WEDNESDAY, 20 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: 2016 Federal Election; Labor’s positive plans for Australia; Royal commission into banks and financial services; Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us now is the man who wants to convince you he has what it takes to become our next Prime Minister. It's Labor Leader, Bill Shorten. Good morning to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Prime Minister Bill Shorten. Do you like the sound of that?
SHORTEN: Well let's not get ahead of ourselves. I am looking forward though to putting forward positive plans for Australia's future. There will be real choice at the next election on schools, jobs and healthcare.
STEFANOVIC: Just to confirm though, you are, Labor is, in election mode, right?
SHORTEN: Yes, we've been preparing to tick the boxes of being an alternative Government for the last 900 days. We are ready for the election whenever Mr Turnbull finally confirms what I think, most Australians already know.
STEFANOVIC: Well, he seemed to false start a lot yesterday. In fact, if he false started anymore, he'd probably would have been disqualified. Without his dithering, let's face it, you probably wouldn't be in the race, would you?
SHORTEN: No, I think what Australians want to see is positive plans for the future. I think they are a bit over the negative politics. I think the last 1000 days of the Liberals haven't lived up to what people thought when they were voting for them at the last election. I think that people want to see a plan for jobs. They want to see that we have got the proposals for good schools, that we have a Medicare system, a healthcare system which it is your Medicare card, not a credit card, that determines the level of health care you get.
STEFANOVIC: The problem for you is he has charisma to burn. He is a mile in front in polls personally, and he has got experience. You can't, on paper, win.
SHORTEN: We are the underdogs but to use the horse racing analogy, we are coming into the home stretch, we are one out and one back. But we have policies, we've got passion and we are determined to provide a competition for the Australian people. And it will be choices about policies which affect people, not just the usual political games - sorry, mate, go on.
STEFANOVIC: You go ahead, sorry.
SHORTEN: That's why we have policies to help first home buyers compete equally in the property market. We have got policies to make sure that you don't have long waiting times in hospitals or for elective surgery. We think every school, wherever it is, should have a crack at having the equal resources said for their kids, no matter what the postcode. These are things which help build the nation, as a matter of fact.
STEFANOVIC: Despite all of that, despite the fact that Malcolm Turnbull is still miles in front of you, you still believe that you can win despite how bad he is going.
SHORTEN: We believe we can win. But what makes us confident that we are in this with a real chance is it is about having policies. I think people want to see more than just the superficial personality politics - they want to know "What are you going to do for me and my family? Why should I vote for you?" and we are ready to answer that question.
STEFANOVIC: The Government is going to slap $120 million tax on bank to rein in corporate crime. Will you keep that in place if you become PM?
SHORTEN: We do think that the regulators, the existing cop-on-the-beat, the regulators of the bank should be properly funded. But the truth of the matter is nothing less than a Royal Commission will be satisfactory. The banks don't want a Royal Commission and Mr Turnbull doesn't want a Royal Commission but there are tens and thousands of customers who have been ripped off.
And even in the last 12 months, we have seen serious allegations of rate-rigging. We have seen insurance policies offered by banks to customers and then when the customers claim upon them we find out that staff at the bank have been actively conspiring to not honour the insurance policies. We hoped things would get better but they haven't, so I do believe that a royal commission, with its wide-spread powers, will get to the bottom of it. You have to ask yourself: if the banks don't want and Malcolm Turnbull doesn't want it, why not? I think that what is we are on about, getting to the bottom of matters so we have the best, healthiest possible banking sector.
STEFANOVIC: They have been doing for years here, haven't they?
SHORTEN: There has been ongoing scandals and of course, there has been inquiries, there's been measures. The regulators try to do the best they can but after every banking scandal, don't we always hear a contrite banking executive saying "We have learned our lesson" and then they seem to go out and do it all again.
STEFANOVIC: I agree with you, I agree with you. Why didn't you launch a Royal Commission into the banks when you were Financial Services Minister then?
SHORTEN: We were focusing on tidying up the financial planning end of the business. What I did when I was minister was get rid of trailing commissions. You know, this idea that that the financial planners when they were selling you advice were getting a kick back from the –
STEFANOVIC: Understand but you could have launched your own Royal Commission when you were Financial Services Minister, but you didn't.
