SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for schools; Banking Royal Commission; Kevin Rudd; State Attorneys-General in Canberra to discuss post-sentence preventative detention; Changes to the racial discrimination act
LINDA BURNEY, MEMBER FOR BARTON: Good morning everyone thank you for coming to the electorate of Barton on a very dark day. We are at St Thomas More Catholic School an I'm the local member, Linda Burney. I'm just going to open up by handing over to Tanya Plibersek and then Bill Shorten. I am so thrilled that the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party have come to Barton this morning and I'll hand over to Tanya for opening statements.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Linda, and it's great to be with our new member for Barton, Linda Burney who has already made such a great contribution to public life and will continue to do so in the Federal Parliament as the Member for Barton. It's a delight to be here at Thomas More Catholic School and to speak with the children, the very enthusiastic learners in kindergarten with their teachers, with the Principal and Deputy Principal. What I've heard in this school and in so many schools that I've been visiting in recent days, and over recent years is the difference that extra Gonski needs-based funding has made to our school systems. In this school for example, we see that teachers are getting the opportunity to do what they want to do, which is be the best possible teachers for their young chargers.
They're getting support to focus on increasing their skills in the classroom. Literacy, teaching skills, numeracy teaching skills - whatever it is that they want to focus on in developing their professional capacity. We know how important that is because the teacher in the classroom is the biggest predictor of educational success for young students in schools like this right around Australia. We know that over coming years, the Gonski school education funding in the years 2018 and 2019, years 5 and 6, of the proposed extra funding to flow from the needs-based funding model, would mean the difference of $1.4 billion in New South Wales. In fact, in Barton alone, it would make a difference of $26 million in those final two years of the Gonski school education funding.
Now, we've had the Government out there saying that it's not all about the money. It's not just about extra money. It's what we do with that extra money that matters, and upskilling teachers, making sure that they can continue to develop, to be the best possible classroom teachers, that's what that extra money buys. More individual attention, it means kids who are falling behind have that picked up earlier, it means kids who are gifted and talented have their gifts expanded and explored. It means more support for kids with a disability. It means more support for kids from a non-English speaking background.
This school has only 200 students but more than 40 different cultural backgrounds. So the extra funding buys extra support and better quality teaching in the classrooms. That's what we do with it. And the idea that this wouldn't make a difference to our economy is just extraordinary.
We've got a Government that can find $50 billion for big business tax cuts, $16 billion for high income earners' tax cuts, but is cutting $29 billion from our schools. I think any Australian who's got any common sense can tell you where the larger pay off will be over the generations. If we want to be an innovation nation we have to be an education nation. That's what Bill Shorten supports and it's a great pleasure to be here with him today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Linda and thanks Tanya and good morning, everybody. It's great to be here at the St Thomas More School and perhaps a little known fact about St Thomas More is the patron saint of amongst other people, politicians. We can all use a bit of help.
On education, Tanya's 100 per cent correct. Well-funded education is an economic plan for growth but it's a plan which gives every child in every school every opportunity. Labor is absolutely committed to the Gonski needs-based funding formula, we believe fundamentally that needs-based funding will give our children across Australia the best start in life. It's a great economic plan and it's a great plan to give our children the best start in life.
And we're here at a Catholic school because Labor has a policy for education which is sector neutral. We want to fund education for children based on need and nothing else. And only Labor has a plan to look after all of the sectors of our really important education system. I think, though, our approach on education contrasts with Mr Turnbull's approach and priorities. He's hoping that education was just an election issue, and it's not an issue which he now has to talk about. Well just as we're talking about Medicare and opposing the dreadful cuts which undermine our Medicare system, we're going to keep talking about needs-based education right through this term of Parliament and, as I said, it's a good economic plan too.
