THURSDAY, 26 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre; Schoolkids Bonus; Pension Assets Test; Backpacker Tax; Indigenous Affairs; Adam Giles; CMFEU pay rise agreement; Barnaby Joyce; David Feeney; Nova Peris; Referendum Council.
LUKE GOSLING, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR SOLOMON: ...With Bill Shorten in town, our Labor leader, here at the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre. Now I first met Michael on the side of a road. I was down in Melbourne visiting my mum and dad and mum told me that Michael Long was on the road walking to Canberra to get a discussion with the PM about the state of Indigenous affairs in this country. So I went up the highway, I met Michael and I walked with him and a number of Indigenous people and listened and learnt about the need for some direction, about the need for Indigenous education, an investment in that, and an investment in Indigenous leadership development. It was a proud thing for me to do, to walk and listen to the great man Michael Long, who is not also, not only an awesome football player but a truly great Australian. I'm proud that Labor invested in this Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre and I'm very proud to be h ere with him and the Labor leader Bill Shorten for the announcement today. So, I will just introduce Michael. Thank you very much.
MICHAEL LONG: Thank you, Luke. Look, thank you very much. Look, this is a proud day for us. Obviously we've used the power of football to entice our kids to grow. Using that, obviously we have got our kids from Elcho Island here today. This centre was built for them and how we can improve Indigenous lives, keeping our kids in education, and now it's about jobs. This is an extension of what we are doing here within the leadership centre. We see trades, electricians, plumbing, this is something that is going to add to an extension of our program here. I'm proud to be part of this.
Going back years ago, Bill had a hand in what it is today. We had a meeting with Richard Pratt, Bill was there, said 'let's get a side from the Northern Territory'. We have our Thunder side, we have 75 per cent Indigenous players playing in our side, built the leadership centre and now something even more special, the Trade Training Centre. So, thank you, Bill, for being part of this and I know you have been engrained in this from the very start, so thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody, it's great to be here with Luke Gosling, Labor's candidate for Solomon, Senator Pat Dodson, Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari and my friend Michael Long, who in one way or another I've been working with for over a dozen years. They say that football can change lives. I think it can, but I know Michael Long is changing lives. That's why I am so terribly pleased to be announcing, if Labor is elected on July 2nd, a commitment and investment in the Michael Long Learning Centre, which will see young Indigenous kids get which a chance to get the trades training which will set them up for life.
We all know the best thing a nation can do is educate its young. That's why Labor has prioritised making sure that we fund properly all schools and provide every child, every opportunity in the future. Today's announcement of our support for the Michael Long Learning Centre is just another step in the journey. Today's Sorry Day, and whilst Sorry Day is a time to recognise the wrongdoings which have happened to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, it is also a day for some optimism, an optimism we can have a better future than we've delivered in the past, an optimism if you give young kids, young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids the best start in life, they will grab that opportunity like Michael Long has grabbed the football, and make every outcome a winning goal. It's great to be here today. I'm really pleased with Labor's commitment. This will make a practical difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islan der kids and they are going to show us just how good they can be with this sort of support. Happy to take questions on this announcement and other matters. Catalina?
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify the party's position on the Schoolkids Bonus, you said earlier this year you promised to stand with Australians against these cuts every day until the next election. Given what we have heard from Chris Bowen this morning, is this a broken promise?
SHORTEN: Obviously, this is a difficult decision. Obviously, we would like to be able to restore the funding which is due to be terminated in the future. What has also happened since then, is that on top of the tripling of the deficit revealed at the Budget, on top of the threat to our AAA credit rating, last Friday the most recent set of independent budgetary numbers has revealed a very tough financial situation, brought about by Liberal incompetence, Liberal mismanagement. So we were clear after last Friday that we will have to make some difficult decisions. Let me also be clear, we are rock solid that the only policies that we will support are policies that we can fund. The only policies that we are going to promise are policies that we can deliver. We are rock solid on that commitment. Labor, families, families will always do better under a Labor Government, they always have and they always will. And we will make sure through our appropriate prio rities, schools, Medicare, medicine, opposing the cuts to family payments proposed by this Government, where the burden most unfairly falls upon low income and disadvantaged families, that's our promise and it's rock solid.
