FRIDAY, 27 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s jobs plan Indigenous rangers; Treasurers’ debate; Labor’s plan for Budget repair that’s fair; Jamie Clements; Donald Trump; Pay and conditions.
LUKE GOSLING, CANDIDATE FOR SOLOMON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Darwin Cenotaph. For those that don't know me, my name is Luke Gosling, I'm the Labor candidate for Darwin and Palmerston, the seat of Solomon. So I'd particularly like to welcome you here to this, what is a sacred spot here in Darwin. At the Cenotaph over here behind you, I was very proud to, as a former member of the Australian military, to lobby hard for the addition of Afghanistan and Iraq on our memorial wall over there. We're a proud military town and it's great to be here. One of the jobs I did in the Australian Defence Force, was with NORFORCE, which is more than half Indigenous soldiers. There's something very special about being out on country with people who are from that country and it's a great source of pride, I know, to the Australian Army, the work of NORFORCE, but also when you're out there on country, you rea lise that some of the best jobs out there is for people working on their own country, caring for that country, and that's why it's so excellent to be here with our leader, Bill Shorten, to make these important announcements about jobs for Territorians and Aboriginal Australians here today. Thanks very much.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Luke. Good morning, everybody. Great to be here with Luke Gosling, Labor's candidate for Solomon. Also Warren Snowden, Labor's member for Lingiari, Shayne Neumann our spokesperson on Indigenous Affairs, and Senator Pat Dodson, my Parliamentary Secretary.
We're here today because we want to announce that a Labor Government, if elected after the 2nd of July, will double the number of Indigenous rangers in Australia. This is real jobs for real people and our policies making a real impact upon people's lives. The Indigenous ranger program was established back in 2007. It now employs 775 Indigenous rangers across Australia. They're doing great work. They do environmental management. They do Landcare. They do tourism. And what we're seeing is a great set of skills for a future work force in the private sector as well through the Indigenous ranger program. That's why Labor's pleased to say that we will double this to 1,550 Indigenous rangers by 2020-21.
Labor's about real jobs. We actually want to make a practical difference and improvement in the lives of Australians. What we see in remote communities is a lack of real jobs. This Indigenous ranger program is delivering dividends not just for the people employed on the program in a meaningful way, but for their communities, and for the broader infrastructure across northern Australia. We are very committed to giving Indigenous Australians a whole set of jobs which create their opportunity, if they choose to do other work in the future, they will have a skill set. It's about mentoring, it's about acquiring skills which are in vast demand across our marvellous north of Australia. What we're doing is not just caring for the environmental management of the land, we're improving the chances in the future for the custodians of the land. So this is real jobs which will make a real difference.
Before we go to questions, I'd also like to talk about the upcoming Treasurers' debate at lunchtime today. This is an important day in the election. This is the debate between the two alternative Treasurers. But Chris Bowen can go into the debate knowing that I fully support him. Yesterday, I committed that Chris Bowen, and I guaranteed that Chris Bowen would be our Treasurer after July 2nd, if we are elected. Yesterday, I challenged Mr Turnbull to make the same commitment on behalf of Mr Morrison. I understand that the line-up of ministers after July 2nd is often a matter for debate then, but Treasurer is in a special category. It's the chief economic spokesperson of the government of the day. That's why I know that Chris Bowen's doing a great job, that's why I have no hesitation in guaranteeing his position. I actually think it is intriguing that since yesterday, Mr Turnbull hasn't done the obvious step of matching my commitment and guaranteeing Mr Morrison to be the Treasurer after July 2nd. I think it is long overdue for Mr Turnbull to come out and make a brief, unambiguous statement of full confidence in Mr Morrison. Every minute he doesn't do it raises a question mark about the real relationship which we know is already strained between those two gentlemen. People can vote for Labor on July 2nd and they know that we are a united team and that you would have the Prime Minister and the Treasurer working in lock-step for the best interests of the nation. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: When did you decide to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus? Did the Feeney interview accelerate that decision and doesn't it show it's just a Labor broken promise?
