The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
SKY NEWS DAVID SPEERS
WEDNESDAY, 14 MAY 2014
Subject/s: THE Budget.
DAVID SPEERS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time. We have heard Clive Palmer this afternoon talking tough about pushing some of these measures to an election if it gets to that, is Labor equally prepared to resist some of these budget measures all the way to a double dissolution?
TANYA PLIBERSEK: We have been very clear indeed that we will oppose a number of these measures. First among them of course is Medicare. Labor introduced Medicare, we fought always to protect it. This budget is the worst attack on Medicare that we have ever seen from an Australian Government. It’s not just the seven dollar GP co-payment, it’s not just the increased costs of medicines, it’s not just the charges to go to a public hospital for the first time, but these things together are an assault on the universality of Medicare. It means that fewer doctors will bulk bill. Doctors’ incomes have been attacked at the same time as patients’ costs are going up.
SPEERS: Well, the doctors do get a two dollar slice out of the seven dollar payment, though.
PLIBERSEK: It’s going to cost them two dollars to administer the money they are collecting. Doctors are all the time trying to work out how they can focus more on their patients and less on their paperwork. And this Government just doesn’t get that.
SPEERS: The other measures, as I understand, that Labor will definitely block is the fuel tax.
SPEERS: And the other was the pension increase. On the fuel tax firstly, how can Labor say no to that when it has been frozen for so long at 38 cents a litre?
PLIBERSEK: Because this is a very clear broken promise from the Government and it’s a very clear attack on the cost of living of ordinary Australians. At the same time as they are making Australians pay more every time they fill up at the petrol station, they’re actually cutting funding for public transport. So, at the same time as they are taking away your future option to get out of your car, they are forcing you to be in your car more, to drive to work, to drive when you are taking the kids to school-
SPEERS: But that money is going into roads and lot of people would like to see that.
PLIBERSEK: A lot of this roads funding is re-announced Labor funding-
SPEERS: But there is new funding there-
PLIBERSEK: There’s some new funding but there is a billion dollar cut to local Governments spending on roads, there is re-announced funding from Labor and there’s a small contribution from this petrol excise, which is a broken promise.
SPEERS: Let me ask you about some of the other areas, in education, in particular, is there any way Labor or the Parliament can stop the Abbott Government reducing that funding, that Gonski funding after 2017?
PLIBERSEK: This is something we will have to see over the next few weeks, because it is not clear which of these measures will be in the appropriations bills and it’s not clear what will require separate legislation.
SPEERS: And to be clear, if it is in the appropriation bills, you won't vote against it.
PLIBERSEK: We won't block supply, we know what happens to Australia, to the sort of constitutional crisis, we’ve had only once in our history, when oppositions take it upon themselves to block supply. It’s a destructive thing to do.
SPEERS: And also the GP co-payment, if that was in the appropriations bill, we don’t know exactly how it will play, but you wouldn’t vote against it?
PLIBERSEK: We have always said that we will not block supply, but we believe that we will be able to vote against the GP co-payment. We believe we will be able to vote against the petrol excise increases and we will spend coming weeks and months working through the legislation to see what we can do to hold the Government to account for their raft of broken promises. Before the election, they promised no cuts to healthcare, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no hit on pensions. They have broken every one of those promises. And with this cut to the funding for the states, they are setting up to break the last of the promises which is no increase to GST, because the only way the states can cope with this is by increasing GST.
SPEERS: I will get to that, but just staying with education, higher education is a major overhaul here as well, where does Labor stand on this?
PLIBERSEK: It is a disgrace, I mean, again Gough Whitlam, so many people will tell you they only went to university because Gough Whitlam made it possible for smart, working class kids to go to university.
SPEERS: He made it free.
PLIBERSEK: Yes, this turns the ability for working class kids to get to university back to pre-Whitlam days, they are asking every student to pay more for their education, a bigger share of the cost of their education, but they are also deregulating fees. So, the most popular courses at the most popular universities will be out of reach for average students.
SPEERS: But can you understand those that don't go to university thinking, why should we subsidise so much of their course fee when being a graduate they’ll go on to earn a lot more over their lifetime.
PLIBERSEK: And that’s why we introduced HECS, we introduced universal education-
SPEERS: HECS stays-
PLIBERSEK: HECS stays, but I can tell you working class kids, the difference between taking on a $30,000 debt or a $200,000 debt when you are also-
SPEERS: Is it really going to be $200,000?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't know what the numbers will be, because universities will have the freedom to charge whatever they wish. You’re best to ask universities what they’re going to charge.
SPEERS: They are certainly not saying $200,000.
PLIBERSEK: Well, if you’re looking at what they are charging overseas students, they’re very substantial fees indeed and the universities will have the ability to charge whatever they wish for the popular courses. And the difference for a working class kid of taking on that sort of debt at the same time as they want to be starting a family, buying a home, setting themselves up, we know what will happen, kids will say no.
