TUESDAY, 16 MAY 2017
SUBJECTS: Liberal cuts to schools; Malcolm Turnbull's Budget for millionaires and multinationals; SA Infrastructure; bank tax
STEVE GEORGANAS, MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH: Good morning and thank you for coming out this morning to the Cowandilla Primary School, my former primary school. I'd like to welcome to Cowandilla, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, Leader of the Senate, Penny Wong, the Treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis and the Education Minister, Susan Close.
It gives me great pleasure to be here today to show Bill Cowandilla Primary School and my other Labor colleagues, a school that is doing some great innovative stuff.
And we just saw them doing their science classes and looking at some of the things that they are being taught.
Now, if we want an innovative nation, a nation that has cutting edge jobs, we need to build the foundations and the funding for these students, to ensure that they get the correct skills, the right education to go on and develop a great nation.
This school has been giving fantastic education to kids of my generation, and many other generations after mine. And I want to continue to be able to see this school give kids a great chance to make Australia a better country.
Thank you and I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Steve. It is great to be here at Cowandilla with Steve Georganas, one of the distinguished alumni and graduates of this primary school. And of course it's great to be here with Premier Jay Weatherill to talk about education in South Australia and the impact of the Federal Budget.
Let me be very clear, people have described the Budget as a Labor-lite budget. Not only was it not a fair budget, this was a South Australian-lite Budget.
South Australians have been dudded by Mr Turnbull and last Tuesday night's Federal Budget. Nowhere more clearly have they been dudded than when it comes to school funding for the kids of South Australia.
Mr Turnbull is full of self-congratulation, saying that there will be more funding for this primary school. What he is doing though is being dishonest. What he is saying is, he won't cut school funding as much as Tony Abbott but he is still cutting school funding.
This is the real story of school funding in Australia in 2017. Mr Turnbull wants our school funding to fall behind the rest of the pack, behind what is happening in the rest of the world. We need to doing more for our schools, not less.
The summary of the Budget at this school is that this school in 2018/19 will lose $370,000. This is money for teachers, for teachers' aides, for making sure that every child gets the very best start in life. We should do no less for our kids.
So this is a cut at this school and across the next 10 years. Mr Turnbull has ripped $265 million out of South Australian schools. I mean, when you put it in a real context, how does it affect the kids? We were talking to kids in years 5 and 6, they won't be here for the next 10 years to try to pick up some of the pieces of Mr Turnbull's funding. They need the funding next year and the year after.
Mr Turnbull has broken agreements with the South Australian Government and as a result kids and parents in South Australia are the loser. But this was a Budget which not only dudded school students in South Australia and around Australia, but it has also dudded South Australia generally.
There was not one new dollar announced for infrastructure projects in South Australia. Not an extra kilometre of new road, not an extra piece of new rail line, not an extra tram track or train. There was nothing new in this Budget.
Mr Turnbull has wiped his hands of South Australia with nothing new in infrastructure. Jobs is the most important issue in South Australia. And without any new infrastructure funding, Mr Turnbull is not fighting for jobs in South Australia.
This is a Budget which has let people down across the country, but nowhere is it more clear than South Australia. South Australia makes up 7 per cent of the Australian population. Yet when it comes to infrastructure funding, they are only getting 4 per cent of the funding.
What does Mr Turnbull have against South Australia? And then we look at them re-announcing and re-announcing, standing up in terms of naval shipbuilding in this state.
If it wasn't for the fight that Jay Weatherill and South Australian Labor led, for the fight which Federal Labor led, we wouldn't even be building these submarines in Australia. But even now, once the election is over, the Liberals are yet again walking away from promises.
Christopher Pyne said that he believed that 90 per cent of the submarine build would be done locally in Australia. Now, there is no Liberal backing up that number. And as late as this morning, Malcolm Turnbull has yet again failed the jobs test, when he can't even guarantee that there won't be further job losses in the South Australian naval shipbuilding industry. We have already lost too many trained workers, we've already lost too much local content.
Mr Turnbull won't even commit with Whyalla to provide a $50 million grant which the South Australians are doing. What is wrong with Mr Turnbull? How out of touch is he, that he'll give a $65 billion tax cut to large corporations, but he can't find a $50 million grant to help save those jobs in Whyalla?
Only Labor has a plan for jobs and looking after our kids and our schools.
It's now my pleasure to hand over the Jay Weatherill.
JAY WEATHERILL, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Thank you, Bill, and thank you, Steve, for being here.
I also want to thank Julie Hayes, this a wonderful primary school, Cowandilla Primary School, and she is doing extraordinary things to support the future of every single child that goes to this school, but in doing so, supporting the future of South Australia and our nation.
