WEDNESDAY, 2 MAY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s $17 billion cut to schools; New Start payment; changes to Section 44; Banking Royal Commission; Turnbull’s $65 billion corporate tax handout.
SAM CROSBY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR REID: Thank you all for coming. This is St. Mark's in Drummoyne. We're here because over the next two years, the Federal Government is going to cut $30 million worth of funding from schools just like this one across the electorate of Reid; that's $15 million for Catholic schools and $15 million for public schools. I have brought Bill along to the electorate to show him around what a great school this is, what a great job the Principal and the staff are doing with these great kids here, and I'll hand over to Bill. Thanks.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Sam. It's great to be here at St. Mark's in Drummoyne in the electorate of Reid with Labor's new candidate for Reid, Sam Crosby. We're here today at St. Mark's because as a parent, I want the best for my kids, Sam wants the best for his kids and we actually want to see the best for all of Australia's children. That's why next Tuesday night's budget is so important. Mr Turnbull has the opportunity to reverse $17 billion worth of cuts to school funding over the next 10 years. This budget will have a direct effect on the cost of education and the resources going to the kids of millions of Australian parents. In this electorate alone, Mr Turnbull and the sitting member, Mr Laundy have a very clear choice in the budget. They can choose to restore $15 million worth of funding over the next two years to government schools, they can choose to restore $15 million dollars to the local Catholic parish schools in this electorate over the next two years, or they can not choose the education of our kids and instead choose to give $80 billion dollars away to the big end of town, to corporate Australia. The education cuts are real; they're happening right now and we're seeing our kids being disadvantaged because of the wrong choices in this budget. Mr Turnbull talks a big game in education but he doesn't play well in education. They're long on rhetoric and they're short on action. What we want to see is this government, not only be more constructive but to reverse some of their positively unhelpful decisions they've made in education. This budget is a chance for Mr Turnbull to wake up to himself and to choose our schools and our kids' education over giving corporate tax cuts to the big banks.
We're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Is the current Dole cruel and could you live off $40 a day?
SHORTEN: No, I couldn't and I do think that there's a real problem for the government payments to the people at the very bottom of our society. That is why Labor has proposed having a root and branch review of our government's payment system on Newstart and like-minded allowances and payments. There's no doubt that there is a problem with the payment level, and what we need to do is we need to do is review it to see what is appropriate.
JOURNALIST: Should we prioritise that over paying down debt?
SHORTEN: I think that we should prioritise looking after the less well off in our society over giving corporate Australia a giant tax windfall funded by taxpayers.
JOURNALIST: So just to drill down, Labor would contemplate an increase to the dole?
SHORTEN: I would contemplate reviewing it because we've got to be honest, don't we. Who on earth amongst the government or anyone in Parliament could live on the Newstart allowance? So that's why we said we want to review it and we think the government would be very sensible to join us in this approach.
JOURNALIST: If you don't win the next election, would you resign?
SHORTEN: I intend to win the next election.
JOURNALIST: On the dual citizenship matter, would you support a referendum on section 44 of the Constitution?
SHORTEN: I want to just say that I think Liberal Senator Reynolds has pointed to a real problem in the Constitution. She makes the point that this rule doesn't exist in other comparable first world countries. If we were drafting the Constitution today which obviously we can't, if we were doing it from scratch, you probably wouldn't have this particular restriction which is in place. But I have to say that when it comes to updating our Constitution, my first priorities are to recognise our First Australians in the nation's birth certificate, to give a voice which would allow Aboriginal Australians to have some say in the decisions made about them. I also believe as a priority, we should be promoting having an Australian head of state. It has been over 200 years since European settlement, we're probably big enough and old enough as a nation to assert that we should have an Australian as our head of state.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison has suggested that more Commonwealth board members should resign in the wake of yesterday's damning APRA report. Do you agree?
