WEDNESDAY, 29 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plans infrastructure; WestConnex; Sydney Airport, Port Botany, Eddie Obeid, ICAC, restoring the Senate Committee exploring a federal Integrity Commission, Turkey terrorist attack, marriage equality, visa rorts under Turnbull’s watch, UK Labour leadership, Brexit, PBO costings.
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH: Morning everyone. Welcome to Port Botany and it's great to have Bill and Albo back here in our community to talk about things that are very important to people living in the electorate that I represent. Jobs and infrastructure. We're standing on the cusp of two of my electorate's and the nation's economic powerhouses. The second biggest container port in the country in terms of volumes is here in Port Botany. Sydney Airport, the busiest airport in the country. Both these important pieces of infrastructure employ thousands of people in the electorate I represent, and are very important to our nation's productivity and economic growth.
Now, Labor will invest in these facilities and others throughout the country. Labor will also invest in these facilities and others throughout the country. We'll also invest in upgrades and new infrastructure. In this electorate, the electorate of Kingsford Smith, we've already announced a $108 million duplication of the freight rail line from Mascot into Port Botany. That will mean more of the freight from this busy container terminal will come out on a rail line rather than on trucks, taking about 300,000 truck movements off local roads per year. So in the process, we'll create job, we'll make this port more productive, and we'll improve the living standards and lifestyles of people living in the wonderful community I represent. That project in itself is a great symbol of Labor's investment in infrastructure. I'm now very pleased to hand over to our leader Bill Shorten who's going to talk a little bit mo re about this important announcement today and our commitment to infrastructure in Australia. Welcome, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Matt, great to be here. Good morning everybody. We're close to the finishing line now. Only three more days to go, but it's really great to be leading the only party with a serious infrastructure policy put out at this election. Labor has led the debate about nation-building infrastructure and today we're pleased to be able to launch our fantastic policies, Labor's infrastructure policy. What's contained in this policy is a blueprint for the growth of Australia. We are most committed to an infrastructure financing facility, a $10 billion concrete bank, which will unlock the opportunities for private sector investment to work with Government investment to make sure we build the infrastructure our country needs to move ahead in leaps and bounds. Only Labor's got a proper policy for cities. Only Labor has a policy to have a first rate National Broadband Network. Only Labor's got a consistent commitment to public transport. Labor's committed to making sure Infrastructure Australia becomes turbocharged with extra resources to help depoliticise infrastructure decisions, to make sure we create a Reserve Bank of infrastructure policy in Infrastructure Australia. Labor's committed to making sure we unlock the congestion in our cities, to make sure we build the roads in our outer suburbs and regions we desperately need. Labor stands here proudly putting forward its infrastructure propositions, because we're committed to jobs, we're committed to infrastructure, we're committed to improving productivity and the competition of Australian enterprise. I'd now like to invite Anthony Albanese to talk further about our policy, then I might like to say some further remarks on one other matter.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Bill. It's great to be back here in Kingsford Smith, the electorate with the fine representative of Matt Thistlethwaite. This electorate delivers, as Matt said, two of the most important pieces of infrastructure that drive our economy. Can I say this, it is somewhat extraordinary after three years, the Turnbull Government have not yet released an infrastructure policy for this election. They haven't released a cities policy or a shipping policy or an aviation policy. Labor does all of that today. We're able to do that because we have been working on this from Day One. You can trust us. Because when we were last in Government, we doubled the roads budget, we increased the rail budget by more than 10 times. We invested more in urban public transport, between 2007 and 2013, than all previous governments combined. We rebuilt, or had new, some 7,500 kilometres of roads and 4,000 kilometres of rail lines. We revolutionised the interstate rail freight network. We took six hours from the journey from Brisbane to Melbourne and nine hours from the east coast to the west coast. We created Infrastructure Australia and the Major Cities Unit to drive that change. What we would do is take Infrastructure Australia even a step further, through the $10 billion infrastructure financing facility. We understand economic growth is driven by investing in infrastructure and by investing in people. Together with our education, apprenticeship and trade policies, and our infrastructure policies, we have a plan for the nation's growth. During this election campaign, we have committed to important projects such as Perth Metronet, Brisbane's Cross River Rail, Melbourne Metro, Adelink light rail, Western Sydney rail through Badgerys Creek, connecting up the north west with the Campbelltown sector. Our opponents talked about cities but haven't actually committed anything or committed to a structure like the Major Cities Unit and they continue to undermine Infrastructure Australia's approach.
