PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government Chaos; Government’s Budget Mess
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good Morning everyone.
Welcome to Day 3 of Tony Abbott’s so-called “good Government”. On Day 2, we had a Defence Minister making up all kinds of terms to justify the Prime Minister’s lie to Senator Edwards. We had Joe Hockey going on TV to beg for his job and in the process showing everyone how hopeless he is. And we had Julie Bishop a little too eagerly telling everyone that she still supports the Prime Minister.
You’d be forgiven if you do feel a bit of a sense of déjà vu; you have seen all this before. This is good government Groundhog Day. Every day they get up and promise that they have changed, but every day nothing changes. We’ve still got the same GP Tax, the same $100,000 degrees, the same cuts to the pension. So this is good government Groundhog Day. Nothing changes. The only way to change this unfair budget is to change the Government.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept Joe Hockey’s assertion – I can’t remember the exact wording to the party room – that unless difficult decisions are made, we’ll never achieve surplus?
CHALMERS: Well Labor has said all along that we think that it’s a worthwhile objective to get back to surplus over the medium term, but not in a way that asks the people who are most vulnerable in our community to carry the heaviest load. We think there is more than one way to skin a cat. We have supported the Government’s twenty billion dollars’ worth of budget savings. We achieved $180 billion in savings in our time of Government. We’re all up for a proper conversation about fiscal responsibility, but we’re not up for a conversation that asks the most vulnerable people in Australia to carry the heaviest load.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government is sending mixed messages though, with Hockey saying we need to implement these unimplemented savings measures or we’ll never get back to surplus, and then Tony Abbott saying we’re only going to go for policies that we can realistically get through the Senate?
CHALMERS: Look, this is just another symbol of the chaos and confusion that reigns on their side of politics. Every day they get up and pretend that they have changed, that they have got their house in order, but every day we get reminded of their chaos and confusion, particularly when it comes to economic policy.
They promised that they would make the budget situation better, but they have made it worse. One of their first acts was to double the deficit and debt is growing. They’ve said they’d be part of the budget solution, instead they’ve been part of the budget problem.
If they were fair dinkum about fixing the budget, they wouldn’t be giving billions of dollars’ worth of tax cuts to the biggest multinational companies in our economy. They wouldn’t be giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the superannuation system – if they were fair dinkum about fixing the budget. What they’re all about is hurting people on low and middle and fixed incomes in our community, asking them to carry a disproportionate load.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten told his Caucus yesterday that everyone has to have an election footing, like a campaign. So when will we start to see some of Labor’s economic policies, particularly around tax?
CHALMERS: Well Labor has very firm positions when it comes to the Budget, when it comes to economic policy more broadly. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes. Chris Bowen, Tony Burke – the whole team – Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek – the whole Shadow Cabinet – Jenny Macklin – are doing a whole range of work on economic policy. Bill Shorten has made it very clear that we do not intend to try and coast into Government like Tony Abbott did – just by opposing everything. We will have positive plans for the future of the country. Everyone on our side of politics is involved in that task. I am; my other colleagues are involved in that task. And I think that when the time comes, whether it’s in three months or eighteen months, the election will be a contest of ideas and we’ll be competitive on that basis.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any problem with a two-tiered tax system for business, if it’s used to fund a families package?
CHALMERS: The way they’ve gone about this company tax so-called cut, and then at the same time the levy and they’ve had all kinds of paid parental leave schemes, you’ve had Scott Morrison talking about different arrangements around childcare; it’s very hard to get a read on what we’re responding to in this case. I think we’ve got a very proud record of tax reform on the Labor side of politics. We’re always up for a sensible discussion about tax reform but the state that they’re in – their policy agenda is in – it’s really quite impossible to have a proper debate with them about it in their current state.