FRIDAY, 27 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT/S: NDIS; Medicare levy backflip; Malcolm Turnbull’s zombie cuts; 2018 Budget; NBN; tax reform.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here in Rosanna. First of all I want to thank everybody here at Araluen in Rosanna for having us here today especially all of the participants, the parents and the fantastic staff. To you Bruce thank you for your incredible leadership at Araluen, just as the local representative in this area, we appreciate it so much. Thank you Bill very much for joining us here today, and for meeting with all of the participants who love coming to Araluen, mostly because it's a lot of fun.
This is a really significant day for people with disability. We've seen the Turnbull Government decide that they will not proceed with an increase to the Medicare levy. We've seen the Turnbull Government over the last two or three years treat people with disability like their political football, most recently with the debate about the Medicare Levy, but before that, this government has tried to use people with disability as a human shield, for cuts to the Disability Support Pension, and for cuts to services in the most disgraceful way .
People with disability and their advocates and families have had enough of that. They just want certainty. They want certainty about the funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and they want to make sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme works for them.
I just want to say directly to people with disability and their families, under Labor the National Disability Insurance Scheme is secure. Rain, hail or shine Labor will make sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully funded. But we will also make sure that the problems that exist in the National Disability Insurance Scheme are fixed. We can't have the people whose lives depend on a good National Disability Insurance Scheme being let down. Bill Shorten and I understand how important it is to deliver on the fundamental mission of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to make sure that people with disability can live a good life, a good and independent life. That's what we want and that's why we want the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be as good as it possibly can be. Our job if we are successful at the next election, will be to guarantee the funding but to also make sure that we get the best outcomes for people with disability and their families.
There's just one other issue I want to go to today, and that is a comment that was made by the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann earlier today, when he said 'I mean what do people expect us to do, just to keep it on the books without any prospects to actually collect the money in practice' and Mathias Cormann went on to say, 'I mean that doesn't make sense'. He is right. It doesn't make sense, and that's why we are calling on the government, on Mathias Cormann, on Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull to take all of the zombie cuts that are stuck in the Senate, that they cannot get through the Senate - these cuts should come out of the budget and out of the parliament.
I just want to list some of them. The most serious is the government's desire to see the aged pension age go to 70; take that out of the parliament and out of the budget. The government also wants to abolish the Energy Supplement. They can't get that through the parliament, so take it out of the budget and once and for all take it out of the parliament. This is a cut to the pension and it should be taken out of the parliament. There are a number of other cuts to pensions that are stuck in the Senate. The government cannot get these cuts through. Take them out of the budget and out of the parliament and stop attacking pensioners. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Jenny, and it's also great to be here at Araluen and to meet the staff, to meet people with disability and of course to meet their families. And thank you for what you do.
The NDIS is fully funded and the NDIS was always fully funded. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have just been too smart by half. They saw the NDIS and the Medicare Levy as another opportunity to increase taxes. Well Labor wasn't going to have a bar of it a year ago and now because of Labor and the crossbenchers, and because we didn't give up, the Turnbull Government has given up trying to increase taxes on working people.
Let's be really clear here. Turnbull hasn't dropped the increase of taxes on ordinary people because he wanted to. It's because Labor and the crossbenchers forced him to. And let's also be really crystal clear on this. I and millions of Australians are sick and tired of Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and the Liberal National Government treating the NDIS as a political football. The money is there to fund it. If you don't think the money's there, well then don't give away $65 billion to the top end of town. But for goodness sakes Malcolm, you spent a whole year scaring people with disability and their families and carers half to death, by saying to them that unless the taxes went up, the NDIS couldn't be funded. A year on because Labor didn't blink, you've now given up on this smash and grab raid on the income taxes of ordinary people and now you've said oh the money is there after all.
Now we want to also make very clear today that a Labor Government will repair the damage and inconsistency that the Liberal Government is doing to the NDIS. I had the opportunity to listen to a mother, Chris caring for her precious daughter, adult child Ellie. People should not be going through the wringer, through the NDIS because the implementation isn't being delivered properly. But one thing's for sure; under Labor the NDIS will always be fully funded and it always has been fully funded.
