Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - Labor’s plan for more university graduates; Labor’s positive plan to drive startups






SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for more university graduates; Labor’s positive plan to drive startups; Malcolm Turnbull’s Cayman Island portfolio; Westpac’s decision the lift interest rates; workplace relations; South China Sea; Unemployment rate under the Liberals.

ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks everyone for coming out the University of Canberra, my name’s Andrew Leigh, I'm the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and it's a real pleasure to welcome Bill Shorten and Ed Husic to this terrific campus. I'd like to thank Stephen Parker, Geoff Reardon and the researchers who’ve shown us their important work looking at visual disorders. This is cutting edge work being done by great Australians researchers at a terrific Australian university. This represents the value that Labor places on innovation, on investing in higher education, creating jobs of the future and solving the problems of the future. Let me now pass on to Bill Shorten to say a few more words.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks Andrew. It's great to be here at the University of Canberra with Andrew Leigh, the local member and Shadow Minister and also Ed Husic Labor's new Parliamentary Secretary for Digital Innovation and Startups. It’s also great to be here at the University of Canberra because this university is let by one of the outstanding leaders in higher education Mr Stephen Parker. I know that he has announced that he'll be stepping down in July of next year and he has been, in my opinion, one of the true leaders of higher education policy in this country and we wish him well.

But we are also here today because Labor understands that what matters to the future of Australia is having policies which generate new jobs. Science and technology has to be at the centre of a government strategy to create jobs of the future. We all know that in the next ten years young people will be doing work, some of which hasn't yet been developed in Australia for the jobs of the future. So this research which is being done here is cutting edge. Labor is the only party offering policies to ensure that 2000 young students will have a great idea get to spend a startup year, an additional year after they have done their studies to back in their new business ideas with access to the best leadership and research and the best leadership in business. 2000 graduates getting the chance to have a startup year.

We're proposing to bring in entrepreneurs and provide a startup entrepreneurs with the opportunity to come to Australia and get a visa to back in their ideas in Australia for Australia. We're also proposing to provide foreign students the opportunity to extend their visas if they have a new idea which they want to research in Australia. Backing all of that up will be Labor's great new ideas to make sure that we can have the money to support our new entrepreneurs and new researchers with a half a billion dollar smart investment found. The whole story for Labor is how do we make sure, by 2030, we have three per cent of our economic activity being based in research and development. We believe that the jobs of the future which will help young people today and mature age people today transfer into new industries, new opportunity, all revolves around a commitment to science. The science race is on across the world. Australia has been lagging behind for the last two years. Malcom Turnbull, if he's really committed, if he actually really means what he talks about - if he’s really committed to science, he needs to commit to reverse his cuts, the billions of dollars of cuts that he's made or that his Government’s made to science and technology over the last two years. We can't innovate our way to the future if we're cutting the research and science funding which is the seed bed for the jobs of the future for all Australians. Now we're very happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical of you to question Malcolm Turnbull's tax arrangements when you have savings in Australian super which has funds registered in the Cayman Islands?

SHORTEN: There couldn't be a bigger gap or a bigger difference behind Malcolm Turnbull and his millions of dollars sent to the Cayman Islands and the superannuation of ordinary Australians. Is Malcolm Turnbull really saying that putting millions of dollars into a Cayman Islands investment fund, where you need millions of dollars to enter those funds, is the same as the superannuation of ordinary Australians? The Liberals are going to have to do a lot better if they seriously think someone who's putting millions of dollars into a managed investment fund in the Cayman Islands is the same as mums and dads who have a bit of their compulsory superannuation put into Australian Super, we don't buy that argument. What is really important here is transparency. There is a chance today for Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals in the Senate to choose transparency over secrecy. Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals have a chance today to vote for legislation, which makes sure that we don't clothe the activities of large companies in Australia in secrecy and Australians can't see what happening. It's all about transparency versus secrecy. It's all about good tax policy versus bad tax policy. I think the idea that the Liberals are comparing the mums and dads of Australia as if somehow they're shopping around on the Cayman Islands for amazing tax deals, that it’s the same as what some people get to do, a very privileged few.

JOURNALIST: Did you raise any concerns about using international fund managers with funds registered in the Cayman Islands when you were a Director of Australian Super?

SHORTEN: When Australian Super was formed in 2006, and since then I understand it it's made no conscious decision to invest in the Cayman Islands.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to Malcolm Turnbull's argument that he's using funds registered overseas to avoid any conflicts of interest in Australia and that all of the income from the funds is taxed in Australia?

