BARRIE CASSIDY: So we'll move on now and we'll go to Canberra and our program guest is Shadow Minister for Finance, Tony Burke. Good morning, welcome.


CASSIDY: That video is probably familiar to you, as I understand it you were there?

BURKE: Yeah, I was. I haven't seen it back since the night. My main recollection of the night was at that point I'd handed my resignation in to Kevin Rudd and during the course of the night Julia Gillard found out about it, and came to me somewhere between dismayed and angry with me and said to me straight away ‘I want you to go back, get that resignation and tear it up. Don't you dare do this in my name.’ What I didn't know was at the exact same time - while having a conversation like that with Julia you don't answer your phone when it's ringing - but at that exact moment Kevin was leaving a message saying that he wasn't going to accept my resignation anyway.

CASSIDY: So you were prepared to end your career? In retrospect, what are your thoughts on that now?

BURKE: Well, I'd made, as a number of us had, some pretty strong comments during that period and I thought the right thing to do was to give my resignation in to Kevin. The truth was after he rejected it and I stayed on for that period, my working relationship with him after all of that was actually the best it had ever been. So, you know, you don't know how these things are going to turn out.

CASSIDY: Let's talk about Joe Hockey now and he has delivered a genuine apology for his remarks. Should that be the end of it?

BURKE: Well, look, it's a strange situation where someone, you know, arguably can smoke a cigar with his head in the sand. We've got a situation with Joe where the real problem is that yes, he's come out and given an apology about the language, but even if you look at today where they're talking about the issues that they’ll back down on, petrol is not on the list. If you look at the issues today where they're saying how they actually might change the way that they will influence ‘Budget Mark Two’ or whatever they want to call it, and you wouldn't want to be a pensioner who drives a car. They've been very pick-and-choose on which measures they're willing to have another look at and with those, all we've got today is off-the-record backgrounding. They've become, you refer to the events of the last Government, they've sort of done the opposite. They go on the record when they want to get stuck into each other and off-the-record when they want to talk about policy.

CASSIDY: But you go back to what Joe Hockey did say though on 2GB and that would not have been easy for a politician, especially a senior politician to say what he did and to say it in the way that he did.

BURKE: No, I respect that absolutely. It's also true that it took Tony Abbott to give him the public smack down before that interview took place. And I think a lot of people would have looked quite differently on that interview if it had happened shortly after the original comments, rather than after a long period of digging in and producing a whole lot of statistics trying to justify the original insensitive remark.

CASSIDY: Now Bill Shorten's position on the Budget is throw the whole lot out and start again, you can't be serious about that?

BURKE: The first problem with the Budget is it's based on a false premise. It's based on there being a ‘Budget emergency’ which there is not in Australia. So that's the first problem. What they then do with that premise is in order to improve the Budget bottom line, they put the vast bulk of the weight on people on lower and middle incomes. And so the only measure in this Budget that's specifically aimed at people on higher incomes is the increase in income tax. It's the only one of the measures that's temporary. So for the top end, there's a 2 per cent hit and it's a temporary measure. For lower and middle income earners, the impact happens straight away, and if you're a pensioner every six months because of the change in indexation the impact actually gets worse.

CASSIDY: So at the very least what you want is some initiatives that hit the higher income earners harder?

BURKE: Well if you're going to - every Budget involves tough decisions. We don't deny that and we made tough decisions in the order of something like $180 billion worth of them when we were in Government. Tough decisions have to be made in any Budget. The challenge here is that in the first instance Joe Hockey has claimed that there is a dire problem, way in excess of the challenge that Australia faces. But secondly, their entire approach has been to continually push the onus on those who can least afford it to do something about the Budget bottom line. Now I've got to say, even if somebody were to accept Joe Hockey's ‘Budget emergency’ language, I don't think people are willing to say that they want to help Joe Hockey's Budget by wrecking their household budget.

CASSIDY: But how would you hit higher income earners harder, where would you do it? You had an opportunity you didn't do anything about negative gearing, you didn't do anything about some of the more generous superannuation arrangements?

