THURSDAY, 17 MAY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to scrap upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students; GST; by-elections; live sheep exports; citizenship.
PATRICK GORMAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PERTH: Hi, I'm Patrick Gorman I'm Labor's candidate for the Perth by-election. It has been an honour to have Bill Shorten our Federal Labor Leader and Chris Bowen, our Shadow Treasurer here at North Metropolitan TAFE, talking to students and talking to teachers and educators about the very important work they do. I'm running as Labor's candidate in this by-election because I want to deliver a fair go for WA and a fair go for Perth. A vote for Labor at this election is a vote for tax cuts for low and middle-income Western Australians. A vote for Labor at this election is a vote for TAFE and supporting the students and educators at TAFE.
Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, has let down Western Australians. He's let us down on school funding, he's let us down on the NBN and Malcolm Turnbull has let down Western Australians when it comes to the GST. There is only one party you can trust to deliver a fair go for WA and it's Bill Shorten and the Australian Labor party. To say more about Labor's plans for a fair go for WA, it's my honour to introduce Bill Shorten the Federal Labor leader.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Patrick. It's great to be here on my 32nd visit to Western Australia since I became Opposition Leader. I'm here today because Labor is committed to putting TAFE number one again in our educational system. In the Budget Reply Labor made it clear that budgets are about choices, they should be a plan for the Nation. We choose to put the TAFE needs and TAFE education ahead of tax cuts for big banks. Specifically, I was pleased to announce with my colleague Chris Bowen who's here, that we will pay the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students in the first three years of a Labor Government.
We do this because we think that if we can give people the chance when they finish school, to do technical training as opposed to just going to university, we're going to give more of our young people an opportunity. The other fantastic thing about public TAFE, is it turns out students more quickly than our university system. So this is great for adults seeking to retrain for the jobs of the future. Labor has a plan to put TAFE right back at the centre of vocational education, and we can afford to make this fantastic promise for literally tens of thousands of potential apprentices, because we're not giving away $80 billion in corporate tax handouts. We're not giving $17 billion to the big banks.
Budgets are all about choices and I also think it is worth repeating that Labor has made a choice to provide income tax cuts of nearly double the amount offered by the Coalition. So for a family where perhaps one of the members is earning $90,000 and the other is earning $60,000, we can provide an income tax cut of nearly $2000 a year, $6000 across our first term of office. Now we can choose to put 10 million Australians first because we are not giving away money to the top end of town, and because we've made the difficult economic decisions which are sensible, rational and long overdue. I'm pleased to announce today that our income tax cuts for people up to $120,000 is going to benefit over a million West Australians. So Labor's policy is good news for TAFE, good news for working West Australians. I might just ask Chris to supplement.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks very much Bill and likewise it's great to be here with Patrick and great to be back in Western Australia, in my case my second visit this month. TAFE is at the centre of Labor's plan for economic growth for Australia. We believe in investing in every Australian to rise to their full potential, and as Bill said TAFE trains people quickly and trains them professionally.
Now, after our announcement last week we were disappointed to see the Federal Minister for Education no less, criticise better investment in TAFE and somehow indicate that that was money ill spent and talk about courses which weren't relevant for Australia's future.
Now TAFE Minister Birmingham, is not about basket weaving. The people we just saw in this TAFE here in Perth are studying chemistry, studying skills that will help the work in the mining industry, in the health industry. These are great jobs for the future and we will invest in them as Bill said. And the announcement that Bill made last Thursday night was just the latest in a long line of investments that Bill has announced together with Tanya and Doug Cameron for investment in TAFE. Building better TAFE's in regional Australia, providing more apprenticeships right across the country, for young people and indeed mature age people. So TAFE is an important part of Labor's growth plan together with our Australian Investment Guarantee.
