Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Labor launches cost of living campaign; GST





SUBJECT/S: Labor launches cost of living campaign; GST; Multinational tax; Iran; Wayne Swan


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. Great to be here with the new State Labor Member for Rockdale, Steve Kamper and of course my federal colleagues Terri Butler and Senator Sam Dastyari. My federal colleagues are here because today Labor is launching a campaign to keep cost of living front and centre of the political debate. We know that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want to do anything but talk about cost of living and last year's Budget and the terrible effect it's had on Australian families. Well, Labor's not going to be a soft touch here, we're going to stand up for families and for pensioners for the upcoming Budget.


Specifically, we had a great chance to talk to the coffee shop proprietors, the greengrocers, the butchers, the people who make the high street of Australia the quality of life that it is. And they tell it to us straight, with no mucking around, that confidence in the Australian community is down. Pensioners are worried about the future of their pension increases. People who are going to work are worried about cost of living. Families know that they've had $6,000 taken away from their family support and other payments. The parents and the grandparents know that their kids face the prospect of $100,000 degrees and there wouldn't be an aged pensioner in Australia who's not deeply unhappy at the Abbott Government's broken promises cutting their pension.


So today Labor's starting a campaign to give voice to real Australia, the people who are experiencing the pain and the hurt of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, and we are saying to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott: stop the aged pension cuts right now. Stop making life harder for Australians. Make it very clear to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey that cost of living is a big issue for Australians, and they certainly don't want a GST on fresh food. The hard-working greengrocers and butchers of Australia just scratch their heads in puzzlement when they see Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott say they don't want a GST change, but they keep talking about it. Real Australians know that when your politicians keep talking about an issue like the potential of increasing a GST they just want everyone to agree, they know there's a plan to increase the GST. I might now ask my colleagues, I’ll start with Terri Butler, to talk a bit about the cost of living campaign that Labor's standing up for. Terri?


TERRI BUTLER, CHAIR, LABOR’S COST OF LIVING CAUCUS COMMITTEE: Thanks, Bill. Labor's Cost of Living Committee is releasing an issues paper in advance of the next federal budget to ask Australians to tell us what you think about the cost of living effects of the federal budget. We know that last year's federal Budget was terrible for most Australians. Whether it was the $100,000 degrees, whether it was the cuts to pension indexation, whether it's the $6,000 worse off for a typical family and family support and whether it’s the GP tax, the plan to make it harder for Australians to afford to go to the doctor or to get medicines. All of those things had an effect on cost of living. We know that there are so many people out there who are struggling. There is pressure that's being felt around the kitchen tables in Australia, and we know that people are worried about the next federal budget. So we're launching an issues paper today to ask people; tell us your story, send us a submission, whatever it might be, let us know what your concerns are in advance of the next federal budget.


SHORTEN: Thanks Terri. Happy to take any questions people might have.


JOURNALIST: Bill, there’s an article in one of today's papers suggesting that the OECD believes that there is an argument for broadening the GST potentially to fresh fruit and vegetables and by rating that extra revenue, other taxes could come down?


SHORTEN: Yet again, Australians are subjected to a report written by someone who doesn't understand that ordinary Australians have got to pay more when the GST goes up. Labor does not support increasing the GST, nor do we support extending it to some of the everyday items which Australians currently depend upon. I include fresh food but I don't just limit it at that, I also include school fees that parents pay. Labor does not believe that the answer to Australia's economic future lies on putting up taxes for Australians who don't earn a lot of money. Why is it that the Liberal Government, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey's only answer to a problem is to tax the less well-off and go soft on foreign multinationals?


JOURNALIST: On the issue of multinationals the Government is saying that it's given Labor or its correspond with Labor on at least three occasions to explain what the policy that Labor is putting forward is, and they said they haven't heard anything from Labor.


SHORTEN: There's the Government not doing its day job and it's always blaming everyone else. Remember Joe Hockey a couple of months ago was going to have a Google tax? Now you can't even Google Joe Hockey on Google about his tax, he’s trying to retreat that far away from it. Everyone knows that Labor put forward a costed policy which will see north of $7 billion over the next 10 years tightening the legal loopholes which foreign multinationals are using. If you want a party or a government to stand up against foreign multinationals you choose Labor, not Tony Abbott’s Liberals.


JOURNALIST: Does Labor support the intelligence sharing agreement that the Government has struck with Iran?


SHORTEN: We've seen reports of this, we haven't been briefed by the Government so we know just what we’ve seen in the media. I would say this: on one hand, it is important to make sure that where we can get cooperation with Iran to improve the ability of our forces in Iraq and Syria to degrade and attack ISIL and Islamic State, well that's a good thing. But I'm not na­ive also. Iran's a very sophisticated country with a different view of the world to Australia and so we need to keep our eyes open whenever we deal with them.


JOURNALIST: Andrew Wilkie’s released a statement that it's flirting with evil and that Iran has used torture in the past to gather its intelligence. What do you say to that?


SHORTEN: Well as I said in my previous answer we need to not be naive when we deal with Iran, we need to have our eyes open. Labor’s been very supportive of efforts to ensure that Iran doesn't militarise any nuclear power that it has, and we are very, very committed to making sure that if we have any dealings with Iran that we do so not from a naive position. At the moment there are shared interests because of course Iran is concerned to protect Shia minorities in Iraq and also Syria. And we, Labor, certainly support the ADF's role in terms of helping ensure that Iraq is a peaceful state and can protect the citizens of that country. But because we have a current convergence of interests does not mean that Australia should lower its guard or be any less vigilant to some of the issues that you're raising.


JOURNALIST: So what would you suggest would be needed in order to make it palatable or safe?


