Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Labor’s National Information Reform Plan; Newspoll

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP
SYDNEY


TUESDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2015

 

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s National Information Reform Plan; Newspoll;  Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to increase the price of everything; Joe Hockey’s appointment as US Ambassador; Malcolm Turnbull’s poor judgement

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks everyone for coming here to the University of Technology in Sydney today. I’m delighted to welcome the Leader of the Opposition to my electorate and in fact to my alma mater, I did my undergraduate degree here at UTS. Today we saw the most amazing facility downstairs, a data centre that's a 360 degree panorama that can show people a visualisation of complex sets of data to make it easier to imagine, manipulate and work on those data sets. We saw some terrific examples today of old and modern maps but more particularly information about the behaviour and movement of bacteria and about the soundness of pipes, the data enabled us to see where the weaknesses in the pipes were for example shows how much easier it would be to fix and maintain these systems when you have this sort of information available to you in a visual form. I'm going to hand over to Bill now, who's got some very important announcements to make in the area of science, technology, engineering and maths and entrepreneurial startups.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great, thanks Tanya and it's lovely to be here at UTS. You know we live in a very information rich age, there's information everywhere but the question is do we necessarily get the full use of all the information and data points that we have?

So today, through a lot of hard work done by Tim Watts, one of our backbenchers supported by some of my Shadow Ministers here, I'm pleased to announce a National Information Policy Reform Agenda. Back in the 90s when Paul Keating was pushing the competition agenda, this made a big change to the way business and economics and society was organised. Just as competition policy was the driver of change in the late 80s and early 90s, national information policy will be the driver of change in the next two decades. So we're proposing to set up national information infrastructure, specifically we want to make sure that the data which is out there can be gathered together and we've got the right platforms to analyse the data across the private sector, the community organisations and of course government. We also want to make sure that we're able to analyse and have national data analytics or analysis because we know that if we can be better at shaping and using all of the information which we have, then this country can turbocharge its economic future.

Now, part of the inspiration isn't to see what Paul Keating did with competition policy. We've seen the very beneficial effects of having a national information policy reform agenda in the United States. It's a little example but when the American weather bureau decided to make its weather information available to the private sector, 4,000 new jobs were created practically overnight. We think we've got these advantages here in Australia. As Tanya said, we were having a look at that remarkable 360 degree centre and you're seeing how getting access to information, being able to put it in different patterns provides answers and will turbo charge our economic growth. We estimate that it will deliver hundreds of millions of dollars of growth and of course jobs, and that's what Labor's fundamentally committed to. So today, we launch our National Information Policy Reform Agenda, with concrete and practical ideas to allow the private sector to leverage off information and government to do better and good things for all Australians. Happy to take and questions.

JOURNALIST: Can you outline some of those main platforms in the agenda? Give to give us a couple of examples?

SHORTEN: In terms of the independent data council we are proposing?

JOURNALIST: Yes and some of the costings attached to that.

SHORTEN:  Yes, we've done a costing, it's about $8.5 million. We think that information is there, it's a matter of doing things differently, and as you saw, I think I saw you in the 360 degree chamber, you just see how from the pipes, through to the bacteria, through to looking at the changing land use – they had the land use of 1943 and then again the land use much more recently – it just teaches us patterns in how we organise. The example which we saw most clearly was pipes. Underneath us in all of our cities there pipes, great big kilometres upon kilometres networks of pipes, sewerage pipes. Now, they've been built progressively really since the 19th century. Up to now what they've been doing to check the integrity of the pipe system is using robots. And the robots are good at observing some holes and some problems but periodically there's catastrophic failure and of course if we're better at looking and identifying, using all of the 33 million data points which we were shown for the pipes, what we're able to do is extend the life of these pipes, which is a lot cheaper than replacing it. We're able to pre-empt bursts and leakage and also it means a scarce maintenance budget can be utilised further. We're also looking at how we have a national centre for data analytics. That again is important to bring together the best practice knowledge across the nation.

JOURNALIST: Can you outline how Labor proposes to pay for all this?

SHORTEN: Yes. What Labor has done this year is we've ripped up the rule book for an opposition in the last 20 years. We've put forward costed policies throughout the course of this year. For our policies, we've said that there should be a crackdown on multinationals. We think that multinationals should pair their fair share. It really is unacceptable that a newsagency in a country town could pay more tax than a large multinational. So, we've proposed costed measures which will save billions of dollars to the Budget bottom line and making sure that companies pay their fair share.

