Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Cairns - Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals’ cuts to Medicare and pathology services; Liberals’ 15 per cent GST on everything




SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals’ cuts to Medicare and pathology services; Liberals’ 15 per cent GST on everything; Clive Palmer’s nickel refinery going into administration; youth unemployment; submarines

SHARRYN HOWES, LABOR'S CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Thank you everyone and a very warm welcome to Bill Shorten who is here today and is a frequent visitor to our region and always very interested to what is happening on the ground. The increase to the GST is a major concern for our region given that affordability of food, housing is through the roof, particularly in the Cape and the Torres Strait. Families are struggling. On average, the GST means an average of $6,200 per year extra. That's quiet an impact given that if you add the loss of penalty rates or the loss or the cut of the Family Tax Benefit. So our families will be really impacted in our region. I'll pass over to Bill who will talk about cuts to health in our region and in fact, the nation.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks and you've just heard from Sharryn Howes, Labor's candidate in Leichhardt. I am also fortunate enough this this morning to be accompanied by Norm Jacobson, Labor's hard working candidate in Kennedy and we are also being hosted as we always are by Senator Jan McLucas, who is unfortunately suffering a bit of a cold as well.


I am here today because I believe that the Malcolm Turnbull Liberal National Government is cutting too much from health care and everyday Australians are the ones who pay the price. At the moment, just before Christmas the Liberal National Party in Canberra announced that they would cut the bulk billing incentive payments which go to pathology laboratories to help give encouragement and incentive for patients to seek pathology tests to help an early diagnosis of possible disease. In plain English, a lot of Australians unfortunately have chronic health problems, including diabetes. Many Australian women obviously want to have pap smears to make sure they can monitor their health. In 100 per cent of cancer cases, pathology testing is necessary for clinical diagnosis.


Now Sharryn, Norm and I were particularly privileged to meet some people going through their medical treatment and chemo and battling cancer. When you have a loved one who's got a diagnosis of cancer, the last thing you need is some Liberal National Party bean counter in Canberra making it harder for people to go to the doctor. The pathology laboratories have guaranteed that if the Liberal National Party go ahead with their cuts to bulk billing payments, they will be left with no choice but to put a co-payment or a tax on patients to go to the doctor. Now the truth of the matter is the Liberal National plan is madness because some Australians don't have a lot of money. Many Australians are working hard to make ends meet; if you've got more financial barriers when you're looking at early diagnosis and treatment, you may put off necessary treatment and tests because of the cost and it's not an immediate crisis but the Australian taxpayer, and more importantly the patient, will still pay the price down the track because putting Australians off getting necessary medical tests doesn't make sick people well, it just makes them sicker. So Labor, in 2016, is absolutely opposed to the attacks on bulk billing payments for pathology because cancer sufferers, people with chronic health disease, women seeking pap smears do not need to have greater cost burdens put on them by the Turnbull Liberal Government.


I am in Cairns today also with Sharryn, with Norm, in the region talking about why a 15 per cent GST on everything is just plainly a bad idea. The Liberal National Party say they want to have a debate about taxation. Well, here we are. We're having the debate about taxation. I promise all Australians that a Shorten Labor Government will never introduce a 15 per cent GST on everything. From the supermarkets, every time you go to a grocery store and you line up at the check-out, you've got the fresh food because you want the kids to eat fresh food, you want them to grow up healthy and strong, remember Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals want us to have a debate about putting a 15 per cent tax on it. They say one thing and they do another. They say they're worried about cost of living but put upward pressure on cost of living. We have an alternative which we've been talking to people in Cairns about today. Rather than put a 15 per cent tax on everything, rather than engage in mean and vicious cuts to patient services, what the Malcolm Turnbull Liberal Government need to do is they need to make multinationals pay their fair share. It is a joke that before Christmas 579 very wealthy Australian companies revealed that they paid no tax. It is not fair that a farmer in the region, a newsagency or a chemist in the High Street pay more tax than a very wealthy multinational company. So in 2016, Labor's absolutely committed to stopping the 15 per cent GST on everything. We will win this debate and we're also committed to opposing the very ruthless cuts to bulk billing incentives for pathology services because it's just bad for patients and bad ultimately for the future of this country.


We're happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the ACTU has proposed a new body to investigate corruption in politics, business, unions, sport and other areas of public life, effectively a national ICAC, would Labor support that?


SHORTEN: I have seen the ACTU proposal this morning. I understand where the unions are coming from. We've seen the royal commission into trade union governance. It did uncover unacceptable examples of thievery and corruption within some unions but what the Liberal National Government are doing is trying to turn it into wholesale attack on everything to do with unions. Yet Australians are very aware of the financial planning scandals at the Commonwealth Bank. We've seen some of the actions in sport. So we'll look at the trade union proposition very carefully but certainly Labor will propose stronger laws in terms of the governance of trade unions because I and all people genuinely committed to the betterment of working people have no interest in corruption and thievery and taking from the members, doesn't matter if it's a union or a company or indeed a sport or indeed other aspects of life.


