WEDNESDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Banking Royal Commission; backpacker tax; superannuation; US presidential election; Christmas Day public holiday; section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act
KATY GALLAGHER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL SERVICES: We're at CARE financial to talk with Carmel and her team and also meet with George and some of the other victims of financial abuse in this country. It's fantastic to be here with the Leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, and my federal colleague, Matt Thistlethwaite, to talk with those who know the most about what's happening across Australia's banking and financial services system, who see the real human impact on some of the shoddy practice, some of the misconduct, some of the misleading and mis-selling of products that's going on across the Australian community. And to really hear those very personal stories of hardship that come with that practice.
This reminds us of the importance that we have of continuing to fight for a Royal Commission, to continuing to argue our case about why it's important. Because it's for the people like George who we met this morning, to stand up for them and to make sure that all of the impacts of what's happened to them can be explored and can be reformed to make sure that people don't go through some of the experiences they've had this morning.
And I certainly welcome Bill and his commitment to pursuing that in an ongoing way to make sure that all of those who have been victims of banking misconduct are getting the support they need from political leaders in this country. I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Katy. Good morning everybody, it's great to be here at CARE. Today we've had the privilege of talking to people who are standing up for the victims of banks and financial service sector rorts. We've also had the most important experience of talking to some of the victims, good Australians, hardworking Australians, who have been the victim of predatory lending and other unethical acts by large financial institutions.
Labor will not give up our push for a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sector. And today, talking to more victims reinforces our conviction that nothing less than a Royal Commission into our big banks and financial services sector will do. Mr Turnbull, as the political representative of big banks, keeps saying that the problems have been solved, that the banks have heeded the message. Well no, they haven't.
Listening to a chef who when he was on his sick bed was on-sold loans and debts that he couldn’t afford. Listening to other people who in the midst of helping their kids deal with drug addiction is sold financial instruments which he couldn't sustain. This is not a case of the victim making a mistake, this is the case of hardworking people who are the victims of predatory loans and predatory banking practices.
What Mr Turnbull needs to do is stop focusing on his own job and start standing up for the tens of thousands of victims of financial services. Labor will not relent on our push for a Royal Commission. The Australian people expect nothing less. Happy to take questions on this or any other matters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will Australian fruit pickers end up paying more tax than backpackers under the 10.5 per cent proposal?
SHORTEN: Well, currently they pay no tax, and the Federal Government for the last year and a half has created a new onerous taxation level of 32 per cent starting on 1 January. This is a classic Liberal National Government stuff up. Everyone's been telling them that the tax that they're putting on backpackers is so onerous that it will discourage a vital part of the seasonal workforce from coming to Australia.
We are already seeing a drought of backpackers - an effective strike of backpackers not coming to Australia because of the Government's bungling. We think that 10.5 per cent tax from every dollar that a backpacker earns is a good start. The fact of the matter is that backpackers, under our proposal, won't enjoy a tax-free threshold which Australians earn. In other words, up to about $19,000, Australians don't pay any tax whatsoever, backpackers on the other hand will pay tax from the first dollar they earn. But we have to get the balance right and support our farmers, support our regional tourism industry.
The Government needs to come to its senses, work with industry, hear the voices of the farmers, work with the Opposition and we can fix this very troubling issue before Christmas.
JOURNALIST: The National Farmers' Federation says it is happy with a 19 per cent, so would you be willing to negotiate somewhere between 19 and 10.5 per cent?
SHORTEN: Well I think the Government needs to explain why they want to discourage jobs in the fruit picking and packing industry. I think the Government needs to explain why they don't see backpackers as a useful source for tourism dollar. The fact is that when backpackers come to Australia and earn money, they spend that money here.
You just have to look at our very important Northern Queensland, regional Queensland tourism centres like Cairns, like Mackay and other areas. They need the backpackers to be coming to help sustain the local economy. No, I think that the National Party and Barnaby Joyce and the Government need to listen to the grower groups, not just the NFF chiefs, but the grower groups who make up the National Farmers' Federation, and I think they should accept the sensible compromise which Labor's offering.
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer has accused you of going back on a promise before the last election that any compromise on the backpacker tax wouldn't come at a cost to the Budget, are you backtracking on that?
SHORTEN: I'm glad to see the Treasurer is out and about, he's been missing for the last three months, hasn't he? If we want to talk about broken promises before the last election, remember their iron-clad commitment they were not going to change their superannuation laws? Every day is a new policy out of this mob in terms of the superannuation.
