FRIDAY 13 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Federal Labor to deliver Ellenbrook rail line & thousands of jobs; energy crisis under Turnbull; GST; Labor Party review.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. It’s fantastic to be here with my Shadow Minister Anthony Albanese, with Premier Mark McGowan and his Minister Rita Safioti and a number of committed Labor Party parliamentarians who want to see a better deal for the West. I am pleased to announce that if a Labor Government is elected at the next Federal Election, one of our first decisions will be to allocate $700 million straight away to help build the Morley-Ellenbrook railway line. We’re doing this because we are very committed to, on one hand making sure that Perth has the best possible public transport system - it’s good news for jobs, good news for commuters, good news for traffic congestion. And also because we believe that Western Australia hasn't been receiving its fair share and we are committed to remedying that for our Fair Share for Western Australia Fund. I would now like to invite the Premier of Western Australia to talk further and then hear from our Ministers.
MARK MCGOWAN, PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks Bill. Can I first of all say it's a terrific day for Western Australia. This $700 million commitment towards the Morley-Ellenbrook railway is of enormous assistance. This $700 million commitment by Federal Labor towards the Morley to Ellenbrook railway is hugely appreciated and a terrific demonstration of the commitment by the Federal Labor Party to Western Australia. The Morley-Ellenbrook railway is needed. The hundreds of thousands of people living in that corridor deserve decent public transport and they deserve the thousands of jobs that come with this project. I'm very excited by this commitment. We remain committed to a 2019 start on this railway and a 2022 finish to this railway. It's been something that's been talked about for years. The state Liberal Party committed to it in 2008 and 2013 and failed to deliver. Under my Labor Government we will ensure that this railway is built. The people of the north-eastern corridor of Ellenbrook have been let down too many times. Between our government and Federal Labor, this $700 million commitment will help us immensely. I think the ball is now in Mr Turnbull's court. He needs to at least match this commitment by Federal Labor of $700 million towards this project, because we want to see Federal support for Western Australia in at least the same dimensions as that provided by the Federal Labor Party. So I'm very excited by this commitment, I think it's a terrific commitment to Western Australia. It helps the state taxpayers get on and build the Morley-Ellenbrook light railway.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Thanks very much. It's exciting to be back here at Perth's main rail station. This is the site of course of the Perth Citylink project funded by Federal Labor, just as we funded the Swan Valley bypass, the upgrade to the Tonkin Highway, the Gateway WA project, the Great Northern Highway, the upgrade to Esperance, the upgrade to Bunbury. When we were in government, we lifted funding for infrastructure for every West Australian from $154 to $261 while we were in office. Part of our $7 billion we delivered for WA. The current government is not delivering for WA and WA isn't getting its fair share. They're receiving eight per cent of infrastructure funding from the Federal Government. And they're not even doing what they said they would do. In the 2016 Budget, they said they'd spend $842 million in the financial year ahead - they only spent $614 million. So they're under-promising but even under-delivering on their weak promises. This is a project that's consistent with our commitment to public transport. In the past Federal Labor have worked with the WA State Government to deliver infrastructure and we want to do it again.
RITA SAFFIOTI, WA MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Thank you, Anthony. This is a great day for WA, it’s a great day for Metronet and it’s a great day for Ellenbrook. $700 million of new money that will be committed by a Bill Shorten Government to Metronet and the Ellenbrook line. This is something that we've been asking for and Federal Labor has listened. The Ellenbrook line is an essential part of our metro plan about connecting people in Ellenbrook, in Brabham, in Bennett Springs, in Noranda, in Morley to Perth, to jobs, to schools and hospitals. Yesterday we saw the state Liberal Party again try and derail Metronet. We will not be derailed. We will deliver Metronet and this $700 million commitment to the Ellenbrook line is a huge win for WA, and again shows that Federal Labor is keen to fund infrastructure in our state and I must say I think Federal Labor really listens to our priorities and I welcome the announcement.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Yes, Mr Shorten if you don't mind us asking another question today. Does Labor still support dumping junk policies even if, even if the advice is that it would see premiums rise?
SHORTEN: Well the Government has announced new changes to private health insurance and that question goes to how does Labor respond, our existing policies and what the Government is doing. We need to study very carefully the detail of what the Government is proposing. We want to examine it, we want to consult with the people who are affected by it.
I have a general concern. Private health insurance has been out of control in terms of price rises for families and for older Australians. It doesn't appear at first glance that the Turnbull Government has given any consideration to relieving the cost pressure on families, and people over the age of 30. So we will examine and inquire as to what is happening but I think everyone knows that ever since Medibank Private was actually sold off the health insurance companies have been a law unto themselves, just increasing premiums every time that you get a new bill. So we want to examine who are the winners in this government proposal, but more importantly, who will have to pay more and the answer to your question, we will examine that in the light of the Government's announcement.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, did your unpopularity cost Labor the last election?
