WEDNESDAY, 30 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s double tax plan; Malcolm Turnbull abandoning Australian schools
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR IMMIGRATION & FOREIGN AFFAIRS Thanks for joining us at St Andrews, Malabar. Firstly, can I thank Principal Leonie Burfield and the staff and students of St Andrews for showing us around their impressive school today, and congratulate them on their impressive improvement in their NAPLAN results recently. This school and many schools in our community are benefitting from the additional resources that come with the Gonski funding model and they'll benefit even further into the future if Labor is elected and we deliver Your Child. Our Future education plan. We know that under that plan, an additional $144 million will go to schools in the Kingsford Smith area, additional support and resources for teachers, more support for kids with disabilities and more attention for those kids who are falling behind on literacy and numeracy. In contrast, the Turnbull Government are proposing to cut $30 billion from the education budget. That will see this school, the students, the school community, suffer into the future and every school in our nation. And with today's announcement on changes to the Federation, that will hurt even more for schools like this, and that's why I'm pleased that Bill and Chris and Kate are here today to outline that there's is only one party with a true policy for education, fully funded, costed, will be delivered, and will deliver certainty for schools like this throughout the country and that is the Labor Party. So I'm happy to hand over to Bill to make a few comments.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Matt, and it's great to be in the Kingsford Smith electorate with Matt Thistlethwaite. Today we witnessed a truly extraordinary set of announcements in a suburban football field by the Prime Minister. And it was classic Turnbull at his trickiest. The one thing you can be certain about Mr Turnbull's tax plan is that Australians will be paying more tax. And as for education, today we find out that Mr Turnbull's basically washed his hands of education, he's walking away from school education without even so much as a backward glance. He's had a look at fixing the education system, the school system in the last six months and he's just decided it's too hard for him to do. So now what Mr Turnbull's doing, is he's walking away from funding and having an involvement in school education in Australia. Let me be very clear: A Prime Minister who is not prepared and interested to make sure that our schools are working well, that person is not fit to be Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull has today said that he will abandon school education in this country. He said to the kids, to the teachers, to the parents, school education is not on his to-do list. Unforgivable. I'd now like to hand over to Chris Bowen to talk about chaos and dysfunction at the heart of the Turnbull Government.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bill, and it is great to be here with Matt at this fantastic school. We've seen over the last 7 months plenty of ill-thought-out, ridiculous thought bubbles from Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, but this is the worst of them. Since 1942, Australia's had one income tax system. Since 1942, Australia's had a national income tax system, and yet Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison's idea of progress is apparently to take us backwards to the arrangements that applied before World War II. Now, just how ill-thought out this proposal is becomes very clear just looking at it. The last thing our economy needs is a different tax rate in different states and territories. The last thing employers need, individuals need is the complexity of all these different tax systems when it comes to personal income tax. Now the Liberals are meant to believe in lower, simpler taxes. What they're proposing is higher, more complex taxes and it gets even worse. Mr Turnbull said that the proposal is that states can apply an income tax surcharge to fund their own programs. Well, has he thought through those states that have some of the biggest challenges, that will have some of the biggest problems in raising income taxes? Whether it be Tasmania, whether it be the Northern Territory? This proposal will take their systems even further backwards, compared to the cuts that Mr Turnbull has already imposed. And when I heard this proposal, I thought how could any Federal Treasurer possibly this this is a good idea? How could any Federal Treasurer possibly hand away income tax which it took World War II to give to a Federal Treasurer and then of course it became clear - Scott Morrison didn't know. Last week he didn't know what date the Budget will be on. Today, here this morning, firstly refused to confirm this and said it was just speculation you'd see in the lead-up to COAG, and then the Prime Minister without the Treasurer standing next to him announces it in Penrith as a big Federation reform and just a short time ago on Sky News, the Treasurer was denying it ever happened! Saying that the Prime Minister had not said that states would be able to increase their own tax rates. Which is exactly what the Prime Minister has announced.
