TUESDAY, 5 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s commitment to the Perth MetroNet; Mr Turnbull’s Liberals walking away from public education; Liberal chaos and division; Pat Dodson, Submarines
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It's fantastic to be here in East Perth with Mark McGowan, the Leader of the State Opposition and Tim Hammond, Labor's new candidate for the seat of Perth. I'm really pleased to be here today with Mark McGowan talking about Labor's number one priority for infrastructure in Perth and Western Australia. And I'm talking about MetroNet. We understand that Perth is a rapidly growing city and the growth corridors is fantastic places to live. But we want to ease the congestion. We want to improve the productivity. People shouldn't spend their whole days waiting in traffic to get to and from work. We want them at work and we want them at home. Labor today, is recommitting to Perth MetroNet because we understand if you want to solve the problems of road congestion in Perth and the surrounding areas, you need to have a really strong public transport system and it's to Mark's great credit, that he's worked so hard on the MetroNet proposal. We know that a Federal Labor Government is committed to improving the quality of life of people in Perth and surrounding areas, committed to improving productivity and economic growth in Perth and the surrounding areas, we've decided to make Perth MetroNet our number one election promise for infrastructure. We know that if we can get the transport right - if we can get the public transport right, the city, the potential for improvement is just excellent.
Before I pass over to Mark, I'd just also like to reconfirm and recommit to parents and teachers in Western Australia, that a Shorten Labor Government will never walk away from helping support and fund Government schools in Western Australia. I think it was remarkable that while on one hand Mr Turnbull last week was talking about double taxation, and we found out last night that Christopher Pyne's confirmed that the whole Liberal cabinet, whatever they think about Malcolm Turnbull, are all committed to the principle of giving States the power to increase taxes. I think it's remarkable that on one hand Malcolm Turnbull wants West Australians to pay more tax but actually get less support when it comes to schools. A Federal Labor Government will support needs-based funding. We have a fully funded proposal which provides certainty to the Government and non-Government sector. We have a fully funded proposal to make sure every child in every school in every postcode in Western Australia gets the best quality education. I don't think there's anything more important you can do for the economic future of Western Australia and, indeed, Australia to make sure we properly fund our schools. And the difference couldn't be starker between Mr Turnbull and myself. He wants to have double taxation. I want to see greater funding for schools. He talks about public transport but Labor's offering a proposal to work with our State colleagues to support Perth MetroNet, long overdue and under a Federal Labor Government working with the McGowan Government in Western Australia, we'll get Perth moving. Thank you very much.
MARK MCGOWAN, WEST AUSTRALIAN LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Bill. Can I thank Bill Shorten and the Federal Labor team for their commitment to MetroNet. MetroNet is an important part of Western Australia's future. It's only via building MetroNet that we will fix the long term congestion problems confronting our city. MetroNet is also a big job creator. We know have a massive unemployment problem in Western Australia. 86,000 West Australians out of work, we need to make sure, not only that we undertake the builds related to MetroNet but also we fix congestion which is a big drain on employment. Numerous studies have shown that people spending time in cars, businesses with staff in cars is a drain on employment. It loses jobs. It creates unemployment. We need to make sure we fix the long term transport needs of Western Australia. We need to make sure we fix the congestion problems confronting Perth. We need to make sure we create jobs and that's what MetroNet is all about. So, a joint commitment from the federal party and our election commitments which will roll out in the lead-up to the next election will ensure that Western Australia has a fully integrated and coordinated transport plan, that plan is MetroNet. I just draw your attention to the fact that the Liberal Party in WA does not have a transport plan. They don't have a transport plan at all. They promised a transport plan within 100 days of forming Government. That was seven and a half years ago and up until now they haven't released one. Instead they're committed to the Perth freight link. That's a disaster of a plan. It's around $2 billion. That money alone would go a long way to building MetroNet.
SHORTEN: Thanks. Are there any questions of Mark or myself?
JOURNALIST: Is $2 billion what you'd commit to MetroNet?
