Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Alice Springs - Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals 15 per cent GST; Labor’s plans in the Northern Territory






SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals 15 per cent GST; Labor’s plans in the Northern Territory; Clive Palmer and Queensland Nickel


WARREN SNOWDON, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY: Good morning and welcome here today. I want to thank the proprietors here for allowing us to be in Home Hardware - a very good and important business for the people of Alice Springs and the people of central Australia. I am here with Bill Shorten - part of our national tour talking to Australians about the impact of the cost of living, the GST and what that means here for us particularly in central Australia. (inaudible) other things have changed and we see the high fuel prices, high cost of food and recently, I've learned as a result of the sale of TIO, a dramatic increase in insurance premiums for households in Alice Springs. With the GST proposal at 15 per cent, that will have a dramatic impact on all central Australian families but particularly those here in Alice Springs. Something which many families will not be able to afford. Now, Bill has been around touring with Australians right across the country, hearing from them about their concerns and I am very pleased he is here with us today. Bill.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you Warren. Good morning everyone, it's fantastic to be in Alice Springs and especially since there has been a fair bit of rain in December, the town and the area are looking fantastic. People in Alice Springs know it's a great place to live and I am determined therefore to make sure that we don't jeopardise the quality of life or cost of living in Alice Springs by allowing Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals to introduce a 15 per cent GST on everything.


We are here at Home Hardware today. This is a success story of small businesses. Plenty of houses, plenty of businesses who have bought their timber here and indeed, literally Home Hardware is part of the fabric of Alice Springs. It will stretch this small business and hundreds of thousands of other small businesses across Australia if they have to apply a 15 per cent GST on everything. Small business does not have the luxury of big business and simply passing on price increases to

consumers. Small business, if the price of things go from 10 to 15 per cent, or if they have a levy, a GST on matters which currently don't attract a GST, small business will, to a very large extent, have to absorb the price increase and take it out of their own bottom line because they won't be able to pass it on to consumers. Not only does a 15 per cent GST mean an increase in the cost of living for Australian families and Australians who go to work every day - all Australians - an increase of 15 per cent on everything - but small business will be the meat in the sandwich because the Turnbull Liberal Government is too lazy to make hard decisions about fixing this country up, to help restrain their spending and look at alternative ways to fund our schools and hospitals rather than asking small business and everyday Australians to pay a 15 per cent tax on everything. In regional Australia, the GST is particularly acute and negative in its impact. In many ways, a 15 per cent GST would be a tax on Alice Springs, it would be a tax on the Territory. A 15 per cent tax on Alice Springs, a 15 per cent tax on the Territory. The cost of living is already a bit higher in regional Australia and the Territory than it is in the large east coast cities . Already we have seen the unfair treatment by petrol companies of motorists in the Territory where we see the ridiculous spectacle that petrochemical  here is much more expensive than the large cities. We have already seen the negative impact of the privatisation of the Territory Insurance Office, the TIO, which is seeing upward pressure on insurance premiums. You've got the Petrol which was already an unfair deal for Territorians, you've got the repercussions of the premiums going up from the Liberal privatisation of the TIO. And then in Canberra, the National  Liberal Government are looking at a 15 per cent tax on everything. The people in the Turnbull Government at the top have to stop looking after the big end of town and remember it is ordinary Australians who put them there, Australian families and Australian small business. I can promise that with Warren Snowdon as the Member for Lingiari, with Labor at the next election, we will oppose a 15 per cent GST on everything with every breath in our body. We are happy to take questions.


REPORTER: Mr Shorten, without even the GST increase coming in, small businesses in Alice Springs are suffering from slumping local economy. What will the Labor Government do to repair this?


