SUBJECT/S:Malcolm Fraser; Last sitting week before the Budget; More cuts to Social Services.


SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS, TONY BURKE: Today in the Parliament we will start at 10 o’clock, and following the same protocols we used following the passing of Gough Whitlam, there will be a condolence resolution, there will be eight speakers from the Government and eight speakers from the Opposition and I imagine some from the crossbench as well. After that Parliament will adjourn for the full day. There will be no Question Time today and the normal rough and tumble of politics won’t we something that we deal with.


But it is important to note, just because we’re at the beginning of the week, this is the final week before the Budget, and a full year later we’re still talking about the last budget; a full year later. A budget where the Government waited until eight months after the election before they released there election promises, eight months after people voted before they told people what they were going to do. A year on we are still talking about the budget.

I remember, any other budget, normally a few weeks after you’re lucky if you get people talking about it for more than week. A few weeks later there might be some individual measures that we’re talking about. Here everybody in Australia, when you refer to the Federal Budget, they know exactly what you mean. They know you mean broken promises, they know you mean unfairness and they also know you mean appalling economic management.


If I can just also refer to the figures that have appeared in The Australian today. The most alarming thing about those figures, is Scott Morrison has just been asked whether or not we need to turn around those expenditure figures faster, and he’s agreed that we need to. Now be in no doubt, those figures published, those graphs already include every Budget measure as though it had been passed. So with Scott Morrison this morning saying we need to go even faster, he is immediately putting on the table the fact that they want harsher measures still on families and on pensioners; that’s the only way he can flag that. If he says they want those expenditure figures in social security to go down faster than what those graphs show, given those graphs already incorporate every single budget measure, what Scott Morrison is flagging today is for the next budget they need to be tougher still.


While Tony Abbott might change the story from day-to-day, whether the next budget needs to have heaps of cuts or whether it needs to have none, or whether 50-60 per cent of debt to GDP is actually ‘a pretty good outcome’, just know, today Scott Morrison has already planted the seed that the last budget, in his view, wasn’t tough enough.

REPORTER: Over the weekend you indicated you would want to work with the Government on a ten year plan. Where will Labor make savings and why haven’t we heard that?


BURKE: I just told you that the Government released their savings and their policies eight months after people voted. Now we’ve made clear we’ll be releasing policies during the course of this year. The first one we released was a revenue measure, in the order of $1.9 billion across the forwards, that is part of what needs to be done; obviously it’s a small part of what needs to be done. It’s still $1.9 billion we’ve said that if the Government wants to proceed with there’s immediate bipartisan support. No response from them on that, no willingness to engage. Now during the course of the year we’ll continue to release further policies. But be in no doubt, the Government released theirs after people had voted, we’re releasing ours in plenty of time. And at the moment, face facts, we’re still in March.


REPORTER: Critics would say this is all part of an overall small target strategy by the Opposition. Do we see enough of Bill Shorten do you believe?


BURKE: Last year we were measured by the strength of the opposition we put down in opposing the Government’s budget of broken promises. There was no doubt whatsoever during the course of last year that fight was well and truly led by Bill Shorten, and this year as policies come forward, as positive approaches come forward, that again will be led by Bill Shorten. The number of interviews the Prime Minister gave, let’s make no mistake, there’s a lot of them where he was forced to go out to defend his own leadership, he was forced to go out to deal with instability in his party, he was forced to go out because their policies were in shambles. We don’t get asked to do those sorts of interviews, the Prime Minister gets asked to do them every day.


REPORTER: This morning on radio it appears Julie Bishop wasn’t aware that potentially some of her foreign aid Budget would be cut a bit further. Do you have a response to that?


BURKE: I thought she had flagged, only a few weeks ago, that further cuts were a possibility. So I was surprised to hear that. Thank you.



Tony Burke