THURSDAY, 27 APRIL 2017
SUBJECTS: Housing affordability; Gas crisis; Budget speculation; Liberal division; Dairy crisis
ROB MITCHELL, LABOR MEMBER FOR MCEWEN: Well, good morning and welcome to Cloverton, here in the seat of McEwen. McEwen has two of the highest number of mortgage stressed suburbs in Australia. The challenge we have with young people buying housing in this day and age is affordability. So we have got Bill Shorten out here today to talk about housing affordability.
Under this Government, the Turnbull Government, we've seen home ownership for 25-34 year olds fall now to below 40 per cent. 60 per cent of the people looking for a home can't afford because the Government's inaction. That's why it is important to have Bill out here to talk about Labor's housing policy and what we are going to do to bring housing affordability to people of McEwen and across Australia. So I'll hand over to you, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Rob. It's great to be out here and it's great to see that the Cloverton estate, being developed by Stockland - it is reassuring to see that young Australia can, after a lot of effort, get into the housing market at great places like this.
But being able to buy your first home shouldn't be as difficult as it is in 2017. In Melbourne, since the Liberals got in, in 2013, housing prices have skyrocketed over 30 per cent. In Sydney, it is closer to 50 per cent. Now, I had the privilege to talk to a great young couple, Theresa and Guy and they explained, for two years plus how long they have struggled just to get their foot in the door of their first home. Now, they have managed to break through but it is just simply too hard for tens of thousands of families like Theresa and Guy.
It is too hard for ordinary Australians to live out the great Australian dream of getting their first home because the housing market for first home owners is rigged against ordinary Australians. It is not a level playing field. It is not fair that every Saturday around Australia, young people who work hard, like Theresa and Guy - working in a special needs school, working as a forklift driver on the afternoon shift, working really hard - when they go to an auction on a Saturday, supported by their parents, tens of thousands of impressive couples like Theresa and Guy, the playing field is not level. They compete against investors who are getting a taxpayer funded concession, and that this is what's keeping young Australians out of the housing market.
It is a crazy set of circumstances where young people are paying taxes and the taxes they pay come back in the form of concessions to well-off people to compete against them to buy their first home. There is no level playing field and the situation is rigged.
Labor has comprehensive plans to improve supply and to improve housing affordability. The real shame is Malcolm Turnbull and his Government are so terribly out of touch with the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Australians. It is time to deal with housing affordability. Labor has got a plan and we invite the Liberals to step up and start caring about housing affordability of ordinary Australians.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, as you know, the Anglicare rental affordability snapshot today, found that less than half a per cent of rentals on the private market are affordable to young people on NewStart and the youth allowance. It wants the Government to increase those payments to ease the cost of living, so what will Labor commit to in terms of that?
SHORTEN: We have said that if elected, we will review the pension system because you're quite right, they are so low now that it is not a question for these people to be able to afford their first home, they just want some secure housing.
Labor has a plan not just for first home buyers, that we announced last week. We've also made it clear that we want to see greater investment in new housing which will improve the stock of housing and therefore help with issues of rental affordability. We have also said that we want to go back and renegotiate proper agreements with the States to make sure that the stock of public housing is improved. We've said that we would spend $88 million over the next two years helping survivors of domestic violence be able to find safe accommodation. Labor has got a series of plans from reviewing the NewStart allowance, through to improving supply, through to getting a better deal for renters and people in public housing.
We understand that the best thing we can do in this society as a Government, is make sure people have a good job, make sure also that they have secure accommodation. So our focus is not just first home buyers, it's also for people who have no prospect of getting into the housing market but just want to have reasonable rents and secure accommodation.
JOURNALIST: The Government will be stopping gas from being exported during times where the domestic supply is low. The Prime Minister says this will drop prices for consumers. Is this a good move?
SHORTEN: Well for months I and Labor have been warning that we have a gas crisis. Last week, for example, I was at the BlueScope steel mills in Wollongong where their prices are going up for gas. I visited the Qenos facility, a big factory in Altona in Melbourne. I visited CSR at their brick making operations on the Central Coast. There is a gas crisis in this country because under the Turnbull Government, it is cheaper for a Japanese company to buy Australian gas than it is for an Australian company to buy Australian gas. This is a crisis.
