Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: AgFest Tasmania - Agfest; Labor’s Tasmania Taskforce




FRIDAY, 8 MAY 2015


SUBJECT/S: Agfest; Labor’s Tasmania Taskforce; Labor’s plan for fair, sustainable superannuation; Tony Abbott’s pension cuts; Renewable Energy Target; Child care; Tony Abbott’s cuts to family payments.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here with so many members of my hard-working Tasmanian Labor Team, great to catch up with my old friend Bryan Green as well.  To be at Agfest which is not only the premier field show in Tasmania, this is the premier field show in Australia.  Festivals and field days like this are really important in modern Australia so I congratulate all the hard-working volunteers. There's not enough opportunities, I think, for parents in particular to take their kids, get them I away from the screens, move them off the video games and move them off the Playstations, get out, have a look at how Australia's organised and get in touch with what makes Australia a great country. So first of all, I'd just like to congratulate Agfest and I’m really going to recommend to plenty of people that they come to next year's 34th Agfest.


But I'm here also to talk about our announcements today. Labor has declared that we see Tasmania as a frontline for a set of issues for the next federal election. Labor is hungry to lift its presence in Tasmania electorally and we’re going to do it by consulting with Tasmanians about the future of Tasmania. We're ambitious for the future of Tasmania.


That's why today, I'm announcing that Julie Collins will lead Labor's MPs and State MPs in developing a platform, an economic program for the future of Tasmania, not just for the next opinion poll, as Mr Abbott wants to do with the Budget, but for the next 10 and 15 years. So Julie Collins will be leading a team of people to talk to Tasmania about the future of this great State for the next 15 years, not just the next 15 minutes.


And to that end, I'm also pleased to say that Labor is putting down a first marker in tackling the scourge of youth unemployment. I know the frustration that many Tasmanian parents feel when their young ones have to either go to the mainland to get a job or they see an increasing proportion of long-term unemployed youth entrenching generational poverty in parts of Tasmania. Tasmania's been hard hit by the decline in the mining boom and a lot of the pressures on manufacturing. Labor believes in making sure that we've got targeted programs, which are inspired by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, which are place based, not about bureaucracy but about helping young people get in touch with the opportunity to develop their potential which they have, which every young Tasmanian has within them.


Finally I am pleased that at long last, we see cracks in the dam of Tony Abbott's resistance to saving renewable energy. Renewable energy in Australia is not some sort of boutique industry which Tony Abbott, the climate sceptic, treats it as. It employs thousands of people. It generates billions of dollars of investment. Over a million Australian households use solar power on their rooftops. Renewable energy is part of Australia's energy future. What Labor said at the last election and indeed what Liberals said at the last election is that we would have bipartisanship on a target for renewable energy. What's happened since the last election, like so many promises Tony Abbott made, he has not been willing to commit to a proper Renewable Energy Target.


Labor, because we're more interested in the people and the jobs in the future than playing politics, we offered a compromise in Launceston, only a matter of weeks ago and again we've reiterated and fine-tuned it in the last couple of days, we've said to Tony Abbott: ‘you might be a climate sceptic for but for goodness' sake don't wreck renewable energy’. We said 33,000 gigawatt hours would be an appropriate target to provide investment certainty so we can get a great renewable energy in Australia and not miss the boat that the rest of the world is on.


So today I'm pleased that I see the Government being dragged kicking and screaming to a commonsense compromise. Labor wants to see jobs for Tasmanians, a renewable energy future and today we are committed to developing a good program of policies for the next election. Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Can we talk child care for a second?




JOURNALIST: Government's child care package depends on the Senate passing savings on to the family. Will Labor agree to those changes from last year?


SHORTEN: There they go again, those repeat offenders in the Abbott government. Just when you think they’ve learned their lesson, you know, they love to talk about taking the barnacles off. All they're doing is just swapping them around. What we see here is they're saying that they want to do something on child care. Labor believes child care should be affordable, it should be quality-focused. We believe that it's important for Australian families to have help with cost of living. But what Australians don't want is the only promise of child care to be properly funded to be based on agreeing to unfair cuts to family payments. One of the great mistakes of the last year's budget was that the Abbott Government proposed cuts to family payments up to $6,000. Only the Abbott Liberals could propose paying Peter's family by robbing Paul's family. This isn't a solution for child care. When it comes to child care all Scott Morrison’s interested this is using child care to get Joe Hockey's job and when it comes to child care all that Tony Abbott's interested in is saving his own job until the end of this year.


