SUNDAY, 19 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT/s: Rally against cuts to penalty rates; Malcolm Turnbull’s twitter meltdown; child care; marriage equality.
TIM WATTS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GELLIBRAND: Good afternoon. Welcome to Williamstown in Melbourne's west at this Labor Community Action Network rally with Bill Shorten against Malcolm Turnbull's penalty rate cuts.
I've got to say, that the last few weeks are some of the proudest weeks I've had as a Federal Labor MP. I'm really proud because we're taking up the fight against the Turnbull Government on one the most fundamental bread and butter issues you can imagine, the take home pay of working Australians. It's why the Labor Party was founded, it's a fight we've been having for hundreds of years.
As you can see behind me, hundreds of people from my community have been coming out in support of this fight. The fight you see in Canberra is a reflection of the fight we're seeing across our communities. All of these people behind us are spending their Sundays fighting in the name of people who are spending their Sundays at work and making sure they get the pay that they deserve.
So on that note, I'm really pleased to hand over to the Leader of the Federal Labor Party, Bill Shorten, to talk about why we're here today. Thanks Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tim. It's great to be in Williamstown with hundreds of people on a Sunday, who are determined to protect the pay rates of everyone else who is working on a Sunday.
Parliament starts again tomorrow and we have a great opportunity this week to reverse the cuts to penalty rates. I and Labor will fight tooth and nail this week to ensure that we stop the cuts to penalty rates.
We think this a very important issue to the living standards of working people. No doubt this week, Mr Turnbull and his Coalition will try every distraction under the sun to stop us talking about penalty rates but penalty rates are very important to working people. And even as important as penalty rates are, we're having this fight on penalty rates for the living standards of working people because if the Liberals and Mr Turnbull get away with cutting penalty rates, it is the thin edge of the wedge for the living standards and working conditions of all working Australians.
Before I take questions, I'd also just like to briefly note that it would appear that my opposite number has been on a tweet rampage this morning - a tweet meltdown if you like. I'm starting to feel sorry for Mr Turnbull. He's launched his tweet meltdown and he finishes it as he finishes every conversation with the public these days, with a personal attack on me.
Mr Turnbull is showing, I think, signs of pressure. If you can't cope with the pressure, you shouldn't blame Labor, instead he should focus on the needs of everyday Australians - that's my focus.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: This looks like a nice rally but what can a rally actually achieve, what can be done here?
SHORTEN: We want to send a message to millions of Australians that politics isn't a done deal. We want to involve Australians in the decisions which affect Australians.
The Labor Party is going to campaign not just in Parliament against the cuts to penalty rates. We intend to have conversations with Australians in their workplaces and in their communities.
The point of a gathering like this is to give hope to tens and hundreds of thousands of Australians who are worried about losing their penalty rates, that if you vote Labor at the next election we can protect your penalty rates, that if you get involved we can actually stop a bad decision.
This country's got a very clear choice - we're at a crossroads. We can go down the Turnbull path of $50 billion worth of corporate tax cuts and protecting negative gearing, which supports speculators over first home buyers, or we can stand up for middle and working class Australians. Protect their penalty rates, protect Medicare and make sure first homebuyers get a fair deal when they try and live the dream of a first home.
JOURNALIST: What about child care costs? Seems like the Government wants to talk about child care costs this week and it looks like fees have increased by eight per cent in the June quarter since last year. Why won't Labor back what the Government's trying to do there with child care costs?
SHORTEN: There is clearly a child care problem in Australia. The fees keep going up and up and it is becoming disincentive for people to return to work. But the problem is that the Government's been in power for four years. It's not enough for Mr Turnbull to blame someone else for the Government's inaction.
Mr Turnbull's thrashing around, but why on earth does he want to link improvements to child care to cuts to family benefits? We don't believe in robbing Peter to pay Paul. Labor will never be bullied into supporting laws which cut the conditions and circumstances of working families in this country.
Labor will never be bullied by him to join the Liberals in making the case that those who are less well-off should receive the brunt of the cuts. If Mr Turnbull wants to pay for the child care reforms, he can drop his unsustainable $50 billion corporate tax giveaway - it's as easy as that.
JOURNALIST: That sounds really good, especially from a Labor point of view, but how can you justify that to a working mum who's really struggling and needs to see these costs dropped, just like they need to keep their penalty rates –
SHORTEN: I make this invitation very clearly to Mr Turnbull. We will vote to improve the deal for child care, absolutely, so long as he drops his cut to family payments.
If Mr Turnbull wants to know how to pay for improvements to child care, I can find him $50 billion by him dropping the cuts that he wants to give to the largest companies in Australia by reducing their tax.
Mr Turnbull can pay for child care reforms without cutting family payments, without seeing penalty rates cuts, without going after Medicare if he simply drops his $50 billion worth of corporate tax cuts.
Mr Turnbull's made a choice. He's choosing to give $50 billion of tax cuts to the largest companies in Australia. We're choosing to back families and people who depend upon penalty rates.
JOURNALIST: So in isolation you support the Government's child care reforms, it's just the fact that it's tied to other things that is the real problem for you?
SHORTEN: We don't think that the reforms are the greatest reforms but we're willing to work with the Government on child care reforms. The problem is it's Mr Turnbull who has tied the child care reforms to savage cuts to family payments.
Mr Turnbull can thrash around all he likes and blame everyone for what's going wrong in his government, the fact of the matter is Labor will never be bullied into supporting laws which cut the living standards of everyday Australians. And no amount of foot-stamping from Mr Turnbull is going to make us change our mind.
I notice that Liberal Party, again, and perhaps this is explaining some of the pressure which Mr Turnbull feels under, is again at war with itself over marriage equality. Mr Turnbull, I know, supports a vote in Parliament on marriage equality but he just lacks the ticker to confront the bullies of the right wing of the Liberal Party.
Peter Dutton's been out attacking companies and accusing them of bullying people on marriage equality. I wish the right wing of the Liberal Party would stop bullying Mr Turnbull. I want Mr Turnbull to do the right thing, to get on with marriage equality, to do what he actually believes himself which is have a vote in Parliament. He's got to actually confront the right wing of the Liberal Party and we will back the vote on marriage equality as soon as possible, which is what Australians want us to do.