So we say today to Mr Turnbull ,you've wasted a year of the nation's life since the last budget with your rotten income tax grab, which were justified by holding people with disability and their carers to ransom. We called your bluff. We've won this argument because people with disability don't deserve to be treated that way, and we will keep fighting to make sure that we have an economy which is governed in the interests of working and middle class people.
This economy works best not when you are giving billions of dollars away to the big end of town, to the banks and multinationals, but when everyday people have got some cash in their pockets, because you've got fair dinkum policies on lifting wages, tackling the cost of living and energy prices, and there's a bit of income tax relief for the ordinary average Australian. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Some questions on recycling Mr shorten. Should the government fund factories to convert recycling waste into electricity?
SHORTEN: It's a pretty specific proposition, and you've always got to study the business case. There is no doubt though that environmental policy has been forced to the back of the queue under the Turnbull Government. We all know we've got a Prime Minister who is hostage to the right wing knuckle draggers, the flat-earthers of his government and therefore we've got no fair dinkum policies on climate change. We'll certainly look at what proposals there are because recycling is an important part of our armoury to make sure that we provide a better environment to our kids then one we received from our parents.
JOURNALIST: I've got one of the NDIS. Given the huge ups and downs of tax revenue, is it important to have a long term fix in place to fund something like the NDIS, such as a levy?
SHORTEN: Well first of all the government's clearly answered that question, they said no you don't need to increase it. When will this government be called out for their breathtaking hypocrisy. For 12 months, well the best part of 50 weeks - the last 50 weeks the government has yelled at Labor in Question Time, they've editorialised against us in the conservative media of this country, and they said that if Labor really cared about the NDIS we would increase the levy by half a percent. We said no that's not fair especially on people on lower incomes under $87,000. We know that the NDIS when Labor left office was fully funded and there are plenty of ways to fund the NDIS through general revenue. Imagine what would have happened if Labor hadn't stood strong and hadn't challenged the government about this nonsense opportunistic tax increase. It was never about people with disability for this government, it was just about getting extra money. And the way this government always operates is, if there is a choice between taxing a large multinational or a big bank or a millionaire, or going after the nurses and the police and the teachers and the care workers on $60,000, $70,000 and $80,000, a year, they always pick working class people to increase their taxes and they are always giving tax cuts to the very well off and the big end of town.
So no, the best way you look after the NDIS in the future is to vote Labor at the next election. We will make sure that the scheme is properly implemented. We're hearing the legitimate concerns of tens of thousands of parents, of carers, of people disability saying, hey the scheme is a good idea but make sure that it's implemented fairly and appropriately and provides the promise that it was originally intended to achieve. Labor can be trusted to do this. The Liberals just use the NDIS as an excuse to give tax cuts to the rich and increase the taxes paid by your ordinary everyday Australian citizens.
JOURNALIST: On the proposed national Labor platform, do you agree that unauthorised arrivals should be subject to mandatory detention for no-longer than 90 days?
SHORTEN: I've seen some of the reports in the newspapers. This is the usual scaremongering from the government and some of their allies, saying that somehow people smugglers should be encouraged by a change of government - nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me spell out very clearly and succinctly what Labor's policy is. The people smugglers will not be back in business. It may be in the interests of Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull to convince the people smugglers they can get back into business, but a Labor administration will make sure that they're not back in business.
We will have regional resettlement. We will have offshore processing. That is our policy. We don't want to see the boats start again and we will do everything we can to prevent that, and the government know that. But what we also say, and what a lot of people, not just Labor but I think a lot of people in our community are also saying, is that it's one thing to stop the boats, but it's another thing to keep people in indefinite detention. So we will actively support regional resettlement.
We want the American resettlement arrangement to work. We've said that we need to look seriously at the New Zealand offer to take people. I do not accept that for a country as smart as Australia, that the choice is either indefinite detention or the boats starting again. I don't buy that binary. What Labor will do is we'll make sure that the people smugglers never get back into business, for that lethal and fatal journey between parts of South East Asia and Australia where people drown - we will not start that up again. But what we will also do is make sure there's proper regional resettlement.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor make any changes to the Home Affairs Department? And if so, what changes?
SHORTEN: We've said it's up to the government of the day to have the administrative arrangements they want for the departments they set up. So we will if we get elected, review the effectiveness of what these changes have delivered after we get elected.
