FRIDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: George Brandis; backpacker tax; Census; negative gearing.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Time and time again, Malcolm Turnbull protects George Brandis. George Brandis is the most accident-prone minister in an accident-prone government. But if these reports today are true, the actions of the Attorney-General are at best, morally bankrupt, and at worst, corrupt.
The only ethical course of action that Malcolm Turnbull has is to sack George Brandis, and he should sack George Brandis today.
JOURNALIST: What exactly has he done that is so offensive?
SHORTEN: The reports, the explosive and surprising reports which have emerged today, is that it is clear, if these facts are correct, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth has done a deal with mates in the Liberal government in Western Australia against constitutional advice and against the best interests of Australian taxpayers.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, is Labor open to considering backing a backpacker tax between 10.5 and 19 per cent?
SHORTEN: This government, for the last 18 months, has taken a sledgehammer to the agricultural sector through its different tax rates that it’s proposing for backpackers. Let's be really clear here, Labor wants to make sure that the fruit gets picked and that the farmers do well. Of course we'll negotiate and talk to the government, but it is the government who has created a shortage of labour in the farms. Labor is prepared to work to fix the problem, and by the way, we'll make sure that the tax system treats Australians most fairly.
JOURNALIST: Why not support the government's 19 per cent, if it could avoid backpackers paying 32.5 per cent from January?
SHORTEN: The government gave us the disaster in the first place. It was their 2015 budget where they banked mythical savings to do something about their spiralling budget deficit. They banked mythical savings, fairy-tale-made, by creating a ludicrous tax regime which has hit the agricultural workforce hard. And then after months and months, the government's just plucked a number out of the air to try and say there's no more problems.
This is an arrogant out of touch government. If they want to get things done they need to work with the Parliament in the Senate. And of course we're up for sensible compromise, but compromise has to be involve the government giving some ground rather than simply shouting at everyone that it doesn't like. They're out of touch.
Perhaps I'll take one more question.
SHORTEN: First of all I think, when does this government ever take responsibility for their own mistakes? I think that the buck stops with ministers in the government, and it doesn't just stop in terms of the ABS and ministers responsible for that. They've had three years to prepare for the Census. They had one job and they couldn't do that properly.
But when we talk about ministerial accountability, the ministerial accountability that I and Australians are most concerned about today, is that of the accountability of the Attorney-General's actions. How many lives does George Brandis have? What is it that George Brandis has on Malcolm Turnbull that makes Malcolm Turnbull so quick to deal with these issues?
We know that George Brandis is the most accident-prone minister in an accident prone government, but if these reports are correct today, that George Brandis has put the interests of political allies in Western Australia ahead of the interests of Australian taxpayers, at best, that's morally bankrupt, and at worst, it is corrupt behaviour, and Malcolm Turnbull has to act.
The only ethical course of action for Malcolm Turnbull is to sack George Brandis and to sack him today.
SHORTEN: Malcolm Turnbull is so out of touch when it comes to the needs of middle class Australians. His only policy, his only advice to first home buyers locked out of the market, is to get rich parents.
Malcolm Turnbull is truly out of touch with the lives that most Australians lead. We need to do something about sensible, prospective reform of the taxation system, so we're not favouring investors buying their tenth house over young people in their 20s and 30s who just want to live the Australian dream of buying their first home.