MONDAY, 10 APRIL 2017
SUBJECT/S: Protecting TAFE; Labor’s plan for housing affordability; industrial relations.
SUSAN LAMB, LABOR MEMBER FOR LONGMAN: Well, good morning everybody.
We know that jobs are incredibly important to people. We know the value of a job and the outcomes that you get from having a job. Whether you're in work, whether you are skilling or reskilling for work, whether you're retired from work - a job is central to your future and ultimately, the future of the country. And today, here at Caboolture, there is no greater place to be here with Bill Shorten to talk about that. About skilling, reskilling and jobs for the future.
The Moreton Bay region is the faster growing region in this country, and we know just how important it is going to be to be able to provide for the projects and the services we need by making sure that places like Caboolture are delivering with the courses that we need.
So I'll hand over to Bill to say a few words, welcome back to Caboolture, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great, thanks Susan.
Hello everyone and it's great be here in Caboolture in the seat of Longman in the Moreton Bay region. Of course, accompanying me I also have Senator Chris Ketter and State Member of Parliament, Rick Williams.
We're here today to talk about the Turnbull Government stopping cuts to TAFE, stopping the privatisation of vocational education, and to stop relying on importing workers on 457 and 417 visas to do work which Australians can do. It was a real privilege to meet some of the students and some of the staff at the TAFE here. Just about every one of those nursing students we met are raising a family, in many cases single parents, they're battling to make ends meet, but they're going to be a role model for their kids, and they're going to deliver great quality nursing care in the Moreton Bay regional community in the future.
Labor is determined to stand up for TAFE, to stop the rampant privatisation of vocational education, and to stop the need for employers to rely upon 457, 417 temporary visas which give work rights to people from overseas temporarily, rather than training our own great Australian work force.
Before we move to any questions though, I think it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the passing of one of Australia's sharpest and driest comedians. I speak of the great John Clarke. The news at five to seven every night will not be the same anymore because John Clarke has left us. And I also want to express my sympathies to his great partner in comedy, Bryan Dawe. No doubt he will be feeling this loss acutely.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: On negative gearing, would Labor back any sweeping changes to negative gearing if the Government pursues them?
SHORTEN: Scott Morrison has failed the test of a Treasurer committed to housing affordability because he just won't act on reforms to negative gearing. The earlier comments of Scott Morrison and the Government show that they know there ought to be reform to negative gearing. Scott Morrison knows there needs to be reform to negative gearing. The Government's Treasury Department knows there needs to be reform to negative gearing.
But Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are so pig-headed because Labor got their first on reforming negative gearing. Deep down in the core of the Turnbull Government, they know that if they want to resuscitate the Australian dream of owning your own home, they need to act on negative gearing. But this is a government who is so pig-headed, they would rather play politics and stamp their foot than help young Australians get into their first home.
I suspect it reflects ongoing arguments between the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, they seem to be disagreeing on a lot these days.
JOURNALIST: How long would it take for Labor’s changes to negative gearing to moderate the house prices, would it be a couple of budget cycles or would it take a lifetime?
SHORTEN: No I think it would take as long as it takes to have the next election, if Labor is successful we can implement our changes. We've made clear with our negative gearing policies that they would not be retrospective. In other words, any Australian who is invested in good faith under the current tax laws would not be affected, their assets would be grandfathered. We would also allow negative gearing for new housing so we can help stimulate supply, and of course, jobs.
But we've got to do something not just in terms of the availability of housing, but the affordability of housing. Scott Morrison knows what needs to be done on negative gearing reform, but he is too weak to argue with Malcolm Turnbull, or he's just turned his back on what he previously has believed. If you want to make sure that the great Australian dream of being able to afford your first home doesn't turn in to the great Australian nightmare of being locked out of the housing market, the big test is will you reform negative gearing. Labor would do it if we get elected at the next election. Under a Coalition Government the Australian dream of owning your own home, the great Australian dream, is becoming a distant memory.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the AEU's call for 70 per cent of vocational education funding to go to TAFE?
SHORTEN: I think, without being prescriptive about a number, I think that's headed in the right direction. There is some very good private providers of vocational training in this country, both for profit and not for profit. But we've seen scandal after scandal, we've seen it become a taxpayer-funded disaster, where we've seen a whole lot of dodgy loans being handed out for courses in private providers which don't lead to adequate or appropriate qualifications.
Labor will rescue TAFE. We will put publicly funded TAFE at the centre of our proposals on vocational education. You just have to visit that great facility we just saw, with those really remarkable nursing students, to see that TAFE gives people a second chance, and it also going to provide the needs for the workforce in the future. If you properly fund TAFE and public TAFE, what happens is we don't need to rely on importing so many workers from overseas on a temporary basis under the visas which they're currently being imported under.
