WEDNESDAY, 1 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for community renewable energy; Labor’s plan for Budget repair that’s fair; Malcolm Turnbull’s $50bn giveaway to big business; Goldman Sachs; Diesel fuel rebate; Penalty rates; SDA; Coal mining; State of Origin
MILTON DICK, LABOR'S CANDIDATE FOR OXLEY: Good morning everyone, I am Milton Dick, the Labor candidate for Oxley, and I am delighted to have Bill Shorten and Mark Butler here at a great local business. We've cut the red ribbon and we've heard some amazing things about the renewable work that this firm is doing, and I would now like to invite Bill to say a few words and then invite Mark as well.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Milton and good morning everybody. It's great to be at the grand opening of the new operations of Supply Partners and what we see here today is vindication of Labor's strong policy commitment to prioritise renewable energy as part of Australia's energy mix going forward. Supply Partners today, and their tour, are outlining to not just us, but all Australians that the technology for solar power and renewable energy is improving at a rate of knots. We saw batteries for cars, we saw slimline batteries for households where people who have solar panels can store energy and use it at night time when the kids are on the computers and the white goods are going. We also heard about how renewable energy and the new technology from the panels to the battery storage means small business and our agricultural sector can really benefit from Labor's prioritisation of renewab le energy.
Labor's policies really add up. They tick the box for consumers being able to have lower household electricity prices. They tick the box for helping small business and farmers be able to gain better control over their electricity prices. But also it is manufacturing jobs, it's high qualified installation jobs by trained electricians. It is providing a whole value chain and it is helping the environment. In addition to what we have said about renewable energy, Mark will explain today our next great announcement which is we want to put money into community hubs so that consumers and local communities can explore the benefits of the renewable energy revolution in technology. There is no doubt that getting councils together, supporting people in social housing, ensuring pensioners are able to benefit from some of the benefits of renewable energy helps the bottom line for a lot of people battling to make ends meet.
Renewable energy is the way of the future. Only a Labor Government after 2 July can be trusted to make sure we take real action on climate change which is prioritising renewable energy at the centre of everything we do. I would like to ask my shadow spokesperson Mark Butler to talk further about today's great announcement.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER: Thanks Bill, thank you Milton. Renewable energy is absolutely at the centre of the Australian Labor Party's response to climate change. When we were in Government, we grew the small scale renewable energy scheme from 7,500 households when we were elected in 2007 to 1.3 million households only six years later having solar panels on their roofs. By the time we left Government, Australia was the fourth most attractive destination for renewable investment in the world, up there with the powerhouses of China, the United States and Germany. We had tripled the number of jobs in renewable energy, we had tripled the amount of wind power. We had led with innovation, building the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere and starting to build the largest PV solar farm in the Southern Hemisphere.
But Tony Abbott's attack on the renewable energy industry saw that start to decline. In 2014, renewable energy investment for large scale projects declined by 88%. Unsurprisingly, we went from the top four of renewable energy investment destinations for global business, well out of the top 10. We still haven't recovered. Whereas Malcolm Turnbull, in spite of all of his positive comments about renewable energy and climate change in past lives, has decided to adopt entirely the approach of Tony Abbott's climate change renewable energy policy. When Bill Shorten announced the 50% Renewable Energy Target that Labor would take to this election for 2030 and invited Malcolm Turnbull in parliament to join with us so it could be a bipartisan policy underpinning strong renewable energy investor confidence, Malcolm Turnbull described it as reckless. Malcolm Turnbull does not have a policy for any renewable energy investment beyond 2020. We are almost into the second half of this election campaign and still he hasn't pointed to any policy that will support renewable energy investment beyond 2020.
