TUESDAY, 7 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to boost apprenticeships across the country; Corporate tax; Unions; CFA; Labor’s positive plans for South Australia; AFL
HOST: Thank you very much for coming in today, Mr Shorten. It's good to see you here, back in Adelaide again. Now this is such a marathon campaign. There seems to be an announcement every few hours and obviously it's going for eight weeks so we're going to try and strip it back a bit this morning and talk more broadly about what's going on. Jobs is the number one issue here in South Australia by a country mile. We've had the highest unemployment rate in the country for a very long time now. Why would a Shorten Government create more jobs than a Turnbull Government?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Because we've got plans which are practical and which will deliver real outcomes. Last time I was here we announced our support for AdeLINK, building new tram lines. That's 2,000 jobs, unequivocal, real jobs, and we would provide the grant funding to the South Australian government if we were elected. Another example of a real practical difference on jobs is what I'm talking about today in terms of apprentices. We think apprenticeships are a great way for people to earn a living and learn a skill at the same time. We're proposing that on our top ten infrastructure projects around Australia that 10 per cent, or 1 in 10 of the workforce employed, would be apprentices. Again, we've estimated again that our top 10 projects generate north of 26,000 jobs, that's 2,500 apprentices, for example on AdeLINK that would mean 200 apprentices. So these are real measures. We've also outlined support for the ste el industry, for instance. So we are focused on things which actually make a difference.
HOST: Just in terms of your relationship with business, hostile is probably too strong a word to describe the way things currently stand but there does seem to be a bit of tension between you and the business community. Do you accept that ultimately business is going to be the engine room of jobs growth in Australia and by running such a negative line against any form of company tax relief coming from Malcolm Turnbull, do you risk alienating the business community, but more importantly putting the brakes on them and discouraging them from taking on more staff?
SHORTEN: Well there's three points in what you said, I'll go to each of them quickly. We don't have a hostile relationship with business, I've got a very good relationship with business. But the difference between myself and Mr Turnbull is I will work with business, but I won't solely work for business. In other words, if there are choices to be made in this election between properly funding Medicare or giving the big four banks a $7.5 billion improvement to their bottom line through a tax giveaway, I will choose Medicare and I make no apologies for that. It's no good for business if your workforce is not healthy. It's the same reason why I choose funding schools over some of the corporate tax giveaway that Malcolm Turnbull wants to do. A skilled workforce is the best investment you can give a business. So on the first proposition, not hostile at all. I work with business, that's been my track record, but they're not the only part of the debate in this election. Secondly, in terms of that corporate tax giveaway, Mr Turnbull's only idea now it appears is to give away $50 billion in corporate tax relief over the next 10 years. When he came in, when he replaced Mr Abbott I thought that he would be a harder opponent, I thought that we would see a better quality debate. And then he initially toyed with the idea of the 15 per cent GST, he eventually dropped that for the time being, then he raised the fairly out there idea of allowing states to levy their own income taxes, he put that in the too-hard basket for the time being and now he's sort of come across the idea of corporate tax cuts. The truth of the matter is these corporate tax cuts disproportionately go to the top end of town and what happens with that is that a lot of that profit will go overseas to foreign shareholders, it will go to big banks, it will go to companies that have already made investments and it's not going to incentivise new investments, so it's a flawed economic theory. But the very final thing which you said David was about the rhetoric, or the debate, the tension in the election about it. One of the reasons why there is tension is that I'm calling for a Royal Commission into the banks. And let's be clear, if Australians vote for Mr Turnbull, no Royal Commission into the banks, business as usual for the banks, and I think we'll see more scandals and problems. You can vote for Labor, we'll have a Royal Commission into the banks and I think we will improve the ethical conduct and culture within banks which has got to be good for our financial services industry in Australia.
HOST: Is there not tension also because your position on corporate tax has been inconsistent? Chris Bowen said last year, and I quote, 'I'd like to see the corporate tax rate come down over time, I've previously said the nation should be aiming for a 25 per cent corporate tax rate', yet now a 25 per cent corporate tax rate, or the endeavour to achieve that, is somehow a handout to the big end of town.
SHORTEN: It's all about priorities. We would all like to see people pay less tax. I'd like to see you guys pay less income tax if we could afford it. But the truth of the matter is we can't afford to give $50 billion away to corporations.
HOST: But we could at the end of last year but not now?
SHORTEN: No, I think three things have definitely happened. One, we've seen the triple-A credit rating under threat this year, two, the deficit has tripled, and three, this Government hasn't, when it's proposed corporate tax cuts, proposed alternative methods of replacing that revenue. When Paul Keating cut corporate tax he introduced fringe benefits tax and capital gains tax. He broadened the base. In other words he got other taxes to pay for the corporate tax cut. Mr Turnbull just wants to give the money away. He doesn't have a Plan B in terms of replacing that revenue, no Labor leader, no Labor Treasurer has ever believed in cutting corporate tax rates at the expense of Medicare, at the expense of schools, at the expense of TAFE. It's counterproductive towards where we are trying to take this money.
HOST: Can I ask you about your reported comments a couple of weeks ago that if elected Prime Minister you would lead like a unionist. What did you mean by that?
