SATURDAY, 22 APRIL 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans for housing affordability and jobs; Turnbull Government's proposal to reduce the GST threshold; US Vice President Pence visit; Badgery's Creek Airport; Liberal division; pharmaceuticals; Medicare.
EMMA HUSAR, MEMBER FOR LINDSAY: Welcome everybody to Western Sydney. It's great to have Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition out here today, to talk about housing affordability.
We've got Doug Cameron, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, and Chris Bowen, our Shadow Treasurer.
We've met with a family here and talked about the things that are important to people in my community, which is being able to buy their own first home.
So, thanks Bill for coming and I look forward to talking to you all after.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSTION: Thanks Emma. It's great to be in the fabulous Western Suburbs of Sydney with the Labor team.
There is a housing affordability crisis in this country. Today, as we speak, literally thousands of young Australians and their parents are participating in auctions, with high hopes of being able to participate in the fabulous Australian dream of owning your first home.
But increasingly, too many of our fellow Australians are being locked out of the housing market. Locked away from the Australian dream of owning your first home, because of the out of control housing crisis.
Now Rob and Miriam were kind enough to invite us in to have a chat about their personal experiences and talk to their great kids.
This is a couple who tick every box of a great Australian family.
They're both working full-time, they both depend upon penalty rates and the pay they earn, they're educating their kids.
But time and time again, they've been unable to enter the housing market.
This is a family who doesn't want to keep paying rent, they want to be able to pay down their mortgage.
But with spiralling house prices, the Australian dream of owning your own home seems more out of touch and elusive than ever before.
That's why I think that all Australians are rightfully angry at Turnbull's weakness in moving away from housing affordability being a centrepiece of the Budget, which is coming up in early May.
Malcolm Turnbull said that housing affordability would be a centrepiece of the Budget, and he's now crab walking away from that. And he's disappointing the dreams of literally hundreds of thousands of Australians who want nothing more than to be able to fulfil the dream of having your own home.
But Labor's not standing back and waiting for this Liberal Government, racked by division and out of touch with the needs of ordinary Australians. We've put forward comprehensive policies, and I'm going to ask my Shadow Treasurer to just expand again on Labor's plans to restore the great Australian dream of owning your own home.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks very much Bill. It's great to be back here with Bill, with Doug, with Emma, today in Western Sydney.
Western Sydney, where so many people are trying to crack into the housing market, like Robert and Miriam with whom with just met.
And as Bill said, yesterday Labor announced the next phase of our comprehensive housing affordability plan. Dealing with foreign investment, dealing with self-managed super funds, dealing with housing supply, importantly.
The Government says it's all about supply, but they abolished a National Housing Supply Council - we'll bring it back. We'll have the National Housing Supply Council help us negotiate the agreements with the States when it comes to housing funding and supply.
And of course, dealing with social housing - dealing with those most vulnerable in our community, in emergency situations, created by domestic violence and family breakdown.
Labor has been through and comprehensively analysed the problem, and comprehensively come up with policies to deal with each element, and of course we'll continue to have more to say.
But yesterday, as Bill said, as Labor announced the next phase of the policy, the Government reached the new low.
We knew they disagreed about what should be in the policy, now they disagree whether they have one at all. With Malcolm Turnbull saying that it wouldn't be the centrepiece of the Budget, denying that Government ministers had ever said housing affordability would be the centrepiece of his Budget. Blaming you, blaming the media, saying it was all the invention of the media.
Just as his Assistant Treasurer, junior minister, was out there saying that it would actually be the centrepiece for the Government. So, in when the Government can't even agree whether they have a housing affordability policy, let alone what is in it, no wonder Australians trying to get in the housing market are so frustrated.
Just very briefly on one other matter, yesterday we say a train wreck of a Senate inquiry into the government's proposal to reduce the GST threshold to zero.
Labor, under Bill's leadership, has been constructive and proactive, saying we think small business should be put on a level playing field. That reducing the threshold to zero is in principle good and necessary policy.
This Treasurer makes a hash of everything he touches. Yesterday it was clear that the way he proposed to implement this policy is utterly unworkable. And so, reluctantly, we called for a 12-month extension and review of the way the Government is proposing it.
We want to support the policy. We want to provide bipartisan support for the policy. We won't do that while it's a train wreck that is completely not implementable, and which would create huge distortions and disruption in the economy.
