THURSDAY, 25 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Senate voting reforms; Safe Schools; Defence White Paper; ABC and SBS
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well good morning all, and can I begin by thanking Louise Owens the Principal here as well as the school captains Sally and Henry for welcoming us to their beautiful school here at Red Hill this morning. It's great to join Bill Shorten to have a look at what is happening in the classrooms here and to talk about the future of school education in Australia.
Now this week we've seen some members of the Government claim that they care about what happens in our classrooms, and in our schools. But let’s just be very clear - if any member of the Government cared about what was happening in our school education system there is one issue that they would be speaking up against, and that is Malcolm Turnbull's plan to rip $30 billion out of the classrooms of schools across Australia.
Now what the Government's education policy would mean is that on average this school and every school across Australia would be $3.2 million worse off. That is why it is so important that we stand up for Labor's 'Your Child.Our Future' policy which will reverse Malcolm Turnbull's cuts, but also ensure that we have the resources in every classroom in every school across Australia to ensure that Australian students are getting the best education that they need, to ensure that every child is receiving individual attention and to see that we have more of a focus on literacy, numeracy and the programs that we know make a difference.
Now I am not surprised that this week we have seen the Prime Minister refuse to stand up for our education system, because the truth is that is what he has been doing since the moment he came to office, when he has kept in place Tony Abbott's $30 billion cuts to our schools, and at the moment the Government has just one policy when it comes to education, and that is to absolutely tear the funding out of each and every school and leave all of our students worse off. We're very proud to offer a strong alternative and I will hand over to Bill Shorten.
SHORTEN: Thanks Kate and good morning everyone. There is nothing more important than investing in the future of our children. Only Labor has a fully funded plan to make sure every child in every school gets every opportunity. And having a plan for education isn't just about the education of our children; it is about the economy and the plans for the economy of Australia's future. We want to make sure that our children have the skills to be able to compete with the rest of the world for the jobs of the future.
Labor, by 2025, wants to ensure that Australian school results are in the top five in the world. We want to make sure that by 2020, 95 per cent of Year 12 children are completing school. So Labor has an education plan which is also a national economic reform plan. I think this contrasts very much to the week that we have seen with Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals. It has been nearly six months since Malcolm Turnbull promised new economic leadership, and we're certainly not seeing any leadership. We certainly haven't seen any leadership with the Government prepared to cut funding to schools in the future which will mean that Australian children fall behind the rest of the world, and we are certainly no clearer to knowing what Mr Turnbull's plans are for tax reform, another economic issue. It is clear that Mr Turnbull has abandoned any serious tax reform, indeed he has abandoned any serious economic reform and arguably, he is not showing any leadership at all. What we see is instead hysterical scare campaigns from the Government. I think it is fair to say that with the division and chaos that we have seen from Mr Turnbull's Government, the Prime Minister is shrinking into his job. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: How bad of a look is it that Gary Gray is speaking out against Senate reform and Labor's position on Senate reform. This isn't your opposition, this isn't a commentator, this is someone within your own party speaking out against your position on this?
SHORTEN: The Labor Party doesn't believe that simply because something is badged reform that it constitutes reform. I am deeply sceptical when I see the Liberals and the Greens announcing a deal which will favour Green Party politicians and Liberal Party politicians that this is in the best interests of Australians. Imagine if the Liberals had controlled the Senate when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister? We would have seen the harsh $100,000 university degrees, we would have seen the cuts to Medicare and the GP Tax get through. We would see further cuts to family payments. So Labor is most committed, when we looked at reform, we want to make sure that the reform doesn't harm the interests of the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: What would you say to Mr Gray, he is disappointed, he has looked at this issue for a long time?
SHORTEN: Fair enough. But what I'd say is the Labor Party, and what I'll say to Australians is the Labor Party is up for reform. But reform which entrenches the control of the right wing of the Liberal Party, reform which entrenches control of the balance of power to the Greens political party. That is not reform. That is a recipe for economic problems and gridlock in Australian politics.
JOURNALIST: Was your criticism of Cory Bernardi, your Mark Latham moment?