JOURNALIST: This is extended to also the Government's changes to the pension, the assets test for the pension. Labor won't be making any changes there either, they will stick with what the Government has done?
SHORTEN: We think the Government's policies are really unfair on part pensioners. We think there will be a whole series of unintended consequences and unfairness and there is a whole lot of complexity in their measures. But the facts are that the fiscal outlook, which was released last Friday, has revealed after three years of Liberal mismanagement and waste, threat, our AAA credit rating is under threat. The deficit has tripled and so what we will do if we are fortunate enough to form a government after July 2nd, we will have a review of retirement incomes policy which puts pensioners, part pensioners and self-funded retirees at the centre of our deliberations.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor also cut or keep the backpacker tax if you win Government and what about the billion dollars for a [speaks indistinctly], are you going to cut as well?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, let's talk about this backpacker tax, you know, this Government and of course Barnaby Joyce's fingerprints are over this mess, but he's got [speaks indistinctly] causing a mess, under the backpacker tax, the Government said that they are reconsidering their position. But, in last Friday's economic statement, they are banking all of the savings from the backpacker tax. They are banking all of the savings. Half a billion dollars. So, if you are a tourism operator in the Top End, if you are someone who does rely, a farmer, an agriculturalist, an orchardist, who does rely on backpackers coming through, doing some work and doing a good job, the truth of the matter is that this Government is running a backpacker strike. They are discouraging backpackers coming to Australia. We are seeing more backpackers heading to New Zealand and Canada. This Government's incompetence is breathtaking; they are banking all of the money of backpacker tax to dodge up their financial statement which is already looking pretty dodgy. This Government has not fixed the backpacker tax. If we were elected we will sit down with the farmers, with the tourism operators and we have said all along this is one of the worst-designed taxes we have ever seen and it's having a real impact right now. Anna.
JOURNALIST: Just in relation to Indigenous affairs, the current Government moved the portfolio into Prime Minister and Cabinet. What would you do as leader?
SHORTEN: We will have more to say about our Indigenous affairs policy on that matter. As we all know, Mr Turnbull has given us the longest general election in 50 years. But, I can make these general comments. It is this. One, we are committed to closing the gap, closing the gap in a meaningful sense, closing the gap in educational outcomes, that's why this is such a good announcement. Closing the gap in terms of healthcare, that is why it is so important that if we are successful at the election and save bulk billing and Medicare. But it's not just that, in the speech I gave earlier today to survivors of the stolen generations and to their families, I made it clear that it is unacceptable in Australia that we have rates of trachoma, preventable eye disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders which are worse than third world countries. We have also committed to do more on diabetes and kidney health so we will close the gap in health. We are also committed to closing the gap on incarceration. It is a national disgrace that the colour of one's skin is a greater predictor in parts of Australia of whether you will go to jail than any other factor. It is a disgrace that young Aboriginal men are more likely, at the age of 18, on the statistics, to end up in jail than end up at university. We are determined to close the gap.
And, of course, I'm fortunate to have Pat Dodson joining the Labor team and he and my shadow team, including Warren Snowdon and Shane Newman, are going to work hard in terms of our policy announcements and I should also just again, because it's such a rush every day, new news stories, go back to the first announcement I made on the campaign trail. The very first announcement, as you appreciate there can only be one thing you announce, which is the first you do on the campaign trail. It was in Cairns and the commitment to fund 400 scholarships for young Indigenous people to become teachers. It is an indictment on our system that up to 5 per cent of our school population in Australia is from Aboriginal and Torres Strait teachers Islander background, only 1 per cent of our teachers are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background. I know that this election may not be decided on the well-being and the equal treatment of Indigenous Australians. But that d oesn't discourage me from making it an important national issue and to be in Darwin on Sorry Day gives me the opportunity to talk about the Michael Long Learning Centre, to talk about our commitment to closing the gap and to talk about our commitment to Indigenous teachers.
