FRIDAY, 20 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s $100 million investment for the Bridgewater Bridge; hoursing affordability; Banking Royal Commission; NEG.
BRIAN MITCHELL, MEMBER FOR LYONS: Thank you for coming this afternoon, my name is Brian Mitchell the Federal Member for Lyons. I'm here at Bridgewater Bridge, this is my electorate and I’m very proud to have here today Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition to make a significant announcement about the bridge.
We're joined by Rebecca White, the Opposition Leader here in Tasmania, my federal colleagues, Senator Catryna Bilyk, Julie Collins MP, Ross Hart the Federal Member for Bass and one of our new state colleagues for Lyons, Jen Butler.
Thank you all for coming, we're here today for infrastructure in Tasmania. Under the Liberals, they have been utterly delinquent about delivering on infrastructure for Tasmania. In six years of Labor Government, Labor invested on average $316 million a year, each year over six years on infrastructure in Tasmania. Under the Liberals that's already halved in two years - that drops even further to $62 million a year. So we're going from $316 million a year on average under Labor, to $62 million dollars a year under the Liberals. And that's at a time when Tasmania's infrastructure needs are growing with massive increases in tourism and in significant increases in freight and trade.
What we're here today to announce is a significant infrastructure project for the Bridgewater Bridge and I'll introduce you to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Brian. It's great to be here in Tasmania and especially with so many of our Labor colleagues, State and Federal and in particular I want to acknowledge the presence of Bec White, Labor's fantastic Tasmanian leader.
I'm here today because Federal Labor is the party of Tasmania. Tasmania has been receiving the raw end of the deal from Mr Turnbull and his predecessor Mr Abbott for too long. The Bridgewater Bridge was a fantastic bridge in the 1940s when it was built. But there is no doubt with the expanded tourism, with the growth that Tasmania is experiencing, with the extra freight, that this bridge which is a key link between the south and the north of Tasmania, now needs reinvestment.
Under the current Liberal Government in Canberra we've seen the Midland Highway, the funding proposed for it, cut by no less than $100 million. Tasmanian's pay their tax to Canberra and they have the reasonable expectation that they will see some of their taxes reinvested in infrastructure in Tasmania.
So I'm very pleased following the lobbying of Brian and other Tasmanian MPs, to be able to say that if I'm elected at the Federal Election, if it's held at the end of this year or early next year, that we will expend $100 million, as a down payment to start the Bridgewater Bridge replacement and modifications, $100 million. What we will do is we are reversing the cuts to the Midland Highway, we're putting the money back in the budget for Tasmania. Needless to say we'll have a lot more to say about our infrastructure plan for Tasmania and not just roads but of course hospitals and schools and TAFE.
But today I'm very pleased to announce that a Shorten Labor Government will expend $100 million, at least, as a down payment on the Bridgewater Bridge. This is long overdue, not only for the residents who live in the vicinity, but also for all of Tasmania, who rely on the Midland Highway. And I encourage Mr Turnbull in the Budget coming up in less than three weeks, to match our offer, and by all means do better and then we'll certainly have a good look at that, and see what we need to come up with. But it's about time that the Liberal Party of Australia remembered where Tasmania was and started paying attention to Tasmania.
I'd like to hand over to Bec now to talk a bit further about the importance of this project and then happy to take questions on Federal matters.
BEC WHITE, LABOR OPPOSITION LEADER IN TASMANIA: Thank you Bill. We certainly welcome this commitment today by the Federal Labor Party. We've got a wonderful relationship with our Federal Labor colleagues and that's been proven by the significant commitments they've given to the Labor Party - to the Tasmanian State I should say, over last number of years.