JOURNALIST: What do you think of Australian Chamber of Commerce and CEO's comments that this is a kind of fear campaign?


SHORTEN: No, the Australian Chamber of Commerce need to work out are they on the side of the Liberal Party or on the side of small business and everyday Australians. We're not opposing the GST because we want to scare people, we're opposing the GST to 15 per cent because it's a scary idea. We see right around the world global instability in our stock markets, retirees and self-funded superannuants are seeing their share market prices being hit and that's their savings. That's part of what's going on in the world. The Australian Government can't control everything that happens everywhere else but what an Australian Government can do - what good leaders can do is build confidence in their own community. This is the worst possible time with a stock market which is volatile and low, with a falling dollar, with youth unemployment in Cairns at 20 per cent, with small business being strangled by a whole lot of red tape and a lack of action in terms of petrol prices. And now we see the LNP Government in Canberra, Malcolm Turnbull's Government, introducing or wanting to introduce a 15 per cent GST. It's a confidence killer, it's a job killer and Scott Morrison let the cat out of the bag the other day when he said what he wanted to do was use the GST increase to help fund corporate tax cuts. Only a Liberal Government in Canberra, Liberal National Government in Canberra would think of stealing from everyday families and workers with a GST - and that's effectively what it is, it's a tax on ordinary people - and giving the money to wealthy companies, many of whom are not paying enough tax as it is now.


JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to Clive Palmer's woes and job cuts in Townsville?


SHORTEN: My first reaction is what is happening to the workers at Queensland Nickel and small business and trade creditors? The real issue here is that people when they go to work, you know, they work hard, they want to be part of a profitable enterprise but it's never acceptable for a large corporation to use workers entitlements as part of the ongoing sort of cash flow of the business and then when the business gets into difficulty, saying, "I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, there's no money left." I do support what the AWU is doing with ASIC wanting a further investigation into the matter. I want to see this business trade out of its difficulty. It's now got administrators in. You put administrators into the company to see if they can restructure the business or if they sell the business or, if worse comes to worse, gather up the money so that entitlements can be paid. But my thoughts are not with Clive Palmer, my thoughts are with the employees of the business and also, the small business and trade creditors. It is a little-known fact that when these big companies and these wealthy companies get into trouble, trade creditors are what they call unsecured creditors, in other words in the queue they rank behind banks and they rank behind employee entitlements so I'm gravely concerned that this company is in the turmoil it's in and I don't mind if you're Clive Palmer or Malcolm Turnbull or anyone, workers entitlements are always got to be paid.

JOURNALIST: Well on the issue, what support should the Federal Government give to those workers?

SHORTEN: Well, there's an entitlement scheme in place, there's a scheme of last resort, but I think here there's an important transparency exercise required. People need to know what has gone on here and they also need to know are their entitlements safe? From my experience of representing people and workers caught up in these matters over the last 20 years, you want to see the business try and trade out of its difficulties. The best way to secure entitlements is to have an ongoing job, but in the meantime I think there needs to be complete transparency and the administrators need to account to the workers and their representatives how much money is there and how much entitlements - how much of the entitlements could be paid if the worst happens. But I do also think that the management need to give a full and clear accounting of what they've done, when they've done it, what they've known and when they've known key financial information and this is very important - I've certainly spoken to Premier Palaszczuk about what's happening, a federal government can help workers retrain, they can help be the - step in and be the last resort for the payment of some entitlements but really it shouldn't have got to this, should it?

JOURNALIST: How would Labor fix the youth unemployment problem in Cairns?

SHORTEN: Everything in economic growth starts with education. Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying it's never been a more exciting time to be Australian: he should tell that to the 20 per cent youth unemployed in Cairns, rather than patronise them with lofty lectures, you know, from the commanding heights of the Prime Ministerial office. He needs to see what's happening in the real world and the first step you do to help youth unemployment is make sure kids get the best education possible. It is only Labor who can be trusted to properly fund all of the schools in Cairns and the regions, to make sure that every school is a great school. We saw between Christmas and New Year over the holiday break, the Turnbull Liberal Government sort of really perfect the art of taking out the trash, you know, the bad news they dump their bad ministers, they also announced absolutely categorically that they weren't going to fund years 5 and 6 of education needs-based funding policies which they said they were up for at the last election. So what I would do on youth unemployment, give every kid a quality education. What I'd also do is stop the rampant privatisation of TAFE. We've seen all the scandalous behaviour of some in the private sector training industry, where we've seen iPads given out to hook people in for courses which go nowhere and achieve nothing. I think the other thing which I'd do to help youth unemployment is that we would make sure we had a strong renewable energy industry. Renewable energy and climate change are part of our future. We've wasted two and a half years of Australia's destiny on a Liberal Government who don't believe in climate change. Malcolm Turnbull says he does but he's still backing in Tony Abbott's anti-climate change policies, so there's three simple steps which would help tackle youth unemployment. Better funded schools so the kids get the best start in life, reinvigorate TAFE and I'd also make sure that we had greater investment in renewable energy because that could add to advanced manufacturing, that could add to greater research.

