WEDNESDAY, 31MAY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull's Budget for millionaires and multinationals; CEFC; One Nation; ABC funding; CFA; Cyber Security; ASIO.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be here at Morris Property Group at their Nova Apartments. It's great to talk to the management and of course the workforce here. And I want to pay a compliment to the workforce here. Apparently work is on schedule, it's getting done, and it's to a high level of quality and professionalism, just the sort of things we expect from the Australian construction worker. So they are doing a great job, they're being properly paid under a proper agreement, and the company, I think, is really going to deliver a quality set of apartments when this construction is finished. So that's the good news.
The problem though is, more generally for Australians, is that in one month and one day, we are going to be reminded just how out of touch Malcolm Turnbull really is with the lives of ordinary people.
What I mean is that, on 1 July, a millionaire, someone who earns $1 million in this country, can expect a tax cut of $16,400. On 2 July, which is a Sunday, a woman, worker, working in retail, doing a regular eight hour shift, she is going to drop $77 a week. That's how out of touch Malcolm Turnbull is, that millionaires in this country from 1 July are going to get a tax cut worth thousands and thousands of dollars, but workers in retail and hospitality are going to get a pay cut, and Mr Turnbull thinks that's fine by him.
You see, Mr Turnbull has a choice. He can choose between looking after millionaires and multinationals, or he can choose to look after working people in this country. I don't think you need to be a Rhodes scholar to know which choice he is going to make.
And the Budget clearly demonstrates Mr Turnbull's biggest problem. Mr Turnbull's biggest problem is that he is simply out of touch with the lives that ordinary Australians are living.
You have to be really out of touch to think it's a good idea to give millionaires and multinationals a tax cut and working people, they're just getting a tax rise and penalty rates are being cut.
So I think that Mr Turnbull should perhaps leave the bubble in which he lives and come down to the sheds here and talk to the construction workers, and perhaps he should ask them a question – you can ask construction workers, would you prefer to give millionaires and multinationals a tax cut, or should you do something to improve the conditions of working Australians?
It is simply wrong to be proposing in the Budget to raise the taxes of people under $87,000 a year at the same time as you shovel out money to millionaires and multinationals.
Before we get to the question and answer session, I think it is appropriate, though, to talk about that shocking development this morning where a young Melbourne schoolgirl, aged only 12, has been killed in a terrorist attack in an ice cream parlour in Baghdad.
She is a young girl from Thomastown, in my hometown of Melbourne. She has gone to visit her very sick grandfather, and shocking criminal terrorists have killed her in this explosion at the ice cream parlour.
It just goes to show that the people who are doing this are not acting in the name of their faith, they are just criminals motivated by a murderous ideology, and I think every Australian feels so much for this little 12-year-old girl from Melbourne's northern suburbs.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on the Medicare levy, back in 2013, you said that disability should be above politics, the levy makes sense, I believe it makes sense, and now is the time to do it. That's when Labor raised it from 1.5 to 2 per cent. Why did it make sense then to raise half a per cent, but it not make sense to do it now across the board?
SHORTEN: Thanks for the question, James. Let's straighten this out. This is not an argument about who loves the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Labor created it and we will always defend it. This is a debate about taxation policy in this country. This is a debate which says, what is the best way to help fund the measures, the government, the programs, the safety net of government?
I make no apology for opposing a tax increase on people who earn less than $87,000 a year when Mr Turnbull can find literally billions of dollars so that millionaires in this country pay less tax and large multinationals pay less tax.
For me, this is about what is fair. Mr Turnbull concedes that the rise in the Medicare levy is a tax increase, and I will never take a backward step on this issue. Mr Turnbull is increasing the taxes on ordinary Australians at the same time as he is lowering taxes for millionaires in the top two wealthiest per cent of Australians.
For me, it's a matter of which side are you on? Are you on the side of the millionaires or multinationals, or are you on the side of working people in this country? Malcolm Turnbull can be the Prime Minister from millionaires and multinationals, I want to be the Prime Minister for middle Australian and the workers.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, sorry but in 2013, you did vote to raise taxes for people earning less than $87,000 the year. You supported it then, why don't you support it now? What's changed?
SHORTEN: Because, James, I can't ignore the fact that Mr Turnbull doesn't have to go ahead with a corporate tax cut worth $65 billion. I can't walk past the fact that Mr Turnbull is defending negative gearing worth an extra $37 billion for property investors and speculators. I don't support Mr Turnbull raising the taxes of ordinary Australians at the same time as he is giving a tax cut to millionaires.
It's all about choices. Everyone knows that Mr Turnbull's biggest problem is that he is out of touch with the lives of ordinary Australians. Everywhere I go, people on less than $87,000 a year cannot understand why Mr Turnbull wants them to increase the taxes they pay, yet on 1 July this year, he is going to give millionaires a tax cut.