When we think about measures that are going to shift the dial to create a secure and prosperous future for our State and our nation, my mind immediately turns to education. It is the single most important project a government can be involved in, to lift the general level of capability of our citizens.
When there are lots of international forces that are buffeting our State and our nation, but the one thing that we can actually control is the talent of our children, their skills and capacities, their ability to make their way in this increasingly competitive world. That's why education is so important. And if you speak to any teacher, what they will tell you is that every child is different, they are all unique, and the key is how do you unlock the key to success for every single child? .And there is no way around it, they need individual attention. And there is no other answer for individual attention than money. We need additional resources. We've got the great teachers - they know what to do when they have the resources – if they can spend that extra individual time with a child, it makes all the difference. That's simply what we are saying.
Those young people that we saw in there today, they're full of possibility, eager to learn. What we need to do is give them the skills and capacities to actually take advantage of an exciting future.
This school is a classic example of the difference between Labor and Liberal. Labor is putting money in, a million dollars for a new science lab, $40,000 for extra support for utility funding here. And the Liberal Party is taking money out. A $370,000 cut per annum to this school. The difference between Labor and Liberal. Labor investing in education, Liberal cutting education.
This is the story of the Federal Budget, sadly, for South Australia. I notice that Malcolm Turnbull is in town, once again, lecturing people. Patting us on the head and telling us that we should be grateful for the crumbs that have fallen from the Commonwealth table.
The irony is not lost on me. He says that we should stop standing up and fighting for South Australia and the example he uses about why we should do that, is a project we wouldn't even have if we didn't stand up and fight for South Australia.
The future submarines project was heading to Japan. I sat across from the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and it was absolutely rolled-gold certain that that is where the submarine project was heading. But we did not take that for an answer. We stood up and fought for this project in the national interest and also in the State's interest, and we won a great victory. Federal Labor, State Labor, working lockstep together, campaigning to embarrass this Government into doing what they should always have done, that is keep their promise to build 12 new submarines here in this nation.
And now they want, essentially, just to express our gratitude to them for them simply keeping a promise in the national interest. And they want to use that as a justification for why we shouldn't fight for our fair share of infrastructure spending in this State. Well, we're not going to do it. We are going to continue to stand up and fight for South Australia. It has served us well in the past and it will serve us well in the future.
SHORTEN: Are there questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Federal Government's school comparison website says that this primary school is $3 million better off over the next 10 years under their plan. Do you assert that it's better under you than it would be under Mr Turnbull?
SHORTEN: Absolutely, and I might get Jay to also supplement this answer. When the Government says that they are adding money in, they pick as the measure the 2014 Budget - that is rankly dishonest.
You had Tony Abbott cut tens of billions of dollars from education. Turnbull has put back in a bit of it, and he says because he is doing less worse cuts, that he's not cutting as much as Tony Abbott, somehow he is an educational hero. He's not.
Only Labor has promised to restore the funding agreements by $22 billion of cuts which Mr Turnbull is taking out. So when Turnbull says he is increasing it by this much, understand he has cut it by this much.
So the guy is not replacing what was promised, and let me spell out what was promised. In 2013, the Government of South Australia made agreements with the Commonwealth for education funding, for the next 6 years. Now, neither Mr Turnbull nor Mr Abbott are honouring that.
And when we strip away all the big eye-watering numbers, what it means is that in a really good school like this, that they could budget next year under Labor, South Australia and nationally, to have an extra $371,000. That's above and beyond what Mr Turnbull is putting in. That means extra teachers. It means that the parents who pay their taxes to Canberra, their kids who they send here, all 420 of them, got a bit more support in the classroom.
I for one am fed up with the Liberals saying more money doesn't make a difference in education. It is not the only thing. You've got to have engaged parents. You've got to have really good quality teachers, but with all those things going for the kids, they need a government in Canberra who is doing their part of the heavy lifting.
There is no way our kids will do as well as they should in the future unless we invest them now. Jay, if you've got any more views about his cuts?
WEATHERILL: It is precisely as you described it. It's absurd to just telescope forward the funding period for ten years. I mean, if you're earning $100,000 a year you'll be a millionaire in ten years. I mean, if you keep going far enough you can make any number look good. We're talking about these kids now the next two years. The children we just saw there haven't got ten years to wait, they need proper school funding now so that they can make a success they need the individual attention their parents want to give them. With the little bit of funding that we've been able to put in through South Australia keeping its side of the bargain, this principal has been doing wonderful things. And I'm sure she'd be happy to talk to you about the wonderful things she has been doing and the other things she could do if she had access to the funding that was agreed between the Commonwealth and the State which has now been reneged on by this Federal Government.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten the $370,000 shortfall is from what Labor promised two terms ago?
