MONDAY, 31 JULY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Manufacturing in Australia; terror raids; Palestine/Israel; Australian Republic; Labor’s plan for a fairer taxation system.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Great to be here with Bill Shorten at Hilton Manufacturing in the electorate of Isaacs. This is a thriving, progressive business that shows the strength of Australian Manufacturing. It's a large sheet metal business and it's growing, not just making truck bodies, not just making parts for caravans and trailers but even exporting fuel tanks to Japan. So it's exactly what we want to see for the future of Australian manufacturing and great to have Bill Shorten here with us at Hilton Manufacturing. Over to you Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello everybody, it's great to be at Hilton Manufacturing with local Member Mark Dreyfus. What I've learned today at Hilton Manufacturing is that it's not all doom and gloom for manufacturing in Australia, there's a lot of good news as well as a lot of hard news happening in automotive. This is a very successful family business, it's going from strength to strength, 260 employees now and prospects to hire more people into the future.
We all know the dreadful cliff which car building is going to hit, go off in Australia in the next six or eight weeks. I am, daily aware that there are no plans from this government to properly help people at Altona and Broadmeadows and Elizabeth where jobs are being lost in the next two months. But that is not to say though, that we should give up on manufacturing. A Labor Government I lead will get behind engineering and manufacturing in this country, but the challenge for Australia manufacturers and success stories like Hilton shows that there is still policy issues in Canberra, which the workforce and the management here need resolved.
Electricity and gas prices are a real burden at the moment. The lack of clear energy policy from the current mob is causing price rises because there's no certainty to allow the investment in new energy. There's also a big challenge to make sure that we don't talk the manufacturing book down in this country. Australian manufacturing bespoke, productive, cutting edge technology, motivated work force can compete with the best in the world, but the manufacturers in Australia need our employment services to be measuring up better. To be making sure that government is helping provide people who want to work, the opportunity to employers, who want to employ them. Of course it's also important that an Australian government backs Australian jobs first. It's important that we have rigorous, local procurement policies. Not just for the relatively bigger employers like Hilton Engineering, but that helps all the small businesses is the south-east of Melbourne and right across Australia.
We want to encourage the use of taxpayer money where it has to be spent, to be spent on Australian products, Australian made, because Australian made is the best in the world. These are all important issues, I thank the management and the workforce here. Manufacturing has got a bright future but it needs a government in Canberra who backs blue collar manufacturing jobs. Labor's up for that challenge and we look forward to the opportunity to talk more in the future about how we build jobs to employ Australians going forward in manufacturing. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: You say there are policy issues and that the government isn't supporting manufacturing. Can you be a little bit more specific about what those policy issues are and what you as an alternative government are proposing?
SHORTEN: There's no proper policy to sort out gas prices in this country; we would supply a Clean Energy Target. Employment services I think, are missing the mark a bit; we want to make sure TAFE is at the centre of training future Australian workers for these businesses, and it is very, very important that we back Australian when we have Commonwealth procurement contracts.
For instance, Labor has a policy saying to companies if you want to bid for Commonwealth work you have to - you must make sure that one in every 10 people are employed as an apprentice. So that's our common sense, practical policies, in touch with the real world. You buy Australian, you make sure we're employing Australian and we do something about out of control energy prices. This government has had the best part of four plus years to get on top of energy and what we are seeing is prices out of control, not just I should say for business, but for families because there is no policy certainty and no one is going to invest in new energy until there is policy certainty.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Sam Dastyari wants to ban all political donations, what do you make of that?
SHORTEN: Well I certainly agree that we need to ban foreign donations. I don't think the Australian electorate is ready to foot the bill for every election that is held in this country. But I certainly believe as a first step, that the Liberal Party have to get with the 21st Century and ban foreign donations. You have to ask the government of the day, Mr Turnbull and his team, why would they want money from overseas in Australian politics? I am prepared to lead on this issue, I extend the hand of bipartisanship to the government. I also think that we need to clean up the transparency of the donations in this system. I understand why people are sceptical when they think that the decisions are in and that everything is sort of rigged and fixed, when there is no transparency on donations.
Labor's plan, Labor’s open plan, is that if someone wants to give more than $1000, which is quite a lot of money already; if someone wants to give more than $1000 to a political party, we should know who they are and we should know in real time. And what is the case for foreign interests to be buying donations in the Australian political system? These are all sensible reforms, Mr Turnbull and I could restore the faith of people who are cynical about politics by making these sensible, overdue reforms. Labor's happy to lead but we are happy for Mr Turnbull to take up our sensible idea and work with us to improve people's trust in politics in this country.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor's crackdown on trusts include any changes to Frank investments?
SHORTEN: No what we're looking at with our crackdown on income splitting in discretionary trusts is simply this; some very wealthy Australians under the current tax laws, this is perfectly legal let me stress no one is breaking any law here. Some very wealthy Australians, perhaps people who earn more than half a million dollars, both from their day job but also from their investments. They are able to distribute their investments to adults in their family who aren't working in that business and what happens is they lower the overall tax rate that they would otherwise pay.
