WEDNESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Liberal Government’s unfair Budget; Cost of living; National security; Tax-free threshold; Foreign investment; Bali Nine; Greyhound racing; GST.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s fantastic to be at one of, I think, Australia’s hardest working schools, Albion North Primary School. I know the school community well here, a lot of the parents really battle to make ends meet. But every parent here at this school I know is dedicated to give their kids the best start in life and that’s why they make sacrifices to send their children to school and to make sure they get that great start.
And it’s therefore with families all over Australia really trying their hardest every day to make ends meet, to deal with cost of living so they give their children the best start in life, that we’ve got the Liberal National Government in Canberra, currently lead by Tony Abbott, who are creating such havoc on cost of living pressures on families. At the last election, over a year and a half ago, the Liberal National Government promised Australians that they would help with cost of living, that they would help families. Yet the Liberal National family’s package is code for $100,000 university degrees, cuts to pensions, a GP Tax, over a billion dollars cut away from childcare support which puts greater pressure on childcare fees. When the Liberals talk about family’s package, you know it really means that they’re going to cost families more to help make our ends meet.
And in Canberra over the last three weeks we’ve seen the ongoing circus which is everyone trying to have a crack at Tony Abbott's job, you had Malcolm Turnbull with his job application on the ABC TV, and you've got all of the white anting and all the problems going on in Canberra. The real issue, though, is that the Liberal National Government are worrying about who has what job and they're not doing enough to help the jobs and cost of living pressures for Australian families.
So today my colleagues, Jenny Macklin and Kate Ellis are out in Western Sydney, giving families the chance to speak up and be heard in Canberra at www.givefamiliesago.org you will see the opportunity for people to sign a petition just to let this out of touch Liberal Government in Canberra know that we don't want $100,000 university degrees, we don't want cuts to pensions and we don't want a GP Tax and we don’t want massive cuts to child care. Happy to take questions, thank you.
JOURNALIST: You've been asking for the cost figures on the data retention laws, the PM says it will be less than one per cent of the $40 billion sector. Are you satisfied with that?
SHORTEN: I think if we can get the answers to these questions that is an important step forward. When it comes to fighting terrorism or indeed crime, Labor and Liberal are in this together. But the Parliament has an obligation to make sure that we don't rush in such a haste that we trip over our own feet and make mistakes, that we don't actually create more problems than we're trying to solve. So one of the issues which has come up, independently from people speaking to the Parliament of Australia, is how much will this cost? We’ve asked the Government to put the facts and the figures on the table so we know what we’re signing Australians up to. But of course we will continue to work productivity and cooperatively to secure the best outcome for Australians both in terms of safety and of course our standard and quality of living.
JOURNALIST: Has the PM given you any more detailed information on what those costs might be?
SHORTEN: Well there’s a parliamentary committee process underway, the Prime Minister hasn’t informed me directly, no.
JOURNALIST: Should your Shadow Treasurer know the tax-free threshold?
SHORTEN: Chris does know the tax-free threshold of $18,200. He certainly, at the end of a long day, at 8:30 last night went into an interview with Alan Jones. I think that’s a sign of his commitment, I probably can think of other things you could do on a Tuesday night at 8:30 than be interviewed by Alan Jones, but he did. He's made a mistake, he’s acknowledged that and when it comes to acknowledging mistakes, when will Joe Hockey acknowledge the whole Budget’s unfair? I think that when you look at what's important in this country, slugging Australians, sick and vulnerable Australians with a GP Tax, that’s more than just a simple mistake, that’s a disaster for sick people, cutting the rate of pension increase, that’s a disaster for pensioners, unemployment at 6.4 per cent which has gone up since the Liberals got into power over a year and a half ago, that’s a disaster for the extra 100,000 people on the unemployment queues. I know what’s important and so does Chris Bowen.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept that it’s not a good look for Mr Bowen?
SHORTEN: Well I accept that unemployment at 6.4 per cent’s not a good look. I accept that when it comes to breaking promises, putting up new taxes on people is not a good look. I also believe that $100,000 degrees is not a good look. I also believe that making pension cuts and GP Taxes is not a good look. So, yes, Chris knows what he got wrong last night. He also knows the tax-free threshold and he also knows that on the 1st of July the tax free threshold will go up from $18,200 to $19,400. That was a decision made by a previous Labor Government which is going to lighten the load a little bit for Australians.