SHORTEN: First of all, we'd get the ACCC to start cracking down even harder on petrol prices. This is a scandal. It is a scandal. I have looked at a couple of petrol stations this morning as I have been in Alice Springs, I've taken photos of the price of petrol. I have then had my staff ring and see what the price of petrol is in Bankstown in Sydney or Melbourne. They are paying 30, 40 cents more for petrol here than you are on the east coast of Australia. That's a scandal. Just doing something about that will be a great help. What we will also do is we will make sure the basic services in these communities are properly funded. To have a successful economy, you've got to have a well educated population. I want to make sure every child, no matter wherethey live, in the middle of the city in Sydney or in Alice Springs, I want to make sure that every child, no matter where they live, in the middle of the city in Sydney or in Alice Springs or in Katherine or anywhere else has the chance to go to a great school which is well resourced. The other thing we'll do to help the local economy is we'll make sure that the healthcare system doesn't become a two-class system in this country. People should be aware that the Turnbull Liberals are cutting the bulk billing incentive for pathology tests. Now what that means in plain English is that they're taking money out of the pathology testing system - the blood tests, the blood tests you have when you've got a diagnosis of cancer and you're trying to battle that, the blood tests you have to have when you're dealing with a chronic illness like diabetes, a pap smear. So what the Liberal Government in Canberra is doing, is they're going to take away the bulk billing incentive, force the pathology companies to introduce a co-payment. That means every patient seeking a medical test, to help them recover, to deal with an illness, is going to have to pay more at the doctor's surgery and that will discourage some people who already finding it hard to make ends meet from going to get the medical care they need. Now, the consequence of this is that they will just sicker and then it will cost more to make them better in the future. So, these are the sort of fairness-driven things that Labor will do. Properly funded schools, a healthcare system where it is your Medicare card, not your credit card, that determines the level of care you get in this place. Furthermore, I've had Warren and others working on further announcements as we get closer to the election for our northern strategy.


JOURNALIST: Michael Gunner, The leader of Territory Labor he's had an idea forward that he's been pushing about turning Alice Springs into an inland capital, as he calls it. Would you support that and how would you see that working?


SHORTEN: I think Michael Gunner is head and shoulders above this current Chief Minister you've got. I mean anyone who picks up a newspaper - it used to be that some of the coverage outside of the Territory about the Territory was about crocodiles and just that simple image. The truth of the matter is now what Adam Giles does next, what unusual and bizarre thing he does next is now becoming a sort of national story and a joke. No, I think Michael Gunner is on the right track where he wants to put Alice Springs and revitalise that. And I tell you what, Michael Gunner is a serious proposition to help make sure the Territory post Inpex, post the mining boom, has a fair chance of fulfilling its very good future which it should have.


JOURNALIST: How could he revitalise this region? As Labor is promising.


SHORTEN: Well you'll have to ask Michael Gunner about Michael Gunner's policies but Warren Snowdon has been a long-serving representative of Alice Springs. When he speaks in the National Parliament, people listen. I might invite Warren to give some further observations.


SNOWDON: I'll just make one simple observation, with the defeat of Labor Federally and the defeat of Labor in the Territory, the economy of the Central Australia suffered dramatically. A return of Labor of itself will improve the possibilities for small business and the community in Alice Springs. That is very clear. I know what impact it has on the provision of services, on the infrastructure. This town relies on people getting access to services, services which have been cut by the Federal Liberals and the Northern Territory Government. We re-invest those things, this economy will be thriving and that's what's important.


JOURNALIST: What kind of shape do you think you are in yourself, Mr Snowdon, for the upcoming election?


SNOWDON: I'm reasonably fit. So I'm pretty happy with myself.


JOURNALIST: Do you think you'll be able to beat Tina MacFarlane?


SNOWDON: Well, I think - look, when the next election is called, we'll see who all the candidates are and, like every other election, I'll treat them all the same, all starting off on par and the lucky person to win will be the one that's announced on election night. I'm confident we'll do okay but it's very, very important not to take anything for granted and I never do.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, more details are coming to hand about the financial dealings of Clive Palmer's Queensland Nickel. Do you think he has behaved appropriately?


SHORTEN: I'm not in a position to finally answer about the conduct of Clive Palmer but what really concerns me is that in 2016, we've got 257 workers who've been made redundant and they don't know if they're going to get all their entitlements. You've got another 550 people directly employed by QNI and they don't know what's going to happen to their job - their job security and the livelihood of the business. For me the blame game is the second order issue. For me is, can this business keep trading out? Can it be restructured? And of course, can people be paid the money they're owed? There is no issue which I take any more seriously than the issue of worker entitlements. I've spent my adult life standing up for employees, making sure they got paid properly and safely and they were working in productive, co-operative and enterprises. When a company goes broke or when a company becomes insolvent and tells its workers it can't pay them their super, their holiday pay, their redundancy pay, well that makes my blood boil because, effectively, what happens is that employees aren't like the big banks, they're not like the investment banks, they can't get access to the financial information in a company every day as a business is trading. They can't secure their entitlements against the buildings or the assets of the company. Effectively, they loan their pay that they've earned to the company. By that what I mean is, you expect your super to be paid monthly or every couple of months. You expect your holiday pay to be put in a separate account by the company so when you need it, you can call upon it. Companies get the benefit of not having to pay that income each day so they're borrowing the money. So what I don't like, what I really don't like, is when a company says "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I know you've been working for me, I know you've helped produce my profits, I know you've helped make money which I can then donate millions of dollars to a political concern, but by the way, now it's your turn, there's nothing there". Now I hope that isn’t the case, but we do not care if it was a Liberal director, a Labor director or indeed Clive Palmer. Every manager, senior manager and CEO in my opinion has an obligation to look after their workers' entitlements, they hold them on trust for the people who trust them, and that’s a very serious issue.