 

We've also proposed – it wasn't easy and it was greeted by cynicism and attacked by the Liberals – that we should crackdown on some of the superannuation tax concession loopholes at the top end of the superannuation tax concession system. See, we believe superannuation should be available to get all people to a reasonable level of comfort, and that's why we support tax concessions but once you've got several millions dollars in your superannuation, you really don't need the taxpayer giving you another 45 cents in every dollar tax concession as well. And of course most recently, we proposed a tobacco excise. Again, not easy but when I look at it and the competing debate between the GST which would be a 15 per cent tax on everything and increasing measured amounts tobacco excise, I think Labor's taken the prudential attitude. Now, the advantage of that is that is something north of $70 billion. So, what opposition in the last two, three, four decades has ever come to the year before an election, the end of a year before an election with such costed policies and to save people the effort of looking up the history books, no-one has done it before.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you're down at 14 per cent according to the latest Newspoll, you switched your support from former Prime Minister Julia Gillard when her support level was much higher than that  because you believe that she wasn't the best person to lead Labor. Does there come a point where you have to fall on your sword for the good of the public?

SHORTEN: No and first of all let's use these polls correctly. I make a habit of not commenting on the polls but I think in the light of that question, Labor's vote is 47-53 and I think the two party preferred vote is relevant. So let's not pretend that Malcolm's 86 per cent and Labor's 14 per cent, that isn't the correct categorisation. What I think is more interesting, is that in the last poll we've seen - and as I say I don't normally make a habit in commenting on it but -  Mr Turnbull's dropped off 16 per cent in approval. Now, this goes to, I think, some of the judgment debates we've seen.

In terms of myself and your question there, you know, I won't quit because I don't quit. Labor this year has done a few remarkable things. We're much more united, we came through our national conference. We've seen off Tony Abbott, arguably one of the most right-wing Prime Ministers in the history of federation. The only reason the Liberals got rid of Tony Abbott was because of Labor's strong and united position. And by the end of the year we've 50 practical policies which are about making Australians' lives better. We are very excited, next year, having an election based upon no GST, I repeat no GST. A proper deal for Australian jobs and promoting Australian jobs, making sure we have properly funded healthcare systems, a properly funded education system from the early years of childhood and through to schools, TAFE and university and of course real policies on climate change, putting renewable energy at the centre of it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how do you feel about your personal satisfaction dropping so badly?

SHORTEN: I understand that there was a race on between Labor and the Liberals to see who could get rid of Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott was effectively sticking a needle in the eye of the Australian people. The Liberals got there first. So of course, they've got the bonus of the post Abbott honeymoon. We see that beginning to edge off. I understand why Australians are pleased that Tony Abbott's gone. And I understand now we've got a Prime Minister who's not Tony Abbott. But what I also understand is next year, Malcolm Turnbull has to face some real tests. The innovation statement he announced was as good as it goes, although a lot of it we're flattered to say was copied from Labor and I think there are some gaps there which we're happy to talk about and my colleagues are. But when I look at what'll happened in the next 12 months in the election, Malcolm Turnbull has to bring down a Budget. We haven't seen him make hard decisions yet. I want to know why is he still talking about a GST and what will he do for the Budget and how is he going to handle all the economic problems? So far he hasn't been tested.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on your personal approval, are you concerned that there is a trend?

SHORTEN: No, I am not. When Tony Abbott was there, the numbers were different. I get it is a phenomena of Tony Abbott's departure.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think that is, that your personal approval is low?

SHORTEN: Because what happened is there was a race on to see who could replace Tony Abbott. Labor only gets to replace him in an election. The Liberals took him down, Malcolm Turnbull took him down and they got their first. So, there is a sense of national relief. I'll be honest I'm sure most of you share it. So, let's be straight about what's happening here: Malcolm Turnbull hasn't yet faced any serious economic tests. What exactly are his plans for a GST? What exaclty are his plans for the next Budget? Until those questions are answered, he hasn't really been tested.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you say you won't quit because you don't quit. At what point would you quit if it was in the best interests of the party? You point out that two party preferred isn't as bad as your own personal rating, surely at some point for the good of the party you have to make a decision if you believe it is in the best interests of the party to stand down?