Of course just on the other item, the Treasurer has a report sitting on his desk. It's a report which goes to GST distribution. Now I say to the Treasurer let us see the report. Let the people of Western Australia see the report, let the people of Tasmania and South Australia see the report as well. There is no reason for this report to be kept secret. The Treasurer said it was the answer to all the problems, well he should have nothing to hide. I completely understand the Treasurer wants a day or two to read through it before he releases it. But there is no excuse for keeping this report secret for weeks, which is what the government is currently saying. Clearly, they don't want people who are voting in by-elections to see this report. Well, the Opposition should see it, but every single Australian should see this report. There's no excuse for Scott Morrison not to release the report this week.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Chris. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten a bipartisan Parliamentary Committee has called for a Referendum on Section 44. Will you support that?
SHORTEN: I believe that in terms of modernising our Constitution we have some greater priorities like including our First Australians, and indeed having an Australian Head of State. But I think it is important that we don't simply dismiss this unanimous report chaired by Linda Reynolds, a West Australian Liberal Senator and just simply swipe it off and ignore it like Mr Turnbull's just done.
What's the point of getting our Parliamentary Committees which include women representatives and just immediately ruling it out. So I am prepared to sit down and talk with the Liberals to see how we can improve the processes, because Section 44 has proved to be very complex, and I think that a lot of Australians are frustrated by the outcomes. So I'm open to talking with government about this proposal, but I just ask Mr Turnbull, please don't brush aside the recommendations of senior respected women backbenchers of your own party so casually.
JOURNALIST: Should dual citizens be allowed to sit in Parliament?
SHORTEN: Well this matter has now been interpreted by the High Court and they've made their view very clear.
JOURNALIST: Should Anne Aly be referred to the High Court?
SHORTEN: She's not a dual citizen.
JOURNALIST: Are you sure she wasn't a dual citizen when she nominated?
SHORTEN: Listen let's just go after this birther theory, as I call it. The highest representative of the Egyptian Government in Australia has said she's not. Now if the government's not satisfied with that, then they're throwing some of their own members under the proverbial Constitutional bus, aren't they? Julia Banks, Jason Falinski, admittedly not household names but nonetheless Liberal backbenchers. They are relying on the same standard of proof that Anne Aly is, and if they say that's not satisfactory then I think their own Members of Parliament have got some explaining to do don't they?
JOURNALIST: What about Emma McBride and Emma Husar?
SHORTEN: Listen the government is just trying to cause a bit more distraction here. The fact of the matter is - and let's go back to what it's really about, it's about the by-elections we've currently got. The Labor Party in good faith was provided advice, they came down - the High Court came down with a decision in very recent days looking at the issue of what were the reasonable steps which someone has to take to renounce dual citizenship. It was a more restrictive test than our lawyers told us was the case. We accept the verdict and in good faith now we're going to take these by-elections as an opportunity for Australians to cast a view on the government's policies and our policies by contrast. But I'm not going to buy the big lie peddled by Mr Turnbull that somehow this High Court decision was identical to one made several months ago, it clearly wasn't. That's a big lie by Mr Turnbull. What he's trying to do in these by-elections is draw attention away from the unpopular business tax cuts that he's trying to do.
Now I think it's amazing, I don't know about the West Australian media, that they're not even fronting up in two by-elections in Western Australia. I mean obviously I want Labor to win them, but the fact that Mr Turnbull has already given up running a candidate against Patrick Gorman speaks volumes. And the question Mr Turnbull has to answer is, is he not running candidates in Fremantle and Perth because he knows that his promises on GST that he makes here, he's not going to keep on the east coast. I mean the question is, what is Mr Turnbull hiding when he doesn't want to submit his governing party to the verdict of the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Just in summary Mr Shorten, can you give a guarantee that Ann Aly, Emma Husar and Emma McBride are not dual citizens?
SHORTEN: I am informed that they have complied with all of the disclosure requirements that the Parliament has set down.
JOURNALIST: But there's no information on the citizenship register that Husar and McBride's renunciations were ever completed.
SHORTEN: If the government's got a new test post the High Court, we're happy to listen to it. But the point is, whatever they're accusing Labor MPs of applies equally to their own. And the fact of the matter is, that the High Court has now put forward a very clear test. We will adhere to it and I expect the Government to adhere to it too.
JOURNALIST: Do you endorse CFMEU leader John Setka's view that unions need to break the law to fight for workers?
