WEDNESDAY, 13 JUNE 2018
SUBJECT/S: A fair GST share for WA; Singapore Summit; West Australian by-elections; Child protection in remote indigenous communities; Apology to victims of child sexual abuse; Julie Bishop’s relations with China.
PATRICK GORMAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PERTH: I'm Patrick Gorman, Labor's candidate for Perth, fantastic to visit the North Metropolitan TAFE here in Northbridge this morning, meeting with students, seeing the fantastic work they're doing in media and fashion.
It's been really good to have Bill Shorten, Labor's Leader, Premier Mark McGowan, Josh Wilson, Labor's candidate for Fremantle and Samantha Rowe the State Parliamentary Secretary for Education, here to talk about education and of course to talk about fair go for Western Australia.
Today we are here for a very exciting announcement about how Labor will deliver fair go for Western Australia, and to provide more detail on that announcement it's my honour to introduce Bill Shorten Federal Labor Leader.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Patrick.
Good morning everybody. I'm very pleased to be here at the North Metro TAFE with Premier Mark McGowan and our candidates in the upcoming by-elections - Patrick Gorman in Perth and Josh Wilson in Fremantle.
We are pleased today, to announce that Labor will commit to a 70 cent floor for Western Australia. We believe that it is long overdue for Western Australia to receive its fair share.
Specifically, following discussions with the McGowan Government, we've become aware that whilst we initially announced a $1.6 billion Fair Share for West Australia Legislative Fund, that the GST relativities have changed, and we would be required - if we were to keep to our 70 cents promise - to lift our commitment to $2 billion.
So I'm pleased to announce this morning that that's exactly what we're going to do - $2 billion extra for Western Australia, but that is effectively a 70 cent floor which ensures at least some fairness for Western Australia. This is in practical terms about an extra $400 million.
I also need to make the point, that as you would have noticed because I've been catching up with you in my frequent visits to Western Australia, Labor has been announcing a series of overdue public sector and infrastructure commitments for Perth and surrounding areas.
Of course we've done so after consultation with the West Australian Government. Pleasingly, every time that Labor leads on an infrastructure announcement the East Coast Liberals then follow and crib our homework - and that's okay because they're good ideas. But what we're now saying is that we are committing to make sure that the West Australian Fair Share fund has an extra $2 billion.
We're also making it clear that as the relativities change our commitment to 70 cents - at least - is unimpeachable and that's why we're putting a proposal of an extra $400 million on the table.
Our commitment to West Australia getting a fair share of its GST and a fair share, is not at the expense of other states.
We are able to make these important promises, which will lock in more jobs for Western Australia, more funds for West Australian infrastructure, road and rail and hospitals, because we're not giving $80 billion away in corporate tax handouts to multinationals and large corporations. And because we're making serious economic reforms, which ensure a greater, fair go for Western Australia in the national political debate.
At this point I'd like to hand over to premier Mark McGowan to talk further about this announcement.
MARK MCGOWAN, PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks very much, Bill.
I just want to say at the outset it's terrific that Bill Shorten and Federal Labor are making this $2 billion additional commitment to Western Australia to top up our GST share.
This is all about Western Australia getting the attention that we deserve. We all know that for years we were ignored. Now we're getting the attention we deserve. This $2 billion commitment by Federal Labor is the best offer on the table for Western Australia.
It's over and above the announcement that was made by the Prime Minister and the Federal Government some weeks ago in terms of the infrastructure here in Western Australia, ensures that our GST share gets to, over the forward estimates, to at least 70 cents on the dollar. That's significantly more than what we currently get which is below 50 cents in the dollar.
So this is an important announcement. It will make my life and Western Australia's life easier to receive this additional share.
It recognises the fact that Western Australia has not been getting the attention we deserve and it recognises the fact that GST has not worked well for our state.
So once again, I just want to say, Federal Labor has put the best offer on the table for Western Australia, an additional $2 billion dollars is a big commitment to our state.
I appreciate it enormously. The ball is now in the Federal Government's court.
SHORTEN: So are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Yeah Mr Shorten, should Western Australians not be so concerned about the right way to fix the GST problem, and that's through the Productivity Commission, and just be grateful for the handouts that you and the Liberal Party are offering West Australia?
SHORTEN: I don't think West Australians should be grateful for getting what is rightly theirs, which is a fair go.
In terms of the Productivity Commission, we'll wait and see what that report says. But I think it is long overdue for West Australians to have some certainty about getting a fair go.
That's what drives the Labor Party - a fair go for all. Unlike Mr Turnbull who's missing in action in the West, who thinks so little of West Australians’ opinions that he couldn't even find a candidate to run against our Patrick Gorman in Perth, or indeed in Fremantle.
