Doorstop with Chris Bowen at Simply Beans Underwood

23 May 2014

FRIDAY, 23 MAY 2014

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises; GP Tax; Political Donations; Campbell Newman

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks for coming everybody.  It’s great to join the hard working member for Rankin, Jim Chalmers here in Underwood, Logan City. 

We’ve been out today, talking to people around the electorate – Jim’s electorate – about the impact of Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott’s budget of broken promises. Here in Rankin, people have been affected more adversely than any other electorate in Queensland.  This is a fundamentally unfair budget.  Nine out of the ten top electorates have been disadvantaged by this budget are represented by the Labor Party.  And the most adversely affected electorate in the country is my electorate of McMahon and the most adversely affected electorate in Queensland is Jim’s electorate of Rankin.

We’ve been talking to people about the impact of the family tax benefit changes, the impact of the pension changes and talking to small businesses about people putting their wallets away in the wake of this budget. We’ve seen confidence plummet, consumer and business confidence plummet under this government and retail sales figures today showing that since the budget, unsurprisingly, people have been reducing their spending, such as the concern caused by the rhetoric and the action of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.  This is a bad budget not only for families, it’s been a bad budget for businesses, small and large right across the country.  Tony Abbott, of course, promised an adrenaline rush of positive confidence when he was elected.  If this is his idea of an adrenaline rush, we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.

I did see Tony Shepherd’s comments this morning, let me make it very clear, my quarrel is with Tony Abbott, not with Tony Shepherd. Let me also make this very, very clear as well, this not just a bad budget for families, for pensioners, this is a bad budget for Australia. This is not a budget in the national interest. We will stand up for families, for pensioners, we will stand up for fairness, we will also stand up for the nation. We believe that Australia doesn’t have to choose between being a fair nation and a prosperous nation.  We can and must do both and that’s the contest of ideas that Labor will be engaging with now, tomorrow and over the coming years until the next election.

Jim, I’d invite you to say a few comments as well.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Chris. I do want to welcome Chris Bowen to Rankin, here to Underwood. I want to thank Joe and Deb for having us here at Simply Beans in Underwood in my electorate.

As Chris said, this is the most adversely affected electorate in Queensland and Chris' is the most adversely affected nationally. Those are the figures that we had out last week.

We also had some modelling from NATSEM that showed that the poorest, the most vulnerable, the sickest and the frailest are being asked to do the heavy lifting in this budget. So what Tony Abbott, and indeed Tony Shepherd are doing is asking the most vulnerable people to do the heavy lifting when it comes to budget repair and we say that's not appropriate.

So there were figures from NATSEM, figures about the impact on various electorates, but the reality is that people around here don't need economic modelling to tell them that this budget is a direct attack on good people that are just trying to make ends meet.

And what this budget is, is one budget which really creates two nations. A nation of haves and have nots. It's the most divisive budget in memory from the most divisive Prime Minister in memory.

And one of the most heartening things from the reaction that we've had as we move around the community today, and as I moved around with Bill Shorten and Penny Wong earlier in the week, is people are saying even if they aren't directly affected, they're worried about their neighbour. They're worried about their relatives and their friends in this community.

And what Tony Abbott and Tony Shepherd don't understand is that if you attack one member of our community via this budget, you attack every member of the community via this budget.

And that was the point that Chris was making about small business in our area. That when you take such a big whack to household budgets, that flows through to small businesses like this one at Simply Beans in Underwood.

BOWEN: Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: So where does the budget sit in terms of the Senate?

BOWEN: Well, it's the Government's responsibility to talk to the Parliament and get their budget through. Now we've made it clear we won't be blocking Appropriations Bills but we will stand up for what we believe in. We will stand up for those who have been adversely affected by this budget. We'll be constructive - there may be things in this budget that we don't particularly like but we'll try and be as constructive as we can. But there are some things that we will fight, fight and fight again for. We will fight for Medicare. We will fight for a fair aged pension. We will fight against the creation of a social underclass by freezing people out of unemployment benefits. We will fight for working families when it comes to petrol indexation and family tax benefits. We will fight for those things.

