'We can do better than this': Bill Shorten's Budget reply speech

Stefan Postles/ Getty Images.Opposition leader Bill Shorten

My fellow Australians.

As I listened to the Government’s fifth budget on Tuesday night, I knew immediately: We can do better than this.

The people of Australia deserve better than this.

And a Labor Government will deliver better than this.

Better than ten years of cuts to schools and hospitals – in exchange for $10 a week.

$10 a week.

That’s all the Liberals think it will take, for you to forgive and forget.

They think for $10, you’ll forget they tried to put up your taxes last year.

For $10, you won’t care about cuts to your child’s school.

For $10, you’ll forgive waiting for elective surgery at Australia’s hospitals.

That for $10, you won’t mind your internet’s no good and your local TAFE is closing or your daughter can’t find a place at uni.

They think if you get $10 a week, you won’t notice you’re losing $70 in penalty rates from your Sunday pay.

And this Prime Minister is so out of touch, he thinks if you get ten dollars a week – you’ll be fine with the banks getting a $17 billion giveaway.

The Liberals desperately want you to believe this budget is fair.

But here’s what the Prime Minister isn’t telling you:
– His $715 million cut to hospitals is still in the budget.
– His $17 billion cut to schools is still in the budget.
– And his $80 billion hand-out to big business, banks and multinationals is most certainly still in the budget.

This budget still cuts money from our universities – and it contains a sneaky new $270 million cut to TAFE.

The Prime Minister is still cutting $14 from pensioners every fortnight.

He’s cutting dental care for veterans, he’s cutting the ABC, yet again.

He’s keeping Medicare frozen for specialists visits, he’s even keeping the GST on tampons.

And he is still increasing the retirement age to 70.

So tonight, Australians should ask themselves.

If your family relies on any of these services, what kind of future is this Prime Minister really offering you?

I’m here to outline Labor’s plan to bring the Fair Go back into the heart of our nation.
– A plan to properly fund health and education
– A plan to boost your wages
– And a plan for real tax cuts to help you with your family budget

It’s a plan we can afford, because we’re not going to spend $80 billion of tax expenditure on big business and the big banks.

And it’s a plan that will work, because Australia thrives when middle class and working class Australians can get ahead.

Tonight is about a Fair Go for everyone who wants the best for their kids and their future.

A Fair Go for every part of our nation – from bush to coast, from growing cities and suburbs right throughout the country.

And a Fair Go for the real forgotten people: working families, pensioners and Australians doing it tough.

Our plan begins with a better and fairer tax system.

After years of flat wages, rising power bills and increasing health costs under the Government: it’s a time for a fair-dinkum tax cut for middle class and working class Australians.

I’ve already said Labor will support the Government’s modest tax cuts starting 1 July this year.

Tonight, I’m pleased to announce a Labor Government will go further and do better on tax cuts for working and middle class Australians.

Tonight I’m pleased to advise, that in our first Budget, we will deliver a bigger, better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians.

Almost double in fact what the Government offered on Tuesday.

This is our pledge to 10 million working Australians: Under Labor, you will pay less income tax – because I think you are more important than multinationals, big banks and big business.

In our first term of government, a teacher earning $65,000 will be $2780 better off under Labor – an extra $928 a year.

A married couple – one serving in our defence forces earning $90,000 and the other working in aged care on $50,000 – will be $5565 better off under Labor, a combined $1855 extra each year under Labor.

We can afford to do more to help these 10 million Australians because we’re not giving $80 billion to big business and the big four banks.

And because we’ve already made hard choices for Budget repair.

– Creating a level playing field for first home buyers, by reforming negative gearing and capital gains
– Cracking-down on tax minimisation by eliminating income-splitting in discretionary trusts – without affecting our farmers.
– And ending unsustainable tax refunds for people who currently pay no income tax – while protecting pensioners and charities.

At the next election there will be a very clear choice on tax: 10 million Australians will pay less income tax under Labor.

