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Transcript of interview with Kim Landers: ABC AM: 16 December 2015: MYEFO

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KIM LANDERS, PRESENTER: Chris Bowen is the Shadow Treasurer and he joins me on the line.

Chris Bowen, are there any of the Government's latest savings measures that you would support?

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well of course we are deeply concerned about many of these measures. We'll go through them in fine detail. We saw them yesterday and there was no lock-up provided to the Opposition yesterday so we've still got a good deal of consultation to do.

Just looking at some of the measures, there's the crackdown on social security, so-called social security fraud.

Well this is Scott Morrison's one trick. He's a one trick pony. He re-announces this several times. But of course, you know, that's something that's within the Government's power to do.

On the pathology announcement, we are deeply concerned by that.

I saw Mathias Cormann yesterday saying there'd be no impact on people from these cuts. I just think that is just completely out of touch with reality. And we share some deep concerns about that as well.

LANDERS: The Government says those bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging aren't working because they've had little impact in lifting bulk billing

rates, so why shouldn't they be abolished?

BOWEN: Well I think you talk to the sector, you talk to the clinicians, you analyse the real world impact.

And you just had people on your own show talking about people getting later diagnosis, which is exactly the opposite of the sorts of arrangements we should have in place.

It appears the Government hasn't thought this through. And again, this is the sort of approach that the Government's taken from the 2014 Budget onwards - a saving cut which might look attractive to them in the first instance, they don't do the consultation, the real world implications aren't understood, and it's left to the Parliament to clean up the mess.

LANDERS: So are you leaving open the option of blocking some of these savings measures in the Senate, for example?

BOWEN: Oh absolutely. We'll look at them in detail within our normal Expenditure Review Committee and Shadow Cabinet processes but there are a number of issues here which cause us deep concern.

LANDERS: Yesterday you said that some of these measures in the MYEFO were worse than what were being contemplated by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.

Have you overreached in your attack on the Government? Do you honestly think that these changes are worse than what was in the 2014 Budget?

BOWEN: Well these changes could well have been presented to Treasurer Hockey and he rejected them as going too far.

I mean, the way these things work, I can tell you as a former Treasurer, is that all the same ideas get brought out for a new Treasurer and sometimes the new Treasurer accepts ideas that previous treasurers have rejected.

Now some of these measures are particularly harsh, they are particularly harsh.

And whether it is these Medicare and pathology measures, they are ones which we are deeply concerned.

So no, it is appropriate, perfectly appropriate to point out that these were measures which weren't in the 2014 Budget and many people would regard as being worse than some of the measures in that budget.

LANDERS: Do you accept that many of the budgetary problems though are beyond the control of any government, whether it's Labor or Liberal? Iron ore prices and China's economy, for example.

BOWEN: Oh look, absolutely. I not only accept, I have argued that point consistently both from Government and Opposition.

And I'm not going to do what the Liberal Party used to do and blame the government of the day for the Chinese economy changes or for terms of trade. That would be disingenuous.

What I will do is hold them to account for their own management, for the collapsing confidence over the last two years on their watch, caused by their rhetoric and their actions, which has flowed through to investment.

The Treasurer says there's a transformation underway in the economy and there's real momentum. Well, I'm sorry, he's wrong.

When you look at non-mining investment, for example, now expected to fall, when at budget time it was expected to increase by 4 per cent.

This is not a transition that is being well handled by the Government.

So I will hold them to account for their own promises and holding them to their own standards.

But I'll also hold them to account for their economic management, and the fact of the matter is they've made the wrong economic calls now for two years and we continue to pay a price.

LANDERS: But you were in government for six years before that. Do you take any responsibility for the current budget position?

BOWEN: Well, I take responsibility for Australia getting through the global financial crisis without recession on behalf of the Labor Party under Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Swan.

I take responsibility for doing that on behalf of the Labor Party with three Triple-A credit ratings.

LANDERS: But isn't what we're seeing though that the fact that budgets and budget projections are tricky? Wayne Swan once thought that there'd be a surplus by about now.

Is it time to admit that no side of politics is superior when it comes to making these budgetary problems disappear?

BOWEN: Oh look, I certainly accept that budget forecasting is tricky. I certainly accept that. I certainly accept that it's difficult and that there are risks in the global economy

which Treasury and Treasurers have found difficult to factor in, on both sides.

Our policy, which I've announced, is for a much more robust and transparent process for the Parliamentary Budget Office to do the forecasting underpinning the budget.

That's not to say that the Parliamentary Budget Office is better equipped than the Treasury in terms of -

LANDERS: Sorry to interrupt, aside from those projections though, what is it exactly that Labor would do differently? What are your spending and savings targets? What is your tax package?

BOWEN: Well, Kim, we've announced $70 billion over the next decade already.

The Government, it was open to the Government to adopt those plans yesterday. They could have said, look, things have changed, things have gotten worse, we're going to adopt Labor's plan.

It could have passed the Parliament very quickly when the Parliament returns. We would have facilitated that.

That's our higher income superannuation plan, that's our multinational tax plan, that's tobacco, that's abolishing Direct Action.

We opposed the Government's baby bonus. They say that we've got a spending problem yet they're going to dole out $1000 to every newborn baby. We oppose that.

So we do have plans on the table which this Government could have adopted yesterday. They chose not to.

Instead they chose to yet again go down the road of these ill thought-out cuts which means that we're back in 2014 budget territory under Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

LANDERS: Chris Bowen, thank you very much for speaking with AM.

BOWEN: Always nice to talk to AM, good on you.

LANDERS: And that is the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen.