TONY BURKE: Good morning everybody. As you’d be aware from the comments Bill Shorten made yesterday, the Opposition is providing full bipartisan support to the actions that have been taken so far by the Government in Iraq. The Opposition sought briefings, briefings were provided to the Opposition at the end of last week and there is full support from both sides of politics for the actions which have been taken so far.

Here at Parliament House, now that parliament is back for another week, the legislative agenda will bring us right back to a series of Budget issues. It’s a year ago today that the Prime Minister did his Insiders interview immediately before the election. It’s a year ago today that Tony Abbott said he would provide a Government of no surprises and no excuses. He made the commitment that there would be no cuts to health, to education or changes to pensions. It’s a year ago today that Tony Abbott gave expectations to the Australian people that turned out to be a lie the moment we saw the Budget. For all the talk that’s going back and forth at the moment about possible alleged compromise on Budget measures; any of the other options that the Government’s flagging or wanting to talk about, still leave us with a Prime Minister who lied one year ago today.

REPORTER: Mr Burke there does seem to be a growing cross-bench push for parliamentary debate on the war in Iraq or the potential for that. Would Labor support that kind of democratic discussion?

BURKE: There are many forms of the Parliament when somebody wants to raise issues that they’re are able to. Many ways. We used some of them last week. We had an occasion last week when we had both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition making statements; we had the last time we met for Question Time, the first question was from Bill Shorten to the Prime Minister on national security issues. There are a large number of forms of the Parliament that are available and they’re already being used.

REPORTER: Specifically in terms of a debate on this issue which would go potentially to a division, Labor doesn’t support the need for that?

BURKE: There are forms of the Parliament that are already available that are already being used and that’s how we’ve been working.

REPORTER: We the Prime Minister say this is different because the US in Iraq are invited this intervention, this action. But given the state of flux of the Iraqi Government, it’s essentially still forming, can that be considered a Government request to have come from Iraq?

BURKE: I’ll leave to Tanya Plibersek the specifics of the questions you’ve raised. But on the premise of it, I think it’s quite clear that what we’re dealing with overseas at the moment is quite different to what was dealt with a decade ago.

REPORTER: Peter Dutton is now talking about a smaller Medical Research Fund which potentially wouldn’t be funded by the co-payment, if it didn’t get through the Parliament. Would Labor support that initiative?

BURKE: Our objection hasn’t been to funding medical research. Our objection has been that you would tax people based on the fact that they’re sick. That’s been our objection. It’s been a bit too cute for the Government to claim at the same time that they’re cutting other forms of scientific research that medical research has been a significant priority for them. Their priority has been to tax people for going to the doctor, we’re opposed to it. They can go back and forth on coming up with little exemptions here and there or a different dollar fee, that’s not the problem. The problem is you shouldn’t be taxed for having to go to the doctor. The problem is Medicare is meant to be universal, it’s the definition of Medicare as the Australian people know it. No matter which alleged compromise the Government wants to point to, all of it involves dismantling Medicare; all of it involves breaching promises that the Prime Minister gave one year ago today.

REPORTER: Mr Burke, there’s indications from the cross-bench in the Senate that they might support Temporary Protection Visas. If that’s the only way to get children out of detention isn’t that a good thing?

BURKE: When Scott Morrison says that’s the only way to get children out of detention he’s lying. I was Minister for Immigration, I got children out of detention, we didn’t have Temporary Protection Visas. It’s a straight out lie to claim that you can only get children out of detention with Temporary Protection Visas. If the Minister’s going to behave in that way, then his views, which can clearly be shown once again a year ago today, to be lies should be treated with the sort of contempt they deserve. Many different things have been tried over the years with respect to trying to stop people drowning at sea. When Temporary Protection Visas were last introduced, the number of people arriving by boat without visas went up.

REPORTER: The Government has announced that it will well Medibank Private by the end of the year. Do you think Medibank policy holders deserve to get some of the shares for free.

BURKE: Well the dividend that gets lost isn’t simply to policy holders of Medibank Private. The dividend that is lost is a dividend that goes to every Australian tax payer. When you sell an asset you don’t make a difference to the deficit or the surplus because effectively you transfer an asset that’s already held in kind to an asset that’s held in cash. But you do permanently lose the dividends. There have been years on the Budget bottom line when hundreds of millions of dollars have come through in dividends from Medibank Private. That money gets lost. If the Government’s going down this pathway, the first question they need to answer is: how can they justify yet another measure, despite everything they said before the election, which by definition adds to Australia’s deficit? A deficit they doubled the moment they came into office – Thank you.    



Tony Burke