Budget Doorstop Transcript with Kerri Morris

20 May 2014

TUESDAY, 20 MAY 2014

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget lies; Tony Abbott’s broken promise to pensioners; GST; Superannuation.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s been an absolute privilege to meet Kerri and her daughter Ebony. Kerri’s battling cancer, had to step down from work, battling to make ends meet but she’s doing a great job fighting the biggest challenge and raising fantastic kids and doing a great job as a mum. Kerri, her daughter and hundreds of thousands of pensioners do not need Tony Abbott's cruel Budget, his unfair Budget making their life harder and more difficult than it already is. There are 650,000 pensioners - 600,000 pensioners, 50,000 self-funded retirees who are, on 1 July are going to lose electricity concessions, transport concessions and other concessions because of this harsh budget. 

If Tony Abbott's only solution for a Budget is to hurt the lives of people like Kerri and hundreds of thousands of other people, then this shows that this Budget of broken promises, based upon lies, it reveals the rotten character of the Abbott Government, the rotten judgements made by Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott. I might ask Jim to say a few words about the impact in this area which is going to be the hardest hit throughout the whole state of Queensland.  

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Bill. It’s been a privilege to welcome Bill to Marsden this morning. It has been an absolute privilege to talk with Kerri about some of the challenges that she is facing, her and her daughter Ebony and challenges which are made that much harder by the brutal assault on living standards represented by the Abbott and Hockey Budget.

As Bill said, there were new figures released last week that showed that this community that we're in today is the hardest hit in Queensland when it comes to the price being paid for Tony Abbott's broken promises. That Budget last week was a smash and grab raid on this community, on the people who make it strong and we will stand up and fight for people like Kerri. Hundreds of thousands, millions of people right around the country whose lives were made harder by the broken promises of Abbott and Hockey.

The difference between Labor and Liberal is when Bill and I and a lot of people in this community look around, they see good people trying to make ends meet. When Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey look around, they see cannon fodder in their war on Medicare, their war on living standards and their war on the fair go that makes this country what it is.

SHORTEN: We’re happy to take questions, thank you.

JOURNALIST: Can you just tell us precisely what sort of impact the Budget has had on Kerri in relation to the illness that she suffers?

SHORTEN: I might start off and then ask Jim to supplement the detail. Kerri has had the diagnosis of breast cancer. She has been diagnosed with the gene, BRCA  gene. She's had to make very hard decisions about her health. It’s meant that she can no longer work, she did the same job for 25 years. She has had to step aside from her work, focus on fighting the challenge of cancer and focusing on getting better and focus on her family. But in doing so, she has to go to specialists at Greenslopes or at Chermside. She’s had to go through the whole diagnosis, the tests. She has to pay for the specialists, the GPs, the medicines, the prescriptions. She has had to pay for the parking as we all do.

Our Medicare system exists so that when Australians are really doing it tough, that the whole of us are there to support the individual and that she has to do is, under these Abbott Budget changes, she’s going to have to pay more on for her drugs, more for her prescriptions, more to go to the hospital, more to go to the doctor. She’s going to get less support in her concessions and she faces losing her family tax benefit payments as well.

And what person fighting cancer needs to have the uncertainty, the double indignity, the extra pain of Abbott's cuts? What is it about people who are making this nation great, they go to work, they do the cleaning, they do the cooking, they do the nursing, they do the stacking of shelves at night-time in all the supermarkets. None of the people, be it Kerri or others, are earning very much money at all. So why is it that the Abbott Government thinks that his only answer for the future of this country is to make Kerri pay more for her drugs, more for her prescriptions, more to her specialist, more to her doctor.

CHALMERS: We estimate that when these Budget changes come into effect, that someone like Kerri would be approximately $3,800 worse off a year. That’s, you know, something like $75 a week, which is a brutal assault on Kerri's living standards. Kerri’s just trying to do the right thing by Ebony, trying to make ends meet, living fortnight to fortnight. She can't afford and nor can many Australians, such a dramatic hit to the family Budget of thousands of dollars a year, whether it’s a combination of  family payment changes, the school kids bonus, paying more for petrol, paying more for medicines in particular, paying more to visit a doctor. And now we know that the Liberal Party want to increase the GST as well on the people who can least afford it. So when you get a sense of that sort of impact on someone like Kerri, you can look right around our nation and certainly right around this community and people are getting absolutely assaulted by these changes and these broken promises and these twisted priorities.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, now you have at least two former State ALP figures that are in support of a GST rise –

SHORTEN: First of all Tony Abbott said there would be no increase to Medicare, he lied about that. He said there’d be no new taxes - he lied about that. He said there would be no cuts to health and hospitals, he lied about that. Now Tony Abbott says that he’s got no plan to increase the GST. Here is a tip, he will be lying about that too.

The reason why we are so concerned with Mr Abbott's Budget in terms of GST is he is cutting $80 thousand, million, $80 billion from hospitals and schools right across Australia. He has got all the Liberal premiers come out to condemn him because they know these are real cuts to hospitals and schools. Tony Abbott is blackmailing the States of Australia to introduce by stealth a rotten broad bigger GST. In terms of whether or not it is the right thing to do, Labor does not believe that slugging ordinary people extra money because Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey can't run a Budget, there’s only one thing the Abbott Government has to do each year, just about, run the Budget and they have made a train wreck of the Budget. It’s unfair, it’s rotten, it’s cruel.

