TUESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Chaos in Malcolm Turnbulls’ Liberal Government; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget; negative gearing; Nuclear Royal Commission.
STEVE GEORGANAS, LABOR'S CANDIDATE FOR HINDMARSH: Welcome everybody. Good to see you all again. Can I just say that I am really pleased today that I have the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten and Kate Ellis here in the electorate of Hindmarsh to visit Westport Primary School to see some of the great things that Westport is doing with students. Can I also say that to continue those great things, we need proper funding for schools. And we know if we are going to talk about being an educated nation, a nation of cutting-edge technology and science, we need to build the foundation. And that can only be done through education. You can't talk about being at the cutting edge if you are not going to fund education.
I am really pleased we are here to talk about that today with Bill and Kate and I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it's fantastic to be here with Steve Georganas, Labor's candidate for Hindmarsh and of course South Australia's own, Kate Ellis who is Labor's spokeswoman on schools and education for the Labor team.
We are pleased to be at this school because it just reminds Labor of what is important. Australian school children deserve the best start in life. Australian school children and their parents deserve a government who is trying as hard as the parents to make sure that kids get the best start in life. Education is the key to our future economic prosperity. Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of educational outcomes. Under Labor's Your Child. Our Future plan, we are making a once in two generation commitment to make sure that by 2020, 95 per cent of all kids finish Year 12. And that by 2025, in less than 10 years, to make sure Australian schools are in the top five nations in the world in terms of educational outcomes. Labor has a fully funded plan for our schools to make sure every child in every school gets every opportunity. We believe in needs-based funding. We think that what determines a child's future shouldn't be how wealthy their parents are or what postcode they live in but the quality of education. Every child is important and every child deserves resources so they can have the best possible experience in learning at school. What I would like to do now is to get Kate Ellis to talk about our education plans.
But before I do that, I just need to address comments made within the Federal Government, the Turnbull Government has had another melt down. We have had the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Senator Michaelia Cash say overnight that the GST increase of 15 per cent is still on the table. This is a very divided government. They say education is important but they won't put any proper funding into education. They say they want to have tax reform and the only reform they can think of is a 15 per cent GST on everything. Motorists today are finding out that we are seeing that petrol prices are too high and you have got a government having thought bubbles about putting a 15 per cent GST on petrol. A 15 per cent GST is a big fat zero for the nation. It is a lazy tax and I cannot believe that after six months of talking and waffling, the Federal Government is still contemplating a 15 per cent GST. It is a divided Government where you have Ministers going in all sorts of directions.
Today, I now hear Malcolm Turnbull's self describing him and Barnaby Joyce as ‘Thelma and Louise’. It worries me that they don't understand what they are doing or where they are going and the consequences will be drastic for the Australian people. It is time for Malcolm Turnbull to stop the waffle and say he will not have a 15 per cent GST and rule it off the table. It is time that Malcolm Turnbull just stopped waffling and waffling and make some decisions which will help Australian families, not hurt them.
I might pass over to Kate to talk further about our educational policies.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you very much Bill and thank you to Steve Georganas who has been a champion of this area for so very long. I wanted to start by acknowledge Rebecca Huddy, the Principal here and the amazing team here at Westport Primary School. What we are seeing here is a hands on example of why funding makes a difference. Schools like this one have additional programs in place as a result of the school funding agreements that were struck by the Federal Government with the South Australian State Government. That means in classrooms here at Westport, we see when we go into the classrooms that there are intervention programs in place, funded through these additional resources so that the moment a child slips behind with their reading and literacy, there is additional support to bring them back up. We also know they have interventions in place so that the moment a child slips behind with their maths, there is additional support to bring them up to scratch.
Labor simply believes that every child in every school is entitled to have a great education and that means the resources and the programs in place to support their learning. But we know that all of that is at stake. Sadly, we know that there is more at stake for South Australian schools than for any other schools in the country. South Australian schools will lose more than schools in the other states as a result of the Turnbull Government's plans to stop the funding for the last two years of the existing agreements and rip $30 billion out of our schools over the next 10 years.
