SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS TONY BURKE: Thanks very much for coming out today.
It’s clear from today’s newspapers that the Government’s new plan is that they think all they need to do is ‘reboot’ the conversation about the budget. The problem that I think the Government doesn’t tend to understand is when you reboot a computer, it turns off, it turns on, and it comes back as the exact same computer. When you reboot this Budget, the Government’s view will be that they can just have a different conversation, but have the conversation about the same Budget.
The Australian public know a Budget of broken promises when they see one. The Australian public know a Budget that is designed to hurt the household budget when they see it, and that’s exactly what’s being presented to the Australian people now. This is a situation where we don’t need to see a Budget in reboot – we need to see the current priorities abandoned and for the Government to start again.
There is no way that they can claim a reboot of the conversation will lead anywhere different, when it still involves a tax every time you go to the doctor. When it still breaks the promises on no cuts to education, no cuts to health. When it still increases the tax burden on families, and still cuts family payments and family benefits. When it still creates a situation where for some Australians who haven’t been able to find work, they get left with absolutely nothing to live on.
It’s the priorities and the entire philosophy in concept of this Budget that has always been wrong. They shouldn’t be trying to reboot it, they should be shutting it down.
REPORTER: Does that mean you’re saying there will be no negotiation on it?
BURKE: There’s no way Labor can come to a so-called negotiating table and say ‘ok, let’s find a different way of dismantling Medicare.’ We believe in Medicare, we believe in universal healthcare and we will continue to defend it. There is no way a Labor party is going to sit down and negotiate by how much the pension should be cut. We don’t believe that lower and middle income families are in a situation where they should be bearing the brunt of the pain of this budget.
There’s a range of issues where Labor has already been willing to be constructive in making sure tough decisions that needed to be made were supported. So for example, you can count to a total, if you look at our voting record in the parliament, it goes to about $21 billion worth of decisions that we’ve actively taken that would improve the bottom line against where the Government’s wanted to take thing. Some changes for example like shifting the means testing on family payments from $150,000 down to $100,000 is a difficulty decision, but it’s something we were willing to be constructive on. The income tax increase, which is there on people on the highest incomes, we supported that. We’ve been willing to be constructive here.
We’re willing to be and have been constructive about the Budget. Where not willing to be destructive about the household budget, and they’re the measures where the Government’s complaining that we won’t support them. Well of course we won’t. We’re the party of Medicare, we’re not going to vote to destroy it. We‘re a party that believes in looking after people on lower and middle incomes, of course we’re not going to vote in this Budget to destroy their household budget.
REPORTER: Doesn't Mr Hockey’s at least his about-face on car use by poorer people at least suggest he’s thinking about getting the statistics right before he jumps in?
BURKE: Well the challenge for joe Hockey is, he might have apologised for the language, he hasn’t apologised for the policy. He might have apologised for the language, he hasn’t apologised for the wrong priorities. Ultimately, the language is what the Government thinks is the only problem. That’s why they’re talking reboot to come back to have a different conversation about the same budget. As long as it’s about the same Budget, as long as it’s about the same wrong priorities, then we will end up with the same conversation because the Australian people end up being hurt the same way.
REPORTER: What of these suggestions about the need for an emergency Budget - do you take them seriously, are they necessary?
BURKE: Joe Hockey’s been trying to get the words ‘Budget’ and ‘emergency’ together for a long time. He went from talking about a Budget emergency, to now talking about an emergency Budget.
The truth is Joe Hockey is one of the only Treasurers in the world who wants every body to believe his nation is in crisis. He inherited an economy in good shape, he inherited an economy with triple-A credit ratings from all the major credit ratings agencies. He inherited a Budget where, always tough decisions need to be made each Budget, but not at the expense of wrecking the household budget.
I think one of the challenges that Tony Abbott has now is, if not Joe Hockey, then who? You go through the other members of his front bench front George Brandis to Eric Abetz, this is hardly a team that’s been covering themselves in glory. Joe Hockey, sadly, fits right in on this particular front bench.
REPORTER: The question really then is, where, where to know? Where can the Government go? How can you govern Australia when you’re not agreeing on a Budget?
BURKE: The bulk of the Budget measures in the Appropriations Bills, that’s where the bulk of budgets are, that’s gone through the Parliament. What’s happening now is we’re having a focused debate because the Government is determined to get through the measures that Labor and the Parliament and the Australian people have all said are unfair. That’s why this debate is continuing.
For example, measures that I referred to before, that we’ve already voted for, on changing the means testing arrangements from $150,000 down to $100,000, they’ve been approved by the parliament but the Government’s refusing to accept them because they’re saying ‘well unless you vote for the whole lot, we won’t take the Bill’. Well we're not going to vote for measures that are about cutting household income in a serious way for lower and middle income families. We’re not going to vote for cuts in indexation for pensioners and for carers. These are things that we don’t support that we won’t support.
This is at the same time that the Government has given away revenue measures on high income superannuation, has given away revenue measures that are about dealing with offshoring of income for multinational companies to be able to evade tax in tax havens. These sorts of measures, they’ve said they don’t need that revenue, but the priority they do need is to hurt lower and middle income families and lower and middle income Australians. Well, they should know by now our position won’t shift.
REPORTER: Just on another subject. Do you have any concerns abut suggestions the Foreign Minister’s phone might have been hacked while she was overseas, or mobile at least?
BURKE: I’ve seen the reports on this and from the reports that we’ve seen, the intelligence agencies have taken it seriously and are dealing with it. So at this point I haven’t seen any reason to believe that it’s not being handled by Australian authorities in the right way. More information may emerge later, but when only limited information’s been released I think it’s important just to be careful with language at the moment. Thank you.