MONDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Renewable energy; housing affordability; economic performance of Western Australia; paid parental leave; GST; Malcolm Turnbull’s birthday
JOSH WILSON, MEMBER FOR FREMANTLE: Good morning everyone. I'm Josh Wilson, I'm the Federal Member for Fremantle, and it's fantastic to have Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Labor Opposition here in Freo, here in the West again.
We've just had a fantastic visit at Carnegie Wave Power, an exciting and distinctive player in the renewable energy space. We hear a lot about wind, we hear a lot about solar, we don't talk about ocean power, and yet, of course, Australia is very well placed to derive or to harness the kind of incredible kinetic energy of the ocean as we go forward.
There's no greater policy contrast between Labor and the Coalition than in the renewable energy space. I can say as a new parliamentarian that it's great to be a part of the fight to save funding for ARENA in the first few months of this Parliament – a fight that Labor had and that Labor won. And it's fantastic to have Bill here today and I'm going to hand over to him.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Josh and good morning everybody. It's great to be here at Carnegie Wave Power, seeing the jobs of the future, our energy supply of the future, investment of the future, and indeed action on climate change for the future, all happening right here. This is a great company. There's been over $100 million generated, it employs 45 people, it’s delivering world-class, world leading edge technology. And that's why I'm here, because Labor will stand up for renewable energy as part of our energy mix going forward.
Last week we saw the unedifying spectacle in Canberra of the Government being more interested in a guns for votes scandal than talking about the future of this country. But I'm here today to reassure Australians, we believe that renewable energy is part of our energy mix going forward. We believe that Australia can win a competition for investment against the rest of the world. Our engineers and scientists are just as good as anyone anywhere else in the world. We're blessed by the opportunities of ocean power, marine renewable energy, going forward. And I'm determined to make sure that this country doesn't miss the boat, that we actually get on board with the future of climate change, renewable energy, good blue-collar jobs, and of course, much-needed investment for Western Australia.
Happy to take questions on this or any other matters that people might have.
JOURNALIST: Is it a bit rich for Scott Morrison today to be lecturing the states on land release and stamp duty for first home buyers?
SHORTEN: Absolutely. During the election the Government said nothing about housing affordability. They rubbished Labor's plans to help improve housing affordability in this country. But now, belatedly, the Government's engaging in a cruel hoax. They are pretending to want to do something about housing affordability for young adult Australians, yet all they're proposing is that the states make some administrative changes. Scott Morrison's coming to the debate about housing affordability but offering not one measure that he himself can do.
It isn't right that when you stand on the balcony of a harbourside mansion, that you lecture Australians, 'just get-rich parents'. Getting a home deposit in Australia is a lot harder than it looks. Back in about 1990, for instance, in Sydney, it would take about five times your average income to be able to afford a house, for the price of the house. Now that's stretched to 15 times your income. Once upon a time, 25 years ago, a deposit took about three years to get together. Now it's taking about ten years.
The level of home ownership in this country for middle class and working class Australians has fallen to an unacceptable low. Now, Labor is saying we'll applaud the Government, Mr Turnbull and his team, if they're going to actually do something to make a difference, but it's a cruel hoax to Australians when they say they want to do something about it, the Federal Government, and all they're doing is lecturing the states to do something about it. It's about time they had an impact on housing affordability, making sensible reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts, a measure which will help contribute to the great Australian dream of being able to afford a mortgage.
JOURNALIST: In one breath in his speech today he said that Australian housing is too expensive but then said our housing markets are substantially sound. Does that make sense?
SHORTEN: Listen, Scott Morrison doesn't know what day of the week it is, frankly, unless someone tells him. What he's done today – his speech is a massive hoax on young adult Australians. Remember, the only advice that Malcolm Turnbull's ever had for young Australians is ‘get rich parents’. Now he wants to lecture the states.
If he actually wanted to do something, if Turnbull and Morrison actually wanted to do something about housing affordability, they wouldn't just give a lecture to the states. What they'd start doing is looking at sensible reforms to negative gearing and to capital gains tax discounts. Why is that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are so out of touch that they'd fight for the right for a property speculator to be able to get a tax concession to buy their tenth house, yet they do nothing for millions of ordinary Australian – working class and middle class Australian families – who just want to see their kids get into the housing market to get their first house?
JOURNALIST: CommSec's state of the state report is out today, and WA has fared pretty terribly, we're last, what's going on?
SHORTEN: Well, I think you probably need to change the Government of Western Australia to a McGowan Government. Let's face it, I mean it's a state issue, some of the issues are, but there's no question that Colin Barnett and the Liberals have squandered the mining boom. What has Western Australia got to show for one of the biggest mining booms in the history of Australia? Nothing. By the same token, it's very important that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison get up off their bottom and start doing something about helping Western Australia.
We want to see proper NBN here. You need to have a Perth METRONET public transport which will generate jobs. Everyone knew the mining boom would come to an end, but Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, Colin Barnett and the team, they've just been caught flat-footed, and as a result, Western Australia's been the hardest hit when it's actually been doing so much to help generate jobs and growth in this country.
JOURNALIST: Just again on housing affordability, do you support the calls for the states to increase supply, or do you think that the Federal Government has a responsibility to be looking at capital gains tax and negative gearing?