JOURNALIST: Do you know why Clive Palmer was driving around here before? Was he wanting to speak to you about something?

SHORTEN: No, I don't.

JOURNALIST: Mr Abbott has called you a fiscal vandal [inaudible] for your blocking threats to the budget? 

SHORTEN: Mr Abbott’s the national champion of lying in Australia when it comes to broken promises.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hockey has signalled that people might have to wait a little longer for their superannuation. What’s your response to that?

SHORTEN: Joe Hockey there he goes again, huffing and puffing, full of wind bagery. Joe Hockey, I tell you what Australian superannuants, people who hold superannuation accounts want, get your hands off peoples' superannuation. Every Australian who goes to work has a contract with Australia and it is this - we compulsorily save our money for our retirement. Now Joe Hockey says I want you to work longer, I’m going to force you to work longer. Joe Hockey says that when you retire and rely on the aged pension, I’m going to cut it. But now, in a breath taking act of arrogance, he’s now saying that this superannuation, it may be your money but I am going to make you wait until you can get your own money. Where does Joe Hockey get off saying to Australians, 8.5 million, 9 million Australians with superannuation, I am going to make you wait until you get more money? Joe Hockey is so out of touch with the needs of ordinary Australians. He should do Australia a favour and speak less and think more.

JOURNALIST: The rules of super have changed constantly over the years as you would well know. Would you pledge that were you to win power, that Australians could have a period of certainty, that the rules would remain in place for the next, say, five years or so at least?

SHORTEN: Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott said before the last election they would do no disadvantage to superannuation. Now after the election, these guys have never made a promise they have never wanted to break, and now they wanting people to wait until they can access their superannuation. Labor has got a clear position on superannuation in the future. We believe that you need to depoliticise superannuation. You need to take the changes out of the day to day budgetary considerations of the Cabinet Government and move it beyond politics and there has got to be a cooling off period where Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott or any other person who comes along and wants to interfere with your superannuation, they shouldn't be allowed to immediately pass laws without proper independent review. Superannuation should not be a political football and if Joe Hockey wants to fight with pensioners, he has got a fight with us. If he wants to fight with people who use Medicare, he has to fight with us, and if he wants to fight with people about when they can get to their superannuation, he has got another fight with us and we will win.

JOURNALIST: Ian Macdonald says GST should be applied to fresh groceries. Does Labor agree with that?

SHORTEN: Senator Ian Macdonald of the Government, of the Liberal Party has let the cat out of the bag. He is telling Australians what the Abbott Government really want. Be very worried, when the Abbott Government says they don't want to increase the GST, just remember they didn't want to cut health apparently, they weren’t going to cut schools, they weren't going to attack Medicare or increase taxes. The worse news for anyone about the GST is when Tony Abbott starts saying he won't increase it, because we all know Tony Abbott says one thing before an election and does something afterwards. Labor would not support the Liberal plans to increase GST and blackmailing the States.

JOURNALIST: If Labor were to block the key Budget measures in the Senate, on the reports out today suggests Australia's Triple-A credit rating could be at risk, would that be something you would wear?

SHORTEN: I will give you the mail on the Triple-A credit rating. When Labor left office, Australia for the first time had a Triple-A credit rating, one of eight countries in the world. Even the Howard Government couldn't get a Triple-A credit rating from the three international credit rating agencies. That’s what Labor handed to the incoming Liberal Abbott Government. If Tony Abbott squanders our Triple-A rating it is on his head. He is the man in charge, Joe Hockey is the great Treasurer. They are the ones who say they can break promises and this is all short-term pain. This Budget is unfair and if they lose us our Triple-A credit rating, then we hold the Abbott Government squarely responsible. It has happened on their watch, their issue.

JOURNALIST: John Brumby says State and Federal Governments should get on board with the GST fight. Do you agree with this and do you think his comments are helpful for Labor's cause?

SHORTEN: No, I don't agree. Tony Abbott is blackmailing the States of Australia to push for a GST. Tony Abbott is taking $80 billion out of hospitals and schools. Tony Abbott says ‘That is not right.’ Why is it that Baird from NSW, Campbell Newman who would never agree with the Labor Party in a month of Sundays, has said Abbott is doing this - this Government is out of control. They are slashing hospitals, slashing schools for a confected Budget crisis and they are using the States as a Trojan horse to force up the GST.

JOURNALIST: Campbell Newman has suggested a rethink of federalism, the whole concept of federalism, including income tax being proportionally distributed back to the States. What is your view on that?

SHORTEN: Another day, another disaster with this Abbott Government Budget. You have people all over Australia, conservative politicians, off on a frolic everywhere. Senator Macdonald wants to put a GST on food, you’ve got Campbell Newman who wants to renegotiate the whole federal compact, this is all because the Abbott Government can't bring down a proper Budget. If the Abbott Government's Budget wasn't so horribly unfair to Kerri and to millions of other people like her, we wouldn't be debating all this other stuff. The truth of the matter is Tony Abbott should keep his hands off Medicare. He shouldn't lie to the pensioners. He certainly shouldn't increase the GST. He shouldn't be introducing a petrol tax. He shouldn't discourage working class kids from going to university with big debts. Tony Abbott's Budget is a train wreck and it is causing heartache in every street in Australia.

JOURNALIST: On a slightly off topic question, it appears that Australia's moving to a point where we will have a refugee deal with Cambodia. Is that something that Labor would support?

SHORTEN: We haven't seen the detail of this proposition at all. I won't comment. Thanks everyone.