But Mr Turnbull's priorities seem to be in utterly different directions. Mr Turnbull's still persisting with a $7.6 billion tax cut to our four big banks. I think in the last few days, we've seen how contemptuous and overconfident our banks are in terms of the Government and the democratically elected representatives of Australia. On Monday, the Reserve Bank of Australia took the unprecedented step of reducing the official cost of money, the official interest rate, down to 1.5 per cent. The Reserve Bank took this very significant step because they want to revive our fragile economy. They want people to be spending money, they want to see businesses willing to take loans and to actually start investing in growth. The problem is the banks on the back of an interest rate cut designed to revive the Australian economy have snubbed their nose at the Prime Minister and are going to take $917 million in profit, nearly $1 billion in profit, for themselves. And so Mr Turnbull yesterday flogged the banks with a wet lettuce leaf. Having been humiliated previously, the previous day, by being ignored by the big banks who he's been running a protection racket for, by not offering and proposing a Royal Commission, which the Australian people want, into our banks.
He comes up with this con job in the last 24 hours where he says that he will invite the banks to come down once a year to Parliament to explain their conduct. If this strategy was already going to work, it would have worked, because periodically the banks do come down in front of these inquiries. But Mr Turnbull's answer to the question of what he's doing about the banks and their arrogant conduct, is to simply say please come down once a year. The real test of what the banks think about Mr Turnbull's so-called conjob yesterday is have they actually passed on the full reduction in interest rates today? Have they decreased by 25 points the credit card interest rates? Have they helped the pressure on mortgagees? No, they haven't.
The test for Mr Turnbull's proposals yesterday is whether the banks would pass on interest rate cuts today and the answer is no, they haven't. So Mr Turnbull is looking embarrassed and humiliated, he's run the protection racket against a Royal Commission into banking and financial services when we've seen a string of scandal after scandal and the best he can come up with is a meeting with a Liberal-controlled committee and the banks are not rattled in the slightest by Mr Turnbull's empty talk.
It is important that this Parliament's constructive. Labor's going to be constructive because we're going to talk about education of our kids which is the best economic insurance we can have for the future. All Mr Turnbull's doing is giving empty lectures and finger wagging at the banks and in the meantime, when Australia's economy needs reviving, the big banks are pocketing the profits. We're happy to take questions on all of these matters.
JOURNALIST: Given all that Mr Shorten, will you move a private member's bill to set up a Royal Commission into the banks?
SHORTEN: I am currently talking to my colleagues. We are most committed to a Royal Commission into the banks. I'm hoping that Mr Turnbull realises after this week's humiliating events that he's protecting the wrong people. I say to Mr Turnbull, come and work with Labor. Come and work with the Australian people. Mr Turnbull must realise the banks aren't scared of him. They're not worried about what Mr Turnbull says. They just say there's another Turnbull lecture, business as usual, ka-ching, let's make more profits off important policy decisions of the Reserve Bank designed to revive the Australian economy. I say to Mr Turnbull, you know, you've given the banks more opportunities than they deserve. Join with Labor and let's have a Royal Commission so that once and for all we can improve the culture and the conduct and the standards of our banking sector.
JOURNALIST: Has Labor discussed the idea with any of the cross-benchers in either of the chambers yet?
SHORTEN: Some of the cross-bencher have from time to time expressed support for Labor's views. Let's be clear how we will handle the 45th Parliament. We will be constructive. But we're the only serious party seeking government who has got a full agenda across the spectrum. We know that Mr Turnbull just fell across the line in the last election, we know he's on probation from his backbench. We know that he's played too many politics with Mr Rudd's appointment, we know that he's had problems trying to sort out the Royal Commission into Northern Territory youth justice. And this week, perhaps most significantly, the banks have pocketed $1 billion and laughed at Mr Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: So Labor hasn't yet canvassed any cross-bencher in particular as yet in regards to a Royal Commission into banks?
SHORTEN: Our policies are clear-cut. We will obviously - we've got a track record of talking to people, being constructive, but I would actually think before I have to talk to the cross-benchers, I ask Mr Turnbull, listen to some of those back-benchers in your own party, Wacka Williams, listen to some of the others, Senator Williams from the National Party, listen to people who have been the victims of financial fraud. Listen to the Australian people and please, don't back yourself into a corner. I mean before the election, he said that he didn't need to do anything other than beef up ASIC. He's already now, yesterday, conceded the truth of Labor's position, there needs to be a better inquiry than just ASIC the regulator. So we've won half the argument. I say to Mr Turnbull, do the job and do it properly and do it properly first time. You know that there needs to be an inquiry. You've conceded the truth of what Labor was saying yesterday in your press conference with the Treasurer. Just, you know, do it once and do it properly, let's have the Royal Commission. That's what the Australian people want.
