THURSDAY, 4 MAY 2017
CLARE O’NEIL, SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE: Hi everyone, my name is Clare O'Neil. I am the federal member for Hotham and I am here today with Bill Shorten at the Holy Family School in Mount Waverley.
The day before yesterday, Malcolm Turnbull made an incredibly shocking announcement and that was a $22 billion cut to our education system. Now, I am very lucky as a local member of Parliament to spend a lot of my time talking to parents, I am a parent myself, and I can say with absolute conviction that the one thing that is of most concern to Australian parents is getting the absolute best for their children. $22 billion in cuts to schools is absolutely not in the best interest of Australian children.
Now, we know that Malcolm Turnbull has found his way to argue for the big banks, to argue for the biggest businesses in this country to get a $50 billion tax cut. The day before yesterday, we were told who was going to pay the price for that tax cut, and that is the young people that have showed us round this school today.
So I'll now hand over to Bill to hear a bit more.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good morning everybody, and it's great to be at Holy Family School where they're doing a great job educating the kids and fulfilling the hopes and dreams, not only of the kids, but of the parents who work so hard to send them to this school. I want to thank Steve Elder and the Catholic Education Commission for helping brief us on some of the changes which Mr Turnbull's cuts to education will mean for parents and for kids.
I'm a parent. I want the best for my kids and I want the best for everyone's kids. That's why Labor is completely opposed to Malcolm Turnbull's $22 billion in cuts to school funding over the next 10 years. We know for certain that Labor will always fund its schools better than the Liberals. We know for certain that Mr Turnbull announced that he will cut school funding over the next 10 years by $22 billion.
And we also know, through talking to the people who run the Catholic education system, a vast and successful education system, that we will see some Catholic schools face the prospect of closure. That parents who send their schools (sic) all around Australia to the parish schools will face an increase in fees. At this school, Holy Family, it is estimated that because of Malcolm Turnbull's cuts to education and school funding, fees will go up here by 140 per cent, or an extra $2,625 a year.
Mr Turnbull is dreadfully out of touch with everyday Australians. I think he radically overestimates how well-off the parents are who choose to send their kids to a Catholic parish school. Mr Turnbull needs to go back to the drawing board. He needs to drop the cuts. He needs to drop his attack on the Catholic education system. People shouldn't underestimate the important role that the Catholic education system plays in Australia's broader education system. It educates nearly 800,000 children. It's the second-largest provider of education in Australia. It is not unreasonable for parents who choose to send their children to get a Catholic education that, because they pay taxes to Canberra, that Canberra will reinvest some of those taxes back in the education of their children, and the choice of their parents to send them to a Catholic school.
Mr Turnbull is out of touch. He needs to drop his $22 billion cuts to education immediately. They shouldn't be in his Budget.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, this school stands to make an extra $73,000 next year so why would you stand in the way of that?
SHORTEN: Let's not play number games here. It really doesn't matter what Malcolm Turnbull says. I recognise there's a $22 billion cut. But put aside what I think, the schools know it's not good for them.
The schools have explained to me that this will lead to an increase in fees. It will mean that some parents won't be able to choose to give their kids a Catholic education, even if they want to. It will mean that in government schools, on average across the next 10 years, they'll have $2.4 million less. It's been estimated that the cut, $22 billion, means there'll be 22,000 teachers less than there would have otherwise been if the Government simply honoured previous Labor arrangements with the states and with the Catholic education system.
Why does Mr Turnbull think he knows more about the Catholic education system than the people who run the Catholic education system? Parents in Australia who pay their taxes to Canberra have a legitimate right that some of those taxes will be reinvested in the education of their children. Malcolm Turnbull needs to drop these cuts to school funding immediately. He needs to go back to the drawing board. Like so many other things that Malcolm Turnbull and his Government do, they get it wrong the first time they do it and now, they've got to recognise this policy is the wrong policy, they've got to drop it, go back to the drawing board, and start from the proposition of do no harm and cause no cuts.
