SUBJECT/S: Double Dissolution; The Government’s Intergenerational Report; The Government’s Chaotic Budget.


KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke. Mr Burke thanks for your time. I guess if the Government is considering an early election the strategy, or the tactic, would be to try to catch Labor hopping given you have not got any substantial policies out there yet?


SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS TONY BURKE: Well first of all I don’t accept the issue on substantial policies. What we did in terms of multinational tax avoidance and the extra revenue measures there; this was in the first half a term, a fully costed policy by the Parliamentary Budget Office. I challenge you to find previous oppositions that have done anything like that. So in terms of being prepared…


GILBERT: That’s one policy. You can’t go to an election with that.


BURKE: In terms of being prepared, we’ve said things will be released in the course of the year. Policies are being released, policies are being worked on.

This is in comparison with a Government that didn’t released its policies until eight months after it was elected when it brought down its Budget.


In terms of the work that we’re doing, I don’t accept that premise. The other thing though, with the clip you just played from Barnaby Joyce, these arguments back and forth ‘will he won’t he, on a double dissolution,’ they all presume that Tony Abbott will act rationally. They all presume there’s a rational way of making decisions that this Prime Minister will use, and I challenge anyone to find evidence of that.


GILBERT: Is Labor ready if the Prime Minister were to call an early election to try and capitalise on you being flat footed?


BURKE: If he wants to bring on an election, bring it on. If we wants to call an election, bring it on. He is a Prime Minister where every policy we are talking about in the public space at the moment, is a policy he has never taken to an election. Everything that we talk about each week when I come on this program, are issues that were never raised with people before the election or if they were he told people he’d do the opposite. That’s exactly where we’re at on debt at the moment. Where we were going to be in surplus already he told us, he talked about ‘if debt’s the problem, more debt’s not the answer’ and now as of yesterday all of that’s off the table and he now believes the exact opposite. There is no rational approach from this man.


GIBERT: What he says is that within five years the Budget will be broadly in balance; that’s right isn’t it? According to the Intergenerational Report…


BURKE: Well first of all we know from yesterday the Intergenerational Report is Joe Hockey’s report, not a Treasury report. Secondly, have a look at the line on that graph Tony Abbott refers to. You’re right, in five years it nearly reaches surplus, then for the next 30 years it goes deeper and deeper into deficit. I’ve got problems with the document itself and some of the presumptions and the politics behind how it was put together; but even on the exact graph Tony Abbott wants to refer to, you get close and then he ignores what happens for the 30 years following.


GILBERT: Well isn’t it him saying ‘look, in the short term we’ve got things manageable and that we can take tougher decisions incrementally’? That’s basically the point he’s making. He’s not saying he’s going to shelve reform forever.


BURKE: Who knows that he’s saying? Who knows what Tony Abbott’s saying? What he’s saying today will be completely different to what he was saying a week ago. What he said yesterday with regard to debt and deficit is the exact opposite of what he has said every day up until yesterday. Who knows what Tony Abbott means. All I can guarantee is the Intergenerational Report is a political document. Even if you wanted to rely on it, the referencing made refers to one year only and what follows from that is all going deeper and deeper into debt.


GILBERT: Even if that is right, do you accept that it would be twice as good as what it would have been under Labor? That’s the key political point Mr Abbott was making yesterday. While they haven’t gone as far as they might have liked in terms of Budget repair, it’s a lot better, twice as good as it would have been under the former Labor Government and your policies.


BURKE: It’s twice as good as what it was under the first economic settings brought in by Joe Hockey. The line that he refers to as ‘Labor’s policies’ is Joe Hockey’s first mid-year forecasts. It’s after Joe Hockey had doubled the deficit. It’s after Joe Hockey had sent the money across to the Reserve Bank, which the Reserve Bank hadn’t requested and didn’t need, so that we could get dividends back; and at the same time blow out the deficit in that first year and say ‘oh look it was Labor who did it’ even though he’d signed off on the transfer of funds himself. There is no graph in that Intergenerational Report that represents Labor’s policies, not one.


GILBERT: But the bulk of those policies, the bulk of that trajectory that Mr Abbott says is Labor’s legacy, was indeed Labor’s legacy – you’d accept that. You’ve referred to a couple of points the Government…


BURKE: Doubling the deficit is a pretty significant thing to do. That’s what Joe Hockey did the moment he came in. The other thing is, policies always have to have some sort of variation as the information changes, particularly when it changes internationally. We dealt with the Global Financial Crisis. We dealt and had to adjust our priorities for the fact that we had extraordinary changes around the world, and every major economy in the world had to make those sorts of shifts. What they’re currently dealing with, changes in the iron ore price and commodity prices in terms of trade generally, does involve changes. But to say ‘oh well, Labor’s policies would have been frozen in time and never would have taken into account any changes in commodity prices’ is fictitious. You only have to look at what we did with the Global Financial Crisis to know that a Labor Government is capable of dealing with those economic headwinds rather than just looking for political excuses like Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey do every day.


GILBERT: Mr Burke we’re out of time. Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.


BURKE: Great to be back.



Tony Burke