FRIDAY, 11 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: Budget Reply; Labor’s Working Australians Tax Refund; Labor’s plan for a fair go for all Australia, not just the top end of town; 2018 Budget; citizenship.
GAI BRODTMANN, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: First up I want to thank Mark Doug and his team in the Medical Imaging section here in the Canberra Hospital for having us here today, and it was terrific to see the great work that they're doing in terms of looking after Canberrans.
It's now my great pleasure to introduce Bill Shorten. It's terrific to have him here so soon after the Budget Reply speech last night. A speech where he outlined Labor's plans for MRI's, Labor's plans for tax cuts, and Labor's plans for investing in schools, in TAFE, in hospitals and in universities. So over to you Bill and thanks for coming.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gai and good morning everybody. It's great to be here at Canberra Hospital to see the impact of what Labor's vision for Australia can achieve for patients. I was at one of these fabulous lifesaving MRI machines - there's about 160 in Australia which are fully Medicare rebatable, which means that Australians can use them and get a lot of the cost of using this miracle machinery back. The machine I saw basically can help analyse and measure you from top to toe. From the perils of brain cancer, to muscular skeletal injuries, right through to cardio vascular, these machines are game changers for people's health. But there is not enough of them around Australia, and unfortunately the current government in the time they've been in, have only rolled out a total of four machines. That's not good enough. So in my Budget Reply speech I was able to say that because of the tough decisions, the tough tax and economic reforms that Labor has made in recent years, we can give a down payment to Australians, we can restore the $715 million worth of cuts to hospitals which was in Tuesday night's Budget. And we can roll out an additional lifesaving 20 MRI machines right across Australia.
Last night I also had the opportunity in my Budget Reply speech to outline that a Labor Government will ensure and deliver better, fairer, bigger tax cuts to 10 million working Australians. And we can make sure that our schools are properly funded, that we can have more people going to TAFE and university. I am able to do this because we are prioritising 10 million Australians, we are prioritising Medicare and hospitals, we're prioritising schools and TAFE and university, because we're not giving $80 billion away in corporate tax cuts to the big end of town, and because we are willing to make the hard decisions. This is all about choices. We've chosen 10 million Australians, we choose Medicare over corporate tax cuts for multinationals and the big banks.
Happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Do you see the upcoming by-elections as being a referendum on your two competing visions for the budget?
SHORTEN: I do. It's an early opportunity. I am sorry that we've had this constitutional problem, and that we have these elections coming up. But they are an early opportunity for Australians to judge, to make a referendum, on what we saw in Tuesday night's Budget. If you want to give massive tax cuts to multinationals and big banks, vote for the Liberals and Malcolm Turnbull. If you want to see the cuts in the budget to schools and hospitals reversed, vote for Labor. If you want to see the ABC cut, vote for Liberal. If you want to see the ABC defended, vote for Labor. If you want to see 10 million working Australians get better tax cuts - $928 per year for many of those Australians, if you want to get a better deal for working and middle class Australians, vote for us.
JOURNALIST: Are you sorry for the wages and expenses bill racked up by those Labor MPs that have now resigned since last year, when this decision could have been, well, when their resignations could have easily been made?
SHORTEN: Your question assumes that I knew the verdict of the High Court, I didn't. But I am certainly sorry that matters have come to where they are. But what I'm also determined to do is to hold this government to account. Tuesday night's Budget by this government, provided $10 a week for some Australians. For this $10 a week, the government wants you to forget the cuts to schools, the cuts to hospitals. They want you to forget all of the other - the fact that Mr Turnbull wants people in Australia to work to the age of 70, that there are cuts to pensioners. For $10 a week, Mr Turnbull wants you to forget that he's giving $17 billion to the big banks. These are the issues which I think will be very important for Australians in coming months.
JOURNALIST: Do you know what date Anne Aly's citizenship renunciation was accepted?
SHORTEN: I have spoken to Ms Aly this morning. She advises me that she had confirmation from the Egyptian Embassy on May 6, 2016. I've asked her to reconfirm the advice with the Egyptian Embassy, she's doing that.
JOURNALIST: Will you release that advice?
SHORTEN: I think she will have to make that public.
JOURNALIST: Given that there are still questions over members like Anne Aly, as well as members of the Liberal Party, will you now support an audit to sort out this citizenship mess which has been dragging on for so long?
SHORTEN: I agree that this citizenship situation just seems to keep rolling and people heartily sick of it. All MPs made statements to the Parliament last year. Certainly, in the case of Ms Aly, I've asked her this morning to reconfirm the advice she's provided. She has undertaken to do that. In terms of how we resolve this issue, I noticed that a Parliamentary Committee said that we should actually change the Constitution because it's creating a whole lot of unexpected headaches for everyone. But I understand Mr. Turnbull has ruled that out.
JOURNALIST: If the by-elections don't go Labor's way, are you at all concerned about your leadership?
SHORTEN: No, I'm not, but what I am concerned about is that Mr Turnbull is offering only $10 a week to 10 million Australians, and let's face it last night, I think that Labor's proposition offering 10 million working Australians better tax cuts than the government -$928 in many cases per year. What that means is for say a person in the ADF earning $90,000 a year, maybe their partner has a part time job working in aged care at $50,000 a year. Under Labor, this couple will be nearly $2,000 better off every year. The fact of the matter is that Labor is offering almost double in tax cuts to Australians, to 10 million Australians because we've decided not to give that money to big banks and corporations.
There's a very clear choice in Australia: do you want to fund our hospitals and our schools and provide fair dinkum tax cuts for 10 million Australians? Or do you instead, want to featherbed unsustainable tax concessions which go to the very wealthy, and which go to large corporations. It's a very clear choice. Mr Turnbull is hoping for his miserly $10 a week, you'll forget the truckloads of cash that he's driving down the driveways of every large corporation in this country.
