WEDNESDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Liberal Government’s decision to scrap Lone Pine ANZAC Day service; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget
BILL WOODS (HOST): Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has written to the Prime Minister asking him to overturn a decision to scrap the Lone Pine ANZAC Day. This has become a big deal in recent years and for very important reasons of course. The Department of Veteran Affairs has said that given the potential for extreme weather and the exposed location, the service will not go ahead from this year.
Mr Shorten has called for a rethink and he's been kind enough to join us, thanks for your time.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon Bill.
WOODS: Now you've written here to the Prime Minister and I mentioned earlier to obviously a very personal approach, this means a lot to you.
SHORTEN: It does. I went to the 100 year celebration of the landings at Gallipoli and there was a service at Lone Pine. Tony Abbott was there representing the Government. But one thing I found out a week before I went, I was at a family function, I discovered that a distant relative, in fact two of them, landed a Gallipoli and never came home. And then while I was visiting Lone Pine I found the name of one of the relatives up on the wall there and that means a lot to me. But even more than just a personal connection, it was a terrible battle the Lone Pine battle, it was the Aussies - the ANZACs - landed on the 25th of April, as we all know, the war was stalemate and it was a campaign to try and knock Turkey out of the war. Most of the ANZACs never even really heard of the Dardanelles Peninsula or Gallipoli before they got there. But in early August there was an incredibly valiant battle of Lone Pine fought where thousands of Australian troops literally leap into the face of Turkish machine guns. It was a diversion tactic and the British were going to try and break out the beachhead at another point on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the diversion was the bloodiest fighting at Gallipoli. I do think we should commemorate they're sacrifice.
WOODS: Well admittedly on a smaller scale then the Western Front, it is a unfortunately typical battle of that time, particularly when it came to the use of Australia soldiers and I think it points to the true heart of the ANZAC Day ceremony and that is to remind us of the futility of war and the courage of people who were sent to them. You had a lot of support on this, apparently from veterans and elsewhere.
SHORTEN: Yes, there is a a lot of support. When I attended the Lone Pine ceremony on ANZAC Day last year, you realise first of all what a tight battle ground these men. They where 30, 50 metres from the Turks. But you also - when you see the headstones of thousands of Aussies and New Zealanders and indeed Brits and other nationalities. There were thousands of Australian backpackers and tourist of all ages and backgrounds at the Lone Pine ceremony. It made me proud to be Australian, not just because of the Lone Pine battle, although that was dawn on the demotion and when you see so many Australians 100 years on, traveling to this far flung part of the world so far from Australia to commemorate the sacrifice of these men and the men who returned home and the families who are affected by war. I have no idea why the Government is cancelling it.
WOODS: It does seem odd that given what took place there and the sacrifices made, it doesn't - it seems almost obscene that we can't make the sacrifice of turning up all these years later just to pay tribute to them.
SHORTEN: Well, it is just craziness. When I first heard about it I said well if they've done it for security reasons, you know that’s undesirable but, you know, I could get it. But the Government said it's not the issue. They've said it's due to inclement weather and the steepness of the climb from ANZAC Cove. Now, I think most Australia's are proud to do that walk.
WOODS: It's not Budget is it?
SHORTEN: Well you wonder. The Department and the Australian taxpayers already supports the ANZAC Cove celebrations as we should, so really the add on costs of Lone Pine is really in the great swing of the Federal Budget two bits of bugger all to be blunt. And so my belief that's the case it's not about to security. They announced it the day they dumped the Minister for Veteran Affairs, Stuart Robert. So, that annoys me too. You know, it's just an act of shiftiness. The Australians who go there to commemorate it are already there. It's not compulsory to go up the hill to Lone Pine. But I think there will be a lot of Australians who are making the trip who will just think it's ridiculous. The Government can change, the fate of nations doesn’t hang upon the Government reversing this silly decision. But for anyone who had a family member there, indeed for anyone who loves our history there is no case to cancel the Lone Pine service and I mean bad weather is bad weather. I think Australians are made of tougher stuff than the rain and the cold.
WOODS: I think a lot of people would agree with you. Back to the Budget, now congratulations on having a policy relating to tax reform. I think you're probably the only person in the country at the moment. And to be fair you've actually had quite a bit of support, I’m sure you’re aware, even from conservative corners in having a policy. Now, with negative gearing though, it's been suggested that putting a limit of the number of negatively geared properties or even limiting the scope of deductions should go hand in hand with such limitations. was that something that you looked at in your modelling?