It's a matter of your priorities, and yes, I will prioritise workers and middle Australia. He prioritises millionaires and multinationals. It's about choices and values.
JOURNALIST: What do you think is behind the Government's push for carbon capture and storage technology using investment from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation?
SHORTEN: I have seen the latest kite flying from the Government. It seems like they're trying to feed some red meat to the right wing of the Liberal Party. I think the Government needs to explain, what is a viable project they want to invest in? They just want us to have some debate about the theory.
This is the government that cut research funding into carbon storage and now they want to have an argument about the funding of it. What are the viable projects that are justifying this change of policy?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, are you satisfied that the Government is doing enough in relation to the One Nation recordings?
SHORTEN: Well, it is a matter of record that when the now-embarrassed Senator Day got into trouble, the Government referred that matter. When Senator Culleton, when he got into trouble, the Government was all over that like a rash. But they have been very slow to act on the One Nation debacle. I think that Mr Turnbull is putting his political preferences that he wants from One Nation ahead of getting to the bottom of matters. It's just very fortunate that the Labor Party referred the matter to the AFP. I think Mr Turnbull needs to stop treating One Nation like they are any other political party because they are simply not. I think he needs to perhaps take a stronger attitude on this.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about One Nation holding the Government to ransom of ABC funding?
SHORTEN: You know, it is another stunt. I will not support cutting the ABC because of the coverage they give people. Listen, let's talk about ABC and editorial independence. Maybe One Nation's been emboldened in its attitude because Peter Dutton has been out there last week going after the ABC, demanding who they should hire or who they should fire.
This is a government who says they believe in freedom of speech except when its done by the ABC. So, maybe One Nation has picked up the cue that they can pile in on the ABC. I will help defend the ABC. We need a public broadcaster, it needs to be properly funded, and we certainly won't be playing political games which sees the ABC, which is where regional Australia gets a lot of its coverage, held hostage to the right wing of Australian politics.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you support Daniel Andrews' plans to break up the CFA?
SHORTEN: That's a matter for the state.
JOURNALIST: So you don't have a view on it then?
SHORTEN: I am just pleased to see matters moving to a resolution in Victoria. What I care about is making sure that we have the safest possible system of fire protection in Victoria.
JOURNALIST: The Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggests that our nation is falling behind on cyber security. One, do you think it is good enough and two, what you think we should be doing?
SHORTEN: That's probably a whole press conference in itself, but on cyber security, I think your question and what the institute said is quite right, we need to be doing more. I think there has been a bit of work done protecting the hard targets against cyber security, the military, the banks. but I think what we saw in recent weeks is criminals and people who would seek to do harm across the world have been hitting soft targets. I think that there is more that the Government can do and it should be a bipartisan co-operative effort to help strengthen our hospitals, help strengthen our medium and small businesses.
People should not underestimate the impact of cybercrime across the world. Australia is not immune. We've seen the Russian hacking allegations and political processes around the world, we've seen the attack on records of people through hospital systems. As much as people might not want to think about this issue its coming down the road to us and I do think we need to help our private sector strengthen their ability to deal with cybercrime.
JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns when it comes to cyber security and elections, in Australia in particular?
SHORTEN: I think the issue of cyber security in elections is one which has to be on the table. It's something which the government need to work on with us and the electoral commission. I don't assume it's going to happen but we live in a very interconnected world and you can not assume that if a problem happens somewhere else in terms of compromising the electoral process, that it won't happen here.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten do you agree with Duncan Lewis' assessment that there is no link between refugees and domestic terrorism?
SHORTEN: Duncan Lewis is a respected security expert. The point that he's making, that rather on focus on demonising refugees and instead understand there's strands of radical and militant Islam causing the problem, he's the expert and it seems to make sense what he's saying. I mean, let’s not forget the tragedy today in Baghdad, this was radical Islamic criminals carrying out violence against other people of the Islamic faith. So I've never wanted to single out a whole religion, never wanted to single a whole group of people such as refugees. We've always got to make sure people are properly vetted, of course we do, but it seems to me that Duncan Lewis is making the point that there are criminal terrorists, they don't represent a whole population of people and they don't represent a whole religion, they're just criminal and evil.
JOURNALIST: The Greens have labelled your $22 billion figure for school funding cuts a unicorn. How would you respond to that?
SHORTEN: It’s up to the Greens if they want to vote for $22 billion dollars’ worth of cuts. I think that the Greens are a political party looking for relevance, but if they keep going down the path of supporting the Government on cuts to education then they're selling out our kids future. Let's be really straight here about these education cuts, the Government’s own briefing documents when they announced their cuts specifically said that they're proposals for $22 billion less than Labor's arrangements. The NSW state minister for education, who is a Liberal, has made it clear that they're unhappy that the Turnbull Government is cutting what was previously agreed to be funded into government schools in NSW. And we've see the National Catholic Education Commission make it clear that these are cuts and changes which will force up the price of fees of attending your local Catholic parish school.