We also have an approach to aviation and shipping that's consistent with Australia's national interest. What we've seen around our coast with the replacement of the Australian flag off the back of ships, with foreign seafarers being paid foreign wages is a disgrace and is not in our national interest. We'd revitalise Australian shipping in terms of our national security interests, our environmental interests as well as our economic interests. We'd to the same in terms of the national interest in aviation. The current government, during this term, tried to also get rid of cabotage or Australian preferences for Australian aviation in our north. As Qantas and Virgin indicated at the time, that would be the thin end of the wedge and would see Australian airlines undermined. We have the most open system in the world, but it's one in which Australian jobs and Australian aviation plays a particularly important role. Avia tion and shipping are by their nature international industries. They're ones that are competitive. They're ones Australia competes with if it's allowed to on a level playing field. But what the current government has wanted and has done in shipping but also wants to do in aviation is open that up so Australian wages are competing with foreign wages and Australian industry and jobs undermined. Our policies in these two areas indicate that we wouldn't do that.
We have a comprehensive plan for infrastructure. The current Government has four ministers for infrastructure. It's not clear who's in charge of any particular project, let alone who's in charge of major projects like the Badgerys Creek airport or major road and rail projects. That's why I'm very proud the Labor Party remains the party of nation building. In Bill Shorten we have a leader who understands infrastructure, who's provided every support, to me as the shadow minister, over the last three years, to back in the commitments we've made during this election campaign and the comprehensive plan we're seeing not just today but announced in the Budget replies, announced in our Cities Policy that was announced in 2014. That's why we will be ready to go on Day One, if we're successful at the election on Saturday night, in getting this country moving when it comes to job creation through nation build ing infrastructure.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Anthony. I said before we took questions I wanted to just address a couple of other remarks. We are close to the finishing line. I'm sure some of you are pretty happy about that. But increasingly, I think the issues are coming into focus. People are now making decisions and they're focusing on what is most important in this election. Some of the key issues people have been talking to me about wherever I've travelled throughout Australia are jobs, education and Medicare. Many people report to me and explain to me they feel let down by this Government. They feel let down by the lack of a jobs approach of this Government because of a lack of commitment to invest in infrastructure and apprentices. They feel let down in education by the stubborn refusal of the Liberals not to properly fund school education using the Gonski principles, and to make it harder for working-class kids to go to universit y by radically cutting the funding to universities and TAFE. Of course, there is real fear that if the Liberals are returned on Saturday night, Medicare will be further undermined and dismantled piece by piece, brick by brick. I genuinely observe and discern a mood to change the Government and we are going to fight this election right down to 6pm on Saturday night because our issues are biting. Are there questions?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, why isn't the WestConnex project in your infrastructure plan? Do you and does Mr Albanese still support it or do you want to rip it up and not see it go ahead?
SHORTEN: We absolutely support the WestConnex project. But let's face it, the Government has made a complete mess of it and I meet get Anthony to explain to you quite how they've made the mess they have.
ALBANESE: There's now going to be an Australian National Audit Office inquiry into the financing of the WestConnex project and that's because here at Port Botany, you can see the problem. We're at the port, WestConnex comes nowhere near the port. WestConnex in its original design, recommended by Infrastructure New South Wales, was that the number one priority which had to be addressed was getting access to the port. That was done prior to the port being privatised. So the port was privatised, the State Government got the money, but the road that was supposed to fix the problem doesn't come here. It doesn't even come to the airport, it comes to the other side of the airport, so that's the problem here. In terms of today's story, by the way, what's interesting - and I've had a briefing from the Department only today, from my Department - what's interesting there is the New South Wales environmental approvals happened on April 20. Greg Hunt sat on that for six weeks and didn't refer it to the Shadow Environment Minister until just a few weeks ago, until May 31, during the caretaker period. Now, major EIS's aren't normally approved by Government and Opposition under the caretaker conventions. But in this case, it could've been approved by the Department. The Minister chose to not allow the Department to approve it, but to bring it in therefore delaying the project. So the question for Greg Hunt is why did he intervene in his Departmental processes and bring the project forward? That's a question for him to answer.
