SATURDAY, 2 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Shipbuilding in South Australia; Australian jobs; Malcolm Turnbull’s double-tax plan; Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to health and education
GLENN THOMPSON, ASSISTANT NATIONAL SECRETARY AMWU: Well thanks everybody for coming out this morning. We're here today in Victoria Square to send a loud and clear message to the Turnbull Government, and particularly the South Australian MPs, Christopher Pyne, being a senior minister of the Government, Manufacturing and Innovation Minister, not standing up for South Australian jobs. In actual fact, we are concerned that Christopher Pyne has been misleading and deceptive in respect to telling the South Australian people about its own government owned entity, being able to build ships here in South Australia. It's deceptive, it is not true. The facts are that I was on a visit to ASC the other day and there are sheds that are currently storerooms. It was heart-breaking to see literally 50-60 welding machines standing idle, sheds empty. We're here to send a loud clear message to Pyne and his colleagues here in South Australia. Stand up for South Australian jobs, stand up for national ship building. Now we conducted some research into what Mr Pyne's constituents thought about the issue of Australian built submarines. Near 90 per cent of Mr Pyne's constituents said that submarines should be built in Australia, so Mr Pyne needs to understand that our campaign will go all the way through to the election and beyond, to ensure that our Government builds all our future submarines here in Australia, all our future vessels, surface vessels, here in Australia and ensures that we are able to maintain an industry, a sovereign capability and a national security capacity. So thank you, I'll hand over to Penny Wong.
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much Glenn. Well, when South Australians go to the poll, the Federal poll, later this year, top of mind will be South Australian jobs and all of us here in South Australia understand why that will be so important. It's important because the Coalition Government goaded Holden to leave, it's important because there's so much uncertainty around submarines and around shipbuilding, it's important because before the last election, we saw Tony Abbott make a clear promise to build twelve submarines here and then walk away from it. And we're seeing the same thing again. Big promises made here in South Australia by Malcolm Turnbull which are made with great fanfare and then in the days after we see him walking away from them. We see Christopher Pyne, Simon Birmingham walking away from the promises and commitments to jobs here in South Australia.
Now, we know, everyone in South Australia knows, we need our shipbuilding and submarine capacity here. We need to keep those skills and those jobs. We need to keep the skills of the men and women you saw today and you see over and over again at rallies. People who give their commitment to this industry, their commitment to this state and their community. This is about South Australian jobs, South Australian families and our community, and I know how strongly Bill cares about jobs here in South Australia. I know how strongly he cares about jobs, Australian jobs and jobs here in South Australia and it's great to have him here in Adelaide to talk with us, to talk with these workers and to talk to South Australians about jobs here today and into the future. So I’m happy to hand over to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Penny, and it's great to be here with Senator Penny Wong and so many of the Labor team at a rally to promote the case for building, maintaining and sustaining Australia's future submarines in Australia. South Australians deserve to have a government who cares about jobs in South Australia. At the moment all Mr Turnbull seems to care about is his own job. This is in stark contrast to my united Labor team. We are committed to building, maintaining and sustaining Australia's submarines, our future submarines in Australia. That is a promise which the South Australian electorate, and indeed the Australian electorate, can take to the bank. We will not support a foreign build of our submarine fleet. We will not support hybrid options which see a number of submarines built overseas. Only Labor can be trusted at the next election to back in manufacturing, to back in Australia's subs and surface vessels being built in Australia.
But when we talk about jobs, we also then have to think about the week that's just been, with the humiliating farce of Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday saying that he had an idea which was going to be the 'best reform ever to federation', the crazy idea of double-taxation allowing state income taxes to be levied on working Australians, only to drop it temporarily by Friday. But the real problem here is that Mr Turnbull wants to move on from the train wreck of this week, with his outlandish idea to have double-taxation, but Australians won't let Mr Turnbull move on so quickly. Mr Turnbull has nailed his policy colours to the mast. A person who says, the Prime Minister who says, that this idea of allowing states to introduce income taxes on working Australians as 'the most important reform of federation' cannot be trusted when he says 'well, I don't want to talk about that idea anymore for the time being'. Mr Turnbull has made double-taxation an election issue, and again, just as Mr Turnbull's focussed on his own job as opposed to the manufacturing jobs of Australia, Labor will be very clear, we do not support double-taxation, and indeed, we are the only mainstream political party who is absolutely, categorically, ruled out double-taxation, not only now, but at the next election. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Given that back down, how will that impact on this election campaign do you think?
