MONDAY, 23 MAY 2016
SUBJECTS: Perth METRONET, Asylum seeker policy, GST distribution
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. It’s great to be here in Western Australia with Mark McGowan, Labor’s hard working Leader of the Opposition in the West. I am also here with Tim Hammond, Labor’s Candidate for Perth. But most importantly I am really pleased that I can announce that if Labor is elected on July the 2nd, we will contribute $1 billion towards the building of Perth METRONET. Real jobs, real money, delivering for the public transport needs of Perth. Everybody knows that WA's been hit by the downturn in the mining boom and we need to see real jobs, real jobs created to help the community transition from the peak of the mining boom to a post-mining boom state economy.
Everybody knows that congestion is increasing in Perth. All the people who come from the north and the south, they know the congestion is one of the great frustrations which stops people spending more time with their families. Congestion obviously leads to greater costs for business. Only Labor has a plan to put the public transport needs of Perth first. We will do this by a grant funding of $1 billion and this will enhance the liveability of Perth, it will enhance the jobs for Perth and Western Australia. Nearly 4,000 jobs will be created through the development of this exciting city-building initiative and we will be able to fund this because we won't be going ahead with Perth Freight Link. I would now like to ask Mark McGowan to talk further about Labor's vision for Perth and for jobs and for public transport, then we are happy to take questions after that.
MARK McGOWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Bill. Can I thank Bill Shorten and the Federal Labor team for this commitment towards METRONET. METRONET is the congestion-busting public transport scheme which will make sure Perth can deal with the very significant congestion issues into the long-term future. This commitment of $1 billion is far better spent on METRONET than on the Perth Freight Link which is a waste of money and won't solve the freight issues confronting our city. Infrastructure Australia found a couple of years ago that by 2030, seven of the 10 most congested roads in Australia will be in Perth. That is why we need to build METRONET to ensure we give people the opportunity to get out of their cars and use public transport. When Labor was in power back in the 2000’s we built the Mandurah line, extended the Northern line, built the Thornlie line and made sure that Per th had a real alternative when it came to public transport as opposed to private motor vehicles. It's time once again for a revolution in public transport. METRONET is that revolution and I'm very pleased that Bill Shorten and the Federal Labor team are committed to supporting it.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the WA Transport Minister says that this is just taking money away from one project and putting it into another. He has criticised this announcement today. What do you say in response to that?
SHORTEN: Well I'm not surprised the Liberals are throwing rocks at better public transport. What it shows to me is there is a clear choice in this election. There is a clear choice for people who want to do something about the congestion on Perth's city roads. Under Labor's plans, we will invest in Perth METRONET. Under Mr Turnbull and Mr Barnett’s plans, they will build a freight rail link which doesn't even get to the port, a port which will be full up in coming years. Under Labor’s plans, what we are going to do is use the same money and benefit everyone in Perth. We think our proposal stacks up. The other good news about our proposal; it generates much-needed jobs.
JOURNALIST: I understand its estimated to cost $5.2 billion. You are committing $1 billion. Where will the other $4 billion coming from?
SHORTEN: I will let Mark answer some of that question in detail. I don't agree with what you asserted about a $5.2 billion price tag. That is just not true.
JOURNALIST: How much is it?
SHORTEN: I will come to you. You made a statement which isn't correct. We see the Liberals often trying to put out things which aren't true and I will tackle it every day. The truth of the matter is Perth needs better public transport. You make decisions with scarce taxpayer money. We have chosen to use scarce taxpayer money to back in public transport in Perth, not a freight link project where the benefits are arguable at best and we will see a lot of problems with that project. I will get Mark to supplement the answer.
McGOWAN: METRONET will cost around $2.5 billion, that includes the extensions to Yanchep, to Ellenbrook, out to Byford. It includes fixing the existing rail crossings that need repair and also includes the Thornlie spur across to the Kwinana Freeway. What's happened with this State Government is they don't have a transport plan. I heard Dean Nalder on the radio this morning saying that after eight years in office, he’s planning at some point in the future taking a transport plan to Cabinet. Well frankly that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough. After eight years in power, after promising a transport plan within a hundred days of coming to office, he now has a plan at some future point to take a proposal to Cabinet. It’s not good enough. Only Labor has a plan to deal with the transport issues confronting Western Australia and Perth. METRONET is a great plan. It will ensure people are gi ven real opportunities to get out of their car and we can make sure for the long term we fix the congestion problems confronting our city.