SHORTEN: Labor announced last October at the Queensland Media Club our approach to funding infrastructure, not just MetroNet, but indeed how we could unlock the great wealth which exists in our superannuation funds. And we would do so with the following ways: one, we would turbo charge Infrastructure Australia. Infrastructure Australia should be a de-politicised independent body, properly resourced to help analyse the benefits and the costs of all of the infrastructure projects across Australia. If you like a sort of, a Reserve Bank policy - long term policy bank, except for infrastructure, so that's our first thing.
Secondly, we would still have grant funding, so you know, government does have a role, not just leaving it to the market entirely. But thirdly, we've proposed setting up what some in the media call a concrete bank. What we would do is create an Infrastructure Australia with the facility to borrow up to $10 billion to help fund and drive and use that to finance private sector investment. There is a lot of money in our superannuation funds but the deals have got to be good. We want to de-risk that planning stage between concept and having a bankable idea for investors. We want to make sure that government creates a market for infrastructure in this country. So we would certainly look at a mixture of grant and borrowings to help make sure that we could finance Perth MetroNet. We would certainly resource Infrastructure Australia and we found the money in the Budget to do that.
What we want to do is move the debate about infrastructure beyond what frustrates people so much in Australia. One government's in, another government comes in and you know, the policies all seem very short-term. What Australia needs is generational leadership and the way that we'll work, with all points of view and politics is by getting Infrastructure Australia to put up evidence-based cases which move beyond the sort of pork barrelling and the local promises and petty politicking so that Australians can have certainty, investors can have certainty. You can see generational decisions which are based upon evidence as opposed to politics.
And in the meantime, as Mark pointed out, we need infrastructure to help in the transition from the mining boom. You know we've seen that the commodity prices have been easing for some years, and for the last nearly three years, the Liberal Government in Canberra has just missed the end of the mining boom and there's a lot of really great blue collar men and women losing their jobs in the mines as part of the downturn in commodities; who've got tremendous skills which could help really make the productive infrastructure build as speedy as possible. You just need a political party who is in touch with what Australians really want. They want jobs; they don't want to spend hours and hours in traffic going to and from work, and they want to make sure that the growth corridors, the communities they live in, that the infrastructure keeps pace with the growing suburbs of Perth.
JOURNALIST: But can you actually put a figure on how much Federal Labor would commit to MetroNet or at least a percentage? Would you fund half of it, 60 per cent of it?
SHORTEN: Well we'd get Infrastructure Australia - the reason why I took a while to answer the first question was to explain the important policy. We'd get Infrastructure Australia to have a look at the benefit cost ratio and then we'd do an examination of what government money was needed to incentivise private sector investment. So we'd need to see more of the details before we can give a specific answer, but there's no doubt that if you speak to anyone who lives in the southern suburbs of Perth, when they need a circle line railway, people who want the extensions at Byford, people who want to see the airport line extend, but what we need to do is - they know this infrastructure's needed. I was in Wanneroo last night, and apparently your current Premier Barnett had promised rail there, then it sort of downgraded to light rail, yet the traffic congestion there is immense. So I'm sure that the evidence will stack up to back what Labor sees as its vision for a dynamic Perth and surrounding suburbs.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Government says Labor has a $50 billion shortfall for its promises. Does that exist and if so how do you intend to fund it?
SHORTEN: No it doesn't exist and there goes the Government again. Something pretty interesting has happened in 2016, the Government is now acting like an Opposition. They are more concerned about us than they are about doing anything. We've seen this Government, you know the biggest issues - what they think they deserve a pat on the back for is what day they're going to hold the Budget and what date they're going to hold the election. We saw the farce last week when Mr Turnbull made it clear that he wants Australians to have double taxation.
