Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Perth - Jobs of the future; Labor’s plan for coding in schools




MONDAY, 20 JULY 2015


SUBJECT/S: Jobs of the future; Labor’s plan for coding in schools; Bronwyn Bishop; Tony Abbott’s plan to increase the GST


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it’s great to be here in Perth looking at the preparation of the jobs of the future at Scitech. What we see here is children learning the skills and enjoying the discovery of science and computers. It's great to be here of course with Alannah MacTiernan who's a champion not only for the jobs of the future, but making sure Western Australia gets its fair share of national resources. Labor's got policies to make sure that not just the children here at this dojo get the chance to fall in love with computing and understanding computational thinking, but indeed we want to make sure that every child in Australia can get this chance. That's why it's only Labor who have got policies to make sure that children get access to coding at schools, to make sure that our young people who go to university who choose to study science and technology can have their HECS debts written off if they successfully complete their studies, and of course we're most committed to making sure that our teachers of the future have the skills and science qualifications to go into the classrooms to get a new generation of Australians interested in science, and we also back up our existing teachers by providing them with further support to upskill their knowledge.


I think it's also important today that whilst we're focusing on the jobs of the future, that I make some brief remarks about Mr Abbott and his lack of leadership about the job of Bronwyn Bishop. Tony Abbott needs to show some courage, demonstrate some leadership, and tell Bronwyn Bishop that it's time to go. When Tony Abbott was Opposition Leader he was all about talking about standards of performance and accountability. Now he's the Prime Minister he seems to be missing in action. He was all talk and now he's no action. He should talk to some of his Liberal colleagues – Peter Costello, John Hewson, Joe Hockey – they all know that what's happened here is a flagrant abuse of taxpayer funds for party political purposes. Every day Tony Abbott refuses to show any leadership he digs himself a deeper hole which is going to consume not just Bronwyn Bishop, but his own credibility for strong leadership. Happy to take any questions that people have.


JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that no Labor MPs have used taxpayer funding to attend party events?


SHORTEN: I can guarantee that no one's caught a helicopter between Melbourne and Geelong. I can guarantee that we uphold the best standards, but what I think we've got to look at here is it's not just Bronwyn Bishop attending a Liberal Party fundraiser catching a helicopter, a very short distance, but it's the way that they've handled this mistake, this abuse of taxpayer funds since it's been publicly ventilated. What we've seen is a very reluctant Bronwyn Bishop who accepts no responsibility for the abuse of taxpayer funds, and says it falls within guidelines – even when many colleagues don't think it does. Now we've got Tony Abbott who's beholden to the right-wing of his party that he can't even act against Bronwyn Bishop, the Speaker. Tony Abbott now needs to show some courage and some leadership. He needs to say to Bronwyn Bishop it is time to go. It's a flagrant abuse of taxpayer funds and furthermore, the way that Mr Abbott has reacted since the public discovery of this flagrant abuse shows the Liberals are just out of touch with community standards.


JOURNALIST: How are the Labor MPs this weekend going to be travelling to the ALP conference?


SHORTEN: The Remuneration Tribunal has specifically said that under guidelines people can attend their party conferences. That's the point, though. Where there's a specific decision by an independent tribunal, that is viewed as accepted standard. But I can guarantee that Labor MPs will not be catching helicopters between Melbourne and Geelong to attend party fundraisers. And I think again what we have to do is – Mr Abbott needs to show some leadership.


Every day this saga goes on, Bronwyn Bishop's position is increasingly untenable and now it would appear that Mr Abbott is digging himself a hole too by refusing to set the standards of performance for Mrs Bishop that he would set for other people.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you’ve been critical of the Coalition for $80 billion in cuts to health and education, would a Labor Government put that back?


ABBOTT: Labor will always spend more on education and healthcare across Australia and in Western Australia, too. Labor has put forward proposals on how the Government can improve funding to education and healthcare without having to introduce a GST. We all know that Tony Abbott has been trying to position the States with his $80 billion worth of cuts into arguing for a GST. The real problem with a Liberal GST that has been proposed by the NSW Premier, and not ruled out by Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey, is that it's going to increase the cost of living pressures on Australian families. We all know that it's hard enough to make ends meet every week or every fortnight – Australian families know this. But what governments shouldn't be doing is making the daily and weekly challenges of Australian families even harder with a 50% increase in GST. I don't understand for the life of me why it is that Mr Abbott is happy to increase the taxes that everyday Australians pay, yet when it comes to multinationals he doesn't want them to pay their fair share of taxation. When it comes to excessively generous superannuation loopholes at the top end he doesn't seem to want to act against those loopholes. I mean for the life of me I don't understand why Mr Abbott wants to keep paying polluters to keep putting out carbon pollution at the same time as he wants ordinary Australians to pay more GST tax. This is not on.


