WEDNESDAY, 18 MAY 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to ease Sydney congestion and create jobs; Liberal Party demonising migrants; David Feeney; Liberals’ retrospective superannuation changes; Domestic gas national interest test; Donald Trump; Banking Royal Commission; Safe Schools program
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD-SMITH: Welcome everyone. I'm really pleased that Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese have come to our community today for this vitally important announcement on the duplication of the Port Botany rail line. Since I've been the local member I've had hundreds of justifiable complaints from local residents about the noise, pollution, and the danger to their kids from trucks on roads around our local community. Big trucks that carry freight out of this port, 86 per cent of the containers that come out of this port come on trucks. It's too high if you have a rail line and this announcement today ensures and shows that Labor is listening to our community and delivering for our community. This will see about 300,000 truck movements taken off Sydney's roads. It will create jobs in our local community, it's a win for our community, it's a win for the efficiency of the port and it's a win for Austra lia's national economy. I'm very pleased to now hand over to Labor Leader, Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Matt and good morning everybody. Today is an announcement which will help unclog the roads around Port Botany, it will improve the use of rail and therefore improve the productivity and cost for business and of course it will have a material improvement for the quality of life for surrounding communities. Today, Labor is announcing that we will spend $175 million to do overdue projects which will improve the profitability of economic activity and business in Sydney. Specifically, there will be $108 million to duplicate the rail line between Port Botany and Mascot. This is the last part of the project to improve the rail link so that we can improve moving containers from the port to other parts of Sydney and NSW. In addition, there will be work done, $67 million to improve the loop for Warwick Farm which will see, as Matt has said, 300,000 less truck movements each year. Labor wants to do these projects because we' ;re committed to real jobs, we're committed to a real story of improving economic activity. This will mean that - currently 14 per cent of the containers moved from Port Botany go by rail. We want to increase that proportion towards 50 per cent. It's a great use of scarce taxpayer money to deliver real bang for our buck in terms of productivity. There will be hundreds of direct jobs created and indeed thousands of indirect jobs improved because of this very sensible decision. At the end of the day, what really matters is making sure that businesses and people have got more productive communities and more liveable communities. The other good thing of course is that by increasing the proportion of cargo movements by rail we have a positive effect in terms of climate change. I'm very pleased to hand over to Anthony Albanese to talk more about the specifics of this practical plan to make a difference for people and business and improve Sydney. Thank you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT: Thanks very much, Bill. I'm very proud to be a part of this announcement today. When we were in Government, we had the largest-ever upgrade of the national rail freight system through the Australian Rail Track Corporation. We rebuilt, either new or renovated, some 4000 kilometres of track right around the country. We took six hours off the journey from Brisbane to Melbourne and 9 hours off the journey from east to West Coast. We did that because we understood that getting freight on to rail is good for productivity, good for the economy as well as being good for the environment. Today's announcement is the final piece in the puzzle for the Port Botany rail freight strategy as determined by the Australian rail track corporation. It follows the more than billion dollars that was invested in the southern Sydney freight line. This last mile or last 2.8 kilometres of duplication will ensure efficiency and productivity. It's a little bit like having a one-way road where there's 2-way traffic and you've but to wait for traffic to go in one way before the traffic can come out. It doesn't make sense. That's why this final investment, following the first two stages, which was done when we were in Government, makes absolute sense and will make a big difference to exporters as well as having a benefit for the local community. Together with the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal, we're talking about taking 300,000 trucks off the road. That means benefit particularly for the roads in Matt's electorate around Kingsford Smith but it means trucks off the roads right throughout Sydney. It means more efficient freight movement. We understand that you need road and rail infrastructure. It is somewhat surprising that in three budgets of the Coalition they haven't put a dollar into these remaining projects to ensure this rail freight strat egy was completed. But Labor will step up and get the job done as we always have when it comes to efficiency of our rail system and in terms of ensuring that particularly for longer distances, it makes absolute sense to use rail rather than to use road. Makes absolute sense for the exporters but also makes absolute sense for the local communities because this is good news for all communities around Sydney, particularly those in the corridor between the port and southwestern Sydney it will mean more freight on to rail. That means less trucks on heavily congested roads.