Today, we are particularly pointing to one element of our climate change action plan that will start to see the solar revolution be given access to those people who simply don't own their own house. What we found was that 7,400 households owning solar at the time we were elected in 2007 grew to 1.3 million households by 2013. This has been an extraordinary revolution. It has been driving down power bills for those households, driving down pollution across Australia and driving down the peak power for all households, particularly in peak heat waves. But it has largely been a revolution for owner occupiers. Time and time again, we find that people who are in rental properties, in congruent living arrangements like big apartment buildings or in public housing, are complaining that they don't have access to the solar revolution. This policy announcement today, of $98 million into community power hubs, will start to give access f or those people who don't own their own roofs to the enormous benefits of solar power. We will support the establishment of community power hubs who will use local solutions to give that access. Those solutions may be solar gardens, energy efficiency arrangements in social housing. We will work with local councils who are already coming up with innovative ways in which low income rental households in their communities can have access to the benefits of solar power. We know from some studies done by the community power sector that $1 of Government investment in this area, according to a study done by Marsden Jacobs, can leverage up to $17 in private investment. This is good for the environment, it is good for low income rental households and it is central to Labor's plan for renewable energy in the future.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify if Labor wins Government, will you ensure that deficit levy remains permanent? If that is the case, does that mean Labor doesn't have the right strategies in place to bring the Budget back to surplus?
SHORTEN: Let's remember who invented the deficit levy. It was Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott. As much as Mr Turnbull may air brush history that he wasn't part of this cabinet, he certainly was. The deficit levy was introduced because there was a deficit. This Government has managed to triple that deficit. Labor will keep it, we are keeping it for the medium term, absolutely. Why we do this is because when you have to do budget repair, it should be fair. Mr Turnbull is saying on one hand someone who earns a million dollars, he believes should get a $17,000 tax cut next year. I think it is important to ensure people who are sick can see the doctor or get pathology tests without paying up-front fees in order to be able to see the doctor. It is a matter of priorities. We are choosing Budget repair that is fair. It is the same reason why we are opposing the $50 billion tax give away that Mr Turnbull has included in h is Budget.
It is interesting that Mr Turnbull's old employer, Goldman Sachs, has released a report saying 60% of Mr Turnbull's tax give away will go to foreign shareholders. I think Australians will be displeased to discover that Mr Turnbull is asking for another three years in the top job after the last three years of Liberal maladministration on the basis that he has a vision that over the medium term he will send 60% of a $50 billion cash splash to foreign shareholders and at the same time starving our hard working GPs of the funds they need.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen said yesterday Labor would make the top marginal tax rate a permanent marginal tax rate. You just said medium. Which one is it?
SHORTEN: It is 10 years. Labor hasn't outlined out 20 year fiscal position. I'm completely on the same page as Chris.
JOURNALIST: Will the revenue from that deficit levy go to paying down or improving the deficit?
SHORTEN: It will go into consolidated revenue and we will have a number of priorities. As I said at the debate, we will have rigid Budget discipline. We also have a real economic growth strategy for real jobs which will prioritise funding our education system. TAFE, universities, schools, child care. We will also make sure we invest in nation building infrastructure. From our roads to public transport and rail, right through to the NBN. We are going to back in industry. We are here today at Supply Partners because Labor has a vision of how to create and sustain good quality jobs. I want to see the electricians of Australia being trained up to be skilled installers of world's best technology which will help consumers and small business pay lower energy prices.
JOURNALIST: The Goldman Sachs report also says it is not a $50 billion cash splash but $25 billion less than that. Is that money you don't have to spend?
SHORTEN: If Mr Turnbull is repudiating his own Treasury numbers let me know. His own Treasury department, the premier department of the Government when it comes to framing their Budget has analysed the cost to the bottom line of the Budget. I will campaign from here and every day to the election on the choices which Australians face. I don't think it is a wise use of $50 billion of taxpayer money to give our top four banks, Westpac, NAB, Comm Bank and ANZ, to give them $7.4 billion of taxpayer money when sick people can't go to see the doctor and instead will have to pay up-front fees to get into the doctor.