REPORTER: From an international perspective, if you become Prime Minister at the weekend, you will be the fifth Australian Prime Minister in just over three years. What can you say that would reassure people your leadership will be any more stable than that over the last few years?
SHORTEN: We've got positive policies to invest in people, to invest in infrastructure, to make sure we've got new industries in addition to our mining and resource industries which are supported. We've got fully funded policies and we've made some hard decisions. What we've done is trust the Australian people. We've shown the Australian people respect in this election campaign by outlining our policies. We are most committed to working as a united team, which I think is in stark contrast to the current conservative Government in Australia. What we have done, for the last three years of Opposition, is we've worked hard to provide a positive policy agenda for Australia which focuses on promoting Australian jobs, focuses on providing our young people and mature aged students the best possible quality education that a nation can give its people and of course, preserving our universal health care s ystem. We want people in Australia to be able to go and see a doctor when they're sick and not be discouraged by the price and the cost of healthcare.
REPORTER: Eddie Obeid has been found guilty this week of misconduct. How much damage will he do to Labor's brand particularly here in New South Wales and does this add further weight to calls from parties like the Greens and independents for a national ICAC?
SHORTEN: First of all, let me say about Eddie Obeid's conduct: simply disgraceful. Betraying the trust of people in the Labor movement and people who vote Labor, he deserves everything he's got coming to him. I also know that the matters you speak about are state issues. I also know this is the final step in the process which has been unfolding for several years. I'm focused on the future. The Labor Party's learnt a great deal in terms of our last three years of Opposition on what is the basis of a successful government. In terms of issues about federal integrity, I am definitely supportive of the federal Labor Party, if we form a government, of reconvening the Senate committee investigating the value and the benefit and the pros and cons of a national Integrity Commission. That was set up by the Senate, which Labor supported. It's now been stopped because of this election. We want to get ba ck to the business of getting the Senate to investigate the merit of a national Integrity Commission.
REPORTER: Could we get your thoughts on the terror attack in Turkey?
SHORTEN: It's a deplorable attack. I, like thousands of Australians, went through Istanbul on the way to the Gallipoli 100 years centenary. Istanbul is a fantastic city. Turkey is a fantastic country. We have many proud Australian people of Turkish origin. So my heart goes out to the population, to the people of Turkey, to the government of Turkey, and of course, to the Australian Turkish population who've made such a great contribution to this country.
REPORTER: What's your stance on New Zealand immigration detainees?
SHORTEN: Well, I think if you break the law here, you shouldn't. Let's be very clear here. These are difficult issues. These are difficult issues, but if people break the law in Australia then they have to face the consequences of what they've done and what they've done wrong.
REPORTER: Mathias Cormann has described your debate and your opposition to a plebiscite over gay marriage hysterical. What do you make of those comments, considering you too used to support a plebiscite?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I've supported marriage equality. I've voted for it previously when it came into Parliament in previous terms. I actually think what's happened since 2013 is the debate has moved beyond the Parliament, putting the case to the people. The people are now leading in terms of public opinion on marriage equality. The people have changed my mind. I had a look at, of course, everyone who saw the Irish referendum, remember that was a real wake-up call to Australia. If the Irish could do it, a traditionally very Catholic nation, I think a lot of Australians woke up after the Irish referendum in particular and said ‘We should do this. Why are we taking so long?’ I've also seen lessons out of the Irish referendum which show - and they had to change it that way, they didn't have the mechanism available to us of legislating in Parliament to change the Marriage Act -&nb sp; that debate, whilst it was ultimately successful, did trigger some very ugly arguments.