SHORTEN: I think it is fair to say that in the last election Labor exceeded expectations. Now I'm acutely aware we didn't win the election but I think most fair-minded observers would say that the Labor Party is back and we are being a very strong opposition and indeed today's policy shows, we just don't want to be a strong opposition. We want to be a positive alternative government.
We are the only federal party coming to Perth, listening and working with the McGowan Government. We think there is a problem with the GST. And certainly, the dollars which the west have been getting seem very unfair, I think, to most people. And what we've done today, Albo and I with our announcement, working with the Premier McGowan and Minister Saffioti, is we're making a down payment to make life better for Perth commuters. To do something about looking after the neglected residents of the north-eastern suburbs of Perth. Ellenbrook and Morley, the Liberals have spoken about doing things for these people for a very long time; they've never done anything. All we say to Turnbull is match what we're saying, do better if you can but if you're not going to do anything, get out of the way and let Federal Labor work with Western Australia to get a fair deal for the west.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten why are you burying the Party's review of the election?
SHORTEN: Oh mate, reviews sometimes get released, sometimes they don't. One thing is for sure though, the Australian people looked at Labor within one term of our defeat in 2013 and took a much greater interest. And I care to believe they liked what they saw. What we have taken as the lesson from the last election is, work on our positive policies. We don't want people to vote for us at the next election just because we're not as out of touch as Turnbull and his Government. We don't want people to vote for Labor at the next election just because we won't stand up - because we will stand up against vested interests.
We want people to vote for us based on our positive policies. Today the proof is in the pudding of our lesson from the last election. We're here. We've got the train here. We want to back in investing in the Morley-Ellenbrook line, which is going to be good news for Perth commuters, good news for the people in the affected suburbs and good news for jobs, good for Western Australia. And we know we want to work with Premier Mark McGowan who is as fierce a warrior for Western Australia, as has come out of the west in many decades.
JOURNALIST: Are you still willing to take a bipartisan approach to energy policy?
SHORTEN: We’re willing to take a bipartisan approach to energy policy, the problem is that Turnbull and his crew think that bipartisan means when Tony Abbott and Turnbull can sit in the same room. The reality is that climate change is real. The reality is that energy prices keep going up and up and up. The Government has got no plan, the single biggest driver of household energy bills in this country is a lack of climate and energy policy.
The Turnbull Government is so out of touch they're just fighting each other. In the meantime we say we will work with the Chief Scientist and the Clean Energy Target. The Turnbull Government is just out of touch. They don't get how you know, ordinary, everyday Australians live their lives. Power bills are going up because the Turnbull Government hasn't got a policy on energy.
JOURNALIST: You say you've listened to the State Government on [inaudiable]. Are you prepared to listen to the State Government when it comes to changing the GST formula?
SHORTEN: Certainly the State Government and Mark McGowan both when he was in opposition and now Premier, makes the very persuasive case that Western Australia hasn't been getting its fair share of federal resources. But I also want to be very clear. We don't believe that the only solution to pay Western Australia more is to take money from other states. That's why we've set up our Western Australia Fair Share Fund. We can afford to invest in much-needed infrastructure in Western Australia because we're not going to give multibillion dollar tax cuts to the top end of town.
See Turnbull doesn't have the options we've got. If he wants to solve one problem, he's got to cause a problem somewhere else. We say to Turnbull, stop having this sort of hunger games between the states and don't go ahead with your corporate tax cuts giving the big banks and foreign multinationals massive tax cuts. That's how we can pay for our promises.
JOURNALIST: So that's a no from you then to changing the actual distribution system?
SHORTEN: Well, let's wait and see what the final Productivity Commission reports.
JOURNALIST: But you said this morning in the paper that the Turnbull Government's hiding behind that review, aren't you hiding behind that if you don't answer that question of committing?
SHORTEN: Turnbull is hiding in his bunker in Sydney - where is he? He doesn't come to Western Australia. You can see the fingernail marks on the Nullabor whenever he is dragged to be here, you know he doesn't like coming here because he hasn't got an answer. We're not hiding, we're here today, Mark McGowan and Rita Saffioti, Albo and I are here. We're saying that we want to build the Morley-Ellenbrook train line. We're saying to Turnbull, you do it. We don't mind if you do it first. But if you're not going to do it, get out of the way and let the people who want to look after Perth and Western Australia get on with the job of looking after the people in Perth.
JOURNALIST: Are you aware of how much of a political storm this Ellenbook rail line is and any further delays, or if anything falls through with this funding, how bad that is going to look?
