MONDAY, 13 MARCH 2017
SUBECTS: Penalty rates; WA election; the Liberal’s dirty deal with One Nation; renewable energy; negative gearing and capital gains tax reform
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. Welcome to the launch of the Swimming Instructors Association in my electorate of Maribyrnong.
What we've seen is swimming teachers and swimming instructors - a part of everyday life in Australia, they teach our kids to swim - are organising a union because they want a better deal, they don't want to be ripped off, they want to make sure they get a fair day's pay from a fair day's work.
What we see here is young people organising to improve their working conditions. And I think it just goes to show that no politician in Canberra of any party should ever underestimate the capacity of young Australians to work out what's happening in the political scene.
The young people here they want a fair deal. They don't want to see penalty rates cut.
I have got to say today that whilst we had a big victory for Labor in Western Australia on Saturday, it's now time to get on with the job.
And the job for Labor is to do everything we can to stop these cuts to penalty rates affecting hundreds of thousands of our fellow Australians. We have got to do everything we can.
When we protect penalty rates what we're doing is protecting take home wages, we're protecting people's living standards.
I notice also in the aftermath of Western Australia's election, the Federal Government is saying it's got nothing to do with them. It was a great result for West Australian Labor and I unhesitatingly congratulate and give full credit to Mark McGowan.
But I do note that Colin Barnett, along with Malcolm Turnbull, in the last two weeks of the West Australian election came out and supported the cut to penalty rates.
I'm sure that did have some impact and it will keep having an impact on the fortunes of conservative politics when Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull keep supporting the cuts to penalty rates.
But Labor's back on the job. We've had our celebrations from West Australian Labor and what we have to do now is do everything we can to fight the cuts to penalty rates. That means protecting the living standards of Australians and the real wages of Australians.
I might ask my colleague, Brendan O'Connor to talk a bit more about penalty rates and then happy to take any questions.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thanks very much Bill. It is also fitting to be here on Labour Day, a day in 1856 when stonemasons dropped tools to fight for the 8-hour day. Melbourne is renowned for such a great effort by workers.
Today it's great to be with Bill and talk to young people who have been not dealt with the way they should have been in their work place, but they've responded collectively and they've responded to fight for justice in their work place.
And it's a fantastic story, particularly against the accusations sometimes young people face about not engaging and not standing up. Well in fact this story is about standing up collectively and working together to get that justice and indeed it's great to be associated with the event today.
But of course as importantly, is the fact that the Government has chosen to turn its back on workers who need penalty rates to survive.
Many people are struggling to make ends meet. We have the lowest wage growth in a generation. We have people in some areas of our economy going backwards in terms of wages and yet we have a government that will not stand with Labor to stop the cuts to penalty rates.
Now, Bill Shorten introduced the Private Member's Bill, the last time we sat in Parliament. That was an opportunity for Malcolm Turnbull to join with Labor and support low paid workers in this nation. He turned his back on those workers.
He will have another opportunity because we will not give up the fight to protect the interests of low paid workers in this country. It is no one's interests to have people struggle to make ends meet or have trouble paying the mortgage, or paying the rent, or putting petrol in the car.
So we will continue this fight for these workers every day until the next election, because it's so vital that people are treated with fairness in our workplaces and the Australian people expect a fair go all round and it's not happening for those retail and hospitality workers because of the callous disregard shown by Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party.
SHORTEN: Thanks Brendan. Any there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I was hoping you'd elaborate on the evidence you have that the Liberal Party position on penalty rates played a major role in the WA election.
SHORTEN: I'm happy to repeat what I just said. It was a great win for Western Australian Labor on Saturday and I unhesitatingly give full credit to Mark McGowan.
But the decision to cut penalty rates did come down two weeks before the conclusion of the West Australian election. Colin Barnett, like his Federal Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, came out and supported the decision and supported cutting the penalty rates.
I believe it would have had an impact and I believe that while as long as the conservatives, the Coalition, Mr Turnbull or the National Party, or indeed, One Nation support the cuts to penalty rates, Australians are not going to mark them up.
They don't understand, wherever you go in Australia, why Malcolm Turnbull is so enthusiastically supporting the cuts to penalty rates.
Because what these cuts to penalty rates mean is that for people who work in retail and hospitality and pharmacy and fast food, they're just getting a wage cut full stop. It's just a wage cut. There's no increase in wages in any other part of their pay packet. It's a cut to their standard of living.
Western Australia, as I said on Saturday, as I said yesterday and as I said today, is certainly about a lot of state issues. From the disillusion with Colin Barnett, to Mark McGowan's successful approach, to the privatisation of Western Power and, of course, standing up for West Australian jobs.
But there are lessons for the federal sphere. And if the Coalition don't want to learn the lessons, then that's on their head.
Let's talk about the One Nation-Liberal Party deal on preferences. What it meant is that a vote for One Nation was a vote for the Liberal Party and a vote the Liberal Party was a vote for One Nation. And a vote for either was a vote to cut penalty rates.