SHORTEN: Well there's Mr. Morrison saying someone else has got to do something else about the bank's problem. I think that there should be absolutely the full weight of the law. This is not about self-regulation, this is about 54,000 breaches identified at the Commonwealth Bank. I want to see the full weight of the law on these people. I certainly also think that if Mr Morrison has got a shopping list for the Commonwealth Bank, he should be saying to the Commonwealth Bank directors who go, and I've got no doubt some will. I think it's easy enough for him to say that because that's probably going to happen anyway. But if he really wants to be tough and not just sound tough, what he should do is say no golden handshakes. These people don't deserve a brass handshake. I want to make sure that if these people leaving this great company, that what they should do is they shouldn't get more shareholder money just for leaving. They got a golden sign on bonus, they've had golden pay whilst they are there and now they want a golden parachute as they leave. I think you've got to do something about that. But the other thing we've got to do is, if Mr Morrison's so worried about the conduct of Commonwealth Bank directors, why is he proposing to give them upwards of $4 billion in corporate tax cuts over the next 10 years? The problem with Mr. Morrison is, he wants to look tough. He huffs and puffs but doesn't actually do anything. I'm not letting him or Turnbull off the hook, or indeed all of the Coalition frontbenchers who said on no less than 263 times there should be no Royal Commission. I think Mr Morrison has come a bit late to this party and is trying to make a hero of himself at the last minute. If he wants to be a hero in the eyes of the Australian people, don't give them $ 4 billion of corporate tax giveaway.
JOURNALIST: Do the banks need another level of regulation to keep them honest?
SHORTEN: I don't think they've been adhering to the regulation they've got. I think that there's going to be questions the regulators have to answer about what they've been doing. But there is no doubt in my mind that if we hadn't had Labor's Royal Commission on the Banks, a lot of this stuff wouldn't have come out. I mean part of the problem I see is that this Royal Commission whilst it is doing a great job, hasn't had very long to look at the banks. The NAB was in there for less than a day. Commonwealth Bank wasn't there for very long. In a matter of days, we meant to cover all of the issues in the financial services sector. I'm worried that not enough resources and time has been given to this Royal Commission. A lot of what we're seeing is what has been self-reported by the banks when they found themselves – when they had to go into the witness dock. But I worry about the stuff we're not seeing and that some of the matters which we know have happened are not getting full coverage in the Royal Commission. That's not a criticism of the Commission, it is a criticism of the short timetable. I think that this Royal Commission needs as much time as it wants to go through all of the issues. The function of this Royal Commission is to punish wrongdoers, is to draw out what has happened, give the victims a voice and to see what structural changes you can make. If we don't give it enough time to perform all of these functions, then some people will get off yet again. And I'm concerned that the whistle-blowers and the victims haven't had enough say.
JOURNALIST: Almost 86 percent of GP visits were bulk-billed this financial year. How can you credibly claim that bulk-billing and Medicare are facing some sort of mortal threat?
SHORTEN: It's not me who's saying it, it's the patients of Australia, it's the doctors of Australia. This Medicare freeze, what it means when we have this Medicare freeze is that the rebate which goes to patients hasn't been increased since 2014. It sees the out-of-pocket payments, the gap between what you get reimbursed in the rebate and your out-of-pocket payments is growing and growing and growing. These are the facts. Australians pay their Medicare levy, they pay their taxes. They reasonably expect that as a priority this government should increase the patient rebate rather than give money away to corporate Australia. And you'll find that amongst some of these bulk-billed visits, we are seeing increasing numbers from emergency departments.
I was at Campbelltown Hospital yesterday. Campbelltown Hospital has seen an increase and across New South Wales, according to Brad Frankum the head of the New South Wales AMA. He says the number of people going to emergency departments has increased and increased and increased, straining the ED system, the emergency department system. And he says that one of the key reasons, if not the key reason, has been the Medicare freeze.
This government loves to quote statistics, but the lived experience of Australians is that the out of pocket expense is going up, the private health insurance rebates, well they're just out of control, and we're seeing the emergency department wards being increased and overrun with people who are just going there because they can't afford to see their local doctor.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Reid is a marginal seat. Education is obviously a large focus for this electorate but what do you think it will take for it to swing back to Labor?
SHORTEN: More people voting for Sam than for Mr Laundy. The fact of the matter is though and Sam can speak for himself in a moment, this next election is going to be about choices. If you want to choose to give millionaires and multinationals a tax relief and to give them taxpayer reductions, well then vote for Mr Turnbull, no question. But if you want to see this school get proper funding, if you want to see the local hospitals and medical system get the resources it deserves, if you want to see a reduction in the aged care waiting lists, if you want to see people get paid properly as opposed to relying on casualised labour hire employment, then you vote for Labor.
