WEDNESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for jobs; Mr Turnbull’s $50 billion big business giveaway; cuts to family payments; tax increases; NDIS; Gold Pass
GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Thanks everyone for coming here to the ACTION Tuggeranong bus depot. It's great to be down here at the bus depot, out of Parliament House, speaking to apprentices and talking about Labor's commitment to apprenticeships, and also building the skills of the future. It's wonderful to have Bill back here again. We were last here in 2015 when we had the opportunity to talk to apprentices then and also, particularly, talked about the pathway that was provided to them in terms of making that pathway to an apprenticeship through the trade training centres.
Today we've had a great opportunity to meet with Renee. Renee did work experience here a few weeks ago and now she's back to do an apprenticeship. She starts her TAFE next week, she's very much looking forward to that,and she's having a great time here, working with all the guys, because she is the only woman here, 11 apprentices, one female and Renee is it, and it's just wonderful to meet her today.
It now gives me great pleasure to introduce Bill Shorten. Again, thanks very much for coming down to the Tuggeranong bus depot and thanks very much for joining us, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gai and thanks to the bus company for hosting us and letting us meet some of the 150 highly skilled tradespeople here. And this company is showing the way. It has a good workplace atmosphere and they've got 11 apprentices, including Renee, their newest woman apprentice.
I'm here today because only the Labor Party has a plan for jobs, that's a real plan for jobs. But you can't have a plan for jobs without a plan for apprenticeships. We are a tradie nation. 1.6 million of our fellow Australians have a trades qualification. But our tradies are getting older and we need to train up our young people and indeed mature-aged workers so that we have apprentices in the future.
Labor has already outlined three points of our jobs plan. In the big Commonwealth projects, the taxpayer-funded projects, if Labor is elected at the next election, we will require no less than one in 10 of all of the employees who work on these projects have to be apprentices. Our second part of the plan is we are going to put TAFE right back in the centre of our training system again. We will clamp down on some of the dreadful dodgy providers and TAFE is going to be back in fashion. And we want to encourage parents whose kids don't want to go to university, to realise they can go to TAFE and get a quality qualification. And of course, the third part of our apprenticeship plan is to clamp down on the dodgy use of 457 and other visas which provide temporary work rights for guest workers. We see these workers get ripped off, and even more challenging, what we see is that there is a short-term fix where we are importing the skills, not training our own. So there is a good three-point plan – more apprentices on the job, more support for TAFE, less dodgy visas.
All Mr Turnbull can do, by contrast, his only plan for jobs is to give $50 billion of taxpayer money back to wealthy companies, including the banks. Now Scott Morrison has let the cat out of the bag this morning. His plan is to give $50 billion in tax giveaways to wealthy companies, including banks, and it is to be paid for by working Australians with increased taxes. Mr Turnbull should immediately pull Mr Morrison into line for his outrageous threats to the Australian people, and Mr Turnbull should reassure working Australians that they will not be paying increased taxes so Mr Turnbull can give $50 billion away to the largest corporations in Australia. It's not good enough.
The Government has got to drop its obsession with going after the NDIS, going after people on family payments and pensioners, threatening tax rises, just so they can have a $50 billion tax giveaway to the top end of town.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: If it's a choice between raising taxes and cutting welfare, is raising taxes a better option?
SHORTEN: Well actually, there is a third choice. Don't give $50 billion away to corporate Australia. And there's another choice, reform negative gearing tax concessions. This government says there are only two choices – go after the pensioners and the family payments or just increase taxes for ordinary Australians. There is a third way. No $50 billion corporate tax cut and clean up the tax concessions which are stopping first home buyers in the market and which are unsustainable to the bottom line of the budget.
The choice here is, actually, do you look after working and middle-class Australians, or do you look after the top end of town? We are making the choice to stand up for working Australians.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison yesterday told Sky News that if the Parliament is going to insist that the Government spend more and more money particularly on welfare, it's got to be paid somehow. If it's not going to budge on that $50 billion tax cut to businesses, how do you propose that the Government pay for this increased expenditure?
SHORTEN: Well I tell you, if they're not going to budge on the $50 billion tax cut, the Australian people will vote them out. We're not giving in. Let me be very clear to Australians – we don't think that you should lose $750 in family payments, if are you a family earning $70,000 a year, when they want to give big banks a tax cut.
