MONDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2018
SUBJECT/S: Victorian election result; Federal election; Labor’s plans for a fairer tax system; minority government; Peter Dutton’s eligibility; Newspoll
FRAN KELLY, HOST: The Labor landslide on Saturday will have federal implications. A number of Victorian seats held by Morrison Government MPs are now at risk despite Scott Ryan's confidence. And Scott Ryan has made way for the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in our Parliament House studio. Bill Shorten, welcome back to Breakfast.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Fran.
KELLY: Well, the Liberals have been belted in Victoria and today's Newspoll has Federal Labor 10 points ahead of the Coalition. This next federal election impossible to lose from here?
SHORTEN: I certainly don't think the outcome of the next election is at all decided. That will be decided by 15 or 16 million voters whenever the Government finally call an election.
In the meantime, full credit to Dan Andrews. Nothing should take away from him and his team in Victoria. I know there's plenty of discussion about lessons for the Liberal Party nationally which I'll come to in a moment in our chat I imagine, but full credit to Dan Andrews and his team. They've done a great job and they've been rewarded with a second term.
KELLY: There are a number of Liberal held federal seats that could now be in play. Is that your view of it? Corangamite, Chisholm, Deakin, Dunkley - those kind of seats - maybe even Flinders and Casey.
SHORTEN: Well there's no doubt that there's lessons federally and you've mentioned a whole range of seats where there was a significant swing to Labor. There was a strong swing to Labor even in my own seat. I think Footscray, there was a 15 per cent swing. It's a Victoria-wide thing. So I do think that Labor is competitive at the next election in a whole range of Victorian seats.
But for me, the lesson from Victoria is focus on better schools and better hospitals not cuts and chaos and division. What people want is positive plans for the future not negative infighting. What I heard on Saturday when I was handing out in a range of seats and I heard right throughout the state campaign, is people coming up to me, people say, I'm a swinging voter or I might have voted Liberal for Malcolm Turnbull, we're just sick of the division. You know for me, it just reinforces the wisdom of Labor in the last five plus years at the national level focusing on being united and consistent, focus on policies not personalities.
KELLY: Well those very promises that you just ran off there, that Daniel Andrews was promising, you know spending on schools and hospitals - we heard the Federal Treasurer on AM suggest that obviously the Federal Coalition is going to have to counter that kind of campaign, that kind of spending. They've now got plenty of money in the coffers we're reading. Are you concerned you might be outspent in this upcoming federal election and that will blunt any promises you have to make on schools and education - on schools and hospitals?
SHORTEN: Well I think the Government's got to work out which critique it's making of Labor: Do we spend too much or we won't spend enough? The reality is for me, it's not - I don't view education and health -
KELLY: Big spending, higher taxing, aren't you? That's according to the Government.
SHORTEN: Yeah, I don't know where the Government thinks they get the money they spend from. They don't just magic it up through their sheer genius. You know, they're saying they're getting higher tax revenues and that's how they're going to pay for their promises.
But for me, I don't view education and health as a poll-sweetener, as some sort of political strategy. I want to see our kids get the best start in life. That's why we've already been leading the debate about properly funding our schools. We've been leading the debate, despite the Government's attack of us for doing that - you know that Liberal line 'more money doesn't help'? We've been proposing universal preschool for three and four year olds, we're going to uncap university places, we're going to make sure that we pay the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places. So for me, education isn't a political strategy, it's a nation building strategy. It's a it's a inter-generational strategy of handing on a better deal to the next generation. So yes sure, if the Government want to contest us on who's got the best health policies and education policies, and negative gearing policies, and clean energy policies and cheaper energy policies - I just want to have a debate about ideas. People want us -
SHORTEN: That's where the political debate should be - the best ideas
KELLY: I want to come back to the Budget and how that might play out in a moment but in terms of ideas - there are already calls coming from within the Liberal Party for them to be less ideological on social issues and challenges such as climate change. We heard Scott Ryan say that they need to get their tone - change their tone so the Liberal electoral base doesn't feel excluded. Do you think Scott Morrison will heed these calls and that could lead, for instance the Government resurrecting the National Energy Guarantee or moving - changing energy policy. Is that what you see in the future there?
SHORTEN: Well, I've known Scott Ryan for some period of time. He is a very sort of sensible considered Liberal. And for him to say that you know, in a sort of gentle way, the Liberal Party has got to be less right wing - he's right. I think this nation needs less ideology and more outcomes. So in terms of working together, we've made it clear we've got an invitation to the Government that we'll work with them on the National Energy Guarantee. This week I'd like to see the Government support our and the crossbench push for a national anti-corruption commission. I heard Scott Morrison saying in an interview that there's got to more compromise. Well I'm from the tradition which is you do compromise. You know where you want to go as a nation. You want to see a fair go for all but you've got to work with all sides of politics. The problem is that the Government is that - the modern Liberal Party has lost the ability to say anything except no. And this is because of a real problem they have within their ranks that the right wing half of the Liberal Party say no on climate change, they're saying no on anti-corruption commissions, they're saying no on properly funding our schools, they're saying no on terms of reform of our taxation system. And because half of the Government says no, then the whole Government has to say no because they got rid of Malcolm Turnbull and can't afford any more division.
I mean a lot of people still came up to me on Saturday and said, why isn't Malcolm Turnbull still the Prime Minister? And the Government's never answered that question satisfactorily, have they?
KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten, the Parliamentary calendar for next year should be released this week. It's expected to show that the Budget will be brought forward to late March or early April meaning the federal election would be in late May - we would think. What's your view on that?
