TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Today there is no doubt from what we’ve seen in the papers that the Government’s approach to the Budget is unravelling. Even their own members of Parliament, even their own Ministers, have realised this Budget is one that Australia doesn't want and it is one that hurts people who can least afford to be hurt. 

The whole context of the Budget is about a Budget emergency that doesn’t exist. The whole context of the budget is simply Tony Abbott wanting put his own priorities forward, and those priorities are wrong. Those priorities will hurt Australians in so many ways. One thing we need to remember today: it doesn’t matter at one level what sort of compromises they now try to put on the table, because forever more Australians now know what Tony Abbott’s priorities are. This Budget is a set of values that Tony Abbott will never be able to walk away from.

This Budget presents Tony Abbott as the opposite of what he told people he would be at the time of the election. And no matter what sorts of arguments happen within the Liberal party and National party themselves, no matter in what way this Budget unravels internally, Tony Abbott forever more is known as somebody who wants to cuts pensions, as somebody who wants to cut family payments, increase the price of petrol, put tertiary education out of people’s reach, and make massive cuts to health and education, including destroying Medicare as we know it.

REPORTER: Christopher Pyne has hinted at some are of compromise on the higher education reforms, flagging a backing down on some of the HECS debt repayments thresholds, and interest rates. Does that bring you any closer to backing them?

BURKE: From my understanding of what Christopher Pyne said, it still involves putting education out of reach for a whole lot of students. The values that we will put forward to anything that the Government comes up with – and it’s clear they’re in disarray at the moment – but the values we will put forward, and they’re the same values we flagged before the Budget. We will take into account the cost to the bottom line, election promises, whether it is fair, and what impact it has on workforce participation. They’re the four things we said we’d apply to the Budget, we’ve applied that test and it’s resulted in whole lot of issues that we’ve said we’ll vote against.

If they want to keep changing the Budget because they’re in disarray and chaos, we will keep applying the same principles. 


REPORTER: What about the GP co-payments, is there any room for compromise on them?

BURKE: Our principle is simple: we will defend Medicare, and Medicare means that you have a system in Australia where people look after each other's health, just like you do in a family where the health of one person matters to all of us. Where the decision on whether or not you go to the doctor needs to be based on whether or not you are sick, not on how much money you have.

REPORTER: Is there any indication as to whether Labor will support the deficit levy?

BURKE: Let's make clear what is proposed there is an increase in income tax. It's not something we would have done and we have made that clear. When it was originally being slated at $80,000, there was very clear argument for us that we would vote against that. In terms of where it's now at, at $180,000, it's simply not the priority issue that it was for us. That's why we haven't focused on the debate for it. Obviously as the debate gets closer we'll have more to say about it.

REPORTER: Should the Government hand out income tax cuts before the next election?

BURKE: The first thing the Government should do is stop hurting people. Stop hurting people. Australia is not in a budget emergency. Countries with triple A credit ratings from all major credit rating agencies are not having a deficit crisis. Every Budget involves tough decisions, we respect that. And we were involved in our time in Government of $180 billion worth of savings. We don't walk away from the need to make tough decisions at Budget time. But the whole context of this Budget is wrong, and exactly where the Government now takes it, I don’t even think they know the answer to that.

REPORTER: The Coalition says that young people should be open to doing any job, even if it’s one they don’t like. Is that fair?

BURKE: Well, let's just think first of all of how these issues apply differently, if you are in the city or in a more remote area or regional area. Let's also just think of this - if someone hasn't been able to find work, and all benefits stop for them, and this is somebody - you could have a 28-year-old who hasn't been able to find a job. What are they meant to live on? What are they actually meant to live on? If the Government's answer is they have to live on nothing, what do they then do? 

The focus of the public debate understandably will go to lower and middle income people and go to a whole lot of family situations. But we can't ignore the situation for under 30s. If you haven't been able to find a job for six months, what are you then meant to live on when Tony Abbott's answer is nothing, and when faced with that, what's the next step that people take? Thanks for your time.


Tony Burke