WEATHERILL: No, sorry. It's what's left after you add in, so the net number is, it is a $335 million cut from the Abbott budget, now it’s a $265 million cut. So this school is now $370,000 worse off, it would have been even more worse off under the Abbott arrangement. But basically he's put back in about 20 per cent and 80 per cent of the cut remains and he wants credit for that. Well he's not going to get it. He should keep his promise to the people of this nation and in particular the people of South Australia.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you comfortable with the plan to bring in workers from interstate or overseas for the ship building project in South Australia?
SHORTEN: I think I would rather have home grown workers doing the jobs. See for the last four years the Liberals played political games over the submarines and in the meantime we've seen Osbourne and other places go backwards. We've seen shipyards all around Australia under pressure or closing. There are shipyards closed in Newcastle, Williamstown in Victoria is under pressure and they've lost a lot of people. Really apart from Western Australia, South Australia is the hope of the side in terms of retaining naval shipbuilding in this country. So I do think Mr Turnbull needs to guarantee no further job losses. I do think he needs to invest in TAFE so that we can make sure that we are training our own. It is absurd, quite frankly, that we're advertising for metal fabricators from overseas when we've got a whole car industry shutting down in no small part due to the Liberals.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten how desperate is the Prime Minister's move to be in South Australia today to tidy up the fallout from the Budget last week?
SHORTEN: Look, the point is him visiting a place for a couple of hours doesn't change anything and I think people are a bit cynical about that; they want to know what he's doing for them. This was a Budget where millionaires pay less and 10 million people pay more. This was a Budget where South Australia was treated as a flyover country where they don't actually do much for South Australia. I think Mr Turnbull could stay in Canberra he just needs to stand up for South Australia.
He needs to explain why he thinks it’s fair that South Australia that makes up for 7 per cent of the national population gets 4 per cent of the infrastructure. He needs to explain why it’s fair that there's no new rail or tram funding, no public transport funding for Adelaide. He needs to explain why that it's fair that he's willing to give millionaires from the first of July, a $16,500 reduction in tax, so they're $16,500 better off, yet he wants Australians in South Australia on $50,000 and $60,000 a year to pay more income tax.
Mr Turnbull uses the word fair, I just don't think he knows what it means .
JOURNALIST: Are there particular infrastructure projects in South Australia that you would have funded in the Budget.
SHORTEN: Yes, there are and I mentioned in my Budget Reply speech on Thursday night that we think that AdeLINK is a sustainable, viable and overdue project. We think if you can help ease congestion by making sure that you have better public transport that it's good for productivity, it’s good for people getting to work, it helps the cost of living and most importantly it helps with jobs and we'd like to see that project be using Australian steel and Australian products. So yes absolutely, we've got positive plans.
I would also say about Arrium and Whyalla, the South Australian Government, Tom Koutsantonis and Jay couldn't do much more for Arrium and keeping those jobs than they have, but they need a Government in Canberra who's equally focused on saving those jobs. Mr Turnbull in his banker fashion has offered a loan, the point of that is perhaps he just should offer a grant. You know Mr Turnbull knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. A $50 million dollar grant will actually sustain ongoing revenue and taxes, if you like, to the Commonwealth Government.
So I think now is not the time for Mr Turnbull to be wanting to give $65 billion dollars over the next ten years to large corporations, to give his friends, who are millionaires, a tax cut of $16,500. To protect property speculators and keep $37 billion in tax concessions for the top end of town in property. He's willing to do all of that but he doesn't want to fund this school properly, he doesn't look after the hospitals properly and he's certainly not doing anything, I believe, which is sufficient on Arrium.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Labor is consistently ahead in the polls but as preferred Prime Minister you are still trailing Malcolm Turnbull why don't voters like you?
SHORTEN: Well I don't need a poll to tell me that they don't like the idea that millionaires should pay less tax under Malcolm Turnbull and that ten million Australians should pay more income tax. Let's be clear here, Labor is determined to offer a positive agenda at the next election and we're determined to hold the Government to account. Now the Government’s sort of trying to pretend that they are doing something on education they are putting 20 per cent of the money they should put into this school and others when it should be the full 100 per cent. They're not really fair dinkum on education. They are increasing university fees. You know, I have lots of uni students saying, "Why does Mr Turnbull want me to pay more to go to university? Why does he want me to pay it back when I'm not earning so much money? Why doesn't he have a plan for housing affordability? Why won't he take real action on climate change?"
I think Labor is on the right track.
JOURNALIST: Just a question for the Premier. What's your understanding of where the funding is for Oaklands Crossing because the Prime Minister mentioned that there was still that $40 million on the table this morning?
WEATHERILL: Well, the project is a much bigger project than $40 million, and the shortfall we've now identified a revenue source. So because of the savings we've made in some of the other projects that we are in partnership with the Commonwealth on, there is now sufficient money to fund the Oaklands Crossing. So it is sitting on a desk there in Canberra waiting for a tick, and every time we supply information, we are asked for more documents and more information. I mean, more funding was handed out with less documentation in that last Federal Budget. We have done everything that could reasonably be asked from us to get this project up and running. Political games have been played with Oaklands. It is a question of who gets the credit for it. We are not interested in that, we just want it fixed.
JOURNALIST: But just because the previous business case is underestimated, how much other projects would cost, it doesn't mean that money should then flow into Oaklands Crossing automatically?
WEATHERILL: No, it shouldn't but it's there - well, I accept that premise that they are entitled to re-purpose that money, but why wouldn't they put it into Oaklands? They've chucked $40 million on the table at the last federal election to actually get the Oaklands project up. Here is the absurdity - they are saying we want all these detailed business cases yet they're prepared to chuck $40 million on the table in the absence of a business case. We then identified the remaining dollars to make Oaklands work and they say, "Oh, hold on. We need a business case." So if it was good enough for them to chuck $40 million on the table, then why isn't it good enough for them just to accept that we have identified the additional funding and that we can now get on with it?
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, Infrastructure Australia says anything over $100 million does require a business case and that is what you'd be bargaining for.
WEATHERILL: Look, let's be clear about this: They handed out $1.2 billion on Budget night a few weeks ago, to a West Australian project without a business case, and without Infrastructure Australia being involved in it. When they want to, they can make things happen. Here it is absolutely rolled-gold clear: The Commonwealth have made a decision, independently of Infrastructure Australia, to decide that the Oaklands project is a goer. When they stuck their $40 million on the table, that was them endorsing the Oaklands Project. We've identified the shortfall. The shortfall is there, and now paid for. They can just say, yes, and we can get on with the project.
JOURNALIST: Sorry Mr Shorten, if I can just ask you another question - you didn't really answer my question then. I just want to know what you can do to improve your image, not just about the Labor Party because obviously this -
SHORTEN: I don't accept the assumption of your question. What Australians want is they want their political parties -
JOURNALIST: Well, the assumption of the question is the polling about who is the preferred Prime Minister and even though Labor is ahead in the polls, as the preferred Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is still in front of you, so what is it that you need to do to improve your image for voters?
SHORTEN: Well, to start off again, I don't accept the assumption of your question. What Australians want is they want politicians who mean what they say. They want the politicians of Australia, it doesn't matter what your political party, to understand what is going on in the lives of everyday Australians. They don't want the wealthy 2 per cent getting a reduction in taxes and then the other 10 million people who go to work to pay more taxes. They want to see their schools funded so they are the best in the world. They want to make sure we have got a healthcare system which works according to your Medicare card, not your credit card. They want to make sure the great Australian dream of being able to afford your first home is within the reach of ordinary Australians.
I tell you what they also want; they want a government who will stand up to the excessive economic power of the banks. Now, Mr Turnbull has created a $6 billion tax on banks, not a lot of detail behind it. Now, the banks are fighting back. They've said they are going to pass Mr Turnbull's $6 billion tax onto every customer and every mortgage holder and everyone who deals with banks. Mr Turnbull needs to explain what safeguards he has against the banks just punishing Australians.
Now, we've said we are not going to be obstructionist, we think that the banks are making very large profits and they have excessive economic power, but today the chairman of the NAB, Mr Ken Henry, has said there needs to be an inquiry into it. Labor has said we want to have a Senate inquiry to make sure the belts and braces are there, to make sure the protections are there.
The last thing in the world anyone wants is Mr Turnbull dreaming up a $6 billion tax on banks which gets passed to everyday Australians, and my real concern is, even with our cooperation, the banks simply are not paying any attention to Mr Turnbull. And one reason why they're not paying any attention is that Mr Turnbull is proposing that for a $6 billion tax, he will give the ACCC, the watchdog, $1 million. It doesn't seem like a serious safeguard to me.
So, yes, there should be a Senate inquiry and we should seriously look at what it being proposed by Ken Henry. But make no mistake, only a Labor Government can be trusted to deal with the excessive economic power of banks because we want a banking royal commission into the excessive economic power of banks.
I do not understand why Mr Turnbull wants to look like he is tough on banks, but won't do what's required. When it comes to reining in the banks, Mr Turnbull is all bluster and no bite.