THURSDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Renewable energy; Liberal Party divisions; Government’s economic performance; domestic violence leave.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, and thanks for coming along to hear the campaign for improving family violence leave for the survivors of family violence. And also I acknowledge that we are approaching summer, but increasingly Malcolm Turnbull is demonstrating that he is under pressure, that he is lashing out, and that now he is making terrible decisions about the future of climate change and what governments can do about it. Malcolm Turnbull has been muted on taking proper action on climate change. He has been gagged from talking about the solutions we need to tackle harmful carbon pollution, and in fact he is now rapidly becoming a complete coward on climate change.
All of the experts say that unless we put in place positive policies to tackle climate pollution, prices will go up, cost of living will go up, opportunity for new jobs will go down and of course the climate will just get worse. Malcolm Turnbull needs to stand up to the right-wing bullies in his party. He needs to stand up and take proper action on climate change. And the real problem these days is we have a Prime Minister who is too afraid to fight for what he believes in, and we also see on the economy that the Prime Minister is increasingly looking like a hollowman.
During the election, you couldn't turn on a television without hearing his slogan, ‘jobs and growth’. Well now we've seen this year 90,000 full-time jobs gone and we're seeing growth going in the wrong direction in this country. The Prime Minister doesn't need to give Australians a slogan, he needs to give us a plan for action. The Prime Minister needs to stop worrying about his own job, the rest of the Liberals need to stop worrying about who has his job, and the Government needs to start worrying about the jobs of all Australians, which currently no-one is. We are happy to take questions on these and also the upcoming COAG tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Just on climate change ahead of the COAG meeting, is it time for the states to start talking seriously about a single national Renewable Energy Target, or are you happy for each of them to go it alone?
SHORTEN: Well, I think first of all we need leadership from the national government. I'm most interested to see the Chief Scientist's paper, where he was asked to go and talk about energy intensive industries, and what to do about them, and what to do about our power industry. I mean, is he going to be gagged from speaking tomorrow?
This week has become the sickest joke of climate change policy since Malcolm Turnbull got elected. It wasn't Labor who on Monday said that the Government is going to review its policies and that everything is on the table, but within 48 hours we saw the typical formula of the Turnbull Government. Malcolm Turnbull has a thought bubble, sends out a minister to carry out his thought bubble, 24 hours later, the right-wing members of his government say, "No, you can't do this." 48 hours later, Malcolm Turnbull retreats, tail between his legs, throws whatever minister under the bus and says he was never going to talk about climate change or energy policies or energy intensive schemes. In terms of the states' response, I do think that we need to have a discussion about an approach on renewable energy which is national. But what I won't do is give into the right-wing of the Liberal Party. Mr Turnbull may be forced to sacrifice science to the right-wing populism of members of his party, but the rest of Australia doesn't have to put up with the bullying.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] emissions trading scheme working if states don't opt in?
SHORTEN: I've got no doubt that one of the strategies which has to be looked at is an emissions trading scheme. Isn't it funny, the Liberal Party call themselves the party of the market, yet they run a million miles from having a market in terms of emissions trading. This is not the Liberal Party of even John Howard. Even Tony Abbott was prepared to have a review. Now, Malcolm Turnbull won't even do what Tony Abbott did. I mean, how on earth did we get to a set of circumstances where Malcolm Turnbull is acting even more of a climate sceptic than the climate sceptics’ champion, Tony Abbott? It just shows you how weak he is.
The real problem in Australia, as we approach Christmas of 2016, is we have a Prime Minister who never fights for anything. The problem is for this Prime Minister, he doesn't believe in anything except saving his own job, and everything else, well, that's a negotiation.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see greater bipartisanship on the issue or is that impossible ambition?
SHORTEN: I genuinely hoped when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister 16 months ago that we could end the climate change wars, that we'd back the science, we'd back tackling pollution, we'd back renewable energy, we'd back investment and new jobs, we'd back doing something about energy prices.
But the problem is, ever since he got elected, Malcolm Turnbull has been shrinking into the job. And now what we see is the whole of the Liberal Party is moving backwards from taking proper action on climate change, and I think this means that Australians in the future are going to have to pay higher prices, we're going to do less about tackling pollution in our environment, and we're going to miss out on a whole lot of investment in jobs, blue-collar jobs which we would otherwise get if we had sensible market-based policies to deal with the harmful effects of climate change.
JOURNALIST: Jay Weatherill said this morning that South Australia was willing to go it alone on establishing an emissions trading scheme. Would you support states establishing their own scheme?
SHORTEN: It's up to South Australia what they do, but one thing I certainly know is that it wasn't renewable energy which caused the 23 wind towers or the power towers in South Australia to collapse, it was cyclonic winds.