But let me be very clear. We're not stopping, and the government know this, they've got their arrangements. We respect the right of these administrative arrangements to take place. We will take the best advice of our security agencies to make sure that what's happening is that our borders are secure and that the functions of the department are being carried out to the best taxpayer value and to the best objectives of the parliament.
JOURNALIST: One more on recycling if I could. Would Labor support the push to phase out non-recyclable packaging by 2025?
SHORTEN: I do think there is an issue, and I want to congratulate the shopping chains - the big shopping chains who are phasing out plastic bags. I think there is a real concern in the community that we can do more in terms of plastic recycling and phasing out the use of plastic bags, and that's probably where our concentration is going to be in the short-term.
But let's go back and talk seriously, if we're going to have a proper policy on handing a better environment to our kids than the one we currently live in, it starts with having 50 per cent renewables by 2030. It starts by real action on climate change. But certainly, I also think the proposition around the phasing out of plastic bags is one, and I congratulate the big retail chains for doing that.
JOURNALIST: We've heard from Bill Morrow, the head of the NBN, in the Australian today. He criticised the mix-technology that's been championed by the PM. Would Labor's plan to restore fibre to the home - do you have any plans to do that, the initial fibre to the home policy, rather than to the node?
SHORTEN: Well there's a few propositions in what you said but let's go to the first part of your question. Today in a pretty dramatic development, Malcolm Turnbull's hand-picked head of NBN has said that Malcolm Turnbull's hand-picked policy has been a failure. What Malcolm Turnbull has done is he's given us old technology for the future - it just doesn't work. We warned Malcolm Turnbull that if you go back to using old copper technology and making that the preponderant proposition rather than using more fibre in the NBN, it's going to deliver second rate outcomes.
The failure of NBN must squarely be placed at the feet of Malcolm Turnbull. The fact of the matter is he was both the policy architect and the chief implementer of the NBN. And one thing is for sure, if you're ever at a BBQ talking to strangers and you want to pick a topic of common interest, start talking about the complaints about the NBN and people will open up.
So Bill Morrow has said what hundreds of thousands of Australians and Labor already know - that by putting in second rate technology, Malcolm Turnbull's given Australia a second rate NBN all too often. And Labor's policies which we will produce closer to the election, certainly see a greater focus on fibre. Let's do it right the first time; do it right once, let's get it right once.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you can resurrect fibre to the home or are we stuck with fibre to the node?
SHORTEN: There is no doubt that Malcolm Turnbull has sabotaged the NBN by putting in second rate technology and it's very hard to go and start ripping up everything. But let's be clear, Malcolm Turnbull has absolutely given Australia a second rate NBN and even his outgoing-CEO has confirmed that fact. Malcolm Turnbull has stuffed up the NBN because he backed in a cheaper technology which is now going to deliver sub-optimal outcomes.
JOURNALIST: On the upcoming budget, what do you think of the idea of indexing tax brackets to get rid of bracket creep altogether?
SHORTEN: Labor's priority is to look after working Australians not the big end of town. We'll have to see what Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison do about bracket creep. Bracket creep is an issue, because what it means is that as people's wages go up, it moves them into higher tax brackets. So the effective value of the wage increase gets eaten up by paying that higher rate of tax.
But the real issue is that if Malcolm Turnbull wants to do tax reform, he's got to do something about the two class tax system which exists in Australia. What I mean by two class tax system is that if you earn a great deal of money, if you are very rich, if you're a multinational with access to the world's best accountants, the world's best tax havens, then you pay minimal tax in Australia.
We have a two class tax system. What I mean is that if you are pay as you go taxpayer, there are not many deductions you can claim, you pretty much have to pay the headline rate of tax. But the richer you are in this country, if you're in the top one or two per cent, you can minimise your tax.
So Malcolm Turnbull, if he is fair dinkum about helping working people with taxation, should ensure one taxation system for all Australians, but he's not interested that. He's proposing a $65 billion tax giveaway to the top end of town.
This next election Mr Turnbull says will be about tax - it most certainly will be. What we want to see is that everyone pays their fair share. Malcolm Turnbull wants to give a tax cut to millionaires. He wants to give a tax cut to multinationals. He wants to maintain unsustainable tax concessions in this country ,where only the lucky few are able to access and minimise their tax, and millions of other Australians, well there's nothing for them.
