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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House: 19 November 2013: Public service job losses, Government admission that $5 billion saving isn't possible, the Australian-Indonesian bilateral relationship.

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Subjects: Public service job losses, Government admission that $5 billion saving isn’t possible, the Australian-Indonesian bilateral relationship.

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, Tony Abbott said to the Australian people before the election that he could save $5 billion by sacking 12,000 public servants. He said it could all happen by natural attrition, that nobody would be forcibly removed from their job. He said that it could be done. He said that the previous Labor Government wasn’t efficient enough. Well we now know that all that was just not right. And even worse, we knew it before the election, the Australian people knew it before the election but Tony Abbott promised one thing and is now doing another thing in office.

Now Tony Abbott has some choices. He can sack his 12,000 public sector workers, he will have to go back on his promise that it would all be by natural attrition or he can deal with the $5 billion hole in his budget which has now been blown by this revelation today. We know that the previous Labor Government put in place measures to improve the efficiency of the Public Service. It was all there in our economic statements released just before the last election. We said to Mr Abbott and to Mr Hockey we’ve got these efficiency dividends in place now, you’re going to try and take 12,000 workers over and above that and it just won’t work. And now we’re seeing yet again, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in Government very different to what they said they would be in opposition.

So Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey have some explaining to do. They need to say today are they going to cop this $5 billion hole in the budget projections or are they actually going to double the number of public servants that we see lost. 12,000 on top of those who are already being removed from the public service through natural attrition under the efficiency dividend. What are they going to do? And this just underlines again the need for Mr Hockey to come out of hiding and release the Mid-Year Economic Forecast. We need to see the impact of his decision; his decision to

give $9 billion to the Reserve Bank; and his decision to give a tax break to those people who have more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts. And the impact of this decision that he needs to make about how to deal with implementing an election commitment which was always going to be impossible to deliver.

It was clear before the election, we warned Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey of this, and yet they arrogantly continued with their promise. And now they’re finding in office it’s all a whole lot much harder than they thought it was when they were in opposition.

Happy to take a few questions.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that Australia could be spying on other countries?

BOWEN: Well look, nobody should comment on the details of intelligence matters. Obviously in relation to Indonesia, they are very key partner and it’s an important priority for Mr Abbott and the Foreign Minister to be dealing with this and to make sure that this relationship is on an even keel.

JOURNALIST: You were a senior member of the Government when this spying occurred. Did you know it was happening?

BOWEN: I won’t be commenting on intelligence matters, and nor should I. It would be highly irresponsible for me to do so.

JOURNALIST: How has the Coalition handled this?

BOWEN: Well I think it’s incumbent on Mr Abbott to explain what he’s doing in relation to Indonesia, to ensure that this most important relationship is held in very good, very good condition. There are instances from time to time for Governments on a bilateral relationship to deal with. What matters is the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister deal with them very proactively and ensure the Australian people that this most important relationship is being given every possible attention.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the withdrawal of the Indonesia Ambassador from Australia?

BOWEN: Look, I’m not going to go into details. The Shadow Foreign Minister would be someone who could comment further at an appropriate time. I’ve made clear the Labor Party’s view that this is a very, very important bilateral relationship and should be given due attention.