SHORTEN: I don't think you need to break the law full stop. But I think the issue you're going to is the court case yesterday, that the prosecution dropped all its matters. I think that speaks for itself.
JOURNALIST: He's told Sky News though if that criminalises unions, so be it, he wants you to protect workers’ rights to strike, will you?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen what he said there, but I'm not going to protect anyone breaking the law.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, live trade is a big industry in Western Australia, what do you think about the report this morning and will Labor support Sussan Ley's position?
SHORTEN: The heart of the matter here is that we've seen shocking footage, not once but time and time again emanating about the live sheep export trade. I think every Australian, farmer - just all Australians, were shocked by that footage, it's harrowing. No industry - the live sheep export trade cannot have a viable long term future if it relies on cruelty as part of its operations. Now we can pretend a slap over the wrist will fix things, but this isn't the first time that we've seen this footage is it? It's been repeated year in, year out. I think we've got to be honest and say that we need to have a transition plan so in the medium term, people who are in that trade can value add to the sheep meat industry by processing. I think for the criteria of animal welfare, for the long term sustainability of the sheep producers, and I think generally for our meat processing industry, it's probably time to bell the cat and say that in the long term, we can't see it as being viable or sustainable, because cruelty seems to be part of its business model.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how many of those fee waved places will be made available to WA, and will they just apply to traditional training courses?
SHORTEN: In terms of the allocation of places, there'll be thousands of places. I think Western Australia does deserve to have a fair share of access -
SHORTEN: We'll talk to the Western Australian Government but we haven't finalised it, roughly per capita would be the way to go, based on population. In terms of the trades and skills, we'll talk to industry, we'll talk to State Governments and we'll talk to TAFE so that we make sure we're hitting the areas of skills shortages. What's driving us in terms of TAFE is this: we have 1.6 million people currently in Australia with temporary work visas. I think that number would startle people when some of their own kids can't get apprenticeships or you've got adults seeking to be retrained. We think that TAFE is a really effective way of giving people new educational opportunities. We don't think that every Aussie kid has to go to university to have a good future. So we want Australia to be a tradie nation again.
I think the Liberal Party is run by a bunch of snobs who turn their nose up at the trades. Watching Minister Birmingham run around and say vocational education equals basket-weaving, equals question mark – you know the old Liberal Party snobs have got to get out the way. Tradies built this nation. We want to make sure that we're not relying on temporary workers from overseas. There should be no skills vacancy in Australia which lasts a day longer than the time it takes to train up our own. I think a lot of young people and their parents would like to hear this message and I think a lot of adults seeking to retrain would like to hear this message.
JOURNALIST: The McGowan Government wants to build rail cars in Western Australia through its METRONET Plan. Would something like this fit?
SHORTEN: Labor's actually - we've got so many announcements, you might not have caught up with our national rail plan. In fact it's not just the McGowan Government doing the right thing here. But over the next 20 years, between private investment and government investment, there's about $100 billion slated for rail investment. We think it's now time to have a national rail plan where we get all of the States together and the private investors and say let's try and order all this rolling stock and the rail on a continuous basis, so you don't have a whole lot of trains and rail cars being ordered at one time, and then you go several years and then you have another order and you have a feast, then famine and then feast.
So Labor's got a plan for the rail industry and yes, we want to see apprentices involved in the rail industry. We think that under Commonwealth infrastructure projects, one in every 10 people employed should be an apprentice. Because we've got other plans for apprentices too. Vocational education has gone too far towards privatisation. So we want at least two in every three dollars of our vocational education spend, to be spent on public TAFE. We want one in 10 people employed on Commonwealth projects to be an apprentice. We’ve got a $100 million regional TAFE refurbishment, because TAFE isn't just a city proposition, it's a regional proposition. And we’ve also announced we will pay the up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE places. We have a plan for TAFE, we've got a plan for young people and adults who want to retrain.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Perth by-election, this is going to cost taxpayers a lot of money, couldn't you have persuaded Tim Hammond to stay in Parliament until the next election?
