SUBJECT/S: Budget 2014


LYNDAL CURTIS: I'm joined now by the Opposition's finance spokesman Tony Burke. Tony Burke welcome to our budget coverage.


CURTIS: Is there anything in this budget to love?

BURKE: Not a lot. It's a cruel budget, where people will be paying for Tony Abbott's broken promises. I mean, you go through what he was saying the day before the election - no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to pensions, no cuts to the ABC or SBS. Now, that's been smashed to pieces tonight. And we’re in a situation now where those who can least afford it, have been well and truly in the sights of the Treasurer and will pay for Tony Abbott's broken promises.

CURTIS: But the Government hasn't taken up some of the harsher recommendations of the Audit Commission. It's also hitting the - not hitting the economy at a time when it can least afford it. The real pain kicks in, in years three and four, not years one and two.

BURKE: Well just on the premise of that, on some of these issues they’ve gone harder than the Commission of Audit recommended. When it comes to how they have decided to cut rates for pensioners by cutting indexation, they have chosen a lower indexation rate than what the Commission of Audit recommended. The increase to the age 70 is happening sooner than what anyone had recommended. It was in 2050 or something that the Commission of Audit had suggested that that might happen. And these are steps that Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott have deliberately thought they'll get away with deceiving people.

CURTIS: But isn't the Government going to take those pension changes to an election because they won't be implemented until 2017, and is that potentially a brave move given the size of the electorate, which is in the aged category?

BURKE: No, no, they’re in the budget now. Those issues get booked into the budget now, and those issues are before the Parliament now. For them to say ‘oh, look, it will go off to another election’ doesn't change - if it was something off into the never-never then we wouldn't be talking about it on their first budget night. They said there would be no changes to pensions. Tonight they announced the pension is changing, and it means – it’s one thing for people who work in white collar jobs who aren't involved in physical labour, we can keep working til 70. But for somebody who is involved in physical labour to just keep pushing the pension age out and out and out is something much more draconian than what it might be for Joe Hockey or myself.

CURTIS: Given the pain you say there is in this budget, can you afford to vote against spreading that pain to higher income earners?

BURKE: The first thing to remember is the premise of this budget, that it was responding to a budget emergency, is wrong. Countries in a budget emergency don't have AAA credit ratings; countries in a budget emergency aren't introducing some huge paid parental leave scheme where someone on a high income gets paid in six months more than double what a pensioner gets in a year.

CURTIS: But will you support -

BURKE: No, no, I'll get to that particular issue. We are prioritising our response tonight. When it was going to be set at $80,000 we immediately ruled it out. Now the campaign, not only run by Labor, the campaign that ran all the way through the community about when it was going to kick in at a tax increase at $80,000, was one where we were able to rule it out. Now the campaign's been successful. We are now in a situation where we are prioritising our response. It's less of an issue than it was. It's still a broken promise. I mean, Tony Abbott had it quoted to him in the Parliament today that he’d said there would be no increase in income taxes. Well tonight they’ve announced an increase in income tax.

CURTIS: But potentially, you could support it?

BURKE: We as I say we are prioritising our response, and that one because it's moved out to a more extreme end than where it was first announced is one we are not dealing with in that way tonight.

CUTIS: Some of the things the Government has done, Labor started doing some heavy lifting on bringing – attacking what's called middle class welfare, making some changes. Isn't this a natural extension of some of the things that Labor started?

BURKE: We’ve got a good record on means testing. We’ve got a good record on making sure you prioritise your payments for the people who need them most. But let's not forget, when we made some of those changes, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey accused us of adopting a one-child policy. That was their response. They declared it was class warfare when we made those sorts of changes. So that's what they told the Australian people they believed in before the election, and now we see the exact opposite when we get there tonight. I mean, the issues that I can put down categorically that we are opposed to and we'll be fighting every step of the way are the changes to pensions, both on indexation and on the retirement age itself; the changes to petrol excise; and the changes that they want to make which effectively dismantle Medicare as we know it.

CURTIS: One final question. Given what the Treasurer has done with indexation on both schools and hospitals funding, essentially, over ten years, shifting $80 billion to the States, do you expect the states to start the conversation about the GST?

BURKE: I'm sure they'll start a conversation initially, saying they are not going to pay it. I think that's what will happen. But let's not forget - day before the election, Tony Abbott says "no cuts to health, no cuts to education." Tonight on budget night, $80 billion ripped out of schools and hospitals.

CURTIS: Tony Burke, thank you very much for your time.



Tony Burke