SHORTEN: Plenty of experts in my line here can supplement this answer, but what I'm aware of is this railway line is long overdue. You've got suburbs who deserve to be serviced by public transport. Successive Liberal administrations at the West Australian and the national level talk a lot but they never take any action. Since Mark McGowan and his team have got in, they've just rolled up their sleeves, they're trying to repair the messes that Barnett left the state in, but they are determined to improve the quality of life for everyday Perth citizens. So we're here saying, we're up for it. We can find the money to build the much-needed railway line because we're not giving corporate tax cuts to the big end of town. But I might get Albo to talk a bit further about some of the history in our commitment.
ALBANESE: Of course, it is understandable given that Colin Barnett promised this rail line almost a decade ago. The fact is though, look at our record. We not only delivered what we said we would, including this project here, uniting the city with the Northbridge precinct when we were in government, we delivered on every single project. And indeed, the Forrestfield rail line to the airport is a $480 million Federal contribution - they cut $500 million that we had in the Budget in 2013. So they cut it when they came to office at the end of 2013, put it back and pretended that they had something to do with it.
Malcolm Turnbull loves taking selfies on trains, he just won't fund them. Well, we will fund them. We will fund them because we're interested in jobs in the short-term, but we're also interested in how our cities function, and to do that, you've actually got to invest in infrastructure, particularly in public transport, but also here in WA, Gateway WA, the largest ever roads project here in Perth, or in WA, and it was delivered - $878 million by Federal Labor.
JOURNALIST: Would you have won the last election if you were leader?
ALBANESE: Look, we did very well in the last election. We won seats right around the country, including here in WA. And you know what characterises Labor? We're a team. Unlike the rabble on the other side, we're out there working each and every day. I'm out there working on infrastructure and transport issues, cities, tourism, regional development, and you know what? It's fantastic to have a leader in Bill Shorten who backs in the infrastructure agenda and that's the latest instalment - is what is happening here today.
JOURNALIST: Labor tradition is very much to look at what went right and wrong. What are you guys scared of? Why won't you basically release the party's review, talk about it a little bit more and perhaps maybe this issue of your unpopularity costing the party an election?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm a bit of an historian; I can remember what happened before yesterday. People didn't give Labor any chance when Turnbull took over. Mind you, they gave us no chance when Abbott won the 2013 election, everyone said well that's the end of history, Tony Abbott will be here for three terms. Now even the Liberal Party realised what a dumb idea that was. And then we got Turnbull up - everyone said well, you know that's it, he will be there for a decade.
The point is people are not interested in the personalities; they are interested in the action and the substance. Labor put together policies for the last elections - 100 Positive Policies and we campaigned on them and we got very close. And I think if you look at all of the experts - we surprised. But we know we didn't win, and we hear the lesson loud and clear. So what we are doing every day since the last election is we've been out campaigning and working on our positive policies.
I tell you what I reckon the people of Perth want to know - what is it that a Prime Minister will do for them and their families and their lives? What I can promise people is that we will build, with Mark McGowan, the Ellenbrook-Morley line. What I can promise people of Western Australia, is that we have got an infrastructure policy and the funds put aside to not only remedy some of the unfairness which West Australia's been receiving in terms of Commonwealth funding but to provide the liveability and the opportunities for jobs in Western Australia. We are working every day and I think the proof is in the fact we're here and Turnbull is not.
JOURNALIST: The WA Liberal leader Mike Nahan yesterday called on your state colleagues to dump parts of Metronet including for Ellenbrook. That's at odds with the Member for Pearce, a seat you want to pick up - Christian Porter. Is that a gift?
SHORTEN: We're very lucky to have the Premier here to answer what Nahan is doing. But in terms of the division between - the confusion between the Federal Liberals, poor old Christian Porter feeling the hot breath of the voters on his neck has realised that they should do something about the Ellenbrook railway line. But the problem is he didn't bring money to the deal. Instead he gets into silly arguments with the well-informed State Minister for Transport. I just say to Turnbull, do the work, and stop talking about it. Get out of your ivory tower, get out amongst the people, go and actually make a promise and deliver it, start building. He's the Prime Minister. If people want the Ellenbrook-Morley line to be started now, ring Malcolm Turnbull because he's the one holding it up. But why don't we get the Premier here while he's here.
JOURNALIST: Premier just on that same question.
MCGOWAN: Well, obviously the Liberal Party is a complete mess; it's a complete mess in Western Australia. They obviously don't support decent public transport, they don't support Metronet. They don't want to see the people of Morley or Ellenbrook, or Yanchep or Byford to have access to decent public transport. They don't support an upgrade to the hospital in Joondalup. The State Liberal Party at the moment is unfit for office.