JOURNALIST: Those plans would take a long time to happen for any outcome. What about immediately?

SHORTEN: Well again, if you put everything off into the long-term and say, we just need to be short-term, then we never get anything done so I would say that at the next election there will be a clear choice about the funding of schools. You'll have Labor who's more fair dinkum about properly funding our schools, or the Liberals who've got their track record where they wouldn't do it. When it comes to TAFE training, we've made it clear that we would implement our policies straight away. Renewable energy, we need a government who is committed to tackling climate change. You know you've got - one of the great, great beauties of this region is the Barrier Reef. It is the most remarkable sort of living organism in the world; it is really a showcase for the opportunities for tourism. That's why you need real action on climate change. Also the thing about Sharryn Howes as our candidate in Cairns and the region in the seat of Leichhardt; she's got a track record of advocating for young people and that's what you need and by the way, one thing which you're not going to do to help youth unemployment is make them pay a 15 per cent tax on everything. It's bad enough being unemployed then you've got to pay a 15 per cent tax on everything, that's a bad idea.

JOURNALIST: Many argue Australia has one of the least competitive tax systems in the world. Would you propose any reform?

SHORTEN: We already proposed reforms. We've proposed that multinationals pay their fair share; we've proposed that the excessively generous superannuation tax concessions for people who multiple millions already in superannuation need to be reduced. We've also said - and it's a tough proposition but we think it's the right one - that we would increase the excise on tobacco. We've done what no Opposition has done in a generation. We've already costed and explained where we would raise our resources and what we would do differently. We've also said we would save government money; we wouldn't keep wasting money on paying big polluters to pollute. So we've actually got quite a well-developed framework and we think that's part of the mix. The other thing though, and let's call it as it is, we have a two-class tax system in Australia. If you have a lot of money you can actually minimise your tax legally. If you are, like most Australians, and you go to work, pay as you go, you don't earn a lot of money, you can't avail yourself of all the tax concessions. So if we want to be internationally competitive we've got to have a more equal tax system. One thing is for sure, if we want to be internationally competitive, putting a 15 per cent tax on everything will kill confidence, it will kill jobs and small business and it will the increase the cost of living for Australian families. Last question thank you.

JOURNALIST: Apparently Tony Abbott's indicated he wants to be Prime Minister again. Given your standings in the polls, you'd welcome that wouldn't you?

SHORTEN: I don't think Tony Abbott was a very good Prime Minister to begin with and in fact it was Labor who opposed many of the decisions he made as Prime Minister. You know, Malcolm Turnbull's the beneficiary of Labor's strong opposition. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, they were all part of the cheer squad when Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were cutting education, cutting health care, cutting pensions, even cutting the ABC. So it was Labor's staunch opposition which made people realise that Tony Abbott's view of the world didn't have to be the only view of the world. It's up to Mr Abbott if he chooses to run again in Australian politics. It's his entitlement as it is for every other Australian citizen to nominate for Parliament. I certainly don't think we've seen the last of Tony Abbott though. If you really want to not see Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, vote for a Labor candidate in your seat. Thanks, I did say last question but one more.

JOURNALIST: Just on a local issue, Cairns has got a bid in the $2 billion pacific patrol boat centre. Would Labor consider exclusively Cairns in that bid against the WA?

SHORTEN: Sharryn Howes introduced me to the shipyard and the people who were putting forward the bid for the pacific patrol boats. I have met with them. I'm look forward to visiting their yard. They do really good work. Now it has to be a process which is competitive, it has to be a process which ensures that our defence and security forces get the best equipment possible but I believe fundamentally that we should a spend Australian taxpayer dollars, which when we have to purchase military equipment which is very expensive and these are generational decisions, I think all things being equal, buy Australian. It's Labor who's stood up - remember when the Liberals wanted to buy the submarines from Japan and build them in Japan, contrary to their election promises - it's Labor who said, no way. We can build advanced submarines in this country, working with other countries. We've been so strong in standing up for Australian made and by Australian that the Liberals are now in retreat and they've now had to back away from that initial set of arrangements. So when it comes to pacific patrol boats I can give you this commitment - I want to see them built in Australia, I want to make sure that they're the best possible equipment for our defence forces. I have no doubt, I have no doubt based on my initial knowledge of the merit of Cairns, they are without a doubt one of the leading competitors for Pacific patrol boats because I know Australians can do things as well as anyone else in the world and probably better. Thanks, everyone. See you a bit later.