SHORTEN: Before we take questions, I want to address the deeply divisive and offensive remarks made by the Liberal Party and Peter Dutton overnight. There are many issues that the people of Australia want addressed - jobs, education, Medicare, infrastructure. They're just some of the issues that people want to see addressed, but the best that the Liberal Party can do it appears is to put out a string of lies and pathetic scare campaigns. In the last 12 hours we've seen Mr Dutton insult refugees and indeed our great migrant history. Mr Dutton's comments are comments that Pauline Hanson would have been proud to make and if this is the best that the Liberal Party can do, it is not very good at all. Mr Turnbull needs to come out and recognise the damage Mr Dutton's remarks are doing. Mr Dutton didn't just insult refugees when he made those comments, he insulted the millions of migrants who've contributed to making this a truly great country . Refugees like Victor Chang, like Richard Pratt, like Frank Lowy. Mr Turnbull, if he has a shred of self-respect left on this matter, must immediately condemn Mr Dutton's comments. But of course I'm sceptical if he will condemn Mr Dutton's comments because I wonder if Mr Turnbull is actually feeding the lines to Mr Dutton. Australians expect more from their Prime Minister. They expect more from this electoral process that we are undertaking than running scare campaigns and pathetic lies. Australians want to see in this election a contest of solutions to make this country better, not this string of orchestrated rubbish we've seen Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton come up with.
JOURNALIST: As a disciplinary matter for yourself, if a Government Minister had failed to declare a $2.3 million investment property, it's a fair bet you'd be all over them. Have you read the riot act to David Feeney?
SHORTEN: I have contacted Mr Feeney this morning and I have expressed to him how displeased I am about this matter. It is unacceptable. He has assured me that he has already written to correct the record.
JOURNALIST: Will he face any sanctions whatsoever or will it have no consequences for him?
SHORTEN: I think the attention he is getting is not the attention a candidate would want in an election campaign. I have said it very clearly that it is unacceptable. I'm also going to be really straight here. I think that Mr Dutton being backed in by the Foreign Minister Bishop, attacking refugees in the manner which they have is an unconscionable act of authority in terms of demonising a proportion of our population. It besmirches our migrant history. Mr Turnbull either has to condemn it, he cannot wash his hands of this matter. He cannot just feed the Australian people more platitudes about Australia being a great society but then do nothing about it when his Immigration Minister takes Australia and this election down a path which is deeply unhealthy, especially as Australians want to see the Liberals and Labor talking about who's got the best plans for the future. Instead we just get day after day this string of orchestrated rubbish from the G overnment.
JOURNALIST: Will you fire Mr Feeney or dock his salary or something like that?
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that David Feeney didn't know his property was negatively geared?
SHORTEN: In terms of Mr Feeney's conduct, he's indicated to me that he's corrected the record, as I expect him to do, and I was very clear that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical of Labor to advocate for changes to negative gearing and criticise the so-called rich investors who engage in it if one of your MPs has negatively geared his property?
SHORTEN: Let me be clear here because people do negatively gear now. Liberals, Labor, many Australians, in terms of an amount of people. That's why the changes we are making are prospective. I do not believe in retrospectively changing the tax laws. I don't think this nation can sustain, over the next 10 years, not reforming our capital gains tax system and negative gearing system because it's going to cost taxpayers $32 billion. When you look at the challenges that first home buyers have in terms of competing on a level playing field with people who are investors who are able to claim a tax subsidy, I don't think that's the way forward we can go in the future. But I don't believe in retrospective tax changes by the same token, so the question you're asking about are people who've done it under the current tax laws, should they be penalised? If it's the current tax laws, that's the deal, they're the rules. That& #39;s why I think it's so important Peter Costello's intervention today, where he's attacked the retrospective nature of the superannuation changes that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are making. Now Labor has been leading the debate when it comes to reforming taxes, when it comes to first home buyers and standing up for them and for reforming the unsustainable tax concessions available for people at the high end of superannuation. But one thing which we won't do is penalise people no matter what their circumstances who've invested under the current set of laws. It goes to show you how hopeless the Turnbull-Morrison Budget is, they can't even do reform properly. They've even got Peter Costello offside, who is a life-long Liberal. So when it comes to retrospectivity, the truth of the matter is that people who invest under one set of laws shouldn't have those laws automatically changed for decisions they made in good faith. That's why o ur changes to negative gearing are prospective, our improvements to superannuation are prospective, because we know that the government has to make choices but we're not going to turn the tables on people invested under one set of laws.
