THURSDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: South Australian bushfires; Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Mal Brough; Changes to the Citizenship Act; Government’s response to the mental health inquiry
GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: It's great to be here today with Bill Shorten and my colleague from the other side of the lake, Andrew Leigh to talk to Ally about the impact that an increase in the GST would have on her weekly shopping bill.
Last week I attended a U3A session and one of the main topics of discussion was an increase in the GST. And the Canberrans that I spoke to at the session, that U3A session, are very concerned about what it means for their cost of living expenses, what it means for their weekly shopping bill, what it means for their budget bottom line. It's wonderful to be here today with Ally talking about her experience and what that would mean. Now, I'd like to introduce Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gai and good morning everyone. Before I talk about the GST and the battles of families like Ally's to make ends meet, I just wish to talk briefly about the South Australian bushfires. Every Australian who has seen the graphic images overnight would be shocked by the intensity, furiosity and speed of these terrible fires. Two, possible three, people have died - this is shocking beyond belief. For the families, for the friends, for the people who live in this part of South Australia, our thoughts are with them. Our volunteer fire brigades are incredibly professional but I know from what I saw in the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 in Victoria, the cataclysm and upheaval of this community will be really severe. I've spoken to Nick Champion, he is the Labor Member of Parliament who covers part of the area affected by the bush fires. He is back there trying to get through roadblocks and see what he can do to help. But it does sound particularly shocking, the speed, the ferocity. It is harvest season, there is a lot of hay out which has all turned to ash. There is a big fuel out there and it's a very tough time.
Turning to the visit here to Coles Manuka with Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann. We had the privilege of speaking to Ally and her kids as they do their weekly shopping. Walking up and down the aisles of Coles, and it could be one of the other supermarkets, reminded millions of Australians every week go to the supermarket to get the food, to get the things that their families need. But when you walk through the fresh food area of this supermarket, when you go to the bread, when you look at the cereal, when you look at the things which Ally needs to make sure her children are getting the most nutritional meals, you have to ask why on earth is Malcolm Turnbull making Australia have a 'conversation' about a plan for a 15 per cent GST on everything? The Liberals' plan, Malcolm Turnbull's plan to put a 15 per cent price rise on everything will hurt families who can least cope, and are already battling to make ends meet.
We need our children to be getting the best possible start in life, and that involves the best possible diet and the best possible nutrition. The difference in health outcomes for Australians by making sure that they're eating fresh food, nutritious food is remarkable and it'll have a down payment on their health for the rest of their lives.
It is terrible public policy for Malcolm Turnbull to be putting the price of everything up by 15 per cent. I think it speaks volumes of the difference between Labor and Liberal. See in a choice, I'll make the hard decision to increase the excise fee on tobacco - the price of cigarettes; it was not an easy decision. But what I also know is that smoking costs the Australian Budget this year alone, or last year I should say $31 billion. I think an excise is a sensible measure to ensure that the children of smokers don't have the incentive to take up smoking. But the difference couldn’t be starker: Labor wants to help discourage smoking, Liberals want to put the price of everything up by 15 per cent. It is not good enough, it is long overdue for Mr Turnbull and the Liberals to explain exactly what their plans are to increase the GST because there are millions of mums and dads like Ally, who just want to be able to feed their kids fresh food, but don't need to worry about a 15 per cent price rise. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you said that Malcolm Turnbull's forcing Australians to have a conversation about increasing the GST but realistically he's not talking about it, you are. Do you feel like this is your only tool that you have to fight this now quite strong and quite popular government?
SHORTEN: Let's be really clear. The Liberal Party are gagging to increase the GST. Your question implies that somehow only Labor is saying the Liberals want to increase the GST. Why won't the Liberals rule out increasing the GST to 15 per cent? This whole debate could be ended in one simple sentence. The fact that this debate, the fact that this conversation, the fact that the Liberal plans for the GST have not been ruled out means that Australians have got a legitimate question for Malcolm Turnbull. What exactly are your plans to increase the price of everything for most Australians, what are your exact plans? Your question says, well Mr Turnbull hasn't ruled it in or ruled it out, therefore it's not legitimate for Labor to be raising this campaign and raising this question - yes, it is. Millions of Australians want to know exactly what Malcolm Turnbull's plans are for the GST and raising everything to 15 per cent. The Liberals keep talking about it, you can't lift up a cushion on the couch without hearing a Liberal talk about it, you can't turn on a TV without seeing some conservative commentators saying the GST's going to be the solution for all of the world's ills. The truth of the matter is every day millions of Australians – pensioners, families, people do the shopping – they don't want a 15 per cent increase on the price of fresh food. There is no argument in favour of it and Malcolm Turnbull should stop wasting the nation's time and tell them the truth, less rhetoric and more action.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten the polling would suggest though that people aren't as averse to potentially increasing the GST if compensation is attached to it.