By contrast the Opposition that I lead is acting like an alternative government. We've got fully funded policies, that's why we reject what the Government said. We've made it clear, that if we had a government in Canberra who is determined to do something about multinational tax evasion; if we had a government in Canberra who is willing to clamp down on the excessively generous superannuation tax concessions, where if you have multiple millions in your super fund you are still getting subsidised by the taxpayers of Australia. We've made it clear in order to fund our policies, that we would clamp down in the future on negative gearing and focus it for new housing, and also at the same time providing opportunities for first home buyers to compete on a level playing field with property investors going for their 10th property. We've also made it clear, and this is very important, that we would clamp down on wasteful Government spending. The Liberal Party love to talk about clamping down on waste yet they're going to spend $160 million on a marriage equality plebiscite that no-one wants except for Tony Abbott. They're going to - they spent billions of dollars on what's called the Emissions Reduction Fund. This was a Tony Abbott climate change sceptic special where they said that they would provide billions of dollars to companies who are already large polluters and we're seeing they're getting very poor environmental results.
So Labor this year, has decided to put its policies out early and we've got more to put out. We've got 73 fully funded policies, well out from when the election has been called, and by contrast we've got Mr Turnbull and his Government, you know, they're at each other’s throats. You can practically see the handcuffs they need to make Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull sit in the back of the Government limo together. You've got disruption in the Liberal Party in Western Australia with Dennis Jensen and all of the saga of that excitement, and you've got Kevin Andrews saying he is ready should the circumstances require for him to have a crack at Malcolm Turnbull. And of course you've got Tony Abbott who is reminding everybody, every day that most of what Malcolm Turnbull is doing is just what Tony Abbott would have done.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried that Joe Bullock hasn't formally handed in his resignation in the Senate yet? Patrick Dodson has said that he's not sure when he's going to take that position, he hasn't heard from anybody. Are you sure that people are keeping him in the picture as he should be?
SHORTEN: I had a lovely lunch with him yesterday in Kings Park, so I don't think the premise of your question is right. No Joe bullock said he is resigning and he will. And I just want to again say that I am terribly pleased that Pat Dodson and I were able to come to an agreement where he would nominate for the Senate from Western Australia and for the Labor Party. Pat Dodson is a figure who is in some ways above politics. For me, his contribution in public life, which has already been extensive over many decades, I think this is good news for not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have an elder of his stature in the Parliament, and making the laws which affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, but he is also from Broome. Northern Australia needs strong voices and I think Pat Dodson certainly ticks the box of being a strong voice for Northern Australia and quite frankly also, Pat Dodson is in his later 60s and I think it's important that we say to Australians that people of all ages have got a contribution to make to Australian politics, so I am completely confident about Pat Dodson arriving in the Senate.
JOURNALIST: Did you have lunch with Dodson or Bullock?
JOURNALIST: Who'd you have lunch with? Bullock?
SHORTEN: No Pat Dodson. Joe is in Canberra.
JOURNALIST: So why hasn't Joe Bullock tended his resignation yet? It was five weeks ago that he announced that he was resigning.
SHORTEN: Senator Bullock announced in the Parliament that he was resigning. He is tidying up his matters. The processes are being followed. Again, for me, why I welcome your questions -
JOURNALIST: But he's not telling the Leader when he's going to resign.
SHORTEN: No, again -
JOURNALIST: Why don't you demand a date from him.
SHORTEN: Listen, I'm pretty happy to talk about this because I am -
JOURNALIST: Isn't it making a farce, isn't it make a farce of the whole thing?
SHORTEN: If it's okay I'll answer the first of the four questions you've fired?
JOURNALIST: You haven't answered any of them.