JOURNALIST: Feeney has described in a tweet negative gearing as a scheme for rich investors that reduces housing affordability. Would you describe him as a rich investor putting pressure on housing affordability?
SHORTEN: Well the system is what's putting pressure in terms of housing affordability. They're the current set of laws. Only one political party has had the courage in the last 30 years to face up to negative gearing. And we will not be intimidated by the vested interests of the real estate industry whose business model relies upon subsidies from taxpayers. We got the chance to walk around the container terminal today talking to truckies. The truth of the matter is that every one of those truckies is going to work and some of the taxes they pay the Government will go to subsidise an unsustainable negative gearing system.
JOURNALIST: How can Labor be considering a domestic gas reservation policy when Martin Ferguson and Gary Gray have called such a thing an investment killer and ill-informed populism?
SHORTEN: I can't speak for Martin Ferguson but the policy we developed in the past was done while Gary was a member of the Caucus. The truth of the matter is we're very proud of our LNG export industry, but we've also got to keep an eye on making sure our domestic manufacturing sector survives. For me it's all about jobs, it's all about manufacturing jobs, making sure as we export LNG that we keep an eye on making sure Australian manufacturing has a fair go. That's the reason we're here today. We want to see jobs created in Sydney. And what we know will improve job creation is building extra rail freight, unclogging our roads, making sure that companies can operate on a more effective cost basis because we're providing more efficient infrastructure. This Prime Minister of ours loves to wander around using three word slogans, it's a Liberal thing I guess, but what he doesn't do is explain how he's going to c reate jobs. What we did yesterday in Adelaide, talking about new tramlines, thousands of jobs, urban congestion being eased, what we're doing today, again, clearly costed. We're going to duplicate a rail line between Port Botany and Mascot. If you talk to any of the logistics operators, if you talk to any of the citizens in these communities, they like what Labor is talking about because we're talking about real jobs. We're talking about the real economy and we're talking about really making a difference.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday you criticised Donald Trump. Are you - have you threatened Australia's relationship with the United States?
SHORTEN: No, I haven't threatened that. We're supportive of the Australian-American alliance and ultimately it is a matter for American domestic politics who they elect. But when you look at some of Donald Trump's most notable sayings, what I was also doing was saying: I've seen what this fellow says and I wouldn't be the leader I seek to be for Australia if I didn't tell you what I think of some of those. There's some comments that we've had a look at. He has gone on the record saying he wishes that Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi were still around. He's called Mexicans killers and rapists. He's said about John McCain, a US war hero, "Well, he was captured," and he likes war heroes who weren't captured. The guy thinks differently to most Australians.
JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to the news about the banking culture in ANZ in particular and the bank bill swap rate?
SHORTEN: When I announced a Royal Commission into banks, I knew I was doing the right thing then. But every day since then, every revelation since then, confirms to me the importance and urgency of dealing with this matter. Mr Turnbull has to stop backing vested interests and support the national interest. Mr Turnbull thinks that a lunch time lecture at a birthday bash for Westpac means that by the afternoon the bankers will have got the message and changed their approach. I think these tapes and some of the evidence being revealed shows a deeply cynical attitude towards the needs of Australians. That is why we will set in place the process to call this Royal Commission within the first 100 days of a Labor Government being elected on July 2 if we're given that privilege. It's not good enough what we're seeing, and Mr Turnbull, in an ideal world, this bank Royal Commission issue should be a bipartisan matter, and I wish Mr Turnbull would show some l eadership on the banks, put aside his old allegiances and govern for the nation so that after July 2, whoever wins, we know the banks will have a Royal Commission and we'll see all the consequential benefits that will flow from that.
JOURNALIST: Would a Labor Government commit to funding the Safe Schools program post 2017? Would you keep the changes Education Minister Simon Birmingham has made and would you support closing the religious exemptions on anti-discrimination laws?