SHORTEN: I've spent my adult life representing middle class and working class people. I understand the workplaces of Australia, that where people get a fair go, where there's cooperation at work, where the jobs are reasonably well paid, where the company is making a profit, that is the engine room of good economic growth. That's the engine room of good economic outcomes for individuals. So the way I look at the world is through the eyes of people who go to work every day, who pay their bills, pay their taxes, educating their kids, you know they're battling to make ends meet. I look at the world when I make decisions through putting myself in the shoes of people who the decisions affect, and I've seen what this country can do and how hard people work, from underground mines, to oil rigs, to the boards of a shearing shed, to glass factories. You name it, I've seen it. And what I bring, if elected Prime Minister, is an understanding of h ow people earn their money, how they construct their lives and what a government needs to do, not to be in their way but rather to be there to provide the basics: a good school system, opportunity for you to send your kids to university if that's what they want to do. I've fought hard to lift people's superannuation, I understand that most people when they face retirement don't have a lot of money to retire on. I want to make sure they've got some financial independence in the last third of their lives after they finish working.
HOST: I guess the thing that I was trying to tease out a bit though and interesting in light of the, I guess you can call it a power grab by the firefighters union in Victoria at the moment with the states CFS volunteers or some of the more abhorrent behaviour in the Eastern states by members of the CFMEU, are you sort of narrowcasting your message there to a movement that now only represents about a fifth of Australians, and in doing so are you also risking associating yourself with some of the more inflammatory or negative sides of what people associate with unionism in this country?
SHORTEN: I'm broadcasting my message to all Australians. I will work with groups in our society but I won't work for any particular group. I said earlier in the question of business, I will work with business not for business. I will work with representatives of workers but not for them. When I talk about my own experience it's about understanding how people earn their living. At the core of what makes a successful society is the ability of someone to have a reasonably well paid job, have some say over the tasks of work that they do, to be able to work cooperatively with others in that workplace to create a profitable enterprise. I understand how lives are constructed, but at the core of that is having a job, keeping a job and from there be able to buy your first home, be able to be confident you can educate your kids so when your kids are sick that they can get to see a doctor without a great financial hurdle in order to see the doctor. It's about people in their forties and fifties thinking how will I have enough money to retire. That's where I'm coming from. In terms of abhorrent behaviour of particular trade unions, no one is above the law. Not banks, not unions, not politicians, not the media. We've all got to play within the rules.
HOST: Just to end, can I take you back to where we started this chat, David asked about jobs in South Australia. If you are ultimately elected Prime Minister have you got a bit of work to do getting on the same page as our Premier Jay Weatherill because the two largest reforms he has talked about that would require partnership with the Federal Government are a 15 per cent increase to the GST that you've ruled out and the potential of taking on high level nuclear waste in South Australia which I presume you're opposed to.
SHORTEN: With the 15 per cent GST we are opposed to that, but I understand why Jay was talking about that. We've seen a federal Liberal Government starve South Australia of funds for schools and hospitals. Now we've demonstrated how we can fund a range of our promises. And in fact Jay and I had a lovely run together this morning, 7km in a reasonable time - he's very fit, the Premier of South Australia - around the Torrens. In terms of the nuclear fuel cycle the Royal Commission and the consultations around that have got a long way to go so I'm going to concentrate on winning the election and prioritising jobs rather than get into that debate at this point.
HOST: And just finally Bill Shorten, what did you make of the Facebook video that Malcolm Turnbull uploaded about his dad? And do you think that maybe you guys have gone a bit too far in trying to beat him up as a silvertail?
SHORTEN: I've got no objection to Mr Turnbull's wealth, it's just the views that he holds. Frankly anyone who holds the views that he holds I would say is out of touch, whether or not they were rich or poor. But the fact of the matter is that Mr Turnbull is undermining with his policies Medicare and bulk billing. The fact of the matter is he's not properly funding schools in South Australia. The fact of the matter is he's not acting on climate change in the manner he once said he would have done. I think their policies are out of touch. Mr Turnbull's wealth is neither here nor there.
HOST: Well it's here because you guys have made it here. Your crew have been out there saying he's some sort of Point Piper dandy.
SHORTEN: You can look at all my comments and the fact of the matter is I think his views are out of touch. Remember he did muse on radio in Melbourne that if you're having trouble getting into the housing market, just get rich parents. Remember he did say the way which we'd fix federation is allowing states to levy income taxes. Remember for sixth months he did engage in the exercise of weighing up the merits of a 15 per cent GST on everything, a price hike on everything. I haven't asked Mr Turnbull to cut bulk billing incentives for X-Rays, for mammograms, for petscans.
HOST: We're not going to see Bill Shorten chattering about a video about his upbringing, the old black and white...
SHORTEN: I was going to say, you've now gone to an issue - my parents I don't think took many photos of me when I was a kid. Lucky I went to school, football teams and school photos seem to be the only proof of my existence between zero and 18, I don't have many.
HOST: Just mentioning football teams, on behalf of our many Ports supporting listeners I was going to ask you how about those Pies on the weekend, but you're probably quite happy to leave the studio now that I've asked you that question.
SHORTEN: Yeah we came second.
HOST: By a big margin.
SHORTEN: That's all right. What I'm doing this season is watching North Melbourne games in an old black and white set and pretending.
HOST: Yeah exactly. Bill Shorten, thanks very much for joining us in the studio.
SHORTEN: Thanks fellas, cheers.