JULIE DOYLE: Tony Burke, thanks for coming in today.


DOYLE: Let’s talk about the budgetary situation facing the Government. Similar problems to what you faced with falling commodity prices and less revenue coming in. If you're committed to Budget repair in the long run, why not let the Government get some of these measures through that they are trying to put in place?

BURKE: Let's not forget even though last week in Parliament Tony Abbott claimed Labor hadn't supported a single measure, there’s more than $20 billion worth of measures that improve the Budget bottom line that have gone through the Parliament with our support, more than $20 billion worth.

DOYLE: But still some held up though?

BURKE: Oh, they are, and if the Prime Minister thinks the Labor Party is going to vote against universal health care, then he really should have taken a bit of stock before he put that into the Budget. We're not going to support $100,000 degrees for university students, we're not going to support the abolition of universal health care, we're not going to support a situation where young people, if they can't find a job, are left with nothing to live on. There are measures there in the Budget that they would have known from the moment they sent it off to the printers, that these were measures that a Labor Party would never vote for. They've made that decision. For the issues where we could be constructive, we've been constructive, but if their definition of being constructive and being helpful is hurting people on lower and middle incomes by attacking their health care, by attacking their chances of further education, by cutting their pensions, then that's not the sort of thing the Labor Party will ever be part of.

DOYLE: What about letting them go through this process and then wear the consequences of the next election if the voters are unhappy with this?

BURKE: No, I've been elected to Parliament to stand up for people and I’m not going to play, and Labor under Bill Shorten is not going to play, some sort of strategic game to hurt people so that we then get voter improvement at the election. The most important thing for us as a party is that people are clear that we’re standing up for them. That’s exactly what we’re doing with the unfairness of this Budget. Make no mistake, a whole series of the problems that the Government’s facing here are problems of their own making. If they wanted to do something about Budget repair they don’t have to be committed to the gold plated Paid Parental Leave Scheme, they don’t have to be committed to their Direct Action policy of funding polluters. They didn’t have to give away the revenue from high income superannuants or give away the revenue from multi-nationals trying to shove their money off into tax havens.

DOYLE: You’ve mentioned a few things there. What’s Labor’s alternative proposals for Budget repair?

BURKE: Well at this point in the cycle we’re not at the point of making election promises for an election when we’re in the first half of the term still. But the four issues I just went through there, all of those would improve the Budget bottom line, every single one of them. But the Government’s not putting any of that up for us.

DOYLE: You mention that you’re not going to reveal any of your plans or such at this stage of the cycle, but when you’re doing interviews like these or talking about these things, isn’t that the natural response from people, that they want to know what your alternative is?

BURKE: It’s not simply some sort of political timing game. It’s also the situation that we don’t know what the state of the economy is going to be by the time of the next election. What we do know and what’s become clear from further reports today is that the Budget wasn’t just bad for fairness, the Budget was bad for Australia’s economy. Tony Abbott was saying quite incorrectly that since they came to office consumer confidence has improved; it hasn’t, it’s gone down. Consumer confidence has taken a hit because when you attack the household budget you attack confidence. So we’ve ended up with a Budget that is bad for the economy and that’s starting to find its way through the system as well.

DOYLE: You mentioned the latest analysis Deloitte Access Economics has put out today, is says in there the Budget outlook is still in reverse as China slows and the Senate fiddles. It says good politics has good policy well and truly over a barrel. Is there a point there?

BURKE: Well what it’s not acknowledging there is the particular measures that we’re dealing with in the Senate are measures that do nothing to improve productivity anyway. If you take the higher education measures, of your drivers of growth, one of your key drivers of growth is Labor productivity. You don't improve for the long-term Budget, Australia's labour productive by attacking higher education. That's not what is going to be of assistance there. If you look beyond the immediacy of the Budget bottom line and look at what do these measures actually do in their detail, measures that attack further education are measures that attack labour productivity.

DOYLE: Just finally, it is the last parliamentary sitting week of the year. So far this year, the Speaker has managed to suspend 285 MPs. Do you think she will get to 300 this week?

BURKE: Well, I hope not. I hope not. Last week we had somebody thrown out, Melissa Park, who’s hardly a boisterous misbehaving member of Parliament, immediately after she quoted a Standing Order. People have been thrown out for all sorts of extraordinary reasons in the last week. My preference is that the Prime Minister keeps relevant to the questions that he’s asked and the Parliament gets on with its business. But I'm not in charge of who gets thrown out.

DOYLE: Tony Burke, we will leave it there. Thank you very much.

BURKE: See you again.



Tony Burke