JOURNALIST: On pensions, the Prime Minister says you need to start being constructive and stop your quote mindless opposition. Is it too late to be still talking about last year's Budget when the next Budget is just around the corner?


SHORTEN: We all – look, getting a lecture about mindless opposition from Tony Abbott shows he either has a sense of humour or he doesn't actually understand who he is. He broke all records on being mindlessly negative. But returning to the more important issue rather than Tony Abbott trying to just chuck names around - when it comes to last year's Budget, it's not Labor's fault that Tony Abbott had an unadoptable Budget by the Parliament. For a Budget to be sustainable and dealing with the issues of Australia, it has to be adoptable by the Parliament. How could Labor in good conscience support $100,000 degrees, cutting pensions, a GP tax, cuts to family payments?


So when it comes to this year's proposals on pensions, what we do know about the Abbott Government is that when he makes a promise on pensions chances are he’s just working out how to break it. What we also know is that we will see his Budget on Tuesday night and see the detail of it, but again, he has already flagged that 320,000 part-pensioners will either lose all their pension or part of their pension. I wouldn't trust this Government with working out how to go to the milk bar to buy a litre of milk when it comes to this budget. So when they say that there's 320,000 losers in the budget with pensions, the very least we owe these people before we let Tony Abbott take the wrecking ball to them is to understand what are the consequences.


Labor's not against constructive change, I don't understand for the life of me why Tony Abbott gives multinationals, foreign multinationals a free ticket to ride in the Australian tax system.  He puts that in the too-hard basket, Labor's offered up a bipartisan policy to do that. Why does Tony Abbott not want to have a crack at foreign multinationals gaming our tax system yet when it comes to part pensioners he’s as tough as Rambo?


Also when you look at the other constructive proposals that we've put forward, we've said the multimillionaires shouldn't be able to get excessive tax concessions. Why should you and I and Australia generally be paying for 45 cents tax concessions in every dollar that someone who's already amassed $10 million in super? The Abbott government's got all its priorities wrong. We'll look at the detail but we are deeply sceptical about the Abbott Government's commitment to pensioners in this country.


JOURNALIST: On the Renewable Energy Target, Labor said it doesn't want wood waste included, but the government says it's confident with crossbench support that it will support that. Will you reconsider your support for the 30,000 gigawatt hours?


SHORTEN: There they go again, the Abbott Government. We all know that they don’t believe in renewable energy. Everyone knows that it’s been Labor who’s cleared the logjam. We’ve compromised because of the industry and the environmental sector saying that we need to save the renewable energy industry. The problem with Tony Abbott is that everyone else in Australia wants the deal that we’ve put forward. His problem is as soon as he sees it's Labor having an idea he immediately runs the other way and he’s so graceless when it comes to dealing with compromise, he’s so stubborn and stuck in his old world, narrow world, anti-renewable energy ideology that because Labor’s made a sensible compromise which the business council support, the Australian Industry Group, everyone supports except Tony Abbott, he’s got to chuck in a last-minute detail just to prove he’s cleverer than everyone else.


This nation doesn't need a Prime Minister who's solely focused on his political advantage. We need a government in this country who's focused on the next 10 and 15 years. Labor's committed to renewable energy. We don't see it as some sort of bogus science. We see it's part of the energy mix for Australians in the future, in the next decade and two decades but there he goes, old Tony Abbott, can’t admit he’s wrong, too stubborn to know when he’s wrong, chucking in issues at the last minute.  This hasn’t been the big issue, wood waste in the discussions about renewable energy. All I’d say to Tony Abbott is for goodness' sakes, we’re willing to be bipartisan, do a deal, let's get on and have a look at the rest of the issues which need clearing up rather than you being stubborn and anti-renewable energy.


