TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, CANBERRA, TUESDAY 8 MAY 2018

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
CANBERRA
TUESDAY 8 MAY 2018

SUBJECTS: Budget; Aged care funding; Aid budget; High Court decision on Senator Katy Gallagher; Iran nuclear deal.

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well tonight's Budget is a make or break budget for the Prime Minister and the Government. This is the Government that continues to prioritise their obsession with big business tax cuts ahead of the services and supports that families and ordinary Australians rely on. In tonight's budget you'll still see $80 billion worth of tax cuts to big business. So ordinary families will see a cut to their family tax benefits so they can afford $80 billion worth of big business tax cuts. You'll see cuts to schools, $17 billion worth of cuts to schools so that this Government can afford $17 billion of tax cuts to the big banks. You'll still see cuts to hospitals so that this Government can prioritise a $16,000 a year tax cut for someone on a million bucks a year. You'll see tonight a Budget built on wrong priorities, where ordinary families are hurt, the services they rely on are cut so that the Government can pursue its big business tax cuts including its $17 billion cuts to the banks’ tax bill.

On the other hand, you've got Labor that will later in the week outline its' priorities for a fairer approach that prioritises low and middle income working families. This Government manages to find $80 billion to give big business a tax cut but it can't manage to find the money to properly fund our schools, properly fund our hospitals, properly support our families. People have been talking about this tax cut for a year now. Scott Morrison has been building up the fact that there's going to be tax cuts in this budget and it seems we've learned overnight that the tax cut will be in the order of about ten bucks a week. Once upon a time Amanda Vanstone described the tax cuts something like this, as a hamburger and a milkshake tax cut. Well it looks like tonight's tax cut won't be a hamburger and a milkshake, you'll have to take your pick - it will be a hamburger or a milkshake tax cut.

And on top of that the Budget continues to be built on blowouts to debt and deficit. Scott Morrison was the guy who's running around talking about the debt and deficit disaster and yet he continues to preside over blowouts in deficits and growing debt. He was called on that by Peter Costello last night - when you've even got Peter Costello despairing of Scott Morrison's ability and willingness to pay down debt then you've got a problem. Any questions?

JOURNALISTFor Labor here, what should the greater priority be focused on - tax relief or budget repair?

PLIBERSEK: Certainly any tax relief should be directed to low and middle income earners and this Government has its biggest tax relief going to the biggest businesses in the country. Tonight's Budget will have $80 billion worth of big business tax cuts, $17 billion of that will go to the banks. We know too that this Government is committed to a tax cut for people on more than $180,000 a year, so that someone earning one million dollars a year would get a $16,000 a year tax cut. That's the wrong type of tax relief. We think that it is absolutely a wrong priority for Australia at the moment to be directing massive tax giveaways to huge corporations, multinational companies, overseas shareholders. Those companies had already made clear that they're not going to be handing those tax cuts back to workers as higher wages. It'll be increased dividends for overseas shareholders and you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a few increased executive pay packets too.

JOURNALISTOne of the details we've been hearing is that the Government wants to increase the low income tax offset to $1,000 a year so that's tax relief for the lower and middle income earners. Is that something Labor would support?

PLIBERSEK: We will see the details tonight. I'm not going to comment on speculation. I can only comment on what we know is in the Budget, which is the big business tax cuts.

JOURNALIST: The Government has also put together a multi-billion dollar package in terms of the aged care and retirees sector. Is that something that Labor would welcome, extra funds in that area for those people? 

PLIBERSEK: If there is extra funding for aged care we will welcome the reversal of the $3 billion of cuts that this Government has made to aged care. This is a Government that has gone to each and every Budget under-funding aged care. $3 billion of cuts - I mean are we really in a scenario where the Government gets a pat on the back for reversing the cuts that its made to the aged care sector? The speculation is that there will be 20,000 home care packages - well there's 100,000 people on the waiting list. So let's see what is in the Budget tonight, but I will be delighted if the Government is doing more than reversing the cuts it has already made and meeting the desperate need in our community.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the aid budget, there's an expectation that that might increase slightly with inflation and then be frozen for several years and that would mean it would continue to shrink as a percentage of our GNI. How concerning is that for you and would Labor reverse it?

PLIBERSEK: Australia's at its lowest rate of overseas development assistance, it's the lowest rate we've had since records were kept. This is a Government that has cut aid funding at every Budget and Budget update. It means that some of the poorest people in the world that used to get assistance from Australia have missed out on that assistance. It is morally wrong to have cut the aid budget in the way we have. It is also strategically dumb. There are more and more people talking about the vacuum left in the Pacific, in particular, by Australia's withdrawal from the region. One of the pillars of our engagement in the region used to be a successful aid program. We don't have that anymore because it's been cut to the bone. So both morally and strategically we have cut too much from overseas development assistance. It's not good for the people who have relied on Australia in the past, and frankly it's not good for Australia and our strategic interests.

JOURNALIST: On Wednesday the High Court will hand down its decision on the case of Senator Katy Gallagher. If she is found ineligible to sit in Parliament, should other Labor MPs in similar circumstances, like Susan Lamb or Josh Wilson, should they also resign?

PLIBERSEK: We have to see the judgement on Wednesday. We will read it with a great deal of interest. We don't know what the High Court will find. We will make that decision when the time comes. But what I would say about Katy is that she has made a fantastic contribution as a Senator, and before that obviously as the Chief Minister here in the ACT. She is an enormously talented asset for the Labor Party and we will do everything we possibly can to see that she has the long career ahead of her that she deserves.

JOURNALIST: Lastly from me, Donald Trump is expected in the next 24 hours to make a decision as to whether or not he will or won't withdraw from the Iran deal. What are the risks of him pulling out there? Do you have any specific concerns in that area?

PLIBERSEK: First of all, this is not a deal between Iran and the United States. It's a deal between Iran and the permanent members of the Security Council and others. It is very important that if any changes are to be made to the deal that they are made in cooperation with all of the parties to the deal itself. I would be very concerned by an unravelling of the deal, of the Iran nuclear deal. I would be very concerned about Iran re-engaging in a nuclear weapons program. The inspections that have occurred to date suggest that they are abiding by the terms of the deal, and anything that allowed them to reinvigorate their nuclear weapons program is of enormous international concern.

Thanks everyone.

ENDS