We can afford to cut the taxes of 10 million Australians, without cutting services, because unlike the Liberals, we’re not wasting $80 billion on a discredited corporate tax giveaway to the top end of town.

Labor’s plans mean we can deliver a winning trifecta in government:
– A genuine tax cut for middle and working class Australians
– Proper funding for hospitals, schools and the safety net
– And paying-back more of Australia’s national debt, faster.

There was a time, I remember, when the Liberals ran around saying a national debt of $227 billion was a ‘budget emergency’ and a national crisis.

I remember, when they were elected, they said every man, woman and child, owed $9,000.

But on Tuesday night, I don’t remember hearing the Treasurer admit that national debt has more than doubled under the Liberals.

I don’t remember him admitting that it’s now: $21,000 for every man, woman and child.

I don’t remember him admitting that next year, total interest payments on national debt will pass $18 billion.
$18 billion, every year Treasurer, that’s what you’ve achieved.

That’s more than the Commonwealth spends on the NDIS or aged care or child care – it’s about twice as much as Australia spends on public schools.

And the Liberals’ only strategy is to cross their fingers and hope.

This is not good enough in a time of trade conflict between America and China, in an age of soaring global debt and rising US bond markets.

No Australian government can prevent global bad news – but good governments do prepare for it.

It may not be politically fashionable, but it’s time to be responsible.

Labor’s economic reforms put us in a much stronger position to cope with international uncertainty, over the coming decade.

We can pay down national debt, faster – because we’re not giving $80 billion away to multinationals – and because we’ve made the tough decisions to reform our taxation system.

On Tuesday night, we discovered the Liberals are planning to radically re-write the tax rules of the nation.

And the more Australians learn about this latest scheme, the less they like it.

How on earth can it be fair for a nurse on $40,000 to pay the same tax rate as a doctor on $200,000?

For a cleaner to pay the same tax rate as a CEO?

How can it be fair that, under this tax experiment: the doctor earns five times as much as the nurse – but his tax cut is 16 times bigger?

And today, new research has revealed that under this plan, 6 in every 10 dollars will go to the wealthiest 20 per cent of Australians.

Very quickly, this is looking like another mate’s rates tax plan from the Liberal Party.

And at a time of flat wages, growing inequality and a greater sense of unfairness in this community.

When too many jobseekers are stuck in poverty, when children go to school hungry, when women fleeing family violence can’t find safe accommodation…

…people are worried this plan is neither fair or affordable.

And, frankly, Australians are also entitled to be pretty suspicious of this whole thing.

To wonder if this ‘come and talk to me after two elections’ plan, this promise on the never-never, will ever happen.
My team and I are ready to vote for tax cuts for working families.

And we will not allow the Prime Minister to threaten to block tax cuts for 10 million Aussies, unless the Parliament writes a cheque for high income earners seven years hence.

Every Australian understands that wages have grown by just two per cent in the past year – slower than the price of the things you need to buy, way less than your bills.

Yet this Government in its Budget is pretending that wages will increase by over 13 per cent in the next four years.
We know the Liberals haven’t the slightest idea how it will be achieved.

And when the current wages system is demonstrably not delivering for workers, they are dreaming if they think the same system will magically deliver much better outcomes.

Tonight Labor has shown we are the party of lower taxes for working and middle class families – and for more than 120 years, we have been the Party of higher wages for workers.

We’ve got a real wages policy – our wages policy:
– We’ll restore Sunday penalty rates
– We’ll crack-down on wage theft and the abuse of labour hire where companies shift their permanent jobs onto labor hire jobs just to cut their pay.
– We’ll get enterprise bargaining off life support, and employees and employers back to the negotiating table: for more productive workplaces, more profitable enteprises and higher wages.
– And we’ll lead a new push to deliver genuine pay equity for Australian women

Labor’s wages policy is better for workers, our income tax policies are better for households – and both are better for the economy.

We’ve also got real plans for job creation.

We are committed to a tax cut for every Australian small business, for 93 percent of all businesses.