SHORTEN: First of all there's been three steps in the process of making the hard decisions that we announced yesterday. Step one, credit ratings agencies come out and warn that under Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison's stewardship of the Australian economy, our AAA credit rating is in danger. That was the first giant warning sign. Then we get to the Budget, and the Budget says that under the Liberals they've tripled the deficit. That net debt for every man, woman and child in Australia is up $5,000. Net public sector debt. And of course, last week, the PEFO, the fiscal outlook numbers, just I think were quite a shock to Australia. What we see in those economic numbers is that this government has lost control of its finances, we have spending at the level of the global financial crisis that we saw, except there is no global financial crisis, there's only a Morrison financial crisis. And what we also see therefore is hard decisions had to be made.
But let me go a little bit further. Under Labor, families will always be better off. This election, as I said at the start of the election, is a question of priorities. Mr Turnbull's priority is to spend $50 billion of taxpayer money in tax cuts for corporate Australia. Labor's priority is to spend money on saving Medicare, protecting bulk-billing, keeping the price of medicine down and properly funding our schools. Families will always be better off under a Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: When did you decide to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus and was your Shadow Cabinet consulted?
SHORTEN: Well, again, I answered your question. But I'm happy to go through my points again because it's an important issue that you raise.
JOURNALIST: No, you didn't really answer the question. When did you decide to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus?
SHORTEN: Let's be straight here. What happened to the decisions that we made are influenced by the Government's mismanagement of our AAA credit rating. No amount of shirking the issue denies that fact. Second issue. Their Budget was a stinker. Tripled the deficit. We got more debt, more spending. This Government cannot keep a position from morning to night. And finally, last week, we get to the position where we see the PEFO, the most recent independent set of Budget numbers and what we see there is this Government is not in control of their own Budget. We know that the Budget they brought down on May 3rd was a shabby political document which did little to address the needs of most Australians.
JOURNALIST: Was the decision made –
SHORTEN: No, I'm going to, I am going to answer your question. But in order to do, so you must let me do that. Now let's be very straight here. The decisions are triggered by the Government's bad budget, tripling the deficit and I will keep talking about the fact that this Government has tripled the deficit even if the Government don't want me to, that's what Australians need to know. And furthermore then we see their economic outlook numbers last week, the most recent set of independent numbers, and what it shows is that the chickens have come home to roost under both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull's administration of Australia. Malcolm Turnbull justified rolling Tony Abbott that he would give new economic leadership. There's not much new economic leadership here. And in fact, in this election, all we see is a government shrinking into its own position, and what they're in fact doing is they can't talk about their own positive policies because they have none, all they can do is look at us and try to challenge our positive policies with our great priorities.
JOURNALIST: Jamie Clements, he is accused of misusing confidential electoral roll information. What do you know about this and now much of a setback in this for Labor in New South Wales, where seats for Labor are so important?
SHORTEN: It's a matter of record I have said some harsh things about Mr Clements in the past but the matter is now before the courts and I'm going to let that take its course.
JOURNALIST: The end of the Schoolkids Bonus means no new shoes, no school uniforms, no music lessons, no extra tutoring for some kids so they might fall behind. How can Labor call itself the party of the battler when you have let down 1.3 million families?
SHORTEN: Let's be really straight here. The Labor Party's the only party standing up for education in this country. All of those items you go to are all about how parents help their kids through the school system. Only Labor's got a fully funded plan to make sure that there are electives offered in classes so that kids can learn music. A lot of parents need to find extra money because basically, the school system is at breaking point. Mr Turnbull will fight for the right of the very top schools to keep the money they've got. But he has nothing to say about every other school in Australia. Never forget that Mr Turnbull said as one of the great reforms to federation, in a perfect world, a Commonwealth government he leads will get out of funding public schools. You know, that altitude is so out of touch, it's positively dangerous in terms of the educational prospects for most Australian children.
Labor will fully fund resources to schools, so that when kids need to be able to get the chance to learn the performing arts or music, they will able to have those electives offered. So that kids will be able to make sure they don't have to share one instrument among six kids. What we will do is take the pressure from families by properly funding schools, because what we see at the moment is increasingly free education is becoming a thing of the past in our primary and secondary system, because so many parents are asked to pay for the extras. Now what we want to do is make sure that the schools are properly resourced, so they stop asking parents to pay for the extras. It is a hard decision. But I also know that this Government is still persisting with further cuts to family payments, and in their current form, the Government's proposed cuts to family payments will be opposed by Labor, because it's going to disadvantage too many low-income families. I welc ome a debate with Mr Turnbull about fairness, because if he was really interested in fairness, why is he increasing the price of medicine, why does he want to see doctors have to force upfront fees and pathology labs put upfront fees and why won't he properly fund schools according to the best evidence and experts advice?