Now Tony Abbott's the Prime Minister. He can negotiate his budget through the Senate. There have been previous Governments which had to negotiate things through hung parliaments in both houses of parliament - Tony Abbott's got one house of Parliament where he doesn’t have a majority. We're going to be as constructive as we can be. We're not going to take the wrecking approach that Tony Abbott took consistently for five years. But we will be standing up for our principles, standing up for those Australians who feel betrayed and let down by this budget of broken promises and we’ll be voting accordingly in the Federal Parliament.

JOURNALIST: You’re here talking about businesses today, the Government has indicated that it is a tough budget, will their budget help business in the long run?

BOWEN: Well, we’re already seeing the impact of this budget on the economy. I mean, retail sales – down. Business confidence – down. Consumer confidence – plummeting. What a Government says is as important as what a Government does. When a Government talks the economy down, it has an impact.

This Government for their own political purposes has been talking down Australia’s economic track record. Wouldn’t you think that a Government would celebrate the fact that its budget is triple A rated by the three major credit rating agencies. A situation inherited by Joe Hockey. Instead of celebrating that fact, he talks it down. One, to falsely accuse the previous Government of things and secondly to provide an alibi for cuts he always intended to make. So, this is a bad budget for business, because it’s a bad budget for Australia as well as being a bad budget for individuals and families.

JOURNALIST: When will the Opposition decide whether to support a deficit levy?

BOWEN: Well, look we’ll have more to say about that in the not too distant future. Our priority has been defending Medicare, defending the age pension, defending social fabric and fairness. And saying that the best way to return the Budget to surplus is economic growth and that’s what I was talking about at the National Press Club during the week.

Now the deficit levy is something we’ve made very clear that we wouldn’t do in office but we’ll be as constructive as we can be and that means considering each measure carefully and going through the Budget providing a response to each in due course.

JOURNALIST: But will it be put to the party room or just the Shadow Cabinet?

BOWEN: Oh look, we have processes that we go through to determine these things. The processes are well underway and we’ll have more to say in the not too distant future.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have been caught out by the reaction to the budget?

BOWEN: Well, what I think is they are completely out of touch. Completely out of touch and arrogant in their approach to this budget and to the nation. I mean they have shown that they are completely out of touch with the pressures on families, completely out of touch on what people are looking for and there arrogance of refusing to even acknowledge their litany of broken promises is an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people.

For Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey to continue to insist that this budget isn’t full of broken promises is an insult to the Australian people. So they show that they are arrogant and then they show that they are out of touch with the concerns of Australians right across the country. And that’s certainly the message that Jim and I have been getting today.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that the medical research fund is worthy?

BOWEN: Nobody’s got a problem with medical research of course and Bill Shorten’s made it clear that science is at the forefront of Labor’s agenda. But you don’t fund the cures of tomorrow but taxing the sick of today. And Joe Hockey says there’s a budget emergency, he’s willing to undermine the fundamental principle of universal healthcare and Medicare not to fix the budget to put it into a new fund. Well that’s his priority, he’s entitled to do that but we will defend Medicare.

JOURNALIST: Do you have a view about Campbell Newman increasing the political donation threshold to $12,000 from $1,000?

BOWEN: Well right across the country we see the Liberal party trying to reduce accountability and we stand for greater accountability and transparency when it comes to donations to political parties. I think it’s what the Australian people want and expect. So in office we attempted to reduce the threshold for donations, John Howard towards the end of his government increased it dramatically. Australians should know who is donating to their political parties, we should be more transparent.

In the Labor party the National Secretariat has a policy of disclosing donations over $1,000, we don’t need to but we do, our National Secretariat does because that’s appropriate. So while I will leave the details to our state colleagues, the Labor party believes in more transparency and what Campbell Newman is doing is in the Liberal party playbook, the Liberal/National party playbook reducing accountability reducing transparency.