We’ll provide tax incentives for companies who invest here, in their own productivity: in new plant and equipment, new utes for tradies, new software and new technology.

Our Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund will ensure auto-firms abandoned by the current Government in South Australia and Victoria can adapt and modernise.

And our commitments:
– to defence manufacturing and local procurement
– to agriculture, science and research
– to tourism and renewable energy
– and to a better NBN

Are all about creating the jobs and industries for Australia’s future.

In the past couple of days we’ve heard the government boast about ‘record’ funding for hospitals.

Let’s take a closer look at this record.

The cost of seeing a doctor is the highest on record.

The average wait time for elective surgery is the longest on record.

The number of hospital beds available for elderly Australians is the lowest on record.

The number of people presenting at emergency departments is the highest on record – and yet one in three patients considered ‘urgent’ don’t get seen on time.

But in this Budget, the Government locked-in a further cut of $2.1 billion to hospitals across every part of the nation.
The health of Australians should never take a backseat to a hand-out for big business.

So, tonight I’m pleased to announce, Labor will reverse the Prime Minister’s cuts to hospitals and create a $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund: We’ll put more beds in emergency departments and on wards: so we can reduce the wait for people sitting in emergency rooms, worrying about a child or a loved one who’s hurt or unwell.

A fund to launch a blitz on waiting lists for elective surgery – so people can get that knee replacement to walk without pain, or have their cataracts removed so they can watch their grandchildren grow up.

And we’ll start in Tasmania, which has the worst waiting times in the country: a year for cataracts and up to 435 days for a knee replacement.

And our fund will upgrade emergency department facilities in the suburbs and the regions: including better security measures for staff and patients to handle the scourge of Ice.

If someone you love has cancer, it consumes your whole world, it’s a terrible disease.

Chloe and I have been through it with dear friends.

My own Mum battled breast cancer for many years – and as everyone who’s been part of the fight knows, there are endless scans and tests involved.

For too many people outside the big cities, either their hospital doesn’t have an MRI machine, or it’s not covered by Medicare.

So if you live in Emerald, you drive three hours to Rockhampton – or you pay hundreds of dollars out of your own pocket each time.

Cancer doesn’t care where you live, or who it strikes – and you should never have to worry about where to go, or indeed to get treatment you can afford.

Health care should just be there for you, when you need it – that’s what Medicare is all about.

So tonight, I am pleased to announce Labor will provide new MRIs to 20 hospitals and imaging centres in the regions and outer suburbs so Australians have got a better level of care.

And we’ll make sure every one of these machines is covered by Medicare.

We can properly fund our hospitals – reversing the cuts of the Government and invest new money in Medicare – because we’ve made hard choices on tax reform and because we’re not wasting billions on big business and big banks.

I believe every government has a responsibility to leave the nation better than we find it.

That’s why we will create a National Integrity Commission – a Federal ICAC – to improve accountability in politics and public life.

We’ll do the right thing by people who’ve been let down by social institutions:
– National Redress for the courageous survivors of child sex abuse.
– New healing initiatives for the Stolen Generations and to reduce the shocking numbers of Aboriginal kids growing up away from country and culture.

And we will ensure justice for people who’ve been ripped-off by the banks.

The banking Royal Commission has finally lifted the lid on a pathology of exploitation.

And after years trying to stop the Royal Commission – in this Budget the Prime Minister is giving the big four banks $17 billion of taxpayer money but it is cutting money from ASIC, its cop on the beat.

This is a disgrace, it is immoral – and Labor will have no part of your actions.

The government try talking tough on this – but wagging your finger in the banks’ faces means little when you’re giving them a tax cut with your other hand.

And upping penalties will do nothing if corporate criminals with deep pockets and big legal teams know they can outspend the government.

This is why tonight I announce Labor will create a special taskforce inside the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, to see justice done.

We’ll deliver $25 million in funding to make sure public prosecutors have the resources to follow through the work of the Royal Commission.