SHORTEN: I believe the best interests of the nation are served by having a strong Labor Party. A strong Labor Party is one which has policies which go towards no GST. Which properly fund our healthcare and hospital and Medicare system. A strong Labor Party supports to making sure that 100,000 kids can finish school and do science, technology, engineering and mathematics at university, half a whom would been women. A strong Labor Party believes we should have, as part of our energy mix by 2030, 50 per cent renewable energy. A strong Labor Party focused on jobs, not just at the top end in innovation but also making sure for instance that our TAFE sector is functioning properly and that we're looking after people who might have to have a job and an industry change in the course of their adult working life.

JOURNALIST: Can I come back to innovation, the Government funded package yesterday is to come out of savings, what area would Labor see as off limits to any cuts?

SHORTEN: We haven't seen what the Liberals are doing yet. But let's talk about what they're proposing. The Government's given itself a pat on the back for reversing some of their funding cuts since they got elected to government. But I think it's very important to look at what this innovation package doesn't have. Very quickly, they've cut $3 billion from research, science funding and they're proposing to put a billion dollars back. That still leaves a black hole of $2 billion doesn’t it?

 

When it comes to coding in schools, teaching computational thinking, all the Government we can tell - all that they have said is they want to have it in the curriculum. But Labor's gone further, we've said we want every child to have the opportunity in primary school to learn coding, just like that learn English or mathematics. Then we look at what they're doing with universities, it's good to talk about tax breaks for investment bankers and is an important thing and that has been part of the work which Ed Husic in particular has worked on. But what they're also doing is they're not making the path that Labor is to create 100,000 uni students who can have HECS-free debt. That's right we are proposing HECS-free debt for 100,000 students over the next five years. We're also proposing to upgrade the skills of thousands of teachers, we're also proposing to  make sure that people who've got those initial undergraduate university degrees have scholarships to go on and be teachers, so they can use that knowledge they have back in the schools systems. But why don' t I will invite a couple of my colleagues to talk further about the difference in innovation policy.

 

CLARE: Thanks very much Bill. Look I think it's great that startups and innovation and new jobs are on the front pages of our newspapers. Let's be very clear, there is a reason for that they are on the front page of our newspaper and that is because of the work that Bill Shorten has been doing over the last 12 months, over the last two years in this area. Setting the agenda, putting innovation on the national political agenda. You saw that in the Budget Reply speech when we said we need to teach coding to kids from primary school and all the way up. Just look at the plan that the Government announced yesterday - about half the policies are Labor Party policies; are Bill Shorten policies. About  half the policies Malcolm Turnbull announced yesterday are ideas he has taken from Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. So we are glad the Government are taking the Labor Party's policies. They could look at a few other areas where they should learn from some of the good policies Bill Shorten has announced and implement those as well.

 

One of the areas where they need to think again is the NBN. In the area of the NBN, the NBN is now rolling out slower than Turnbull promised and it is costing more, much more than Malcolm Turnbull promised. He said he would build the NBN, this was a promise at the last election, he promised he would build it for $29.5 billion. That has now blown out to almost, or up to $56 billion. He also promised that all Australians would get access to the NBN by the end of next year. Now that has blown out to 2020. Next week, it will be 12 months since Malcolm Turnbull bought back the old copper network that John Howard sold last century. It is now clear that when he bought that copper network back he had no idea how much it would cost to fix it and to repair it. Because the cost of that has blown out by 900 per cent. Most people don't get promoted when they blow their budget by 900 per cent. Most people get the sack for doing that but Malcolm Turnbull has been promoted not for what he did on the NBN but in spite of it. And let me just make one more point on this; the NBN company now is trialing a new technology, they know their copper NBN is not going to be good enough for the future, so they are now trialing something called fibre to the distribution point or an easy way to understand that is fibre to the driveway. They are trialing this now, I suspect before the next election, they will announce they are going to ditch their copper NBN and roll out fibre to the driveway instead and when they do, remember this point: it will be proof that Malcolm Turnbull got it wrong on the NBN.

 

REPORTER: Can I just ask Mr Shorten or whoever wants to respond; the business sector has welcomed the innovation package yesterday but they have called for a cut in corporate tax. Is the response from Labor about that call from business, saying it’s not enough, you need more?