JOURNALIST: Just on your Budget Reply, the government says that you're spending money twice. Are your numbers rubbery?
SHORTEN: No, I just think the government is jealous, aren't they. See, the government can't have it both ways. You've been covering politics - the government says, what Labor wants to do to rollback unsustainable tax concessions in negative gearing - they say that's bad. They say, when Labor says, you shouldn't get an income tax refund if you’ve paid no income tax, they say that's bad. But that money we are saving, and the government's criticised us for saving that money. Because we've made hard reform decisions, we're allowed to use some of that to give better tax cuts. It's a matter of priorities. The government is just angry and annoyed that we haven't bothered to sign up to their skewed priorities of looking after the top end of town. It's very straightforward. The numbers speak for themselves. You can give $80 billion to large corporations and big banks if you want, or you can restore all the sneaky cuts in the fine print of this budget, the cuts to hospitals and schools. I just happen to have chosen the schools and the hospitals, it is very straightforward. Mr Turnbull has chosen the big banks and multinationals, I've just chosen 10 million Aussies.
JOURNALIST: Labor's tax cut is only $7.84 a week more than what the government is offering. Is $7.80 really going to make a big difference to many Australians?
SHORTEN: Let's put it together. If you add that to what the government was offering, your heading towards $20 dollars a week. If you add $20 a week across 50 weeks a year, that's a nearly $1,000. If you add that over the three years of the first Labor Government, that is nearly $3,000. So yes, would you like to give more, sure. But I can promise you this, and I can promise your viewers this: if you vote Labor, you're going to get almost double back in your tax than you would under the Liberals. That is the proposition. And at the same time, it's not just about that, it's also if you vote Labor, I'll make sure that your hospital has the funding it needs for the equipment and the doctors and nurses that make you better. I can promise you because of Labor, we’ll put $17 billion back into our school system so your kids can get that personal attention, get that individual attention which makes such a big difference.
There are very clear battle lines for this election. On one hand, you've got the Liberals and under their political proposition big business, multinationals get a big tax cut. The top end of town and the very well off get to get their special tax concessions. Oh, and they'll give you $10. And under Labor we can double the tax cut, we can look after your schools, your hospitals, we can make sure young people can get an apprenticeship. We'll make sure that there's MRI machines in country and regional Australia so that when you're sick you can see the doctor. And by the way, if you're one of 10 million Australians earning less than $120,000 a year, we're going to give you almost twice as much back. It's your money, we want to give some of it back to you. We don't want to give it to multinationals and big banks.
JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify something you said earlier? You said sorry regarding citizenship. Are you specifically sorry for refusing to refer those Labor MPs or for misleading the public? What are you sorry over?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I don't agree with the first part of your assumption. We did offer to refer these MPs. I don't know if you were there the day we did, we offered to refer Liberal and Labor MPs, the Liberals didn't want to do it.
JOURNALIST: So you're sorry for -
SHORTEN: Wait a second, I'm just unpacking your question. You put three questions in there so let's go through it one at a time. If our lawyers give us the advice, I take the advice and in good faith I put forward that proposition. But I am sorry that we've got to this point, I am sorry that Australian people are annoyed when they see the political parties and politicians who think they're eligible are not eligible. Absolutely.
JOURNALIST: Who are your lawyers and will you be releasing that legal advice?
SHORTEN: You know that political parties like big media organisations don't release all of their legal advice, but it is certainly the case that for 20 years the Labor Party officials across Australia just like the Liberal Party officials provide their political parties and their leaders with the best advice possible. And let's just be very clear here the High Court decision was not what people were expecting, we put forward a formidable legal argument. I should say that for a number of my MPs the legal advice is already online.
Because when they made their statements they put it up there so there's not great mystery. But at the end of the day, I acknowledge the verdict of the High Court. We feel that the law has changed and what we will now do is we will accept that, we will take note of it, and then what we will do is we'll put forward very good candidates. I'm curious if Mr Turnbull is even going to run candidates in every seat where there's a by-election, he hasn't actually told us that. I'm going to see if he's too chicken to turn up and put his miserly tax cuts against my better tax cuts.
But by the way, I want to reassure Australians the reason why I can offer ten million Aussies better fair dinkum tax cuts, why I can offer Australians to reverse the sneaky cuts in the fine print of Mr Turnbull's budget to hospitals, to schools, increasing the working age of people to 70, where he's cutting pensioners energy supplements. The reason I can do these good things, these very fair things is because I'm not giving $80 billion away to the top end of town. I'm not featherbedding unsustainable tax concessions. We've done the homework, we've done the hard work and we're happy to take our case to the people.
JOURNALIST: Do you think One Nation preferences are going to play a decisive role in any of these upcoming by-elections including in Susan Lamb's seat?
SHORTEN: I don't know. I do regret though that One Nation has a voting pattern in the Federal Parliament of voting 90 per cent on key issues with the Liberals. So if you're voting Liberal, One Nation, the two blur a fair bit.
JOURNALIST: Just on another issue will Labor support Susan Ley's Private Members Bill to phase out live sheep exports?
SHORTEN: I know we're having constructive discussions with her. We haven't got a final position on her particular resolution but I make very clear that Labor is - deplores the terrible images. Industries which rely upon cruelty as part of their business model, you've got to question their viability. But of course, if there is any transition out of live sheep export, we'll look after the farmers, we've got to work with them. If there's opportunities to value add in terms of meat processing then that could be a good thing. It's not going to happen overnight but unlike the government, we're not going to just walk past this debacle. Animal welfare under the Liberal Government has gone backwards in the last five years and now we end up in the sort of situation we see right now.
Alright everybody nice to chat to you all, I'm sure you're a bit cold. Thank you.