You know we’re here with a plan. And when we've announced our initial plan, a $1.6 billion fund, what we then did is we sat down with the West Australian Government and said, "what do you need? What have we got to get done?"
Now of course the Liberals have copied us, and that's okay that's how the politics should work. When Labor has a good idea I'm completely intact about the Liberals copying it because that's good for West Australians.
JOURNALIST: It's not a good idea, it's bribery.
SHORTEN: Do you mind if I just finish?
JOURNALIST: Isn't it just voter bribery, what you're doing here?
SHORTEN: Do you mind if I just finish your colleagues’ question, and then you're next.
JOURNALIST: It's the same question - it's just voter bribery, it's not a great idea is it, it's just handing out money to try and get yourself votes?
SHORTEN: What I'm going to do is answer your question, once I've finished his. Because issue is bigger than just the simple snatches on the nightly news.
JOURNALIST: It's just bribery isn't it. it's bribery.
SHORTEN: So what we are doing -
JOURNALIST: Flat out bribery.
SHORTEN: You can't have it both ways gentlemen. You can't say West Australia is missing out and then when Labor does something, see "gee, that's wrong." Which is it?
JOURNALIST: Is it wrong? Is it wrong what we are missing out on because you're not going to fix it, you're just going to temporarily bribe the voters? You and Turnbull, aren't you? That's what West Australians think you're doing.
SHORTEN: Alright, thanks for that comment, I'll take that as a comment. What we're doing is we're turning up with a plan to fix your infrastructure.
For people who want to see the railway extension between Ellenbrook and Morley, they don't think what you just said. They just want it done.
For the people who want the new 75 bed mental health unit at Joondalup, they actually want to see their family get the care that they deserve.
I accept that what has been happening isn't fair, but you can't come out and complain when Labor actually has a plan, can you?
JOURNALIST: It's a temporary plan, so you can complain about that because you've actually got no vision towards fixing the GST system.
SHORTEN: No, it's not a temporary plan. What I don't believe -
JOURNALIST: When does it finish?
SHORTEN: What I don't believe - let me answer you.
JOURNALIST: 2023 isn't it? That’s temporary?
SHORTEN: I think at last count you've asked six questions, why don't I answer some of them?
When you talk about, "should Labor have a plan", yeah, we should. And yes, I actually think it's a good road is we do the Stephenson's Road extension. I actually think it is a good idea, if in the growing suburbs in the North that we move the freeway along so that people don't have a longer commute.
I make no apologies for standing up for better public transport in Perth. I make no apologies for a mental health unit. That is what we're going to do and what we will also do is we'll just listen to Western Australia.
Now I accept that there's different ways to solve the problem, and if you are a disciple of one solution rather than another, you're entitled to your opinion.
But what I'm doing here, and I did not get trapped in a traffic jam out the front of here, behind some white Liberal limousine where they're coming offering a proposal which sees better funding.
Labor is the only national party -
JOURNALIST: They'll be here in a couple of weeks probably.
SHORTEN: We don't know. They couldn't even find a candidate.
JOURNALIST: To top it up again because the bidding war just goes on -
SHORTEN: I might share some of the questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the point I think is that the 70 cent floor that you're promising, that's not a permanent floor, that's not a permanent solution, that will only last for a year or two?
SHORTEN: Oh good, I’m glad. If that's what you're saying - our commitment to 70 cents is ongoing.
SHORTEN: We're not going to be around forever, but for as long as I am, yes.
JOURNALIST: Don't you accept that West Australians can see through this, that they know what the fix is and that's through the Productivity Commission. And as much as the other States won't like it, and they lump Labor and the Liberals in the same bucket because all they're doing is trying to throw a bit of money at it to solve the problem.
SHORTEN: Well first of all, what you call a bit of money is $2 billion and where I come from that's taxpayer money.
So when you call $2 billion just a bit of money, you live in a different place to I do.
And let's go through it. When you say the Liberals will be here in two weeks - well they're welcome.
Why haven't they been here now?
This is my 34th visit to Western Australia. This is - I've spent 66 days here as Opposition Leader.
I haven't got caught in a traffic jam, as I said, behind Malcolm Turnbull. I think he spent more time in America than he's spent in Western Australia.
We have a plan, and the reason why we can pay for our plan is because we are making hard decisions. We are reforming some of the unsustainable tax concessions of the top end.
The Government doesn't have the flexibility we have, because they're making different choices. They would rather give large corporations and multinationals massive corporate tax cuts than give Western Australians, what you perhaps dismiss as just money.