SHORTEN: No, well because you've asked three after it, no let's be straight here. Pat Dodson's a great quality recruit for the Labor Party. I think it shows that we are engaging in real regeneration in West Australian Labor. I am more than confident that Joe Bullock is resigning and he is tidying up his matters -
SHORTEN: And furthermore, when I talk about regeneration of Western Australia, I don't know if it was one of the press conferences that you were at, but people said we had some people stepping down, Alannah and Melissa and Gary. But also at that time I knew that the Labor Party was getting a clean slate of candidates - Pat Dodson, Timmy Hammond behind me, we've got Matt Keogh, we've got Madeleine King in Brand. Anne Aly, I was with Professor Anne Aly last night in Wanneroo, running in Cowan. We've got good candidates. The Labor Party is experiencing a real resurgence in the west and I give Mark McGowan a lot of that credit. He's got a pretty good front bench on his own team, but what we're also now seeing is that we are getting new candidates coming to the Labor colours nationally, and I have to say, when I look at someone like Pat Dodson who's in touch with the everyday experiences of Aboriginal Australians, Northern Australians, Pat Dodson who has been a leader for many decades, to me, he is someone who shows an in touch politician, as contrasted with Mr Turnbull and his team.
Let's face it, what have we heard out about the Liberals? We are here talking about the quality and calibre of Pat Dodson, what do we see with the Liberals? We see division and infighting. You see the Jensen, Morton saga. You've got, you know, I don't know what the latest is happening down with Nola Marino, is she going to survive, is she not going to survive? We've got the carry-ons where you've got Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, you know, in the same room but you can see the reluctance can't you, when you look at the images? You've got some of Malcolm Turnbull's key Cabinet Ministers off on a bicycle ride with Tony Abbott. As I said, you've got Kevin Andrews running around.
But the out of touchness doesn't just go to division. I think it is amazing, I could never have predicted when Mr Turnbull came into power seven months ago, replacing Tony Abbott, I thought maybe my job would be harder but at least politics will be better and we would have a debate of ideas. The only ideas that Mr Turnbull's offered Australia in the last seven months is a 15 per cent GST which we know he'd like it, but he just sort of chickened out, he didn't even have the stomach to run the argument, what he'd now like to do is have an election and then look at that issue. And then last week, he did - I don't know which was the biggest of the signs that shows he is out of touch, he proposed double taxation and political veterans such as some of you here in the Perth political media, I mean surely anyone would've been surprised to hear double taxation? And then he proposes that the Federal Government should get out of school funding, state school funding? I tell you what, parents in Western Australia who send their children to Government schools pay taxes. They pay taxes to Canberra. I think they reasonably expect for the taxes they pay to Canberra that the Government in Canberra will take some interest in the education of their children rather than washing their hands of it.
JOURNALIST: But on tax, have you, on tax, have you ruled out increasing taxes if elected?
SHORTEN: We've said that we're going to increase tobacco excise, and I'm going to make multinationals pay their fair share. Multinationals should be paying their fair share. Do you know how galling it is for tradies, for business people, for people running the news agency in the high street, they're paying their, either their corporate rate of tax or their full marginal rate of taxation and we read today in the media and thank goodness the media is covering it, through these leaked documents from this Panamanian law firm, there's a thousand different Australian transactions.
Labor fought hard to have greater tax transparency for Australia's taxation arrangements, and which has revealed that some of the very top end of town are paying no tax at all and that drives your everyday Aussie nuts. They feel there is two systems in Australia. So we are prepared to look at cutting tax concessions and cutting wasteful government spending. And I've mentioned the tobacco excise and making multinationals pay. But on this whole issue of global tax avoidance, I understand that tax havens exist, I understand that people have legal engagement with taxation havens, but what we're seeing is these same tax havens are also covering up for criminality and all sorts of illegal activity, and we need to be, Australia needs to be part of a global taxation reform push to make sure people are paying their fair share of taxation.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on today's Newspoll, Labor's ahead of the Government for the first time since Malcolm Turnbull took over, but you're still well behind in terms of preferred Prime Minister. Why do you think that is?