SHORTEN: You are saying there has been an argument put he deliberately sends his money to a tax haven so he doesn't have conflicts of interest in Australia? Well, I've heard a various range of reasons to go to the Cayman Islands but I've never heard it's to be more transparent or more open. The challenge of the Cayman Islands is that it's cloaked in secrecy. No-one is saying that anyone has done anything illegal, let’s be really clear about that. But there is a very important debate in it country about whose paying tax: do we have a tax system which is equally available to all? Does every Australian have the opportunity to avail themselves of the sort of tax concessions which a lucky few can do? For the last two years, and continuing under Malcolm Turnbull's reign, they persist with argument for instance with superannuation that somebody has already got a pile of money, two, three, five million in superannuation, that they should be able to get income from that, the interest, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and pay no tax on it? Why is it that mums and dads of Australia, who pay their taxes when they go to work on the income they earn, are supporting tax concessions for people who quite frankly don't need tax concessions. In Australia, once you have got millions of dollars, why do you need the rest of Australia to support you getting more tax concessions? I'm going to ask Andrew Leigh, our Shadow Assistant Treasurer, to talk further about some of the policy issues. But let's be really clear what Labor thinks about these matters. We think everyone in Australia should pay their fair share of taxation. We think that's only reasonable. We are uncomfortable with the view that some people can shop around and get the best deals and minimise their tax and the rest, well they've just got to pay their tax because they can't afford to go shopping in some of these exclusive tax jurisdictions. I'd like to ask Andrew to go through this very important issue in more detail.

LEIGH: Thanks, Bill, one of the questions the Prime Minister didn't answer yesterday in Parliament was whether or not his investment in a Cayman Islands based vulture fund which requires a minimum $1 million buy-in increased the income that he received. Cayman Islands funds are able to take advantage of various tax structures; differential tax rates between capital gains tax and dividends; he treatment of management fees; the ability to defer tax down the line and the use of things such as structured investment vehicles which essentially only exist in the Cayman Islands. Frankly, if Malcolm Turnbull wants Australians to believe he put money into the Cayman Islands in order to maximise his Australian tax, I've got a Treasury mole whose story you might like to believe.

Mr Shorten, you said there's been no conscious decision from Australian Super to invest in the Cayman Islands. What about investing in companies that have interests in the Cayman Islands, including Goldman Sachs which has done?

First of all it's relevant to say that I stopped being a director of Australian Super when I went into Parliament - see I get you can't make big investment decisions, frankly, affecting yourself once you are in Parliament. So I decided that I was going to be a Member of Parliament first, not be an investor, I think that was the appropriate decision. So when people ask about all of these matters in Australian Super, you should ask Australian Super. But what I also know, and let's cut to the quick chase here, is the Liberal Party of Australia really expecting us to say that Malcolm Turnbull buying into a million dollar investment fund in the Cayman Islands is the same as you and millions of other Australians who just pay your ordinary superannuation every day? I don't buy that logic.


I think also, let's be clear, if we want to talk about the issues at stake here, it's one of transparency and it's one of leadership. No-one is saying, none of my colleagues have said that anything illegal has occurred, we have no facts to say that and that is not what is being said. But it's also a question of the sort of leadership that we expect in this country. Australians want to know that their leaders understand what they're doing, the lives they are leading and we want to make sure, and I think a lot of Aussies, it doesn't matter if you are a small business person, someone living in the regions of Australia, someone who's getting up today and going to work in our cities, most people just pay their tax, pay as you go, that's it. I think there is a sense of frustration in Australia, and it's not about Mr Turnbull in particular, it's a sense of frustration that some people because of their financial wealth are able to extract all of the concessions going in our system but the rest of the people, they just pay their tax, it gets taken out of their pay every week and that's that and they don't claim a lot of deductions, if any. I don't believe in Australia we have a tax system which treats everyone equally. Theoretically on paper everyone I suppose could put $1 million into the Cayman Islands or multiple millions. The issue is most people don't have that. I'm interested in a tax system in this country which is transparent. For the life of me, I don't know why the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals, are fighting so hard to keep secret the tax arrangements of large Australian companies. I think it's important for leadership in this country - it's to do as I do, it's not just to do as I say, and we need people to be able to make sure that everyone in Australia is getting the same fair go in the tax system, and I'm not sure they are. So again today I re-press my claim: the Liberal Party need to vote with the Labor Party and need to vote with the Australian people to make sure that we can all see exactly what's going on in our tax system.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you concerned by a new report showing almost 1,000 breaches of Federal workplace laws by unions who have been investigated in the past financial year, mainly by the CFMEU.

As I've said before but I'm most happy to repeat, the Labor Party has zero tolerance for criminality, zero tolerance. We also want to make sure that these breaches are being clamped on now. So we'll look at the report.  But we have no tolerance for criminal behaviour: it doesn't matter if you are a union, a union rep, a worker or an investment banker or director of a large company - we should have the same rules should apply to everyone in this country. That's why we feel so strongly about tax. We don't think that people can do different things, we want the same rules to apply to all Australians and that goes for our work sites as well.