REPORTER: Christopher Pyne says this exemplifies the instability of minor parties. Is that something you’d agree with?


SHORTEN: Listen, he could be right. But for me, this exemplifies the lack of protection that workers have when companies go bankrupt. This is not the first time that we see workers, or indeed small businesses, left at the tail end of some corporate collapse. The Liberal Government – they love to talk about unions and Royal commissions don’t they? What are they doing to look after workers? What are they doing to make sure the directors are held liable? What are they doing to make sure that trading hasn’t occurred while insolvent? I would like the see Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals do everything they can to protect workers entitlements going forward. I hope this business can survive. I hope it can be restructured and trade out of its difficulties. I certainty expect that the workers entitlements will be paid. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and what really frustrates me is that it won’t be the last. We need better laws to protect not only the entitlement of workers, but there’s another group that haven’t had much coverage in this whole debate: that’ll be the unsecured creditors. That’ll be the mum and dad contractors, the operations providing the sandwiches at lunchtime, providing various services – they’re right at the tail end of the queue. A corporate collapse of this scale is like dropping a rock in a small pond, and the ripples keep going and going and going and going.


REPORTER: Mr Shorten, a couple of quick questions. In regards to the GST again, we all know States need more resources, so what is Labor’s alternative to a 5 per cent increase in GST?


SHORTEN: Well let me just correct one part of the question: it’ll be a 15 per cent introduction of the GST on fresh food, on a lot of healthcare products, on a lot of school products, and a 5 per cent increase on other’s you’re quite right. But this would be a 15 per cent tax on everything. From when you go to the grocery store to when you might want to have an evening out and take the kids to see a film. And Labor does have an alternative. See we’re not the party who just looks after vested interest, the top end of town and multinationals. We’re a party who’s interested in everyday Australians, families and small businesses. We believe that more can be done to make multinational companies pay their fair share. Again, I think I’m no different to most Australians – I think it’s outrageous when we hear of multinational’s paying, you know, household names with massive brands making clearly a lot of money, Australians are paying over the counter for their products, and I just think it’s wrong that these companies have to pay no tax or little tax in Australia. Just before Christmas, the Australian Tax Office revealed that 579 wealthy Australian companies paid no tax in the previous financial year. So I think there’s more money to be found in just getting multinationals to pay their fair share.


Then, of course, there’s the superannuation tax concessions. Superannuation and Government policy for Superannuation should be designed to get you, ideally, into a comfortable position in retirement. That’s why we concessionally tax superannuation and some of the benefits to help you – the individual – save for retirement. But it should never be used for some sort of legalised tax haven where if you have multiple millions of dollars. Let me repeat that: where you have multiple millions of dollars, why on earth do you need the taxpayer – mum and dad in Alice Springs or anywhere else – paying their taxes so someone who already has multiple millions in superannuation can draw down the income tax free. So I think that if this Liberal Government really had the interests of people at heart, they would start going after the loopholes – the legal loopholes – in superannuation tax concessions. They would also start going after multinationals to pay their fair share rather than starting with everyday Australians.


SHORTEN: Last question, thank you.


REPORTER: It’s a fact you haven’t been going well in the polls in the past – and you’re well into a national tour now. How do you find the welcome from the average Australian in the street?


SHORTEN: The average Australian comes in all shapes and sizes. But I haven’t met too many Australians of any shape or size who want to pay a 15 per cent tax on everything. Now I’m confident that Labor is on the right track when we oppose a 15 per cent tax on everything, especially when we say instead you could go and make multinationals pay their fair share, or you could go after the superannuation tax concessions. And while I’m at it, these everyday Australians, they want to see Labor stand up for the penalty rates of this country, and they also want to make sure we properly fund our schools, and our TAFE, and our universities, so the next generation of Australian’s can get the best start in life with an absolutely world class education. Thanks everyone, it’s been fantastic to be here in Alice.