JOURNALIST: When will you return the Budget to surplus?
SHORTEN: We will have more to say about that. Mr Bowen will be outlining some of our fiscal principles in today’s debate. What I can guarantee people is we will not be spending $50 billion on tax cuts for corporations. We will not, in the next 10 years, hand back $7.4 billion to big banks who don't need that money. Instead what we will do is be able to properly fund our schools. Make sure every family and every child gets the opportunity for the best quality education no matter what postcode they live in in Australia. I can guarantee we can fund keeping downward pressure on the price of medicine. I can guarantee we will properly fund Medicare so we don't have the privatisation of the payment system, so we don't see the doctors having to charge up-front fees to go to the doctor.
JOURNALIST: There's every chance Donald Trump could become President and this morning you have described him as barking mad. How would you work with him if you win the election?
SHORTEN: I believe in the American alliance. The American alliance can withstand the vagaries of Australian domestic politics and American domestic politics. Let me be really clear, if a Labor administration is elected we will stick by the American alliance full stop. All I have said is what John Howard said. It is funny that some of the Coalition ministers want to attack me every day for everything we say. Why don't they attack John Howard who has made equally strong comments about the merits of Trump as a candidate. People ask me what do you think about Donald Trump? Will I just stand here and tell you nothing? Will I stand here and not be straight with people? No, with me, you will always know what we think. In terms of the American alliance and whoever is elected, of course we will work with them.
JOURNALIST: How long will the funding cycles for the rangers be, because their biggest concern is they will only get three years money at a time.
SHORTEN: We have committed this funding to 2020-2021.
JOURNALIST: So a program will be funded from now until 2021 if it gets funded?
JOURNALIST: There is a chance that you and Mr Trump will be sitting in a room having to negotiate one day. Are you not concerned about the personal relationship you two may have following comments like those?
SHORTEN: Listen, let's not exaggerate. Mr Trump's comments are truly remarkable. If you think someone who says Mexicans are killers and rapists, if you think that I can't have an opinion about someone who says about John McCain, yes he is a war hero but Mr Trump prefers war heroes who aren't captured. Really. Let's also be clear, John Howard has the same views I do about Donald Trump. We will maintain the American alliance no matter what. I saw Mr Howard made comments about President Obama. That hasn't damaged the Australian-American relations.
JOURNALIST: Are you prepared to repeat what you said on radio this morning?
SHORTEN: I've already said it, Tim.
JOURNALIST: Not when we were there. How would you describe Donald Trump?
SHORTEN: I think he has very erratic views. The views he has aren't views which sit comfortably with the mainstream of Australian opinion. I think he represents a turn towards American politics which will be destabilising for America. I don't believe in a divisive nation. I don't believe in dividing the nation. I don't believe setting up one group of people against another group of people. I have a different world view. I don't imagine if I am Prime Minister I will agree with every political view of every world leader I meet. That would be impossible.
JOURNALIST: Deloitte research this morning suggests union wage deals in the construction sector could push up the cost of projects by 5-15 per cent. I am not asking about bankers pay, I am asking about union wage deals. Do you concede this is a problem and what can you do to fix this?
SHORTEN: The wage negotiations between companies and their employees and their representatives is a matter for the company, for the employees. I am not about cutting peoples' wages, I am not interested in trying to interfere in commercial negotiations between employers and employees. That would be a heavy-handed government to start telling companies what they can pay workers. In fact, my attitude contrasts exactly with that of Mr Turnbull. We have flat lining wages growth in Australia. I am very concerned that wages growth in Australia, with the exception of a few sectors, is actually hurting confidence, it's hurting demand, it is hurting the receipts of Government budgets. When people get reasonable wage rises, that is not a bad thing. I'm the Labor guy. I don't mind people getting wage rises.