I do think the West Australians missed out and the plans that we're proposing, aren't plans from wise men from the East. These are plans and propositions and projects which have been on the drawing board in Western Australia for a very long time.
JOURNALIST: And there's still some money in the Federal Budget for the Perth Freight Link, could you redirect that through the Fair Share for WA? Potentially?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, these decisions we've made in consultation with the West Australian Government. I’m not going to start - I'd be doing exactly what seems to frustrate you, which is if I just made a pronouncement right here, right now, x or y. We’ll talk to the best knowledge that we've got, and that’s represented by Premier McGowan. But what we do so we can be unequivocal, we are changing the rules of the game. We are saying 70 cents should be the floor. And we say that on an ongoing basis. We're also saying that if the Productivity Commission comes up with some very interesting new propositions, well of course we'll look at them. But you know, life doesn't wait for governments to get on with their reviews. We've actually got to start making some decisions and start offering some plans -
JOURNALIST: But you have got to have the will to want to change -
SHORTEN: I'm going to share some of the questions now.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, following yesterday's summit in Singapore, what role would you like to see Australia play in the denuclearisation of North Korea?
SHORTEN: Well the summit was a very positive step forward and on this matter, us and the Coalition in lockstep. It was a very positive step forward even if some of the images were certainly unusual but it is good.
Now, if there's a role for Australian inspectors to play or the various propositions that get worked out, we should be willing to help but let's see what detail emerges.
You know, it's positive and I'm not going to rain on that but there have been summits before and I think we also need to be cautious and let's see in a steady fashion, what can be done but it's a very important development.
JOURNALIST: President Trump is saying he wants to bring troops home. Are you worried that might leave Australia isolated in the Pacific?
SHORTEN: That we would be isolated in the Pacific if the Americans brought troops home from the Korean Peninsula?
SHORTEN: I think the American commitment to the Asia-Pacific region is bigger than just the troops they have stationed in Korea but I'm not about to start pre-empting what U.S. forces in Korea do in terms of their deployment.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe North Korea is genuine in its commitment?
SHORTEN: Time will tell. I wouldn't be opening the champagne bottles and popping the corks. People have been down this road before but I'm not also going to be unduly negative. It is a good thing when you see these leaders talking rather than using megaphone diplomacy and issuing bellicose threats - that has to be a better thing but I'm also not going to start – I’m a student of history, I'm not going to start assuming that that's it, the end of the matter and we can all move on.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Greens are saying they're going to campaign in Perth and Fremantle and might try to wedge Labor on two key issues; asylum seekers and the Adani coal mine – issues that they say, you've seemed to have flipped-flopped a bit over the years. Are you concerned about that?
SHORTEN: No, not at all. The Green political party is not actually trying to form a government in this country. The very fact that you described it as a 'wedge', the implication they're playing sort of petty political games. Patrick Gorman is the best representative for Perth and Josh Wilson is the best representative for Fremantle.
Patrick and Josh along with the West Australian Federal Labor caucus, have been very diligent about making sure that the national political party, the Labor Party nationally, focuses on a fair share for Western Australia. Josh has been leading in some of the debates around live export, the life sheep export. Patrick is a formidable campaigner.
The reality is that when Mr Turnbull chose not to give West Australians a choice, he’s already surrendered. They have the Productivity Commission report. I share the frustration of the journalists here and the reporters here, if they've got the report, why don't they just let us see it? Why is it such a secret?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what is your reaction to some conservative commentators saying that you've failed abused Indigenous children?
SHORTEN: I think that is an absurd misinterpretation. My commitment is that children should be safe in all communities regardless of their skin colour. What I said very specifically is that in our first 100 days if we form a government, we'd like to have a summit. And I said on Friday, in Katherine in northern Australia, that I'd like to bring the frontline workers; the child protection workers, the ambos, the police, the communities, the experts together to see how we can do better.
See, the problem is that in the last 10 years, 9,000 kids 10 years ago were being taken out of Aboriginal communities, away from family, connection and country. Now it's up to 17,000. What the conservative commentators are doing is an absurd misinterpretation. It is the exact opposite of what I'm saying. We need to keep our children safe, something is absolutely going wrong and I will be relentless in finding the best answer to keep kids safe.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is going to - has chosen October 22 for a national apology to victims of child sexual abuse. Will you have any role in that or will you endorse that a national apology?
SHORTEN: Well, it is good that the Prime Minister has said this. The apology is long overdue. Labor's been calling for it. I would expect that the Opposition would have a role in it.