JOURNALIST: What would the terms of reference for a Royal Commission be?
SHORTEN: We've outlined some of the principles. Ideally the terms of reference are designed by the government of the day, they have the best resources. We've made clear some of our principles and we released them last year. We do think there is a problem with a widespread culture where it seems to be profit at all points and not enough consideration for the community at large. I think the CommInsure scandal amongst a range of scandals is the one which perhaps surprised me even the most. When you literally had people in a bank working out how, if you had an insurance policy they could not pay the claimant on the insurance policy, even though the person with the insurance policy had been paying premiums. I think the rate rigging investigations by ASIC is of grave concern. I think there is a debate here that you either wait, like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff every time there's a disaster, and every time there's a disaster we then say well that won't happen again and then the next time there's a problem we all seem to express surprise. How many scandals, how many victims do there have to be before Mr Turnbull will stop protecting the banks? I think Mr Turnbull appears to be the only person in Australia who isn't frustrated by the greed of the banks at the moment.
JOURNALIST: If Mr Turnbull though won't heed your call and join with you on this, are you committing to talk to the cross-benchers and moving this bill within, you know, the next 6 months, the next term, when is, what is your commitment to trying to force this issue if Turnbull won't come onboard?
SHORTEN: We're going to be talking about this issues as much as often as we can and we'll do whatever we can within the Parliament to get a Royal Commission up, let's be clear about that. In terms of going forward, let me speak to the Australian people rather than to Mr Turnbull. You will get a Royal Commission in the banking sector. Either Mr Turnbull will step down off his high horse and stop protecting the banks or after the next election we will introduce a Royal Commission ourselves.
JOURNALIST: So when you're saying working constructive in the Parliament, you're not going to try this term to force a Commission in the Parliament?
SHORTEN: I'm trying to force a royal commission today, okay. We're the ones talking about the royal commission. And I think, you know, to some extent Mr Turnbull's run up the white flag. He doesn't realise he's lost this argument and he should. Before the election, he and Scott Morrison were, you know, shoulder to shoulder, we don't need a royal commission, we don't need an inquiry, just give the regulator the resources. Since the election, it appears that Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have surrendered half their position. They've now said, well actually we probably do need new mechanisms for an inquiry. But what I don't understand about Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison and their prioritising and loyalty to the banks ahead of the people of Australia, is that they know that an inquiry is necessary. But what I don't understand about these two and their protection racket for the banks is that they know the best form for an inquiry is a royal commission. I congratulate Mr Turnbull for moving on a royal commission into the Northern Territory youth justice system but the point about it is, if he knows that's the best form of inquiry, when something really needs to change, and he knows that there are problems in banking, and he said there are cultural problems in banking, he conceded that yesterday, why can't he actually join the dots that if you know there's a problem, why is he giving Australians a second best answer?
JOURNALIST: You mentioned Kevin Rudd in some of your comments before. Do you think he has been wronged publicly, I guess, prolonged the dispute that he's been having with Malcolm Turnbull over his appointment to the UN as he has in the media today, should he let it go?
SHORTEN: Mr Rudd can speak for himself. But I think the issue here is that Mr Rudd is clearly of the opinion that Mr Turnbull made a promise to him and Mr Turnbull's now defaulted on it because Mr Turnbull doesn't control his own party.
JOURNALIST: Don't you think that Mr Rudd has effectively showing the public this is exactly why the Government didn't back you because he released private conversations [inaudible] it equally doesn't show goodwill?
