we've had our numbers costed by the -
SALES: No, no, I asked - I pointed to your past behave, said you designed a mining tax that was meant to raise a huge amount of money, it raised a fraction of that and so if we look at your past behaviour how do we trust that you'll be able to get multinationals to pay the tax that they owe.
SHORTEN: Because what we've done, and the policies that I've been in charge of, is make sure that we get them costed. We've gone out and consulted people, we've spoken to experts. Mr Turnbull created a retrospective superannuation policy which no one appears to have been consulted on. This Government's rushed this Budget. You know, after eight months, is this really what Mr Turnbull, is the great splendid justification for him rolling Tony Abbott? Keeping most of Tony Abbott's policies in terms of cutting school education, pensions, Medicare. But by the same token, all he's offered, effectively the consequence of this week is that if you earn a million dollars you're going to pay $17,000 less than you were last year. But if you earn $65,000, you're going to lose $4,700.
SALES: You claim that the Government's taken $80 billion out of health and education spending and for two years you've been calling on them to restore that. The share of that for hospitals is $57 billion, do you yourself commit to restoring that money?
SHORTEN: We've committed to funding the education fully. We'll unveil our hospital and health policies in coming weeks.
SALES: And will it be $57 billion, because that's what you've been saying for two years.
SHORTEN: We're not going to announce our final number tonight. But what I can say to people who are very interested -
SALES: Sorry to interrupt you but that is a pretty core thing, because you've been calling on the Government to restore that funding and yet you're not prepared to give that same commitment yourself.
SHORTEN: What I can commit right here on television tonight is that we will fund to a far greater level than what the Turnbull Government is doing. What they've offered over the next four years is $2.9 billion. Whilst that may sound a lot, when you break it up to every hospital in Australia the states are deeply dissatisfied. I can promise Australians tonight, whilst not launching all of our policies, that we will fund hospitals to a superior level. And when we say fund hospitals -
SALES: But what I'm getting at is that you've been asking them put this money on the table. I'm asking you, are you going to do the same thing that you're asking them to do?
SHORTEN: I'm saying we're not going to reveal our full policy tonight. But what I can -
SALES: I'm not asking for the full policy, I'm just asking for a commitment on the dollars.
SHORTEN: That's the key question in terms of that aspect of the policy, the dollars. What I will say is we will fund hospitals to a greater extent than $2.9 billion that the Turnbull Government's offered, and when I say that I think people sometimes get frustrated just hearing billion here, billion there. What does it mean? What we want to do is prioritise giving money to our state hospital system so they can reduce waiting times in emergency wards, so we can reduce the waiting time for elective surgery, for matters such as hip replacements, knee reconstructions. There are many Australians out there who are getting on in life, they have paid taxes their whole life and they're stuck on intolerable waiting lists. For me, our policies are about putting people first, so our hospitals policy will be about funding the areas of greatest need for everyday people.
SALES: Just before you go, every poll shows that voters like Malcolm Turnbull more than they like you. Why do you think that Australians should vote for somebody that they don't like as much as the other guy?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that when Australians see our positive policies, our commitment to Australian jobs, properly funding our schools, our TAFE, our child care and our universities, our commitment to not privatise Medicare and to defend bulk-billing and look after and work with GPs so they're not actually taking a cut in terms of having to increase the cost of going to see the doctor. When they look at our policies on renewable energy to help tackle the challenge of climate change, when they see our commitment to the equal treatment of women to tackling housing affordability; I think that when Australians look at our fully funded positive plans to put people first, we are very competitive at the next election.
SALES: Bill Shorten, thank you very much. See you during the campaign.
SHORTEN: I look forward to it. Thank you.