SHORTEN: At the end of the day, Tim felt had to go for family reasons. I can respect that.
JOURNALIST: Is it bad for democracy not having the Liberal Party running for this seat?
SHORTEN: I think that - frankly, I'm amazed Mr Turnbull is not running. The Liberal Party and the Labor Party we are the only two parties who can seriously form a government in this nation. When the Liberal Party is walking away from seats where it got 47 per cent of the vote at the last general election, you just have to draw the conclusion there's two reasons for that. One, they're worried that the voters will mark them down, or there will be a big swing against the government in Perth. Or two, there's some bad news which they don't want to face the music on and that would have to be a lack of action on the GST.
But I think it is disrespectful. I mean this is a government of Australia, this is not like a little party like the Greens political party or One Nation - the Liberals actually want to form a government. But when they stop contesting seats, where they have been historically competitive in, in recent times, then you have to look at what the motivation behind it. I think Mr Turnbull is not interested in getting an update on the opinions of West Australians about his government.
JOURNALIST: Is there a danger for Labor there though with the low turn-out in the primary vote?
SHORTEN: Sure, I don't take any by-election for granted. But what we're going to offer the people of Perth, the same as we offer the people of Fremantle and the people on the east coast of Australia. We've got bigger, better, fairer tax cuts. We're going to reverse the cuts in hospitals, TAFE, universities and schools, and we're able to pay down our national debt more significantly because we're making serious economic reforms. The fact that we are going to wind back some of the unsustainable tax concessions at the top end, plus the fact that we're not going to give $80 billion away in unaffordable corporate tax cuts, including $17 billion to the big banks. We can afford to pay for our promises, and at the core of our strategy to drive economic growth is a fair go for West Australians and a fair go for all.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the ABC should be paying bonuses - large bonuses to some of its executives at a time that it's crying poor?
SHORTEN: Hang on, if we want to talk about crying poor, nothing the ABC's done compares with the Turnbull Government cutting $83 million away from the ABC. Let's be clear, taking $83 million by not giving them any increase in indexation over the next three years will mean that regional ABC bureaus will have to wind back their coverage. I'm like every other politician, sometimes you don't like what the ABC says about you, but the idea that we’re going to cut back the ABC by $83 million, I think that's very damaging. So of course, the government and some of their cheerleaders want to focus on a wages policy in the ABC and that's a legitimate debate. But let's have the really honest debate. Malcolm Turnbull sucked up to the ABC to become Prime Minister. You couldn't get him off an ABC TV screen or an ABC talk show. Now he's there, don't worry about the ABC, don't bother me, I'll ring you when I need you and here's $83 million worth of cuts. That's the sort of bloke he is.
Very Last question.
JOURNALIST: Really hard hitting question, have you heard the Laurel or the Yanny soundbite?
SHORTEN: No, I haven't.
JOURNALIST: Oh, then don't worry.
SHORTEN: You can give it to me though if you want.
JOURNALIST: I wanted to ask you which once you heard.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten I've just got once question in relation to live exports. The WA Labor Party is against, according to Premier Mark McGowan, shutting down the live export industry even temporarily. Are you at odds with him?
SHORTEN: I think the State Government is trying to do the absolute best it can and Labor nationally, doesn't want to see it shut down overnight, because that doesn't work. But I think in the long term, most Australians are saying, how many times do we have to witness cruelty before we say enough is enough? I think that good leadership in the long term is about saying to an industry well listen, you seem to keep having a pathology of problems, this is not one isolated incident. So what we’re saying is we have three criteria; animal welfare, jobs in the sheep industry and of course is it possible for us to process some of these sheep in Australia, which actually is a value add, rather than just exporting the commodity, why don't we add some value in Australia. So on that basis, we're not about changing things overnight but I cannot ignore the footage I've seen. I don't think that's made up. We've got flags of (inaudible) ships, registered in third world countries, carrying sheep in very unsafe conditions. And so at the end of the day this is a problem that the industry hasn't dealt with, so in the long term, I don't think most Australians including most farmers think that the live sheep export trade is sustainable.