JOURNALIST: The first time you put it, it was 2.5 billion…
McGOWAN: The routes we have in our plan were costed by Treasury at the time of the last state election. That was the costing they put on the routes that are in our plan.
JOURNALIST: If Federal Labor is not elected, how do you fund METRONET?
McGOWAN: Well, you’ve got to remember that the Perth Freight Link is a waste of money. If we’re elected at the next State election, we will be saying to the Federal Government, spend that money on METRONET and spend that money on real transport initiatives that solve congestion around the city and indeed around Western Australia. Perth Freight Link is around $2 billion that the State and Federal Governments are spending, including $715 million of State money. That goes a long way to funding a real transport alternative which is METRONET.
JOURNALIST: 2.5, is that escalated?
McGOWAN: I will get those details afterwards, Josh.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t it fiscally irresponsible to be promising this project given that the state of the WA coffers are in dire straits and there is a record deficit for the Budget?
McGOWAN: It's true that the Barnett Liberal National Government has wrecked the state’s finances and failed to diversify the state's economy. They have been the worst economic and financial managers in the history of Western Australia, without doubt. We now have in the coming year, 6.75 per cent predicted unemployment, and we have $40 billion worth of debt in 2019 and in the coming year we have a $3.9 billion deficit. And I’ll just take you back to when Labor left power in Western Australia, eight years ago, the State's debt was $3.6 billion. Under the Liberal Party, they’re taking it to $40 billion. It's true, there is a significant issue. Having said that the Federal Government and the State Government have committed nearly two billion dollars towards the Perth Freight Link. I would want to ensure that that money was spent more wisely and I think that's a sensible thing to do. On t op of that, as we always say, we will build METRONET as we can afford it. We will build it as the finances allow and we will ensure that decent financial management is put back in place in Western Australia.
JOURNALIST: What sort of timeframe is that, Mr McGowan, as you can afford it?
McGOWAN: It is ten months until the next state election; obviously you can't start building things from day one, you can’t go out there with a backhoe from day one and start building things. You have to actually plan them and do them properly as you can afford it. But just remember, one billion from Federal Labor is a big slab of money and that goes a long way to making sure we put METRONET in place.
JOURNALIST: Wouldn't 2.5 billion be just a starting point considering community consultation was underway right up until recently with other lines that could be added to the…
McGOWAN: The lines we’ve announced are: the extension to Yanchep, the Ellenbrook-Morley rail, the extension to Byford, the extension from Thornlie across to the Mandurah line and also some improvements on existing lines. These are affordable over the medium term, particularly if you put in place Federal support for it, which is what Bill is doing and I welcome that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will you commit Federal Labor giving to WA a fairer deal on the GST carve up and Mr McGowan, what do you think is a fair contribution?
SHORTEN: First, let me go to Labor's bona fides to Western Australia in terms of a fairer carve up of Commonwealth revenue full stop. Only Labor will make sure that Western Australian GPs don't have to get rid of bulk billing. Only Federal Labor is offering West Australians the chance to pay less for their prescription medicine. Only Federal Labor is offering to properly fund the schools of Western Australia, TAFE and make sure that working and middle class kids can go to university. Labor's approach to Western Australia is to make sure they get a fair share of Commonwealth resources, not just through the debate about the GST but through our general policies which will lift quality of life and put downward pressure on cost of living for Western Australians. In addition to that, one thing I can make very clear to West Australians, if you vote Labor on July 2, you will not be paying a 15 per cent GST, an idea t hat Prime Minister Turnbull was very interested in, an idea that Colin Barnett has mused and speculated about. The other promise I can give Western Australians about a fair share of revenue, is that I will never support double taxation. Mr Turnbull called this the greatest idea since Federation. When he mused and said, “Wouldn't it be good if States had the power to levy income taxes.” In addition, Colin Barnett said he thought this was a good idea. Only Labor really understands the needs of every day Western Australians. Today we have made it clear that we want to put downward pressure on the price of prescriptions. Today we have made it clear that we’ll back in bulk billing. Today we’ve made it clear we want better public transport for Perth, less congestion and more jobs. We will make sure from our schools policies, to our health policies to indeed our policies about not having double taxation or increasing GST, West Australia will benefit from a Labor Government in Canberra after July 2nd.