In this fight, as always, we stand on the side of ordinary Australians.

Every budget should strive to deliver Australians a better deal today.

But I understand so many of the sacrifices people make are about tomorrow, about passing-on a better set of opportunities for their children.

But this Budget betrays the next generation – it betrays it.

Young Australians always get a dud deal from a conservative government.

Young people; they volunteer, they give back to our community, they work to support their studies, they pay their GST, they’re funding Medicare and contributing to superannuation from their very first day on the job.

And yet in return:
– the Liberals are cutting school funding
– closing-off university opportunities
– taking us backwards on climate change
– locking first home buyers out of the market
– making it harder to get an apprenticeship or go to TAFE.

Young Australians deserve better.

So tonight, I promise young Australians: Labor will create a level playing field for first home buyers, because I don’t want us to live in a country where your only chance of owning a home, is to inherit one.

We’re serious too about tackling climate change and helping the environment:
– 50% renewables by 2030
– 45% cut in emissions by 2030
– And zero net pollution by 2050.

We promise young Australians that we will not leave you a ruined reef and rivers and oceans choked with waste.
And we will always invest in your education: in schools, TAFE and university – because we know when you get the opportunities, Australia gets the opportunities.

When you succeed, Australia succeeds.

My twin brother Robert is here tonight – happy birthday for Saturday.

But he knows that our mother sacrificed everything for our education, and it changed our lives.

If I’m elected Prime Minister – I’ll make it my mission to ensure every Australian child gets the life-changing opportunity of a properly funded, quality education.

– Reading and writing
– Maths and coding
– Science and languages
– Individual attention in the classroom
– And protection from bullying – be it online or in the schoolyard.

I want children to discover and fall in love with what they’re good at – and I want every public school to be able to offer music and drama and sport and camps.

This Government can announce as many education reviews as they want – everyone knows cutting school funding does not deliver better results.

That’s why Labor will put back every dollar the Liberals have cut from schools.

The Government’s cuts have hit public schools and their 2.5 million students the hardest.

It’s public schools that will benefit most when we invest and restore the extra $17 billion over the next 10 years.

It’s our public system, teaching 82% of Australia’s poorest kids, 84 per cent of Indigenous kids and 74% of kids with disabilities.

We want when it comes to schools, the very best so when it comes to schools at the next election, the choice is simple: Labor will put back $17 billion extra into the schools and the Prime Minister will put $17 billion back into the banks.

Nine out of 10 new jobs created in the next 4 years will need either a university degree or a TAFE qualification.

That’s why Labor believes in quality universities and strong public TAFEs, working side-by-side, equal partners in our nation’s future.

Yet in this Budget – the Liberals are cutting more money from university and TAFE.

In government, Labor uncapped degree places and opened the doors of university to a new generation.

Tens of thousands of students became the first person in their family to go to university – the fair go in action.

But the Liberal freeze on university funding means 10,000 fewer places are available next year.

By 2032, over 200,000 people will miss out.

Millions of families in our region want their child to go to an Australian university – they understand what it means to hold a degree from our country.

And the Government’s freeze won’t affect them, no.

It will simply lock out working-class kids and students from regional Australia.

Tonight, I am pleased to announce Labor will restore funding certainty to our universities.

And we will uncap places – providing our nation with over 200,000 more university graduates.

Under Labor, a university education is not a privilege you inherit, it’s an opportunity you earn.

We will always choose better universities opportunities over better tax breaks for the big end of town.

Labor’s plan for training is crystal clear: we will stop the slide to dodgy private providers and back public TAFE all the way.
– We’ll renovate the campuses and rebuild workshops.
– We ensure two out of every three as a minimum of our training dollars goes to public TAFE
– We’ll invest in programs to help older workers re-train in later.
We already know the expertise our nation will need in the next decade:
– More workers for the NDIS and in aged care.
– More construction workers for national infrastructure and housing
– More programmers and technicians for the digital age

I don’t want Australia to meet these needs with skills visas, I want to train our people for these jobs.