I do not see why our children of a same sex couple have to go to school, when they go to school, see the vile and homophobic literature which was put out, which Irish kids had to see. I think the people of Australia, the majority of them, have clearly moved, even in the last two or three years, to supporting marriage equality and all popular opinion polls would seem to indicate the truth of what I'm saying. Now the question is: what the best way to achieve it? Malcolm Turnbull, in his heart of hearts, knows a Parliamentary vote is the most expeditious and fairest way to do these matters. He conceded in one of his rare public appearances with me during those debates, such as they were, he conceded it was his second best option. Well, I don't see why Australian taxpayers should have to pay $160 million for the second best option which was just a deal, a price Mr Turnbull paid, to get Conservative support in the Liberal Party to bec ome leader of the Liberal Party. Why should Australians, not just same sex couples, why should all Australians have to pay a price just because Mr Turnbull did a deal to appease the right wing of his party?
REPORTER: On Four Corners the other night you appeared to leave open the door to a possible refugee resettlement deal with New Zealand, if you win the election. Is that what you're doing? Are you considering a possible deal with New Zealand and would that not act as an incentive for people to come by boat to eventually be resettled in a first-world country like New Zealand?
SHORTEN: Well, I appreciate the ABC's doing a bit of cross-promotion of their show there. I stand by my comments that I made to the Four Corners show. Indeed, let's also be very clear here. When it comes to deterring people smugglers, on July 3, if Labor's successful, it's going to be the same blunt opposition, the determined opposition, to people smugglers, that they had on July 2.
REPORTER: Joe Hockey the US Ambassador has ruled out Australia making any further concessions on the TPP in order to smooth its way through - to smooth its passage through Congress. Is Labor in lock-step on that stance, and if not, are there some areas Labor would be comfortable revising if the alternative is to kill off the deal completely?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen Ambassador Hockey's comments and I will acquaint myself with them and the thinking behind them. When it comes to free trade, Labor is up for achieving good free trade agreements. But as we've seen earlier this week, over a couple of days, I do not believe this Government is in full command of the visa program. We've seen persistent, serious allegations of 457 visa rorting. We've seen irrefutable evidence it is possible for $50,000, to be able to get false and illegal visas and achieve false entry to Australia. One thing which we said about our Free Trade Agreements is if they involve the movement of natural people, what we want to do is make sure our visa system isn't undermining the protections which Australian jobs have. In terms of the TPP, we will look at the detail of that, and if we form a Government we'll approach the negotiations in good faith.
REPORTER: How are you a couple of days out from the election?
SHORTEN: I think there is a discernible mood to change the government. I think the issues which Labor are talking about: jobs, education and Medicare, they are amongst the most important issues to Australians. Australians do feel let down by the Liberals, the way they've smashed the apprenticeship system. The way they've surrendered control of their visa system to crooks and scoundrels, the way they haven't really done very much at all in infrastructure. Their retreat from funding mass public transport infrastructure and the jobs that go with it. Australians are very concerned this government has let them down on jobs. They're very concerned this Liberal Government's let them down on education. They realise at this election we can end once and for all the education wars and the best way to fund them by voting Labor. They feel very let down by Mr Turnbull and the Liberals' constant undermining of Medicare. Mr Turnbull should unfreeze the GP rebate, reverse his very harsh cuts to bulk-billing incentives for blood tests and X-rays and he should not be increasing the price of medicine. That just harms too many people and it undermines Medicare.
REPORTER: How many seats to you need to win to prevent your colleague just here with you, Mr Albanese, becoming the next Labor Leader?
SHORTEN: No, a seriously silly question I rate that. The point is, we're in it to win enough seats to form a government. I have to say, if you want to talk about unity, let's have a look at how many seats does Mr Turnbull have to lose before Tony Abbott moves on him? The truth of the matter is, for the last three years, I am my team have worked very hard. We learnt the lessons of 2013 and we are unarguably the most united we've been in probably two decades. I'm very grateful to my team for that.
REPORTER: Why has Labor surrendered to at the government's delay to the increase of the superannuation guarantee to 12% rather than choosing a faster path?
