WEDNESDAY, 15 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for Western Australia; Labor opposing full fee deregulation in higher education sector; Brexit and Australian economy; Liberals HQ laundering taxpayer dollars; Malcolm Turnbull’s arrogance; NBN; Scott Morrison’s video on party preferences; New South Wales council amalgamations; Constitutional recognition of Australia’s Indigenous population.
SHORTEN: Good morning everybody. What a fantastic winter morning in Perth. And it's a real pleasure to be outlining Labor's positive plan for Western Australia, with so many of my remarkably skilled and hardworking and talented Labor candidates in this federal election. Put simply, our proposition to the people of Western Australia is that a vote for Labor is a vote for jobs, education, and Medicare. Today, Labor is very pleased to be outlining Labor's positive policies for Western Australia. We have a plan for jobs in this state. The mining boom has eased and Western Australia has been doing it tough. What West Australians need is a government in Canberra putting the interests of West Australians first. We have a plan to build Perth Metronet. We have a plan to improve the roads infrastructure of Perth and other parts of the state. We have a plan to have a proper, first-rate National Broadband Network wh ich will mean that businesses and citizens in Western Australia can get first-rate national broadband as they deserve. We have a plan to improve access and affordability of child care which allows working parents, in particular working mums, to be able to go to work and not pay most of what they earn in high childcare fees. We also have a plan for the education and the skills formation of generations of Western Australians. Only Labor has a plan to properly resource every school in Western Australia. Only Labor has a plan to revitalise and rescue our apprenticeship system. Only Labor has a plan to make sure that the working class and middle-class kids are able to go to university. Also, we have a plan for tackling climate change through focusing upon renewable energy. This is to seize the opportunities of climate change and deal with the problems. Labor has a plan to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Western Australians through opposing the privatisation of Medicare . We will not go ahead with privatising any of the payments systems or components of Medicare. We will unfreeze the rebates that GPs desperately need so we can save bulk-billing and of course we won't go ahead with Mr Turnbull's proposed price hike to the cost of medicine. Along with rescuing and improving the hospital and healthcare system in Western Australia and our other plans for jobs, Western Australians can be guaranteed that if they vote Labor on July 2, there will be a Royal Commission into the banking sector. Western Australians deserve the highest ethical standards from our financial institutions. Western Australians can also be guaranteed that only a Labor Government will properly police the 457 visas and other visas to make sure that locals are not losing jobs to people who are being exploited in turn by unscrupulous employers. Labor has a plan to defend Medicare, to prioritise the education of Western Australians and their kids, and, of course, job s at the centre of everything we do. This is a very good plan and we look forward with my very good team of explaining to Western Australians that Labor will put people first in this election. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Last night on 7.30 Chris Bowen said he would rule out - your government will rule out full fee deregulation. Will you also rule out partial deregulation for universities?
SHORTEN: I think that our higher education policies are outstanding. We will oppose full-fee deregulation. What we will also do is take the pressure off universities trying to up fees because we will provide a minimum student guarantee. We announced our higher education policies in detail last October. We fundamentally believe that if a child is smart enough and works hard enough they should get the chance to go to university. It should be your deep thinking, not your parents deep pockets that give you the opportunity to have a tertiary education. Of course though, at the same time, not every child or young person wants to go to university. That's why on my current visit to Perth I've been at pains to talk about Labor's fair dinkum efforts to rescue the apprenticeship system. It is a sad fact that in the last three years the number of apprentices in Australia has fallen, plummeted from 415,000 to 29 5,000. Apprenticeships are a great opportunity for young people and mature age people. So when we talk about higher education, we also must talk about TAFE and apprenticeships and Labor has just made hard choices in this election, that's why we're not going ahead with a $50 billion tax cut so we can afford to invest in the skills of Western Australians. It's why we will make multinationals pay their fair share, because Labor is committed to long-term sustainable growth, long-term sustainable job creation and you do that by investing in people. You do that by nation-building infrastructure. You do it by having a plan for Western Australia.
JOURNALIST: Local question. Malcolm Turnbull said this morning that a British exit from the Euro would cause a financial toll on the Australian economy. Where do you stand on them pulling out of the Euro and do you agree it will have an impact on the Australian economy?
SHORTEN: That will be a matter for British voters to decide. Whatever the outcome I would encourage markets to stay calm. In fact, yet again, what happens overseas highlights the importance of what Labor is talking about in this election. If we want to make sure Australia has the capacity to withstand events overseas, you do that by making long term decisions. You do that by investing in education, you do that by investing in the National Broadband Network. You do it by investing in Perth Metronet. You don't do it by handing away $50 billion in a giveaway to large corporations which will ultimately see that money disappear overseas in many cases and it won't deliver meaningful job growth in this country.
JOURNALIST: If Britain does vote to leave and things do get ugly what is Labor's plan and would you consider fiscal stimulus?
