FRIDAY, 23 DECEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Vinnies and their volunteers doing great work over Christmas; raids in Melbourne; Government’s accounting tricks to keep AAA rating; divided and dysfunctional Turnbull Government; CDP program.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, it's great to be at Vinnies in Ascot Vale thanking volunteers for the marvellous work that they and Vinnies are doing this Christmas.
Christmas is a time for families to catch up, to take it easy, to fire up the barbeque, to catch up with family. We also need to remember at Christmas though, that many of our fellow Australians are doing it tough. Parents who don't have enough to perhaps buy the kids the presents that they want to give them. You have the pressures and stresses of family violence which seems to peak at Christmas, and many of our fellow Australians simply are living below the poverty line.
That's why the marvellous work of Vinnies and the Salvos and the city missions and the faith based organisations are so important. I can't imagine a Christmas without a barbeque or going to the beach, but I can't imagine an Australian Christmas without Vinnies and their volunteers doing such great work, and I'd encourage Australians this Christmas to dig deep and perhaps think about other people who are doing it harder than they are this Christmas. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, seven people have been arrested in Melbourne overnight over an alleged terrorism plot, potentially on Christmas Day. What's your reaction to that?
SHORTEN: Well I haven’t received a full briefing from the Government but these reports are concerning and I understand the Prime Minister will be talking further about it with the police later this morning.
But let me reassure Australians, our security agencies and our police forces are amongst the best in the world. It doesn’t mean that they're infallible but they are certainly amongst the best in the world and I want to reassure Australians to have a lot of confidence in our police and security agencies this Christmas and every day of the year.
JOURNALIST: So would you encourage people to go about their Christmas as they had planned?
SHORTEN: Yes, thanks for that - absolutely. You can't stop living the lives that you were going to live because of fear of some of these reports and matters. The few extremists in our community who would wish to disrupt the Australian way of life, they win when we give up. We have got great police and security services. I'm very privileged in the position I'm in to see perhaps some of the reports and the professionalism with which they conduct themselves. I've seen the quality of our ADF men and women in Iraq, just last week. We are well served by our Defence Forces, by our police and our security agencies. I certainly encourage Australians to go about their business as usual.
JOURNALIST: The Government surplus in 2020/21 includes Future Fund earnings for the first time. Should they be included?
SHORTEN: This is another accounting trick from a government who's lost control of its budget. If the Government really wants to improve the Budget bottom line, if they really want to lock in our AAA credit rating, which is so important for Australians, then they need to look at Labor's proposals to save $80 billion improvement on the bottom line. Specifically, the Turnbull Government this Christmas needs to give itself and Australia a present: drop the $50 billion tax cut to large corporations, which will see much of this money being sent overseas in profits for multinationals, and profits for the big banks. There is $50 billion if the Government just stopped its stubborn obsession about supporting the top end of town, then we can help all Australians. The other thing it could do is reform negative gearing laws which sees $30 billion over the next 10 years being handed to investors, taxpayer concessions being spent on investors at a time when first home buyers can't even enter the housing market. $80 billion of improvement to the bottom line over the next 10 years, lock in our AAA credit rating. Instead the Government is playing accounting tricks with the Future Fund.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Senator Cory Bernardi is reportedly planning to break away from the Liberal Party and start his own conservative movement. What do you make of that?
SHORTEN: I was trying to imagine what it would be like at the Liberal family Christmas this year. You've got Uncle Cory in the corner, you've got Cousin George muttering to himself, and of course you have got the ghost of Christmas past, Tony Abbott. The Liberal Party in Australia are divided. They are at a civil war and the problem with all of that is that Malcolm Turnbull's got to focus on his own job, and not the jobs of Australians. We saw this month's employment figures come out, which shows that we've lost nearly 50,000 full-time jobs in the past year. The only jobs being created of any substance are part-time jobs, and we've got a lot of people who regularly record being underemployed. We have wages growth flat lining, we have people more than ever depending upon penalty rates. The Turnbull Government needs to fight for the jobs of Australians, not just fight each other for Malcolm Turnbull's job this Christmas.
JOURNALIST: Are you happy to hear that Tony Abbott's concerned about that new planned conservative party?
SHORTEN: I think the only Liberal who's looking forward to Christmas this year is Tony Abbott. Malcolm Turnbull has been a massive disappointment to Australians; he doesn't have a plan for housing affordability, he doesn't have a plan to fix up the Budget or do anything about improving proper funding for Medicare. What we need to see next year is a united government. Labor wants to fight the next election on who has the best policies, not on the fact that the Liberal Party is dysfunctional and divided. Malcolm Turnbull's Christmas is one of civil war within the Liberal Party. You cannot turn on a television set, you cannot go online, you cannot open a newspaper in Australia without more reports of a divided Liberal Government. What they are is at war with themselves and what they need to be is fighting for Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: The Government's CDP program is fining welfare participants if they don't take part in activities like hygiene classes and 3D printing. Do you think that's a fair system?
SHORTEN: The Government hasn't got a plan to help our first Australians find work. I don't believe in training for training's sake. I believe the training should lead to meaningful jobs. I don't think you punish people for not necessarily going through some of the Mickey Mouse courses which we're hearing about. The fact of the matter is this Government's dropped the ball on unemployment and jobs for Aboriginal Australians. It needs to pull up its socks there and recognise that Aboriginal Australians, like all Australians, deserve the opportunity to have full-time secure employment.
JOURNALIST: So what do you think need to happen with that program?
SHORTEN: The Government needs to sit down with the Opposition and work with us to design an employment program for Aboriginal Australians which doesn't just fling them and keep them in poverty, and leads to real jobs. Remote communities, there is work to be done. But this Government has no plan to close the unemployment gap between Aboriginal Australians and the rest of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what have you learned from this year in politics?
SHORTEN: I think the most important thing to come out of this year is that for Australians they want to see a government focused on their jobs. What we need to see in 2017 is the fight for Australian jobs taken up with gusto by all sides of Australian politics. I hope that we can create more full-time jobs next year. I hope that we can make sure that we create more Australian jobs next year. I hope we can clamp down on the rorts in the visa system of temporary workers, and I also want to make sure that we train more apprentices in Australia next year. For me, doesn't matter if it is 2016 or 2017, what matters is jobs for Australians.
JOURNALIST: Just on those raids overnight in Melbourne, do you think enough has been done to combat radicalisation of young people?
SHORTEN: I think more can always be done to combat radicalisation amongst some people in our community. This Christmas, what I'm going to say is that my thoughts and respect are with our police, with our security agencies and I think last but not least our men and women serving in the Middle East. I had the privilege last week of visiting Baghdad, at our air base north of Baghdad, where 300 young Australian men and women are training the Iraqi military and police to make sure they can defeat the terrorists in Iraq. And just as we are seeing great effort here among our security agencies, Australians should be confident that our security agencies, our police, and our Defence Forces are amongst the best in the world and they are doing a great job.
Merry Christmas everybody and thanks again to the Vinnies volunteers for the work you are doing. Thank you very much.