What is this obsession by Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison and the Coalition that whenever they see a problem, their answer is to give $50 billion to the top end of town? It is the wrong plan at the wrong time. See, the point about it is, if they want to reduce corporate taxes, they're going to have to pay for that hit on the budget. Their plan to pay for taking $50 billion out of the national ATM and give it back to corporate Australia, is to tax working Australians or cut payments to pensioners, or indeed hold hostage the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
There is a very clear choice here, and we will fight the Government every day to the next election. You can either have Malcolm Turnbull's crumbs from the table, the trickle-down theory, give corporate Australia $50 billion and hope that everything is okay, or you can go with Labor's plan which is not to hurt the pensioners, not to hurt families, not to threaten Australians with tax increases, and not to hurt the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
JOURNALIST: The corporate tax cuts aren't in any way linked to the Omnibus Bill, though, so now that appears doomed, how do you talk to mothers, fathers that have their in childcare and tell them they will no longer get the more generous scheme?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, the Government has the capacity to sever parts of the bill and put up the things on which we agree on. It is the Government's choice if they withdraw all their childcare changes. We're up to talking to them about improving – the bill as it is isn't very good, doesn't look after Aboriginal kids enough, doesn't look after a whole lot of people who are less well off.
Having said, that I want to see childcare improvements. I will sit down with Mr Turnbull. But what I don't agree with is that people whose children have finished at childcare and are at school, they should have their payments cut. Kids don't stop, you know, needing school uniforms, they don't stop, you know, the costs of growing up once they leave the childcare centre.
The bigger issue here is this. When you said the Omnibus Bill is not connected to the corporate tax cut, I don't actually agree with that characterisation. The problem is the Government has said that its economic plan, sort of classical right-wing economics, it said if you reduce the corporate taxes of the big companies that that will somehow generate a better outcome.
But what it is, is the Government proposing withdrawing $50 billion from the nation's ATM and handing it to corporate Australia. Now that's a $50 billion hole, and what they're trying to do is get either the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or increase taxes for Australians, or indeed family payments, because they have created a problem for Australia. They are going to take $50 billion out of the nation's ATM and they've got no plan to replace it.
And so I think Mr Turnbull has several jobs today. One, what are the taxes that they are thinking of increasing? Mr Turnbull said that Mr Morrison made a statement of the penetratingly obvious. Well this is penetratingly obvious – what taxes are you going to increase? Is it the GST? Remember last year Mr Turnbull said he would allow states to levy income taxes?
The Government has a lot more explaining to do. As I said, Mr Morrison has let the cat out of the bag. His plan to pay for the $50 billion tax giveaway to corporate Australia, including the banks, is to get ordinary Australians to pay for it. Now what taxes is he going to increase?
JOURNALIST: It is true, though, that if the Government doesn't make significant savings like it is attempting to do with these welfare changes that Australia's AAA rating will be at risk?
SHORTEN: Well, thanks for the question, Olivia. It is true that if the Government decided not to go ahead with this $50 billion reduction in their budget, the AAA credit rating wouldn't be at risk. It is true if they decided to reform negative gearing, and by the way, give our first home buyers a level playing field to buy their first home, with the property investors, then the AAA credit wouldn't be at risk.
The fact of the matter is the Government is presenting us with an ultimatum. You either don't properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, you vote for rotten cuts to family payments and taking money off pensioners, or we have the unspecified risk of increased taxes across Australians. And they say that's all that's on the menu.
Not so quick, Mr Turnbull. There's another item on the menu you are not showing the people of Australia. Don't go ahead with the $50 billion corporate tax cut.
JOURNALIST: The idea has been floated of an increase to the Medicare levy. What's your view on that?
SHORTEN: Well, I think the first thing the Government has got to do is drop the $50 billion corporate tax cut. See, what the Government says is either you pay more taxes or battling families and pensioners lose money. But there is a third way. Don't reduce the corporate tax that they currently pay. Too many corporations aren't paying the tax they are meant to pay now. Too many multinationals are sending their profits overseas. This government is soft on big companies and hard on pensioners and working families.
So I think if the Government really wants to do budget repair, it should do budget repair which is fair. Why is it that a pensioner should lose $14 a fortnight for an energy supplement, whereas they want to give the big banks a windfall gain? It is all about priorities.