 

SHORTEN: Let's be straight here. A Labor Government, if we are privileged to get elected at the next election, won't be putting up a GST so the taxpayer of Australia can donate to the corporate profits for a corporate tax cut. We don't think the time is right to do that right now. Instead, what we are committed to is making sure we have a good hospital system, good schools system, unis and TAFE and early childcare. We are committed to promoting advanced manufacturing in Australian jobs. We see a bright picture for renewable energy as part of our fair dinkum policies on climate change. And we do not believe in increasing a GST, we do not support increasing a GST to 15 per cent or any other number that Malcolm Turnbull plucks out of the air. And we certainly wouldn't support it in any circumstance but the idea that they would then use all of us paying more in our GST to give corporations a tax cut so they can remit their profits overseas. You pay more going to the supermarket or going to the doctor so a big corporation can send more profits overseas. We're not up for that. In terms of the tax policies of the innovation statement, I might get Ed to talk about how our very reasonable and calibrated thought out policies will help business.

 

HUSIC: Thanks Bill. Over the course of the last few years we have been talking quite a lot with startups about what are the number of different changes we could make to improve and strengthen the ecosystem and improve the chances of more enterprises emerging in this country and we looked overseas at what was being done and how it was impacting on enterprises. One of the best schemes going is in the UK, where as a result of some changes to their taxation arrangements, they were able to see nearly 3,000 enterprises emerge. On the basis of that, we put forward proposals that have been costed through the Parliamentary Budget Office and were announced by Bill Shorten last week, designed to be able to give, or put in place a magnet to draw in more high net worth individuals in this country, turn them into angel investors that will support and fund early stage innovation in this country because we need people to be thinking ahead about the shape of enterprises to come and the shape of jobs and the amount of jobs to come as well.

 

We were delighted to see the Government has also put on the table similar arrangements. We think this gives a platform to demonstrate to the startup community, the broader economy and the broader community as well that we think with some modest changes, that we can build a platform of investment support that will allow strong enterprises to emerge. We have a good track record to date but not enough startups. There are simply not enough enterprises emerging. We need to, as Bill has mentioned a number of times, turbocharge that process and ensure we have enough new enterprises emerging out of the pack to be able to create the jobs that we know are going to be affected by technological change. We are looking forward to be able to work on both sides of the House to bring in that type of system and to ensure overall that Australia is at the front of the pack rather than being the laggard when it comes to innovation and the creation of new enterprises.

 

JOURNALIST: Further to the GST question, Mr Shorten. Are you concerned at all that Martin Parkinson is the new head of Prime Minister and Cabinet and he has previously advocated a rise in the GST. Are you worried about that?

 

SHORTEN: I am worried if the GST increase ever came in, because that will hurt people who are working hard to make ends meet. The case has not been made in Australia to force up the cost of living on everything to help run the Australian economy. For the life of me I don't understand why Malcolm Turnbull just doesn't borrow our other cost saving ideas which we have put up. Fair enough, on innovation there is a  higher degree of overlap and that's good and he has borrowed some of our ideas, but he shouldn't stop there. I just say to you, Malcolm, you're welcome to borrow ideas on renewable energy, on multinational taxation reform, on superannuation tax concessions, closing them down and indeed, tobacco excise. I don't believe that the case has been made that Australia, in order to make sure that we are a successful, fair country needs to have a GST where you put everything up to 15 per cent.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Costello, your former adversary, the former Treasurer of Australia, has come out and attacked the hot heads within his party for advocating the 15 per cent. Are you happy to be on a unity ticket with the former Treasurer?

 

SHORTEN: I don't always agree with Peter Costello but he is stating the obvious, isn't he? Putting up a GST to 15 per cent, it's lazy. I am a bit amazed that the only idea that the Malcolm Turnbull Liberals have is to increase the cost of living on ordinary people. It is lazy politics, it's lazy economics, it does nothing to inspire confidence and the case certainly hasn't been made out to make it harder for Australian families and Australians to make ends meet by a 15 per cent tax rise on everything.

 

JOURNALIST: And speaking of former adversaries, we've had Joe Hockey, the former Treasurer, now being appointed ambassador to Washington. Do you support that appointment?

 

SHORTEN: Well, it is a trifle strange. Malcolm Turnbull didn't trust Joe Hockey to be Treasurer but how do we know he really trusts Joe Hockey to be ambassador to America? It is the most important diplomatic post we have overseas. What I might do is I am fortunate enough to have my shadow foreign spokesperson here, so I might get Tanya Plibersek to elaborate a bit.