SHORTEN: Well, on the bigger issue of polls, first of all, now these polls remind me that pride comes before a fall. So I'm not about to get too excited about these polls. I'm not going to get side tracked from the issues that matter to Australians. What matters to the people I have met in Wanneroo and the people I've met elsewhere in my visit this time to Perth, is they want to know are the schools going to be properly funded? Are their kids going to get a fair share of the resources so they can have fulfilling futures? They want to make sure something's being done about the waiting time in emergency wards or when there are relatives who've been on waiting lists for a year or two years about knee replacements or hip replacements. Australians, particularly those in Western Australia, are concerned about the number of FIFO workers losing their jobs weekly in this state, they want to know what the plan is for jobs. So I'm not going to get side tracked, but what is clear is that when you're the Prime Minster and you talk about double taxation, you'll find out Australians don't really like those ideas. You find out when you're the Prime Minster and you talk about getting out of the funding of Government schools that Australians don't really care for your Government. So that's what matters, and in terms of the personal numbers, let me again, I'm sort of calm when the good news or the bad news, what I'm going to do is keep working on the policies. I think what we're seeing in 2016 is the hard work of my united Labor team over the last two years is now bearing fruit. We are seeing we have fully funded and costed policies, fairness in taxation, making sure that we are, support our hospital system, making sure that we support our schools system. Making sure that middle class and working class kids don't face a lifetime of debt if they want to go to university.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask it this way though, you've got beside you've got a Labor leader at State level whose polls are now in his favour, you've got polls in your favour at the Federal level, has the worm turned?
SHORTEN: I think Australians want to see more from their political parties. No party has a right to govern merely by the fact they're in the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. What Australians are sick of is politicians who seem to be more interested in their own advancement than the issues which affect Australians. Quite frankly, what I see this year as an observer of Western Australia and certainly at the national level is that they, the Governments in power they promise things, but they're not seeing the action, they just want to see us get on with the policies, not the personalities, they want to see us get on with being positive about schools and how we fund it.
I was at Mercy College yesterday. Great school but the school there they want to be sure they've got certainty in funding, the Catholic education system. Last night in Wanneroo, you're hearing people talk about the pensioners, saying why does this Government keep going after part-pensioners in the way they do? Pensioners want certainty. Yesterday, or the day before, I was in Geelong and had a bloke there who's waited for a knee reconstruction for two and a half years. That shouldn't be the case in a first world country like Australia. So, has the worm turned? Well what I think is that what Australians want, are positive plans for the future, and they don't want Mr Turnbull's double taxation, washing your hands of schools funding and turning your back on everything you've ever said on climate change, they want the real deal. Last question.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull doesn't want to talk about Newspoll today, is that a bit hypocritical given that he cited it as one of the main reasons that he should take over?
SHORTEN: Well again, as I said, I'm not going get, I'm going to keep pretty calm about polls. What I'll do is what I've been doing every day while I have been Opposition Leader; working on having an alternative set of positive plans for Australia. I believe we've ticked the box of being a strong opposition. Mr Abbott's gone, Mr Hockey has gone, Ms Bishop's gone. The 2014 budget, it's a zombie cuts, they're still in the Senate but we're going to keep fighting them. We've managed to stop for the time being Mr Turnbull's double taxation fantasy, stop his 15 per cent GST increase idea. No, I'll keep working every day and that's what we're going to do with positive plans for the future of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Just on one question, one question on submarines.
SHORTEN: I did say last question.
JOURNALIST: Just on submarines -
SHORTEN: All right, very last question.
JOURNALIST: The Government's indicating that they may make a decision before the election, are you worried that the competitive tendering process might be rushed?
SHORTEN: Well, Labor believes that the Liberals should have kept their promise from 2013 which is to build the 12 submarines in Australia. West Australians get this debate about defence manufacturing, you're a manufacturing state, you've got great skills, great big and small businesses in manufacturing. We shouldn't have had to wait two and a half years but it should have always been a competitive tendering process. The allocation of tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, the decision about our most expensive defence build for a generation in Australia in terms of naval and maritime defence, shouldn't be a sort of hand shake deal between Mr Abbott and the Liberals in another country. But you know, our test is very straightforward for submarines - build them here, maintain them here, sustain them here - in many ways our defence manufacturing industry is the fourth uniform of our national service. We're very good at making things here, in Western Australia in particular, but not exclusively. Labor's committed to an Australian build maintenance and sustainment of our submarines.
Thanks everyone. Have a lovely day.