SHORTEN: Well, again in the argument between Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull, I can understand why Mr Rudd's frustrated. He's a former Prime Minister of Australia. There's political conventions. I think that when Malcolm Fraser lost the election, he had been no great friend of Labor. I think no less a person than Foreign Minister Gareth Evans helped campaign to get Mr Fraser a senior position on the global international multinational institutions. Now I think that Mr Rudd is frustrated also because, and he can speak for himself, but he appears that he thought he had a deal, an agreement with Mr Turnbull and I think clearly others have thought that. I understand that Joe Hockey and Nick Minchin and others have said, you know, this is the right way to go, former Liberal luminaries on the international stage, I think Foreign Minister Bishop has. Clearly there's been some almighty upheaval and division in the Liberal Party and now Mr Turnbull's had to change his position. I think what we have here is a divided Government. If Mr Turnbull can do a deal with someone and then has to come back later and say sorry, I couldn't convince all my right-wing sort of minders to do it, well what sort of stability does that promise us on all the other big issues in Australia.
JOURNALIST: The Attorneys-General are meeting in Canberra to discuss keeping convicted terrorists in prison past the end of their sentences, does Labor support that plan and do you have any concern about it as well?
SHORTEN: We take a bipartisanship approach and goals and terms of protecting Australia from terrorism. We'll wait and see what they come up with in their proposal but I think there is a point here which we all do need to address. If you have someone in jail, convicted of terrorism offences, I don't think that they can just have - the system can't just simply release them at the end of that process of their sentence without having good examination if it is safe to do so and I'm not sure that the processes that are adopted can be those that are used to assess standard criminals or other types of criminals. I think that what we need to do is have a better system for understanding are these people still radicalised. If they go out are they still going to be a menace in terms of our community. I think there should be - we're going to need a better system and we will work constructively with the Government.
You can't just simply treat someone in jail on a terrorism offence as a criminal on another offence. I think you need to have experts who understand the nature of radicalisation, understand the religious aspect. I also think that when someone comes out of jail on these offences, having been convicted, just to simply let them go back to their old life with their prior associates, go back into that environment, you know, you're almost guaranteeing failure.
So, we look forward in the spirit of bipartisanship to work with how we make sure we counter the radicals, the very few radicals that there are, and make sure we don't simply treat it as a business as usual approach. The community deserves better systems of safety and that's what we'll certainly be examining to see if there's proposals which improve the safety of our community.
JOURNALIST: There was a case here in New South Wales where the brother of Mohamed Elomar who was convicted of bashing a policeman with pole, was recently released, basically he was because on parole because the parole board said he had a greater chance of being radicalised by staying in prison than leaving it. Do you think we have a problem with radicalisation in prisons in New South Wales or anywhere lees in the country the needs to be looked at as part of this wider picture on what we need to do to stop terrorism in Australia?
SHROTEN: Well, let's see what the State Attorneys-General come up with today. And as I say, the good news for Australia, and this is as it should be by the way, is that when it comes to fighting terrorism, Labor and Liberal are absolutely on the same page. I worked well with Tony Abbott, we're working well with Malcolm Turnbull. In terms of radicalisation, I think that's a challenge in jail and out of jail. I certainly asked some of my own people, and I've got respected counter radicalisation expert Anne Aly as one of my MPs, but what we want to see is making sure that the system doesn't treat these people and standard criminals because they're not. And what we've got to make sure is either in jail and outside of jail we're not embedding more radicalisation and more danger for our community. What we want to see is a combined effort to make sure that our community is safer and there's plenty of lessons here and certainly Labor's going to work on its policies and we will work in a very open fashion, as we should by the way, with Mr Turnbull and the national security experts that we have in this country.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, one more. Just got a different topic, what do you think about changing the racial discrimination acts, specifically section 18C?
SHORTEN: We haven't seen the case made out for that at all. Full stop.
JOURNALIST: So you wouldn't support that?
SHORTEN: The case hasn't been made for that. This is a great country and one of the reasons why it's a great country is that hat we have is protection for all of our diverse community, so we're not getting into that. That case was argued in the last Parliament. It was unsuccessful and we will certainly stand up not only for majority views in this country but for the diversity of this country. Minorities also have reason to be - an expectation that Parliaments of the day will protect minorities as well as majorities. That's the nature of our system, thank you.