JOURNALIST: Are you saying you would put that entire amount back, and how would you pay for that?


SHORTEN: Well first of all we'll have to see what the state of the Budget is when we get closer to an election. It's no secret that Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott's Budget is unravelling, there’s no secret that they’ve got a whole lot of changes which are bad for Australians which are stuck in the Senate. So I think that it's still a moving proposition to see what state the Liberals will leave the Budget in at the next election. But what I can guarantee Australians is two things. One, that when it comes to healthcare and education, Labor will always do a better job of funding these properly; and two, we don't believe that a GST increasing the cost of living on families' budgets every week and fortnight is the way to go. Life is hard enough as it is to make ends meet without the Government trying to increase the taxes on everything that you spend. Instead we've offered already proposals as a down-payment to the Australian people about our bona fides. We believe that multinationals should pay their fair share of taxation. We also believe that when it comes to large superannuation tax concessions for the very fortunate few at the top end, we can afford to rein some of those tax concessions in. This will raise billions of dollars in the future. Also we think that the Abbott Government needs to reconsider paying large carbon polluters from polluting – stop spending taxpayer money on people who are polluting the environment, and instead just focus on real action on climate change.


JOURNALIST: Would you support lifting the GST if compensation was built in the form of tax cuts and greater spending on pensions, health and education?


SHORTEN: There's plenty of hypotheticals there, the problem is that when I see Mr Abbott talk about pensions and education funding, he’s already done that once – he did it before the last election. Remember those famous interviews he did in order to get Australians to vote for him, where he said there'd be no cuts to pensions, not cuts to education, no cuts to health? Mr Abbott can't be trusted when it comes to these promises, he's already broken them once, so when he says that he has a clever plan to break his promise about no increases to taxes and then he'll also say that on the basis he'll do more for education, health and pensions I just don't believe him and I don't think most Australians do.
JOURNALIST: The Business Council has slammed Australia's reform paralysis. Don't you think we need to take a proper look at GST reform?
SHORTEN: Well I think that when we talk about having a brighter vision for Australia's future it shouldn't be working people at the front of the queue having to pay more taxes. I don't believe that this nation's run out of ideas that the only option for its future is to increase a 50 per cent tax on everything that people spend. I don't see the case has been made for increasing the tax on medical costs. I don't see the case has been made for increasing the tax - or putting a tax on fresh food. I don't see the case has been made to put taxes on people's school fees they pay for their children. No, I think Labor thinks there are other options and levers available for a Commonwealth Government. We believe for instance and just again, just to repeat it because it is worth repeating, that what we could do is make multinationals pay their fair share of taxation. Why not start at the top of the tree rather than everyone else trying to make ends meet every week. We also believe that superannuation tax concession system at the very top is excessively generous. I think the Government was crazy to rule these measures out. I think they did it as soon as they heard Labor say that we're willing to work on these ideas. Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey are so addicted to negativity they just ruled them out, but I don't think that the case has been made for the GST. Two more questions please.


JOURNALIST: Will you be attending any fundraisers while you're in WA?


SHORTEN: No I'm not.


JOURNALIST: There are reports of an asylum seeker boat seen off the WA coast this morning. Any comment if that does turn out to be the case?


SHORTEN: I've just seen those reports, we'll wait till we find out more information.


I should also say whilst I’ve got Alannah MacTiernan here, she and Mark McGowan are going to our National Conference to put forward a new proposal to get a better deal for Western Australia - that's the calibre of Mark McGowan and Alannah MacTiernan. I will certainly view their case that they're making very seriously and very positively. I think what is important here is that people on the east coast who make up the rules on GST should understand that the large distances and the remote nature of some of Western Australia's communities mean that you can't simply just tell Western Australia what’s good for them, you’ve got to listen to people. I'll certainly be doing that with Alannah MacTiernan and Mark McGowan this weekend and I might ask Alannah to make a final comment about her proposition which she's putting forward at our National Conference.


ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: We want a bit of fairness put back into the GST carve-up. We agree with that fundamental principle that Australians all need to have the same service of delivery of education, health and policing etcetera. But we were appalled by the changes in the rules that came in this year that created this new area, the remoteness exclusion zone. Because what they're now saying is that okay it gets more expensive to deliver services out to this line but beyond there it doesn't get any more expensive. Now, it just so happens that WA is the only place that happens to have these communities that are more remote than the remoteness exclusion zone. So we want a review of these grants commission rules to take into account the real cost of delivering education, health, and community security out into those regions. This is a bizarre proposition that cost WA in around $300 million in the last year. We went down after these new rules were introduced, we went down from a 38 per cent share to a 29 per cent share and that’s the equivalent of around $312 million that we lost and we think largely because of this absurd rule.


SHORTEN: Thank everyone. See you later.