Bill's been in Tasmania a number of times, supporting Tasmanian communities, supporting infrastructure projects that will make Tasmania a better place. We haven't seen the Liberal Party deliver for Tasmania. I challenge the Liberal Government in Canberra to match this commitment, to make sure we can see the replacement of the Bridgewater Bridge. This is a project that our community deserves to have, because of the huge increase we've seen in traffic, the huge growth we've seen in our population in this part of the State, that's seen a number of residential developments take place, more housing, more people travelling on the road, which is putting pressure on the infrastructure that simply hasn't been able to keep up. This project is vitally important for the economy of Southern Tasmania and it is vitally important now that the Liberal Party match it and make sure this project can proceed. So we certainly welcome this commitment for the Labor Party federally for Tasmania, it is a wonderful thing and demonstrates the good relationship that Tasmania has with the Federal Labor Party. The Federal Labor Party understands where we are. We haven't seen the Federal Liberals here, and it's a shame that they've failed to recognise Tasmania now for too long. We deserve our fair share and under the Labor Party, Tasmania will get it.
I'll hand back to Bill.
SHORTEN: Thanks Bec are there any questions about this project?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten why just a $100 million? You say it’s a down payment, why not more?
SHORTEN: Well it's a down payment which means that we're open to doing more, but we've got to start somewhere don't we? And I think the other question is why has four successive budgets of the Coalition Government in Canberra cut $100 million from the Midland Highway? I start from the view that Tasmania has got a bright future, but it deserves it's fair share of federal resources. As Brian said, when you look at the per capita expenditure on infrastructure - under the Liberals compared to us. Under Labor we can be trusted to spend money on Tasmanian roads and Tasmanian infrastructure, but it's just gone down and down and down under the Liberals. And if you look at the current budget expenditure from the Coalition Government in Canberra on infrastructure in Tasmania, it's going to drop to $62 million for the whole of Tasmania in a future year. This is hopeless. So I think $100 million is a good start but I issue this challenge to Mr Turnbull. Come with me to Tasmania, come to Tasmania at all, and what you're going to see is the need to upgrade the Bridgewater Bridge, and if the government want to do more, well we're open to working with them because that's the way politics should work, putting people first and we're going to put Tasmania first.
JOURNALIST: Is this an upgrade, or is it a new bridge, what period will it cover and what will we get for $100 million?
SHORTEN: Well let's go through it and I'm going to ask Bec to supplement it, because she has obviously been very intensely interested in what happens with Bridgewater Bridge. The last proper expenditure on this bridge occurred ten years ago, that was only $46 million or so. So that's clearly not enough anymore. I mean it's a bridge which was built in the 1940s so what we need to do is, we need to make sure that we get the right design, we need to make sure that we consult people including the Aboriginal population, to make sure that we adhere to all the cultural importance’s. But what we want to do with the bridge is get the $100 million and then we need the government, and they've only just put in a business case - the Tasmanian Government after all these years which might surprise you. We need to get the right design, but we're parking $100 million to start that process but I might get Bec to talk a bit further about the options, the exciting options of this long overdue project.
WHITE: Thank you Bill, so Infrastructure Australia has recognised the need for this infrastructure project, the replacement of the Bridgewater Bridge. So it's been a project that's been on the drawing board for a while now. However because the Tasmanian Liberal Government has failed to submit a business case until just a few weeks before the election, unfortunately the project hasn't progressed. This $100 million is a clear sign from the Federal Labor Party that this is a project that is a priority project that deserves funding. It gives a clear signal to Infrastructure Australia and to the Tasmanian Liberal Government, they need to get cracking. They need to get the business case finalised so that this money can flow to provide this infrastructure project for our State.
SHORTEN: Sorry if I can also just follow up, there's a point which I didn't mention in my opening, I apologise for that. There's a reason why Labor can afford $100 million as a down payment. It's because we're not giving $65 billion away in a corporate tax giveaway to the big end of town. So if the Turnbull Government wants to expend more resources in Tasmania, they will find us willing allies in the improvement of this bridge.
JOURNALIST: Federal Labor has previously committed I believe, it's $555 million for a second BassLink cable, is that offer still on the table?
SHORTEN: We'll have more to say about the second BassLink cable as we get closer to the election. It wouldn't surprise you that I'm not going to announce every one of our policies this morning, or this afternoon. There's no doubt in my mind that Tasmania needs access and can provide access with energy and the BassLink Cable. So we're doing the work, and again, the fact that Labor has had a policy on the second BassLink connection shows you that we're the party of Tasmanian interests, that we understand that Australia doesn't finish at Bass Strait.
JOURNALIST: Housing affordability has been a key issue here in Tasmania, in Hobart in particular. What impact do you think your negative gearing policy will have?
SHORTEN: I think that our policy to reform unsustainable tax subsidies which prioritise investors over home buyers is exactly the right policy going forward. To be clear we're not going to get rid of negative gearing for new housing, so if someone wants to build a new house then we'll provide some incentive through the tax system. But the problem is that the vast bulk of the tax subsidy, and this is paid for by the nurses and the police and the public servants and the people who go to work every day, is going to property investors who are getting a windfall gain in the tax system but also it provides an unlevel playing field against first home buyers.
I also might get Julie Collins to talk in a moment about some of the disadvantages that we're seeing with the housing problems in Tasmania. Because when I think of housing I think there's the people who deserve to have the dream of buying their first home, and they are facing unfair competition from overseas investors and from people who are getting a tax subsidy. But then there are the people who can't even afford their own home who still deserve to have a better deal in terms of more secure housing, so I might just pass over to Julie for a moment.
JULIE COLLINS, MEMBER FOR FRANKLIN: I've written personally to Will Hodgman about Tasmania's housing crisis, calling on him to get Malcolm Turnbull to match Labor's negative gearing and capital gains tax policy, because we know that any solution to housing in Tasmania is not going to work without dealing with all three tiers of government. And to pretend that the Federal Government has no role to play in the housing crisis in Tasmania is saying that the State Liberal Government is not serious about this issue. To date I haven't had a response from Will Hodgman to my letter saying that he should talk to Malcolm Turnbull about the crisis here in Tasmania and get Malcolm Turnbull to do something about it.
SHORTEN: I think it’s also worth noting when I was able to throw to Julie Collins, I’ve got Tasmanians in my Shadow Cabinet, if we form a government we’ll have Tasmanians in our Cabinet. It does show what little regard the Liberal Party of Australia hold Tasmania and the Tasmanian Liberal contribution nationally, they don’t even have any ministers. So if you want to have a voice for Tasmania that’s another reason to vote for Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Banking Royal Commission. Scott Morrison today was asked why he stood in the way of a Banking Royal Commission initially, now he has - him and Kelly O'Dwyer have said that it's you. You were part of the of the Labor Government during corporate collapses like Storm Financial and Great Southern. They've accused you of doing virtually nothing and they say the Coalition is cleaning up the system you ignored.
SHORTEN: My God, these characters couldn't lie straight in bed. Let's be really blunt here. I will go back to the history, but I'll go to the Royal Commission. When Labor proposed cleaning up the financial planning industry, the Liberals when they were in opposition, taking the advice of the big financial institutions and some of the planner lobby groups, voted numerous times, tens and tens of times, against legislation that Labor wanted to put in to reform it. So we're not going to cop a lecture from the party of big business and the banking industry. But it is also a smokescreen isn't it, from Morrison and the rest of them. The fact of the matter is that this government and Mr Turnbull voted 20 times against a Royal Commission into the banks; voted 20 times against holding the banks to account; voted 20 times against making sure that the banks cover-ups and secrets would be exposed. All that Mr Turnbull wants to do, I kid you not, is reward the banks.
I mean it is bad enough that the banks have been exposed as grave robbers, but Mr Turnbull wants to give them a $10 billion corporate tax giveaway. I mean this is a government - it is not just the banks who are on trial in this Royal Commission. It is the dodgy judgement of the Turnbull Government, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, who time and time again at every turn for the last two years, did everything they could to protect and defend the banks against a Royal Commission. The record speaks for itself. All of the dodgy, disgusting, scandalous behaviour we are seeing revealed from the big banks and from AMP could have been available and uncovered two years ago, except for the fact that the Turnbull government is nothing better than a protection racket for the big banks.
JOURNALIST: As you say, dodgy and scandalous stuff coming out of this Commission. Should you then or do you now reflect and think, well maybe Labor should have held one of these commissions when we were in Government?
SHORTEN: The Liberal Government have been in for five years now. When do they ever take responsibility for anything. If they want to pretend they haven't been in for the last five years, they should refund their pay packets. The fact of the matter is that the banks and financial institutions have been getting away with blue murder for too long, and yes I do actually feel for the victims of financial scandals over the years under both governments. But what I am not going to do is rewrite history. We all know, and it is there for you to see on television in full colour, the number of times Mr Turnbull protected and defended the banks at every turn from a Royal Commission. I just wish that when Labor called for the Royal Commission two years ago, I just wish then he had agreed with it, and then we could have exposed some of the dodgy cover-ups which have been plaguing consumers, farmers and small businesses in big-city Australia and regional Australia for too long.
JOURNALIST: Did Labor in Tasmania make the right call on poker machines during the State Election, given the advertising that was unleashed by that?
SHORETN: I think Bec is in the best place to talk about the election, but I just wanted to put on record again, that I think Bec White is a fantastic leader, and I think as Tasmanians got to know her, I think the more they got to know her, the more they were impressed by her. So I do congratulate Tasmanian Labor on their performance. Of course the function of the Labor Party is to win, to stand up for working and middle class people. We were not successful at the State on this occasion. But you know my money is on Bec White, I think she will be an outstanding Premier of Tasmania in the future.
JOURNALIST: Sorry just back on the Banking Royal Commission. We have already seen one chief go, do you think more heads will roll?
SHORTEN: I think one of the things - this is a personal opinion, I think one of the things which is staggering Australians in the last three months, is we have heard evidence almost on a daily basis of completely inappropriate behaviour. But up till today I think most Australians have said why is it that the people haven't gone, the people who have done this behaviour. It almost makes you wonder what the people accused of bad behaviour have on the other people who should have got rid of them.
So you know, I can't predict the future, but I can predict this. That Malcolm Turnbull stands condemned for resisting this Royal Commission for the last two years, and the other point which we've got to make here, is why on earth are we rewarding big banks with a $10 billion tax cut, a tax giveaway funded by the taxpayers of Australia. Why on earth is Mr Turnbull giving $10 billion of taxpayer funded handouts to the big banks. Surely now this is the worst possible time to reward the banks, when we see this conduct. I actually think Mr Turnbull should say sorry to the Australian people for holding this Royal Commission up for two years. It doesn't seem to be in his character to ever admit he was wrong, but I think, I don't know how much it is going to take to make him admit it, but this is pretty black and white, isn't it.
JOURNALIST: Do you support new penalties for dodgy bankers?
SHORTEN: Listen we are up for harsher penalties. But this does sound a bit like another Morrison thought bubble, when he realises he was a mug for opposing the Royal Commission. The great irony about greater penalties is if it wasn't for Labor there wouldn't be anyone to penalise, would there, we wouldn't know what was going on. I think Mr Morrison, if he is serious about analysing dodgy behaviour, don't give them $10 billion of taxpayer money over the next 10 years.
JOURNALIST: How confident are you that a National Energy Guarantee will benefit Tasmania?
SHORTEN: Well, I think there has got to be a lot more work done on the National Energy Guarantee. Labor are not wreckers, if something can be made to work yes, if the policy is fair dinkum then we are up for working with the government, because the single greatest contributor to power prices going up and up and up is a lack of national policy certainty. But I have concerns at this stage that Mr Turnbull is still hostage to the knuckle draggers of the right wing of the Liberal and National Party, because he is proposing very unambitious, modest targets for renewable energy. The fact of the matter is that renewable energy is getting cheaper all the time, the fantastic advances in technology, the fact that so many people are backing in solar roof panels and battery storage. Mr Turnbull needs to get with the future instead of handing a dodgy future onto our kids.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten can you guarantee -
SHORTEN: Just let me finish this is an important question and I think too often we just speak in little grabs and we don't deal with the issues. The National Energy Guarantee, the Government need to do more work, but the National Energy Guarantee has to have fair dinkum targets for renewable energy. If we don't, it will undermine jobs, it will undermine investment, and what that will mean is increased power prices, and Mr Turnbull has to stand up to the right wing of his party.
JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee it will benefit Tasmanians though? It is obviously a different landscape down here.
SHORTEN: Yes it is. We'll make sure that Tasmanians are better off and the best way I can guarantee Tasmania to be better off is to vote Labor at the next election.
JOURNALIST: When the Banking Royal Commission ends, how we will catch dodgy practices in the financial sector?
SHORTEN: I've got the greatest confidence in Justice Haynes. I think he's already showing himself to be quite a remarkable Royal Commissioner. The first part of your question is when will it end. I don't know when it will end. I think the Turnbull Government put artificially short deadlines. Remember that footage when they announced the Royal Commission, I've seen more enthusiastic people going off to the gallows than those two characters in Canberra when they said that we have got to have a Royal Commission. Remember that press conference where they both basically scowling and saying we don't really need this royal commission, it is sort of a waste of time, so they put very short deadlines on it. Now, if the Royal Commission believes it can get the work done in that time, fair enough. But I'm here today to promise Australians that if the Royal Commission - and they're the people best placed to judge, decide that they need more time, then they should get more time. When it finishes, we'll study the recommendations. I start from the default position though that it would have to be a good reason not to back in a recommendation rather than trying to find flaws in the recommendations. But we need to wait and see what they are.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Labor could have won the State Election if they hadn't taken up the pokies policy?
SHORTEN: Labor wins an election when it gets more votes than the other party. I'm sure that there are plenty of reasons but I'm also going to go back to saying that Bec White was a pretty new leader on the scene, and I know she's right here so I don't want embarrass her, but she was fantastic. And I think she put a level of energy into the Labor campaign which was necessary. I didn't win the last Federal Election but I tell you what, I'm determined to win the next one, and I’ll tell you something else, Bec's determined to win the next one too, and in the meantime, we will keep the Liberal Party held to account. The reality is that the Liberal Prime Minister barely flies to Tasmania. He has got his own plane and he still can't fly to Tasmania. It's not good enough, is it? I'm going to test Mr Turnbull on his Tasmanian knowledge. Unless there is an offer matching or bettering our proposition for our down payment on this bridge, then he's failed again.
Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: In an ongoing way, how should we surveil the financial sector when the Royal Commission ends?
SHORTEN: You've got to have strong regulators, you've got to have a better culture, but you've also got to hold people to account. What I don't want to see is the argument that this is culture change and you've got to train up differently. You know, it's got to be root and branch reform. We pushed very hard to get rid of trailing commissions in the financial industry - that's where someone would sell a family a policy but the person selling the policy gets a kickback from the product they're selling. That's not the way of the future in my opinion. So, this Royal Commission has got a big job of work ahead of it. Various governments have tried to do reforms in the past but clearly the financial institutions, the major financial institutions have had a very arrogant culture. I don't know how many of you have gone for a loan but it is a story repeated everywhere. You get a sense that when you're a customer of one of the big banks, that the bank is doing you a favour when it takes your money or pays you or gives you a credit card - there's got to be real change.
But in the meantime, we've got to hold people to account in this industry. There is a pathology in financial services which means that we need to do a lot of reform, and let's see what the Royal Commission says. But one message we could send to the banking sector right now is you're not getting a $10 billion corporate tax giveaway funded by taxpayers, and I'm going to send that message to the banks right now in this interview. If I get elected, you won't be getting taxpayer money of $10 billion in corporate tax giveaways.
JOURNALIST: What is your personal opinion about the pokies policy though? Do you think it’s a vote winner?
SHORTEN: I'm going to leave the judgement of the Tasmania election to Tasmanians. I'm not running for Premier, I'm running for Prime Minister. But I have to say again, not that I need to but because I want to, I think Bec White is an outstanding candidate for Premier of this State.
Any last federal questions?
JOURNALIST: Just on that one again, I mean the harm in this area is the worst in the state -
SHORTEN: If you're asking my opinion on gambling and the perils of gambling addiction -
JOURNALIST: But what would you like to have seen done about it?
SHORTEN: Well, I will tell you a personal story. I've seen gambling addiction in my own family. It is destructive. Now, there's plenty of solutions on how you work it through. There's no doubt that it is a problem and of course, I think that Bec White and Tasmanian Labor is working through what they think are the best solutions. But I'm not going to Monday morning coach Saturday’s election, am I? I’m happy to hand over to Bec now if there are no more Federal issues.