LYNDAL CURTIS: Tony Burke welcome to Capital Hill.

SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER TONY BURKE: Good to be back. Good to have you back too.

CURTIS: Thank you very much it’s lovely to be here. If the Government does introduce a deficit levy and there's no clarity on whether it will announce one in the Budget, while Peter Costello seems to suggest it's bad economics and bad politics, what's wrong with sending a signal that everyone should bear some pain?

BURKE: The whole context of this level of pain is based on a flawed assumption, the whole starting point for this debate was Joe Hockey confecting a Budget emergency. The first thing Joe Hockey did when he came in was to more than double the deficit. He ignored and interestingly in doing that, the document that he was ignoring were Peter Costello's documents under the Charter of Budget Honesty. That’s what was being ignored.

CURTIS: Haven't long-term reviews particularly of the impact of the ageing population on the Budget told us for years, certainly since Peter Costello started releasing them, Wayne Swan released them as well, that in the longer term the Budget has some structural problems and will face higher costs?

BURKE: And in every budget you need to make tough decision and you need to be able to deal with the ongoing issues for the nation. That's why in our time in Government more than $130 billion in savings were found at different points in time. No Budget is easy, you need to make difficult decisions in a Budget. But the context of this and the reason now that every time the Government leaks something, it's something that hurts people in a big way, is because they have confected a budget emergency. Economies that have three triple-A credit ratings are not economies that are in crisis.

CURTIS: But it's also a Budget that is in deficit, has been in deficit for some time and won't be coming back to surplus on your figures, for a number years?

BURKE: That's right and will be coming back and when you have a time where you have downturns in the global economy that has a revenue impact on Australia. Let’s not forget in the lead-up to the election the word from the then Opposition, now Government, from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, was that we didn't have a revenue problem at all, we only had a spending problem, that was their argument. Now they've looked down the reality of when you start by pretending there's an emergency, then you look at the spending you're suddenly going to make in response to an emergency that you yourself have created, they end up looking at revenue measures as well. What they end up doing is, squarely with every single leak they've brought out about this Budget, breaking promises that they made in the lead up to the election.

CURTIS: But every Government breaks promises, John Howard Government had core and non-core promises. Paul Keating's Government had L-A-W law tax cuts that were eventually delivered as superannuation but not tax cuts, and the Labor Government introduced a carbon tax after it said it wouldn't, isn't better not to stick holus-bolus to every single promise you made if you feel you need to do something in the nation's interest that's counter to that promise?

BURKE: There has never been a Prime Minister come to office who has put so much stock into keeping every single commitment the way Tony Abbott has. These were not nuanced commitments, this was no changes to pension, no changes to pension, no cuts to education, no cuts the health, no cuts to the ABC and SBS, no changes to the GST and of course no new taxes. These were unequivocal promises from a Prime Minister who said as part of his own definition there'd be no surprises and no excuses and every day a new surprise, a new excuse.

CURTIS: Will the Labor Party when it looks at the Budget measures, whether you’ll vote for them or not, vote against anything that is a broken promise regardless of the merits of the measure?

BURKE: I think the starting point is for the Government to actually put forward what their proposals are rather than me starting to respond to what may or may not be in the final document. The Government has to do that. But be in no doubt our role in holding them to account and making sure that if they think they can break promises without the public noticing, they're going to find out very quickly how serious the public will hold them to account as well.

CURTIS: Will you do to the Government what Tony Abbott in Opposition did to you and focus entirely or a lot on that issue of broken promises?

BURKE: When you have a Prime Minister who put his entire credibility on the line, on the fact that there'd be no surprises, no excuses, it’d be a Government that kept its promises, he chose that that would be the standard against which he would be judged and make no mistake, he's going to be judged against exactly that standard.

CURTIS: There's a Newspoll out today which as I said earlier is the latest in a run of polls that aren't necessarily good news for the Government. But Labor’s stocks haven't moved at all on the primary vote. Does that tell you that people may not like what they think Government might be doing but they're not willing to invest any support in you guys yet?

BURKE: It's all very early on all of this and I think the important thing at the moment is people who are on pensions who thought there was no chance of this Government coming after them are now discovering that they're in the firing line. People who thought that there was no risk as to what might happen to health care are now discovering that they're up for a GP tax. Issue after issue where people thought and took Tony Abbott at his word that they wouldn't be affected by a change of Government in a negative way, are discovering very quickly that that's just not true and all of it within a context of an emergency that they themselves confected.

CURTIS: On that note we'll have to leave it. Tony Burke Thank you very much for joining us. 

BURKE: See you again.



Tony Burke