TUESDAY, 12 JUNE 2018
SUBJECT/S: Liberals cuts to education; aged care; Singapore summit; Q&A; G7 Summit; asylum seekers; polls; Mayo by-election.
PETER MALINAUSKAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Good morning and thank you everybody for coming along. It's an absolute pleasure to be here in the great state of South Australia but also the seat of Croydon with the Federal Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, and someone who I sincerely hope will be the next Prime Minister of Australia.
It's great to have Bill here to talk about an issue which is absolutely central to Labor's mission, and also central to the concerns of many, many parents throughout the state of South Australia, and that is education funding. The fact that Malcolm Turnbull's Government is delivering a $210 million cut to education funding in South Australia is extremely concerning. We know that education is absolutely central to the idea that every kid has a good start in life, but also central to the future of our economy. The most important muscle for any worker these days, is that between the ears, and education is a central pillar to ensuring that every child has a decent start in life, but also an opportunity to a decent standard of living into the future. This $210 million cut to South Australian schools, including many Catholic schools, will genuinely hurt. It will be at the expense of quality education outcomes, the opportunity for students to have individualised attention from their professional teachers.
I'm very grateful that Federal Labor is taking this fight up to the Federal Government. An elected Shorten Government will see that $210 million worth of funding reinstated and that will mean better educational outcomes for those kids that need it most. And I want to thank Bill for his advocacy and also for him coming here today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Peter. It's great to be here at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Adelaide. And I'd like to congratulate the staff, the teachers, the support staff and of course the students on the really fabulous impression they made. I'm here today because I want to reassure Peter Malinauskas, that a Federal Labor Government will stand up for education and schools in South Australia. I was pleased to discuss with Peter, Labor's commitment to reverse the cuts to public education, and indeed to Catholic schools, in the state of South Australia.
It is remarkable I think, that $210 million will be taken out of schools in the near future, and that is not just government schools - public schools, it's also low fee parish schools. Labor is committed to making sure that the funding of public education is the number one priority for a new government. We're also committed to making sure that these low fee Catholic parish schools are not unfairly penalised by Mr Turnbull's harsh cuts to education. In the electorate of Adelaide, over $10 million is being taken out of public schools, and millions of dollars out of Catholic schools. What this means is that our kids are being denied the resources they deserve to get the best start in life.
The reason why I care so much about education is because just like I want my own kids, I want all kids in Australia to get the best possible start regardless of their background, the postcode they live in, the wealth of their parents. I just want them to get a great start. And when it comes to a school like this, you know, what Mr Turnbull and his team don't understand is that parents make sacrifices to send their kids here. It's $2,600 hundred a year, the fees. What Mr Turnbull doesn't understand, or doesn't care about, is that his cuts will mean that parents who send their children to schools will have to pay increased fees. Your everyday Aussie is battling with increased costs stemming from power bills to private health insurance - if they can afford it, you name it, and stagnant wages. Yet what we've got is Mr Turnbull disadvantaging our kids and putting greater cost of living pressure on Aussie parents by cutting funding to education. It's not on, and Peter Malinauskas in South Australia, and I in Canberra, will fight to make sure that South Australian schools and all schools across Australia get the best possible start that kids deserve.
We're happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Just on the issue that was raised on Q&A last night, have you been able to put any further thought into a Royal Commission into aged care?
SHORTEN: Yes. First of all, let me just acknowledge that I think that aged care is in a fundamental state of crisis. Now when I say that, the government immediately came out and tried to beat me about the head and said how dare I say that, how dare you scare people. Well, just go and ask someone who is trying to find their parent an adequate level of care, they'll tell you it's a problem. I take nothing away from the efforts of people who work in the system to try and do the best they possibly can, but we are setting our aged care system up to fail when we don't properly fund it nationally. It is a problem. It is a crisis.
Last night on the show we had several hundred people in an amphitheatre in Elizabeth in South Australia. I asked the audience, who I'd never met before, I said how many of you have either got a family member living with dementia, or indeed know a family where there is a family member living with dementia. 75 per cent of this crowd at the amphitheatre put their hand up. I suspect if I had that same survey with the journalist and the technicians here today, we'd see that. So when Mr Turnbull and his Ministers say we’re on top of this problem, when they look annoyed at questions about aged care, when they look like they've got all the answers, no wonder people turn off.
I think that there's several priorities. One, we've got to make sure that aged care staff are valued, paid properly and properly trained. Two, we've got to make sure that the promises being made to vulnerable people in their care are being delivered on. Three, we've actually got to do a lot more to challenge the scourge of dementia. We don't have a cure to that yet. But there are a lot of things that we can do to improve the lives of people with dementia, and the people caring for them, both family members and professionals. So to get to the heart of the issue about a Royal Commission, I don't know if one is needed. Some people say so, of course the advantage of a Royal Commission, as I've demonstrated with the banks, is that it puts it right in the centre of national attention. But of course there's been a lot of inquiries into aged care, and how we properly fund it, and what needs to be done. So others would say we've already got the answers, Bill, we just need a government in Canberra with the resolve to fix the problem.
So I will talk to my colleagues, but one thing I can promise Australians, in particular people caring for a loved one who's battling dementia, people looking for secure aged care, is that I'm on your side, we are going to make aged care a central national issue whether or not Mr Turnbull wants it to be.
JOURNALIST: Given the fact, given the disgrace surrounding Oakden here, and that was a State Labor Government issue here, wouldn't you say that would amplify and almost demands Stuart Johnson's call for a Royal Commission?
SHORTEN: I don't know if you were watching the ABC last night, but I certainly wasn't ruling out what he said.
JOURNALIST: Or ruling it in.
SHORTEN: You've got to talk to people, you just don't do things on the spur of the moment, do you. And again, we had this discussion last night, we're going to talk to our colleagues about it. No one wants to see this problem denied. But what has happened so far is that under this current Turnbull Government in Canberra, at the end of the day the big money's in Canberra. That's where a lot of Australians pay their taxes to. The Turnbull Government has cut $2 billion from aged care. In the most recent budget, where they patted themselves on the back and said what good fellows we are, what they actually did in aged care is move money from residential care and reallocated it to home care. Now it's good to put money into home care, but taking money out of residential care is not the solution. So I think that the question about a Royal Commission goes to the heart of, is this nation, not just even the politicians, but is Australia doing enough to treat our older citizens with the dignity that they deserve? So it's an open question, but I'm taking it most seriously.
In the meantime, I think that Mr Turnbull could do several things without waiting for a royal commission. Properly pay the aged care workforce. Secondly, make sure that not only do you put increased penalties, which they have done and I give them a tick for that, on the shonky operators, but you're going to have put more resources into enforcement. I think they immediately need to bring together the providers, consumer advocates, even dare I say it, the unions who represent the workforce, and they should bring the Opposition too. We need to sit down as a nation. Forget the politics, take off your Liberal hat or your Labor hat when you walk in the door, and start talking about how we properly fund aged care. But whatever the solutions are, it's not going to be done on the cheap.
JOURNALIST: Just on the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un today, what would you like to see as the next step coming out of that summit?
SHORTEN: Well, wonders never cease to amaze me, and the fact that they're having a summit is a good thing and I don't think many people would automatically predict that this was the outcome. So I am pleased. My view is always you achieve more by talking in the same room, than yelling at each other through megaphones at a distance. But I am cautious. I think on this issue, the national government and I are of one mind. We're pleased to see it, but we've seen discussions before in previous decades, they haven't necessarily amounted to much. So I think we should be encouraging of it, but I wouldn't put down the pressure or release the pressure to try and get a better outcome. It's a good first start but that's all I'm calling it.
JOURNALIST: The royal commission question, sorry to go back to that -
SHORTEN: No, that's good.
JOURNALIST: There's been 25 different inquiries into aged care. Surely a royal commission is not going to add to the sum of the knowledge about what's going to be done. Why can't you just rule it out straight off the bat?
SHORTEN: Well, your point goes to something I said earlier and I said we're considering it. What I am going to do -
JOURNALIST: Why consider it -
SHORTEN: I'll just answer your question, because your question at its heart says we know the problem, we just need to fix them. And I think if you find I actually said that in answer to the other journalist's earlier question. So I am not convinced about having a royal commission. But I tell you what, if you're someone who's been through the mill, if you've had a loved one go through the mill and you ask me would I consider it, I will. Who am I just to dismiss consumers and family members and say, you don't know what you're talking about, we already know what to do.
I did say in answer to the second question on it, I see the advantage of a royal commission, it does create national attention. I mean there'd been inquiries into the banks, plenty of them. The Turnbull Government I think created six in the process before we had the Banking Royal Commission just to do the imitation of doing something. So I'm genuinely not sure. I see the case for it, but your point is also right, and that's why I said it earlier. I think that the nation does know a lot of what we need to do. We need to make sure that we've got qualified staff. We need to make sure there's career paths for aged care workforce. We need to put more money into it. I have to say and I’d encourage Mr Turnbull yet again, if you want another reason not to go ahead with your corporate tax cut, your big corporate tax cut, the giveaway of $17 billion to the banks, I think some of that money would be better used to allocate for more aged care resources. One thing is for sure, form of inquiry or not, we need to put more money into aged care.
Did you know that 420,000 of our fellow Australians have been diagnosed with dementia? Some of them are young but a lot of them are older people. 420,000 Australians living amongst us. The numbers are only going to increase. We don't have a cure for it. I actually think this nation and the politics of this nation would be time better spent than arguing about giving away money to multinationals and big banks, in finding and implementing some of those reports you refer to.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just back on foreign matters. Do you share the Foreign Minister's concern around rising tensions between the US and its northern hemisphere allies in the wake of the G7 summit on the weekend?
SHORTEN: Yes, that summit didn't appear to go as well as previous G7 summits, did it, to put it politely. Clearly there was not a meeting of minds. So yes, I do share the Foreign Minister's concerns about that.
JOURNALIST: Do you fear that if that's the way, for example, Canada can be treated, that might also - we might also be on the receiving end of similar treatment from the US?
SHORTEN: Listen, one person doesn't define our relationship with the US and I think our relationship is stronger than any one individual, both on the Australian or the American side.
If I was elected Prime Minister, we would work with whoever the American people chose to be their leadership. But what I will also do as Prime Minister is always make sure that Australia thinks for itself. America is the bedrock of our security alliance, but it is also important we engage with China and North Asia and Southeast Asia. What I can promise Australians is continuity on the same set of values which have governed our relations with America, but I’ll always think for myself.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've suggested that Labor would accept an offer from New Zealand to take in refugees from Manus and Nauru. Would you say that the advice of senior officials that by accepting the New Zealand deal, it would open the floodgates to a new wave of asylum seekers?
SHORTEN: Oh that's rubbish. We know, and we've heard that the government has said previously, doing a deal with America was going to lead to a flood of new people trying to come to Australia via people smugglers. I mean, surely going to New Zealand is as attractive as going to America, so if that theory of doing a deal with New Zealand was going to lead to a new flood, well why wouldn't the deal of America? So you know, I think we know a bit of a tactic when we hear one, and I'm sure even though the government will never admit it, they've got a plan B to talk to New Zealand. Do you really think they don't?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, another thing coming out of Q&A. You spoke about your personal unpopularity and -
SHORTEN: Well no, the actual questioner did.
JOURNALIST: Well, I think you said that it was a challenge, but at what point does that challenge become a drag on Labor?
SHORTEN: No, what I also said is that you need a thick skin I think to be Prime Minister of Australia, and Pete, being Opposition Leader you'll find is the best way to develop a thick skin. I think that Labor's got the runs on the board so far. Let's face it - I set myself three goals when I became Opposition leader. One, to unite Labor - that's a prerequisite I think, for the electorate to take you seriously, and we're more united than we've been in recent decades. Two, I wanted us to be a strong opposition. You know, Tony Abbott they said was unbeatable once he won that election; he's gone, I'm still here. Of course then they replaced him with Malcolm Turnbull - he was unbeatable. And of course, we had the 2016 election where Labor surprised its critics. You know they said that to be a strong opposition, we'd never get a Banking Royal Commission up. We all know it wasn't Mr Turnbull's preferred position. But anyway, he gave in to us.
And so my third goal was of course, to be a strong policy alternative. I'm really pleased that we can offer better tax cuts for working, middle class Australians. It's almost double what the government is offering people. I'm pleased also that we can also put a better financial position for the budget to withstand global unpredictability in the future, because of the serious economic reforms we're making. And I'm most pleased that Labor's got the priorities to properly fund this school, and every school in Adelaide and every school across Australia, and TAFE and universities and of course, our hospitals. I was in Elizabeth last night. I'm pleased that I can say that will reverse the cuts there of $2.5 million to the hospital there. We've got good policies. We've got a united team. We've been a strong opposition and for the record, I think my shadow ministers are better than Mr Turnbull's ministers.
JOURNALIST: But at what point does I guess, a leader's unpopularity as polls tighten, mean the difference between a Labor loss and a Labor win at an election?
SHORTEN: We both know that if you look at all of my commentary whilst I've been Opposition Leader, I haven't obsessed about the polls. I think you'll find it was the other fellow who set the test of the polls as to whether or not he was up for the job. Listen, if you if you believe the polls, on any Saturday for the last two years Labor probably would have won an election. But we know that doesn't really matter because there's no election. No, what I'll do is not talk about myself, not talk about you know, the day to day political nonsense. What Australians want is a vision for the future. What they want is the political parties in touch with their lives. Standing here in this fantastic school, what I say to the parents of this school is, we'll make sure that you don't have to pay greater fees. We'll make sure that we put downward pressure on your electricity prices. We'll make sure that when your children are sick, you can afford to go and see a doctor. We'll make sure as you grow older that we actually have the overhaul of aged care which this country needs, and will make sure that if you earn less than $120,000 a year, you're going to get a bigger tax refund from Labor because we're on the side of working class people.
Perhaps one last question.
JOURNALIST: Just back to my previous question, can I ask what would you do with those on Manus and Nauru who have been deemed not to be refugees? I mean how are you going to get them out of detention?
SHORTEN: Well, we've got to resettle them somewhere. But I will tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to keep people indefinitely in Manus and Nauru, but that doesn't mean bringing these people to Australia. I want to say loudly and clearly to the people smugglers who watch the Australian news, don't you believe what Mr. Dutton says. If Labor gets elected, we're not going to let you start your vile trade again. But what I also say is that I don't want to use these people on Manus and Nauru as political footballs. We will concentrate and put the resources in to resettle these people regionally and that's what we're going to do.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask one more local question. Can Labor win the seat of Mayo?
SHORTEN: I think it's an uphill climb. I think that's a generous way to put it, isn't it? But I tell you in Mayo, under Mr Turnbull the public schools there are getting cut by about $10 million. Even the local Catholic schools are getting cut by $4 million. I’d say to the voters in Mayo, you've got a fantastic chance to tell this government nationally they're on the wrong track. They're on the wrong track when they're prioritising giving $17 billion to the big banks, but they're cutting funding to hospitals and schools, TAFE and university. It's all about priorities. We stand for everyday people. Mr Turnbull stands for the top end of town.