JOURNALIST: Is it possible to let people use part of their superannuation to pay for housing, while it might mean their superannuation will be smaller in retirement, the people can then own their own homes, so isn't that a positive?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, most Australians at a young age don't have very much in their super at all. The secret of superannuation is compound interest, that it builds up over time. If you raid that superannuation when it is in very small amounts at the start of people’s working careers, you just won't have enough super to retire on.
No, the Government, if it wants to do something about housing affordability, rather than raid superannuation and starve people of income in retirement, you need to reform negative gearing and capital gains tax deduction. Let’s be clear, the Treasury, the key economic department of the Turnbull Government, has said there are problems in negative gearing. Scott Morrison, in earlier comments, said there are problems in negative gearing. The Turnbull Government is being pigheaded because Labor got there first with an idea. We don't mind if Malcolm Turnbull takes our perfectly reasonable idea and takes it as his own. For me it’s not about who gets the credit for the idea, it’s about whether or not young Australians are able to afford their first home.
Right now in Australia, the only housing policy that the Turnbull Government's got to do anything about affordability is get rich parents. Well that's not a policy which is any good for Australians. Let's reform the tax system, let's give a level playing field where first home-buyers are not competing unfairly with taxpayer-funded investors and speculators. It is not fair on young Australians or their parents.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree that the Federal Government has got a poor return on the $6 billion it has put into housing affordability, and do you think that is the State Government's fault?
SHORTEN: Clearly you have got to make sure that there's a supply of housing, absolutely. But what we've got to do here is also deal with affordability. You can't deal with one without dealing with the other. Availability and affordability.
Scott Morrison has failed the test of being Treasurer of Australia, because he just won't look at the affordability of housing, because he won't reform negative gearing. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison know deep down that Labor's policies are the right policies, but they're just being stubborn and pig-headed by not adopting Labor's ideas, because they're more interested in playing politics than they are with good policy.
Let's just reform negative gearing and then we can see – the current unfair competition where someone who has got a taxpayer funded concession is competing and bidding up the price of houses against first homeowners who desperately just want to be able to have a home of their own.
JOURNALIST: On industrial relations, what concerns do you have about the Fair Work Commission's application of the Better Off Overall Test, and what would that mean for tens of thousands of low-paid workers on EBAs?
SHORTEN: Our first and immediate priority in industrial relations is for the Turnbull Government to support Labor's reforms to protect people's take home pay – that's the number one priority for me. Mr Turnbull could sort out the pressure on nearly 700,000 Australian workers by simply backing in Labor's legislation. Even the Fair Work Commission's laid out a test for Mr Turnbull. They've said, will you amend the law, so that you can protect people's take-home pay?. Mr Turnbull is simply not listening to the needs of protecting people on penalty rates.
Penalty rates is the take-home pay that people get on a Sunday or working on public holidays, which makes ends meet. Why is Mr Turnbull, on one hand, so keen to give millionaires a tax cut, to give big banks a tax cut, and to protect property speculators in negative gearing, yet on the other hand, he is actively working to support cuts to penalty rates of nearly 700,000 workers. He could stop those cuts by voting with Labor in Parliament. It is his problem and he has got to decide who's side he is on – the big end of town or working people in this country?
JOURNALIST: Will Parliament have to redraft the Better Off Overall Test if the EBAs of people working at Coles and Woolies and fast food outlets fall over?
SHORTEN: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. I think the point about it is that if we want to protect people's pay and conditions, there's a law currently in front of the Parliament. The concern I see on my listening tour of Queensland, is that a lot of everyday Australians feel that the Government, and indeed politics, is not working for them, and they ask me, Bill, how on earth can Malcolm Turnbull sit by and not do anything to protect penalty rates?. There's no good answer for that.
People don't understand the priorities of the Turnbull Government. On one hand, they'll fight to the bitter end to protect negative gearing and property investors, they'll fight to the bitter end to be able to give big companies a corporate tax giveaway, they'll fight to the bitter end to be able to ensure that on 1 July that millionaires pay $16,500 less in tax in Australia for the next financial year. But on the other hand, they do nothing, they actively cheer on the cutting of people's wages, they're doing nothing to protect TAFE, and indeed, there's an industrial dispute in Queensland right now, Cook Colliery, where coal miners in Central Queensland have been stood down for two months through no fault of their own.
The Turnbull Government just doesn't look after workers. They're divided and they're out of touch.