TUESDAY, 12 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s extreme plan to walk away from funding public schools; Labor’s Your Child, Our Future schools policy; Royal Commission into financial services industry; QLD Nickel and Clive Palmer; Pat Dodson.
GRAHAM PERRETT, MEMBER FOR MORETON: G'day, it's great to be here in Moreton at Oxley State School with my leader and friend Bill Shorten, a great local school that's been turning out good citizens since 1870. And I'd like to hand over to Bill to say a few words about many things including state education.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Graham, it's great to be here at Oxley with Graham Perrett, Labor's Member for Moreton. We're here today because the Labor Party wants to make sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity to get the best possible education. School education is one of the key issues in the upcoming federal election. On one hand you've got Labor who want to make sure that we can find the resources to make sure that children get the extra support they need. It could be children with special learning needs, or it could be children from poorer backgrounds, or it could be children in fact who have the ability to race ahead and we want to make sure that teachers have the support in the classroom.
Labor believes there's nothing more important than giving our future generation the best education possible. Parents work hard and they pay their taxes to Canberra and they reasonably expect some of those resources to come back in the form of greater support for school education. Labor's willing to put its money where its mouth is and properly fund school education. Mr Turnbull bizarrely has floated the idea of the Federal Government getting out of school education all together. Why is it that Mr Turnbull doesn't see a role for the Commonwealth in funding Government schools, he's still willing to fund non-Government schools, but doesn't see a role for funding government schools? Labor believes that every child in every school should get every opportunity. Mr Turnbull, it's not even that he can't fund education, he chooses not to fund school education and Labor won't give up on the issue of properly supporting our children in the future at school. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: ASIC's Greg Medcraft has made it fairly clear he doesn't believe there's any need for a royal commission. Is he wrong?
SHORTEN: I don't think it's fair to put ASIC as the meat in the sandwich here. ASIC has had their funding cut. When you see the Liberals talk about a tough cop on the beat to regulate the poor performance and conduct of banks, then they actually cut money from funding ASIC, it's been $120 million they've cut from the cop on the beat, you know that Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison just aren't serious about doing anything about the string of scandals we've seen in banks. So I think ASIC does a good job, but a royal commission into banking is the most serious form of inquiry that a Government can commission on behalf of the people of Australia. It has broad ranging powers and it can look at systemic issues which ASIC simply can't. I believe that Labor's call for a royal commission last week has crystallised the thinking of millions of Australians. What I've said is what millions of Australians think, that we need to see a better standard of ethics and culture within our banking sector. Australians need strong banks but we need honest well run banks with a good culture and a proper ethical set of standards. How many times have we heard the stories of people who've been ripped off in their mortgages, small businesses who had to lose their whole livelihood because of the unfair treatment of the financial services sector. In the last 12 months alone, we have our major banks being investigated for rate rigging, we have the scandalous story of people who buy life insurance and then we find out that people within a bank are working out ways to rip off legitimate beneficiaries and claims of insurance policies. It's not good enough, the Labor Party is going to pick the consumer over the big banks. Mr Turnbull on the other hand is stubbornly and arrogantly resisting the calls of what the community want, which is a systemic investigation of the ethics and the way our banks operate. Why is it that Mr Turnbull when given a chance will choose big banks over consumers? Because Labor will always choose consumers over big banks.
JOURNALIST: Why not wait for the joint parliamentary committee to make its report, then have the commission?
SHORTEN: Well, at a certain point you've got to say enough is enough. Labor's been very patient with Australia's banks, and to be fair Australians have been even more patient with Australia's banks. But when we see our major banks being investigated for most serious allegations of rate rigging, and what that means is that people are relying upon loans and systems and support from banks, being ripped off. We've seen global banking under the microscope since the global financial crisis of 2009. Right across the world, banks have paid $200 billion in penalties. Why do we assume that Australian banking is immune from some of the arrogance and some of the pathology of poor culture which we've seen elsewhere in the world? I am not so naive to assume that the problems in banking are confined to other parts of world and not in Australia. And indeed it was Mr Turnbull last Wednesday - he's has been happy to go down to the 199th birthday party of Westpac and give them a moralising lecture. He said that the scandals and the controversies can no longer be brushed under the carpet. The problem is that's all Mr Turnbull is, talk and hot air. It takes a Labor Party, a Labor Government, to do what needs to be done. Mr Turnbull talks tough, Labor takes tough action against the banks.