SHORTEN: Yes we had a look at that proposal. I think so people understand what we're talking about and why we've chosen the path we have. The current tax laws allow for negative gearing and I'm a bit old school that if you're going to change the law for whatever good reason and I'll come to that in a moment, it's an article of faith that people have invested under the current system. You don't retrospectively change the laws so you undermine that investment. So we're not doing - if there's any investors who are listening now and saying what's Labor's policy, the first thing they need to do before they start hearing what we'll do in the future. If you've invested under the current laws it stays. Now going forward, we think that the tax concessions provided for negative gearing have outlived their usefulness. We would still have it for new housing, so you can still negatively gear for new housing and apartments but we're interested in how we get the Budget back into the black and that involves some hard decisions. We're interested in how we fund our hospitals and our schools and we're very interested in how we can help first home owners revive the dream of being - of their kids being able to get a house. 30 years ago to get into the housing market the average cost of a house was about - you needed 3.2 times your average salary, now you need 6.5 times. So I want to revive that dream of home ownership, now the Federal Government can't do it all on its own we need to get the states to work on their regulatory systems and land supply. So we've got a policy which is about getting the Budget repaired, it's about making sure we can fund important things like our schools and our hospitals, but it's also about helping first home owners, you know, get back into the market. But we certainly won't make it retrospective and you asked - this whole answer I'm just giving you asked about would you just cap the amount that people can claim.
The Government's talking about that but they haven't been at all clear about whether or not they would make that retrospective or now and I think the Government needs to rule out whatever they're thinking about with the tax system, they need to make sure that it's not retrospective, and they haven't actually spelled that out and Mr Morrison the Treasurer missed a chance to do that today. So we're going to keep on that case but whatever we talk tax reform to help first home owners, to help get the Budget - government spending under control, both sides of politics need to rule out retrospective changes and we have.
WOODS: Because the thing is even the Grattan Institute which I'm sure you would agree, is not exactly an extreme right wing organisation, they've said that the top fifth of income earners before rental deductions still soak up 70 per cent of the tax benefits from negative gearing. I can't see how that would change when the wealthy simple shift their investment to new properties from old, because they're still going to have the money to spend and they'll be attacking the new property market as vigorously as they would the old, so what can your policy do about that?
SHORTEN: Well first of all we don't mind people being wealthy in Australia. I know you don't either.
WOODS: No but they will (inaudible) inflation effect that will price first home buyers out of the market.
SHORTEN: Well we've modelled it, and we think they'll be greater investment in new housing but I think what will happen, is that some of these very wealthy investors won't be able to claim tax concessions and they'll look at superannuation or other asset classes. Now we think that we've got the balance right, we still want mum and dad investors to be able to access negative gearing, but we need to do it in a way which helps housing supply and helps first home owners enter the market. We don't want to lead all investment out of building and construction; our proposals will generate thousands of new jobs. Domestic housing construction which is something we want to emphasise does generate jobs. You know you can't make a house overseas.
WOODS: Well they say 25,000 jobs actually, according to some of the reports here.
SHORTEN: We're for Aussie jobs -
WOODS: But you don't think it will have an inflationary effect on the new home market?
SHORTEN: Well we think that what it will do is that it'll lead to greater options for people to buy new houses and that you know, as you get more people able to buy houses that in itself will create a more competitive market, no we don't think it will.
WOODS: Well you would hope, as you say you'll need some cooperation from the states then because that supply issue is going to be a big thing. They need to open up areas where new homes can be built or apartments for that matter. Just quickly before I let you go, you've had a good bounce in the polls and part of the reason as I said is because you have a policy, which is a start. But I notice retiring WA Labor MP Gary Gray is still saying that an election win is highly unlikely. Is he being pragmatic or pessimistic?
SHORTEN: Well he's only saying what I've said, and I said the Labor Party Conference at Sydney Town Hall, you know, we're the underdogs. Labor more often than not is the underdog, it's not a position that we're not used to. But we will make this election competitive because there's millions of people who want to see Labor be strong and we've now outlined our policies on schools, on restoring TAFE, on making sure that working class kids can get to uni. You've mentioned what we're doing on taxation, genuine reform, things that have been put into the too hard basket. We've got policies on climate change, no we enter the election as an underdog, I don't think that's a secret but I can promise you and your listeners we're going to try every day between now and the election to articulate why we would be a good alternative government.
WOODS: Bill Shorten thank you for your time and best of luck, we'll certainly keep a close eye on the Prime Minister's response to that letter regarding Lone Pine. Thanks for your time.
SHORTEN: Great, thank you very much.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
Radio: 2UE Drive - Liberal Government’s decision to scrap Lone Pine ANZAC Day service; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget