Bill's Transcripts






06 AUGUST 2013





Subjects: Better Schools Plan; Laura Fraser-Hardy; Joe Hockey’s comments on interest rates; Abetz avoiding IR debate



BILL SHORTEN: It’s great to be here at Brisbane Adventist College following the Prime Minister’s visit, one of many visits he’s made to this school over the last ten years. It’s great to be here also with Laura Fraser-Hardy, Labor’s candidate for Bonner in the upcoming election. People may be interested to know that at this school, because of Labor’s Better Schools Plan and the agreement we’ve struck with the Independent Schools Council of Australia, Brisbane Adventist College, with children from a whole range of backgrounds, is on track to receive an extra $2.6 million over the next six years.


What this means is that if the Queensland Government was able to have reached an agreement with us by yesterday - which they weren’t - there would have been even more money for the kids at this school.

This school has been the beneficiary of the Building the Education Revolution with brand new classrooms which have made the learning experiences of the kids at this school so much better.

And to complete the trifecta of good news from the extra money for the school buildings; so the kids have good resources and places to learn in, from the extra money that the Commonwealth is providing this independent school, respecting the choice of parents to choose to send their children to non-government schools.


The third leg of this trifecta of good news is that yesterday the government announced an extra $450 million across Australia for Out of Hours School Childcare. Or to put in terms of this school and school children in Queensland, up to 89,000 children will benefit across the next four years in Queensland to see extra resources so their parents aren’t caught up in the rush hour of getting to work and from work and picking up kids.


It means that the children at the Better Schools out of hours school program here will have more organised quality activities; team sport, music lessons, homework clubs. It also means that communities can bid for extra places where there is high need such as in the suburbs around this school. So this is good news.


This demonstrates Labor’s credentials on education and it also demonstrates that the Coalition, who on Thursday of last week were saying that our plan for schools was no good, who on Friday said they were maybe having second thoughts, on Saturday a conservative or a Liberal government in Victoria, having had a look at the Coalition’s plan for education - where Tony Abbott says you can have Commonwealth taxpayer money with no strings attached – the Liberal Government in Victoria - the same party as

Tony Abbott, when they’ve got an offer from Tony Abbott allegedly promising all the money with no strings – signed up to Labor’s Better Schools Plan with strings attached because even Liberal governments at the State level know that when it comes to education the only people you can trust is Federal Labor. Not the Coalition who for the last three years have talked down the Commonwealth’s role in supporting better schools and better outcomes for school students in Australia. Happy to take questions.


REPORTER: Mr Shorten, the Coalition by the last minute signing up to I guess the shape of Labor’s Gonski reform, the Better Schools Plan, has essentially politically neutralised what was one of Labor’s major selling points going into the election. How costly do

you think that will be? I don’t think voters care whether or not they did it at the last minute or not, do they?


BILL SHORTEN: What is interesting is that for three years, the Coalition has trash talked, has rubbished Labor’s Better Schools program. For three years.

As recently as Thursday, the Shadow Opposition Spokesperson was saying ‘it’s a con’, it’s ‘con-ski not Gonski’. Yet on Friday it’s as if they’ve had the memory of a political goldfish, and they’ve pretended that what’s happened before, 24 hours before, never happened and now they apparently favour education.


The real test for parents in Australia, the 3.6 million children who go to schools in Australia, the real test for their parents is this: If on Thursday the Opposition say they’re going one way, if on Friday the Opposition say they’re going the other way, and if on Saturday a Liberal government in Victoria offer for schools, having heard what Kevin Rudd has on offer for schools, a Liberal Premier in Victoria signs up to Labor’s package. If the Liberal Premier of Victoria genuinely believed that the Liberal offer on education was the equal of Labor’s offer, why would he sign 24 hours before an election? And indeed, on Sunday afternoon, in the shadow of the election being called, some of the most hard-line critics of our education reforms, the LNP Government, have this miraculous conversion- which was really just a financial hoax because they weren’t offering any extra money.

They too were desperately knocking on the door saying, listen, I know we don’t actually want to offer more money, but having seen what Tony Abbott was offering education even the LNP in Queensland, the hard-line Government here more famous for cutting things like hospitals and schools than spending money- even they put up their hand. They haven’t been to class. They haven’t backed it in. They haven’t done the homework.  They said teacher, we would like to be with Labor, not our own mob. So when they, when people say has Tony Abbott changed his spots on education, even his own state political parties say yeah, we hear what Tony Abbott says, but can we do a deal with Labor- because Labor are the only fair dinkum party on education in Australia.

REPORTER: Mr Shorten, if the Economics Statement’s figures are right, unemployment will go up by about half a point [inaudible]. Can you give us an idea on where those jobs will be lost from, and can you give us an idea with- obviously, the economy at the centre, where jobs might be created in the next term?

BILL SHORTEN: Australia has done relatively well compared with the rest of the world when it comes to creating jobs. When you look at unemployment rates throughout the whole world, through North America, through Europe, Australia’s unemployment rate has consistently been lower. Now that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a softening in the employment market. That doesn’t mean there’s not some industries really feeling the strain such as manufacturing. We’ve had a high dollar to battle with. We have had the Global Financial Crisis, which the Opposition conveniently airbrushes from history.  But, nonetheless, if you look at the unemployment rates in the Eurozone, they are regularly north of ten percent. Even in North America, they are a couple of percentage points higher than Australia. So the jobs which will get created I believe in the next six months and nine months and twelve months and beyond are in services.


70 to 80 in every 100 Australians work in a service industry now- that trend will continue. We’ll see jobs created in health services. We’ll see jobs created in education services. I think we’ll also see as the 14 economies, 15 economies in Asia continue to grow, we will see more jobs created which have a tie up with Asian economic growth. The thing to remember about the last five years, and indeed the next five, and ten, and fifteen years, is the fastest growing job sectors in Australia require a postgraduate qualification. That is why what we’re doing in the schools is a down payment- it’s laying the foundations for Australia’s future economic competitiveness in the world. No country every dumbed its way to greatness. No country can depend upon not having a better education system and depend on the status quo. That is why again I express my disappointment with the LNP Government here, because they’ve said to me “Bill, we don’t want to put any more money- we think that throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it.”

What I say to Campbell Newman and his Minister for Education is if you think the status quo is acceptable for kids in Brisbane and throughout Queensland, have a look at the rest of the world.  The rest of the world is not backing away from investing in education. So the jobs of the future- in answer to your question- health, and in services, there’s still very, there’s still quite a lot of strength in construction over the next twelve to twenty four months. There’ll be jobs created through Labor’s infrastructure projects. But the best that we guarantee our kids have a job, is to make sure that our kids, these fantastic kids that you saw here today, get the best education possible, so when they become adults they can find jobs. And as new jobs get created and old jobs close, they can move between the old and the new opportunities.

REPORTER:  What impact would an interest rate cut today have on the economic outlook?

BILL SHORTEN: Well I heard Mr Hockey- well, the Opposition- just as they’re all at sea on education, they don’t know whether they’re Arthur or Martha-I’ve been surprised at the so-called alternative Treasurer of Australia bagging the idea of interest rate cuts and saying that’s all bad news. Now, I recognise in Australia that we have monetary policy. It’s one of the economic tools we have to stabilise the performance of the Australian economy.  The Reserve Bank is independent of the Government. I’m amazed- I’m amazed- that people who want to be serious economic leaders of Australia are out there trying to browbeat the Reserve Bank and say that if you reduce rates, somehow that’s bad. On the contrary, what I believe is that for mortgage holders- they’ll view a cut as good news.

The reason why monetary policy goes up or goes down is to tighten the supply of credit in the market. The reason why the Reserve Bank would lower interest rates is to make credit more available so that business can feel they can invest more. It is just part of the natural economic cycle. So the fact that we have an independent Bank is good news, not bad news .The fact that we have a cash rate of 2.75% means we have got 275 basis points of [inaudible] room in our economy which allow the regulators to be able to adjust the economy based on the information they’re getting. And, you know, if there is an interest rate cut this afternoon, people have to remember this is the reduction in the mortgage rate payments that Joe Hockey didn’t want people to have.

REPORTER: But Mr Shorten, it’s not all good news when the cash rate goes down to 2.75%, it also indicates, as does other data, that retail sales are flat, that unemployment is-

BILL SHORTEN: No, that’s why I said it’s one of- you’re right, James. What I said is that monetary policy is one of the tools Governments have to set the economic direction. I recognise that if you want to stimulate investment, you make credit easier to get.  So, you’re right. You’re right on Economics 101. What amazes me is that you’ve got the Opposition, shambling about like a bunch of economic wombles, who just say whatever comes into their brain- they say in the next thirty seconds, and what I think is really important here is I’m not going to tell millions of people who have mortgages that somehow it’s bad news if they have to pay less on their mortgage repayments. That’s all- because I live in the real world.

REPORTER: Joe Hockey’s warning was about that it wouldn’t be a good sign for the economy. Isn’t that right to point out? He’s not saying whether the RBA should or shouldn’t , it’s about whether it bodes well for the economy more generally.

BILL SHORTEN: Joe Hockey can’t have it both ways. Does he think that interest rates going up is good? Now, in Hockeyworld, the interest rates go down, well, he says that’s bad. If the interest rates were going up he’d say that’s bad. To quote our Leader, “fair suck of the sauce bottle”. What would make Joe Hockey happy? I think what’d make the Liberal Party central bunker somewhere with the red lights flashing as Joe Hockey’s off on another rampage around interest rates is probably the Opposition saying Hockey contributions to economics going down would be better news for the Liberal election push than Hockey statements going up.

REPORTER: Can an interest rate going down though- can than not bode poorly for the economy but be good for homeowners? That’s possible at the same time, isn’t it?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, I’d only have to refer you to what I said to James Massola of the AFR in terms of monetary policy- monetary policy is a tool, it’s just an objective tool. It’s opening up the credit taps to encourage the role of investment, and when the economy is overheated, then you lower interest rates. My point is not your question, and you know, the points you make, which are valid. My point is that Joe Hockey, alternative Treasurer of Australia, what, 31 days [inaudible]. The guy we’d send to represent us in the economic Olympics, the G20, and this guy’s not sure where the start line, the finish line is or anything else about economics. We all know that he’s made a mistake. Because you can’t tell millions of people having mortgages that somehow a reduction in interest rates- I mean, is Joe Hockey saying that John Howard was wrong when he said it was good that interest rates were falling? Joe Hockey’s just got to pick one line of attack, and stick to it. But that’s the problem with the Opposition. One day they’re against education, the next day they’re for it, even though their state brothers and sisters don’t believe them. Is Joe for or against interest rate increases, or decreases? If you can work that out, well, you’re probably doing better than me and the Australian electorate.

REPORTER: Minister, do you believe that the Herald Sun is biased against the Labor Government, and it’s coverage is biased in Melbourne?

BILL SHORTEN: Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. We have a free press. What I know is that in Victoria- if you’re a Victorian parent sending your kids to a Victorian school, Labor’s the only brand with any credibility. You can’t just turn up on the day of the election not having done your educational policy homework, and expect a good mark from the parents of Victoria.

REPORTER: Sorry, that wasn’t my question, my question was do you-

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, I’m not fussed. What I’m saying is that at the end of the day people are going to express their views for whatever reasons they have. What I know is that on election day, who do you trust on education, who do you trust on workplace relations, who do you trust to lift superannuation, who do you trust to be on your side if you’ve got a mortgage- not Joe Hockey.

Sorry, there was one more question.

REPORTER:  Will you debate Eric Abetz on workplace relations at some point during the campaign?


REPORTER: Have you asked him for a debate?

BILL SHORTEN: The Coalition- if they’re trying to put Joe Hockey’s anti-mortgage holders comments down a deep hole, they’ve got Eric Abetz down that deep hole, in hiding. We want the Liberals to come out of witness protection on workplace relations. Again, they’re running this line like they are in education that they’re Labor lite on workplace relations. My answer to that is one, if you’re really Labor lite, vote for the real product.  And my second observation is we know that when Senator Abetz is offered the chance to debate me on national television he’s got a….I had a line I can’t say. He’s got a reason not to do it. He’s got to do the washing, you know, I don’t know what it is. We know that the Liberal Party do not want to talk about workplace relations. They don’t want to talk about their plans to undermine the workplace relations system. But, Senator Abetz, if you can hear this wherever they’ve got you in witness protection, happy to debate you, and I think Australia would be the better for hearing competing views.

Have a lovely day, thank you.

Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600