 Nick Champion says one of the instances of the breaches was a union member going in to talk to a worker who was suicidal, so it was a breach, but do you support a union member going in illegally to talk to a worker who is suicidal if it's in breach of the rules?

Well first of all you're putting to me a fact circumstance which I don't know. But what I will say in fairness to your point because it's a good point you raise, is not all the breaches are criminal, they're civil matters. So I think that what Nick's getting at is that you need to judge what are the actual thousand matters. Are they substantive matters, are they technical matters, are they civil breaches, are they criminal matters. So you're quite right, your point, if someone's safety is at risk, well that should always be an important consideration. That's why we'll study this report carefully but let's be very straightforward; we do not support criminality but nor do we think that unions shouldn't have the ability to represent workers. As we have seen with the 7-Eleven workforce who are non-unionised, there is exploitation in Australia's work forces, and I know the Government loves to focus on the breaches and that's fair enough. I just wish they'd be more vigilant in speaking up for the 7-Eleven workforce. You know, we can have a safety net in Australia, in Australia's workplaces or we can have the 7-Eleven worker system. I'm concerned that the Government sometimes in its rush to attack unions and its political enemies, will end up creating a national minimum wage which will be called the 7-Eleven wage.

What do you hope comes from today's terror summit and how worrying is it that a 12 year-old is being monitored by security agencies over links to suspected terror activities?

Well, like most Australians or all Australians who woke up this morning to read about a 12-year-old being monitored, that's terribly shocking, that's - it's beyond words, we would all agree on that. I hope the terror summit goes well. It is important it's a meeting of officials, as the Prime Minister's explained to me. I think it is important that we get together and we make sure we've got the best response, and the response can't just be a police response. We can't expect our police force to have to do all the heavy lifting on their own. It has to be a whole of community response. I for one am pleased at the change of rhetoric in the Liberal Government in the last four weeks.  I'm pleased that the Liberal Government seems to move away from just a law and order response, which is fundamental, to understanding we need to unite our communities. So I only wish it well today.

Do you agree with the Treasurer that Westpac is gouging home loan customers by increasing interest rates?

Yes. I don't support what Westpac has done in the slightest. I don't think the case has been made to increase its fees and rates. I think it's an incredibly disappointing decision. What I'm going to do is actually ask Andrew Leigh to further talk about this matter. There is no case being made, in my opinion, by Westpac to increase its rates. I think this is just corporate greed.

Do you expect other banks will follow suit?

Well I sincerely hope not because the backlash in the community is enormous. I think everyone last night and yesterday when they saw the report of this was working out, you know which bank are they with and just checking that they haven't had their mortgage increased. But we've got historically low cash rates, the case has not been made out by Westpac to increase its rates. But I might get Andrew to talk a little further about it.
LEIGH: Thanks Bill, yes the Westpac decision is out of line with their underlying costs. This is an extremely profitable bank and I suspect many Westpac customers will now be thinking themselves fortunate that when Labor was last in office, we made it easier for people to switch their mortgages to another provider. It was opposed by the Liberals at the time but many Westpac customers now will be wanting to avail themselves of those easier switching options.

 Back on counter terror, you were talking the other day on control orders, you said it might sound draconian to impose control orders on 14-year-olds. Do you think the Government should have waited until they had had a meeting with police before proposing something?

SHORTEN: I'm not going to start second guessing the work of the police. The last thing our security agencies need is politicians second guessing  what they should and shouldn't do. Now yes, I do think it sounds draconian but I left room to understand if there was viewed to be a real danger and real need, I'm not about to say they shouldn't do it. There is questions of how it can be resourced. There are questions always of the rights of people, but on balance, I'm not going to start leaping in and saying that they shouldn't do something. I think it's pretty complex. What we want in Australia is a much more informed and sensitive debate about how to handle terror. I for one, believe there are terror threats and they need to be taken seriously. By the same token we have to make sure we get the balance right and we don't damage the very liberties of Australia in defending them. But apart from those high principles, what we need is not an inflamed tabloid sort of debate about it, what we just need is let the experts get on with their business. Let's work with the community, let's work with the diverse faiths. We are smart enough to handle this risk. It's a part of the modern life that all countries are dealing with. We are smart enough to do it. I'm not going to overheat the environment, the political debate with inflated rhetoric. That is why if the experts and the security people believe something has to be done, I'm not immediately going to assume they are wrong. I think we just have that measured discussion

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government it is doing enough to talk to young people in the Muslim community and engage with them rather than addressing the leaders?