JOURNALIST: You've criticised those cuts to ASIC but will you commit to restoring those cuts and to increasing staff at ASIC?
SHORTEN: Well I think the bona fides of Labor couldn't be any clearer. We're going to commit to spend $53 million on a royal commission over the next two years if elected, because we want to see a better system of banking. Now, we understand how important banking is. Banking affects every part of our economic lives from the mortgages to your credit cards, you name it, banking is an important part of what we do and how we organise our lives. But it isn't good enough for Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison to be the apologists for big banks and say, nothing to see here, when the truth is absolutely the opposite. So, of course we're up a for properly supporting ASIC but the first step towards making sure we've got the best possible banking culture, the healthiest possible banking culture. A banking culture which puts customers first is to have this Royal Commission. Too many Australians have been ripped off, too many Australians have lost their life savings, too many small businesses have gone to the wall. Too many people have received dodgy financial planning advice, enough is enough and a Labor Government will make sure that Australians get the best banking system in the world, not the system which I think unfortunately we have now with scandals and rip-offs.
JOURNALIST: Was Labor warned about the negative impacts of its negative gearing policy? And if you were why didn't you listen?
SHORTEN: First of all, our negative gearing changes are in the best interests of Australians so I don't accept the assumption of the question. Why is it that Mr Turnbull yet again will stand on the side of a property speculator bidding for their 10th house, getting a government tax concession, yet our young people are priced out of the market and face unfair competition to buy their first home? Labor's made it very clear with our policy, we want to do Budget repair that's fair. Why is it that Mr Turnbull is happy to have a negative gearing system which provides more money and support for tax concessions to property investors than he is in terms of school funding for Government schools in Australia? At the moment, in our Budget we are spending more on some of these high end tax concessions than we are on the Budget which we provide government schools in Australia. Does Mr Turnbull really want Australia to be known as an education nation or a negative property speculating nation? Labor's got well-funded and costed policies which help give a level playing field for the first-home buyer and also make sure that the taxpayers aren't just needlessly subsidising property speculators on their 10th house. Labor's very confident that our policy is the best way forward for a fairer Budget, for getting our priorities right and making sure that first home buyers have a levelling playing field.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Queensland Nickel, administrators say Palmer acted as a shadow director of QNI up until 2016. At the same time QNI made donations to the Palmer United Party. Is he fit to be in Parliament?
SHORTEN: Well, I went to the Queensland Nickel facility on the last day before 550 people lost their jobs. On that day, over a month ago I made it very clear that I thought that Mr Palmer and the senior management of that operation had serious questions to answer. Serious questions to answer. Now the administrators are doing the best job they possibly can. But let me also say, on that day where I said that Mr Palmer had serious questions to answer, especially when 550 people were losing their jobs on top of the thousands who were going to effectively have their economic income curtailed in Townsville. I also asked Mr Turnbull that this was a chance to show that he cared, because I could tell the business looked like it was going to go into liquidation and there are hundreds of people without their entitlements and there's a safety net scheme which people pay their taxes for, you never hope that you have to use this safety net scheme. Mr Turnbull hasn't acted to provide the entitlements to the workers which taxpayers pay their money for. So, whilst I attribute much of the responsibility in terms of the problems seen for the questions that Mr Palmer has to answer, I'm really disappointed that Mr Turnbull has failed to act in the week since when in fact we could all see what was needed to be done.
JOURNALIST: So do you think the workers could have been allowed access that, the Fair Workers Entitlements before it went into liquidation?
SHORTEN: A government has a discretion to provide access to safety net payments before a company goes into liquidation if it seems very likely that the company will go into liquidation. You know I bothered to get out of my office and go and see what was happening up in Townsville, speak to workers, speak to the administrator. It became clear to me that we'd arrive at this point we've now arrived at.
Now I do absolutely not excuse the conduct of Clive Palmer. He needs to explain what he's done; the administrator has expressed most serious concerns which warrant a detailed defence because quite frankly the administrator's seen information that the rest of us haven't been privy too. But in the meantime, for me what's most important is that workers and the small businesses in Townsville - I've spent my adult life representing people especially when they get into trouble and trying to help pick up the pieces. There's a government safety net scheme which taxpayers pay money into for just these sort of undesired unforeseen consequences.
