May 7, 2014

Transcript of press conference

Subjects: Broken promises, Budget, infrastructure, tourism, asylum seekers.

ALBANESE: We have a situation whereby Tony Abbott has broken more promises than any Prime Minister in Australia’s history in his first six months.

He has breached the commitment that he gave to the Australian people and what it shows is that he had a plan to get into government, but he doesn’t have a plan to govern.

Behind us we see Tiger Brennan Drive. We duplicated, with the Northern Territory Government of Chief Minister Henderson, the first section of the Tiger Brennan Drive.

We put into the Budget funding for the third section to complete the full duplication of Tiger Brennan Drive – $70 million from the Federal Government, and there was matching funding of $33 million from the Territory Government.

What we’ve seen since the election of the Abbott Government is just re-announcements. Whether it be that $70 million or the $90 million for the Regional Roads Package that we put into last year’s Budget.

And yet we have re-announcements from Warren Truss as the minister and from other figures in the Abbott Government.

What the Northern Territory needs from next Tuesday’s Budget is new money and new announcements, not just re-announcements of projects that are already fully budgeted for.

But that’s part of the theme of the Abbott Government; letting Australians down by making cuts and any new initiatives not being new at all, just re-announcing old fully funded projects.

When it comes to the Budget what we see is a series of cuts.

This is a government addicted to attacks on the public sector.

They don’t like public broadcasters through the ABC and SBS.

They don’t like public education so they are abandoning the Gonski reforms.

They don’t like public health so next week could well see the end of the universality of Medicare.

They don’t like public transport so they are cutting public transport investment right around the country.

There’s a bit of a theme here, this is a government that doesn’t like the public. It’s a government that established a Commission of Audit, which itself – if it wasn’t true, it might be humorous – went more than $1 million over budget.

And yet that recommendation will hurt some of the most vulnerable people in our community; those that rely upon Medicare, those that rely upon decent funding for education to provide that future opportunity, our pensioners and our retired Australians who are being told that they shouldn’t have a decent standard of living, that it isn’t what they are entitled to.

Those Australians on the minimum wage where the recommendation is that there should be a cut to the minimum wage, not just this year, but next year and every year for a decade.

This is a mean-spirited government and next week they will be judged on all of the promises that they made and how it matches up with what is actually in the Budget.

But perhaps the most obvious example of all is this great big new tax which they are calling a “levy”.

They can’t even be honest and front up to the Australian people and say: “We’re putting on a new tax”.

Having talked up the so-called budget emergency in spite of the fact they inherited record economic activity, compared with the rest of the globalised world. With economic growth, with low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and a Triple A credit rating, they’re now using it for their ideological attacks on things they don’t like and have never liked.


The Commission of Cuts recommended a halving of the funding of Tourism Australia. Tourism creates 16,000 jobs here in the Northern Territory – almost $2 billion of economic activity – and it’s an important part of the economy here in Darwin and throughout the Territory. I think that the combination of a mean-spirited Federal Government with a chaotic CLP Government – it’s difficult to call it a government because it seems to be in a constant state of chaos – that combination I think is very dangerous indeed.

And Australians more and more, including in the last few days when I’ve been in the Territory, are rejecting the fact that Tony Abbott and his team said one thing before September 7 and another afterwards. Nova?

PERIS: I’d just like to reiterate how much Territorians are hurting with the CLP Government coming into power 18 months ago promising Territorians to reduce the cost of living. What they’ve done is increase the cost of living. They’ve cut education, which is the Territory’s future.

It was fantastic to have Anthony Albanese to come here to the Northern Territory to spend the last couple of days with me and to see firsthand how important infrastructure is and how important housing is to our remote communities and how important tourism is to the Northern Territory.

It’s fantastic to have you here in the Northern Territory and you know, we can only brace ourselves for what’s going to happen next week.

REPORTER: Nova, what’s on your wish list for next week? (Inaudible) What would you most like to see funding earmarked for?

PERIS: I think anything to do with primary health. That needs to be maintained. We’ve done a significant amount of work, especially in remote communities, with primary health and we can’t afford to go backwards in that area. Pensioners, we need to look after them, and with regards to education and infrastructure. The Labor Government did put a significant amount of money into infrastructure here in the Northern Territory and we need to maintain that.

REPORTER: For a long time the Liberals claimed that Labor broke their promises, so what kind of lessons do you thing Labor can give the Liberals around the debt levy?

ALBANESE: Tony Abbott talked himself up prior to September 7. There wasn’t a day went past when he didn’t come up with his three-word slogans.

The problem we are seeing is that he promised very little but that which he did promise, he’s breaking. There can’t be any more fundamental promise that he made during the last election because he did it on 150 occasions at least, he said there wouldn’t be any new taxes. And yet what we are seeing is changes to taxation. He said that pensions wouldn’t be affected and yet what we’re seeing is a recommendation from his handpicked Commission of Cuts that would have an enormous impact on Australia’s pensioners, including changing the assets test.

We now know why this 900-page document was kept secret until just prior to the Budget, why they were too embarrassed to release it prior to the WA Senate by-election, because it presents a recipe for that the agenda of this government over coming years.

Now no doubt some of the changes they won’t make in next Tuesday’s Budget and they’ll say: Oh well, we’ve only done half the measures. But what Australians will know now is what is coming and they’ll know that Tony Abbott is prepared to breach fundamental promises that he made to Australian people.

He talks up a big game on infrastructure. Yesterday with the Victorian Budget we saw with the changes that were made to the Melbourne Metro there, what the impact of his cuts is. Throughout the country we’re seeing just re-announcements of old projects such as the next section of Tiger Brennan Drive, which I announced the funding for here with then Chief Minister Paul Henderson  a couple of years ago. That funding is in the Budget from this year, from 2014. It is ready to go. The preliminary work has been done.

What people in the Northern Territory need are new projects going forward and it will be a real test next week to see whether that occurs.

But I believe that Australians are entitled to be pretty disappointed that the government that they thought they were voting for they certainly haven’t got. And it’s a government with wrong priorities.

At the same time as they are targeting universal health care, targeting education, targeting pensioners, targeting the ABC, what they are doing is introducing a scheme worth over $5 billion every year for their unaffordable, extravagant paid parental leave scheme that isn’t necessary – a scheme that comes on top of their opposition for many years to any paid parental leave.

And of course we know that the Labor Government introduced a perfectly adequate scheme that has been assisting tens of thousands of Australian families since it was put into place.

REPORTER: What’s your response to the claims this morning that three asylum seekers were (inaudible) turned back to Indonesia?

ALBANESE: I haven’t seen the detail of that and I think it’s important when it comes to those issues that we respond to the facts.

One of the difficulties here is that the facts have not been clear since September. Australians are entitled to know what is being done in their name.

Scott Morrison‘s lack of transparency when it comes to dealing with immigration issues, his standing behind the military rather than actually fronting up as a government minister should do and answering questions about what exactly is going on, is of real concern.

It’s still unclear about the consequences for their proposed visit to Indonesia, of the Prime Minister, which Tony Abbot pulled out of. What’s very clear is that we need transparency. That is a fundamental requirement of our democracy and it’s not happening at the moment.