So this chaos and dysfunction continues at the very highest levels of the Turnbull Government. Well, Bill Shorten and I are clear about our tax plans, we're clear about our plan to fund better schools, better education for our future. As Bill said, this is some sort of Tea Party agenda for Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals to withdraw from education, they will have the fight of their lives on their hands from us. If they think the 2014 Budget was a fight, they've seen nothing yet. There is no more important economic investment, no more important investment for our future as a nation than investing in our schools and our children. It is a core responsibility of the Federal Government. It should be funded through federal taxes by the Federal Government. Not some sort of cobbled-together, half-baked, ill-thought out plan that Malcolm Turnbull appears to have thought out without his Treasurer. There was a big revelation just yesterday or the day before that the Prime Minister and Treasurer managed to have a meeting. Which was regarded as being so newsworthy it was put on the front page of the newspaper. Well, at that meeting they didn't have a very good one. No number of meetings will come up with a proposal to make this a good idea. It's a bad idea, a bad plan to take Australia backwards, take Australia's schools backwards and we will fight it all the way.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Fantastic, thank you, Chris. I wanted to add some words about the importance of Federal Government involvement in our school education system. If you believe that one of the most important roles of the Federal Government is to increase Australia's international competitiveness, is to boost our future economic growth, then you must also believe that the Federal Government must play a key role with our schools and with our education system. We know that education is at the heart of our future economic growth. We know that you cannot have innovation without having a strong education system. Yet today we have heard some extraordinarily radical proposals when it comes to schools, and when it comes to education more broadly. When the Prime Minister today said that he thinks that we should look at ending Commonwealth grants to the States, we need to realise that one of the biggest Commonwealth grants to the States comes in the form of school funding and we know that it is incredibly important that the Federal Government continues to have a role in school funding. We don't want to see the system broken down into each State and Territory having totally different systems, totally different funding models. This is something that Governments have been working for decades to move away from. We know that the research already shows us that at worst there is a two and a half year difference in school achievement when you cross a State or Territory border in this country at the moment. That's what the school reforms were put in place to end. It was to come up with one national, sector-blind, needs-based funding model, and we need all MPs, we need all political parties signing up to see that through, not cutting and running as it seems that Malcolm Turnbull is going to do and turn his back on every school, on every student, on every parent and on every teacher, wash his hands of it and leave it up to the states. This would be the worst outcome for Australia. I would also just finish by saying the OECD has pointed out that one of the smartest things that Australia can do, if we want to boost our future economic growth, is to close the equity gap in our education system and make sure we have a strong national system taking us into the future. The only way that you can do that is by ensuring that you have a Federal Government that is absolutely committed to schools, to school funding, and to school reforms, and Bill Shorten is the only leader who is leading such a political party in Australia today.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Kate. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Isn't the current system a bit clumsy thought how the states actually have to go to the Commonwealth for funding that effectively they’re managing?
SHORTEN: I tell you what's clumsy, a double taxation system in Australia. I tell you what's clumsy, the idea that Mr Turnbull is trying to con Australian people. What he is saying, is he's saying to Australians, "It's alright. I want to give the power to the States to raise income taxes but don't worry, they won't raise any new taxes." Australians aren’t going to fall for this trick. I tell you what is really clumsy, it's when Mr Turnbull is turning his back on the best research and the best evidence, turning his back on needs-based funding in our schools. I tell you what is clumsy, pretending to be innovation Prime Minister when in fact you're vandalising the education system. It is completely backward-looking to propose giving the power to raise new taxes to the states. Every Australian knows one thing about Mr Turnbull's extraordinary announcement in a Penrith football field today, they know that once the States have the chance to raise new taxes, they will. Mr Turnbull has got no plan for education. The one thing we've learnt about Mr Turnbull in the last six months is that when the issue gets tough, Mr Turnbull just gives up and goes. He's given up on his plans for a 15 per cent GST for the time being. He's given up on reforming negative gearing. He's given up on climate change, real action on climate change, and now he's given up on school education. Mr Turnbull doesn't have a plan for Australia. all Mr Turnbull is interested in is a plan to try to get re-elected.
JOURNALIST: Shouldn't the States have a right given they manage schools, hospitals, etc, to be able to calculate that themselves, put that to the voters and in fact the ACT Chief Minister didn't rule it out as an option?
