Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - Turnbull Liberals’ chaos and confusion; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget




Turnbull Liberals’ chaos and confusion; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget; Defence White Paper; South China Sea; Senate reform; Media reforms; Safer Schools Program


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It's been another 24 hours and the Turnbull Government is simply all over the shop. We've seen disagreements now between the Prime Minister's scare campaign and indeed the Assistant Treasurer who's contradicted her own Prime Minister. The only real plans that we've seen from the Government about taxation in the last 24 hours or indeed the last six months has been the revelation that Mr Turnbull and his Liberals intend to increase the taxes on 14 million superannuation accounts held by working Australians. This Government's getting increasingly harder to understand by the day. They're soft on multinationals, but the only plan they've got is to tax 14 million superannuation accounts, increase the tax that's paid, so that people will retire with less money courtesy of Malcolm Turnbull's plans. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said that the Labor Party has no modelling for their negative gearing policy. Is that true and if you do have modelling, why don't you show it?
SHORTEN: Our proposals have been modelled to death. Just have a look at the work that ANU did, have a discussion with Saul Eslake, look at the McKell Institute's work. The real issue here is that the Government's running a scare campaign which even their own ministers can't keep to. I mean, what the Assistant Treasurer said this morning contradicts what the Prime Minister said yesterday in Parliament. I mean, this is the Assistant Treasurer. It's not one of the Cory Bernardi brigade up in the Senate, the Turnbull haters within the Liberal Party. This is the Assistant Treasurer of Australia, contradicting the Prime Minister. The Government needs to stop scaring people. Everyone knows that negative gearing is overdue for reform. Under Labor's proposal, if you currently have a house invested under the current tax laws, there will be no change, no retrospectivity. If you want to negatively fear gear in the future, you can, it'll just be on new housing stock and in the meantime, because of Labor's sensible policies, we are doing the real hard work to get the Budget back in the black, to make sure that young Australians, single people, can afford to be able to buy their first house, and also to make sure that we can clear some space to fund important health projects and education projects which this country needs.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister has just confirmed that Defence spending is expected to go over 2 per cent of GDP, is that sort of spending reckless when the Government's looking at slashing social programs?


SHORTEN: First of all, we've yet to see the White Paper. This White Paper is 12 months overdue. We're interested to see what's in it. We want to see if there's a commitment to build the 12 submarines, the future submarines of Australia, in Australia. We want to see if that promise is there. I mean, after all they promised it before the last election, and for the last two and a half years, we've seen ship-building manufacturing jobs go from all around Australia because this Government can't keep its promise. So on the Defence White Paper, when it's released, we want to see does it commit to Australian jobs. In terms of the 2 per cent, we want to see if the Government has a credible trajectory to be able to get to 2 per cent. I don't want them just making up promises and not explaining how it can be funded. We will look carefully at the detail. There is nothing more important than the defence of this nation. We want to make sure this is not a Government just rushing out a belated announcement, short on detail and long on promises.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the Defence White Paper, we've seen details of that dropped to numerous media organisations overnight. Are you sceptical perhaps that was a ploy to take attention away from the confusion surrounding the tax debate and would you be disappointed to see an important piece of policy used in that way?
SHORTEN: Well, the Defence White Paper is 12 months overdue. The fact that they're releasing it this week does raise a question mark about - is this about the defence of the nation or the defence of the Turnbull Government? The truth of the matter here is that this Government will talk about anything except economic reform and taxation. This is a Government who are all over the shop, quite bluntly. This is a Government who can't keep a tax position for longer than 24 hours. In September last year, when Malcolm Turnbull justified rolling Tony Abbott, he promised new economic leadership. Well, there's been no leadership. He definitely looked at a 15 per cent GST. Labor thought that was a bad idea on behalf of ordinary Australians. He's backed off that for the time being. And now we saw him on Monday rule out any changes to capital gains tax. Then on Tuesday he just said that everyone in Australia misunderstood him and now we see that they're proposing a new tax increase on 14 million superannuation accounts, which will decrease the amount of money people have in retirement, and now they are desperately trying to talk about anything but the economy, anything about taxation. Taxation's not the only issue in Australia. But no political party can hope to retain the Government of Australia unless they're prepared to deal with taxation reform and creating a fair system for all Australians. Labor's fronted up to this task. And the Turnbull Government, they're all at sea.