SHORTEN: Well I think this is a Government to be honest, who have stopped governing. They view everything through the prism of beating Labor and winning the election. Now, that's part of what governments do - I'm not naive. But there are big issues which the nation needs dealt with now. We should resolve a national anti-corruption commission this week. We should get that process going. We should be in a position where we can resolve a National Energy Guarantee. All I did last week with Mark Butler and Chris Bowen, in large part is say to the Government we'll work with what you've already voted to endorse. But this Government - I don't know. Like, they're so sort of obsessed by climate change its vaguely weird that they can't actually accept the science. What will drive down lower power prices is policy certainty. Everyone knows that we've got to take action on climate change; business, unions, the scientists, the community. Two million Australians - householders who've got solar on their roofs yet we can't get policy certainty which is absolutely crippling new investment in energy generation. Sure we want to do well at the next election - absolutely. But there are issues which we shouldn't have to wait for to resolve and we can do in the life of this Parliament; anti-corruption commission and energy being two of them which come to mind this week.
KELLY: As we just heard on AM, Josh Frydenberg is going after your policies. There is an election. We now know it will be in May almost certainly. They're particularly going after not just negative gearing changes, but today Labor's plan to scrap tax refunds on dividend imputations. They've published an analysis that finds almost half of those affected will be over 65 which he says would place a heavier load on the aged pension. And the Treasurer has got a new line against Labor: it says you want to impose a retiree tax. It's pretty tough line to counter, isn't it?
SHORTEN: It's not even true so it's not that tough to counter. If we stop -
KELLY: Well, they've got a whole lot of analysis that says 300,000 voters in Labor electorates will be hit.
SHORTEN: Well, let's go back to what you said. You were repeating Josh's line which says it's some sort of retiree impost. If you don't pay someone a payment, if you withdraw a government subsidy, that is not a new tax - it just means you're not handing out a subsidy. Dividend imputation was invented in 1987, whereby if people got dividends from companies rather than be taxed twice - in other words, the money's taxed within the company and then it is treated as income tax. What Keating said, is that you shouldn't pay two lots of tax - income tax and tax through the company on your shares. But what Mr Howard did in 2001, is he said even if you don't pay any income tax, we'll give you money back because you own the share. The idea that this nation can afford to hand out billions of dollars to people merely because they own shares is not a sustainable idea. And again, it's a bit like the way we want to reform other measures. We've got to get this country's books on a sustainable long-term footing. I'm concerned that we have 120,000 older Australians who are diagnosed as needing aged care packages and can't get them. We are going to have a royal commission into aged care because of the underfunding of aged care. Government is about making choices: I choose to invest in schools and hospitals, reducing the aged care waiting list, making sure people can get apprenticeships, making sure that we can reduce the out-of-pocket costs in Medicare. It's all about choices and you know, we're up for the legitimate debate. Now if Mr Frydenberg wants to call us names, that's up to him. It didn't help him in Victoria.
KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten, the Government is clearly very vulnerable as it limps to Christmas. Kerryn Phelps gets sworn in as the Independent Member for Wentworth this morning. That makes it official - the Government's in minority. Is Labor going to try to exploit and test that over the next two weeks? I mean, there's now doubt over Peter Dutton's eligibility to sit in parliament - that's thrown doubt over 16,000 visa cancellations since the last election. Is Labor going to try and pursue this?
SHORTEN: We want to try and get things done in the Parliament - that's why we're going to keep pushing for a national anti-corruption commission. Labor supports having a national anti-corruption commission. We would like to see more done to reduce energy prices and we're willing to support a National Energy Guarantee. On Mr Dutton, I've just seen this morning before I came into this radio interview, breaking news that lawyers representing people who Mr. Dutton is trying to throw out of Australia, are using the cloud over Mr. Dutton's constitutional eligibility to be in Parliament to protect their clients. This just shows you that the circus has become a farce with serious concern.
KELLY: So what's Labor going to do about that? Are you going to try pursue that in Parliament?
SHORTEN: Do you know what? I think Mr Dutton should refer himself.
KELLY: And if you doesn't, will you?
SHORTEN: Well, you know and I know, Fran, that if we don't have the numbers, it can't be done. But what that means in the meantime is that we're jeopardising the authority's cases against 16,000 people - many of whom are alleged to be criminals from us being able to take action. I think it's, you know, this is a problem not of Labor's making. Mr Dutton needs to resolve the cloud. Now, he'll probably get up and yell and you know, carry on and attack Labor. It's the lawyers of the people that the authorities are trying to take action on who are using the cloud over Mr. Dutton's eligibility to save their clients -
KELLY: So, will you try and push this?
SHORTEN: I think, Fran, is this the way we want immigration laws and strong borders being made by people whose constitutional eligibility has a cloud over it?
KELLY: Ok, just finally -
SHORTEN: How does that help keep us safe and strong?
KELLY: Bill Shorten, we've only got a minute to the news. Just finally, the latest Newspoll has Labor improving its lead, stretching its lead over the Government but not so on your standing. Scott Morrison is still outranking you in preferred Prime Minister. Why?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, you know that when the polls are good or bad, over five years, one month and 13 days, I haven't commented. I'm not going to start doing that now.
KELLY: But in all that time you haven't been preferred leader hardly at all, have you?
SHORTEN: Well no, Fran, what I'm not going to do is engage in that debate. But what I'll say to you, Fran, is if the Liberal Party thinks that on Monday, as we approach the last two weeks of Parliament, they're doing really well - well then, I've got a bridge over the mouth of Yarra I want to sell 'em.
KELLY: Bill Shorten, thank you very much for joining us.
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