As I said, this election is all about choices. We will do Budget repair. We will outline how our saves and improvements to the bottom line of the Budget are greater than what we spend over the medium term. But what we will also do is prioritise the needs of working class and middle class families. That is why Mark, Milton and I are here today. By backing in renewable energy it ticks the box of action on climate change, ticks the box about keeping downward pressure on electricity prices, it ticks the boxes for good blue collar jobs and advanced manufacturing. Australia is the sunniest continent in the world, why are we lagging behind the rest of the world in Australia when it comes to be being part of the renewable energy investment revolution?
JOURNALIST: The stronger economic growth figures out later this morning, will that fly in the face of your argument that the Coalition is not doing well with the economy?
SHORTEN: I hope the numbers are positive. On matters like this I want to see Australia do well. I suspect and we saw yesterday that snippets, part of the positive numbers is because of the strength of minerals and exports. For three years this Government has called the economy wrong. Abbott and Hockey and Turnbull and the rest of them in the first Budget, when they should have been supporting transition beyond the mining boom, went for austerity and savage cuts. Now they are talking about their only economic plan since Mr Turnbull has come in. One was the GST of 15%, then there was giving the States the power to levy income taxes, now it is giving away $50 billion, a cash splash, the biggest spend in this election, which benefits will flow overseas and to big banks. What we need is a proper economic strategy which prioritises real jobs. Cross river rail in Brisbane will prioritise real jobs, help with congestion and improve productivity. By backing in renewable energy, we are giving smart small businesses like the impressive principals of the firm we have met here today, backing in small businesses and the installers. This is where the real jobs growth of Australia is, playing to our strengths. Yesterday some of you were with me in Cairns. We are talking about more jobs in tourism by our sensible fair dinkum tourism infrastructure projects. Labor is the party of jobs.
JOURNALIST: You have five MPs who have signed a petition against the diesel fuel rebate for mining companies, including Lisa Singh today. Given Labor is divided on this issue, can you clear up for us today –
SHORTEN: I certainly will.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the diesel fuel rebate for mining companies and can you guarantee that there'll be no changes to that rebate if you win Government?
SHORTEN: We will be keeping the diesel fuel rebate for mining companies.
JOURNALIST: Given there are MPs speaking out about it, how will you manage dissent within the party room on this issue?
SHORTEN: Let's not exaggerate or overcook this one, Sarah. The truth of the matter is that our party has a range of views. But as I said at the debate on Sunday, I lead our party and I'm not going to have some sort of giant witch hunt that every individual has to agree with me. The truth of the matter is when it comes to diesel rule rebate, our policy is the one I just articulated. And if we're going to talk about five MPs signing a petition, why don't we talk about the 61 Liberal MPs and candidates who don't support and want to slash penalty rates.
JOURNALIST: Just on penalty rates and another issues with the Fair Work Commission. Do you think they made the right call by striking down this deal between the shoppers union and Coles yesterday. And secondly, Will you accept the decision of the Fair Work Commission, whatever it is, on penalty rates?
SHORTEN: Well, there's a number of issues in that and thanks for going to them. First of all, the decision yesterday by the Fair Work Commission shows that the system is working.Frankly, it vindicates my faith in the system. Labor introduced a better off overall test. Now, the job of agreement making in Australia is the parties negotiate, there's discussion with employees and then it goes to the Fair Work to review and assess. There was an argument made that some employees would be negatively affected, the Commission full bench had a look at the – did it meet the better off overall test and the commission stood up, as I know they do, as they've been doing for 110 years. I think the system – that proves the system is working. And I do, by the way, expect the parties who've got their calculations wrong to go back and fix these problems.
In addition though, when it comes to penalty rates, I've got full confidence in the independent umpire maintaining, maintaining our penalty rates structure. Penalty rates were first introduced in Australia through the application of unions representing workers and arbitrated by the independent umpire. And the improvements that have been made to our system have always come through the independent umpire. I think it is an anathema to the best interests of working people to start handing to a politicised Parliament control of wage rates in this country. You know, I see some on the Greens and far left say, well that's a simple answer, don't have an independent umpire. My concern is that would be loading a gun for a future conservative Government to pull the trigger and attack penalty rates. And you don't have to take my word for that, there's 61 Liberal MPs and candidates who want to attack penalty rates.