McGOWAN: Look, I will continue to argue for a fairer deal for GST for Western Australia. Currently we get around 31 cents in the dollar, that's not good enough. The only leader currently at COAG who was there when the original GST deal was signed, and who supported it I might add, is Colin Barnett. So we will continue to argue for a floor under which no state's share can go, and I think a consistent position from Western Australia would be one, refreshing, and secondly a great change on the existing arrangement that Mr Barnett put in place whereby it chops and changes every week.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten, can I just ask you, just a more general spending question, this morning you were very critical of the Health Minister Susan Ley, so do we take from that that under a Labor Government your Ministers would have the ability to override the Treasurer, the finance team, and to put in place big spending proposals they want to see happen?
SHORTEN: No Anna, that's not what I said. I just drew your attention to the remarkable set of circumstances that a Liberal Health Minister said that she doesn't like her own Government's policy and is arguing for exactly what Labor will do after July 2nd. I think the Liberal Health Minister just belled the cat. She made it very, very clear, that by not increasing and indexing the rebates which go to GPs, by insisting upon increasing the cost of prescription medicine, that is not a great health policy. We have a united team in Labor, and yes there is a big difference between me and Malcolm Turnbull, he'll prioritise the needs of multinationals, I'll prioritise the needs of Australians to get the health care they need when they're sick, and not charge them a lot of money to get the basics of a quality health system. One more question, thank you.
JOURNALIST: Your candidate, Bill Leadbetter, earlier said that he believed that Labor's asylum seeker policy is not merciful. How do you respond to that and what do you do to unify your party on this issue?
SHORTEN: Well I didn't see the exact comments to which you are referring, but I can state this, and again, this has been one of the big lies of Malcolm Turnbull during this election. He wants people to believe that somehow Labor is not equally committed to stopping the shameful people smuggling and criminal syndicates in Southeast Asia putting people, vulnerable people, on boats and seeing them drown at sea. Well I have a clear message for Mr Turnbull, but even more importantly than that gentlemen, for the people smugglers in Southeast Asia: after July 2nd if Labor is elected we will do everything we can, just like the Liberals will do, to stop the evil people smuggling trade. Of course, one difference between us and the Liberals is that the way you stop this evil trade is not by keeping people in indefinite detention on Manus or Narau. We would prioritise regional resettlement, something which Mr Turnbull simply has n’t done since he has become Prime Minister, because you don't need to have indefinite detention in order to beat the people smugglers. But when it comes to that fundamental truth, I will call out Mr Turnbull every day on this, Liberal and Labor are both equally determined to stop the criminals exploiting the vulnerable, and seeing mass drownings at sea. Last question thanks.
JOURNALIST: How do you plan to do that Mr Shorten? If the Government is having problems trying to sort out a regional processing deal with third countries, why is it going to be any different for Labor to do?
SHORTEN: Well, it's about leadership and it's about rolling up your sleeves and putting the energy into it. I'm willing to say what Mr Turnbull isn't. I'm willing to say that keeping people in indefinite detention is not the Australian way. You saw Tim Costello yesterday say that there were real problems with how that's being implemented, Mr Turnbull tried to brush that under the carpet. What I will do is negotiate with nations in our region, regional resettlement. But what I will also do, and again, I'm going to make it perfectly clear, that Labor debated our policies last July, a Labor Government I lead will defeat the people smugglers with the same vigour and energy as the Liberals. This is a matter that the people smugglers need to be on notice about. It doesn't reflect well on the Government when they send out signals to people smugglers that somehow they could be back in business.
Thanks everyone, it is a great announcement on Perth METRONET, Mark McGowan is working hard for it. We're committed to jobs in Western Australia, we're committed to better public transport in Perth, and we know the combination of these goals, materialised in the form of Perth METRONET, puts Western Australians and people in Perth in particular, first. Thank you everybody.