JOURNALIST: Some are saying we’re back to the bad old days of brown paper bags of cash?

BOWEN: Well accountability and transparency is important and Campbell Newman cannot justify nor can the Federal Liberal party their addiction to reducing accountability when it comes to political donations. Australians expect better.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the relationship between the States and the Federal governments can be repaired?

BOWEN: When you’ve got a Prime Minister who thinks it’s appropriate to rip $80 billion out of schools and hospitals, not tell the states in advance, not consult with them but let them read it in the budget. And then when they have the temerity to point out the impact on schools and hospitals, to say; ‘they need to be gown ups’, what an insult to the Premiers regardless of what we think of any individual Premier, they deserve better than that.

If you want to improve the nation, governments have to work together State and Federal, Labor, Liberal, National have to work together. Put aside political differences and what we’re seeing is Tony Abbott can’t even work with Premiers who are Liberal/National party Premiers let alone Labor party Premiers. People expect better from the Prime Minister and they frankly expect more maturity in dealing with matters between Federal and State governments.

BOWEN: If you want to improve the nation, Governments have to work together, State and Federal. Labor, Liberal/National Party, have to work together. Put aside political differences, and what we’re seeing is Tony Abbott can’t even work with Premiers that are Liberal/National Party Premiers, let alone Labor Party Premiers. People expect better from the Prime Minister and they frankly expect more maturity in dealing with matters between State and Federal Governments.

JOURNALIST: Jim, do you have a view on Campbell Newman’s “Bogans from Logan” quote?

CHALMERS: Campbell Newman has smashed our community with his jobs cuts and his service cuts and now he wants to run people down by repeating this snobby slur about people from Logan. I’m proudly Logan born and bred, people here do a great job raising kids, making ends meet and they don’t need this snobby slur repeated by a Premier who’s so badly out of touch.

JOURNALIST: I just wanted to ask you one more question. The Shadow Government has announced that they won’t support that $7 co-payment in the budget. Some of that will go towards the Medical Research Future Fund. Should that fund still go ahead even if it doesn’t go through the Senate?

BOWEN: Well that’s entirely a matter for the Government. The Government wants to set up this fund, they claim it will be the biggest in the world, I see that claim has been disputed elsewhere. Labor set up a review when we were in office of health and medical research from the former Australian of the Year, Simon McKean. It made recommendations which are being ignored by this Government. So they can’t lecture us and other people about health and medical research when they’re ignoring the recommendations of a very important and good review.

So, what the Government does about health and medical research is a matter for them. But we will not stand for, we will not stand for the trashing of Medicare. We will not allow it. We will fight, fight and fight again to defend Medicare. Labor created Medicare, we will defend Medicare. We believe that the health of any one of us is the concern of all of us in the nation and access to universal healthcare is what makes that a reality. And we will not let Tony Abbott trash Medicare.

JOURNALIST: There’s a report today that Tony Abbott is now one of the most unpopular national leader across the world. This is money for jam isn’t it, for the Labor Party?

BOWEN: Well it’s not money for jam for the people of Australia who are being attacked. This is about a Budget which is fundamentally unfair, which is bad for the nation and is built on a web of deceit. I mean no wonder the Australian people are angry, Tony Abbott told them, Tony Abbott told the people of Australia that he would return the Budget to surplus with no new taxes, with no spending cuts to health or education, and he’s breached those fundamental commitments to the Australian people and he said; ‘I won’t use the Budget as an excuse to break promises’, he even made that explicit commitment.

This is a budget which is full of broken promises and he doesn’t even have the decency and honesty to admit it. So no wonder the Australian people are white hot angry with this Government, white hot angry with this Government because of its unfairness and the arrogance of its deceit.

Okay, thanks for coming.