THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Commission of Audit Report Release; The Abbott Government’s Twisted Priorities.
Lisa Wilkinson: We are joined now by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. Christopher Pyne, I will start with you, the government has had access to these recommendations for some time now. How much influence have they had over the budget we will see in 11 days’ time?
Christopher Pyne: Well Lisa, I agree with the introduction to the segment that this is a report to the government, it's not a report of the government and therefore it is a shopping list if you like of all the various things that a government could do if it wanted to. Some of these things that the government will adopt, others it will reject. But the overall theme of course is that we have to get our spending under control. We have to start living within our means again, we have had years of rising deficits and ballooning debt and it isn't sustainable. And I think the Australian public know that. They know it's going to be a tough budget, and they are ready for that. And they changed the government last September because they wanted a group of people in charge of the budget who would make those tough decisions, who wouldn't keep living beyond our means. So it is going to be a difficult period for a little while but there is a light on the other side of the tunnel and that is if we can do the necessary things to get our spending under control we will be able to grow our economy again, provide the jobs that are necessary and set the country on a sustainable path into the future.
Wilkinson: You're right, the Australian people did vote you in in 2013, but it was on a promise from the Prime Minister that there would be no cuts to health, pensions or education. He did that many times on the show. Let’s have a listen.
FOOTAGE - Tony Abbott: The only party which is going to increase taxes after the election is the Labor Party. No country has ever taxed its way to prosperity. A) I'm not going to break election promises but if I change my mind I will go and seek a mandate for it.
Wilkinson: Christopher, these will have to be broken promises, won't they?
Pyne: Well, I think you will find in the budget that there won't be overall cuts to education and to health and to welfare but we will obviously reprioritize within our spending. The programs and projects that the Coalition thinks are more important. But obviously...
Wilkinson: The problem is the Prime Minister said no cuts.
Pyne: Well, there will certainly be cuts to some Labor programs.
Wilkinson: So, we are talking broken promises.
Pyne: No, because we always said overall spending on things like education in my portfolio, let's take education, the overall spending on education will continue to rise but there will be cuts within education to Labor’s program. You don't change the government and then simply keep the government's programs before and add your own. Obviously the public change the government because they knew that we would reprioritize spending, but spending will increase, it's just that we have to stop the rampant increases in spending that were occurring under Labor. Labor left us with $123 billion of accumulated deficits, and debt rising to $667 billion. But, of course, the government will need to keep spending money, governments always do, the question is whether we can afford the rampant increases of spending that Labor proposed and obviously we can't.
Wilkinson: Tanya Plibersek, your response?
Tanya Plibersek, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well Lisa, I think what you see with the Commission of Audit is the blue print for a budget of broken promises. You are quite right; the Prime Minister said no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to the pension before the election. And now you have seen an array, a smorgasbord of cuts to those very things. You see an ordinary family on $100,000 a year set to lose $8,000 in family benefits. You see pensioners not only waiting longer for the pension, you see the pension growing more slowly and you see means testing of the pension to include the family home, $500,000 family home. Now, I don't know there are many homes particularly in those older suburbs in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane that wouldn't hit that $500,000 mark. You see as well further cuts to health. This is basically the end of Medicare for anyone on more than $88,000 a year. When it comes to education, Christopher is talking about how - he's trying to rewrite the promises he made. He said before the election that you could vote Labor or you could vote Liberal and your school would get the same funding. Now he's back-pedaling, he's running from that promise as quickly as he can. He's trying to implant a false memory in the psyche of the Australian people.
Wilkinson: The problem is we can't keep spending the way we have been spending, there have to be cuts.
Plibersek: Actually, I really have to take Christopher on this one as well. Since coming to government, this government has more than doubled the deficit. They have added $68 billion to the deficit. Now, if they are so concerned about runaway spending, why does the Prime Minister have a $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme? $5.5 billion a year and he's saying that's a budget emergency? People just don't believe it. The government is trying to amp up or hype up the idea of a budget emergency to justify the cuts they’ve wanted to make. They have never believed in Medicare, they’ve never believed in decent funding for public schools, never believed in the aged pension. This is just a set of excuses to make the cuts they have always wanted to make.
Wilkinson: Christopher Pyne, last night on the 7:30 Report the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann all but confirmed that that deficit tax will go ahead. Is that now confirmed?
Pyne: Well, in the budget you will see everything that the government is going to do and I don't think that the Australian public are mugs, Lisa, in fact I’m absolutely certain they are not. And they know that the Coalition of course supports the aged pension, they know that we support Medicare. They know we are the best friend Medicare ever had because we want to make it a sustainable health system.
Plibersek: You are getting rid of it, Christopher.
Pyne: What rubbish, Tanya. That's just nonsense and the public know that’s nonsense. You can't say things that are palpably untrue and expect the public to believe them.
Plibersek: So, people on $88,000 a year will no longer have access to Medicare.
Pyne: Well, the Commission of Audit is a report to the government it is not a report of the government and the Australian public are not crazy. They elected a new government last September because they knew that the unsustainable budget position that Labor had given us wasn’t something Labor was ever going to address, they wanted a government of adults who were going to address it, and we will keep that commitment.
Plibersek: Why do you want to spend $5.5 billion on paid parental leave every year if there is a budget emergency, Christopher? Is that the most important spending there is, is it more important than the aged pension?
Pyne: Well Tanya, I didn't realise you were the hostess of the program asking all the questions but nevertheless -
Wilkinson: I'm very happy for two to have a conversation. Happy to deputise to both of you.
Pyne: Lisa, that's what I thought you got paid to do but anyway, the truth is that the paid parental leave scheme is a workplace entitlement, it’s not a welfare entitlement. Tanya being from the left of the Labor Party sees everything through the prism of welfare and government spending. We see the paid parental leave scheme being a workplace entitlement for women.
Plibersek: It is still $5.5 billion a year, Christopher. And only a fraction of that, Lisa, is raised by the levy on business. Taxpayers will be paying for it and pensioners will be paying for it with a cut in the aged pension.
Wilkinson: The Prime Minister did make it clear that this was his signature policy, and it would not be touched. Is that another broken promise?
Pyne: We took the paid parental leave scheme to two elections it was endorsed last September.
Wilkinson: So, why back down so easily on it?
Pyne: Well, we haven't backed down so easily as you say. What we are doing...
Wilkinson: The Prime Minister has said the capping will go from $150,000 down to $100,000.
Pyne: Well, what we are saying is that women need to have a generous paid parental leave scheme, they a fair dinkum one so they can participate in the work force, they want to have children because we need to boost our population, and because that's good for productivity in the Australian economy. But it also has to be affordable and sustainable and I think the program that’s being placed before the Australian people by the Prime Minister is a sustainable one that will be supported. But the most important thing is that Labor can't really try now wear the clothes of economic responsibility when they came to government in 2007 they had money in the bank, there was no deficit, there was no national government debt. Six years later there was $123 billion of deficits, and debt rising to $667 billion. And this government is setting about fixing the mess that Labor left us and I think the Australian public expect us to do that.
Plibersek: We left such a mess when we came into government Australia did not have three AAA credit ratings. When we left government, we did. We had three AAA credit ratings. The world judges us as having a miracle economy, having survived the GFC in the best shape of any advanced economy.
Pyne: You keep believing that, Tanya.
Wilkinson: We will have to leave that there. Thank you to both of you. 11 days to go, it's going to be very interesting 11 days of speculation for sure. Tanya Plibersek thanks very much and thanks to you, Christopher Pyne.