MONDAY, 23 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s zombie cuts; pensioners; income tax cuts; Banking Royal Commission; Centrelink.
ANDREW GILES, MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Epping. It's been fantastic to have Bill Shorten, the leader of the Labor Party and Jenny Macklin out here at the Epping Italian Senior Citizens Club. What today's been about for me as the local Member, is having Bill and Jenny get to speak with Italian senior citizens. A big group of pensioners who've made a great contribution to this community and our country. I think for Bill and for Jenny, it's been a great opportunity to hear what matters to these people and how it is to be in touch with priorities, with a group of people who understand the choices governments makes. I know that Bill's comments to the room were really, really appreciated and something that I can go back and talk about as I go about my electorate. And I'm really grateful that Bill has had the opportunity to talk to these people and will have the opportunity to say a few words now. So Bill, thanks for coming to Scullin.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Andrew. It's great to be in Melbourne's northern suburbs with Jenny Macklin and Andrew Giles talking to the backbone of Australia - pensioners. And in this case Italian Australian pensioners who worked hard their whole lives in Australia, and now want a bit of respect in retirement. And indeed, Mr Turnbull now has a test at the upcoming Budget; Mr Turnbull needs to remove all of his zombie budget cuts. What I mean by these zombie budget cuts, these are budget cuts which the Government want to make, but so far haven't passed the Parliament. In particular, when I think about pensioners, Mr Turnbull's got to demonstrate that his values are the values of everyday Australians. He's got to demonstrate that he's not out of touch. If Mr Turnbull wants to demonstrate that he's not out of touch, he needs to resist increasing the retirement age to 70. That would make it one of the world’s oldest retirement ages.
If you're someone in your late 60's, the prospect of being made to work till you're 70 is just an unfair prospect, you'd be compelled to have to work till the age of 70. The pension age which Mr Turnbull wants to inflict on hundreds of thousands of working Australians right now, would mean that we'd have a higher pension age than the United Kingdom, than New Zealand or indeed the United States. The other measure Mr Turnbull must immediately stop in his budget is his determination to cut the energy supplement going to pensioners. It is wrong of Mr Turnbull to be taking $7 a week out of a pensioners payment whilst he wants to give $13 billion to Australia's big banks. For me, budgets are all about priorities. My priority is pensioners, unfortunately Mr Turnbull's priorities are big business and big banks.
I'd like to ask my Shadow Minister Jenny Macklin to talk further about the nasty budget cuts that Mr Turnbull's hiding in the fine print of his Budget.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Thanks very much Bill, and thank you Andrew very much for inviting both Bill and I to come out here to Epping today.
What we are saying to Mr Turnbull and to Mr Morrison is stop supporting these dodgy bankers and for once in your lives stand up for pensioners. Every single Budget since Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull have been elected, this government has cut the pension; in every single Budget. So for the first time, this government should make a guarantee to pensioners that there will be no cuts to pensions and no cuts to pensioners. Here today, we have seen these wonderful Italian Australian pensioners who've worked so hard for this country. They do not deserve the cuts to the pension that are currently in the Budget.
As Bill Shorten has just outlined, there are a number of cuts to the pension that are currently in the Budget, but the government is unable to get them through the Senate. Well, I would say to Mr Turnbull and to Mr Morrison take those cuts out of the Parliament and out of the Budget. Pensioners should not face a cut to the pension as a result of the abolition of the energy supplement. If you are single pensioner, that is worth $365 a year. If you are a couple pensioner, that is worth $550 a year. That is the cut to the pension that Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have in the Budget right now. The need to take that cut to the energy supplement out of the Budget and out of the Parliament.
They also want to increase the aged pension age to 70.This will impact on anyone born from 1958 onwards. So it's a very, very significant change that would affect hundreds of thousands of Australians. We do not want to see the aged pension age go up to 70. Take that cut out of the Parliament and out of the Budget. And another really nasty cut that is in the Budget, which the government has been unable to get through the Parliament and the Italian Australian pensioners here today are very upset about, is the government wants to take all of your pension supplement away from you if you go overseas for more than six weeks. So if you save up for a great trip back to Italy to see your family, what this government wants to do is take away your pension supplement entirely if you spend more than six weeks away. Well Labor is saying these cuts to the pension are unfair, take them out of the Parliament, out of the Budget once and for all. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much Jenny, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Budget related, can we afford to give personal income tax cuts in this Budget, or would you like to see the working down of the deficit instead?