When you said I can't talk about banks, Joe, I will talk about banks. The truth of the matter is that, why is it that some people in Australia are obsessed about what a concreter gets or a carpet layer or nurse? Why is it that 61 Liberal MPs and candidates are obsessed about the penalty rates of firies, nurses, of people who work the unsociable hours and they are completely silent, they are mute, they are quiet about the excessive remuneration in the financial services sector? Why is it that the Liberals always have a view about what people who get $50-$60,000 a year are earning but they are completely silent about CEOs on $5 million dollar? The truth of the matter is that inequality in this country is growing. It is at a 75-year high.
One of the protections to preserve against greater gaps between the haves and the have-nots is having an enterprise bargaining system and a strong minimum safety net. Labor is committed to making sure we have a strong bargaining system, that we have a strong safety net. That is why I was also, for the first Opposition Leader ever, to put in a submission to the Fair Work Commission supporting penalty rates and we have to look in this country, why is that Mr Turnbull and some of the big business chiefs are obsessed about what a crane driver gets, a concreter, scaffolder, a rigger, a form worker, yet they always say we need to be paid the best comparatives in the world in terms of our own wages at the top end? There is a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to analysing the wages of blue collar workers and not a lot of analysis about the top end. This is why we need to have a banking Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Breaking down the reasons for backtracking on a promise to families. You said the AAA credit rating is at risk and the PEFO were a bad set of numbers. The Budget hasn't changed that. PEFO didn't show a big change in the numbers from PEFO. Is that the reason of your view to breaking this promise and can you promise not to break any more promises before or after the election?
SHORTEN: To be fair, there is not many assumptions in your question I agree with. Let's just go through the things that you say are not issues. The Liberals since they have come in have tripled the deficit, tripled the deficit. The Liberals since they have come in have presided over every quarter since they have come in, a reduction in investment and capital expenditure. The Liberals, since they've come in, have added $5,000 in net public sector debt on the heads of every man, woman and child in Australia. The Budget was a clanger. We understand that. It was an election give away.
He's spending a lot of money, Mr Turnbull, he is just giving the money away to the big end of town, to corporations. He is willing to spend taxpayer money, just not willing to spend it on Australians. The issue here is that it was a shocking Budget. We know they still had heroic assumptions in that Budget. Anyone who can say when you have a ratings agency saying that the AAA credit rating is under threat and just simply dismiss it, well, it hasn't happened yet, even though we're getting the warnings of the threat, that shows that this Government aren't the economic managers they would like to convince Australians they are.
We will make hard decisions. I will give a rock solid commitment that we will only have policies that we can deliver and we will only have policies that we can fund. When it comes to standing up for families, I will back my record against Mr Turnbull. Mr Turnbull is happy to cut all of the programs. He is happy not to properly fund Medicare. He is happy to see a two-tier health system be created in Australia. That is the effect of freezing doctors' rebates to 2020. He is happy to increase the price of medicine, he's happy to not properly fund the schools, despite all of the expert evidence. When it comes to standing up for families, and I think of the families be it in Palmerston here or in my suburb of Moonee Ponds. Parents want a Government in Canberra who will make sure their kids get the best start in life. For families on $50,000 and $60,000 a year, the family tax benefits cuts that Mr Turnbull is promising will truly make their lives harder. We wil l make hard decisions but we always know that when it comes to a choice between large multinationals or families, we back families. When it comes to a choice between giving $7.4 billion over the next 10 years to the four big banks or backing up sick people who need to see the GP, we pick the sick people over the big banks because that's who we are. Last question, thank you.
JOURNALIST: Your union ally Jamie Clements, the man whose details were illegally passed on was threatened with a 9mm bullet. How can you tell the Australian public that Labor can lead this nation if its key supporters are behaving like this? Can you guarantee that you will ensure he is no longer working with the AWU, your former union?
SHORTEN: First of all, let's go to what happened in January. Back in January, I said this fellow should step down from his position. Made the decision, made the call. Now, as I also said since then, this morning, his matter is before the court. I won't, in the interests of fairness, make comments about individual matters, but I have certainly said my harsh things and that is on the record. Thanks everybody. See you at the next function.