THURSDAY, 17 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to support women and families suffering from family violence; Chaos and division in Turnbull Liberal Government; Ian Macfarlane; Stuart Robert; Safe Schools program; Bracket creep.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody and can I thank the media for coming to the Tara Costigan Foundation. The scourge of family violence inflicts great personal trauma and pain. It's just been over just a year since Tara was murdered with an axe, holding her five-month-old baby. Her two children, 9 and 11, tried to help look after their mother. The 18-year-old babysitter and her boyfriend received injuries trying to defend her. Tara Costigan was murdered by someone who said they once loved her. The scourge of family violence is much more prevalent in Australian society than I think some Australians realise. But I believe that Government action, providing support for front line services, supporting survivors who are 98 per cent women, through the legal system can make a difference. We need more than words. We're getting greater awareness which is fantastic. We need to ensure the equal treatment of women in Australia and there's no more sharper point about the equal treatment of women than protecting women from violence from ex-partners. Happy to take questions on that or any other matters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there are no shortage of these horror stories. A lot of the women in there though want to know and want a commitment that no funding will be cut to things like legal services. Is that a commitment you are capable of making now?
SHORTEN: Absolutely. I think if you were to speak to a lot of the women and a lot of the people on the frontline, they have great confidence that Labor will properly fund community legal service areas. Labor's going to a hard area of policy. It's one thing to say that we are against family violence and everyone's signed up to that but actions speak louder than words. Labor has proposed a down payment already about reversing some of the dreadful cuts. How on earth does it help protect women by cutting money to legal services? How on earth does it help protect women by allowing them to be cross-examined by abusive ex-partners in the family law system? Labor has plans and we'll reveal more of them. We regard this as a first order issue. What happens to women and family violence mightn't change an election but what happens to women and family violence, in my opinion, is something the whole country needs to change.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten does Labor support Ian Macfarlane becoming Queensland's new Resources Commissioner?
SHORTEN: Who Premier Palaszczuk ultimately selects through an independent selection process is matter for the independent selection process and Premier Palaszczuk. It is wrong of federal leaders to start intervening with independent processes. Just how over-confident is Mr Turnbull to think acting like Tiberius with a telephone telling the processes what timetable they should happen on. You know, I’m happy if Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor are sufficiently bipartisan as to give an ex-conservative politician an important role which he may well be qualified for. But I am genuinely surprised when we have no tax plans from the Government, we see them retreating on income tax plans cuts, we see them retreating from the excesses on negative gearing, we see them marching towards a repeat of the Tony Abbott/Joe Hockey Budget of 2014. That Mr Turnbull can take time out of his busy day to start worrying about whether or not Mr Macfarlane gets a job. I mean, how many times does Mr Turnbull have to interfere with Mr Macfarlane's future?
JOURNALIST: What's your view on the push within government for a parliamentary inquiry into the Safe Schools program?
SHORTEN: I think it is now beyond a joke that Mr Turnbull is fanning the fires of the lunar right of his political party. At the end of the day, this is a voluntary program for schools to opt into. Now, I would rather trust the welfare of Australia's children to their teachers, the parents, the schools and administrations of local schools than a group of ideological right wing members of the Liberal Party. Mr Turnbull has to show leadership. Frankly, his mistake was not in slapping down this issue a lot earlier. Now, he's got this stand-off between an insurgent right-wing backbench and his Minister for Education. But what really concerns me about this whole thing is that kids who are grappling with their sexuality in their teenage years should have the ability to be supported at school. They certainly don't need senators in Canberra from the Liberal Party making judgments about these kids. It should be left to the experts and I do not include in the list of experts the Liberal Party of Australia.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the petition that's circulating calling for funding to be suspended?
SHORTEN: First of all, I just think it's weird that some people in the Liberal Party are so obsessed with other people's sexuality and at another level all together, this petition is a ginger group, it's the Tony Abbott supporters undermining Mr Turnbull. So, there is a lot going on here. But at the end of the day, can someone forget about the internal dysfunction and division of the Liberal Party, their own ideological crusades. I know that Mr Turnbull, I'm sure personally is not greatly comfortable with the debate which is raging in his party. But as we know, he doesn't control his party. But can someone remember the kids? Can someone just remember that this is about schools, parents and kids? Growing up in Australia as a teenager is not easy, being a parent is not easy. The last thing you need is knuckle dragging right wing Liberal Senators inflicting their own narrow view of the world upon the kids and the teenagers and the schools of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Why is Labor pursuing an AFP investigation into Stuart Robert?
SHORTEN: That is a matter being pursued by the AFP. It's under investigation. There's nothing more I can add to it.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten if those MPs get their way and funding is suspended to Safe Schools, will you promise to bring back funding if you're elected?
SHORTEN: I can go further. I can promise to teenagers and parents, that a Labor Government is interested in the welfare of your kids. We're not interested in making them a political footballs or proxies in an Abbott v Turnbull fight or proxy in some ideological fight. Being a teenager in Australia's got plenty of challenges. It's an exciting time but it's got plenty of challenges. Raising kids in Australia, as any of you parents would know, is not straightforward. Being a teacher in Australian schools isn't easy especially with the Government not properly funding schools. What I do know, is that why don't we let the schools, the teachers, the parents and kids work out their education rather than a group of ideologs from the Liberal Party trying to impose some 1950's view of the world on Australia’s schools.
JOURNALIST: How big a problem does Labor see bracket creep being and when will action take place on income tax rates?
SHORTEN: Well, if you look back at my Budget reply speech last year, it was a cracker. I did speak about bracket creep and I identified then that the Liberals were relying on bracket creep basically to fund whatever they were doing in their Budget. Two in every three dollars they were raising in their Budget in terms of dealing with the issues was coming from bracket creep. So, it is a real issue. But what I also recognise, if you're going to deal with income tax, you've got to actually make room in the Budget to deal with it. That's why the Liberal actions of the last six months are so bewildering. Remember September 14 last year we were in for new economic leadership, never been a more exciting time. At last we heard we had a courageous reformer at the helm of the Australian nation, but where's he gone? The Government's ship - there is no-one steering it.
Now we've seen the Treasurer of Australia said he was passionate about income tax cuts and now he's sort of retreated from the field when they let him out on day release from witness protection, he's not talking about income tax cuts. So yeah we think it's an issue but the challenge is sensible fiscal management. There's been a role reversal in Australian politics this year. We're providing policies, we have costed them. Our $105 billion plus of improvements to the bottom line of the Budget. It also means when Labor talks about properly funding higher education, not with $100,000 degrees. When we talk about defending Medicare, we can prove it. When we talk about properly fund our schools for a ten-year period providing certainty to government and non-government school, we can prove it because we've done the work. And what we're also willing to do which this Government are not willing to do, is to deal with some of the outstanding issues of tax reform which have been on the to-do list for 30 years. Obviously negative gearing and capital gains tax discount reduction are amongst them. Negative gearing, the Government's launched a not very scary scare-campaign. What we've proposed, if you currently negatively gear under the existing tax laws, there'll be no change. What we've said going forward is that if you want to invest in new housing and apartments, you can negatively gear. But what we also do is we are going to restrain unsustainable tax concessions funded by all taxpayers which are only going to some people and not achieving the purposes. So, in order to have a debate about income tax cuts, you've got to do the hard work that the Opposition has been doing. That is why I'm confident as Australians approach this election, they'll realise there's a choice between a party with a positive plan for the future, we've spelled out funded policies, united behind their leader too and then you've got the Government on the other hand.
Thanks everyone, see you in Parliament.