I was speaking to thirty toolmakers and storemen and machine operators here today. They work very hard, they work just as hard as people who earn half a million or a million dollars but they don't have the chance to pop down to HR or payroll and say hey, I'd like to split my income so I don't have to pay a higher marginal rate of tax. This nation cannot afford to have a leaky tax system where the bucket of the budget is seeing money drain away, money which can go to reducing the national debt. Money which can go to properly providing schools and hospitals and TAFE training. Money which can be used far better. We can't afford to have a two class system, where if you're really rich, I mean, good luck to you. If you're really rich, well done. I just don't think the tax system should be your second opportunity to do even better when millions of Australians don't have the chance to split their income.
I mean this is a government, I'm afraid, who is on the side of the top end of town. Look at them how excited and agitated they are to defend income splitting for millionaires. They also want to reduce the tax paid by millionaires. They also want to give the largest companies in Australia a tax holiday, a tax giveaway, by reducing the tax they pay. But by the same token, when it comes to the penalty rates of workers, not their problem. When it comes to increasing income tax on people earning less than $87,000, eight million Aussies, they want to increase their taxes. This government is so out of touch, they're lost in the wilderness aren't they.
JOURNALIST: The AFP managed to foil another terror plot. Does this show that the agencies don't need to merge?
SHORTEN: Well I don't want to join the two debates about the weekend raids with Mr Turnbull's departmental restructuring. Perhaps if I can go to what I think is the important issue here. Our security agencies do a good job. We owe our security agencies a debt of gratitude. That gratitude extends across the political divide. Let me reassure Australians that when it comes to opposing terrorists and people who would cause this country harm, Liberal and Labor and the whole lot of us are on the same team when it comes to stopping that.
And if it does become the case that these extra security measures that are being talked about for airports are going to be with us for some time to come, I would ask the government to seriously consider putting in some extra resources. I think that people who use airports, they are happy to have greater security if it makes their flight safer, but I think it would be a bit frustrating understandably, if the government doesn't upgrade the amount of money they are spending, so that passengers aren't unduly inconvenienced. In my experience, Australians are willing to do what is necessary to help keep us safe and preserve our way of life. But I think the government, probably, if they are going to keep these lengthy measures in place for some time, I think they do need to put some more resources in, so we aren't unduly inconveniencing people when there is a smarter way to do it.
Mr Shorten, the New South Wales Labor Conference has passed a resolution urging a future Labor Government to unilaterally recognise Palestine. Do you believe unilateral recognition is a useful response to the current impasse?
Well Labor and I, and I share this view most strongly, have had a long held view that there should be a two-state solution in the Middle East in terms of Israel and Palestine. I for one certainly support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to their own state. But, I also support the legitimate aspirations of Israel to live within secure boarders. This is our policy, I think it is a sensible policy and our conference certainly debated this but it debated a range of other issues as well.
And I want to draw attention to an announcement which we made over the weekend which for understandable reasons has been overshadowed by pressing matters of security and that is of course, my decision and Labor's decision to reignite the case for an Australian head of state. I have made clear, and the Labor Party across Australia have been very supportive, that we believe in the first term of the Labor Government if we get elected, we should ask the Australian people one clear question: do you support having an Australian as the head of state? I think it is now time for Australia to go that next step. And what is pleasing is, I think, the near universal support that the Labor Party has extended this policy for Australia to take the next step in the development of an Australian identity. What could be more simple than an Australian head of state?
But just on the idea of unilateral recognition, I might get Mr Dreyfus' opinion on it. Do you believe unilateral recognition is a good idea?
That is not of course what the recommendation or the - that's not what the recommendation or the resolution that the New South Wales state conference was. And Penny Wong as our Foreign Affairs' spokesmen, Tanya Plibersek as our Deputy Leader and Bill Shorten as our leader have made clear, foreign policy for a Labor Government federally, is a federal matter. It will be set federally by decisions made by the Federal Shadow Cabinet, by the Federal Caucus. And the suggestion that's been made by some people that it might be time for unilateral recognition is something that flies in the face of international law, flies in the face of any circumstances which could actually assist the parties to this long running conflict in the Middle East. The solution to the long running conflict in the Middle East is going to come from the parties themselves, and I think that is something we need to bare in mind when Labor says, as we have for many, many years, we are committed to a two-state solution. What we are talking about is a solution brought about by the work of the parties themselves.
So you don't consider yourself bound by these motions on Israel?
I think that the path towards peace in the Middle East will only come when Palestinians and Israelis' have two states and that's where it has got to go. I am not sure that I am going to solve that today in Dandenong though.
What I will say though is I notice that the government has been lashing out at our proposal to close down a tax loophole which allows very wealthy people to split their income. Let me be really clear about this despite the government's scare campaign, their lashing out. This proposal of ours will stop the leakage of something like $17 billion from the Budget over the next 10 years. This proposal of ours, this level playing field, won't affect 98 per cent of taxpayers. This proposal is indeed, as the Council of Small Business has said, will not affect the vast majority of small business. It is something which will go to perhaps professionals, investment bankers or barristers who are fortunate, who have a very good income north of $500,000 that they will not be able to necessarily split income.
And one of the things which I feel is most strongly about when I had the privileged of addressing this highly skilled and motivated workforce on the factory floor in Dandenong, is most Australians will never get the chance to split their income. And I think the government, as it lashes around, needs to explain why they think its fair that the very wealthy can split their income and no one else can. I mean this lashing around by the government, this is a government who are isolated in the wilderness, they're at each other's throats. It really is just another day in the life of the Turnbull Government.
Thanks everybody, lovely to see you.