SHORTEN: I am pleased to say that Labor is already one income tax cut ahead of the Federal Government. People might not remember but last year, at the last Budget, Mr Turnbull proposed increasing the income taxes paid by everyone on less than $87,000 a year by half a percent. That's about $16 billion Malcolm Turnbull is raising off seven million Australians who earn less than $87,000 a year. So before Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison start making unfunded promises about income tax cuts, why don't they rule out some of the income tax hikes that they are inflicting on people who earn less than $87,000 year. So to repeat, Labor is already even before Budget night, one income tax cut ahead of the Liberals, because Mr Turnbull has a plan to increase the taxes on everyone who earns income up to $87 000, increasing their tax by half a percent. Why is it that Mr Turnbull wants seven million working Aussies to pay more income tax, yet he wants to give big banks $13 billion or large corporations $65 billion dollars in tax handouts underwritten by Australian taxpayers. His priorities are really out of touch.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has admitted it was a political mistake to establish the Royal Commission into the banking sector, is that enough?
SHORTEN: No, Mr Turnbull is talking nonsense and he knows it. What he's done is he fought Labor tooth and nail against having a Royal Commission so he could protect his mates at the big end of town. He relentlessly attacked Labor for wanting a Royal Commission, he incessantly sneered at Labor for wanting to have a Royal Commission and even now, Mr Turnbull wants to reward the big banks with a $13 billion tax cut. If he was fair dinkum about his apology, absolutely now, drop the corporate tax cuts to big banks. The Australian people do not understand why Mr Turnbull on one hand says he disapproves of the banks, but on the other hand is actually giving them $13 billion in corporate tax cuts in the next 10 years. I think fundamentally, Mr Turnbull now needs to drop the corporate tax cuts. It is scandalous, it mustn't happen and I can promise all Australians that if Labor is elected at the next election that big banks will not be getting a $13 billion tax cut from a Labor government - that's what they get from their friend, Mr Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: Why didn't the Labor Government establish a Royal Commission? Why didn't you push while you were in the Labor Government?
SHORTEN: Well, as you know Labor hasn't been in power for five years. Two years ago when Labor said we needed to have a Royal Commission we acknowledged that it should have been done previously, but every time the banks always turned up oh it'll never happen again, scandal after scandal. Two years ago I said enough is enough. The banks have run out of time and run out of excuses. Too many people have missed out, too many people have been victims. So Labor called for a Royal Commission two years ago. We took the policy of having a Royal Commission into the banks to the last election. Mr Turnbull laughed at us; he voted against having a Royal Commission 20 times. Mr Morrison voted against a Banking Royal Commission 20 times, and they were dragged kicking and screaming.
If anyone can recall the footage on the day that Mr Turnbull was finally forced against his will to have a Banking Royal Commission. He called the Royal Commission regrettable. Wrong Malcolm. What the banks have done to the Australian people is regrettable, it's scandalous and what I say to Malcolm Turnbull; do not give away $13 billion of tax cuts to the big banks. They don't deserve it.
JOURNALIST: Don't the Australian people want to see more change, rather than politicking, releasing letters, or you said this and you voted against that. Don't they actually want to see some real change in banking here, and what would you propose to do about that?
SHORTEN: Well, Labor was the one who pushed for a Banking Royal Commission. I think if we didn't have the Banking Royal Commission, all the scandalous behaviour which has been revealed would still not be exposed. Now what we need to do is give the Royal Commission the resources its needs to do the job. I want to see victims having their say. If the Royal Commission says, and it's up to them, they need more time or more resources, we should give it to them.