That's the choices. The choice is what sort of country do we want to be. Do we want to be a country which just looks after the vested interests, the Business Council with their big scary war chest of $26 million to try and intimidate and silence Labor from standing up for working people. Or do we want to be a country where working and middle class people get a fair go all round? Do we want to be a country where the economy is governed in the interests of the very top end of the tree, the very top end of town? Or do we want to be an economy which is managed in the interests of all working Australians? But I might hand over to Sam to talk a little further about why he will an excellent member for Reid.
CROSBY: Thanks Bill. Look it's no secret that education is going to be at the centre of this campaign. It's absolutely why I brought Bill to a school for one of his first visits to this electorate this time around. A $30 million difference between the two major parties, that's what parents in this school need to think about. But it's not just parents that have kids here, it's anyone that actually cares about the future of Australia. We are reaching an unprecedented time of change where jobs are being created and destroyed at an exponential rate. The only way that we can find a way through this is by having an educated, articulate, engaged workforce and that's these kids standing behind me here, that's the next generation. We need to make sure that our kids are up to speed and the only way we can do that is to fund the schools and fund the teachers and fund the principals that make that happen.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten just in terms of the budget, what would be an adequate level of personal tax cuts in the budget in terms of cost and time frame.
SHORTEN: We'd have to see what the budget numbers come in at so I don't have that information at hand. I'll give my response on the budget on Thursday night, the Budget Reply Speech, gripping television. 7:30 if the ABC cover it - 7 o'clock I should say.
What I think this budget should do though, is it's going to be a test of fairness. The government needs to drop their cuts to the pensioners by restoring the energy supplement. They've taken my advice and dropped the ridiculous increase in the Medicare levy for people under $87,000. But they need to also unfreeze the patient rebates straight away. They also need to make sure that they reverse their cuts to education. The kids at this school should be able to see money coming to here, we should be supporting - parents who choose to send their children to the local Catholic Parish School have the reasonable expectation that some of the taxes they pay to Canberra are reinvested in their education. And I'm very pro public education, I think every government school should be a great school and it deserves the sort of resources which they're not getting under the Liberals. So these are the priorities. I also set this test for fairness in the budget: Mr Turnbull prioritise the schools, the education, the pensioners over corporate tax cuts for big banks and multinationals.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the government should ban the use of old and decrepit ships for live exports?
SHORTEN: Well I think that it's amazing that even some of the live exporters are now complaining about the administration of the government. The Turnbull Government has turned a blind eye to animal welfare for the last five years. The situation we're seeing now, the shocking images of the mistreatment of sheep in the live export industry, can only happen because you've got a government in Canberra who's been asleep and disinterested in animal welfare. And now you've even got some of the exporters acknowledging the problems in the trade. When even the exporters are acknowledging the problems in the trade, it just shows you how absolutely delinquent and negligent the Liberals have been on animal welfare.
Perhaps one last question?
JOURNALIST: Reid is a very diverse electorate, what would you say to the people here in terms of voting for Labor rather than the Liberal and what do you think of the current Member?
SHORTEN: I've got nothing against the current Member personally. What I do think in terms of Reid is they need a representative who will stand up for their interests not the interests of big business. As I say, if you want to represent big business and if you want to see the banks get a corporate tax cut, multinationals pay less tax even though plenty of them are not paying enough tax as it is. Well then you'd certainly vote for the Liberal party. But if you want to make sure that every school gets proper funding, if you want to make sure that we can reduce the waiting list for elective surgery, for aged care packages. If you want to make sure that the patient rebate keeps pace, if you want to see real change in terms of cost of living and investment in renewable energy to drive down energy prices. If you want to see the pensioners get a fair go, if you want to see workers on $80,000 and $70,000 a year have some reasonable prospect of fair wage rises, well then the answer is simple, it's vote Labor.
And what I should also just say about all of this is that the Business Council of Australia, by the fact that they're raising a war chest of $26 million are trying to influence Australian democracy. Now I don't blame the Business Council for hoping to spend $26 million to buy an $80 billion corporate tax cut, but is that really the country we want to be? Today the fact that the Business Council of Australia is boasting about spending money to buy the Australian election so they can get their political arm of big business, the Liberal Party, to pass through $80 billion of corporate tax cuts, shows you the next election is all about a choice. Do we want Australia to be run by the Business Council of Australia and the Liberal Party’s big business mates, or do we want it to be run in the interests of working and middle class Australians. That's why I'd say you vote for Sam Crosby in Reid whenever the election is held. Thanks everybody.