SATURDAY, 4 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans for the arts; Mr Turnbull’s big business tax cut; Labor’s plan to fight for Medicare; Polls; Preference deals; Labor’s positive policies
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: It's great to be here at the launch of the Australian Labor Party's arts policy which we've just done a few minutes ago in the Malthouse. It's a comprehensive set of measures designed to put us back on the path of repair for the arts community after all of the damage that's been done by the Abbott-Turnbull Government since the 2014 Budget. Labor is the Party of the arts. Labor is committed to ensuring that the arts can flourish in our country and it is exactly the same as past Labor Governments. For more than four decades, Labor has been committed to nurturing the arts and culture in our country. We have recommitted again today to use Creative Australia, the cultural policy that we worked on so hard in the last Labor Government as the starting point for arts policy in a Shorten Labor Government and we are ma king very clear commitments to return funding to the Australia Council which is going to again take pride of place, with independence, as the premier body in the Australian arts. There are a range of other announcements but I am going to hand over to Bill. Thanks very much.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Mark. It's great to be here in Melbourne at the Malthouse Theatre outlining Labor's exciting new vision for arts in Australia. For me, the arts industry, the arts sector, the arts are about Australians telling stories about Australian identity, of our experiences. And from the country theatre groups through to music in schools, through to live music performed in pubs this weekend, right through to our great arts institutions, Labor's committed to properly funding the arts in Australia.
Mr Abbott, and now Mr Turnbull, have endeavoured in the last three years to bring the curtain down on the Australian artistic industry. Labor is determined to rescue and restore and fix some of the damaging cuts which the Liberals have administered to the arts sector in Australia.
It's a little-known fact but arts, creative industries employ 230,000 Australians. Our mining sector employs about 232,000 Australians. Our arts industry is very important, not just for our identity, not just for the hinterland of the Australian identity, but for jobs, for exports and indeed, for providing future generations of Australians with the best education possible. Labor's really pleased to announce a package of reforms and improvements, which will de-politicise the allocation of arts grants. We're going to move away from the discredited Liberal model of letting politicians provide patronage to performers in particular priorities and instead, we will let the Arts Council of Australia make their best evidence-based, expert-based decisions in the future. We will also restore some of the funding which was cruelly cut to the arts sector in Australia. Furthermore, we will make sure that regional arts, the arts perfor mances, the creative life outside of our big cities, receives additional funding. We want our kids to learn more music in schools and we will make sure that community radio and live music get the support they deserve, so that future generations of Australian performers and Australian audiences are able to achieve their full potential in entertainment in this rapidly changing world.
We're happy to take questions on this and other matters this morning.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when it comes to your opposition to the company tax cut, you have said you will support the element that gives a tax cut to small business up to $2 million. Have you costed that over 10 years? Will that mean the $50 billion saving won't actually be $50 billion?
SHORTEN: Let's be very clear here. We will do our costings on the matter you go to. I think your question is a fair one. It does remind Australians, Tom, that the Labor Party has committed to seeing 83 per cent of our companies in Australia receive some modest tax relief, the smaller companies. But I don't share Mr Turnbull's enthusiasm to provide swinging tax cuts, a $50 billion tax spend for the big end of town. As the Australia Institute has identified, $7.4 billion of improvement to the big four banks, Westpac, NAB, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ, is being made at the expense of $7.4 billion not to be provided to Medicare or proper schools funding. As Mr Turnbull's old bank has identified, 60 per cent of this corporate tax giveaway is going to go to overseas share-holders. And as we've seen from Treasury itself, the so-called economic benefit for Mr Turnbull's economi c masterstroke, as he would like to have people believe, is going to see very little generation of new jobs. Contrast this with the choices that Labor is making. We believe that if you invest in education, you're investing in growth. We believe if you invest in a proper health safety net, Medicare, you're investing in healthy workforces for the future.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, you've just said there, $50 million to the top end of town, if you're supporting part of this measure, it's not actually going to be $50 billion, will it?
SHORTEN: Let's be straight. The component which is the tax cut for the very small companies is a tiny proportion of that $50 billion. And the king's ransom, the Turnbull payout to big companies, is where the lion's share of this is going. And the case has not been made out but we know that Mr Turnbull has struggled since he got in, with an economic story. We know that he dallied, he fished, thought about, he intellectualised about having a 15 per cent GST. We know that he sent Premier Mike Baird out there to back up a 15 per cent. He sent his poor old embattled Treasurer, Scott Morrison out there bravely holding the flag for 15 per cent. But Mr Turnbull decided he didn't want to talk about a 15per cent GST any more before this election. Then he moved on to plan B. That was the famous Penrith declaration at the Penrith Panthers Leagues Club where he said that the gr eatest reform in Federation would be to allow states to levy income taxes on people already paying income taxes to the Commonwealth. He hasn't proceeded with that when people said that was a shocking idea. At least he hasn't proceeded with it this side of an election. And then in the Budget he unveiled plan C, his masterstroke, a corporate tax cut. Remember in the days after the Budget, he wouldn't even tell Australians how much it cost. Then he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to concede 'well it is $50 billion'. The point about that is that's $50 billion taken out of the Budget which should be spent on schools, should be spent on health care, it should be spent on Budget repair that's fair but Mr Turnbull, he just has the discredited idea of pumping up the profits of big banks and overseas share-holders at the expense of Australian health care and education. Lauren.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I just ask about the IPSOS poll today. It's got you guys ahead of the Coalition for the first time since Malcolm became PM last year. But still more than half expect the Coalition to stay in government. Are voters complacent?