SHORTEN: Well, I think one thing that Australians now know about Malcolm Turnbull, which they didn't know seven months ago, two hundred days ago when he became Prime Minister, when he rolled Tony Abbott, what they've learnt is that Mr Turnbull can say one thing and do another thing. He floated the idea of a 15 per cent GST, a tax increase for all Australians, and then he's backed away for the time being when Labor put up a fight. His Treasurer said that 'there were excesses in negative gearing', and now Mr Turnbull's backed away from that. Mr Turnbull said that he's supported previously education funding and a federal role in our government school system, now he's raising the idea of dumping and turning his back on all government school funding in Australia from the Federal Government. Mr Turnbull said on Wednesday that he wants to create new income taxes for Australians and now he's temporarily dropped it on Friday. What we've learnt about Mr Turnbull is that he doesn't even have the courage of his convictions, and that when the going gets tough, Mr Turnbull just gets going.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of his comments on funding for Gonski?
SHORTEN: Well clearly Mr Turnbull has just as he's made double-taxation an election issue, just as he's made the merit of a 15 per cent GST an election issue, he's made school funding in Australia an election issue. We are happy to have that debate. I believe that every child in every school should get every opportunity. I know that it shouldn't be a child's postcode or the wealth of their parents which determines the quality of the education that they get. Labor is firmly, fairly and squarely backing in needs-based funding so every child in every school gets every opportunity. Our education policy is in fact an economic policy, because the skills our young people need in the future will be forged in today's classrooms, and only Labor has a fully funded plan. Mr Turnbull doesn't have a tax policy, whereas Labor's going to clamp down on multinationals and make them pay their fair share. We're going to clamp down on unsustainable taxpayer-funded tax concessions for people who've already got millions of dollars in their superannuation accounts. We are going to reform negative gearing to ensure that first home buyers have a level playing field with the property speculators, currently subsidised by the taxes of working Australians and we will stop wasteful government expenditure including some of the crackpot schemes that Tony Abbott, now Malcolm Turnbull are doing to pay millions of dollars of taxpayer money to large companies to continue to deliver poor environmental outcomes.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull came out and said 'look, there's nothing even remotely resembling a consensus on the income tax proposition' yesterday discussed in COAG, because across the states didn't want a bar of it isn't it?
SHORTEN: Well the truth of the matter is that Australians weren't going to have a bar of it. Only Mr Turnbull could be so arrogant to think that he could justify putting new income taxes on Australian working people.
JOURNALIST: Why is (inaudible)
SHORTEN: It's not just the States, it was the Labor Party, it's millions of Australians, I wonder if even some of you thought it was a good idea or not to pay new income taxes, I suspect not. No, the truth of the matter is that Mr Turnbull stopped governing, the truth of the matter is he doesn't really have a clear idea of what he wants to do.
We know what he'd like to do. The problem is when people say no to him he just runs around and gives up and then tries to distract with the next stunt. No, what Australia needs is positive plans for the future. What Australia needs is a government and a Prime Minister who cares about manufacturing jobs, who cares about making sure that our hospital waiting lists are declining not increasing, what Australia needs is a positive plan to make sure that all our kids get the best opportunity in life through the best funded schooling possible. What Australia needs is a fair dinkum government with a positive plan for the future, who outline their policies well in advanced and stick to their guns. That's what they’ll get with a Shorten Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: In terms of education, there's an article floating around today about year 12, some year 12 schools across the country trialling a system where students don't have to sit exams and instead it's a portfolio-based system, and they're government schools. What's do you make of that?