JOURNALIST: So is that a no to exploring an increase to the Medicare levy?
SHORTEN: I think the first thing that the Government has to do –
JOURNALIST: Sorry, moving us on from the corporate tax cuts –
SHORTEN: I don't deal with hypotheticals. I tell you my game plan – backing Australian jobs, backing apprentices, backing TAFE and make sure we get the Government to drop this absurd $50 billion withdrawal from the nation's ATM.
What Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have done in the last two weeks is they've said, you can have childcare but we'll reduce your family payments. Then this week, they've said, you can have the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but you've got to vote to reduce other people's benefits.
Kurt Fearnley said, Australia's great Paralympian, not a bloke who is into politics but a person who cares about the rights and lives of people with disabilities, he described Mr Morrison's threat, Mr Turnbull's threat to take $3 billion and punish people's disabilities, if we don't vote for his schemes to cut payments, he said it is mischief, he said, it is opportunism and it is wrong.
I don't think I can improve on Kurt's statement.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, in Labor's 2013 budget papers, you describe some of the money going towards the NDIS as selected long-term savings. What are those savings?
SHORTEN: You have to refer to the budget papers. It was a 10-year plan. And let's, you know, when Jenny Macklin moved the disability proposition and spoke about them, and when we spoke about them in the budget three and a half years ago, I will let you into a secret, the Liberals voted for it. You didn't see a whole lot of speeches then saying this was all a bad thing to do. Secondly, our shadow Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong questioned Finance Secretary, David Tune in November 2013, he agreed that the money had been allocated.
The issue here is that the Government has been luke-warm on the NDIS. I know that. I was involved in helping create the case that we can give a better deal to people with disabilities and their families and carers. The Government, to be fair, came to the party, they voted for this. Now three and a half years on, they are saying that there is not enough money to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I tell you what, if they stopped going ahead with tax cuts for the top end of town, there is more than enough to look after the less well off in Australian society.
JOURNALIST: Let's just say the Government is not going the budge on the $50 billion tax cut. Will Labor then support then support the Omnibus Bill to make sure taxes are not raised?
SHORTEN: I am always going the fight for working people. As the Leader of the Opposition, where I think the Government is right, I will agree with them. But where they are not, just because Mr Morrison engages in a bit of cheap, threatening language, just because the Government wants to attack the Labor Party, we are not for turning.
In a time of difficult economic circumstances, where we have got unemployment rising, where we have flat-lining wages growth, where we have got productivity growth very low, where if it wasn't for the exports of our minerals into Asia, this economy would be doing it even harder, these are difficult times so choices have to be made.
Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison, they are the party of big business. They are the party of giving corporate tax cuts, $50 billion. Now is not the time to do that. I am not going to stand by and let them take the axe to Medicare, take the baseball bat to pensioners, to go after family payments, to threaten the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And now today, this is a government who is obsessed about their corporate tax cut. They say, don't look at the $50 billion we are drawing from the budget, and instead, let's see what we can see over here. We are not up for that. We are going to fight for working people. Doesn't matter what the Government says.
JOURNALIST: Should the life Gold Pass also be scrapped for former prime ministers?
JOURNALIST: So you'll be supporting those amendments?
SHORTEN: We'll have a look at it.
JOURNALIST: Why is that? Why do you think it probably should be?
SHORTEN: Because at the end of the day I don't know if it is sustainable. The point about it is – let's go to the broader issue of expenses .We will work with the Government on a bipartisan basis. There is no doubt in my mind that Australians want to see a better standard from politicians. The reason why I say probably is I think our former prime ministers deserve though some dignity and respect. They do good work for the public. So you know, it is a balance proposition. I don't actually think that the issue of expenses is one to do with former prime ministers alone, so you know, it is not what is keeping me up at night.
I tell you what is, though. This is a government who has let the cat out of the bag. They are proposing that the only way they can pay for $50 billion in corporate tax cuts for the largest companies in Australia is by making ordinary working Australians pay more in taxes. This is a government who has run out of ideas. They are responding to events and the best they can do is actually go after the less well off in society. We are going to fight them today, tomorrow and every day to the election, full stop.
Thanks, everybody. See you in Question Time.