In addition, I think my support for the Fair Work Commission is agian vindicated by their sensible decision to again lift the minimum wage to $17.70 per hour for an adult. There's a clear example of where you don't have an independent umpire in work place relations. It is called the United States of America. In America, they don't have a strong minimum wage. And what we've seen, for the last 40 years, is that because there haven't been regular increases in the minimum wage, we have seen inequality grow, we've seen the rise of people who go to work every day and they're still below the poverty line. The system works but only a Labor Government can be truly trusted to protect the system. When I was last in Government, when I was the Minister, I put in as a specific legislative parameter for the Fair Work Commission when it came to penalty rates that they had to acknowledge the value and impact of working unsocia ble hours. And it was a Labor Government who restored the better off overall test, which again, has workers. So, I've given than you normally get on these matters –
JOURNALIST: If the Fair Work Commission though says we should cut penalty rates will you accept that decision?
SHORTEN: They're not going to.
JOURNALIST: But what if it does? It's an independent body.
SHORTEN: Well sorry, what if alien life makes contact with earth? I'm not going to –
JOURNALIST: But would you accept the decision it makes?
SHORTEN: The assumption of your question is not well-founded and I'm not going to feed a question which the assumptions of which are not well-founded. The reason why I did you the courtesy of taking you through the history of it, and I looked alternative wage setting models, it's something that I've been passionate about my whole life. I do not accept the argument that the Fair Work Commission is going to dismantle our penalty rates system. The evidence doesn't support it. It is not going to happen. So when people ask me, you're not the first person to ask to be fair, what if? What I'm saying is, it's not going to happen. It's not the way the system is set up, it's not the way the legislative parameters work.
JOURNALIST: Doesn't the Fair Work Commission's ruling yesterday on the deal between the SDA and big retail show that the penalty rates system is not working? This is a deal that was cut between the union and employers and it clearly, illegally, disadvantaged a large section of the work force in the big retail outlets. At the time when the deal was revealed last March, both you and the ACTU welcomed it, you said that, as you say today, it was proof that the system works. Doesn't this show unless somebody, a small guy, a little guy who works at Coles in Brisbane, goes to the Commission and rings the bell, unless that happens, a lot of workers can be underpaid significantly. So, doesn't there need to be a more fundamental relook at penalty rates and the way unions and employers reach these, sort of, back room deals?
SHORTEN: First of all, without knowing the intricacies of the agreement-making process, it is required to be put to employees for a vote. So, your use of back room I'm not sure is a fair or accurate characterisation of the process. But having said that about the general process that they’re put to votes, then they are put to the Commission, let's also be very clear here – I do think the parties need to go back and rectify this arrangement. I am not supporting the arrangement.
But when we talk about the role of the Fair Work Commission, it vindicates Labor's principle position. In America, there would be no way to check this agreement. When Tony Abbott was supporting Workchoices, there was no way to check agreements. It's Labor who put in the better off overall test. If you didn't have a Labor Government forming the legislative parameters for the criteria which the Fair Work Commission used to approach penalty rates in other matters, it would be 7-Eleven every day. 7-Eleven every day. What concerns me most is where there are arrangements without the scrutiny of the independent umpire. Our system, and this is not a new debate in Australia where the pendulum goes on work place regulations, our system does support bargaining but it also supports employees having a say and as another, you know, belt and brace, safeguard, it supports the review by the Fair Work Commission.
I am not supporting the details of the agreement but what I do recognise and I will defend every day while I am in public life, is the role of an independent conciliation and arbitration system. The only people who ultimately benefit from the dismantling of independent conciliation and arbitration in this country are people who would seek to exploit employees.
JOURNALIST: Another $100 million spent or committed today, when it comes to paying for this, are you considering a measure in the last Labor Government, specifically the bank levy, that raised half a billion dollars a year. Is that on the table?