How on earth has it taken this long for Turnbull to wake up and realise that Australian jobs are under threat because when it is cheaper to buy Australian gas overseas than it is cheaper for Australians to pay for Australian gas in Australia, this is a real problem. Now, Turnbull has woken up to this. I have spoken about the gas crisis because I care about Australian jobs. He cares about his own job and he realised that this gas crisis isn't just bad news for industry and householders, it is bad news for his own electoral fortunes.
But this morning, Mr Turnbull made the statement that under him, gas prices will halve. He said on Brisbane radio, gas prices will halve for industry, for householders. Well, Mr Turnbull needs to explain to people exactly when the gas prices are going to halve. He said from July 1 the new system comes into place.
Mr Turnbull has a track record of making announcements and then moving onto the next issue. The problem with a lot of his announcements is they tend to raise more questions than answers. So, if Mr Turnbull's promised Australians that gas prices will halve, I want to hear that promise from the gas companies. Because without the gas companies confirming that, what Mr Turnbull is saying is just words, just hot air. I want the gas companies, who have caused a lot of this problem because they have prioritised exporting Australian gas overseas rather than looking after Australians at home, I want these same gas companies to put their hand up and say "yep, gas prices are going to halve. Malcolm Turnbull is right and from 1 July this new system comes into place". Because if the gas companies won't verify Mr Turnbull's extravagant promises of halving gas prices, well then, Turnbull has got a case to answer to the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: So do you support the move? Is it a good one?
SHORTEN: Well we have been calling for the need to restrain exports if the companies won't supply domestically.
I make no apology - and I have been attacked by conservatives - I make no apology for saying that the system is a joke when a Japanese company can buy Australian gas in Japan more cheaply than an Australian company can buy Australian gas in Australia. I have said all along here that this gas comes from Australia, it belongs to Australians and to Australian industries.
Now, If we produce more gas than we need for our domestic needs, by all means export it. Fantastic. But in a beauty parade, I will always pick an Australian job over a job overseas. I will always pick an Australian company over a company overseas. This gas belongs in Australia.
So I support making sure that gas companies keep their social contract with the Australian people. After all, these are natural resources extracted from Australia. Now Turnbull has been dragging his feet on this issue but he has woken up because he is worried about his own job and he has listened to Labor now. But what Mr Turnbull has to do is explain exactly how he is going to legislate these proposals. And I think these are important questions to ask him: will he bring legislation into Parliament in the next few weeks before July 1 when his new system that he has promised comes into place?
But today Mr Turnbull said, having done nothing, now he has promised that he is going to halve the prices and this new wonderful system comes in on July 1. We need to hear the gas companies explain and confirm that Mr Turnbull, what he said on radio is right, that gas prices will halve. And if the gas companies aren't willing to confirm what Mr Turnbull's promised the Australian people, well then Mr Turnbull has a lot of explaining to do to the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Should you be urging Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Labor Government to free up gas supplies here in Victoria?
SHORTEN: Well as you would appreciate by the fact you have asked that question, developing new gas field will take years. Now, I do think that we need to develop new gas fields, natural gas, but what I also think is that we have got a crisis right now.
So the long term issue of continuity of supply of gas is an important issue. But just focusing on that is like promising a drowning man that you are going to go off and build a boat. It will be too late. So what I want the gas companies to do is confirm what Mr Turnbull has promised on radio this morning.
We didn't ask Mr Turnbull to say the price will go down from $20 per gigajoule to $10 or less. Mr Turnbull has now put out that because of him, on July 1, we are going to see a significant reductions in gas prices. And that in fact the price of gas will halve and it will be lower than international prices in the future. We do support, when there is market failure, governments stepping in.
I make no apologies for believing that Australian gas should be prioritised for Australian domestic needs first and that we need to make sure that the gas companies are being truthful with us. But I think the gas companies now need to confirm that gas prices are going to drop in the radical nature which Mr Turnbull has promised on radio this morning.
I think we also need Mr Turnbull to explain does he want new legislation? Is this a one off statement to rattle the bars of the cages of the gas companies and sort of scare them back into doing the right thing? Or are we going to put in a permanent solution that means that never again can we be stuck in the situation that a Japanese or Korean industrial company can buy Australian gas more cheaply than an Australian company can pay for Australian gas.
JOURNALIST: In your view, is Turnbull's plan a long term fix or does more need to be done?
SHORTEN: Let's see what he is actually doing. What we need is more than a short term media release. Now, we are up for making sure the gas companies prioritise Australian needs first, we are up for that, and for Australian jobs.