In contrast, Labor's Your Child. Our Future policy will make sure that we can continue to fund these programs and ensure that all Australians get the education that they deserve. What makes it worse that South Australian schools will be the worst off, is that of course, the two Education Ministers we have had under this Government have both been federal representatives of the South Australian Liberal Party. What we have seen from both Christopher Pyne and now Simon Birmingham is yet another example of South Australian Federal Liberals selling out our State and rolling over to the cuts which will impact on South Australia the most. We saw it with Holden, we saw it with submarines and we will see it if they don't get on board and sign up to Labor's policy to make sure we continue to fund these great programs in South Australian schools.
SHORTEN: Thanks Kate, are there any questions for Steve, Kate or myself?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, if you say that the 15 per cent GST is a lazy tax, does that mean that Premier Jay Weatherill is a lazy Premier for heavily promoting it?
SHORTEN: No, I just think a 15 per cent GST on everything doesn't help average every day Australians get ahead. The Treasury modelling which the Government conveniently dropped out at the end of last week, shows it delivers a big fat zero for economic growth. What we want in this country is for families and individuals to feel they can get ahead. No-one believes all the promises of compensation. I get what Jay has got to deal with: he has a hospital system which is in crisis in terms of funding and the schools which he needs funded. What we have been able to do in the last few weeks and months and indeed, last Saturday, is we can articulate how we will make sure housing affordability and the dream of owning your own home comes back within reach of every day Australians. We have explained how we can fund needs-based education which will see South Australia keep up with the rest of Australia on proper schools funding and we don't need a 15 per cent GST to do it.
I think it is amazing that you have got Cabinet Ministers in Mr Turnbull's Government out there freelancing and saying that the 15 per cent GST is absolutely still on the table. I think it shows deeper division within the Turnbull Government. We all know that Treasurer Scott Morrison only has one idea which is to put a 15 per cent GST on everything. We know that Mr Turnbull and his backbench are panicked about their job security and therefore even though they would like a 15 per cent GST, they are worried about their own jobs. You've got division at the heart of the Government. Malcolm Turnbull needs to today stop waffling and just say in plain English, not 300 working slogans, that he will not introduce a 15 per cent GST full stop.
JOURNALIST: What about Premier Weatherill's idea to expand the current GST to financial services instead?
SHORTEN: Labor's not interested at the national level of a 15 per cent GST. We think it discourages confidence in the community. We don't believe people will be adequately compensated. We don't believe it will generate economic growth, and in fact it will be a brake on jobs. When it is all said and done, I understand that the Premiers have been taken hostage by Mr Turnbull's cuts to schools and hospitals but there is hope at the end of the - there's light at the end of the tunnel, which is not a 15 per cent GST. And Labor's articulated and Kate has articulated then, we can pay for improved schools’ funding, which gives better outcomes to every child in every school, without having to slug every family with a 15 per cent GST. Malcolm Turnbull has to stop the waffle and just rule out ‘no 15 per cent GST’ and be done with that total distraction of the last six months.
JOURNALIST: If Jay Weatherill's got it wrong on GST, has he got it right on nuclear energy, because it would seem that you're going to have a crack at him over that as well.
SHORTEN: You haven't asked me a question on what I think about that so I don't see how you can assume that. So let's -
JOURNALIST: Well its Labor Party policy isn't it?
SHORTEN: Well you've just said something which is not correct. I supported having the Royal Commission and I think that the tentative findings are an important addition to the knowledge about the future for our nuclear waste storage in this country. Now one end of the spectrum, the Royal Commission said that the enrichment industry is economically unviable. At the other end, Federal Labor has always said that we do support safe storage of low grade nuclear waste. I mean we've got nuclear waste which arises out of nuclear medical technology, nuclear medicine. That has to be stored. So we do believe in the safe storage and in fact Labor has always in a bipartisan process supported that debate. What we need to make sure, if it is going to be higher levels of storage, you know, getting into the international business of storing other peoples' nuclear waste, is that there is an economic benefit, that it meets all the environmental concerns, there is community support.