There is no excuse for a skills vacancy to last one day longer than it takes to train an Australian to do that job.

So, tonight I am pleased to announce a Labor Government will cover all up-front fees of 100,000 TAFE places, in our first term, in high priority sectors.

From ag and engineering to disability and plumbing.

We would expect at least half of these opportunities to go to the women of Australia.

We’ll get jobs like carpenters, cooks and bricklayers off the national skills shortages list, and we will keep them off.

So instead of looking overseas or relying on temporary visas, employers will have a skilled local workforce ready to go.

And we can make this happen because we put 100,000 TAFE places, ahead of $80 billion of corporate tax giveaway.

This budget falls hardest on the young – and the old.

The Prime Minister is still cutting $14 a fortnight from pensioners, still telling Australians to work until they’re 70 – with no idea what it means for people who’ve spent their lives doing jobs that are hard on their bodies and tough on their backs.

But I actually think one of the sneakiest tricks in this year’s budget is the fraud it has perpetrated on Australians in need of aged care.

Around 105,000 older Australians are waiting for home care packages.

But despite all the hype, the Government is offering only 14,000 places, over the next four years.

14,000 places in four years – when 20,000 people joined the waiting list in the last six months alone.

But worse still – in Question Time today – we learned that there is no new funding here – they are simply taking the money away from residential care places and putting in home care places, nothing new.

The people who raised us and cared for us and love us – deserve so much better than this money-go-round, money-go-round in aged care then cuts to their energy supplement and the world’s oldest retirement age.

If I’m Prime Minister: tackling dementia and delivering better aged care will be a national priority, backed by real resources.

Because we know that giving older Australians the security and dignity they deserve matters more than an $80 billion corporate tax cut.

The same Liberal accounting trickery is at work in infrastructure.

Across the four years of this budget, Commonwealth investment in infrastructure projects actually falls – from $8 billion to $4.5 billion.

For the Western Sydney Rail link – there’s only money for a study, a report.

And the same goes for the train to Tullamarine – not a single dollar for construction – apparently this Government can do it for free!

Only Labor believes in nation-building, in good public transport projects like:
– Cross River Rail in Brisbane
– Or the Western Sydney rail line

And when we invest in tourism infrastructure in Northern Australia and Tasmania:
– When we improve the Bass Highway in Tassie
– When we expand the Mitchell Freeway to cut congestion in WA
– And when we deliver long overdue upgrades to the Bruce Highway in Queensland.

When we fund and build these projects
– We’ll prioritize Australian made steel
– We’ll prioritize local workers
– And we’ll require that one of every ten people employed, is an Australian apprentice.

And Labor can put real dollars into Australian infrastructure because we are not going to give $80 billion to multinationals and the big corporations.

So in conclusion, my fellow Australians,

Here’s what the Fair Go means under a Labor Government:
– Rescuing hospitals and re-investing in Medicare
– Proper funding for schools, TAFE and University.

And a bigger, better income tax cuts for 10 million working Australians.

This is our plan and this is my challenge to the Prime Minister.

If you think that your budget is fair, if you think that your sneaky cuts can survive scrutiny, put it to the test.

Put it to the test in Caboolture, put it to the test in Burnie, put it to the test in Fremantle and in Perth.

I will put my better, fairer, bigger income tax cut against yours.

I’ll put my plans to rescue hospitals and fund Medicare against your cuts, I’ll put my plans to properly fund schools against your cuts.

And I’ll but my plan to boost wages against your plan to cut penalty rates.

And I’ll put my plans for 100,000 TAFE places against your cuts to apprenticeships and training.

And I’ll fight for the ABC against your cuts.

And house by house, street by street and suburb by suburb my team and I will make this a referendum on your $80 billion corporate tax giveaway to multinationals, big business and the big banks.

This nation needs a leader that gets it.

It needs a party with a plan for the future and it needs a Government that will deliver a fair go for all Australians.

That is what we deliver, that is our promise.

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