SHORTEN: I think that my criticism of Malcolm Turnbull and anyone who has pushed Malcolm Turnbull to the following position is this - why are you taking the side of people who would bully and victimise kids who are grappling with their sexual identity in their teenage years? I do not understand why the Liberal Party is turning itself inside out over an $8 million program over four years, $2 million a year, when the Federal Liberal Government run a budget of nearly $400 billion. You've got to ask yourself, why are so many of the right wing of the Liberal Party obsessed about these issues, when in fact we need to see a tax reform plan, we need to see a plan for the education of our children. These people on the right wing of the Liberal Party, they seem to, you know, worry about this particular program but they're not worried about cutting $30 billion to schools over the next number of years? I mean, their priorities are all wrong. The other thing which really disturbs me about this is that Malcolm Turnbull we all knew when he wasn't the Prime Minister, he wouldn't have had any time for this. Malcolm Turnbull's left it up to me to show leadership to his party. The vast bulk of Australian parents want to make sure that their kids are dealing with issues, that they're not being bullied at school. All the evidence shows, that if you've got a child who is gay at school, the chances of them being bullied are very intense. I think it's really important that we just send out a message to teenagers, not just kids in this category, but all of our teenagers that it's okay to ask for help. That you're not going to be stigmatised, that every day isn’t going to be a good day. So, when I stand up on these issues, I just wish we had Malcolm Turnbull standing up on these issues. The old Malcolm Turnbull would have. The new Malcolm Turnbull who keeps doing deals to keep the right wing of his political party happy, the truth is he is shrinking in his job.
JOURNALIST: Joe Bullock in your party says it is a terrible program, what would you say to Joe?
SHORTEN: Labor funded this program, if we were so fortunate as to form a Government, we will support programs which ensure that children can go to school in a bully-free and harassment-free environment.
JOURNALIST: Would it be rich to be talking about a bully-free environment when you've just displayed that by bullying Cory Bernardi in a sense?
SHORTEN: I don't know if you were at the press conference yesterday, were you? I just wanted to check because then I could understand why you asked the question. Speak to your 30 colleagues who were there. When you've got a Senator walking past acting like he is in the outer of the football yelling out free advice at a press conference and then he has a sook about someone who is just going to stand up to him. I did in five seconds what Malcolm Turnbull hasn't done in five months.
JOURNALIST: Do you regret the language that you used?
SHORTEN: I regret that the Government is cutting programs which are going to make the lives of teenage kids harder. I regret that the Liberal Party is spending so much time on this issue. I regret that the Liberal Party would rather talk about this than talk about tax reform, talk about proper funding of schools, talk about not cutting bulk-billing incentives for patients who have diagnosis of cancer and will be discouraged from going to get the treatment they need. That's what I think is really important.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Defence White Paper is being released today and the Government is suggesting an extra $30 billion will be spent on defence, building new equipment and hiring more troops, all that sort of stuff. Does Labor support this extra spend of $30 billion?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, we haven't seen the White Paper. Labor is up for a bipartisan approach on defence. In fact it was Labor who has led the successful opposition to the Government building the submarines offshore which means it is still a chance that Australians will get the chance to build Australian submarines in Australia. We'll be looking at the White Paper for all the detail. You raise good issues about is there a sensible trajectory to get to 2 per cent of GDP expenditure. But in particular, one of the first things which I'll be going to in the report is has Malcolm Turnbull guaranteed that the 12 submarines will be built in Australia? That is a key question. Has he guaranteed that Australian taxpayer money will be spent building the best defence equipment in the world for our Australian Defence Forces and is that money being spent in Australia? If the Government doesn't articulate in this White Paper that the taxpayers' money will be spent building defence equipment in Australia and particularly the 12 submarines and other warships, well then the White Paper will have failed.
JOURNALIST: What do you mean by credible or sensible trajectory? What do you want to see there is it a staged approach, is the money set aside or the spending needs to be credible and sensible?
SHORTEN: Well, we need to see the White Paper to answer that question. Specifically, if the Government says we want 2 per cent of GDP on defence but don't explain how they are going to ramp up to that expenditure, it's not credible, is it?
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a few questions on negative gearing, I just wanted to get a few things clarified. With your policy, will people buying new property, will they be able to buy as many properties as they want or is it just one?
SHORTEN: With our negative gearing policy, I will just explain the purpose of it and then go to the specific question. We want to see Budget repair. We don't think we can keep spending billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies on negative gearing in the future.