SHORTEN: I get young people are a different generation to their leadership, in some cases, two generations away from their leadership. You can't assume that by speaking to the leaders of a particular faith that that message automatically gets out to all the disenfranchised or potentially radicalised youth. But it is a good step forward that we are engaging with the faith leaders. I think there has been a lot of leadership within the Muslim community, for instance, in recent weeks and quite a bit of strength and character shown and I congratulate them for that. You can't rely on one tactic, as your question implies. Labor supports programs which reach out to potentially radicalised youth. I'm going to ask Ed Husic, who’s electoral work I think gives him particular insight in what’s happening parts of Sydney.

HUSIC: Thanks Bill, I think obviously the national priority is to deal with the threat posed by terrorism but to make sure you are not going to have a program where one size fits all and you do need to have on the one hand an approach that is hard as a hammer on those people that do want to cause harm to Australians through terrorism, but there is something also to be said about dealing with people who feel afraid and are being driven apart by fear. We need to be able to have a debate that doesn't enliven or lift up fear as a big issue driving communities apart and we do need to be able to talk with young people, to make sure that the type of messages, the type of tactics that are being used through social media and other avenues don't take firm hold. So the Government has said that it's put $40 million aside in terms of countering violent extremism and de-radicalisation programs. We certainly support that. And the faster that they get that out there and work with young groups, the better. Because it is important in this space, that prevention is better than the cure, getting ahead, thinking about how to deal with some of those messages that are being put out through social media and having an effective response to it, really important. I think what Bill has said today, we certainly wish the summit well. I certainly think that the Government should consider in due course that it is important that if we say we are all in this together and work together, in dealing with this, it's important that the Government also follow what happened in NSW and that you have the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in a room together, sending a signal that regardless of our politics, we are united in making sure that Australians feel safe and secure and that we have a united response to something that poses such a major national threat to us.

SHORTEN: Thanks, Ed.

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised China is angry over Australia's and the US's involvement in the South China Sea?

SHORTEN: No, I'm not surprised, different countries have different views. Labor has a very clear policy about our relations with China and the South China Sea. We believe in international freedom of movement in maritime channels. We think the best solution to some of the arguments going on between China and its immediate neighbours is to sit down in international forums and work them through. It's the only way to resolve these matters. That's Labor's position, I think it's common sense. For a lot of Australians it's not a live issue. The reality is a lot of our international trade goes through some of these areas which different countries are claiming. The best way to work through freedom of passage on our oceans is for nations to sit down diplomatically and work it through, it’s the only lasting solutions.

JOURNALIST: Lastly, should Australians be worried the unemployment rate is expected to reach its highest level in more than a decade today at 6.3 per cent?

SHORTEN: I hope that unemployment hasn't lifted in this country, I really hope that. So we will wait and see what the figures are. The truth of the matter is that unemployment though is since the Liberals came to power has gone up and up and up. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people unemployed as we speak right now and many thousands of people who are unemployed who weren't unemployed two years ago. I believe the job of a government, be it Liberal or Labor, and it's what motivates me every day, is to help make sure we maintain existing jobs, to help make sure we create new jobs, to help make sure that our young people and mature age workforce get the access to education and training so they can get good jobs in the future. I'm deeply disturbed that so many people with disabilities are out of the job market. Indigenous unemployment is far too high. I'm deeply disturbed that older Australians frequently receive discrimination in the workplace and don't get a chance for work. I also recognise that we need to do a lot more to tackle youth unemployment which is especially high in the regions.

For me every policy which gets debated, by the Liberals in a talking point or Labor's policies, there is one question I always asks myself - does this policy help create more jobs, does it help maintain existing jobs, are we making sure we have high skilled jobs with a strong safety net. We will be examining the unemployment numbers today. We are greatly concerned that too many Australians have insecure employment, in other words they would like to do more work than they are currently getting. Whilst they are employed for some part of each week, they would like to do more work. Under-employment is a scourge. We are also concerned that too many Australians are in casualised work. This is why it is so important that the Liberal Party stop sending mixed messages about tackling penalty rates and they get behind well-paid work. This is why it's so important to return to where we start. This is why we are here at the University of Canberra. The researchers we saw today, researching myopia and the causes of myopia, marvellous people doing great research, we have to back in our scientists. Australia is pretty good at backing our international sports teams. But really, some of the most important intense global competitions are happening in laboratories around the world. The University of Canberra, like many other facilities of its kind around Australia, are competing with the rest of the world. There is people in lab coats, PhD students being supported by their families as they do their studies. These people, those marvellous people we met today, they are securing jobs for future generations of Australians and a Labor Government will make sure that we win the science and research race of the future so that at future press conferences we are not talking about the potential for unemployment to go up but aiming for full employment of all Australians.