E&OE - PROOF ONLY
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Last night we saw Scott Morrison hand down the Budget, a Budget that continues to cut services to Australians, a Budget that maintains and locks in $17 billion worth of cuts to schools, a Budget that continues to cut hospitals, a Budget that still says to pensioners we’re going to take money off you and a Budget that still gives $80 billion to big business.
And when it comes to tax, well, Malcolm Turnbull, the bloke who can’t hold a tax policy for a couple of weeks – remember income tax for the states? Remember the increase to GST? – he now wants you to believe he is going to give you a tax cut if you re-elect him twice. I think Chris Bowen has said all that needs to be said about what sort of hoax that is.
Now, can I come to my portfolio of Foreign Affairs? At a time when we know Australia’s influence in the region is diminishing. At a time when the Government’s own White Paper talks about the importance of soft power, what does Julie Bishop preside over? She presides over yet another cut to Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance. Yet another cut to aid on top of the $11 billion that she has presided over in cuts to date. Another $140 million and a new low. So, we’re already at a record low in terms of how much of our national income we give to the nations of our region and the poorer nations of the world. Well, we’re getting even lower, 19 cents in every $100 of national income. That’s what Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are delivering at the same time as they are giving the banks a tax cut.
JOURNALIST: Just beyond tax, some of the other funding measures in the Budget – aged care for example, for mental health – are those areas Labor should support?
WONG: In the Budget lock up last night I was looking for the additional funding for aged care because there were a lot of front pages and a lot of fanfare, a lot of talk from the Government about how they were going to help people in aged care facilities, but also people who want to stay in their own homes. Where is it? What it looks like is another hoax where the Government is taking money from residential care and inadequately funding the home care packages and I know Julie Collins will have more to say about that.
JOURNALIST: In the lead up to the next Federal Election, what do you think this Budget has done for the Coalition’s prospects? Is the race a closer one now between Labor and the Coalition?
WONG: Before the next election Australians will see what Labor’s priorities are. They will see a party that says we believe in making sure our kids get the best education they can – it’s good for the economy, it’s good for them. We believe in making sure our health system works. We don’t believe in giving money to big business and to the banks.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on citizenship – the High Court will decide on Katy Gallagher’s case today. If she is found ineligible to sit in Parliament should other Labor MPs in similar circumstances to her also resign?
WONG: There was one person who decided to make predictions about what the High Court would so find and that was Malcolm Turnbull and I am certainly not going to join him in making poor predictions.
I would say about Katy she is an outstanding Senator for the ACT, an outstanding representative and an important part of our Senate leadership team.
JOURNALIST: Just going overseas, Donald Trump has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. What does that mean for Australia? What concerns do you have? And should Australia put any diplomatic pressure on the US to reconsider that?
WONG: We’re very disappointed by President Trump’s decision. Like the United Kingdom, like France and Germany, we support this deal with Iran with reservations. It’s not perfect, but it is the deal the international community had. And what we do need to avert is a nuclear-armed Iran. We know what that would mean for global security and regional security. So we are disappointed in the decision the President has taken, as is President Macron and as I assume Ms Bishop is, given her previous support for this agreement, with reservations.
JOURNALIST: What do you think the immediate fallout of Donald Trump’s decision could be?
WONG: I understand that the other parties to the agreement, including Iran, have indicated that they will keep engaging, have further dialogue and we’d encourage them to do that. We need to ensure that we continue on the path to avert having a nuclear armed Iran.
Thanks very much.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra