THURSDAY, 25 JANUARY 2018
SUBJECTS: Turnbull’s $17 billion cut to schools; trade, ALP Conference, Turnbull’s citizenship crisis, Australia Day
GRAHAM PERRETT, MEMBER FOR MORETON: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Sunnybank Hills State School in the middle of Moreton and a big welcome to Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Andrew Giles - touring a school of nearly 1,400 students, a P-6 School is one of the biggest schools, one of the best schools in Australia. We've seen some prep kids and some kids doing robotics. And I'd hand over to Bill Shorten to say a few things about the tour.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much and good morning, everybody. It's great to be here with Tanya Plibersek, Andrew Giles and Graham Perrett visiting an outstanding example of government education. We met motivated staff and fantastic kids.
And as a parent myself of three kids, I understand how important it is to give our kids a great education. That's why, if I am elected Prime Minister and Tanya Plibersek our Education Minister, we can make sure that a great education will be available for every Aussie kid.
Mr Turnbull's made his choices. He wants to see a $65 billion tax cut for multinationals, big banks and wealthy companies. The problem is that as children return to school this year, that means $17 billion in cuts coming down the road to schools like this. In fact, I know I can't change Mr Turnbull's mind, his mind is made up: corporate tax cuts more important than properly funding schools. So knowing that I can't change Mr Turnbull's mind, what we can do if Labor is elected, is change his policies.
I'm pleased today to be saying that we will restore the funding to the schools which Mr Turnbull's taking out of them. Tanya Plibersek and I are committed to making sure that every Aussie kid gets the best education possible. I think it's a most important priority.
I'd like to hand over to Tanya to talk further about our education policies and the implications of Mr Turnbull's cuts for this great school, and schools across Australia.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Bill. It's great - as Bill said - to be here with Andrew Giles and with Graham Perrett visiting Sunnybank Hill State School. This is an absolutely gorgeous school, and we've had a terrific time with the young students and teachers today.
Towards the end of last year, we asked the Parliamentary Budget Office to re-evaluate what the new funding arrangements for schools around Australia meant. You know that the Government's cuts passed through the Senate last year, and the Parliamentary Budget Office has had a look at those cuts - including the amendments that were made at the last minute in the Senate - and they've determined that Queensland will lose $458 million over the next two years alone because of these new funding arrangements. $458 million cut in 2018 and 2019 from Queensland schools. Sunnybank Hills State School will lose $1 million over the next two years because of those cuts.
On top of the cuts to government schools, the Catholic Education Commission has told us that Queensland Catholic schools will lose about $57 million because of the Federal Government cuts to schools.
Now, the Queensland Government's been doing terrific work; they're opening new schools, they've employed thousands of extra teachers and teachers’ aides - they are doing their very best for schoolchildren in Queensland. But in the face of $500 million of Federal Government cuts in the next two years alone - well, it's impossible to avoid there being an impact for children in Queensland schools.
We heard this morning about the difference the early years of extra needs-based funding has made in this school. It's meant that the prep children who are coming in are getting really intensive one-on-one help with their literacy and their numeracy. It means that they're off to a flying start for their whole school career. In fact, we were in the prep classroom looking at groups of five or six children being taught by one teacher. That's the sort of start that will last these children throughout their schooling, that firm foundation. That's the difference that the early years of needs-based funding has already made.
Now, extra money in coming years would have meant more of that one-on-one attention, more help with the basics with literacy, numeracy, science and coding. More evaluation of kids who are falling behind, catching them early, making sure that they catch up. It would have meant more help for kids who are gifted and talented to make the most of their gifts. Extra funding means more one-on-one attention for Queensland school children, and ripping $500 million out of Queensland schools - as Malcolm Turnbull's doing - over the next two years alone, means less help for Queensland kids.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Tanya. Are there any questions on this, or any other issues?
JOURNALIST: Can I ask will Labor support the TPP through the Senate?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, we just need to see the detail. As my colleague, our trade spokesman, Jason Clare said yesterday: if it's good for Australian jobs, if it's good for Australia, then we'll back it 100 per cent. That's why we're calling upon the Government to do full and independent modelling. That's what the Parliament's there for - to scrutinise the decisions of government to make sure they're getting it right.
Our call for full independent modelling of this arrangement - and seeing the fine print - is not just Labor's call; I note that the CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr James Pearson, has said it's important to do full, independent modelling to help reassure people as to the benefits. And indeed, it's not just ACCI, it's not just Labor, when Mr Abbott was Prime Minister and promoting the Korean Free Trade Agreement, they did exactly that.
So Labor would like the Productivity Commission to do full modelling of the proposed benefits and examine any disadvantages so that the Parliament and the Australian people can make an informed decision if this deal is 100 per cent good for Australia.
JOURNALIST: Would you be willing to pass the TPP because it's beneficial on balance and then - sorry, then seek to legislate retrospective changes?
SHORTEN: If you're buying a car, you don't get the mechanic's report after you've bought it. Let's just do it right the first time. Remember, this is a government who, when we proposed reforming negative gearing so we can help young Australians buy their first house, they said, "no, problems" and they wouldn't give us the modelling and it turns out Treasury analysis shows our idea was better than the Government was saying. I think we've been down the road before with this government. I simply say to the Government, if it's a great deal and you've got nothing to hide, why don't you submit it to the scrutiny of the Parliament and the Productivity Commission?
JOURNALIST: So will Labor seek the support of the crossbench to block the TPP if you don't recieve that cost-benefit analysis?
SHORTEN: I think the Government would be very, very, very foolish and unwise not to follow the precedent that it's set for itself with the Korean Free Trade Agreement, that industry's calling for.
When Mr Morrison was Treasurer, he had the Harper review. The Harper review - Mr Morrison's own review - said, that when looking at the benefits of our own particular trade arrangement, it would be far better to submit it to full independent modelling. I have to say, the trade committee of the Parliament, which is a majority Liberal-controlled committee, has said "let's do full, independent modelling."
The argument that we should have the evidence in front of us before we sign up to a deal - this is not rocket science, this is not politics, it's just a principle. You don't buy a deal until you've seen all the detail.
JOURNALIST: Is there any risk though that if it goes to the Productivity Commission, that it could be stuck in that review for months and then we sort of miss the opportunity? Or do you think it is worth taking that time?
SHORTEN: Defending Australian jobs isn't something which should be just dismissed or rushed or ignored. We want to defend Australian jobs, we want to promote Australian jobs. Let's just do it right the first time, that's the basic rule, isn't it? Very sensible.
JOURNALIST: Labor was the party that backed trading liberalisation in the '80s and '90s but hesitating now on the TPP. Is Labor turning the back on its legacy?
SHORTEN: I'm not sure that's the most accurate description of our contemporary position. I'll make no apologies, I'll stand up for Australian jobs. We've seen all around the world that when developed countries have done trade agreements, sometimes they lead to hollowing out of our own manufacturing sector and losing Australian jobs. You know, I don't mind what the Government call me I will always fight for Aussie jobs.
Having said that, in recent times under my leadership we supported the Korean Free Trade Agreement, we supported the Japan Free Trade Agreement and after we won significant concessions we supported the China Free Trade Agreement, our track record is fine. The issue is the Government is just getting up as they do and they're trying to turn a trade agreement into politics, if it's a good deal for Australians let's see the evidence and we will back it 100 percent, if it's a dud deal then the worst that's happened is that we stopped a dud deal from going through.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on Scott Morrison's comments saying that Labor would ask for economic modelling about whether to put their underpants on?
SHORTEN: Listen I don't know if he wants to be on comedy TV but I wish he'd start acting like a Treasurer.
The fact of the matter is for us, asking for evidence, asking for proof of a significant economic development, that's the right thing to do, that's what Australians expect us to do.
If he wants to cover up a dodgy deal that's up to him. Asking for independent modelling, full modelling of the benefits and the disadvantages of the agreement that's just sensible. Australians in their daily lives don't buy things unseen and I think at the Parliamentary level we should apply the same principle. Let's examine the benefits, let's examine the disadvantages, let's make an informed decision.
This Government point scoring, demanding that you know, we have to immediately sign it. Malcolm Turnbull is not my boss the people of Australia are my boss, they're the ones I listen to.
JOURNALIST: Would Tony Sheldon make a good ALP President?
SHORTEN: I'm sure that quite a range of people would make a good ALP President and I'm going to leave it to the ALP to work that out.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a preferred candidate if Mr Butler puts his hand up again?
SHORTEN: No I'm sure the Labor party will work through its processes, we've done it in the past and we'll do it in the future. My job as Parliamentary Leader of the Labor Party is to focus on the issues of everyday Australians. My job is to focus on cost of living, an example of that is I see today that the Government's running around saying they've had some marvellous win because health insurance premiums have gone up just under four per cent this year. I mean when will the Turnbull Government stop being pushed around by the large private health insurance companies?
A 3.95 percent increase in itself, maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's not a good thing, but you know it's just one thing after another for Australian households, one increase after another.
Since the Liberals came to power the private health insurance companies have increased the premiums by 25 per cent, that's about $1000 for an average family. Mr Turnbull thinks that prices going up by four per cent is no big deal for him, and maybe it's not to be fair to him, but for Australians who've got historic low wage rises this is another kick in the guts. We've got a federal Liberal Government who, when the private health insurance companies come into the room they get up and say how high do you want us to jump.
I mean where does Mr Turnbull think that families find another four per cent for their health insurance premiums? Where does he think the money comes from? Their wages are at historic lows, I mean the irony of this is the Government saying it's great they've scored some massive victory because your prices are going up by four per cent but inflation is barely at two per cent, wages are moving at two per cent.
I mean if you're a worker asking for four per cent pay rise, the Turnbull Government would think you were the devil but when it's their friends at the big end of town, oh no worries wave that on through. Another day at the office for the Turnbull Government more profits for the big companies, in fact, Mr Turnbull says after a four per cent increase 'I'll give you a tax cut as well, thanks for coming, what else do you want?'
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Brendan O'Connor who said it's probably better for the President to not be a frontbencher of federal Labor?
SHORTEN: It's open for anyone to run for the Labor Party. We've got good processes, we could always improve them, we've got good processes.
JOURNALIST: Andrew Wilkie is calling for a Royal Commission into bribery allegations involving Labor members in Tasmania in 1972, is that warranted?
SHORTEN: I was five at the time I'm unaware of these allegations. Listen I think that's why you get independent bodies to investigate these matters, if there has been wrongdoing always want to make sure that gets uncovered. It was in 1972 I'm just not aware of the issues.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Mark Butler's suggested reforms to the party. Wouldn't they negatively work against your right powerbase in giving sort of more power to the rank and file that might traditionally lean left?
JOURNALIST: In 2014 you said that the party would be membership based and you'd have 100,000 members, why hasn't that happened yet?
SHORTEN: Well we've increased our membership by 30 per cent and we want to get more people in and let's face it our fortunes in 2013 were at an all time low, we were about 42,000 members, we're at about 56,000 but I'd like to get more people into our party and that's an important part of the process.
But I think that what Australians want from the Labor Party is to be the champions of defending their cost of living pressures. That's why only Labor has got a proposal for Australians not to increase their Medicare Levy if they earn less than $87,000. It's only Labor who's got proposals to try and improve people wages, it's only Labor who's got real policies backing renewable energy to keep the price of your energy bills and gas bills down. It's only Labor who's fronting up today to say we want to keep the cost of living for parents sending their kids back to school down by properly funding our education.
Labor is the ones saying that a 25 per cent increase in private health insurance premiums under the Liberal party is not good enough. A four per cent increase this year is simply not good enough when families are paying record electricity increases, record gas increases and they're having record low wage increases and the Turnbull Government is increasing the income tax burden of working Australians.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask Ms Plibersek a question, please?
JOURNALIST: On Mark Butler's calls or his criticism of self-appointed factional warlords what do you make of that? Is that a problem that the ALP has?
PLIBERSEK: I think the Labor Party is the most democratic party in Australian politics. You just see - I'm from New South Wales - the Liberals in New South Wales have stopped dead democratisation moves in the Liberal Party of New South Wales, the Greens when they have a conference won't even let the media in. So I'm proud of the changes that we've made over the years to make sure that the President's position, the Leader's position have the involvement of rank and file ALP members.
Of course, we always want to do better. That is actually one of the things that separates the Labor party from the other parties, we take these issues seriously we will always strive for improvement but we are certainly the most democratic party in Australian politics.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a preferred candidate if Mr Butler runs again for ALP President versus Mr Sheldon, do you have a preferred?
PLIBERSEK: No, that's the fantastic thing about democracy in the Australian Labor Party, every member's vote counts for these positions and let democracy take its course.
SHORTEN: Listen as the school bell goes I just want to make one final observation as we approach Australia Day. I want to put a simple proposal to Mr Turnbull about the citizenship issues which have engulfed the Parliament for the second half of last year. I say to Mr Turnbull: let's put all our cards on the table. Let's agree between us who we think needs to be referred to the High Court from both sides of politics and let's move forward.
We've got to end the nonsense, let's end the nonsense and the petty bickering over citizenship so 2018 isn't spent doing all the same arguments that we saw in 2017. Let's end the nonsense I think what he has to do and I accept I have to do is we need to put the political needs of our own party to one side and restore some faith in our Parliament.
I'm happy to compromise and I'm confident and I believe that our people are eligible but I'm sure that Mr Turnbull has that same view about his. I think now is the time to compromise as we head to Parliament. I don't think Australians want to see us debating citizenship ad nauseum throughout 2018 and I invite Mr Turnbull as we approach Australia Day, let's resolve the citizenship matters over Members of Parliament on both sides and let's get on with all of the other issues in 2018 such as cost of living, which is really making it hard for battling Australians.
JOURNALIST: But in that spirit of compromise should Susan Lamb be one of the ALP MPs referred to the High Court?
SHORTEN: I'm sure you're aware that Labor put up a proposal of a number of MPs plus a number of conservative MPs and indeed crossbench. Unfortunately, the Government voted against referring Labor MPs because I think in the pretty heated political atmosphere of last year it was more about scoring points off opponents than worrying about the Parliament.
Anyway, Australia Day is tomorrow, I wish everyone a lovely Australia Day and I think Mr Turnbull should think about our proposal.
JOURNALIST: David Feeney doesn't have any documents to prove he's not a British citizen, why are you wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars not to resign?
SHORTEN: It's up to Mr Feeney, Mr Feeney is currently finalising his case and researching his case and looking for documentation. He's entitled to run the case and see where it goes.