MONDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the Petrol Tax; Free Trade Agreement with China; Cost of living.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Bill Shorten is the Opposition Leader. Good morning
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Chris.
UHLMANN: Bill Shorten, two Labor governments spent six years working on this deal, surely you'll welcome it when it's settled?
SHORTEN: Labor is pro-free trade and we do welcome good deals which are in the national interest, but of course we need to see the detail of what this deal is to decide whether or not it's a good deal or a bad deal.
UHLMANN: When do you ever see the deal when it's been negotiated, we didn't see your deals with Malaysia and Chile until they were settled?
SHORTEN: Chris, when you ask when does one see the details, I think that there is a sustained Government campaign to leak out the good news in advance and indeed try and undermine any bad news which may be at the deal. We've seen in the last week the Government are holding out titbits of good news so, I think it is appropriate for the Opposition to ask the Government; less spin, just tell us what's in it and tell us what's not.
UHLMANN: Sure, is it any different now though, than when you were doing the same thing?
SHORTEN: Chris, we've seen a discussion about live export; that sounds promising. I agree with Andrew Robb that expansion of services into China is a great opportunity. What I'm not hearing though, is what's happened with the new tariffs that China placed on our iron ore. What is happening with regard to sugar, what is also happening with regard to labour mobility agreements.
UHLMANN: What tariffs on our iron ore? I am aware of ones on coal but not on iron ore.
SHORTEN: Well, my concern is that in the last few weeks China has introduced new tariffs in terms of a –
UHLMANN: On coal.
SHORTEN: Yeah, in terms of our minerals industry, you’re right, I should've said coal, not iron ore, but what I will also say is that, with the Chinese doing that, I don't know if they've done that as a ploy to put on a tariff and to take it off and the Government look good for removing something which the Chinese were never serious about, or alternatively, was China serious in the first place about its tariffs and has the Government been able to get them removed.
UHLMANN: Are you concerned about increasing investment by Chinese state-owned corporations?
SHORTEN: Chinese state-owned corporations are a feature of the Chinese economic model. Labor has already said we would welcome increased thresholds for Chinese investment in Australia. Of course, the question of state-owned corporations needs to be fleshed out further, because we need to make sure that they don't invest in matters which are to go with our strategic interest on a blank cheque basis. But Labor has an open mind about Chinese investment in Australia, and we flagged several months ago that we would support increasing the threshold.
UHLMANN: What about the freer movement of Labor, now the Minister says it's usually at the high end but are you concerned that it might open up more room for more foreign workers to come here?
SHORTEN: We've got protections about using guest labour in Australia. Guest labour has always been a part of Australia, but fundamentally and it's been bipartisan, we believe in providing Australians with first access to jobs in Australia, and, where there are insufficient trained people training Australians to do it so we're not adverse to guest workers, obviously not. But I am worried if the Government is watering down protections which would see the existing status quo undermined.
UHLMANN: Now the cost of petrol goes up today because of the Government's decision to bypass the Senate and lift the fuel excise by half a cent. Now you might quibble with the method, but it is good policy, isn't it?
SHORTEN: I don't think it's good policy to increase the cost of living at this point. I certainly don't think it's good policy to say one thing before an election and do something after an election. Before the election, Tony Abbott said on many occasions he wouldn't increase taxes and he wouldn't change taxes. Now the Government's clearly broken its promise and it affects cost of living for every Australian that drives a motor car, every Australian who relies on products which transported by motor vehicle.
UHLMANN: So it's you intention obviously to vote against this when it finally does come up before the Senate?
SHORTEN: Yes and we do so on the basis Chris, if Tony Abbott wants to increase taxes, be it petrol, be it GST, he should take it to an election. If he wins the election, we can see that he's got that case but he hasn't; he hasn't taken it to the people. Instead what we've seen him do is blackmail the States by cutting health funding and hospitals and school funding and forcing the States to argue for an increase in GST. So it doesn't matter if its petrol or GST, the Tony Abbott Government is about increasing taxes even though they say they're not and today we're seeing the effect of that. That's why I am sure that we won't see Tony Abbott in Victoria before the state election because everyone in Victoria knows that he breaks his promises.
UHLMANN: Well a lot of economists think that this is a very good policy, lifting the fuel excise, so you're saying you'll unwind this and in government you promise never to revisit this issue?
SHORTEN: Chris, first of all, the key point here is that today, the Petrol Tax is going up and Tony Abbott may say that he's got the support of some people, well he should come to Victoria more often and explain it to Victorians why he's increasing the taxes. In fact he should try and explain it to Dennis Napthine. Yesterday they had a campaign launch in Victoria for a state election, an incumbent Liberal Government, Tony Abbott wasn't there.
UHLMANN: Just like Julia Gillard didn't go to Western Australia during that election?
SHORTEN: Yes, but of course the media seized upon that point, didn't they, and therefore today you've got petrol going up; you've got the first postal ballots being able to be cast in the Victorian electorate and what Dennis Napthine is struggling against is that his federal leader has broken promises and increased taxes and he's forcing it all back onto the states.
UHLMANN: Well Bill Shorten, we'll have to leave it there, thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks, cheers.
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