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thanks very much Bill.

 

The first thing I want to say is of course, Australia has been extraordinarily well represented by Kim Beazley in Washington. Kim is a man who has, since he entered politics and perhaps even before that, had a very close relationship with the United States, particularly during his time as Defence Minister, his friendships, his interest in US politics, his interest in US history is really quite legendary. He has been an extraordinary representative of Australia in the United States.

 

We hear today, probably the worst kept secret in Canberra, that Joe Hockey, the former Treasurer will be our next representative in Washington. Of course, given that it is, as Bill has said, one of our most significant diplomatic postings, we wish him well because Joe Hockey's success will be Australia's success. What's strange about this appointment of course is Joe Hockey's own admission that if he had stayed in politics, he would only be there for pay back reasons, to get even with the people who had brought him down. It is an extraordinary admission to someone who is taking on such an important post. What is even more extraordinary about it is the former adversaries he is talking about are the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. The very people he will be having to report to as Ambassador to Washington.

 

This is a very important posting for Australia and it should be done by someone who has a deep interest in foreign affairs. There are people questioning the fact that Joe Hockey has not expressed this kind of interest in the past.

 

But as I say, our hopes are that he does well in the position. It is important for Australia. It's important for our relationship with the United States that he does well. This is no doubt a captain's pick by Malcolm Turnbull and we hope for the sake of the relationship that it has been a good pick.

 

JOURNALIST: Just to be clear, are you one of those people who are questioning his interest in foreign affairs?

 

PLIBERSEK: I would say there is not a lot of evidence that Joe Hockey has had the sort of interest in foreign affairs that would generally go with a posting as senior as this. As Bill has said, he has been considered unsuitable to be a Minister in the Turnbull Government, to then say he is suitable for such a responsible position - it is up to the Prime Minister to explain why that is the case.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten raised the issue of trust - do you trust that he will (inaudible)?

 

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is really a question for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. Neither of them backed him to remain the Treasurer of Australia. I think it is up to the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister to explain why they think someone who is unsuitable to be Minister in the Government that they are part of but is suitable for this role. And it's up to Joe Hockey to describe what his ambition is for the relationship between United States and Australia. What it is he would like to achieve in this role rather than the statement we have heard today that's it's a good move for him because otherwise he would be too focused on payback.

 

JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek, you're the deputy leader of the Labor Party - you've referenced the Foreign Minister who is the deputy leader of the Liberal Party. She went to the former Prime Minister and expressed that he had lost the support of his government, the support of the party. Would you be willing to do the same to your leader if you believed he lost the support of (inaudible)?

 

PLIBERSEK: It's just a silly question. Thanks, have we got any other questions on foreign affairs?

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think it was a sweetheart deal to appoint him as ambassador?

 

SHORTEN: I'll let Australians make up their own mind but I have to say, this most recent Joe Hockey public intervention where he has done this TV interview where he said that the reason why he had to get out was because he hated everyone who he was working with, and then he says that 'if I stayed there, I was just going to have some sort of massive payback'. Did Australian taxpayers really pay $1 million for this North Sydney by-election because Joe Hockey doesn't like Malcolm Turnbull and Malcolm Turnbull doesn't like Joe Hockey?

 

This is a government who is ending the year pretty much the way they started it. There is a lot of division. Now Australians have their fingers crossed. They want to see a different government to the Abbott Government and that, I think, is reflected in the polls, and they are hopes. But in the last week and a half, you've got Malcolm Turnbull, last man in Australia digging in with Mal Brough who is teetering on the edge, you've got this remarkable blow up with Ian MacFarlane. See Malcolm Turnbull, he promotes Mal Brough and everyone says that was an error of judgement. He demotes Ian MacFarlane. Ian MacFarlane races around to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the National party and they are cooking up a deal about becoming a Cabinet Minister through the Nationals, a guy who Malcolm didn't want and now we've got this former Treasurer who Malcolm Turnbull voted for his last two Budgets - backed it in time and time again. Now we find out that Joe Hockey had to trigger a million dollar byelection because otherwises he was going to go on a rampage. Really? This is a government with a lot of cracks in it and we are beginning to see them.

 

Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

 

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