SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS TONY BURKE: Good morning everybody. The Government’s heralded today as Red Tape Repeal Day and they’ve managed to pull an extraordinary own goal. They’ve claimed just under $2 million worth of savings, $1.8 million worth of savings, and on the same day according to their own documents, with what they’ve done with Petrol Tax, they’ve added $5.1 million in compliance costs to business. So on a day that’s meant to be about getting red tape away from business, they’ve managed to more than double the figures they’re talking about. They’ve managed to say here’s just under $2 million they’re taking away and more than $5 million, they’re adding on to compliance costs.

That $5.1 million in compliance costs gets passed on throughout the network of service stations and you end up with $800 in compliance costs being added to each petrol station throughout Australia. We all know where that will land, that will be yet another hike that gets paid for by the same motorists who were told that these taxes wouldn’t shift. But on a day that the Government has heralded as one of their key priorities to cut business red tape, they’ve managed to massively increase it at the direct cost to the motorists. 

JOURNALIST: Massively increase, $5 million, is that 0.20c per person in Australia or something?

BURKE: Well let’s put it this way, if $1.8 million as a reduction is something worth trumpeting as a day to dedicate an entire day of Parliamentary sittings to, then surely more than $5 million in the opposite direction is more than twice the impact. If there is anything to celebrate today in what they’re doing in the area of red tape, then by their own rhetoric, red tape repeal day is a complete fail.

JOURNALIST: Tony, is there any need for Senator Peris to explain the use of Athletics Australia funds several years ago?

BURKE: I’m not going to comment on the story itself only to say Nova Peris is an extraordinary person. I have the highest regard for her; we are a better Parliament because Nova Peris is a member of it.

JOURNALIST: What about the specific allegations of it? Does she have questions to answer?

BURKE: I’m not, I just said I’m not going to go there and you can ask me three or four times and I still won’t. 

JOURNALIST: How do you think she’s feeling about all of this?

BURKE: I haven’t spoken to Nova but as I’ve said I have the absolute, absolute highest regard for Nova Peris and there is no doubt at all Australia is well served by having her in the Senate and we are a better Parliament because Nova Peris is a member of it.

JOURNALIST: Is it a grubby report?

BURKE: I’m not going to go further.

JOURNALIST: Just regarding the petrol taxes, what would Labor do to make up for the $2.2 billion shortfall over the next four years if that excise increase is not backed?

BURKE: No opposition midway through a term comes up with an alternative budget every few months. What we do, is we look at what the Government’s put forward and we act responsibly on it. There’s been something in the order of about $22 billion worth of savings that we’ve voted in favor of and that have gone through, and a similar amount that we’ve knocked back, and the ones we’ve knocked back, voted against we don’t have the numbers obviously to block them on our own, but the issues we’ve refused to support are issues that either go to the heart of unfairness or to the heart of broken promises. The Prime Minister can’t think that he can continue to stand up in Parliament every day claiming that he’s kept all his election promises when every single Australian knows that he lied about the election promises and now he’s lying about lying.

JOURNALIST: But still on the point of the $2.2 billion, where would that come from?

BURKE: No, well if you go back to how I just started the previous answer, no opposition in the history of the country goes line by line and comes up with an alternative budget midway through a term. No one does that, I’m not about to do it now.

JOURNALIST: Will it be easy though to vote to give that money back to fuel companies?

BURKE: Well here was one of the questions that the Prime Minister was asked yesterday that he completely refused to go anywhere near. If they collect this and 12 months down the track they don’t, they still don’t have the legislation in place and you can’t see how they’re going to get this through the Parliament, then what happens is the motorists don’t get the money back. From what it looks like, because the Prime Minister refused to clarify it yesterday, the oil companies get the money back. So you end up with a 12 month period where motorists are forking out money to give to the oil companies, because the Government’s handled this in such a chaotic fashion.

JOURNALIST: What about the Greens, do you think they’ll validate this? They’ve been pretty quiet the last day?

BURKE: I don’t know, I don’t know.

JOURNALIST: But if they do, if they were to do that would you see that as any sort of betrayal to the Australian people?

BURKE: Labor’s in charge of its own position. Labor’s in charge of making sure that we stand up for the people of Australia who rely on us and we also have to make sure that we make our principles and our approach absolutely clear. On this one we’ve been doing that, as in a similar way we have the discussion that Tony Abbott’s started over the last couple of days about the GST. In the most bizarre discussion I might say where he says ‘I want to have a conversation’ but he doesn’t actually want to be a part of that conversation.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Foreign Fighter’s Bill, would you be comfortable with Australian intelligence agencies tipping off Defence so that they can launch airstrikes on Australian citizens and kill them overseas?

BURKE: I’m going to leave it to Mark Dreyfus who is the spokesperson for the Party on that to deal with those issues. There’s a whole series of briefings and issues that he’ll be across that I won’t.

JOURNALIST: Should Jacquie Lambie be taking note of an ASIO report showing that any ban on the burqa would be a security risk?

BURKE: There are a number of reasons even before today’s report as to why it is a sensible approach for Australians to say that we are a free country and people can wear what they choose. I think the arguments to the contrary fell apart long before that report appeared today.

Thank you. 



Tony Burke