ABC News Radio with Marius Benson


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development








SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities.  

MARIUS BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BENSON: The shadow ministry met last night.  Have you decided what you are for and what you are against in the Abbott Budget?

PLIBERSEK: Well, there’s a lot of things in this Budget obviously that we are very troubled by. We have had discussions about the measures that we’ll be opposing. They include changes to the pension, the increase in the pension age, and most particularly the change in indexation of the pension so that all pensioners will lose money. We’ll definitely be opposing the petrol excise, it’s very clearly a broken promise and it’s very clearly a hit on the family budget. We will be looking at a number of other measures as well. Some of them obviously we haven’t seen legislation for and we’ll have to look more closely at the legislation, and the, but the petrol, pensions and we’ve been very clear that the $7 fee to go to the doctor – the destruction of Medicare – is something that we cannot tolerate.

BENSON: There are three items there that you’ve said you’re definitely against.  What about the debt levy, the 2 per cent impost on people earning more than $180,000?

PLIBERSEK: Well, when we were first made aware that this was a possibility, the suggestion was that the debt levy would come in at $80,000. And I think the outrage that Australians expressed at that, again, broken promise, Tony Abbott clearly said going to the election, no new taxes, taxes would be lower under them, that there wouldn’t be tax increases, they could tackle the budget deficit without new taxes. I mean he said it in so many different ways and here he was in his first budget proposing that people on $80,000 a year or more would be slugged extra income tax to fix a beat up budget emergency was something that we couldn’t tolerate. At $180,000, well we’ll have to look at that down the track. It is not as critical to us as protecting Medicare, protecting pensioners and protecting ordinary families.

BENSON: So, the debt levy is a maybe?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we’re looking at it.

BENSON: Do you take the threat of an early election seriously? Tony Abbott has warned that, particularly the remark directed at the Senate cross benchers that if there were to be a double dissolution election, they’re unlikely to get back.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don’t think the way to conduct political debate in this country is threaten people. I think Tony Abbott can do what he likes. I’m sure he’ll have double dissolution triggers if not from this Budget then from other measures. We will continue to oppose his moves to remove the carbon pricing arrangements and replace them with nothing, replace them with no real effort to reduce pollution, reduce air pollution in Australia.

BENSON: He will have the grounds for a double D, but do you think it’s a serious threat? Do you think it’s a likelihood?

PLIBERSEK: Oh, you’d have to ask him. I mean, I’m not very good at picking what Tony Abbott’s going to do because when he said “no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC”, I didn’t think that he could go to his first Budget and break every one of those promises.

BENSON: Would you like to fight an election on this Budget?

PLIBERSEK: I would be very happy to fight an election where Labor was saying we built Medicare and we will protect it. We care about pensioners, three million pensioners across Australia who will lose money from this budget. We want to defend higher education against the Americanisation of our system. We don’t want to see family budgets hit with extra petrol taxes and the possibility of GST increases because of what the Federal Government has said to the states, you know, you’re on your own when it comes to health and education, cutting $80 billion from our hospitals and our schools. I’d be perfectly happy to stake our reputation in response to that.

BENSON: The Government says you have no reputation when it comes to saying governments break promises because, for example, Labor promised surpluses year after year and never delivered them, you’ve broken so many promises you’re in no position to attack the Government, you have no credibility.

PLIBERSEK: We were on track to have a surplus in 2017-2018 and I mean it is like, when you listen to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott talk about the Australian economy over recent years, it is like the Global Financial Crisis never happened. It’s like Europe is not still just barely recovering. The Australian economy grew by 15 per cent over a period when most other countries went backwards and some are barely back at the size they were before the Global Financial Crisis. We created a million jobs while 30 million jobs were lost around the world. We got three Triple-A credit ratings from the major ratings agencies, the first time the Australian economy had ever achieved that. No Liberal Government, not Peter Costello that they lionise as the best thing since sliced bread, never achieved those Triple-A credit ratings and we did it because we kept the Australian economy strong during the Global Financial Crisis. That meant stimulus spending. I mean it’s fantastic to hear Joe Hockey now saying we need to invest in infrastructure because the mining boom’s coming off. It’s a very curious double standard that in the Global Financial Crisis, the worst economic circumstances in three quarters of a century, the now Government, the Liberals, voted against infrastructure spending but now they’re interested in it to make the economy strong.

BENSON: Can I just jump in there with a quick final question on Kevin Rudd, the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Scheme in Brisbane. He wants to give evidence and part of that has been redacted, part of the Cabinet minutes have been redacted, at the behest of the Federal Government. You were in the Rudd Ministry, you were a Cabinet Minister in the Gillard Government, are you happy to see Cabinet confidentiality breached, that convention breached and have Cabinet minutes made public?

PLIBERSEK: Look I’m not a QC. I can’t follow the ins and outs of the legal argument, but it seems to me that if someone is called to give evidence you have to allow them to properly defend themselves and it’s a bit rich for the Government which was, has indeed already handed over Cabinet documents to the Royal Commission, to now be saying that’s a problem. Like I say, I’m not an expert on the legal argument but a man’s usually got a right to defend himself.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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