Mr Turnbull's made the promise, the prediction that gas prices will halve, that the new system will come in on 1 July. I want to hear the gas companies confirm that they are signed up to this. I want to hear that because without the gas companies, it is just more talk and more crisis. I also would like Mr Turnbull to explain is he just going to issue this statement by press release or are we going to put some mechanisms in place that make sure Australians don't have a gas crisis?
JOURNALIST: Just on the upcoming Budget next month, Mr Shorten, is borrowing for welfare and health bills good policy?
SHORTEN: Well, the Government doesn't like to talk about the last four years but back in 2013, they asked Australians to vote for them on the basis of the most important job for a Liberal-National Government was to cut debt and cut deficit.
Today, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are changing the goalposts. It is tantamount to an admission of failure. They say that they can't get on top of the debt so they are going to redefine the debt. This is absolute surrender by the Government. They trickily going to change the goalposts - they are changing the goalposts.
This definition of good debt, I will tell you what is not good debt, it's when you increase the amount of debt that Australians owe so you can give a tax hand-out to your rich mates. That is not good debt. This $50 billion of corporate tax giveaway that Turnbull and Morrison want to give the big end of town, that's going to put extra debt on the backs of every Australian. Under the Liberals in the last 4 years, the net debt of every Australian man, woman and child has increased by $4,000. $4,000 extra net debt on every Australian man, woman and child since the Liberals got elected.
Malcolm Turnbull famously back in 2009, to attack the then Labor Government got a debt truck out to highlight the debt that he said was a problem then. Malcolm Turnbull will now need a road train to cover the Turnbull-Morrison debt which is being inflicted on every Australian.
JOURNALIST: Where do you stand on preselection challenges to sitting MPs? Should it always be off the table or are there circumstances where a sitting MP should be challenged?
SHORTEN: I don't deal in hypotheticals. What I do know is that when Kelly O'Dwyer went on maternity leave, all of a sudden she has been subjected to a barrage of undermining by the Liberals. But that's just part and parcel for the Liberal Party. They are so divided, they want to challenge Tony Abbott, they want to challenge Kelly O'Dwyer. You know, one of the issues is they don't have enough women in Parliament. But how is it that the Liberals, who have a record low number of MPs compared to Labor, manage to find that the only person they want to talk about getting rid of is a woman MP and the only opportunity they see for Peta Credlin, a Liberal woman, is to get there by knocking off another Liberal woman.
The Liberal Party is in a complete mess.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, we've seen reports that counter terrorism police have been prevented with engaging with extremist because of (inaudible) or not enough psychologists. I mean, how concerning is this to Australian people?
SHORTEN: Well, countering violent extremism is absolutely a top priority. I'm appalled if the Government has been incompetent. We give the Government support to counter violent extremism, but they've actually got to get on and do their day job.
Let's be really straight here: this is something which would concern all Australians. We know the vast bulk of Australians are very committed to the safety and security of all Australians, but there are some people who get radicalised, a small number. So we should be doing everything we can to stop the radicalisation of vulnerable people into becoming something far worse.
JOURNALIST: So what would you do then? What specifically needs to be done?
SHORTEN: Well, I think the Government needs to work with the community, it needs to put the resources in. It needs to make sure it is reaching out and actually providing the opportunities to pick up the signals when someone is about to jump off the tracks, so to speak, go off the rails, so we can pull them back in and get them going on the right path.
You need to do that but you can't do that on the cheap. Countering violent extremism should have all the resources it needs to be thrown at it. And you know, we offer Dr Anne Aly, who is a member of the Labor parliamentary team. She is an expert, she was invited to the White House to talk about it. We will work with the Government on this but I just say to the Government, please pull your socks up on this. Countering extremism is not a second order issue, it is not something you do for a press release and forget about. This is something which has to be a 365-day, 24 hour a day proposition.
JOURNALIST: It's a year to the day today actually that the dairy crisis hit farmers? Do you think the Government's done enough to help farmers across Australia (inaudible) this dairy crisis?
SHORTEN: Barnaby Joyce has never seen a microphone or camera that he won't stop in front of, but the problem is when it actually comes to following up, he hasn't done the work. Let's be really clear here, our dairy farmers are seeing the prices that they are paid for their work going down, it was meant to go up. There is no doubt in my mind that despite what the Government said, when it comes to action, they will always back the big business against the little guy, the farmers every time. They have been selling out the farmers and a year later, I think this is just a debacle and Joyce should hang his head in shame.
Perhaps one last question if there is one?
Great, thanks very much, everybody.