SHORTEN: Oh, You'd never trust the Liberals to increase superannuation. You know the history of superannuation? I won't give it to you chapter and verse but just a couple of key facts. It was Labor working with unions and employers who forwent a three per cent wage rise and put that into compulsory super. The Liberals had nothing to say and opposed that. When it was introduced in 1992, the compulsory three per cent for all Australians, that was rejected. When it was moved to 9 per cent - sorry in '92 - that was rejected by the Liberals. When we sought to move it and increase it to 12 per cent, the Liberals opposed it then and they've frozen the increases. If you're worried about making sure we lift the levels of compulsory superannuation, vote Labor on Saturday.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, there's been a robo-call campaign started overnight using the same quote you highlighted yesterday at the Press Club. But as you are aware, that was just part of comments Mr Turnbull made, in fact, it was taking aim at Labor. Do you support or endorse this type of campaigning?
SHORTEN: I don't accept the assumption of your question, that Mr Turnbull's being quoted unfairly. I thought maybe someone might ask me that question, so I have actually got the quote which we say shows that Mr Turnbull can't be trusted with Medicare or schools funding and to make massive cuts. He had a ping at Labor. That's sort of standard business for him. He can't talk about his own policies but then he went on to say: “the other point I would make is that what political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily ultimately what they will do”. I want to draw your attention, he says "What political parties". He didn't say what the Labor Party says. This fellow is so contemptuous of this election that he's already writing his leave pass before he's been elected. He said: "What political parties". If he just wanted to say the La bor Party he would've just said Labor. He's normally pretty good at trying to complain about us. I have to give Mr Turnbull marks for consistency, though. There's something nice about him, so I'll give him marks for consistency. Whenever he says anything which gets him into trouble, he very quickly moves to "I'm a victim and everyone's misrepresenting me." It was Mr Turnbull who said "What political parties say isn't ultimately necessarily what they will do". This fellow, four days before an election, has warned Australians "Don't trust me." Fine. If he wants to tell 'em that, so will we
SHORTEN: I don't know about every Robo-call campaign going on in this election, but I do support exposing a Prime Minister who is not prepared to say he will keep his political promises. This is election time. This is the time when you put forward your program, economic and social, for the betterment of this nation. I stand by our election policies. I stand by our commitments in infrastructure, in aviation, and maritime industries. Mr Turnbull's saying: ‘Well I may stand by it or I may not.’ He's the ultimate bet each way guy and he doesn't really expect to be held accountable and he just said what he really thinks. He gave us Malcolm Turnbull's Political Philosophy 101.
REPORTER: When Malcolm Turnbull says Labor had one position on the Schoolkids Bonus and then they did another thing, is he wrong?
SHORTEN: Well, the idea, the proposal to get rid of the Schoolkids Bonus, that was Malcolm's decision. Frankly, he's the one - remember Tony Abbott said there'd be no cuts in education? The famous Penrith interview? That's where Liberal politicians go to say silly things. That was the policy they all signed up to. Now, Malcolm Turnbull made the decision to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus. We've had to make tough decisions about which are the cuts we can repair. What can we do sensibly, repairing the budget without smashing the household budget? Our proposition for parents of school-aged children is this: vote Labor and you will get the full Gonski-based resources funding which ensures every child in every school gets every support. I think there was a question to Anthony.
REPORTER: We've heard Bill's assessment of the past three years and the unity of team. How do you think it's gone? Has he done enough and would you have done any differently?
ALBANESE: Well, everyone has seen the last three years. What they've seen is the Labor Party under Bill Shorten's leadership that's taken the initiative on policies. Policies across the spectrum. Education, health, infrastructure, the economy. We haven't been a small target at this election. That is to the credit of the leader, Bill Shorten and the entire team. I back our team. Our team across-the-board. I mean, Scott Morrison, every time I see him on an interview, I just cringe, compared with Chris Bowen who's so on top of the economy. When I look at health, I look at Catherine King and I look at how on top of health care and the Medicare issue she is. On infrastructure, it's unclear to me who at any time I'm shadowing. All I know is there's a lot of 'em over there, and they can't get their act together. Who is in charge of cities policy for this government?
