TUESDAY, 31 JULY 2018
SUBJECT: Turnbull’s tax handout to the top end; Newstart Allowance; Labor priorities; My Health record, asylum seekers, Emma Husar; Resignation of Archbishop Phillip Wilson.
KIM LANDERS, HOST: As the Federal Government grapples with whether to dump or change its approach to company tax cuts for big business, the Opposition is watching and waiting. Labor road tested a lot of slogans and policies during the Super Saturday of by-elections, and it thinks it's found a few key ingredients that will help it fight and win the next general election. The Opposition Leader is Bill Shorten and he joins me now from Melbourne. Mr Shorten, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Kim.
LANDERS: On corporate tax, what if the government decides to change up its planned tax cuts for big business, perhaps putting a cap on them, or changing the threshold, would Labor be up for that?
SHORTEN: I think the corporate tax cuts are a bad idea. They were a bad idea on Friday before the by-elections and they are still a bad idea the Tuesday afterwards. They're a bad idea because governments and nations have to make priorities. I think it's more important to find money for hospitals and health care, more important to find money for schools and apprenticeships and university places, than it is to give big companies a tax cut.
LANDERS: So you're not interested in any sort of change to that policy?
SHORTEN: No the economic case hasn't been made out. It's of dubious benefit, it smashes a giant hole in the budget and to what end? I mean if we have to pay for these corporate tax cuts - this is something the government has been let off scot-free on in terms of the analysis. If you take tens of billions of dollars out of the nation's ATM, to give away as corporate tax cuts, something's got to give. You have less money available for schools and hospitals, or you have to increase revenue elsewhere, or you pay greater interest payments on ballooning government debt.
LANDERS: There's also been a bit of speculation that perhaps the government might fast track the decrease in the current rate of 27.5 per cent to 25 per cent for businesses under $50 million. Would you be interested in that?
SHORTEN: Well again, I'm not going to start reacting to hypotheticals, but where's the government getting the money from? If you're going to decrease what's in the nation's budget, you've got to explain what it is that you're willing to cut. Which hospital do you want to cut, what waiting lists for elective surgery do you want to see increase?
LANDERS: I'm just trying to get a sense of where your - what your bottom line is on corporate tax, what Labor's bottom line is.
SHORTEN: We've already said what our bottom line is. The issue though is what sort of nation are we becoming. Like the by-elections have convinced me that we need to talk more about creating a fairer society, tackling inequality. What I heard going around on the weekend and indeed for the nine weeks beforehand, wasn't about should there be a threshold that corporations under half a billion dollars, a small business, or that sort of rubbish. The real issue I heard on the weekend is people said why is everything going up except our wages. Australians want a government who is in touch with the people, not a government who is trying to always pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people.
LANDERS: When you talk about a fairer society and getting rid of inequality, tackling inequality. Why not immediately promise to increase the Newstart Allowance for young job seekers for example, rather than simply promising a review if Labor wins office?
SHORTEN: I think you're right that the level of Newstart is a problem. What we've said though is -
LANDERS: So are you going to increase it?
SHORTEN: Well we're not going to try and do everything from Opposition. What we have said unlike the government, is we think it is a problem, that we do want to review it in government. We're not -
LANDERS: But what review do you need? It's less than $40 a day, if it's a problem why can't you commit to increasing it?
SHORTEN: Kim I'm not going to spend tens of billions of dollars on Radio National this morning. What I'm going to do is take a sensible approach. But the difference between me and the other fellow is I actually think that how people at the bottom of the heap are going, matters more than how people at the very top are going.
LANDERS: If I can turn to My Health, a new report from the office of the Information Commissioner has revealed that the health care sector has had the highest number of reportable data breaches in the last three months. Now you've called for the government to suspend the rollout of the My Health record of which there have been no data breaches so far. But what's your advice to voters this morning, should they be in or out?