JOURNALIST: John Setka from the CFMEU has like likened a proposed building code to Nazi Germany. What do you have to say about those comments?
SHORTEN: It's a stupid comment. The comment speaks for itself, it's a stupid comment. And I thought it was stupid when Tony Abbott started baiting Labor with the use of the word Holocaust and I don't approve of it, no matter what the background of the person saying it. Full stop. It doesn't add to the debate, it delivers nothing, full stop, it's just dumb.
JOURNALIST: The Chief Minister in the Northern Territory has this morning in Parliament called Labor's Natasha Fyles, referred to her as dyslexic. Do you support calls for him to resign over that comment?
SHORTEN: I don't know if the lady is dyslexic or not but let me be really clear, if you have dyslexia, it does not make you stupid. If you have dyslexia it does not mean that you should be singled out for some sort of criticism. Dyslexia is a condition like many other conditions, it does not define the whole person. Our leaders in public life have an obligation not to single out individuals or groups of people or minorities and pillory them or make fun of them. Dyslexia does not make a person silly or smart. Dyslexia is a condition which means that how you read some words and how you then say them is, that influences how you read words. Dyslexia does not make you smarter or dumber. It does not make you a better person or a worse person. Our leaders in public life have an obligation not to denigrate people with impairment. I don't know if Natasha does or doesn't but it doesn't worry me. Some of the greatest people in world histo ry have had impairments. Roosevelt, arguably the best President of the Twentieth Century, led America through the depression and the Great War. He had polio and couldn't walk. Beethoven couldn't hear but composed some of the best music this planet will ever see. Stephen Hawking needs assistance in communicating. What he has contributed to scientific knowledge, Adam Giles will never get close to. Adam Giles should get off the back of people, focus on what he is not doing rather than worrying about other people.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to the CFMEU, brought up an agreement for pay rises for workers of 18 per cent over the next three years when private sector wages growth is only 1.9 per cent. Is that responsible? Is that a responsible deal?
SHORTEN: Ultimately what employers and employees negotiate is their business. You are right to draw attention to wages. Since the Liberal Government has got in, wages growth is flat lining. We have seen in the most recent economic Budget numbers, the independent numbers produced last Friday, under a Liberal Government, the prospect of jobs and growth is that wages growth is going to go down, economic growth is going down and the prospect of unemployment will go up. The truth of the matter is we want to talk about exorbitant wages. I will tell you where I start with exorbitant wages, what the big banks are paying their senior executives. What we see in the remuneration system, you have raised remuneration system, in banking is another reason to have a royal commission into the banking sector and financial services industry. I for one, and I know millions of my fellow Australians, are frustrated that on one hand Mr Turnbull is choosing to give t he big banks a $7.4 billion tax cut, thanks very much for coming, I'm sure the big banks are voting for Mr Turnbull, on the other hand we see excessive remuneration, at the same time as we see literally tens of thousands of consumers being ripped off. It's another good reason to have a royal commission into the banking industry.
JOURNALIST: Your leaked talking notes yesterday I believe referred to something like the payment of commitments that Labor is making over the medium term. And further to that, given that the Government is getting to surplus, we think one year beyond the forwards, can you guarantee that Labor will get to surplus just as fast or are your commitments going to take longer to cover?
SHORTEN: Well let's go to the talking points. Those talking points reveal exactly what we've been saying for the last three months. Those talking points reveal that Labor does have positive plans for the future of Australia. They reveal that we are committed to Australian jobs. They reveal that we will fight for education and properly funding schools, TAFE, universities. They reveal our commitment to defending Medicare and prioritising the defence of bulk billing and not privatising the Medicare payment system. They reveal we have got positive plans for renewable energy to tackle climate change and we believe in a fair taxation system. More of the economic detail of our policies, I'm looking forward to, will be revealed in tomorrow night's debate between Chris Bowen, my very capable Treasurer, and Scott Morrison, Mr Turnbull's Treasurer. Let me be clear about this matter about Chris Bowen and Scott Morrison. Chris Bowen has been d oing a great job for the last three years. He is an outstanding Treasurer in waiting. I can say if we get elected, Chris Bowen will be our Treasurer. I wonder if Mr Turnbull can give the same guarantee.
