THURSDAY, 31 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for double taxation; Malcolm Turnbull’s extreme plan to walk away from public schools; Turnbull Government chaos and division; Government health care proposal
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. If there was any doubt that the wheels have fallen off the Turnbull Government yesterday, Mr Turnbull's put that to rest today. After his extraordinary announcement in a football field yesterday that he's going to create a system which would allow states to increase taxes, this morning Mr Turnbull in an extraordinary confession has confirmed that double taxation is Mr Turnbull's idea of reform. We are seeing increasingly every day that Mr Turnbull has only one idea for reform: Australians pay more and get less.
Under Mr Turnbull's reform plans you face the risk of paying more income taxes and you get less funding for schools and hospitals. Mr Turnbull has basically run up the white flag on the role for his Government to support government schools. He has said that he wants to see states take over responsibility for funding government schools entirely. Mr Turnbull has determined that the issue of fixing up our school system is too hard for him and now he's just dumping it in the lap of the states and he's abandoning the kids and the students. Labor is very clear on these matters. We do not support allowing more taxes to be paid in income tax in Australia. We do not support ensuring that Australians will pay more income tax by allowing the states to levy taxes and we do not support Mr Turnbull walking away from funding our schools and hospitals. Australia deserves better than Mr Turnbull's thought bubbles, his reckless policy on the run and Australians facing the prospect of paying more taxes and getting less school funding and less funding for hospitals. I'd like to hand over to Chris now to talk further about the extraordinary announcements of the Turnbull Government.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bill. It's a pleasure to be here with Bill. Australia needs a Prime Minister and Treasurer working together productively and efficiently on the challenges and opportunities facing Australia. That's not what you get from Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison. It's what you will get under a Shorten Labor Government.
Well, it's just as well that the Premiers and Chief Ministers meet with the Prime Minister and Treasurer tomorrow on April Fool's Day because that's the credibility that Malcolm Turnbull brings to the table tomorrow. One big April fool's joke. Now, as Bill said a few moments ago, it's falling apart before our eyes. This is it. This is the big idea. This is Turnbullism, this is his big agenda for Australia, to take us back to pre-1942. His idea is to take his hands off the economic lever of income tax and to hand it to somebody else. This is it. This is what he brings to the table. Well it deserves to fall apart tomorrow at the COAG meeting. Let's be very clear, Mr Turnbull's thought bubble, if it was ever implemented, would be a disaster for Tasmania, for the Northern Territory, for South Australia. Those jurisdictions with the lowest income tax base but also have the most acute health funding crises. Mr Turnbull needs to turn up not only tomorrow but in each of those jurisdictions, the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania and explain to the citizens of those States and Territories why this is a good idea. It's important to spend a moment just to think about how we got here. We were meant to have a calm, methodical, thoughtful process, a tax white paper, a green paper, a federation white paper. Well the tax white paper and green paper have been scrapped, it's been a while since you heard anything about a federation white paper, instead, as Bill said, the Prime Minister trots out to Penrith, at a football stadium without his Treasurer and released his thought bubble. What he calls reform which is actually a massive backwards step for Australia. It is quiet clear that Mr Turnbull, desperate, having been shown to be devoid of a plan by Labor's sensible and well-thought out measures, has been desperate to come up with a plan, any plan. Well, it's the wrong plan. The wrong plan for Australia, it's not reform. It would take us backwards, commentators have pointed out just what a terrible idea it is and what a terrible idea it would be if it was implemented. Now I suspect and expect that this idea would die the death it deserves tomorrow but we invite Mr Turnbull to take it to the next election. If you vote Liberal and Mr Turnbull, have state income taxes. If you vote Labor, you won't. A simple choice that Mr Turnbull can put to the Australian people if he chooses to.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Chris. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on that tax proposal. Isn't it true that giving the states the power to levy income taxes will in fact make more responsive. If they have got the power to do this, will they not in fact be more careful and judicious in the way they spend the money and could it not be consider economic othordoxy?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull's idea to create new income taxes paid by Australians doesn't pass the pub test. Australians know that if you allow new taxes to be introduced, taxes will go up. The truth of the matter is that the Federal Government should do it's day job rather than simply buck-passing on schools and hospitals. But no problem is ever solved by allowing new taxes to be introduced in terms of income tax. No problem is going to get fixed in terms of household budgets if you just simply give state governments the power to introduce income taxes. Australians can be certain about one thing with Mr Turnbull's plan; they will pay more taxes. And Mr Turnbull let the cat out of the bag that his proposal is a double taxation, this morning on radio when he was forced to concede that, yes, if he allowed states to introduce income taxes then they had that power to do so and they could well increase. Now this is a bad idea. There are better ideas for Mr Turnbull rather than simply giving the power for states to levy state income taxes. First of all, make multinationals pay their fair share. Secondly, clamp down on excessive superannuation tax concessions for people who already have millions of dollars in superannuation. Thirdly, tackle negative gearing and in the process, make sure that first home buyers have a level playing field with property speculators. And while we are at it, Mr Turnbull could wind back the wasteful spending of Mr Abbott's era in terms of paying large companies to pollute and deliver poor environmental outcomes. There are plenty of ways to help tackle the problems of our health and education systems without cutting funding to schools, without cutting funding to hospitals and without seeing new taxes introduced.