BURKE: Sorry, I can't accept that last point Barrie. There were specific changes for higher income superannuation that we'd put in place that raised revenue, that improved the Budget bottom line, that Joe Hockey abolished as part of the doubling of the deficit that he did when he first came to office. There's a series of changes here of revenue measures including offshore tax havens where we had measures that had been announced that were in the Budget, that Joe Hockey announced he was abandoning as soon as he came to office. We can't forget that Joe Hockey's first action was to double the deficit, to blow it out as far as possible so that he could have a figure to point to and ‘say look how bad Labor is.’ Now in this Budget he's dealing with it in a way that hurts the people that can least afford it.

CASSIDY: Would you bring negative gearing back into play?

BURKE: I'm not contemplating anything like that. I'm not going to get in to a rule-in, rule-out game but nothing like that is in contemplation.

CASSIDY: When you said there's no ‘Budget emergency’ do you accept though that the country is living beyond its means?

BURKE: We accept at the moment, when you've had the global down turn, that you get significant decrease in revenue and that's been on an ongoing basis, have to accept that. But don't forget, for example, the decisions that Joe Hockey has been making. In the climate change area they've abolished the only source of revenue for that sort of expenditure in abolishing the Carbon Price. That makes a massive hit to the Budget bottom line itself. But then they increase the expenditure with Direct Action, with a policy that won't work. So the actions that we've seen from them so far, if you look at our voting record in the Parliament, if it had been followed, the bottom line at the would be in the order of about $21 billion better off than what it is because of the different decisions that they've currently been making.

CASSIDY: I want to raise an event, on Friday night you were a speaker at a Muslim forum in Lakemba, and it was held on the impact of the war in the Middle East. It does seem to be - there seems to be a certain heightened sense of awareness or even, I guess, alarm about developments overseas and how that's playing out here. How is that playing out in the Muslim community?

BURKE: Well, there's no doubt around the world at the moment the major terrorist organisations around the world are targeting young Muslim men for recruitment. Australia, all countries in the world and the Muslim community are dealing with that. And this is where, if I look at the different programs that exist in my part of Sydney where people are making an effort to make sure that young men are having leadership programs, are being kept within the community net and keeping connected to the rest of the Australian community, lots of different cultural groups, lots of different religious groups run them. No section is doing it in a more targeted fashion than the Islamic community, trying to make sure that they're keeping young men on the right path. Now, that said, we have all seen images which are nothing short of horrific and the images we're seeing are of people who used to live in Australia. Now, there is one question about how on earth Scott Morrison allowed them to get out of what were meant to be tough borders to go across to Syria. But there is a second issue which is to make sure that we work more and more closely with the community to try to ensure that we don't have people going down those sorts of paths.

CASSIDY: But do we hear enough from their leadership when these sorts of atrocious images appear?

BURKE: I've got to say an image like that which is offensive to every human being, I did find it astonishing that some people were saying ‘oh, has this Muslim leader or has that Muslim leader come out to condemn a beheading’ as though they in some way owned that image. Of course they're condemning beheadings. Of course people found that image absolutely offensive and, the habit that's happened now where every Islamic leader is expected to come out and say ‘yes, I too am opposed to this horror’, yes, they are. But I think there's also a point at which we have to ask what's going on that we are questioning whether or not these leaders might be.

CASSIDY: But isn't the community entitled to be – some sort of satisfaction, be satisfied that that is in fact the widespread view of the Muslim leadership?

BURKE: It is and the leadership came out on every instance immediately. There are Muslim leaders coming out condemning it. The thing that I've been critical of is that there's been a habit of some to try to find some Islamic leader who might not have come out and said ‘why didn't you?’ As though everybody's got to jump to attention the moment that there's something horrific that we should already know, everybody finds horrific. For heaven's sake, it's the worst image I've seen in my life and I think we've all seen some terrible images out there. If we're going to actually try to make sure, and as nation we need to, make sure that we don't continue to be a target where - which is happening around the world - where terrorist organisations are trying to find young men, and let's face it at the moment they are targeting young Islamic men, then one of the stupidest things we could do as a nation is to try to tell people in these communities that they are alienated. That is a really dumb thing to do and a dumb message to send. And for all the talk of ‘Team Australia’ from the Prime Minister, I will never in my life understand why he linked the abolition of the Government's plans on the Racial Discrimination Act with 18C to the terror laws that they are introducing. If they ever wanted to tell the community that they thought they didn't understand where the community was at or the assistance the community was actually wanting to give, it was that moment.

CASSIDY: Tony Burke, thanks for your time this morning.

BURKE: Talk to you again.




Tony Burke