No, on this question, Jay Weatherill and I are of one mind, we need to have a sensible analysis, not inflamed with tabloid headlines and we'll just work through the issues. That is what Australians want.
But when it comes to the 15 per cent GST, I have been against it from day one, putting up a 15 per cent price hike on everything, and I know that most Australians are deep down quite grateful that the Labor Party at the national level has staunchly resisted rewarding the bad politics of cutting hospitals and schools funding and this debate about giving corporate fat cats a tax cut through a 15 per cent price tag on everything that everyone else has to pay.
It's very straight-forward - tax in this country; get multinationals to pay their fair share which they're not, do something about the unsustainably generous tax concessions for people who already have millions of dollars stored. And we've also said on negative gearing going forward that the current system is not sustainable. We will make sure that anyone who has invested under current laws don't have the rules changed on them. But going forward, we want to revive the Australian dream of home ownership. You know, 30 years ago it cost about 3.2 times your annual wage for the price of a house. Now it is 6.5 times and young people just have no prospect of getting into the housing market. No, Labor's got fully funded and careful propositions which will see us being able to get the Budget into a better position, be able to generate greater hope of the Australian dream of home ownership and we can properly fund education and health care. And in the meantime, in the last 6 months, we've had Malcolm Turnbull waffling around Australia on his self-described Thelma and Louise trip. I mean at least Thelma and Louise had a plan, and what we are seeing in fact, is that they've wasted 6 months and they can't make a decision and they are racked by division. The Turnbull Government is fraying at the edges, mark my words.
JOURNALIST: Just on negative gearing, are you concerned that the Government can now run a scare campaign saying that the - to each Australian home owner, that your home will be worthless under Labor?
SHORTEN: I'm concerned that the Turnbull Government has no plan to get the Budget to a better set of numbers. I'm concerned that Australians, younger Australians in particular and single people, have little prospect of being able to get into the housing market except through the intergenerational transfer of their parents. I don't want home ownership to be - the only mechanism to get home ownership is what your parents leave you. I want Australians to be able to go to work and feel they're getting ahead. I don't want a 15 per cent GST on the price of housing either. I'm concerned not about what Malcolm Turnbull does, I'm concerned about the future of - the dream of Australian home ownership. I'm concerned how we properly fund our schools and hospitals and I am concerned about how we improve the Budget bottom line. Only Labor at the next election has got clear, costed, funded alternatives and instead we've got Mr Turnbull and his team wandering around taking different positions at different times every day.
JOURNALIST: But won't your negative gearing policy create a glut of older properties?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just to clarify your position on the nuclear fuel cycle Royal Commission. If the economic argument stacks up, if the social argument stacks up and the environment argument stacks up, you're open to high level waste being stored in South Australia?
SHORTEN: There is a lot of ifs in that question. I don't tend to answer one hypothetical question; I think you've set a new record of three ifs. What I do say, you know because your question has a serious point to it: Federal Labor does support safe storage for the low level nuclear waste which we currently produce in this country. I think that Jay Weatherill has done the right thing about having a Royal Commission. I am interested in economic opportunities for this nation. But we've got to make sure that the numbers stack up, we've got to make sure that the environmental safeguards stack up and that the community supports it. But it's been a good first step to cast proper light in a sensible debate on something which has been put in the too hard basket.
I might draw this parallel in closing, for 30 years people said that [tackling] negative gearing was too hard. That the property council or their friends in the Liberal Party will just demand to keep the status quo. Well Labor's taking big economic reform, hard decisions are not a problem for Labor, the team I lead. We want to do something about getting the Budget into a better position, we want to do something about reviving the Australian dream of home ownership, especially for younger people and single people and we want to make sure that we can properly fund our schools and hospitals. Only Labor has got a plan to address all of these issues. We will make hard decisions. I think by contrast in the last six months, all we have seen from Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals is division and an incompetent handling of the tax reform debate where different Turnbull Ministers at different times during the day will say contradictory and different things.
Thanks everyone, see you all a bit later.
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