JOURNALIST: Have you urged state Labor Premiers to spike, or really kill, this idea on Friday?
SHORTEN: No, Mr Turnbull is right out on his own. There are millions of Australians who are urging Liberal and Labor Premiers don't, for goodness sake, support a system which sees we are going to be potentially paying more income taxes. Mr Turnbull is right out on his own. None of the Premiers like the ideas, and why should they? They are bad ideas. They are buckpassing. They will strain the government school system in every state in Australia. Mr Turnbull's bad ideas of which he is now flying solo, will see cuts to hospital funding. And the states know what we have seen so far being offered from the Federal Government is like a band aid for a bullet hole in the health system. Mr Turnbull is out on his own even with his own Treasurer. I mean, Mr Morrison I think for once, might be relieved he is not having to stand up with Mr Turnbull. Mr Turnbull is out on his own with the Australian people. The Australian people do not want Mr Turnbull buckpassing his Budget onto the household budgets with the prospects of new state income taxes.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, have you spoken to your Labor Premier colleagues and urged them to oppose this plan?
SHORTEN: I speak to my Labor Premier colleagues frequently. They are aghast at the income taxes that they are being buckpassed to look at levying. They don't like the idea of a race to the bottom which Mr Turnbull breezily waves off as sort of competitive federalism. States like South Australia, territories like the Northern Territory, a state like Tasmania all know that they've got particular challenges with an older population and that they will be left holding the medical costs and school costs, merely because Mr Turnbull can't do his day job. The truth of the matter is, that even the Liberal Premiers from Mr Turnbull's own team have just shaken their head. They've already been public saying that this is not the idea they want to see and when they've had a look at the hospital reform propositions, they realise that Mr Turnbull and his Government have made massive cuts to our hospitals, which have seen emergency hospital wards more overcrowded, which leads to greater waiting lists for elective surgery. These are the real things which affect real Australians. The state premiers are close to what's happening there and they know that Mr Turnbull's got no plan for the hospitals or for the schools, his only plan is to increase taxes.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about the Government's health care package (inaudible).
SHORTEN: The principle of ensuring that we have patient-centred health care is a good idea, but as usual Mr Turnbull, a rushed thought bubble means that the devil is in the detail. Mr Turnbull's trying to pretend that you can ask GPs to do more, but provide them less support. GPs have got their funding for Medicare that's been flat-lining, it hasn't been indexed and it's not going to be indexed for four years. This is also being proposed to be paid for, with scant detail that we've seen, by cuts to GP funding and also there's cuts to hospital funding.
Now Mr Turnbull and his Health Minister need to do better, they need to explain the funding arrangements. What we're seeing with Mr Turnbull, it doesn't matter if it's proposals to increase the GST to 15 per cent, his proposals to allow state governments to levy new income taxes on Australians, or indeed their rushed approach to health care which still sees massive cuts to hospitals and a tax on Medicare, is that these are thought bubbles. Every day is becoming increasingly clearer to Australians, that the harder Mr Turnbull tries the more trouble he gets this nation in to, and I think he's emerging as a severe disappointment because he's all talk and no action.
JOURNALIST: Do you acknowledge that perhaps this health care bill, might prevent unnecessary hospitalisations?
SHORTEN: As I said in my earlier answer, the principle of patient-centred health care with health plans makes sense. That's work that Labor's worked on, and it's work which now the Liberals have revealed, but the devil's always in the detail. Mr Turnbull's good at making the headline speech, the problem is he's not so good at backing it up with the detail. Mr Turnbull needs to explain how he will fund these arrangements. Will he support GPs with their rising costs of running their medical practices? Will he actually reverse, genuinely and deeply sincerely, the health care cuts that he's making to Medicare, with bulk-billing discounts being got rid of, or the bulk-billing incentives? Will he also support properly funding the hospitals and reversing some of the dreadful cuts he's made? Mr Turnbull's only solution to schools is to abandon funding of government schools and walk away, his only solution to hospitals is to actually put a band-aid over a much bigger problem, and when it comes to his financial solution for federation, all he's proposing to do is making Australians face the prospect of more income taxes. Thanks everyone.