I'm going to actually say this too, the reason why we're having this apology and the reason why there is redress is because Julia Gillard and the then-Labor Government, with some opposition I might say from some elements of the conservative media and some elements of the then-Opposition, said we need to have a Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. Thousands of people came forward - survivors came forward, they told their stories. Very harrowing.
The Royal Commissioners and the staff were fantastic. It uncovered a shame which goes back decades and West Australians don't need to be reminded of some of the abuses which happened to child migrants who came here and also, children in the care of religious institutions.
I would like Mr Turnbull to offer Julia Gillard perhaps a role in this very important day. Prime Minister Julia Gillard did start this and leave aside all the debates about everything else, I think that was a significant contribution. So this would not be a day for politics. This would be a day for national healing. This would be a day where we tell the thousands of survivors and the families of those who didn't survive, that we're all sorry.
JOURNALIST: But has the Government handled the recommendations from that Royal Commission into child abuse adequately, do you feel?
SHORTEN: We're not going to make what was done - we're not going to make our desire, sorry, to get a perfect solution the enemy of what they've done. In other words, we think that the redress scheme could have been better in parts. I think that we should have gone with the Royal Commission's recommendation of an upper limit of compensation of $200,000, perhaps even more importantly providing further access to counselling; trauma counselling and mental health counselling for survivors. But having said that, it is a good thing that there is a redress package. It is a good thing that that package comes into place on the 1st of July. So we voted for it, but we expressed our view that if we were to form a government, we would see if we could further improve on it.
But fundamentally, the announcement today and the work - this shows when Parliament's actually working, when Government and Opposition are working together but I think we can't congratulate ourselves too much.
As you all know, when you hear the horrid stories for decades and decades, kids who should have been able to trust the care which they were placed into, failed them grievously and it’s led to so many tragic consequences across the generations. The people who should be really congratulated today and every day, is the courage of the survivors who told their stories. It's really quite unimaginable.
JOURNALIST: Do you support Premier McGowan's recent commentary around China, particularly in relation to Julie Bishop not visiting?
SHORTEN: Well perhaps I'd better hear what Mark has said and then -
JOURNALIST: Well it's been quite publicly covered in the media.
MCGOWAN: I was critical of Julie Bishop for not visiting China for two years.
JOURNALIST: I was just wondered if you support that view?
SHORTEN: When you're the Foreign Minister of Australia, you should be visiting China more than once every two years. I think that is, China's a very important part of Australia's economic story. Let's face it, what economic growth we do have is being fuelled largely by export and by the China export story. So I think Julie Bishop could take a leaf out of Mark McGowan's book and spend a bit more time talking to China rather than talking about China.
JOURNALIST: Is it right that he criticised Australian foreign policy while on a foreign power's soil like China?
SHORTEN: I think Julie Bishop gave a talk in Singapore didn't she about China -
JOURNALIST: I think you're misinterpreting -
SHORTEN: And I think he's being misinterpreted.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I just ask one more question on the GST? So if WA's share of the GST falls back to 30 percent, 30 cents in the dollar again in say a few years’ time and you're the Prime Minister, are you saying that you will put millions of dollars into Western Australia to ensure it gets to 70 cents?
SHORTEN: I am saying we are setting a precedent which will be that if the relativities stay out of whack, we are committing to 70 cents. And the evidence of my commitment is that when we initially set up the fair share fund, the relativity difference meant that in the years that Labor would be elected, from 2019-20 onwards, that we would have to allocate $1.6 billion. When the relativities changed slightly, we then said it should be up to $2 billion. So with us, the proof’s already in the fact that we have been willing to change our position in terms of increasing the share for Western Australia when the relativities are unfair.
JOURNALIST: What about other states?
SHORTEN: Well I don't see a set of circumstances where what's happened to Western Australia is easily repeatable elsewhere. I mean the fact of the matter is that West Australia has been in an invidious set of circumstances and that's why it has required this quite radical support from Labor.
JOURNALIST: So it is just a commitment to WA to top up -
SHORTEN: It is a commitment to WA because they're the ones where they have had the problems, sure.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask you one more question about the abuse apology? Do you support the removing of the exemption for the ministry of churches when it comes to reporting information obtained in confession relating to child abuse?
SHORTEN: I think our first priority has to be to keep kids safe. Now, I respect religious freedom but at the end of the day, we live in a modern democratic country where no institution is above the laws of the land. My opinion is that mandatory reporting is the law, it should be followed by all. I'm sure that there’s enough people of good-will to make sure that this is the issue. I don't see this issue of mandatory reporting and the role of institutions as being a federal or state issue - I see it as a moral issue and certainly that is where I think we need to land.
Alright, that was fun. You've got some questions for my state colleague.