MONDAY, 4 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your Child. Our Future’ education policy; Malcolm Turnbull walking away from public education; Liberal party chaos and division; Kevin Andrews wanting to challenge Malcolm Turnbull for the Prime Ministership; Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to health; Patrick Dodson; Bob Ellis
ANNE ALY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR COWAN: Thank you everyone for coming today, it’s a pleasure to introduce Bill Shorten here today. The Liberal Government has cut $3.1 billion of funding to Western Australia’s schools. Only a Labor Government cares about education and about our children's future, and I'll pass over to Bill to talk a little bit more about that.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks and that of course is Anne Aly, Labor's candidate for Cowan in the upcoming election. It's a real pleasure to be here at Mercy College because, yet again, I'm reminded of how important Labor's policy to provide needs based funding to both Government and non-Government schools is to making sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity. I really believe that where a child lives shouldn't be the determinant of their education. Labor fundamentally believes it shouldn't be a parent's wealth which determines the chances children get in life and that education should be an opportunity available for all. Labor's got fully funded and costed policies to make sure that every child and every school gets every opportunity regardless of whether or not it's in the Government system, the Catholic or Independent schools system. Now the choice couldn't be any greater between Liberal and Labor at the upcoming election than in the area of school education. Over the weekend, we've heard Mr Turnbull make it very clear that he thinks that there is no role for a Federal Liberal-National Government in school education in Australia. Now, I think that's the first time in Australian history that any Prime Minister has even thought there's no role for the Federal Government in school education and it's certainly the first time any Prime Minister has actually said there's no role for the Federal Government in school education. Labor's very committed to having policies which give people the best start in life and that's actually the best economic strategy going forward. We put forward our school education policies because we care what happens to the kids and we want to make sure their parents who pay taxes are getting the best value for money from a national Government committed to school education. Unfortunately, we keep seeing again and again that the Liberal Government is not focused on the needs of everyday Australians but they’re focused on themselves. We've seen the remarkable contribution from Kevin Andrews, senior Liberal MP, who's today declared that he would be prepared to challenge Malcolm Turnbull for the leadership of the Liberal Party at some point in the future. Of course we've got other of Mr Turnbull's Cabinet Ministers on a bicycle ride with Tony Abbott, we see the division in the Western Australian Liberal Party with long-standing Liberal MP Dennis Jenson being deselected and of course I think equally seriously, we've got Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison clearly at war with each other about how to handle the upcoming Budget. The choice is clear - a Labor Government who would make sure we prioritise properly funding our schools and hospitals and Australian jobs, or a Liberal Government who just seems to care about fighting each other with division at the heart of this Turnbull Government. We're happy to take any questions that people have.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've talked a lot about the $80 billion that the Abbott Government cut from the State Budgets, $50 billion of which was for health. Are you in a position yet to say whether a Labor Government would restore all of that money?
SHORTEN: When it comes to our health and hospital policies we'll be announcing them between now and the election. I won't be announcing them today. What I can say today about health care and hospitals is that Labor doesn't support the Liberal Government's repeated attempts to introduce a GP tax. We don't support the cutting of bulk billing incentives for people with chronic diseases who need vital blood tests early on in their medical treatment. We don't support what's happening to GPs who are effectively being asked, with the freeze on the GP payments, that they're effectively taking pay cuts to help serve the communities within which they work. Labor's always been better at funding hospitals than the Liberals. The other thing I think is important in this debate about hospitals is that we're seeing waiting times in emergency wards increase. We are seeing an overstretched hospital system where you've got waiting times for elective surgery for fundamentals in life such as knee replacements and hip replacements, we see people waiting longer and longer for the basics. We should have a tip-top, first-class, first-world health system and the Government in Canberra has a role to help fund our hospitals. In terms of education, we've announced our fully-funded policies which provide certainty in the Catholic system, the non-Government schools and of course the State public school system. I think it is remarkable that we've got a person in Canberra as Prime Minister who doesn't see a role for funding public education. I cannot think of anything which illustrates more how out of touch Mr Turnbull and his Liberal team in Canberra are, when they don't think it's important that parents who pay taxes to Canberra don't see some of that coming back to help fund the school education of their children.
JOURNALIST: It's pretty hard to criticise isn't it, if you won't make a commitment to restore all of that health funding now?
SHORTEN: It's very straight forward what we've seen with the Liberals -
JOURNALIST: But will you restore the funding?