Now Malcolm Turnbull once upon-a-time used to recognise that the best way to deal with increasing extreme weather events is to take long-term action on climate change. Now he's just turned into a pale imitation of himself. Again, the real problem here is, whatever you think about Jay Weatherill, he's willing to fight for what he believes in. Whatever you think about Malcolm Turnbull, he's not willing to fight for anything he believes in.
I've got no doubt that's why Malcolm Turnbull's losing it at the moment. Because increasingly, he looks in the mirror and he doesn't like what he sees in terms of the policies that he once believed to what he is now being required to do. Because he can't run his own party.
JOURNALIST: Do the problems in South Australia with the heavy industrial users indicate the limits of state-based, in the actual action?
SHORTEN: Obviously we need national responses and we need to have a discussion about national energy markets, and ensuring reliability of supply, downward pressure on prices, and taking real action on climate change.
Labor's approach is eminently sensible. No surprises. Let's work with industry, let's take the advice of the scientists, the experts, the people who actually have been researching and looking at this issue most. We back the experts, we back cooperation with the states, we also back new jobs. It is a fact that there's $2.5 trillion of new investment available in coming years across the Asia Pacific region – investment in renewable energy. I don't want Australia to be at the back of the queue.
The reality is, to have secure and reliable energy, we need a mix. We need fossil fuels and we need renewable energy. Once upon a time Malcolm Turnbull could have given you exactly that speech. The problem is, ever since he has become Prime Minister, he's become a prisoner of the right-wing of his party.
But what surprises me about Malcolm Turnbull, I always thought he was a fighter, that he'd go up against the odds. He himself said he would never want to lead a political party which didn't believe in taking action on climate change. Where has Malcolm Turnbull gone and who's this guy who is the current Prime Minister?
JOURNALIST: On the economy, given yesterday's sluggish growth figures, what economic policy is the Opposition is seeking to support to fix the economic malaise?
SHORTEN: Well, the figures yesterday were very, very disappointing and I hope things can lift. But in terms of economic policies, one thing we won't do is take $50 billion out of the budget, which this nation can't afford, and just hand it back to large companies. I mean, under Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull's policies, supported by the Coalition, big banks over the next ten years, courtesy of the Liberals, will get $7.5 billion extra. They don't need that money. Medicare needs that money. Budget repair needs that money. Also, what this government should do is revisit – if they want to get the Budget in proper shape – revisit their trenchant opposition, where they favour investors buying their tenth house getting a taxpayer-funded dividend, as opposed to first home buyers who are locked out of the housing market.
I think the other thing which we need to look at here is, if you want to get this economy going, you've got to invest in people and you've got to invest in infrastructure. They haven't managed to get a dollar out of their Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, for example, so they're all talk and no action on infrastructure.
The other thing is that when it comes to investing in people, they need to invest in training Australians. Rather than importing skills through 457 visas, we need to train our own young people and help adults retrain.
There are a number of levers this government's got to help generate genuine economic growth and generate full-time jobs. But this government just believes in the discredited theory of trickle-down economics, where they look after the very rich and don't look after anyone else.
Last question, then I think the people want to have their morning tea.
JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison says the GDP figures underline the need for you to support the company tax cuts to give – to boost employment.
SHORTEN: And your question is… do I agree?
JOURNALIST: Yeah. Particularly in small, you're talking about large companies, what about small companies?
SHORTEN: We're supporting tax cuts for small business, under $2 million turnover. But the very fact that Mr Morrison's only plan is to grow the economy one per cent in ten years by unfunded tax cuts to large multinationals and big banks is highlighted by the fact that whilst he's talking about growing the economy one per cent in ten years, we just lost half a per cent in one quarter.
Mr Morrison is all at sea. He needs to junk his unfunded tax cuts for multimillionaires. He needs to junk his opposition to tax reform for negative gearing. He needs to junk his enterprise tax cuts which will give billion-dollar companies tax cuts, instead he needs to get behind investing in people, investing in Australian jobs, and investing in infrastructure. Thanks, everybody.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you one thing on –
SHORTEN: I did say –
JOURNALIST: On domestic violence –
JOURNALIST: I think the Labor policy was for five days leave, I think the unions are going for 10. Are you willing to raise the Labor Party policy to 10 days domestic violence leave?
SHORTEN: We'll be talking to the union about the case for 10 days. As I made clear in my talk this morning, domestic violence leave is not some, I think, some great impost on Australia. What the great impost on Australia is, is domestic violence. And the more we can do to help survivors, I think the better we can get things going for a whole lot of people and improve the bottom line of this country.