SHORTEN: Well, what we need to do take a steady and considered approach as we have done on national security whilst I've been Labor leader. What we are waiting for a briefing from the Government. Again, we don't want to, sort of, have a knee-jerk reaction to a headline or a photo in a newspaper. Our principles are clear: we believe in peace and stability in the Middle East. Our intervention in Iraq is determined to - is only at the invitation of that government and we put strict requirements around it. We will see what is being proposed with intelligence sharing. If there's a benefit for our mission in Iraq, well then we’ve obviously got to look at it but we will be pragmatic and we won't be naive that if there’s a beneficial relationship in one part of our relationship with Iran, that doesn't automatically mean that everything else has changed.


JOURNALIST: Do you believe there might be dangers for Australian citizens?


SHORTEN: In where?


JOURNALIST: If sharing intelligence only?


SHORTEN: Well again you're getting into detail which you may have, I certainly don't have. But we will certainly be most vigilant about the rest of our interests including what you go to.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of Wayne Swan's decision to contest the next election? Some of your colleagues are suggesting that it's time for him to stand aside and make room for someone else?


SHORTEN: I completely welcome Wayne Swan renominating. He is a distinguished contributor, he continues to be, and I certainly am pleased that he has chosen and has confidence in the Labor Party to renominate.


JOURNALIST: Do you think he's got frontbench aspirations, potentially leadership aspirations?


SHORTEN: I’m flanked by two talented people who equally can advance in terms of the frontbench. I lead a team, it's energised, we respect the experience of some of our former ministers, we also respect the enthusiasm and future potential of some of my Parliamentary Secretaries and backbenchers. Wayne is a welcome contributor to the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. We don't have the sort of problems you're seeing in the Liberal Party. Let's face it, I do wonder if some of this is a bit of a camouflage from the Liberals. You've got all the contenders for Tony Abbott's job doing photo shoots of various sorts. You’ve got them all desperately backgrounding that it's only a matter of Tony – I nearly called him Tony Accident – Tony Abbott's next misstep before they pounce on him again. If you want to look at instability, Liberal Party front and centre.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the angst in the Queensland branch of the Labor Party, though?


SHORTEN: The angst about Wayne Swan renominating?


JOURNALIST: No, with Queensland Labor?


SHORTEN: I think Queensland Labor is pretty pleased they won the last State Election. I think on balance what they're doing – and they are providing us with some new blood as well, in terms of some of the candidates they've nominated. The biggest angst that Queensland Labor has is that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are going to bring down a terrible Budget this time like they did last time. The biggest angst Queensland Labor has is that there’s still cuts to the aged pension, that Christopher Pyne is coming up again for round three or four to introduce $100,000 university fees. The biggest angst that Queensland Labor has is what Queenslanders have: that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are in charge of Australia.


JOURNALIST: On the cost of living index or the issues paper rather, isn't this a bit late? I mean the Budget is only a few weeks away.


SHORTEN: Well I’ll tell you what's a bit late, if you want to talk about late. Why on earth is the Abbott Government still continuing with cuts to the pension 11 months after the last Budget? You know, this is a mob who don't even know when they're beat. It's over, Tony Abbott. You are not going to cut the pension, because Labor won't let you cut the aged pension, we’ll make you keep your word to the voters of Australia. In terms of Labor, we are doing what a strong, fair-minded opposition should do. We're letting Australians know there is an alternative to Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party in Australia in terms of having a fair dinkum go dealing with the cost of living.


JOURNALIST: But if you're asking for people to write in and give their stories, I mean, how can you influence the Government at this late stage?


SHORTEN: Because I tell you what, truth always remains the truth. Putting forward the voice of what people really think never goes out of fashion. I might ask Terri to add a little bit more about what we're going to do.


BUTLER: So obviously our Cost of Living Committee has been taking people's stories since its inception last year. It's something that we do on an ongoing basis. We don't know what's in the Budget but we do know that we want a strong response on cost of living issues. So we are asking people, given what was in last year's federal Budget, what are your concerns in advance of this year's federal budget?. Only Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey really know what’s going to be in that document in May. We are going to have a strong response that listens, has listened to and continues to listen to, the concerns being expressed around the kitchen tables of Australia. And we're asking people to help us by reaching out and saying; tell us your stories and tell us your concerns.


JOURNALIST: Hasn’t that been quite broadly canvassed though? Why do you think an issues paper is needed?


BUTLER: We've had a lot of submissions over a long period of time. But we think it's important that we raise concerns and raise questions and we ask people what's important to them. I know what I think is important in the Federal Budget. But to me being a good representative means listening to people and giving as many channels and as many opportunities as you possibly can for people to address our caucus, our caucus committee and politicians more broadly about what their concerns are.


JOURNALIST: So these stories won't be released until after the Budget, is that right?


BUTLER: We're asking people to tell us their concerns and to make submissions to our committee process which will inform the way that our committee formulates the way that we respond on cost of the living pressures.


JOURNALIST: Before or after the Budget will they come out?


BUTLER: We’re asking people to tell us before the Budget what their concerns are. Of course, any response to the Budget won't be until after the Budget.


SHORTEN: One more question.


JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop’s come under a bit of criticism for wearing the headscarf and hat during a trip to Iran. What do you make of all of that?


SHORTEN: I think that's ridiculous to criticise Julie Bishop for wearing a headscarf in Iran. Would they criticise Julie Bishop if she wore a scarf to meet the Pope? If I wore a yamakah in Israel to certain events I don't think that would be inappropriate.


What really matters here is that regardless of Liberal or Labor, that our representatives when they go overseas behave in a sensible, non-ideological, pragmatic fashion and I think it just makes common sense that when you go to someone's house or indeed someone's nation, you’re just be a bit respectful of customs and traditions of the place you're visiting. Thanks everyone. See you.