BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon everyone. I’m here with Ros Spence, the Mayor of the City of Hume, Maria Vamvakinou the Federal Labor member for Calwell, and Rob Mitchell the Labor member for McEwen.
We’re here seeing that not all the news about the economy is bad news. Today we’ve just inspected a dynamic, $330 million construction job, which is going to become a new centre for people in one of the fastest growth corridors in all of Australia, for the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
There’s going to be up to 700 people working on, work arising, out of this job, 500 on site. There’s already 100 men and women working to create a new, almost a brand new, city in the north, from the paddocks.
So there is fantastic progress, fantastic jobs and it’s great for the local community. And Melbourne is a very lucky city, unlike a lot of the other great cities of Australia, we’ve got a lot of flat land all around and it’s no surprise to see that Melbourne is growing so fast and so successfully. Good jobs news here.
Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Wayne Swan has said that company tax cuts is still on the agenda, how would you get them through parliament, would you have a deal with the Greens in mind or something?
BILL SHORTEN: When the history books are written about company tax cuts, the opposition in particular by the Greens and the Liberals will be viewed as one of those great missed opportunities of Australian politics.
The Labor Government is getting on with business of spreading the benefits of the mining boom for the whole of the Australian economy. We’re up for cutting the rate of company tax, but if the liberal keep saying no, we’re not going to simply give up, lean on our shovel, sit down or go home.
That’s why we’ve been able to give literally millions of Australians who are eligible for Family Tax Benefit A extra payments. If you’ve got a child at primary school and you are eligible for Family Tax benefit A you’ll be getting $410 to help you with those costs of education, and then in secondary school you’ll also be getting $820. So what we’ve done is we are using failure of the Liberals to support company tax cuts to spread the benefits of the mining boom in another way with greater payments for families.
We’re also providing benefits for small business by our loss carry back scheme , which means that if you make a certain profit in one year and you make a loss the following year or two years because you’ve invested in new machinery or you’ve invested in your business, you’ll be able to claim a tax deduction off an earlier year. So we are helping small business anyway, we’re helping families.
In terms of future business tax reform, the Treasurer has been crystal clear – he is happy for the business community to sit down with the Government and work out how we can afford new business tax cuts from reallocating taxes from where they lie now.
So it’s all possible and on the table, we’re just going to need some leadership from the relentlessly negative Opposition.
REPORTER: Do you think the Greens will support it going through?
BILL SHORTEN: To be fair to the Greens they were willing to support the small company tax cuts but not the bigger business tax cuts. For us it was an all or nothing package.
The big story in the budget is that unlike almost the rest of the modern industrialised world, we’re heading to surplus, we’ve got to surplus when we put forward the budget this year with a surplus in it, and that’s important to relieve pressure on home owners but exerting downwards pressure on interest rates. We live in a patchwork economy. The areas affected by the mining boom but plenty of other areas are doing it hard such as manufacturing. We want to help families we want to help small businesses, we think ultimately the good idea is triumph over the bad negativity.
REPORTER: So there’s a petition going around Dobell calling on Craig Thomson to resign, how successful do you think that will be?
BILL SHORTEN: Listen, what happens in terms of this whole Fair Work inquiry is now pretty clear. The investigation stage is over. As the minster for industrial relations I’ve made it clear that we think the investigation stage took too long.
But I do think we owe it to the thousands of members, hardworking hospital cleaners and other people in the Health Services East branch of the Health Services Union to finish the job properly.
What that means is that the investigation has made its findings, they’re deeply disturbing findings. That sort of conduct has no role in the modern union movement, or indeed in modern business, and what we’re seeking to do now is have the courts test the evidence. That is the appropriate way to handle matters. That is what we owe to the hospital cleaners and orderlies who, like the rest of us, read some appalling conduct.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with independent MPs who say his explanation to parliament was a false explanation to parliament... (inaudible )
BILL SHORTEN: My job as minister for industrial relations is to finish the process of resolving what has happened in the Health Services Union East Branch. I think I owe it to the members just to stick to the business at hand.
In terms of the findings, they are distasteful. We’re not here to protect or defend individuals. But I would also say that, no matter how some people find the findings distasteful, there is now a requirement to have this tested in court.
The parliament cannot be judge and jury – I think that’s a very sensible proposition which will stand the test of ages.
JOURNALIST: What’s the latest...(inaudible).
BILL SHORTEN: There’s Federal Court mediation. Last month, I and the Federal Government were the first people to initiate an application to appoint an administrator to the troubled Health Services Union East Branch.
I do notice that since then the Liberal Party has turned up late to the party and said we were going to do that. Although in tens and tens of press releases and thousands and thousands of words, they never raised this proposition once until we did it.
I also notice the O’Farrell government has had to change the law in New South Wales because their own laws don’t allow them to appoint an administrator.
We’re supported by the trade union movement in our application for an administrator. That’s just giving you backdrop you probably knew. So now it’s headed to the mediation phase.
I believe it should be possible for all the interested parties to agree on an administrator and on a scheme of arrangement. Our commitment is to return the union to the democratic control of its members as soon as possible.
The New South Wales Government has gone down one path, we’ve already initiated a course of action. I’m optimistic we can work things out, but one thing’s for sure – we will make sure there’s an administrator for that union. Mediation – I don’t want to predict at half time what the full-time score is, but people are working hard in a fair dinkum manner from all points of view to resolve these matters, and I’m being kept in touch.
JOURNALIST: How will you deal with the possibility that two administrators are appointed?
BILL SHORTEN: There’s two sets of laws and it is entirely possible. We see, I’d have to say, in administrations in commercial life, that quite often an interest holder will seek to have a receiver appointed over some parts of the business; in others there’s an administrator. But I think that’s not the most optimal outcome.
What we would say to the New South Wales Government, and what I’ve said personally to the relevant minister, is these members deserve better. We’re big enough and, I think, smart enough to work through these issues, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
So let’s hope the scenario you outlined doesn’t come to pass.
JOURNALIST: Penny Wong said last night that parliament is the most vitriolic she’s ever experienced. Do you agree with that?
BILL SHORTEN: Well I haven’t been in parliament as long as Penny Wong – I’ve only been in for four years.
I do know that Australians want politics to be about the issues and about the lives people lead outside of parliament.
We had an opportunity to talk to Marty and Craig and Serge – workers. They’re a couple of steel fixers. They’ve got six months of work here. They’re interested in that six months of work being quality work, well paid work, safe work. Serge is a foreman working in the concrete area. He’s got a very good attitude to work which is every the job’s there, he’ll get up and go and do it.
What those discussions do – what this mud and gravel and bluestone beneath our feet remind me is that there are issues and lives being lived beyond what passes for the 24-hour news cycle.
And the Government is committed to making sure that we spread the benefits of the mining boom, we’re making sure that families can make ends meet when it comes to paying the kids’ school bills, we’re committed to making sure that families get a reduction in their tax which is what we’ve done with our tax reductions coming in on the first of July for people earning less than $80,000.
It is a good tonic for any MP who, the debates in Canberra and the media coverage is getting them down, get out onto a worksite, talk to some real people and it reminds you of what really is important.
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