JOURNALIST: On Indigenous incarceration which you were speaking about earlier, Labor is committed to justice targets. Can you detail what the targets are and how a Federal Labor Government would respond to States and Territories which are introducing legislation which is removing assumption of bail for young offenders and using restraints against young offenders?
SHORTEN: Thanks for that important question. The truth of the matter in Australia is one of the best predictors of whether someone will go to jail is the colour of their skin. I don't think that is the Australia many of us think we live in. We see too many young Aboriginal men receiving custodial sentences, frankly for matters which it was for other people, they wouldn't get custodial sentences for. We are determined to do something about this. I've got Pat Dodson here. I might get him to talk about this issue of closing the justice gap in Australia.
DODSON: As most of you know I was a Royal Commissioner in the Aboriginal deaths in custody inquiry. We made 339 recommendations. Unfortunately, most of those haven't been implemented. We have this sorry state of affairs where the incarceration rates are absolutely shameful and that further to that, we have an increase in the rates at which Aboriginal women are being incarcerated. So we have also on the other hand a propensity of jurisdictions to introduce mandatory sentencing, introduce law and order type campaigns without any real consideration of the factors that underlie why people commit crime. That is because we live in poverty, because the lack of proper education, the lack of opportunity for jobs, the lack of real engagement with the society. That is what Labor is trying to achieve, a change to those circumstances so we can impact the causes for why people become the subject of police detection in the first instance. Once you are dete cted by police, it's inevitable, it seems, you will end up in the court. Once you end up in the court, it's inevitable you will end up in prison. We have to break the cycle and that will require building on the work that many of the agencies are engaged in at the moment, the legal services, and they have got to be funded because they are not guaranteed funding beyond 2017 at the moment, and so those front line services have to be restored so that they cannot only deal with defending people but also look towards programs that are going to be effective in diminishing the incarceration rates and the need for people to be going into jails.
But it goes back fundamentally to education programs, it goes to the programs that Michael Long is carrying on here, trying to get young people to build their esteem up through sports, through entry into trade training so people become employable and pursue a career, build the pride into individuals. Constantly denigrating Indigenous peoples is not going to help. The other day I was at Wadeye, a place some of you might not know, but it used to be called Port Keats. It was a shame to see $36 million investment into a police station which is going to house 34, 35 police officers in the centre of this community which has problems with incarceration rates. That solution is not the appropriate one. Obviously there is no liaison, there is no communication, there is no working with the local leaders to deal with the underlying causes for why people are being caught up. We may well find the lunacy that goes on, that kids will be caught or charged with jaywalking across dirt roads or for walking around in bare feet. Thanks.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Pat. I realised, I was reflecting on Tim's question, there is one thing I need to emphasise. I will give this rock solid commitment to the Australian people, Labor will only deliver policies which we can fund, full stop. Lauren?
JOURNALIST: On Barnaby Joyce, do you think it's appropriate that he is our Acting Prime Minister when Malcolm Turnbull is overseas in light of his comments about our live animal exports and asylum seekers?
SHORTEN: Barnaby Joyce is loose and dangerous. And is Mr Turnbull seriously asking Australians to consider voting for Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister? Because if he's not, that's exactly what he is currently doing while he keeps Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull is asking Australians to vote for Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister and that's not good for Australia. Jason.
JOURNALIST: We have seen yet another serious error from David Feeney. Has he blown his chances of being a Minister on your frontbench if you win the election and were you given talking points about the talking points today?