SPEERS: Your old portfolio of health-
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it’s been shockingly hit.
SPEERS: Yes, they are not going to continue the increase that Labor signed up to with the states, to cover eventually 50 per cent of growth costs for hospitals, but why should the Commonwealth cover that? Hospitals are run by the states.
PLIBERSEK: This is like a couple who have been married for ten years and had an agreement to share the washing up, one of them one night saying ‘The washing up is your job, it has always been your job.’ We have had an arrangement with the states for decades about who funds hospitals. The proportion has varied up and down a little bit. Our aim has been to get to 50 per cent. 50/50 is fair. 50/50 is fair.
SPEERS: But it is strangely higher than the Commonwealth has ever funded previously.
PLIBERSEK: Because hospitals need more funding. We are getting older, we’ve got higher hospital costs because we are inventing fantastic, new treatments all the time that can keep people healthy and keep them alive longer.
SPEERS: Why shouldn't states shoulder the share that they always have?
PLIBERSEK: What we’ve asked states to do, is to treat people more efficiently, so we give 50 per cent of the efficient growth to hospitals. Now, I am getting a little bit technical here, but there are incentives in the system for hospitals to treat people sooner when they are in emergency, sooner when they need elective surgery and better. We’ve got quality incentives in there as well. So we have designed a hospital system that puts the incentive onto the states to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, to treat them quickly when they get sick and get them healthy again and by using our funding contribution we have been able to achieve that. Tony Abbott has turned his back on that, people will be waiting longer to get into hospital, they’ll waiting longer for elective surgery, this will see hospital beds close. There is no doubt.
SPEERS: Unless the states can find the money-
PLIBERSEK: $80 billion.
SPEERS: Which gets to this question about-
PLIBERSEK: Looking down the back of the couch, oh here’s $80 billion!
SPEERS: The GST, where do you stand on the GST?
PLIBERSEK: It is an appalling situation to put State Premiers and State Treasurers into the situation where they are saying the Federal Government saying to the states and territories ‘You’ve got to beg for an increase to the GST’. This is so clearly a broken promise and we are completely about keeping Tony Abbott to the promises he made before the election.
SPEERS: Philosophically, how do you view the GST? Is it completely out of limits to increase it or broaden the base?
PLIBERSEK: I view it as another hit on family budgets.
SPEERS: So, Labor will not support any change?
PLIBERSEK: We can discuss all these things in coming weeks, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical-
SPEERS: It is a pretty simple question, it has been around a long time, does Labor any increase or any change to the GST?
PLIBERSEK: It is a ridiculous proposition to ask me to answer a hypothetical question about something that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer deny that they’re doing, but I’ll tell you this-
SPEERS: I’m just asking you to have a think about it. Whether you think that there is any case for changing the GST?
PLIBERSEK: I support a broad and progressive tax system and we have offered the government a number of terrific ways of raising revenue including going after corporate tax evasion and they’ve turned their back on that.
SPEERS: Sure, but Labor used to have a pretty firm line on no change to the GST, what is it now?
PLIBERSEK: We don't support changes to the GST and we see it as a broken promise and another hit on family budgets.
SPEERS: So, you won’t back any change to the GST?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it is ridiculous to ask me to answer a hypothetical question. We don't support changes to the GST because they’re another hit on the family budget and another broken promise.
PLIBERSEK: But, I tell you what, we made $180 billion worth of responsible savings when we were in government, and we’ve got more that this Government have rejected, including corporate tax evasion. Companies that are offshoring their profits, does this government want to go after them? No, they want to go after pensioners, they want to go after families on $100,000 a year, they want to go after people who have got sick kids or are filling the tank up at the petrol station.
SPEERS: Finally, in your portfolio area, foreign affairs, there’s one of the biggest cuts is to foreign aid.
PLIBERSEK: The biggest.
SPEERS: Nearly $8 billion. Will you make any commitment to restore that funding?
PLIBERSEK: We have never abandoned our commitment to get to 0.5 per cent of gross national income. We’ve never abandoned that commitment.
SPEERS: So that stays?
PLIBERSEK: This government kept their commitment before the election then turned its back on it just weeks ago. Their midyear forecast still had the 0.5 per cent target for gross national income, they had turned that are back on that. They have abandoned poverty reduction as an aim of our aid budget, they’ve got rid of AusAid completely, our experienced overseas development assistance workers, some of them merged into DFAT, many of them have just lost their jobs. We are looking at these poor girls in Nigeria today and the contribution that Australia has made to funding education for girls around the world. So much of that at risk today because in this budget $7.9 billion cut from the aid budget, between now and 2020 that figure is $16 billion, the government has turned its back on the world's poorest people.
SPEERS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.