JOURNALIST: So you've explained to the principal of this school that you'll stand in the way of a $4.3 million funding increase over 10 years?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear, I don't want the parents who send their kids to this fantastic school to have to pay an extra $2,625 a year just to send them to this school.
I will fight an increase in fees in the Catholic education system. I will fight for the right of parents to choose the sort of education they want to give their kids. And I will fight for the right of kids in government schools to be properly funded according to need. The fact of the matter is that this government, by its own documents, recognises that they're going to pay $22 billion less than the previous Labor government had arranged with the states and with the Catholic system, and this means that some schools will close in the Catholic system, fees will go up.
Mr Turnbull and I can have all the arguments we want, I'm going to listen to the experts. If the school administrators say that this means less money for them in the future than it would have otherwise been, that's a cut, that's bad for the kids, that's bad for the country.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday you accused the Prime Minister of leaving behind an education mess before he flies off to the United States to meet President Trump. Does that mean you wouldn't have gone to the trip with President Trump?
SHORTEN: No. It means I would've kept our word and properly funded schools.
Mr Turnbull has to see President Trump, and if the only time that President Trump could fit our Prime Minister in was this week, I guess Malcolm doesn't have much choice over that. He's still got to go. I see that's what his logic is. But he has flown out and leaving a mess. What I would have done is not caused an education mess in the first place. Malcolm Turnbull needs to go back to the drawing board.
Now, put aside the views of Labor and Liberal and the political argument, the schools know this is not good for them. They're the ones who are investing in the kids. If the schools say this is not good for them, then I think Malcolm Turnbull shouldn't be so arrogant as not to listen to them. It's his mess. No good him blaming anyone else. It shouldn't be in the Budget on Tuesday night. They need to rethink their whole approach to cutting education and harming the future of our kids and, indeed, the country, because educating our kids is the best thing I country can do.
JOURNALIST: What's your reaction to the mounting pressure on BHP to delist from the ASX?
SHORTEN: Well I, on April 19 I think, called out this raid on BHP. I made it clear in a press conference on April 19 at CSR Hebel on the Central Coast, that I thought this raid was ill-advised, that I wanted the Australian Government to stand up for the big Australian.
I don't want to see the head office or the listing of BHP move from Australia. I think we face challenges to our energy security if the petroleum operations are hived off, if North American operations are hived off. I don't want to see the head office move to the other side of the world.
I think that having BHP listed in Australia and head-officed in Australia makes a big differences to a whole lot of economic advantages this country currently enjoys. If we lose BHP, that would be a disaster.
JOURNALIST: What powers do the Federal Government has to stop it?
SHORTEN: There's a foreign investment review process to go through and I think that this government needs to make very clear whose side its on. In this case, I'm on the side of the big Australian, the thousands of people who work for it and the shareholders and investors. I don't want to see everything that Australia has sent offshore, sent overseas, lost on our watch. And we will work with the Government to support them in protecting Australian jobs and Australian industry, and an Australian head office which has been here since the formation of the company.
JOURNALIST: Just back on the education, how can you definitely call it a cut when Labor long-term funding was never fully budgeted for given forward estimates are only for four years?
SHORTEN: No, that's just not true at all. That's just Liberal propaganda.
The schools know this is not good for them and if they're saying to us this is not good for them, well I'm on the side of the school, the kids and the parents. Let's be very clear here, the Turnbull Government's own documents show that their offer is $22 billion light on what Labor would do.
And as for funding our schools, I've got a simple tip for Malcolm Turnbull - don't give $50 billion away to the big banks and multinationals. Why is that when given a choice between defending big banks and multinationals and giving them a tax cut, or defending Catholic and government schools and giving kids the best-funded education, why does Malcolm Turnbull always choose the big end of town over everyone else? This is a no-brainer. Malcolm Turnbull has got to drop these cuts to education, drop his attack on the Catholic education system, drop his attack which would see parents forced to pay more fees in the Catholic education system.
Malcolm Turnbull, you've made another mess yet again. Go back to the drawing board, start again for Pete's sake. It's not even about Labor and Liberal. It's about the kids and their parents.