SHORTEN: Well I have always said that housing affordability has a lot of factors, and of course, there is an issue to make sure that there's a supply of housing and supply of land. But I'm not going to pretend to be a hero and just say it's all the issue of the states. Really, isn't that what is so pathetic about what Morrison and Turnbull are doing today? They want to pretend to be a hero, they want a grab up on the nightly news that they discovered housing affordability is a problem. Well Australians already know that housing affordability is a problem.
What makes me, frankly, so frustrated and angry at the Government is that on one hand, they want to pretend to be a hero, but they're perpetuating a massive hoax. They are not going to do anything that the Federal Government can do to influence housing prices, including sensible negative gearing and capital gains tax reforms.
JOURNALIST: You're putting all your eggs into the negative gearing basket, though. Do you have any other solutions to housing affordability?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, if Scott Morrison wants to be state Treasurer, then I think he should get into the debate of land taxes and land release. The last time I checked, he's still the federal Treasurer of Australia.
Different levels of government have got responsibilities, so as I said, there are plenty of factors on the supply side which influence the availability and affordability of housing. But one thing the Federal Government can do, without standing up and giving a sanctimonious lecture, a massive hoax, pretending to do something when in fact they're not, one thing that Turnbull and Morrison can do is help reform negative gearing going forward.
How is it that this country spends more on capital gains tax discount concessions and negative gearing than we do on higher education or on child care? This government is not serious about helping middle-class and working-class West Australian and Australian families. But they have got a plan to give a $50 billion tax cut for the largest companies in Australia. They got a plan to give multi-millionaires tens of thousands of dollars in tax cuts. But they've got no plan to reform the tax system to make sure that young adult Australians get a fair dinkum crack at being able to afford a mortgage. When home ownership levels are down to very low levels, the Federal Government, it is not good for Turnbull and Morrison just to say, ‘get rich parents’ or ‘the states have to do something’.
Can I have a couple of more questions, thanks.
JOURNALIST: A few more months out from a state election – what offer can you make to fix the GST for WA?
SHORTEN: One thing I won't do is do what my friend, Malcolm Turnbull, did a month or so ago and in his sporadic visit to Western Australia after his election. He got up, I think at a Liberal Party gathering, and said he would make sure that they reform GST and put a floor price, I think he talked about. But he couldn't wait to get on the plane back east and say something else to all the other states as soon as they complained. His own head of the Prime Minister and Cabinet department, Martin Parkinson, when he was in Treasury, recommended against a floor price. So what I won't do is what Malcolm Turnbull does – which is say one thing on the west coast and then do something else on the east coast. We're up for serious proposals which can come from the West Australian Government and the McGowan Government, if they get elected, who will be proper advocates for the West, and we'll seriously look at what is proposed to us. But what we also have to do is not make promises that we won't keep.
JOURNALIST: Just on climate policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund is going to exhaust it's brief by next year. Do you think it's time for bipartisan talks or a replacement plan be made?
SHORTEN: We'd love bipartisanship on climate change. But there's been a lot of fuss in Canberra last week about the civil war which just went public in the Parliament between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. On the weekend you saw the Liberals trying to paper over the division, they tried to pretend that the Liberal Party is not divided down the middle, and Turnbull had a win over Abbott. When it comes to climate change policy, it may be Malcolm Turnbull at the front, but he's only the puppet to Tony Abbott's climate change policies.
We're not going to get bipartisanship while Malcolm Turnbull has lost his spine on climate change. He did have it once, no questioning that, but now he's so keen to keep his job he'll swap climate change policy for climate scepticism. He'll swap guns for votes and he won't take any real action in terms of the fundamental issue including for standing up for renewable energy.
Perhaps the last question.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on paid parental leave scheme. Why should women who are entitled to generous paid parental leave schemes also be given 18 weeks of leave from the Government?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, the paid parental leave scheme was only ever designed as a top-up. When we talk about the sort of people who are receiving modest payments from their employers – you're talking about nurses, you're talking people who work in our defence forces, you’re talking about people who work in retail. These workers, these women workers, traded off pay rises in order to get their maternity leave and their parental leave entitlements. Now they're being punished because even though they gave up pay rises to get these slightly better conditions for paid parental leave, now the Government is saying if you get that, you can't get the minimum conditions from the Government. The double-dip that's going on is going on against working women. The whole system of paid parental leave was only ever designed as a top-up.
And really, you've got to ask yourself – are these the priorities of the Turnbull Government? They got a plan to take up to $10,000 off working mums, about 80,000 of them, but they have no plans to reverse their cuts to Medicare. They're still committed to their so-called enterprise tax plan which will give $50 billion to multinationals and large banks. They're still going ahead with giving multi-millionaires a tax cut, a reduction in their income tax. At the same time, working mums in this country who don't get a lot of money, this Government has got the microscope out and taking money off them. This Government's priorities are all wrong.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any birthday wishes for the Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: Yes, I tried – I have left him a message. I do say, Malcolm, happy 62nd birthday. I hope you can get a little bit of time off today with Lucy and the family. So happy birthday to him and I think birthdays should be above politics, shouldn't they?
JOURNALIST: What do you think he wished for?
SHORTEN: Oh maybe – I could say a climate change policy but I don't think that's going to happen. Could talk about housing affordability but he isn't talking about what action the Federal Government could take. Maybe he’s just wishing Tony Abbott would go away. I don't know.