SUNDAY, 16 APRIL 2017
SUBJECT/S: Easter; penalty rates; North Korea; housing affordability; Safe Schools; Adani; Badgery’s Creek Airport; GST.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, it’s fantastic for the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the staff and residents of Sambell Lodge to have Chloe and I and my family here. Easter is a great time to catch up with family and friends but I think it’s also important to remember that so many of our fellow Australians are doing it tough. And a lot of people are very fortunate to have the Brotherhood of St Laurence and indeed many other not for profit agencies who make sure that our fellow Australians don't get left behind. I think it’s also important at Easter to remember our Australian Defence forces; the men and women who are serving overseas helping to keep Australia safe and they're a long way from their family. I'd also like to give a shout out to all the people who are working across this long weekend who do deserve their penalty rates and don't deserve to have their penalty rates cut.
Happy to take any questions that people might have.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the west should retaliate to North Korea's failed attempt at launching a nuclear weapon?
SHORTEN: I'm under no illusions the North Korean regime is a rogue government and they are a serious threat to stability. In terms of responses to failed missile tests, I think we just need to watch what is going on with North Korea. I know these days there is some concern about the United States, I have to say that when you look at the role that the United States security plays in our region, I'm grateful for their strong presence and certainly I regard the American alliance with Australia as being very important especially at times of heightened uncertainty that the North Korean regime presents.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Trump is being too incendiary on North Korea lately with his language or do you think he's been appropriate?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to comment about every personal comment that comes out of the Americans but what I do recognise is that if you want to talk about provocative conduct, I think it starts with the North Koreans. We do need I think, countries in the region, including China to exert what influence they have over North Korea. I think there is an opportunity here for China to demonstrate as it emerges in the world that it can have a positive influence on its close neighbours and I for one am grateful that the Americans do contribute so much to our security in the pacific region.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, does Labor support plans to unlock Defence land for housing developments?
SHORTEN: Well there they go again, the Government, every week they've got some new proposition. Last week it was raiding superannuation of young people to help fund deposits which wouldn't solve affordability and of course does nothing to help retirement incomes of Australians.
The proposals to sell Defence land are not new proposals. This proposal for instance in Maribyrnong has been around on the table for the last six or seven years. When will Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull stop reannouncing old news and try to pretend its new. What they need to do is deal with the issues of demand. What they need to do is reform negative gearing. There is $37 billion to be saved in the Budget which can be used for important things like Medicare and that would also help challenge the demand pressures for first home buyers.
So the Government should stop renanouncing old news and start dealing with the real issue in front of it which is reforming negative gearing.
JOURNALIST: In opposing the concessional loan for Adani, that could potentially put tens of thousands of jobs in the region at risk, how does this fit in with Labor's commitment [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: Well seriously, I haven't seen the argument that somehow this concessional loan is going to unlock tens of thousands of jobs. The fact of the matter is that we hope that Adani can stack up and there is some jobs created through the mining and related infrastructure works. But the case has not been made for taxpayers to provide a low concession rate loan of a billion dollars to an Indian multinational mining company. The case has not been made. If this deal is such a good deal, it won't need the tax payers of Australia to underwrite it.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned this debate has been hijacked by activists, obviously we saw some of the front pages with you know the black tide coal emerging when it was actually just a natural substance?
SHORTEN: I'll follow the best science in this project. There should be environmental protections. If the science evidence is satisfied then the project should go ahead. But one thing is for sure, I don't believe that taxpayers should be underwriting a billion dollar loan to an Indian multinational mining company, the case has not been made. If this is such a wonderful deal, then why doesn't the deal just go ahead without the taxpayer being roped into it? I think Mr Turnbull has got to make something perfectly clear here, has he in fact made a decision to support the loan to Adani? Has Mr Turnbull decided that the loan to Adani is a good idea? If he has he should come clean and tell the Australian people, and if he doesn't support the deal to Adani he should stop rubbishing the Labor Party and stop wasting time on this nonsense.
JOURNALIST: What’s your thoughts on New South Wales plans to scrap safe schools?
SHORTEN: The Safe Schools program was funded originally under a previous Labor Government. We will have a look at what New South Wales is proposing. But the principle of making sure that children at school are free from bullying is a very solid principle and Labor remains committed to making sure that there are anti-bullying programs in place. We will look at what the New South Wales Government is proposing.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the Federal Government potential plans to fund part of the $6 billion project in Badgerys airport?
SHORTEN: We will have to wait and see what the information and the evidence is for that. Sydney does need a second airport, it’s important that there is public railway infrastructure there. There is no point in building a new airport without a public railway infrastructure. It’s important that there are local jobs created and that the numbers stack up. We will work constructively on any measure to create new jobs in Western Sydney, or indeed anywhere else in Australia. We just want to see what the evidence is. This is a Government who has got a new project every week but the problem for them is that nothing ever seems to happen.
JOURNALIST: Just back on to the Safe Schools program, would you have preferred for the New South Wales Government follow Victoria's lead and the state government funding it?
SHORTEN: Well we feel that the Safe Schools program has been made a political football by conservative critics. It is important that children go to school and are not bullied on the basis of their sexuality. If the New South Wales Government wants to run anti-bullying programs in one way and not another we will have a look at what that means. But Labor won't take a backwards step from the principle that teenagers going to school need every help to be free from bullying and their safety should at all times be uppermost other minds of our educational system.
JOURNALIST: Does the program undermine, do you think, by being so associated which such ideologues and political activists?
SHORTEN: I get the impression that when it comes to Safe Schools there is plenty of ideology coming from its critics.
JOURNALIST: What about the GST, do you have any solution for Western Australia's low amount that it gets from the GST?
SHORTEN: I've got no doubt that West Australia faces a very significant problem. That when you look at the mathematics of it, they're getting back 34 cents in every dollar of GST raised. I understand why West Australians are so outraged. This is a matter which is partly dealt with the independent Commonwealth Grants Commission. But what I would also like to see is that all sides of politics are going to have to roll up their sleeves and get down to work with improving the deal that West Australia gets because clearly what is happening now, the status quo is unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: Do you back the idea of a floor? Or is that inadequate do you think?
SHORTEN: That's one of the propositions on the table, we will certainty talk to the Premier of Western Australia about his ideas around that.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree that there is a housing supply problem?
SHORTEN: There is a supply problem and there is a demand problem. But there is also, I think it’s important as we wrap up this interview, just to remember that there are two sets of challenges with housing. There is a supply and demand for housing for first home buyers; we think first home buyers on a Saturday face unfair competition from investors purchasing their tenth house and these investors are getting a government taxpayer funded concession when they bid against a family or a couple trying to get their first home. But there is another set of problems, that is the problems that people who have insecure housing or are in fact homeless. I think this government under Mr Turnbull has gone backwards in its investments in social housing. When I think about housing I just don't think about the first home buyers, I think about the homeless and I think about renters who in many cases don't get a fair deal.
Thanks everybody and happy Easter.