SHORTEN: Let's talk straight. You must live on another planet if you think Australians want to pay a 15 per cent GST. This idea that there's going to be compensation. People who work every day are not going to get compensated. And also pensioners, they are deeply sceptical that any change in their pension is going to keep change with the inflationary impact of a GST.
I think fresh food, going to the doctor, the school books and the uniforms the kids are going to need next year, Australians don't want a GST and if the Government thinks they do, or if some commentators think they do, then they are so out of touch with the way Australians make ends meet, it's breathtaking.
JOURNALIST: Jay Weatherill has fleshed out his proposal to apply the GST to financial services. Is Labor split on this?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I think South Australia is going through particularly difficult day so I'm not going to get into a direct debate about South Australian politics when there is a much bigger issue. But let me make it perfectly clear what the Labor Party thinks, the Federal Labor position, increasing the GST to 15 per cent is a dumb idea. We don't believe the Government is doing it to help make the lives of ordinary people better. Why is it that every Australians should pay 15 per cent extra so that donation they make can go to providing large companies corporate tax cuts? Why should you pay more at the fresh fruit and grocery section of a supermarket so a large company with majority foreign ownership can pay less tax and send more profits overseas? It's a bad idea for the nation. The trick in Australia, if you want to make Australia go ahead, is to make sure that ordinary Australians are able to deal with the cost of living. Labor understands how people are organising their lives. We're in touch with what people really want. They don't want a 15 per cent GST on the important items you see around me in the supermarket today.
JOURNALIST: The Government’s standing by Mal Brough. Is it premature to ask for him to stand down before any investigation is complete?
SHORTEN: Mal Brough is the Special Minister of State. That is not just any position in the Government. The Special Minister of State is in charge of Government integrity. I think that it's not just a matter of whether or not Mal Brough should stand aside, which he probably should, it's now becoming a matter of Malcolm Turnbull's judgment on why he won't act.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, with the Citizenship Act or changes to the Citizenship Act, does Labor still have concerns with the Government's proposed Bill? Are you seeking further amendments to it?
SHORTEN: The Government late last night sprung some last-minute changes to the arrangements which they negotiated with Labor. As we always do, we will look carefully at these proposals. But late last night the Government has approached Labor and said all the arrangements we thought we had in place, they've had to change, they've had to change a key matter. We'll work through that with them, we'll try and understand what they're saying and doing. In terms of national security and our record, the Government has said there've been four sets of laws which have been required to be passed. Labor has made over a hundred changes to these laws which the Government's ultimately agreed to. What Labor's been able to do is secure bipartisanship and we've been able to improve their laws. Now we've got the Government last night springing a new change. These matters need to be carefully considered and I promise Australians that's exactly what we'll do.
JOURNALIST: So will they be, do you think that Labor and these laws will pass before Parliament rises next week?
SHORTEN: Well, let's see what the changes are. You'll have to ask the Government to explain what it is they're changing and why they're changing it. That's exactly what we're doing. Last question.
JOURNALIST: In about 20 minutes, Malcolm Turnbull will outline a new plan for mental health. What would you like to see that include and what do you think the big problems are at the moment?
SHORTEN: Labor's outlined a view on mental health. I think the Government has taken too long to respond to the inquiry into mental health in Australia. Labor wants to decrease the suicide rate, I think that if you're going to talk about mental health, you've got to talk about the hardest issues. We've got a target to halve the suicide rate in Australia. We also think that regional Australia doesn't get its fair share of resources and we’ve proposed 12 regional projects which will see improved access to mental health affordability and access. We also think that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders get forgotten a lot in the mental health discussion, so we think that's a priority. Labor has spelled out its policies several weeks ago and we certainly stand by them. We're optimistic that the Government will substantially copy our policies and we welcome that because mental health should be above politics. Thanks everyone, see you at Question Time.
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