I'm about to issue a public reward for any sightings of the Treasurer. If any of you see him, he hasn't been sighted in public since April 10 - his last press conference.
We're meant to have a housing affordability centrepiece in the Budget, he's gone completely missing, he's in the witness protection program. No wonder Malcolm Turnbull has replaced him as the Government's key economic spokesman. I really don't where he is.
If anybody sees him. If he's seen publicly, please let us know. And we'd be happy to welcome his return to the public spotlight. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks Chris.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can you effectively say that Labor's policies will bring down the cost of houses, or the prices of houses?
SHORTEN: Labor's policies will absolutely improve housing affordability. Labor's reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions, our reforms of vacant property tax, our reforms to increase the charges we put on foreign buyers, our reforms to borrowings done by self-managed superannuation funds, our reforms to improving supply, our reforms to looking after people in insecure housing, for example, women fleeing domestic violence. Our reforms are fair dinkum propositions which will improve housing affordability, and it's about time Malcolm Turnbull stopped worrying about his own job and the divisions in the Liberal Party, and started worrying about what happens to everyday Australians.
Rob and Miriam, they're not asking for a handout - he's going back to university and retraining, he's holding a job down in the local community, Miriam's working at the local hospital. They are working hard, they're raising their kids. But what they don't understand, is why their isn't a level playing field when it comes to buying your first home.
Why should some very wealthy people be given a taxpayer funded leg up to bid on their tenth house, and Rob and Miriam, well they're just left to their own resources to help raise their kids, to educate themselves, to work hard, and to one day have the Australian dream of owning their own home.
JOURNALIST: Would politicians ownership of investment houses be a good start (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: What do you mean?
JOURNALIST: In terms of politicians owning investment properties. Would that be a good place to begin?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear, I don't own - I've got a mortgage. So to be fair, the bank owns where I live. And the broader point is, would we retrospectively change negative gearing laws? No.
The fact of the matter is that Labor is pretty sensible when we embrace serious reform around housing affordability or Budget repair. We're not going to take a sledgehammer and change existing investment rules, which people have invested under in good faith. That's not the way you do reform, that's how you just cause chaos.
But what we are saying, is that the Labor Party is the only mainstream political party with the guts and the courage to call out the housing affordability crisis. Everyone has said for 30 years, negative gearing was too hard, but we're up for the challenge. Because what matters to me is that Rob and Miriam get a chance to be able to compete to buy a house, without these out of control prices. You know in Sydney, in the last four years, roughly, housing prices have increased by over 50 per cent? This is a crazy set of circumstances.
JOURNALIST: What about when investment leads to great supply, with you know, say large blocks being converted into townhouses?
SHORTEN: That's the beauty of Labor's proposal. We're not eliminating negative gearing for the construction of new houses, in fact, it has been modelled that Labor's policies would create 55,000 extra housing units and houses over the next three years, and it would create 25,000 jobs per year.
So Labor, I believe, has got the balance right - not a sledgehammer but making sure that we make housing affordability something which can restore the great Australian dream, and we're also prioritising jobs and investment in new housing.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor look at expanding the First Home Owner Grant, say in New South Wales, it's currently just for new homes. Would Labor look at expanding that to include existing homes, to help young people get into the market?
SHORTEN. No, our concern with the First Home Owner Grants is that if there was a First Home Owner Grant for an existing house of $10,000, miraculously the price of that house seems to go up by about $10,000. So all it's doing is fuelling price rises.
But I just wanted to talk about the new housing, and I might get Doug to supplement what we're talking about with supply of housing, because the issue that you both raise, and you in your previous question are important.
DOUG CAMERON, MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Thanks Bill. Housing is so important to all economic basis in Western Sydney and around the country. It just is not about those who can even afford to buy a house, and what Labor has said to the states in this policy, is that if you're going provide support, and land, and building approval to what the last question was about, getting more houses built, then there should be inclusionary zoning.
And that is- the builder is going to make a big profit, the investors are going to make a big profit. There should be more housing or low socioeconomic people to get in there. And we should salt-and-pepper people around the place so that we get good communities being built, and that's a strong part of our policy.