SHORTEN: Well it's a personal decision, and I don't want to take a party political view on this, but I think the people of Australia want a better answer from the government. I mean, believe it or not I actually think it's the same problem that we see with the way the government is handling these corporate tax cuts. People want, from the government, a government that is more in touch with them. Labor is not trying to be difficult, we support the principle of storing health records digitally, but we proposed an opt in scheme. The government need to attend to this issue. I'm not saying that this was the biggest -
LANDERS: Well you've called, you've called for the scheme to be suspended.
LANDERS: So, what is it that your – what’s your advice to voters, what do you say, don't bother with it?
SHORTEN: Voters have to back their own instinct. But what I think is that this is a matter close to people. It wasn't the biggest issue in the by-elections, I'm not saying that. But I actually feel that the people of Australia are being treated as mugs. They're being told nothing to see here, no problems. Yet we do hear reports day after day, of detail which is not resolved, and when you said before there haven't been any breaches of the My Health Record, that is so far. I mean in Singapore just recently one and a half million records, health records, were hacked including that of the Singaporean Prime Minister. A government should never treat its people as mugs.
LANDERS: Let's turn to another policy issue, asylum seekers. You've said that you don't believe in indefinite detention of asylum seekers. So what time limit would a Labor Government be prepared to put on it.
SHORTEN: Well what we would do is, in a positive sense, put more effort into renegotiating - into negotiating regional resettlement. Now, I can't give an absolute time limit obviously, from Opposition. But what I would say to people is we'll -
LANDERS: So you can't commit three months, six months, a year?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, this is a bigger issue than just one word answers. We will stop the boats and we share the view of the government that this policy has been effective in deterring people smugglers. But I also believe that we shouldn't have, what is emerging to be indefinite detention for people in these facilities. So our plan is to negotiate regional resettlement options with the countries in our region. Now if you're asking -
LANDERS: So have you got some specific countries in mind?
SHORTEN: I think there's a range of countries within Asia in the Asia-Pacific who we could talk to, yes.
LANDERS: Such as?
SHORTEN: Well I think there's big economies right through the Asian continent who would be, I think worthwhile for us to talk to.
LANDERS: Specifically which countries?
SHORTEN: Well, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, New Zealand.
LANDERS: Have you reached out to any of those countries?
SHORTEN: We're the Opposition. We're the Opposition. You know, really what I would like to do is actually see the problem resolved, and I'll say something this morning which might surprise some people listening. I'm pleased that the Turnbull Government has been able to keep the negotiations with America on track. This issue should be above party politics. But what we're seeing is a whole lot of debate, and I think that Australians actually expect their government to deter the people smugglers but not keep people in indefinite detention.
LANDERS: If I can move on to another topic, will you promise that the report commissioned by New South Wales Labor to investigate bullying accusations against one of your backbenchers, Emma Husar, will be made public?
SHORTEN: I don't know what's in the report. It hasn't been concluded. I don't know if any of the complainants or any of the concerns that have been raised have done so on the basis of confidentiality. I'm going to wait till I see the report.
LANDERS: She's one of your team she gets her salary from the taxpayer. You don't think the public should be able to see some of it?
SHORTEN: Well I don't know what's been reported. I don't know if some of the basis of the report has been confidential. There'll be protocols in place. What we need to do is respect the interests of all the people involved.
LANDERS: Do you welcome the decision by the Adelaide Archbishop Phillip Wilson to resign after his conviction for concealing child sexual abuse?
SHORTEN: Yes I do. But I need to say this at the outset, as this story broke last night. My first thoughts are with the victims. None of this is going to ultimately change what has happened to them. I am pleased that the decisions have been made, but for me you know having met victims of clerical abuse more generally, nothing ever compensates people. It should never have happened in the first place, and their search for justice has been too long. But I am pleased that this has happened absolutely.
LANDERS: Bill Shorten thank you very much for speaking with AM this morning.
SHORTEN: Good morning.