Can I say this: that on every single policy I've put forward, I have had the total support of Bill Shorten and the leadership team. They have given me the freedom to go out there and negotiate with the sector, the sort of comprehensive plans we see being brought forward today. That's why we are in a position of forming government, hopefully on Sunday. My objective - I spent 12 long years in opposition - and I think I stand by my record. I understand the key is whether you're round the Cabinet table. Not dividing up spoils of Opposition. No-one in our show is interested in that. What we've been interested in for three years, and we've done each and every day as a united team, is how do we get back into government, not so we can sit there for ourselves, but so we can make Australia a better country? That's what drives us each and every day, and that's why we're in a strong position between now and Saturday. We've got three more sleeps to go. We're almost there. But what I want to see on Sunday, I want to get my incoming brief as a minister in a Shorten Labor government. That's my only focus.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, Does the Corbyn stand-off in the UK prove to you though that involving rank and file membership in a leadership ballot more problems than they solve?
ALBANESE: Good try. What the UK shows at the moment is a little picture of what’s coming down the track of what happens when you have a weak leader who isn't in control of his party, who makes promises during an election campaign that can't be fulfilled. He promised - Cameron promised the Brexit poll. It's ended up very badly indeed. Not just for him personally, who cares about that? It's ended up bad for Britain; it's ended up bad for the international economy. That's what happens when you are so weak that you have a right-wing rump in your party that is dragging you behind, it's like a ball and chain, and you can see it on Turnbull as well. You can see that ball and chain dragging behind him as he tries to get around this campaign. It's not the flu that's causing him the problem. It's the weight he's carrying. That's why he's not fit to lead. It's over. They 've been there for three years. Abbott was hopeless. Turnbull's been worse. Let's get rid of 'em on Saturday.
SHORTEN: Listen, we might take one more question that was a pretty good ending.
REPORTER: There's questions over the reliability of you relying on negative gearing and capital gains tax in terms of your costings and also combine that with the questions over hospital funding, considering there's only four years budgeted in your costings. What are you going to do to try to win the economic argument in the last few days?
SHORTEN: Well, whilst I want to answer your question, I can't let the assumptions in your statement go unchecked. The PBO has released a statement today. They're aware people are saying what they've said is unreliable. The PBO is saying the exact opposite. Let's be straight here, the PBO costing and methodology is the same as the Treasury costing and methodology, which is the Government rely upon. But we weren't content just with that. We got three of Australia's leading financial experts to be an independent costing panel, and those - led by Bob Officer and by the way, Bob Officer, historically had done the work in the Commission of Audit for no less than John Howard. Mike Keating. James McKenzie. So we've got a costing panel. We've got the PBO who stands by their work. We've got the PBO who does exactly the same numbers as Treasury. I think the Government is going to have to try a li ttle harder to discredit us than that. When we talk about our economic argument, it's very straightforward. Mr Turnbull is proposing to give away $50 billion out of the Budget that this nation cannot afford to go away. I mean, let's call it as it is here. Mr Turnbull says Brexit's very serious yet at the same time he's advocating, in a time of what he says is serious economic events overseas, he's advocating to take $50 billion away from the Australian Budget to pay it to large companies and overseas shareholders. He cannot have it both ways. Either he thinks Brexit was a serious issue and on that basis he should cancel his corporate tax giveaway, which Australia can't afford, or he just doesn't think that's a serious issue which warrants him cancelling his signature policy.
In the meantime, we say the best way to sustain growth and to develop the Australian economy and the best opportunities for Australians is invest in people. You know the story there. From the early years of child care, right through to the Gonski-based schools funding, to making sure we put TAFE back at the centre of our vocational education strategy, to make sure the massacre and collapse of you our apprenticeship system is changed and we save that again and of course, we want to see working-class and middle-class kids to go university. That's our people strategy.
On infrastructure, we've heard Anthony and I talk about that. We want to make sure that we turbo-charge infrastructure policy-making. We want to create a long-term policy bank in infrastructure by supporting Infrastructure Australia. We're backing it up with roads funding, with public transport funding in our major cities and of course, the NBN. The NBN should be first-class technology and Mr Turnbull's giving us second-class technology. Of course we want to diversify the Australian economy from its high reliance on the minerals industry. That's why, for instance, we're backing renewable energy. It's why we're backing the transition in the auto industry into other advanced manufacturing. It's why we will stand by the steel industry in Australia and Arrium. It's why we've got tourism infrastructure funds to help turbo charge tourism jobs in this country. That's our economic plan for Australia. I nvest in people, invest in infrastructure, and make sure that we have new industries to diversify our economy. Thank you very much.