JOURNALIST: So do you still have confidence in your Shadow Treasurer, then?
SHORTEN: Absolutely, and I tell you if we are going to have a look at Treasurers, the person I don't have confidence in and I think I speak for millions of Australians is Joe Hockey, and clearly with the way his job has been sized up by his ambitious rivals inside the Liberal Party that don't have any confidence either. The real challenge will be can this Government bring down a Budget, which doesn't see the burden of change falling unfairly on those least able to deal with the change? They bring down a Budget which doesn't see people on middle incomes being marginalised and doesn't see people on low incomes being hit really hard. That’s what really matters in this country, not the word games. What really matters is whether or not a Government is making life harder or easier for families and for Australians, and the Liberal Government in Canberra is clearly making things harder for people.
JOURNALIST: The Japanese company has made a $6 billion takeover bid for Toll holdings, do you support that move?
SHORTEN: We have to see the detail, it will go before the Foreign Investment Review Board. But just so that people know what Labor believes fundamentally is we are interested in when a proposal for a company change or merger does it lead to jobs being kept, is it leading to jobs being more secure, does it lead to jobs being created or does it lead to poor consequences for people. So far it seems to be a fairly large offer and we will wait to see market reaction and I’ll leave to it the market to make judgements. But Labor, well we always look at these things through the prism how does it affect people? Will it add to lower prices, greater competition and more jobs, that is what matters to us and that is the assessment we will be looking at as it makes its way through the appropriate regulatory mechanisms.
JOURNALIST: On Bali, Tony Abbott has pointed out that Australia helped Indonesia after the tsunami. Do you think that is something that should be taken into account now?
SHORTEN: I think Indonesia knows that we helped them after that dreadful tsunami. What I am perhaps more interested in is this latest delay. Now I don't read anything into the delay, I don't necessarily think it means that these two young men are out of the dire threat that they face. But I think that this delay does provide a modest opportunity for people to engage in constructive suggestions and discussion. I have been concerned at the sense of urgency which was mounting around moving these two young men from where they are to the next jail. Now I see an opportunity and I think there’s opportunity for government, I think there's opportunity for the family and their lawyers. I have been speaking to the lawyers of the family in Indonesia this morning. We can't get ahead of ourselves, but this is in the most precious of issues more time and I believe that if we can further indicate and perhaps going to the very start of your question about relationships and history between Indonesia and Australia, we have an opportunity here to again to delay, to look more deeply, to understand the long-term friendship and partnership which exists between Australia and Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: Do you think greyhound racing should be suspended in light of the live baiting revelations?
SHORTEN: I am sure that most people who own greyhounds and breed greyhounds and work in the industry, would be alarmed, revolted and disgusted, and it’s principally a state issue. I do want to see the authorities reassure people that the industry is safe, that there is proper probity, that animal welfare is upper most in the mind of people, but I don't think this is an issue in the first instance of the greyhound industry versus the rest. I think what this is people who care about both the industry and welfare of greyhounds versus the few people who at first report seem to be conducting themselves in a revolting manner.
JOURNALIST: The CPA the accounting body has released a report today saying that Australians could be better off if the GST were broadened in future. Would Labor ever consider raising the rate, broadening the base of the GST if other inefficient taxes could be scrapped?
SHORTEN: Well I read the CPA's comments and they are always a strong voice in terms of issues to do with the tax system. But, no, Labor is not convinced that this country becomes a better place for people by putting new taxes on fresh food or school fees. We are not convinced that increasing the cost of living of Australians who have less savings power and spend proportionately more of their income on food should have to pay higher taxes. I believe this country is smart enough to have a growth strategy which sees a fairer taxation system, and which doesn't see the middle class or the middle Australia and indeed people on lower or fixed incomes paying proportionately more taxes. I think that is not way to go for this country to make us encourage both growth and fairness which are Labor's priorities.
Thanks, everyone. Have a nice day.
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