I also think it's well past the hour to do two other things at the very least. One, Mr Turnbull should rule out categorically, giving the banks a corporate tax cut of $13 billion. The other thing they need to do is now pledge to have compensation for victims. But the compensation for victims, shouldn't be as Senator Hanson has suggested, coming from taxpayers through not giving tax cuts, but using that money for compensation. The compensation should come from the bottom line of the profits of the big banks. It is not a job for the taxpayer to compensate victims, it is a job for the big banks. Let's be really clear here, the banks ought to compensate the victims out of their own pocket. The government ought to ensure that the banks compensate the victims, and taxpayer money should not be used by the banks, either in the form of receiving tax cuts or paying the victims, that's the job of the profits of the big banks.
JOURNALIST: Centrelink is going to get a thousand more employees to cope with the demand in calls etc. How do you think that should go? The government is saying it will be privatised, or could be privatised, how would you like to see that happen?
SHORTEN: The problem is that Centrelink has been the victim of thousands of job cuts, so a thousand doesn’t meet the need. The other thing as I understand, there's every chance that these 1,000 extra jobs will be labour hire jobs, where they'll be paid less than the existing Centrelink workforce. Why is it that whenever the government realises it's got a problem, it does a half-baked solution and doesn't get it right? What we need to go is offer a lot of the people who are casual in Centrelink permanent jobs. What we need to do is make sure that the people working in the call centres are all paid the same. We don't need privatisation of key Human Services, we need reinvestment in Human Services. Part of the problem is that the government thinks that everyone who gets Centrelink is a cheat until proven otherwise. So permanent jobs, not privatisation, don't rely on labour hire, get the professionals back in the job they're professionals in, it'll actually save money at the end of the day.
JOURNALIST: Kevin Rudd has urged caution when forging relationships with union officials. Is his advice welcome?
SHORTEN: When it comes to working with the union movement, I'm proud of the fact that the Labor Party works with unions. Mind you, I'm proud of the fact that Labor works with small business, works with farmers and works with pensioners. We are the party of small business, we are the party of farmers, we are the party of everyday workers who pay their tax and go to work. And I will stand up for construction workers. The fact of the matter is, that this government, the Turnbull Government, has a problem with construction workers being able join a union, and they're treating them as second class citizens. I want to make sure that everyone who goes to work is properly paid and has a safe job.
JOURNALIST: On top of that then, what's the real response to the Australian report that almost half your cabinet is concerned about how close you are to the CFMEU?
SHORTEN: It's a Liberal beat up, and I don't think it is a secret that Labor works with blue-collar workers and their representatives, proud of it, always have been. But what I'd also say is that if the government or their proxies want to have an attack on me for representing workers, I will always stand up for pensioners, that's why we don't want to see people having to work to 70 before they can retire. We don't want to see the energy supplement being taken off pensioners, I'll always stand up for workers. That's why I want to see wages move in this country. That's why when it comes to Centrelink I'd rather see full time jobs not privatised labour hire jobs. And when it comes to standing up for small business, that's why we're supporting a tax reduction for small businesses under $2 million.
Labor is the party of everyday Australians, and we call upon Mr Turnbull; for goodness sakes Malcolm, don't give the big banks a $13 billion tax cut, don't give large corporations and multinationals a $65 billion tax giveaway. Look after the ordinary people, they're the ones who make Australia great.
Any last questions?
JOURNALIST: Yes just quickly, Barnaby Joyce says MPs should be able to employ family. Do you agree?
SHORTEN: Well, there was a time in Australian politics where people could employ their relatives, but we have moved on. It is now a settled question, you don't employ family in your offices and I think that's best left as it is.
I should also just congratulate Barnaby and his partner Vicki on the birth of their son Sebastian, and I hope that people give them a little bit of space to be able to just share the joy of that.
JOURNALIST: I guess, kind of related to that, he's signed on for a warts and all book. What would you like him to explain about his recent behaviour in that book?
SHORTEN: I am not going to give Mr Joyce any advice, the birth of a child is fantastic news and I am not going to politicise that full stop. Congratulations.
JOURNALIST: Sorry Mr Shorten one more. Are you worried that the Coalition is gaining ground in the polls, and if the government overtakes Labor your position as leader might be threatened?
SHORTEN: No, I'm not. Okay thanks everyone.