I do not understand why Mr Turnbull hasn't green lighted providing these workers who are left with nothing the chance to access money which they are entitled to. I'm not saying these people should get anything they're not entitled to but I am saying that when workers are in trouble, blue collar workers are in trouble, why is it that Mr Turnbull is so slow out of the blocks yet when it comes to Labor standing up against the banks and asking for a royal commission, Mr Turnbull can find every excuse in the world to ignore the wishes of the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: The report also says Mr Palmer and Clive Mensink appear to have acted recklessly in exercising their duties. Should ASIC pursue them?
SHORTEN: I think the report speaks for itself and again you ask about ASIC. ASIC does have a job to do to be the cop on the beat. That's why I don't understand why the Liberal Party's been so ruthless in cutting and taking away the ability of the cop on the beat to do their job. But of course while ASIC has to pursue these matters I think it's ridiculous for the Government to simply say ASIC can do the work of a Royal Commission too. The truth of the matter is that a royal commission will get to the bottom of what is the exact nature of the problems in the banking industry. Why do we constantly open our newspapers and turn on our televisions and see problem after problem? For me it's the individual stories which are so heartbreaking. The people who are pushed into you know, managed investment schemes which then go belly up. The people given dodgy financial planning advice by financial planners who are conflicted. When we hear reports and allegations of rate rigging, when we see the challenges when people buy their life insurance policies in good faith for the times when they're really in trouble and all of a sudden find that they're being you know, rorted out of it.
I do not know why Mr Turnbull keeps saying oh there may be a problem but we just won't do anything about it. That's not a lack of leadership and Labor will show the leadership which Australians are crying out for. And I know the big banks are powerful institutions, and I know they're important but I think it's really lazy and weak of the Government to say any criticism of the banking sector is somehow going to undermine the integrity of the banking sector. My concern is that if we don't speak up the integrity of the banking sector becomes undermined. It is the political cowardice of politicians who won't speak up on behalf of the victims, that's when you undermine the integrity of our system. Last question thank you.
JOURNALIST: How concerning is an ANZ survey out this morning showing that consumer confidence is down and that this has been the case for the past month of the weekly survey?
SHORTEN: Well I think it's becoming increasingly clear that even though Mr Turnbull, when he became Prime Minister enjoyed high hopes of an Australian people sick of the Abbott Government and sick of Tony Abbott, that in the last 8 or 9 months really this Government's subsided into a puddle of disappointment. You know the truth of the matter is that when it comes to schools funding we have a Prime Minister in Canberra who is so out of touch he says oh maybe we shouldn't even be funding government schools. When it comes to banking scandals we have a Prime Minister whose default position is to say nothing to see here that requires a royal commission and just sort of generally try and lecture people. We've seen the deficit double under the Liberal Party; we see Government debt blow out and all we see is the sort of substance for policy is a proposal to allow states to increase taxation, double taxation. We see Scott Morrison spend 6 months on a crusade to be able to introduce a 15 per cent GST, we see a Government who knows there's problems with negative gearing, the Treasurer said there are excesses in the system but when Labor has the courage to talk about a fact that everyone knows, this Government immediately reverts to a sort of, negative scare campaign mentality and we've seen wages under a Liberal Government the lowest in 20 years. No wonder people have got their confidence down but the good news is Labor has positive plans. We'll make sure that your kids have a chance to buy a home when they grow up, we'll make sure they get a quality education at whatever school they go to along the way. We will speak up against the big institutions like the banks if we don't think they're doing the right thing. We'll have real action on climate change focusing on renewable energy.
Labor's got strong positive plans to make sure that it's your Medicare card, not your credit card which determines the level of health care. We'll take about the midnight anxiety of pensioners wondering if they've got a cruel government in Canberra who's going to hunt down and you know, and reduce their conditions and go after the size of their assets. Labor's got a positive plan for the future, it doesn't appear to me that Mr Turnbull is interested in much more than keeping his job and he is out of touch. Thanks everyone.
JOURNALIST: Just on Pat Dodson, there's news he won't be sworn in as a Senator, what’s your reaction?
SHORTEN: Pat Dodson is speaking tomorrow at the National Press Club, I'm looking forward to being there and I also say that I welcome Pat Dodson's candidacy for the Labor Party to be a Senator and if you're a sporting person you'd put your money on Pat Dodson being a really remarkable Senator for the Labor Party in upcoming weeks and months, thank you.