JOURNALIST: There seems to be from the reports quite a focus on naval strength. Do you welcome this in light of China's assertive foreign policy in the South China Sea, and do you agree with Stephen Conroy that we should be conducting freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea within that 12 nautical mile radius?


SHORTEN: Well, on the Defence White Paper, whilst there's been selective leaks dropped for whatever reason, probably for the Government to not talk about their tax mess, we'll wait and see the detail. Labor has always been strong supporters of the Royal Australian Navy. In terms of freedom of navigation, Labor absolutely is committed to freedom of navigation. The Government and Labor are of one mind on that. We want to make sure that China goes and uses the international forums to resolve its claims and doesn't just assert through military capacity its rights which frankly need to be resolved in international forums.


JOURNALIST: Will you be conducting more operations within the 12 nautical mile radius?


SHORTEN: I'm not going to try and be the admiral of Australia. What I do respect, though, is if our military people feel that that's necessary, then they'll get Labor's backing.


JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, just on Senate reform. An internal review within your own party recommended in favour of supporting Senate reform. Why is the Labor now opposing it? Is it a political move just to distinguish yourselves?


SHORTEN: Well, Labor is always up for reform. But just because the Liberals and the Greens do a deal and  sticky tape the word "reform" over the top of it doesn't constitute reform. I am deeply sceptical when the Liberal Party is proposing a measure which will potentially entrench their influence in the Senate, that Labor shouldn't be voting for $100,000 degrees, voting for the cuts to Medicare, voting for our poor policies on climate change. If we institutionalise Liberal control of the Senate, then that's what will happen and Labor's got to put the interests of Australians ahead of a deal fixed between the Greens and the Liberal Party.


JOURNALIST: Would Labor consider backing any legal challenge that Bob Day's considering to the Senate reform? He's suggesting there could be a High Court challenge.


SHORTEN: Well, that's a matter for Bob Day. What I'm interested in is making sure that we've got policies that promote Australian jobs, that we properly fund our schools and hospitals, that we've got a fair taxation system in Australia, which gives everyone a chance to get ahead, and that we have real action on climate change.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on media reforms, will Labor back scrapping the two out of three rule?


SHORTEN: We haven't seen the final detail. We understand that the Turnbull Government's been talking about media reform. Let's face it, they talk about a lot of things, don't they? What we want to see is the detail of what have they're proposing. Labor's very committed to making sure that regional Australia has a strong local media basis and that it's not all just news from the capital cities. We recognise that technology is changing far quicker than existing regulation, so that's a factor in our considerations. We also want to make sure that there's diversity in media ownership. We'll look at the all the details and come to a considered position.


JOURNALIST: Dennis Jensen has described Indigenous people as noble savages last night. Your thoughts on that language?


SHORTEN: Dennis Jensen is just away with the pixies. His own party don't even want him to be a member of Parliament. I've got to say though about the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull's got a leadership challenge here. I don't mean in terms of his own position but in terms of - is he the leader of the Liberal Party, or is he just the front man who 's been borrowed by the right wing of the Liberal Party to try to make the Liberal Party look bit prettier to the Australian population? We see this ridiculous obsession, this ridiculous absurd obsession by the right wing of the Liberal Party about Safe Schools and making sure that we have -


SENATOR CORY BERNARDI: That would be me -


SHORTEN: That will be the chap -


BERNARDI: At least I'm honest, Bill. You're a fraud mate.


SHORTEN: No mate, at least I'm not a homophobe either mate, so let's just do the right thing here about bullying in schools. Children have got a right to go to school and not be bullied. If they've got questions about their sexuality, they deserve the right to be able to get answers and be supported and not oppressed. Young people, who are gay, report that 80 per cent of the bullying which occurs occurs at school. We need to make sure that kids are safe, so be it Dennis Jensen, be it Senator Cory Bernardi, you know. It is amazing to me that in the Liberal caucus yesterday, rather than talking about taxation, they had seven speakers worrying about the curriculum of kids and their obsessions about whether or not someone's sexual identity was potentially going to be changed because of what they're taught in school. Malcolm Turnbull needs to be the Malcolm Turnbull of old. He needs to get a grip on his party and just say listen we are not going to have this right-wing agenda distracting from the big issues of Australia. Thanks everyone, see you later.