SHORTEN: It's been clear indeed for the whole first term, that Labor are the underdogs but that's a status we accept and we are determined to fight every day as we have for the last three long years of Liberal administration. And for the next 28 days, we are going to fight hard and what we're going to do is, although it's a steep climb 21 seats, all experts recognise it's a steep climb, we are relishing this campaign. I relish the opportunity to talk to thousands and thousands of Australians about their views and our positive ideas. And I cannot wait, every morning, during this election, to get up and talk about our positive ideas for the future - jobs, education, Medicare. And Australians, I believe, are responding very positively to our priorities for putting people first, not big business.
JOURNALIST: Continuing on that poll then, when it comes to Queensland, obviously, a lot of marginal seats, you've spent a lot of time up there. It doesn't seem to be getting through to the voters. The Coalition still has a lot of support. Are you confident you can turn that around?
SHORTEN: I'm confident that our ideas are in the best interest of the Australian people. I'm confident that Australians are listening more and more to our positive plans for health care, for schools. I'm confident that our vision of making sure that every child gets a quality education and well-resourced school is the vision that every parent has for their child. I'm confident that our vision of making sure that people can go and see the doctor when they need to and not be deterred by high entry cost to seeing the doctor, I'm confident that's a vision most Australians share. I'm confident that when we talk about the arts policy, making sure we have a creative arts industry free from political interference, when we restore funding to the ABC so they can produce the quality drama they have always produced and can do so with greater certainty and confidence, I'm confident that everyone who re spects the ABC is pleased to see Labor's positive policies. I'm confident that the announcements we made this week on saving the Barrier Reef that a lot of Australians say yep, that's exactly what we want to see. I'm confident that when we talk about creating tourism infrastructure in northern Tasmania yesterday, and right through Tasmania, that Tasmanians are saying that is a source of real, practical difference and jobs. I'm confident in our positive plans, they're resonating with people and I'll keep talking about our positive approach as contrasted with Mr Turnbull's negative approach every day between now and July 2.
JOURNALIST: Do you still believe that cutting the company tax rates will create jobs?
SHORTEN: I have to say that now is not the time to cut the corporate tax rate for big business.
JOURNALIST: Will it... [inaudible]
SHORTEN: If I could answer your first question, then I'm happy to answer your second. What I believe is that now is not the time to cut the corporate tax rate for big business. I don't actually believe that unless you've got a debate about how you can afford these cuts, that therefore you should do them. I've always been a believer that if you can reduce taxation, that's a good thing. But the point about it is you can only make these decisions when your economy is able to withstand the changes to the Budget. I've never believed that you cut corporate taxes at the same time as cutting Medicare and cutting funding to schools. That's not what I've ever believed. And certainly when we see the horrible cuts which Mr Turnbull and his group are proposing to make, undermining bulk billing, undermining access to pathology tests and diagnostic imaging, cuts that they've made to pensions in the p ast, cuts that they're making to higher education, cuts that they're making in the arts area, cuts that they're making to a whole range of projects, which are vital for Australia to go ahead, that now is not the time for Mr Turnbull to give a $7.4 billion tax cut, a tax giveaway to large banks. Mr Turnbull knows he's made a mistake. As we know, he had the GST plan and he shelved that for the time being. He had the double income taxation plan and he shelved that for the time being and now he's desperately fastening on to giving large corportations a tax giveaway. He knows he's made a mistake and by the way, he knows he's made a mistake not backing a Royal Commission into the banking industry. I've said that this election is a referendum on Medicare in the past, but it's also a referendum on whether or not we get to have a Royal Commission into the banking sector. If you vote Labor, you will get that Royal Commission into the banks. If you vote for Mr Turnbull, we'll get more of the same from the banks of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Has the Labor Party struck up a deal with the Liber Party on preferences to try and block out the Greens and Nick Xenophon?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen all those comments but I'll let the Liberals worry about the Liberals. I'll let the Greens worry about the Greens. I'm going to worry about the Australian people. The Greens have been pretty naughty in the last three years. They voted with the Government not to allow transparency in the financial reporting of large companies. They voted with the Government, because they've done the deal on Senate preference voting arrangements, not to have donation reform, which would lower the threshold above which people have to disclose what they're contributing to political parties. You know, they've voted with the Liberals in terms of cutting the pension in previous budgets, so if the Greens are unhappy, perhaps they should buy a mirror and look into that to see what the real problem is.