SHORTEN: No, to your second question. Let's be clear, Labor has positive policies. I'm happy to talk about our positive policies every day to the next election. We said this election would be a question of priorities. Mr Turnbull's Liberal priorities, spend $50 billion on corporate tax cuts. Labor's priorities, spend $49 billion on our schools, on Medicare, on keeping the price of medicine down. Mr Turnbull wants to spend taxpayers' money, he just doesn't want to spend it on them. This is the story of this election. I said at the start, right back in Beaconsfield on the day Mr Turnbull went to visit the Governor-General, this will be an election of choices and today we have also revealed that we will make difficult decisions, not easy decisions but this Government is leaving the next Government to inherit a real financial mess, tripling the deficit. Our AAA credit rating under risk. And now we see with the most recent Budget numb ers that jobs and growth is looking positively anaemic under a future Liberal Government. By contrast, Labor gives this rock solid commitment, only policies we will deliver, only policies that we can fund. In terms of Mr Feeney, I'm sure he's had a couple of rough days. My particular favourite media outing in the last couple of days was my new best buddy with Mathias Cormann with his not once but twice endorsement, not only about policies but of me personally. In terms of Mr Feeney, he knows he has to focus on his seat and that's what I expect him to do.
JOURNALIST: With Indigenous disadvantage, will you commit to saying that Nova Peris' replacement in the Senate will be an Indigenous Australian?
SHORTEN: We will commit to find the best candidate possible, we will resolve this matter at the earliest possible instance. I don't know if you were at the earlier conference but let me take this opportunity to put on record that Nova Peris is a remarkable Australian. I am pleased that remarkable Australians join the ranks of the Labor Party. I am pleased when remarkable Australians are Labor's representatives in the Senate. She has made a choice based upon the best interests of her family and as a mum she is in the best position to judge that and I thank her for what she's done for this country and so many people within it. Last question.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when would a Labor Government hold a referendum into Indigenous constitutional recognition and do you see a role for Nova Peris in promoting the yes case?
SHORTEN: Nova announced she is going to retire. I'm happy for her to focus on different things. In terms of the referendum, what we are committed to is this: holding it at the earliest possible moment. I might get Pat to supplement this, he was co-chair of the Referendum Council. Let me make this promise to Indigenous Australians, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We think the nation's birth certificate, the Constitution should include all Australians. I also think that constitutional recognition without all of the other practical policies which actually bridge the disadvantage which exists in Australian society, words on the Constitution alone don't cut it. And finally, let me give this promise to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, I am committed to seeing more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Parliament because policy should be made by the people who are affected by them, not just on behalf of the people affected by them. I will ask Pat to wrap this up and thanks for your time.
DODSON: As you know, there is a council, a Referendum Council that's in existence. I was previously the co-chair with Mark Leibler. That Council is continuing the work of consultation with Indigenous leaders and peoples around Australia. The proposal is to have three major Indigenous leader conventions at various places in Australia, plus up to 18 conferences in order to ascertain the position that Indigenous peoples want. There is all sorts of discussions that are from treaty to sovereignty, to the removal of Section 25, the removal of Section 51, 26 and the replacement of those sections with proposals that deal with non-discrimination and that also deals with the new head of power, 51 (a).
There is a range of complexity that has to be discussed. There is also further consultation taking place with the broader society on how they perceive what change ought to take place. It's complex, ultimately the wording will need to be ratified, I suppose, through the Parliament and the joint approach between Labor and the Liberal Party has been strong on this point and once we've got the feedback from those conventions, we will have a clear idea of where not only the Labor Party needs to go but also the Parliament. Thank you.
SHORTEN: I'm just going to finish up here. As I do, I want to thank my host Michael Long. He's been on a journey from his football career to the long walk to his championing of the causes which bring us here today. He is doing good work and on Sorry Day, as much as we focus on all the unfair treatment which has happened, I want to conclude on this positive note, if we give the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a really fair dinkum start in life, give them the best education possible, there is nothing holding back Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and in this election, if we achieve nothing else than accomplish this, today has been a good day's work. Thank you for covering the matters.