SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison’s non-existent economic and fiscal plan for Australia; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget; 2016 federal election.  

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS AND SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER: It’s been an extraordinary day for Scott Morrison. We’ve just had one of the strangest comments of all. After a day where Scott Morrison is being criticised for yesterday giving a National Press Club speech with no plans, no ideas, just rhetoric, today he comes out saying he will make a commitment that he won’t sell us a unicorn.

To end up in a situation where the big words from the Treasurer are that he won’t allow trade in mythical species is an odd one. I guess it follows on from Greg Hunt who has previously committed to act for the Antarctic Walrus and the Tasmanian Tiger, neither of which are around anymore. I presume every bunyip in the Australian bush is waiting for what the Government will offer for them next.

What we also had from Scott Morrison this morning, was a commitment to more of the same. If you ever wanted evidence this Government has no plan for an economy that’s in transition, it was this morning. When asked about his plans, Scott Morrison simply said ‘well we’ll be doing more of what we’ve done over the last two and a half years.’ That means they continue the cuts to Medicare, they continue the cuts to the family budget, they continue the cuts to the pension. That’s what this Government is about.

Against that, Labor’s approach has been to look at different areas where there are loopholes, where you can actually get a better bottom-line for the Budget. Our changes, including negative gearing, including multinational tax avoidance, including what we’ve done in getting rid of the Emissions Reduction Fund - which is a fund to pay polluters to keep polluting - over the next decade we’ve found more than $100 billion worth of improvements to the Budget bottom-line to make sure we can have an economy that’s targeted to be in a better position as we go through the transition at the end of the mining boom.

REPORTER: Do you think you can get enough traction on any of your policies to win the election with Bill Shorten as your leader?

BURKE: No doubt at all. Let’s make no mistake here, the Australian people know we’ve got an economy in transition. They know this is the time when you need some leadership to help guide the economy through that, so we get through it with people still in employment, still with opportunity, and with Government services like Medicare still there to help people through; to have that safety net remaining.

Against that though, the Government’s response is simply to have no plan whatsoever. They know how to cut, they don’t know how to do anything else. They know how to criticize and play politics, but with negative gearing they’ve tried to run both sides of the street. They’ve said they’ll criticize Labor’s plan, but they also say they’re considering doing something similar. Then they won’t even rule out retrospectively going after investors who’ve already locked themselves in to existing properties.

This is a Government that’s all at sea. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison promised there would be something different to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey when they came in. The only difference is we’ve had no action and more waffle.

REPORTER: So what else can the ALP do between now and the election to have a better chance of winning it?

BURKE: The important thing for us is to make clear, as we have been, that we are up for the tough decisions when the tough decisions need to be made. Negative gearing in its current form is simply not sustainable. It’s not. But you want to make sure any changes protect existing investors and guide future investment to where jobs are created, and jobs are created with new property and with new build. That’s why future negative gearing gets directed into those areas that help with both job creation and housing supply.

We’ve made clear as well, the big reform you need to make sure you’ve got good jobs after the mining boom, is to have a serious investment in education. The Your Child. Our Future  policy is all about making sure every child at every school gets every opportunity. Labor has made clear that you need to invest in Australian people, you need to make sure you’ve got your safety net, but you also need to be chasing down, wherever there are loopholes in the tax system, making sure every dollar is being properly targeted.

REPORTER: Over the past few days Gary Gray has made some comments about Labor’s chances of winning the election. Do you think he’s right?

BURKE: Anyone who knows Gary, knows Gary’s pessimism and how Gary’s often expressed himself. But be in no doubt, we’re the underdogs. We’ve been saying the whole way through that we’re the underdogs. It’s very hard for a first term opposition to be able to win government. But it’s very rare for a first term Government to be as directionless as the people we’ve got in charge at the moment.

Tony Burke