JOURNALIST: Is that something you would be open to if it means that the Greens don't get key Labor seats? And also that Nick Xenophon doesn't get key Liberal seats?
SHORTEN: I don't conflate the preference negotiations with what I'm talking about every day. That's a matter left to party officials. But let's be straight here - in Victoria, the Liberals are contorting themselves ideologically. You've got the far right and Michael Kroger, backing up the far left and the Greens in return for the Liberals to get some sort of go-slow by the Greens in the seat of Bruce, which damages Labor's chances and in return the Liberals preference the Greens in Batman. What is inconsistent is you've got the Greens on my far left and the Liberals, certainly to my right, and they're dealing with each other but the good news for voters is that the Labor Party is not interested in those games. We're interested in the best interests of the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: You say today's $160 million arts policy...
SHORTEN: $138.5 million. Sorry.
JOURNALIST: OK. It's not a cost. It's an investment. Are you saying these spending measures will return more to the Budget than they cost? If so, have you done the modelling? What is that return to the Budget?
SHORTEN: Well, I picked some examples in my speech but I'll suffice to say with this - 230,000 Australians work in our arts sector. They've seen the Government cut them. We've got a comparable number of people working in our mining sector. There's no doubt that both Labor and Liberal are committed to our mining sector but only Labor is committed to our arts sector. Community radio -
JOURNALIST: Sorry, Mr Shorten, can I bring you back to the question?
SHORTEN: I'm going to answer your question and if that doesn't satisfy you, by all means have another go. But I'm going to go through the figures you were saying. You know, investing in community radio, at $5.6 million over four years, yes, I actually think that is a net benefit. For thousands of people who get involved in community radio, tick, the tens and hundreds of thousands of people who listen to community radio, tick. That's a benefit. And we can look at ABC drama. I know not every media outlet here likes the ABC but the point about it is they produce great Australian content. $60 million for drama will generate lots of jobs. It will generate lots of opportunities for script-writers, for set-producers, actors, you know the whole story of the drama industry. I don't just want Australia to be a country which is a quarry. I want Australia to be a vibrant, creative country. This is a very modest investment in the future of Australian arts. It's Saturday night. I hope some people here will get the chance to hear some live music. The point is, you're enjoying live music, I want future Australian generations to also enjoy live music. We're making decisions for the future, not just for the next opinion poll.
JOURNALIST: But the cost is $160 million. You're saying it's not a cost. It's an investment. Are you suggesting the return to the Budget is more than the cost of this policy?
SHORTEN: I'm saying the return to the Australian economy, to Australian society is far greater than an investment of $138.5 million that we've announced today and the other thing is we can afford to make these announcements because we're not giving $50 billion away to the big end of town, because we are going to wind back the unsustainable negative gearing and capital gains tax discount concessions. There's another $32 billion. And frankly, if I can spend a little bit of money investing in, you know, the music teachers of Australia, every parent who sends their kids to music or singing classes or ballet, they deserve a little bit of back-up from the Australian Government for the taxes they pay. What they don't deserve is to see $17 billion handed back to high net worth individuals, some of whom earn $1 million and will get a tax cut under Mr Turnbull. I'm going to back the mums and dads of A ustralia, the music teachers of Australia, the live music industry of Australia, community radio in Australia, the country theatre groups which tens of thousands of people will visit this weekend. I'm on their side, and this election is all about a Government and an Opposition and whose side they're on and we're on the sides of arts. One final question. One final question. I'm going to give other people a go.
JOURNALIST: Just back on company tax cuts, do you concede that you are denying small mum-and-dad operators the chance to grow because your definition is a small business is $2 million. Why not increase it to at least $5 million. I know you're talking about the big end but $2 million is quite small for an average business these days.
SHORTEN: $2 million turnover covers 83 per cent of all Australian...
JOURNALIST: Why not up to $5 million like the Henry tax review?
SHORTEN: You can do things when you can afford them and I don't think I do the mums and dads of Australia any favours by not properly funding the education of their children. I don't think I do the mums and dads of Australia any favours by seeing bulk billing disappear. I don't do the mums and dads of Australia any favours making it more expensive for mum to get a mammogram, for dad to get a blood test. I believe this country is not just one sector. We've all got an important part to play. That's why Labor is very committed to supporting the tax cut for businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million. But for me, this country is more than just that group. It's also about our creative arts. It's also about the kids and the parents, it's also, for instance, the very important issue of child care and we'll have a lot more to say about child care policies in coming days and we eks. It's also about our health system. It's also about our tourism jobs. It's also about our infrastructure jobs. It's also about public transport in Australia. We will be a government for all Australians. We will be a government who gets the balance right. We will work with everyone, but the only bosses that I will have will be the Australian people. Thanks, everybody. See you a bit later.