Inclusionary zoning, making sure that the national agreement, that the national agreement deals with targets, and that we get housing, not only for people that can afford to get in there, but for social housing, to get nurses, to get teachers, to get everybody in there that can, close to their work.
And this is a whole address that we need to make, to ensure that we have got a good community being built around this place, and our policy does that.
JOURNALIST: So how to propose to do that?
CAMERON: Through inclusionary zoning. Through making sure that we sit down with the states at the COAG level, and we say to the states that you have to deliver. That is, blocks of land that are empty, and if those blocks of land are handed over to a developer, the developers need to ensure that there is inclusionary zoning to get low-income people in. To get people that are relying on a living wage that is pretty poor, get them the houses as well. So that's one of the key issues we're looking at here. Inclusionary zoning, making sure that we build enough houses and that supply is increased.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the visit my Mr Pence, what do you make of it so far, I gather you've been watching what has been said today?
SHORTEN: I'm looking forward to meeting with Vice President Pence at 3PM this afternoon. The Australian-American alliance is very important to Australia's security, and it's very important, I think, to our foreign policy. And it's certainly something which has survived the changes in personalities on both sides of the Pacific. In particular though, I'll be interested to hear their view on tensions around North Korea, what's happening in the Middle East with national security and terror.
JOURNALIST: On an unrelated note, would you support the Federal Government to fund Badgery's Creek Airport if the Airport Commission doesn't, I guess, pay for it?
SHORTEN: Well that's a hypothetical question. Labor has said that we do support Badgery's Creek with certain conditions. Again, I think the Government needs to not rush out thought bubbles, but actually sit down with Labor and work through the issues.
For us what matters is jobs, what matters is making sure there are good public sector - of public transport infrastructure. What matters to us is to make sure that the amenity and quality of life of residents in the vicinity isn't compromised - and you do that through consultation. What we need to do is to work together.
What people in Western Sydney and throughout Australia want, is they want government and opposition to focus on the people, not on their own fights.
I mean as a separate point, I see today another outbreak, another chapter in the civil war between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. It's rumoured that Tony Abbott's former Chief-Of-Staff, Peta Credlin, might be a contender for the Liberal Party, or in some fashion. Now clearly the Turnbull forces are unhappy.
Let's be clear, Ms Credlin has never done any favours to the Labor Party, but she's at least as capable as any half a dozen blokes on the frontbench of Turnbull's Cabinet. But again, what this shows, the fact that we're even having this discussion, is that the Liberal Party is focusing on one job - Malcolm Turnbull's.
I want to focus on the jobs of all Australians. We're here today to talk about housing affordability. We're committed through the tour to talk about penalty rates and Australian jobs. The only job the Liberals seem to talk about on a regular basis are their own.
JOURNALIST: There are reports this morning that the Government is using the price disclosure scheme for pharmaceuticals to find Budget savings and drive down the cost of drugs. Are you in favour of this, and could this put the commercial viability of chemists at risk?
SHORTEN: Labor's always been up for decreasing the price of prescription drugs, and indeed, pharmaceutical products to consumers. When Labor was last in office they came up with a national agreement which saw a significant reduction in some generic drugs which people require for their health and well-being.
So if the Government's doing some work there, we've got a very open mind about that. Of course though, if you want to do something to help ease the cost of health care in this country, unfreeze the Medicare freeze.
The fact of the matter is, we see some reports that the Government are considering unfreezing portions of the Medicare rebate which goes to patients. This is not a payment to doctors, this is a payment to patients, it's the rebate that patients get. But as usual with this Government, having stubbornly done the wrong thing right through an election and right through a number of Budgets, they're sort of talking about fixing some of the problem at some unspecified point in the future.
If you're fair dinkum about Medicare, Malcolm Turnbull, you'll unfreeze the rebate on Budget night this year, and you'll unfreeze it for all purposes. Do the job properly and do it once. Don't keep, sort of, band-aiding around the system.
I mean, my concern is that this Government might only unfreeze the rebate at some point in the future for GPs. What about the veterans who've got a freeze on what they can claim back from seeing psychiatrists or psychologists? What about Australians who use specialists? Women who have to have to go and get a an obstetric test, or people who are getting cancer tests? This is a Government who doesn't understand how ordinary Australians construct their lives on housing affordability, on penalty rates, or indeed, the cost of the health care.