SHORTEN: Thanks for those three questions, Joe. First of all, when it comes to Safe Schools, the approach that Labor has taken is that we do support the provision of anti-bullying programs in our school system. I know that there are a lot of Australians who were deeply surprised when Malcolm Turnbull caved into the right wing of his party and instead of debating the issue intelligently, in a fashion which recognises the need to have anti-bullying programs, he caved in, had a very quick review and said they won't keep funding it into the future. Labor believes that our children when they go to school should be safe from bullying. The other thing I believe is that I don't want our politicians trying to dictate the books kids read in school or their curriculum. That's what we've got teachers and experts for. When it comes down to a beauty parade for who's best qualified to educate the children of Australia, I'll pick the teachers and the c urriculum experts over the right wing of the Liberal Party every time. In terms of the other matters, we do believe that people shouldn't be discriminated against in their employment on the basis of the criteria which currently exist so we are not as keen to simply start changing everything and denying people their employment rights.
JOURNALIST: So hang on, you would continue funding the program after 2017?
SHORTEN: Sorry, we've said that before, yes we would.
JOURNALIST: You’ve mounted quite the defence of Australia as a migrant nation, but you also accused Malcolm Turnbull of feeding lines to Peter Dutton, is that unnecessarily muddying what is already an ugly debate.
SHORTEN: I think the last part of your question summarises the mood of the nation Catalina, it's an ugly situation. And every day for the last 10 or 11 days we've seen Mr Turnbull or Mr Dutton, and other spear bearers of the Liberal Party coming out and saying "oh, you can't trust Labor on boats" or there's today we've seen the attack on refugees. I called it yesterday, and I said to Mr Turnbull stop telling lies. Today Peter Dutton is out there attacking refugees, a vulnerable group being demonised by a man in a position of great authority. Mr Turnbull needs to make it clear to the Australian people, not does he want to have some sort of meaningless nice motherhood statement, but does he, what does he really think about what Peter Dutton said. What I know, and what every member of the Labor Party, a Labor government, a Labor Opposition know, is that you don't attack refugees as a whole group of people and demonise them t o the Australian people. We're a migrant country, when we start judging the circumstances by which everyone came here, there wouldn't be too many of us left to be able to throw rocks. Mr Turnbull needs to make it very clear, does he agree with Peter Dutton or doesn't he? He is the leader of Australia. This is not what this election should be about. This election should be about who's got the best plan for jobs, who's got the best plan to educate our kids, who's got the best plan to make sure that the sick get the medical care they need, who's got the best plan for infrastructure, for NBN, for climate change. It shouldn't be about pitting majorities against minorities. It shouldn't be echoing the Pauline Hanson rhetoric of the past and reviving it because you've got nothing else to talk about. One last question.
JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical to accuse the government of lying with revelations of Mr Feeney today?
SHORTEN: Mr Feeney's made a mistake, it is unacceptable and disappointing and I've made it clear that he needs to correct the record. Something that he was already putting underway. But what I'm not going to do is let the Government off the hook for attacking a whole group of Australians, refugees. I'm not about to start casting that society-dividing debate. I genuinely thought when Malcolm Turnbull took over the Liberal Party, that we would see politics move back to a more middle ground, where we debate a positive plan for the future, and other positive ideas for the future. The Liberal Party is shrinking into a shell of itself. This Leader of the Liberal Party is debasing this election by not standing up for the minorities, by not standing up for people who don't have a lot of power in our society. When we hear an attack on refugees, understand the contribution that some of them have made to this country. They're called Victor Ch ang, they're called Frank Lowy, they're called Richard Pratt, and there are hundreds of thousands of other people who are running small businesses, who are educating their kids, who are great neighbours, who are just building our communities and paying taxes. I call upon Mr Turnbull to stop the negative campaign of a string of lies and pathetic scare campaigns. Let's fight this next 47 days of the election on what is the best direction for Australia for the future. We're certainly in that contest, and we're not having a bar of the low road of Mr Turnbull, Mr Dutton, Pauline Hanson or anyone else. Thank you very much.