SHORTEN: Well, very early days for that proposition. One thing I can also promise Australians is that if Labor is elected at the next election, we're going to let the experts get on and be the experts. I find it remarkable that we had this debate about Safe Schools where conservative Coalition politicians have decided to, you know, roll up their sleeves and get involved in the anti-bullying curriculum at schools. When it comes to education, what Labor can promise every parent, what we can promise every teacher, what we can promise every school child is that we’ll properly fund your schools and we've explained how we can fund them. Mr Turnbull's idea of fixing problems that they've created by cutting radically, money to hospitals and schools is to make states pay more taxes or to make Australians pay more on a GST. That's just a rubbish proposition. Instead, what Labor's done is we'll go after the multinationals, we'll clamp down on unsustainable tax concessions where taxpayers, everyday Australians are actually paying the interest bills of property speculators to buy their tenth house. We will make tough decisions, but we will also tell clearly to Australians our priorities, and our priorities are jobs, health and education. If you think that jobs are important, Australian jobs, if you think that doing something about the waiting list for elective surgery, for hips and knees, if you think that it's important that people are able to go and get vital blood tests to deal with chronic illness or cancer conditions and still be able to be bulk-billed, well then Labor's the only choice at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you're going to stop, particularly the Labor State Governments, from, even if there is a change of government, from wanting those deals fulfilled. From $57 billion in forward estimates for health and I think about $27 million for education, do you think you'll be able to shut them up? About getting that money?
SHORTEN: Oh I think, not only State Labor Governments, but Liberal State and Territory Governments know that when it comes to proper funding of schools, when it comes to improved funding of hospitals, they would all secretly admit we just need a Federal Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: Why shouldn't they take on more of their own tax raising responsibilities if they do need this money?
SHORTEN: Why should Australians pay more income tax?
JOURNALIST: Is it about more income tax though, their getting the same amount of money, so it's a zero-sum game as they point out, but why shouldn't they do the hard work?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear here. Why on earth would we start creating multiple tax regimes? That's inefficient. Why should working Australians pay for the Liberal Government's cuts? No, instead Labor 's got a better, positive, more sensible, more evidence based approach. Crackdown on the multinationals who are not paying their fair share of taxation, crackdown on some of the excessively generous superannuation tax concessions at the very top end. Stop wasteful government spending and also what we need to do is make sure that we reform negative gearing, not so that it affects anyone who currently has investments under the current laws, they're fine, they're protected, but going forward we will provide certainty to Australians in a fair tax system. Certainty for shipbuilders knowing they don't have to, you know, go through a boom and bust cycle. Certainty for the government and non-government school systems, with a plan to properly fund their schools for ten years. And I think very importantly, equally important at least to everything I've just said, better funding for our hospitals. I think it is intolerable that we're seeing the waiting lists expand and expand at emergency hospital wards. I think it is unacceptable that we're asking our GPs to basically take a pay cut to be able to treat the patients who need that early care. I think it's unacceptable that the Federal Government, Mr Turnbull, is cutting the bulk-billing incentives which would mean that people who need important blood tests, something as basic as a blood test, that they would have to now pay an upfront fee rather than be able to bulk-bill it. Now I think that when it comes down to priorities, the Labor Party cares about Australians, their health their schools and their jobs, and we've got sensible economic plans to do Budget repair. Last question.
REPORTER: I wanted to ask about back to the defence jobs, is time running out given that contracts can't be signed during an election campaign?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm certain, I'm going to ask Penny to supplement this answer, but when it comes to defence contracts and defence shipbuilding, it's only the Labor Party who's got an unequivocal policy, you know, the Liberal Party, let's face it, they've chopped and changed their policy. Before the last election you had the one of their former defence ministers, they’ve had so many, who said 'yep, no worries, we'll build the subs in Australia', then straight after the election that promise disappeared and they tried to pretend they never made it. Now again, as the electoral clock ticks inextricably closer for the government, now they're sort of saying 'we may do something, and yeah we do like Australian shipbuilding perhaps', with lots of caveats. It's the Labor Party who's got a clear policy: build, maintain and sustain our submarines in Australia. Thanks, sorry Penny, you were going to…
PENNY WONG: There are a number of things time isn't running out of. Time isn't running out on Malcolm Turnbull ruling out an offshore build, on ruling out a hybrid build which is where you get a number of submarines built offshore, he could do that before the election, very clearly. And he could make a commitment to a continuous build so that the workers at Osborne continue to have jobs over the decade and that we don't lose that capacity. We've already seen Christopher Pyne walking away from that, so the problem here is you've got a federal Liberal government who says one thing, does another, and the people who are paying are South Australians and their jobs.
SHORTEN: Thanks everyone.