SHORTEN: I'll answer your first question first. In terms of criticising the Government, it's only a Labor Opposition from 2014 who's protected Medicare and stopped the Liberals from conducting worse atrocities on our Medicare system. We know that between 2014 and now, the Liberals have tried on four different occasions to introduce a GP tax. We've ticked the box of being a strong Opposition when it comes to defending Medicare. The reason why I and Labor fight hard to defend Medicare is we think that Medicare is actually the community standard of Australian life. We think that universal health care where it's your Medicare card and not your credit card which determines the level of health care you get in this country, we think that's the right test. And back in 2014 when we called out Mr Abbott, and Mr Hockey, and Mr Turnbull, because he was a member of that Cabinet as much as he would like to airbrush his role in history out. Now, we were told then 'oh no, there aren't any cuts to health care'. Now at least we've seen the Liberals concede there are massive cuts to health care, and again, to repeat, to your second question what I said to the other journalist's question, Labor has always got a better track record in hospitals. We'll certainly be announcing more of our policies as we get closer to the election, although to be fair we've announced 73 different policies all fully funded. You know, the reality is we've seen a sea change in Australian politics in 2016. Mr Turnbull was going to be the man who was going to elevate politics and take it to a better place. I knew my job might be harder if he did this but I welcomed nonetheless the prospects of a better level of political debate. What we've seen is Mr Turnbull shrink into his job and nothing can be clearer than hospital funding and school funding.
JOURNALIST: Is the fact that it's been two years since that cut and you haven't made a commitment, is that a sign it is proving difficult to find that money? Or what should people read into the fact that it's been so long?
SHORTEN: Well, I think it's been so long and the Liberal Party's been dragged kicking and screaming to admit how they're wrecking the health care system. I'm looking forward to the election, whenever it is, and the reason why I'm looking forward to the election is we've been working for the last two years now on our policies. In all fairness, Labor has unveiled 73 different policies which are funded and costed. The way we fund and cost them is we explain what we're going to do and where the money is coming from. We want to take on the challenge of reforming negative gearing. We believe that taxpayers shouldn't be subsidising a property speculator buying their tenth house. Now what we've made clear, though, is that for anyone who's invested under the current laws, no change. But as of 1 July 2017, negative gearing will be available for new houses and new apartments but we also want to level the playing field for first home buyers, but it's not just that policy. It's Labor who's put the debate about making multinationals pay their fair share of taxation on the front page. Today we see again the media revealing concerns about tax avoidance, whether or not multinationals are gaming the system, whether or not high net-worth Australians are using laws to be available to avoid tax obligations in Australia. Labor's got a costed plan to make multinationals pay their fair share. I really don't think it's a fair system at the moment where you've got the parents who send their children to Mercy College, they want their kids to get proper funding and they pay taxes to Canberra. Now they find out that Mr Turnbull doesn't believe in school funding for Government schools and certainly doesn't believe in needs-based funding which will affect this school, yet at the same time as parents who send their kids here, paying their taxes and the expectation that Mr Turnbull will help, you know, pay some of that back in the form of school education, at the same time we see some large companies gaming the system not paying multinationals. Labor has got funded policies and we'll keep rolling out our well thought-out, positive plans for Australia's future, while in the meantime we see the Liberals tearing themselves apart.
JOURNALIST: On Patrick Dodson, will you intervene to ensure he gets a higher spot on the Senate ticket in the event of a DD?
SHORTEN: Mr Dodson, soon to be Senator Dodson, is someone who I've personally - support to come in to be a Labor West Australian Senator. He will be in a winnable position.
JOURNALIST: Is number 3 winnable?
SHORTEN: I consider that he will be in a winnable position.
JOURNALIST: Will you intervene to change the current order?
SHORTEN: I think my track record in terms of supporting Pat Dodson is superior to anyone else. I'm the one who has helped encourage him to come in and, yes, I think Pat Dodson - and I don't think I've been here since we made that announcement. Pat Dodson will be an outstanding Senator for the Labor Party but he will be much more than that, he will be an outstanding Senator for Western Australia. For me, whilst he's a very distinguished Indigenous leader, he is a distinguished Northern Australian. He will make sure that the northern part of Western Australia gets attention and I care to believe that he's a bit of a circuit breaker about attracting older people into parliament. He is a circuit breaker that he can even reach across the political divide. I think he will be excellent for politics generally. Perhaps one last question if there is one.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten could you elaborate on your thoughts of Kevin Andrews as (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Well, it's - you know every morning you wake up and you wonder what new division is the Liberal Party going to reveal, but even I didn't see the Kevin Andrews for PM coming although he's got form. Back in 2009 Mr Andrews said he wanted to run for leadership and when Mr Andrews says he wants to run for leadership, you know the Liberal Party is in trouble. Now I never thought I'd say this but maybe the Liberal Party should have a look at Kevin Andrews. He couldn't be any worse than Malcolm Turnbull's proven to be.
In terms of Bob Ellis, yes, thank you for raising that. Bob Ellis was a friend of mine. I have known him for well over a decade. He was a distinguished literary figure. He's worked in all forms of literature and script writing and book writing for many, many decades. He is a loss. Now I know that he had the propensity to cause some controversy in some conservative sections, but on balance I believe that we won't see a Bob Ellis or person of his capacities again. I spoke to Anne, his wife, last night and his kids. Bob Ellis had the knack of creating sentences in the English language which will stand the test of time. I miss him and I'm very saddened by the news of his passing. Thanks, everyone.