Furthermore, when it comes to the issues around penalty rates - I don't understand why Mr Turnbull keen to allow a cut to penalty rates to reduce which will reduce the living standards of hundreds of thousands of battling Australian families.
JOURNALIST: How do you think the preference deal between the Liberal and One Nation is different to the Labor Party's deal with say, the Greens Party?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear here. I have got no objection to the Liberal Party preferencing the Nationals or vice versa - though it doesn't seem to help National Party electorates. Just as, on balance, while we disagree with the Greens, we do send them our preferences.
Let us not pretend that One Nation is like these other political parties. They are the party who is anti-vaccination, they're a party who says regardless of the death of 38 Australians who were shot down out of the skies over the Eastern Ukraine that somehow Mr Putin is a strong and impressive leader. They're a party who's happy to do a deal in terms of sending all their votes to the Liberal Party, although they say they're independent of the major parties.
88 per cent of the time Pauline Hanson's One Nation has voted on substantive legislation in favour of Mr Turnbull.
One Nation's rapidly becoming a faction of the Liberal Party, but I don't accept that their views are part of the mainstream like other major political parties.
JOURNALIST: Just changing tact to another big issue over the past week. Are you happy that the PM is talking to Elon Musk about a solution to electricity and energy products?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm happy that green Malcolm has come out for a play. Because I was appalled like most Australians to watch King Coal Malcolm playing with lumps of coal in Question Time in Parliament turning into show and tell. No, the fact of the matter is Mr Turnbull's got to get over blaming renewable energy and recognising that renewable energy and fossil fuel have a part in Australia's future. I'm always happy to see sensible solutions. But he can't go around and demonise renewable energy in the way he's done.
What we've got to do is we've got an immediate short-term gas crises. A lot of the gas produced in Australia is now being sold for export when some of that gas should stay at home. I've said that one of the ideas Mr Turnbull should look at is reserving some Australian gas for Australian industry. Just like they're doing in Queensland.
I think that Mr Turnbull should call an emergency meeting not just of the big gas companies but indeed of all the stakeholders, the consumers and of course the state governments. This is a national problem that needs a national solution. What we don't need is the sort of politics pretending that clean coal has the answer to everything when it simply doesn't.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull's been talking to Elon Musk but local companies have also said they could do a similar deal, should there be a focus on prioritising local businesses?
SHORTEN: I think there's enough room in the renewable energy space for overseas investment and for local producers. I agree we should be talking to local producers. I think there is a sweet spot in terms of renewable energy and the storage of renewable energy which can help guarantee supply in the future.
There's a real crisis for Australian industries, especially up and down the east coast. What's happened is that we've built export terminals for our gas and we are shipping a lot of the gas we produce in Australia overseas. The problem is now that potentially there's not enough gas in Australia to meet all our domestic needs and all our export commitments.
So this is the challenge. We have Hazelwood going offline and we've got to worry about making sure that all of the workers there and the community there gets looked after. There's a lot of moving parts. So far Mr Turnbull and the conservatives, all they've done is bag Labor and bag renewable energy. The fact of the matter is it's a complicated problem.
Australians expect us to park the politics at the front door and get on with coming up with a solution which works long-term. And that involves fossil fuels, gas and renewable energy. It involves talking to overseas investors, it means also prioritising Australian investment and investing in Australian jobs here in Australia and gas in Australia, being looked after and delivered to Australian businesses rather than shipped overseas.
JOURNALIST: What should Mr Turnbull tell the gas companies when he meets with them?
SHORTEN: Well I think what he's got to make clear to them is we want some of the gas that gets produced in Australia available for Australian companies. We can't just export all of it overseas. It's not a simple problem, but what we need to do is make sure that's part of the answer. It means also, that we need to talk to stakeholders. It's no good just talking to the gas companies without talking to the states, talking to all the consumers. It's a national emergency. We should be working together. We should leave the politics at the door. It's not a question of do you like renewable energy more than you like coal. The question is Australians deserve to have their leaders guaranteeing secure, reliable, affordable energy for Australians. That's where we've got to head.
Any last questions?
JOURNALIST: There's an article in The Australian which again mentions negative gearing and the possibility of it being Turnbull's agenda. This was raised last year as well, do you have any faith this will happen this time?
SHORTEN: Why does Mr Turnbull simply ignore the elephant in the room, which is negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions? He has a plan from Labor which he could pick up tomorrow and he'd probably get some praise for. What he should do is say that negative gearing for existing houses, the process whereby you give tax concessions to investors and speculators so they can get a leg up when they're bidding against first home buyers. We need to stop that going forward for existing housing. You can't just deal with issues around the edges. He's got to bite the bullet.
Our triple A credit rating is under great pressure. If he would simply adopt reforms to negative gearing, there would be two wins. It would improve the bottom line of the Budget and secure our triple A credit rating and it also means that young Australians and their parents have got a level playfield when they go to auctions every Saturday and they are not competing unfairly against people who have been subsidised to buy their tenth property through a taxpayer funded concession. He's got to bite the bullet, he's got to stop the politics and just look after Australians.