SHORTEN: First of all, Labor's plan is regardless of what happens overseas. Our plan is based upon long-term sustainable growth and the creation of real and meaningful jobs. The best way we cope with whatever happens overseas is making sure that, for instance, we have world-class National Broadband Network. Why is Mr Turnbull so hell bent on giving Australia second-class technology when only first-class technology should do the job? Why is it that Mr Turnbull says that there is no requirement to properly resource our schools? Why is it that the Liberal Party keep trying to pretend they don't have a crisis with apprenticeships? Why is it that the Liberal Party are telling Australians we don't have to deal with climate change? I don't know what will happen with Brexit, but what I do know is that climate change is happening right now. What we need to see is a Liberal Party not hostage to the Tony Abbott climate sceptics but a Liberal Party and a Labor Party forging a consensus which sees real action on climate change and in particular but not exclusively greater investment in renewable energy.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's time for the Liberal Party to explain its conflict of interest over Parakeelia?
SHORTEN: The community is getting increasingly concerned when the analysis of a deal which sees taxpayer dollars going into Liberal Party coffers. This looks like a Liberal Party washing machine turning taxpayer dollars into Liberal Party profits. Mr Turnbull needs to get off the fence and stop being in denial about the scam. He has a clear choice and the sooner he makes it the better for all concerned. What he needs to say is that he will either continue the scam and that he approves of it, or alternatively that he thinks it's improper and will shut it down. They are the only two options he has. In the meantime, I've asked my Shadow Minister for State to write to the Auditor-General today to investigate this scam as a matter of urgency.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull is starting to sound like he has this in the bag. He said at a Liberal Party function last night that he will win. What do you say about that?
SHORTEN: I would never be so arrogant as to say we will win. Apart from any other reason, the election hasn't been held, the votes haven't been counted. How out of touch is this Turnbull just to simply declare that he's won? The people who will decide the future of this country are 16 million Australians. I think it is the height of arrogance to tell Australians that their vote doesn't matter because he's decided that he will win. What I can say about Labor is that I believe that we can win and I promise to work day and night with my Labor team every day, every night between now and the election because we are in this election to win it.
JOURNALIST: On the NBN matter, NBN Co has issued a statement standing by the opinion piece that Ziggy Switkowski wrote. Two questions - do you believe the opinion piece was appropriate and, if not, what action do you believe should be taken against the author?
SHORTEN: What a surprise, the NBN Co doing everything they can to cover up for Malcolm Turnbull's incompetence and their own misadministration. Let's nail the facts on the NBN. What happened three years ago is the Liberal Party trawled their coat around Australia and said vote Liberal because we will roll out NBN by the end of 2016. What has actually happened is the cost of NBN has doubled, that in fact Australia's internet speeds have seen us slip from 30th to 60th and we now have the NBN Co doing everything they can with the Government to cover up the facts. I actually think for an otherwise respected businessman, Dr Switkowski, I think this is a shameful breach of the caretaker convention and people don't have to take my word for it, no lesser person than Martin Parkinson has confirmed that this has been the case. Yet again NBN Co are doubling down on the cover-up, on the denial. Labor knows and A ustralians know that our policy of putting fibre to the premises for two million Australian households by giving Australians a first-rate, not a second-rate NBN is exactly what we need to boost jobs in this country in coming years. In terms of what the Government should do, it is a matter for Mr Turnbull if he is going to condone this breach of caretaker conventions or if he will act. But by the way, the breach has occurred and it's a very disappointing site of the links that the lengths that the NBN Co and the Government will do to cover up their own failure of policy which is letting down millions of Australians.
JOURNALIST: What action should be taken? Should he be sacked?
SHORTEN: This is a matter for Mr Turnbull, Mr Turnbull is caught in a bind of his own making. On one hand if he doesn't sack Dr Switkowski or take action, he's condoning a breach of caretaker conventions. Of course if he does, it confirms the game is up in terms of how NBN Co has been going in the last three years. If we get elected we will look at the positions but we won't make Mr Turnbull's mind up for him. He has to show some leadership on the Liberal Party washing machine which is turning taxpayer money into Liberal Party profits. He needs to show leadership about what he will do about a flagrant breach of caretaker conventions. Or is this Government so addicted to hanging on to power that anything goes under a Turnbull administration?
JOURNALIST: Does the Immigration Department need more resources to scrutinise visa applicants? Peter Dutton has admitted it was difficult to monitor social media activity of people wanting to come here?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear, this Government has allowed a visa to be issued to someone with despicable and abhorrent views of gay hate, of homophobia of the most violent and vile nature. The Government needs to explain how this fellow got in here to begin with and if what he's saying is he could get in there because there is not enough resources due to Government cutbacks in the past. The truth is who else has this Government let in and what else don't we know?
JOURNALIST: Just on Parakeelia, will you rule out the suggestion that the ALP has used taxpayer funds to run voter databases and is it a time for a review of the way political parties keep information on voters?