We also want to make sure first home owners are able to get into the market and get their first home. I am not a person who thinks the Australian dream is to negatively gear your seventh house. I am a person who believes the Australian dream is for our kids to be able to buy their first house. In addition, we are here at a school talking about school's funding. It is important that we prioritise scarce taxpayer dollars. I would rather see money going to schools and hospitals, giving our kids the best chance, giving the vulnerable and sick the best care than necessarily perpetuating investor rewards for some people who are already very well off. In terms of the specifics, we are not capping what can be done in negative gearing. We are saying we would prioritise new housing stock for negative gearing, not existing houses.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, that means someone buying an investment property, as long as it is new, they can buy as many as they want?
SHORTEN: We are saying that the existing negative gearing rules would still be in place for a new housing stock full stop.
JOURNALIST: It doesn't matter how many they buy, as long as it is new housing stock?
SHORTEN: You know the rules as well as I do.
JOURNALIST: On housing supply, have you spoken to the states and Premiers about releasing more land to build new properties?
SHORTEN: You're spot on. The key issue is not just tax reform, although tax reform is really important. We would sit down and work with the states to make sure there is a better supply of land because there is no doubt that we have to work on that side of the equation too. The Liberals have been very cheeky in the way they have tried to demonise what we have said. Chris Bowen and I made very clear, you have to work with the states. Housing affordability is not solved by a silver bullet. But one thing is for sure, we are making clear that if you have currently invested under the current tax laws, there will be no change. But what we are saying is that we are prepared to tackle an issue which everyone knows needs to be tackled. Mr Turnbull squibbed the chance over the last 5.5 months to do anything, so it is left to Labor to provide the tax reform plans, to provide the economic plans, to provide the education plans because Mr Turnbull, as Prime Minister, is shrinking in the job.
JOURNALIST: If we could just return to defence quickly, will you commit Labor to 12 submarines if you win at the election even if the Budget can't afford it?
SHORTEN: Well, you have put a couple of hypotheticals there. Let me just say to you, once we have read the White Paper, we will know what the Government is doing. I can tell you what I can commit us to, building our submarines in Australia. I think it beggars belief that after 25 years of successful submarine building, that the current Liberal Government just wants to wave goodbye to all that ingenuity, innovation and jobs. We have already lost 1,500 jobs in naval ship building whilst the Liberals have been in power. I have been down to the gates at Forgacs in Newcastle, Osborne in South Australia, Williamstown in Melbourne, where I have seen people who are skilled blue collar workers just get forgotten by Malcolm Turnbull and thrown on the scrap heap.
We will make sure we build our defence equipment, our submarines in Australia. In terms of the rest of it, we are going to have to see what the White Paper is but one thing also, that can be counted upon, when it comes to keeping promises, Labor has fought hard for Australian build of submarines from day one and we are winning that battle. I just hope the Government finally, finally comes clean with their plans in the White Paper.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor ever support merging the ABC and SBS?
SHORTEN: We saw Mark Scott's discussion on that. We haven't got a final view on that. I think SBS does an excellent job, I think the ABC does a really good job too. What I do think is that we have got to make sure we properly fund the ABC. I have been shocked at the cuts that the Liberal Government have made to the ABC. I mean, when it is all said and done, before Mr Turnbull became the Prime Minister, he was the best friend the ABC had ever had. He would appear on the Q&A show, he'd get the vibe and would be right into it with the ABC. Now he is Prime Minister, he doesn't - he is supporting the cuts to the ABC that his Government have made.
That is the real challenge today, isn't it? Before Mr Turnbull became leader, he said there would be new economic leadership. We haven't seen a tax plan. Before he became leader, he would have slapped down the far right of his party. We saw this Dennis Jensen chap say things which I am sure Malcolm Turnbull doesn't personally believe but he has been deafly silent. Mr Turnbull before his election would have stood up to the right wing of his party. But now he is appointing them to key committees, he is indulging their ideological obsessions with Government inquiries. When all is said and done, Malcolm Turnbull needs to start making some decisions. He needs to start vindicating the trust of Australians that they are willing to give him, he needs to start standing up for Australians rather than the right wing of his party.
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