SHORTEN: Well, to be fair to the State Premiers, for a lot of them, how would they know what Mr Turnbull's latest plan is, I'm not even sure that Mr Morrison - well, Mr Morrison clearly doesn't know what Mr Turnbull's latest plans are. But let’s be clear, even Tony Abbott when presented with this idea but the Commission of Audit in 2014, the same idea, said that's double taxation. The Liberals know it's double taxation, Labor know it's double taxation. Most importantly Australians know it's double taxation. The only plan that Mr Turnbull has is to be a tax-and-spend Prime Minister. Whenever the issues get difficult, he'll throw some money at it just to hope that people will vote for him at the next election. Mr Turnbull needs to go back to the drawing board himself. We have got a great policy for needs-based funding for Australian schools. It's all about making sure that our children get the best start in life. As Kate Ellis has said, making sure we can compete with the rest of the world. Our educational standards are slipping and we need to make sure that we are giving our kids the best opportunity to be the very best they can, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents have. I intend to be, if elected, an education Prime Minister. I intend that we have an economic strategy built on education at the core. Mr Turnbull loves to talk about how agile and exciting the times are, the only agile thing going on at the moment in the Turnbull Government, is Mr Turnbull dumping positions and indeed, not even talking to his fellow colleagues .
JOURNALIST: States will be limited in how much they can raise so is it really a double tax?
SHORTEN: Sorry, that is not actually what Mr Turnbull said. Mr Turnbull said that he would give a share of the income tax that the Federal Government currently get, for a period of time up to 2020 but then he went on to say after that, states can increase taxes if that's what they want to do. I'm going to get Chris to supplement my answer on this because this is at the heart of the Turnbull-con. What Mr Turnbull is doing is he doesn't have a plan to sort out school education in Australia, and as I said, I think that is a big black mark against him in terms of his fitness to be Prime Minister. But not only has he given up on school education, he is treating Australians as mugs. What he is going to do is create new powers for State Governments to levy more taxes. Australians can be certain about one thing about Mr Turnbull's new tax proposals, Australians will pay more tax in the future.
BOWEN: Thanks, Bill and of course, what Bill has just said is 100 per cent right. It was only a little while ago, just a couple of weeks ago, we were told by the Treasurer that bracket creep, i.e. paying more income tax, was holding Australia back, it was the great moral crusade, he said he wouldn't be providing buckets of money to states, and now Mr Turnbull's answer is bracket creep and increases in tax to fund state hospitals, so we are told today in this press conference that the Prime Minister has held. Although the Treasurer has since contradicted it. It just goes to show that at this Government's heart, there is no economic agenda, no economic values. No plan for the future. Last week we were told bracket creep was the problem. Today we are told it's the solution.
JOURNALIST: Talking about being the education Prime Minister, ultimately though it comes back to the question of how you are going to fund them (inaudible)
SHORTEN: Labor has got fully funded policies, we have got 73 fully funded policies already out. We've broken the mold as an Opposition by taking the initiative. The Government has stopped governing, that's clear, so the Opposition has put forward policies as an alternative government. At the heart of them, is 'Your Child. Our Future' policy for education. We believe in needs-based funding for our schools which is sector-neutral. We believe that a child's postcode or the wealth of their parents shouldn't be the determinate of the resources they get in life. And Australian parents and Australian teachers want to see these policies come into place. What we've explained to fund our policies is as follows: we'll make sure that multinationals pay their fair share of taxation. We will clamp down on the excessively generous superannuation tax concessions that some people who already have millions and millions of dollars currently enjoy from the rest of the taxpayers. We've said we will increase the tobacco excise - difficult decision, but we've also got to make sure we can pay for our policies and get good outcomes. And also, we've made it clear that we will cut wasteful government spending. We won't make the mistake that Mr Turnbull has made of keeping Tony Abbott's expensive polluter-pays policies where we pay polluters for poor environmental outcomes. It is also the case that we will make sure that with negative gearing, that we reclaim some of the tax concession and level the playing field as we go through, ensuring that first home buyers have a level playing field with property speculators. Labor has costed $105 billion over the next 10 years of improvements to the Budget bottom line. That's why unlike Mr Turnbull, we can actually promise needs-based funding for all of Australia's schools because we've been doing our homework. We understand that what's important isn't the date of the next election, it isn't whether or not you're talking to Scott Morrison on a given day. What's important is having a positive plan for Australia's future. My united team, my financial team led by Chris Bowen, my education team and schools led by Kate Ellis, we've done the homework, we are getting ready to provide an alternative for Australians. And what I can promise every parent and every teacher, everyone who works in the school system is that we will make sure your kids get the best start in life. We won't abandon you.