JOURNALIST: Just on the Tasmanian taskforce, youth unemployment has been an issue here for years, with the decline in manufacturing. What's this taskforce going to tell Tasmanians that they don't already know?


SHORTEN: Well the first thing I want to correct you on is the assumption, we're not telling Tasmanians anything. We're listening. I guess you're so used to a Liberal government in Canberra over the last 605 days coming down and telling you how good they are that they don't have time to listen to Tasmanians. Youth unemployment in the Launceston region alone is 15.6 per cent. We cannot waste the talent of the future by refusing to deal with them now. Now, we're very lucky that Tasmania has Julie Collins and Labor has Julie Collins. When she was a minister dealing with employment services, she helped pioneer place-based services. Without boring everyone to death about place based services, what it says is that go into a town, go into region, see what the needs are there and work from the bottom up. There’s a lot of ingenuity in Tassie, there’s a lot of bright future in Tassie but when it comes to tackling these issues the task force that I'm announcing is a new way of doing politics. We've come to Tasmania, it's run by Tasmanians and we will listen. Tony Abbott might want to take a leaf out of that book.


JOURNALIST: Did you ask the Tasmanian Liberal government to be involved in the Tasmanian taskforce?


SHORTEN: We will welcome submissions from the Tasmanian Liberal government to the - to our forum, to our ideas. But what I would say to the Tasmanian Liberal government, if they’ve got to time to make a submission to us, could you please stand up against Tony Abbott's cuts to hospitals and schools? I would ask the combined media here to stand up for Tasmania and when Joe Hockey brings down his budget when they let him out of witness protection, what we need to see is, is there a cut to the funding of Tasmanian schools over the next 10 years? Is there a cut to the funding of Tasmanian hospitals? See the only strategy that Hockey and Abbott, that group have, is to say they're going to try to make their budget look as decent as it can although they’ve almost given up on that, but what they're going to do is behind the scenes mugging States. It's Tasmanian Government who funds a lot of the hospitals and schools, they rely on Commonwealth revenues. If there is still the same cut in this year's budget as last year's budget, in terms of health and education, that is a disaster for the educational health outcomes of Tasmanians. One more question.


JOURNALIST: Just back on federal issues, you want to increase taxes on income from superannuation earnings. Do you think pension payments also need to be addressed as an item of budget expenditure?


SHORTEN: I really appreciate that question because it gives me a chance to make clear the hypocrisy in what the Scott Morrison job application for Joe Hockey's job is. What we've said on superannuation is once someone has a sufficient pile in their super fund that they can generate $75,000 interest, ask yourselves how many people get $75,000 interest. We've said above that you're comfortable. I don't think anyone would disagree with us that once you're getting $75,000 interest in your superannuation, do you really need a 45 cents tax concession from the government?


Above $75,000 we're saying enough’s enough. You still get a concession but not as ridiculously generous as it once was. But what Scott Morrison's talking about isn't $75,000 of income and then you pay a modest tax. What he's suggested is he’s playing a bit of the pea and thimble trick. Look over here, not here. He’s focusing on what a pensioner might've accrued across a lifetime of working in their various accounts, super and bank accounts. He’s saying that once you have half a million dollars you're rich. The problem is that with bank deposits returning interest of 2, 2.5 per cent, that half a million, which sounds good, it's got to last you 30 years. And then in fact the income stream from that is only a few thousand dollars but that's too much for Scott Morrison.


So the question is: why is it that Scott Morrison will get the microscope out on pensioners but yet he will just give a leave pass to the big end of town and those few tens of thousands of people who are fortunate enough to have already amassed millions and millions in their super? It just shows you the priorities of the two governments.


We’ll be constructive, we'll have look at their numbers but why is it, and I’ll finish on this point, why is it that the Abbott Government is trying to imply that all pensioners are welfare? And I think the implication behind that is they're on welfare, they're sort of taking from the rest of us. I’ll tell you about Australia's aged pensioners Mr Abbott, they’ve worked hard, they’ve paid their taxes, they’ve raised their kids, they built communities and they don't need to be demonised by you merely because you don't know how to run a budget.


Thanks everyone.