SHORTEN: Well I can absolutely rule out that we've been paying money into Labor Party organisations and conducting ourselves in the manner of this Liberal washing machine where they're paying taxpayer money into Liberal Party entities. But let's go a little bit further on the disclosure issue. We need to be very clear that there is a clear choice in this election, between the Labor Party, who wants to ban anonymous donations above $50. We want to make it clear that anyone who donates more than $1,000 has to have their identity disclosed. We've seen in the last three years how hard the Liberal Party will go to cover up where their money is coming from and who's paying into it. They've got this ongoing saga in New South Wales, and what this is showing is that the Liberal Party will do most things for a dollar in their fundraising, and I think for the sake of confidence in Australian democracy, the Liberal Party need to come clean on their activities, and the buck actually does stop with Malcolm Turnbull. He's the beneficiary of this Liberal Party fundraiser, he's running for Prime Minister, he needs to say does he condone what's been going on with Parakeelia, or is he actually going to say it's improper and it'll stop. A question he cannot avoid.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison released a video this morning accusing the Labor Party of having the same policies as the Greens and preferencing Greens candidates. Can you rule out a deal with the Greens after the election if you can't secure government in your own right?
SHORTEN: Well Mr Morrison has proven that he's an even worse film maker than Treasurer, and that takes a beating. I make two things clear - my Treasurer, Chris Bowen, if elected, will spend his time on the nation's finances, not upon B grade YouTube videos. In terms of the specific allegation, same old Liberals, same old lies. They know we will not go into Coalition with the Green political party. Full stop. But they believe if you repeat a lie often enough that somehow the sheer repetition of the untruth makes it true. It is not true. Absolutely not, and if you want to look at voting patterns in the previous Government under Turnbull, it was the Greens working with the Liberals to up-end the Senate voting arrangements, which may well deliver Pauline Hanson a seat in the Senate. That was the Greens and the Liberals. It was the Greens and the Liberals who voted to cap the threshold whereby companies over $200 million have to reveal the taxes they pay, rather than the $100 million turnover which Labor wanted. So the Liberals have got form on doing the wrong thing relying on the Greens. And again, Scott Morrison should spend more time on his day job as Treasurer than his night job as amateur YouTube video producer.
JOURNALIST: This week you've weighed into Council amalgamations in New South Wales saying it's important to tens of thousands of people, how can you continue to say the CFA dispute is a state issue and will you travel to Victoria to listen to the concerns of people over the dispute?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, there is no means of redress for the citizens of New South Wales who have had their own local government democracy destroyed by the State Government. They have no means of redress. In Victoria, I understand that whilst this has been a disappointing and difficult debate, I have no doubt, actually, that the volunteer firefighters and the career firefighters are all equally committed to the safety of Victorians. I believe there is more prospect of resolution of the matters in Victoria than there are in NSW. And, again, on this local government destruction in New South Wales, it just highlights why we needed to include local government in the Australian Constitution. Because they are vulnerable to state governments, and they have no means of redress. I am grateful for the work, though he probably didn't mean it, of John Howard in 2007, when he proposed exactly wha t we are proposing now. Last question.
JOURNALIST: You talked about the need for a treaty with Indigenous Australians over the last couple of days. What exactly would that treaty entail? Who would the parties be and what would the key elements be?
SHORTEN: What I said, the 25th anniversary of reconciliation and again I repeated, in shorthand, my remarks on the ABC Q&A show, is that if we're going to have an equal society, we need to address all the causes of in equality for Indigenous Australians. The truth of the matter is it is a national shame that your skin colour in this country is a predictor of your life expectancy, whether or not you go to jail or have proper housing, the opportunity for employment. And the path towards a proper settlement of equality and an equal go, a fair-go all around for Aboriginal Australians, has to involve constitutional recognition. But it also has to involve, as my colleague and Senator Pat Dodson has said, post recognition, post reform discussions about settlement. Now the idea of a treaty is one idea in the conversation, and I certainly believe that Australia needs to respect the voices of Aboriginal Australia and give them a voice in their own future. But beyond that, if we want to make sure that Aboriginal Australians get a fair go, vote Labor. Vote Labor because we have the plans to improve their educational outcomes. Vote Labor because we are actually fair dinkum about saving Medicare and making sure that the health outcomes for Aboriginal Australians improve. Vote Labor to make sure that we have more infrastructure jobs around Australia so more people, including Aboriginal Australians, can get access to the blue collar work and some of the other jobs that flow from it. We're very committed to an equal deal for Indigenous Australia and we're very committed in the same vein, for a better deal for WA. I'm here today and my Labor team are here today because we know that Western Australia is facing some of the biggest challenges, not just since the end of the mining boom, but over the last 40 years. Western Australia has been plagued by a do-nothing and inco mpetent State Government, and a Federal Liberal Government that takes Western Australia for granted. The proposition I have for West Australians is you can vote Labor and we'll help build Perth Metronet. You can vote Labor and your kids will get a quality education. You can vote Labor and still be able to afford to see the doctor. You can vote Labor and have a world-class, first-class National Broadband Network. You can vote Labor and we'll see more action on renewable energy. You can vote Labor and we'll put people first. Thank you everybody.