SHORTEN: It is not on our radar. When it comes to the banks though, I noticed the former chairman of NAB has leapt to the defence of the banks. Let's be really clear, we do think it is long overdue to have a Royal Commission into our banking and financial services sector. We are very displeased that after repeated protestations from the banking sector that they are getting their house in order. In the last 12 months, we have seen the CommInsure scandal, we've seen major banks investigated for rate rigging, we've seen some of the tapes of the cynical attitude that some in these organisations have towards consumers, to mortgage holders, to every day Australians. We think that the only way you are going to change the underlying culture is by having a Royal Commission.
It doesn't matter how many times Mr Turnbull or people who are very well connected to the large banks, complain about the Royal Commission, we will not let go of this issue and it is one of the key issues in this election. I don't subscribe to the view that the only way you have a profitable banking sector is by having a sick culture. Now, there is many, many, many good people who work in banks and my comments aren't about many of the individuals who work in our banks but how many scandals does Mr Turnbull need before he decides to act? When will he realise that a lunchtime lecture at the 199th birthday of Westpac is not a strategy for a better culture in banking?
JOURNALIST: On the role of the shoppies unions in the Coles agreement. Surely those low paid workers should have expected from the union advice that gave them the best deal? They clearly didn't in this case. Do you think their behaviour is acceptable and defendable?
SHORTEN: I am not defending the behaviour of either the union or the company in this matter at all. But again, I am going to go back to what is the core issue here. We have a bargaining system in Australia, we have a system where employees are to be consulted, where they are asked their views. And furthermore, we then have a better-off-overall test which the Commission applies and that is designed to catch exactly the sort of situations which we see here. And let's also be really straight about this, when there was a no disadvantage test, Mr Turnbull and the others voted against it. Our legislative record, my legislative record is to stand up for better protections for low paid and indeed, all people who go to work. The record of the Liberals, time and time again, is to deregulate the labour market. If you want to see what a Liberal industrial relations policy looks like, go down to 7-Eleven.
JOURNALIST: Can I just go back to the –
SHORTEN: Sorry, I'm just going to –
JOURNALIST: The Shoppies union –
SHORTEN: I've let you –
JOURNALIST: The Shoppies –
SHORTEN: Sarah, you have done three questions, I will come back to you, I promise. I'm going to let some other people ask some other questions but on your Shoppies point, I do think that the parties to it have to rectify the mistakes, full stop. Yes, they do need to fix it up.
JOURNALIST: What is your response to the campaign against you regarding coal from the resources council?
SHORTEN: Oh well, the Queensland Resources Council is the 'trade union' for coal mining interests. They are entitled to put their point of view forward but I am going to govern for all Australians if elected. I accept and I support the fact that coal will be part of our energy mix going forward, absolutely. But what I also recognise is that the Government I lead is going to take real action on climate change and we are going to prioritise renewable energy. We need to make sure that we catch some of the $2.5 trillion of estimated investment in the Asia-Pacific region in the next two decades. The rest of the world in the last two years has added two million renewable energy jobs. One country has managed to lose over 2,000 renewable energy jobs. I am afraid to say that is our own country. I do want to see more renewable energy jobs, more advanced manufacturing. We are the sunniest continent on the pla net. We have the best university researchers in the world. It is a sweet spot for Australia, in terms of jobs and real growth. That is why Labor will not be deterred by the fairly lacklustre scare campaign of Mr Turnbull and we saw some of it on Sunday. Remember he was doing his sort-of Tony Abbott-like impersonation where he said 'it is terrible and we are going to be leading the world'. The truth of the matter is when it comes to renewable energy we should be doing a lot better and a Labor Government can be trusted to ensure that we do better.
JOURNALIST: You need to win seats in Queensland and you need to win seats in NSW, so who do you barrack for tonight?
SHORTEN: I am going to go for the Maroons because my wife is a Queenslander. I also have to say, Cam Smith is Melbourne Storm boy and Melbourne Storm is well represented in the Queensland team. But also, I have to say, the Storm (sic), I think, are the underdogs slightly under the bookies market and I am partial to backing the underdogs.
Thanks everybody. See you a bit later.