TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2015


TONY BURKE, SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: The chaos of yesterday was extraordinary and really gives an explanation as to the dysfunction at the center of the Government. Yesterday we saw Joe Hockey deliver one of the most bizarre media conferences ever. Where, as the Budget papers are being printed, you have a Treasurer announce a tax policy but says the revenue from it he’s going to keep a secret.

We then have Tony Abbott announce that everything’s negotiable and effectively ditch a Budget the day before its delivered. Then on paid parental leave we discover that the Government has gone from looking at people who already have paid parental leave and saying ‘that’s a woefully inadequate scheme they need to have this gold plated one instead,’ to now saying the people who already have paid parental leave are double dipping and it being described as something akin to fraud.

When you have the messages going in such contradictory ways with every breath from this government, you realise there is one piece of continuity and the continuity from the government is everything they’re doing is about trying to protect the jobs of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey. Everything they’re putting forward is about trying to protect their jobs. Because every other message can be contradictory, no other principle needs to hold firm, the only thing that will be constant is they’ll do anything they can to try to save their own jobs even at the expense of the Budget or the economy.

JOURNALIST: A few things there, first on multinational profit shifting. Isn’t it responsible for Joe Hockey to perhaps not put a figure on it because it is going to be difficult looking at international laws to claw back that money? So isn’t it better to keep it the way it is and enjoy the revenue when it does come?

BURKE: He’s the Treasurer of the nation. If there is anyone in this building who’s meant to be able to provide the best estimates of revenue, it’s meant to be the Treasurer of the nation. If there’s any day he’s meant to be able to do it, it’s as the Budget papers are being printed. Everybody knows the Treasurer will make the best possible estimates of revenue and there’ll be different variable that’ll occur as to whether those figures end up go up or down. But Treasury make an estimate and the Treasurer should be able to let the Australian public know what the intention is. That yesterday was, you can use words like bizarre, weird, whatever it was it wasn’t how the Treasurer of our nation is meant to behave.

JOURNALIST: What about the announcements we’ve seen today that 1.7 million unincorporated small businesses, perhaps incorporated as well, will receive this 1.5 per cent tax cut - that’s good news for jobs isn’t it?

BURKE: The announcements today as I’ve seen them, we’ve already known about the tax cut part for small business and one of the concerns Labor’s had as we’ve been looking at it is there’s a benefit for incorporated small businesses but not for the majority of small businesses that are unincorporated.

JOURNALIST: This looks like it has been extended.

BURKE: Yes, and the announcements today show they are apparently intending to extend it in ways they abolished last year. Now if that’s what they do, that’s good. But I’m not going to give them a wild round of applause if tonight they reintroduce programs Labor had that they abolished last year, because the only change there is small businesses had a tough time for 12 months for absolutely no reason. If they have adopted Labor’s small business policies, if they have adopted things like the instant asset write off or like the loss carry back provisions, then that’s a sensible way of being able to extend benefits to small business beyond those that are incorporated. But no one should be in any doubt that that just goes to how ridiculous their decisions were a year ago.

JOURNALIST: What’s Labor’s view point on the extra $450 million to tackle terrorism that’s been announced this morning?

BURKE: Issues of national security have remained bipartisan. Certainly there appears to be, from today’s reports, some money available for de-radicalisation. It’s important that those programs don’t just get announced, that the money gets properly spend and prudently spent. But these issues remain bipartisan.

JOURNALIST: A huge underspend to now hasn’t it been? The spend has almost doubled in this Budget?

BURKE: There has been a concern  that there’s been a big gap between the announcement of some of the de-radicalisation money and it actually getting out the door because the work is important. That said, I’m not going to be critical of the programs. We want these programs to work and for the Government to move effectively in the community on them.

JOURNALIST: Has enough been put aside for the metadata laws, it was just over about $130 million they’ve said.

BURKE: Those amounts of money I presume are on the best advice of security agencies and there’s nothing without receiving that advice that I would be able to add.

JOURNALIST: On the paid parental leave. You’ve been very critical of what’s been in this latest package, but Labor railed against the expensive paid parental leave scheme, the generous one. Now the Abbott Government has said there’s going to be a generous child care package to replace it. So you can’t have it both ways can you?

BURKE: Well no, what they’ve done yesterday is they’ve now declared war on people who do have paid parental leave. That was the shift yesterday. Now, be in no doubt if you’ve already got paid parental leave, you’ve probably got it because it’s covered by an enterprise agreement. That enterprise agreement has happened for two reasons: One, the employer has thought ‘here’s a benefit to provide that will help attract employees to the work force’. Now the Government’s saying that benefit that the employer’s locked in to and the cost they’ve locked in to they’ll get no benefit from for attracting people. Secondly, for an employee, when they’ve negotiated that enterprise agreement, they’ve given up other things to get that benefit. So the Government’s saying ‘whatever compromises you made to make sure you got paid parental leave, bad luck, that’s tough, we’re just going claim that what you’ve negotiated is somehow fraudulent and take away the benefits that you presumed would be there.’ That’s not having it both ways, that’s just calling the Government out on extraordinary hypocrisy.

Thank you very much. 

Tony Burke