Labor has a different view. When working class and middle class Australians who go to work every day and pay their taxes, when they have more cash in the pocket then the economy and the community, it simply hums. We want to see an improvement in wages, we want to see downward pressure on the cost of living and we want to make sure that it's individuals, those individuals in the lower tax brackets who are the principal beneficiaries of income tax relief in this country.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is in Perth announcing a multi-billion dollar infrastructure plan? Do you support this increased funding?
SHORTEN: Well, I think it would be fair to say that Malcolm Turnbull's in Perth today following Labor's lead. It's good to see that he's in WA. Statistics show that since the last election, he's spent more time in the USA than in WA. He's there because he's desperate. He's following Labor's policies.
But the real issue here is, should Western Australia receive some greater infrastructure support. A lot of people in other parts of Australia would be surprised to learn that under the current distribution of GST revenue to states, Western Australia is getting 37 cents and 38 cents in the dollar. So for every dollar that is paid by West Australians in GST, they're getting back less than 50 cents in the dollar. Labor thinks this is unfair. So, we've said that we want to create a de facto arrangement where at least 70 cents of every dollar paid by GST in Western Australia comes back in the form of greater infrastructure. So Labor's announced that we want to help reduce congestion in Perth's growing northern and southern suburbs by building new rail lines and by building new freeway extensions.
But the reason why we can offer better funding for Western Australia than Mr Turnbull, and by not robbing the east coast of money, which will go to Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland is because we're not going to give $65 billion away in corporate tax cuts to large multinationals and the big banks.
Mr Turnbull has got the various states of Australia stuck in a bit of a hunger games, where in order for one state to get a little bit more, some other state gets a little bit less. Well Labor doesn't see it as a case of the east coast verses the west coast. Rather we say we want to see roads, and hospitals, and schools, and universities, and TAFE places and railway lines being spent across Australia. And we can afford to do that unlike Mr Turnbull because we're engaging in fair dinkum tax reform. We're not going to give massive tax giveaways to millionaires and multinationals.
It's a very simple choice, I choose working and middle class Australians from Perth to Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane and everywhere in between. Malcolm Turnbull chooses multinationals from New York to London and every other tax haven in between.
JOURNALIST: The images which we've seen out of Korea today, the two leaders meeting, do you think it marks a turning point.
SHORTEN: I think it is good news when we're seeing the sort of dialogue. The Korean Peninsula is certainly a hotspot in terms of tensions and security concerns. But I would also just encourage people to be a little cautious in their initial positive reactions. North Korea has made promises in the past to de-escalate their nuclear weapons programs, and we've seen subsequently the promises haven't materialised. So it's good news but we need to be cautious.
And one of the reasons why we're seeing some good news in my opinion, is not just that people are sitting down and talking to each other, but international sanctions supported by the rest of the world are putting pressure on North Korea to come to the table. So I think it's important that we don't stop our international sanctions and that the world remains focused on the objective of denuclearising North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
JOURNALIST: I've just got one more from Canberra if I could. The online poll that we heard about - do you have any concerns about the parliamentary committee conducting an online survey to gauge views on legislation, particularly when people from overseas can vote and they can vote more than once?
SHORTEN: I've always had a view to take polls with a grain of salt. And that's even polls conducted about other matters. So polling is just another way of people taking the temperature.
I think the big issues in this country don't require an opinion poll. What the big issues in this country are - are we doing enough to get young people an apprenticeship. Are we doing enough to make sure that people who deserve to have the support of the NDIS are getting the support they need. Are we doing enough to reduce the cost of living pressures on everyday families by making sure that people are getting regular, proper wage rises and that we're decreasing the cost of private health insurance. The real issues in this country, you don't need an online poll to work out. It's a matter of your priorities.
My party, the Opposition, the Labor Party, we're prioritising every day, middle class and working class people - properly fund Medicare, make sure you're putting downward pressure on the price of health insurance, have a wages system which sees people being able to access reasonable wage increases. Make sure that if we are going to have a discussion about tax reform, it's about looking after people at the bottom and in the middle not just at the top end. I don't need an opinion poll to tell me that's what Australians want to do.