And in terms of the backpacker tax, it was the Liberal Party of Australia and their National Party allies who introduced the 32.5 per cent tax, and they introduced it, they took it to the election. They took that to the election. So if anyone's got to explain why they're causing problems in the Budget, we've already seen Mr Morrison retreat from his 32 cents tax down to a 19 cents tax, and they can't even do their compromises properly.
What we need to do is listen to the farmers, listen to the small businesses, listen to the tourism operators. That's what Labor's doing and I think that's what Mr Morrison should do too.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Victorians working Christmas Day this year won't get penalty rates because of the decision from the Daniel Andrews Government, has Victorian Labor given up on protecting penalty rates?
SHORTEN: I believe that Christmas Day should be a public holiday, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to the superannuation reforms, the Treasurer has also accused you, with the latest proposals, that up to 800,000 people will be worse off. Can you guarantee that no one will be worse off under your proposed changes?
SHORTEN: I can guarantee that people will always be better off under Labor in government than the Liberals. This Treasurer, he is so busy attacking us, what he needs to do is actually what he promised to do before the last election. What on earth is Scott Morrison doing about 'jobs and growth'? Remember that was their argument in the last election, and now we haven't seen them talk about that.
This government is obsessed with attacking Labor. What Australians want out of this government is not the negativity towards Labor, they want the Government to get on and govern. What are they doing to help the Hazelwood workers? That's a big issue. 750 people have just found out they have lost their job. What is the Government doing about jobs?
We've got a big issue when you have got people coming here on 457, 417 visas, these are visas which give people from overseas temporary work rights in Australia yet we've got auto-electricians and mechanics and carpenters who can't get work in Australia. This government should be prioritising Australian jobs. They should be prioritising helping the Hazelwood workers. They shouldn't be playing silly political games.
JOURNALIST: Just on to the US election, reports from over there suggest that voter turnout is larger than in previous elections. Why do you think that’s the case and who do you think will win?
SHORTEN: Well I have made my views clear. I think it is probably in Australia's foreign policy interest to see a President Hillary Clinton elected. We will work with whoever the American people elect. But I have also made my views clear about the other fellow, Donald Trump. Someone who can't respect women, I can't respect them.
JOURNALIST: Should Daniel Andrews overturn his decision to not make Christmas Day a public holiday?
SHORTEN: I think the Victorian Government has to work through its issues, but in terms of my position, for 30 years I have believed that, as representing workers and working constructively with companies, Christmas Day should be a public holiday.
JOURNALIST: How important is this US election to Australia and what will be the main concerns in terms of whoever wins? What kind of issues do we need to worry about the most?
SHORTEN: The Australian-American alliance is one of our bedrocks of foreign policy. Both Labor and Liberal believe this fundamentally. Australia will work with whoever the American democratic process turns out in the next 24 hours. I think it is important that we have America engaged in the Asia-Pacific region. I think it is important that America keeps it pivot or re-balance towards Asia as one of its priorities. That for me is of great interest. How American foreign policy helps with Australian security and helps with Australia's engagement in Asia.
Perhaps one last question.
JOURNALIST: The three university students from Queensland are demanding the Human Rights President Gillian Triggs apologise for the way that she handled the matter. Do you think that's appropriate?
SHORTEN: Oh, listen I am pleased that the matter has been resolved. For me, this how debate about section 18C - it is an important section because it protects minorities from hateful speech. People who want to engage in free speech have the protections of section 18D. I think that the proponents of change need to explain, changing the law, need to explain what is it that they want people to be allowed to say that they are not allowed to say now? And I think if you take this issue further, why is the Government investing so much of its political effort into reviewing a piece of law to do with protections against hate speech when I think there is actually a lot of other more important issues.
This government has essentially given up on 'jobs and growth'. This Government, I think, if it's looking for inspiration on jobs, it shouldn't be looking at the bottom of the barrel on some of the issues which are less important to 'jobs and growth'. If they want to do something about 'jobs and growth', start talking about how we look after our steel industry. Start talking about how we look after the workers at Hazelwood. If they want to start talking about 'jobs and growth', let’s have a conversation and make sure that the cheap labour from overseas isn’t undermining Australian jobs. This is what the Government should focus on, not some of the more exotic issues which the right wing of the Liberal Party are yanking Mr Turnbull's chain on.
Thank you everybody, see you later.