SHORTEN: I think most governments have one Royal Commission in them in the time of government and we chose to act on a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. I think that was the right sort of Royal Commission to do. And in the meantime, we certainly put forward plans and really shook up the financial planning industry.
STEFANOVIC: Surely you don't base good government on the number of Royal Commissions. Surely if it deserved it, it deserved it. But you didn't think it did when were you Financial Services Minister?
SHORTEN: We thought going after, reforming the financial planners was the right way to go.
STEFANOVIC: So it wasn't that bad then?
SHORTEN: Well no, I think that there probably was scandal after scandal but enough is enough, isn't it?
STEFANOVIC: No. You are doing now. You admit there was scandal after scandal back then but you didn't launch a Royal Commission. Suddenly it has become the hottest issue there is.
SHORTEN: Well, let's be blunt. In the last 12 months we have seen life insurance policies sold by one bank, which it has now been revealed, they were actively, the staff were actively discouraging the claims being honoured. When you have got two of our four major banks being investigated for serious allegations of rate-rigging, all within the last 12 months, fair enough. Something has got to give.
STEFANOVIC: OK, the point is it was given. You admit to us on air it was scandal after scandal but you didn't do anything about it when were you in charge as Financial Services Minister.
SHORTEN: No, in all fairness, Karl, what I just said was we decided that the financial planning end of the wealth management end of the industry needed reform.
SHORTEN: And we had to fight with the Opposition then. Law after law, it came down to vote after vote. The Government, the Liberals have got form in Opposition and Government that when it comes to the big end of town, they just are slow to act.
STEFANOVIC: They are also going to trump you in the Budget. We learn this morning of a crackdown in high end income super concessions and raise four times as much as your policy.
SHORTEN: I think it is remarkable that members of Mr Turnbull's Government are leaking the details of the Budget ahead of the details of the Budget ahead of the Budget. In terms -
STEFANOVIC: Wayne Swan did the same thing for years.
SHORTEN: I don't think this is a deliberate government strategy to let out its information, is it? No, see you have a lot of division at this government. Also, when you look at specific measures, we will look at them carefully. Labor has been leading the debate about the economy for the last 12 months. When we first raised tackling unsustainable high tax concessions, the same people who were looking at doing it were calling us all the names under the sun. So when it come to making multinationals their fair share or unsustainable tax concessions, Labor has been leading the debate and we will study carefully what the Government say. If it's a good idea, we'll work with them. If they don't got far enough, we will also say that. One thing is for sure, its Labor who has been leading the debate from Opposition.
STEFANOVIC: If you win the election, will you reinstate the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, the truckies Tribunal?
SHORTEN: We haven't decided what our response should finally be, in terms of road safety. But one thing is for sure, I believe there is a link between paying owner-drivers ridiculously low rates of pay and poor safety. It has been proven that owner-drivers, if they are getting low remuneration will drive faster, some of them will cut corners, they will be fatigue, they are in an unholy bind and what happens when you have low remuneration, is road safety gets damaged.
STEFANOVIC: Sounds like you have made up your mind.
SHORTEN: I believe in the evidence. The evidence is that there is a link between poor road safety and poor rates of pay. Did you know that there were 210 fatalities with heavy vehicle collisions last year? And that for a driver, the road and the truck is his workplace and that the fatality rate for heavy vehicle industry is 12 times the national average. So the argument that Mr Turnbull and his team run and say there is no link between low rates of pay and owner-drivers perhaps taking risks they should not have otherwise taken, I think that is a dangerous theory.
STEFANOVIC: Just on a much lighter-note, there has been a little bit of publicity in the last few weeks that you have been going to see a voice coach, getting speech lessons, that your voice is deeper. Is it true? Can you confirm it?
SHORTEN: Is my voice deeper? Listen, I'm lucky, I get a lot of advice being the Opposition Leader. It is one of the perks of the job. But I think in the last few weeks, what we have seen is Labor has started to put out its policies and I think people are responding well to positive policies. I'm looking forward to the next marathon election period. I know it is going to be long for Australians but it gives me and my Labor team, a chance to outline positive plans for the future, which is really what politics should be about.
STEFANOVIC: It has been 10 years since we kept each other warm outside Beaconsfield. I wish you the very best for the upcoming campaign.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Karl. Likewise.
STEFANOVIC: Cheers, see you.