It's very clear for me which side I'm on. I'm on the side of quality education for our kids.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Budget, the Victorian Government and the Federal Government are fighting over $1.45 billion for the assets recycling programs. What do you think we should, would you be handing over all that money to the Victorian government if you were in power?
SHORTEN: Well, if you've made a promise, you should keep it, Malcolm Turnbull. Victoria is getting a raw deal out of Canberra. We are currently, in Victoria, getting eight cents in every dollar of federal infrastructure funding. So of every dollar that the Commonwealth spends on infrastructure, only eight cents of it is being spent in Victoria on infrastructure. But Melbourne is the fastest-growing city in Australia, Victoria makes up 25 per cent of the population of Australia. So how is it under Malcolm Turnbull's anti-Victoria, anti-Melbourne attitude, that Victoria makes up 25 per cent of the population, yet they're only getting eight cents in every dollar?
Malcolm Turnbull, he is lost once he leaves Sydney. He couldn't find his way around Melbourne. The only time we ever see him in Melbourne is on the tram taking a selfie. We don't want him on the trams and public transport taking selfies. We want him funding public transport in Melbourne and in Victoria.
JOURNALIST: Terri Butler has rejuvenated debate on whether Labor should adopt a Buffet Rule on tax. Chris Bowen said Labor will not take a policy to the election. Do you stand by Mr Bowen's commitment?
SHORTEN: Yes and let's be clear here. We think that the tax system in Australia is unfairly skewed towards the top end of town. We have a bell-shaped tax system in Australia. If you earn no money, you pay no tax. Then you get to the bell, or the raised part, then what happens is that for middle-class, working-class people, they pretty much have to pay as you go tax. They don't have a real way to minimise too much of their tax. And you get to the other end where you earn a lot of money in this country and you have got many different ways of minimising your tax.
People know there's a two-class tax system in this country. Labor has got serious measures to start creating a fair tax system for all. That's why we're going to reform negative gearing. Why should a young couple supported by their mum and dad go for an auction every Saturday and have to face unfair competition from a property investor receiving a taxpayer concession?
It's not a level playing field in our tax system so we want to fix up negative gearing. We want to crack down on the multinationals and we'll have more to say in budget reply about how we create a fairer tax system.
JOURNALIST: The ALP Conference has called for a debate on Buffett. So why is Labor's economic leadership unwilling to have the debate? Do you think it looks like class warfare?
SHORTEN: Sorry, could you repeat that question again?
JOURNALIST: The ALP conference has called for a debate on Buffett. Why is Labor's economic leadership team unwilling to have this debate?
SHORTEN: The Labor Party I lead says that inequality in this country is at a 75-year high. Every day we are out there talking about how we can make this country fairer. There are two economic theories up for this country. You've got the Turnbull trickle-down economic theory, which is discredited. The argument that if you look after the rich; give them tax cuts, give them more tax concessions, that if you give tax cuts to large corporations, in Turnbull's theory of the world, that means that when the really well-off are doing well, some of the crumbs fall off the table. I don't buy that and the Labor Party doesn't buy it.
We're interested in looking after middle-class and working-class families. We think that if you invest in the kids, we think if you invest in infrastructure, we think that if you have a strong safety net, that's how you get a country going ahead. We just want to give all Australians an equal go and that is why we are so opposed to a $22 billion cut in education.
It's why I'm standing here at Holy Family, because parents who choose to send their children to the Catholic education system shouldn't have Malcolm Turnbull forcing them to pay increased fees and the prospect of school closure.
And more generally, Australians who pay their tax deserve to have some of that reinvested in the education of their children and we are not going to let Malcolm Turnbull get off scot-free from cutting $22 billion from schools over the next 10 years. Clearly his latest education announcements are a train wreck. They're going to cause disadvantage. They're going to cause unfairness and poor educational outcomes.
We say to Malcolm Turnbull - drop your education cuts. You know, the schools know what's happening and they know this is not good for them. Labor's going to listen to the schools, the teachers, the parents, because we're on the side of everyday Australians.