Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Darwin - Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals plan to raise the GST to 15 per cent; Terrorist attacks in Paris





SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals plan to raise the GST to 15 per cent; Terrorist attacks in Paris; Airstrikes in Syria; Lease of the Port of Darwin.

LUKE GOSLING, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR SOLOMAN: Thanks for coming down here to Wanguri. Obviously fantastic to have Bill in town, also to be with our colleagues Warren and Nova. I've asked Bill to come up here to Darwin and Palmerston because as everyone in Darwin and Palmerston knows we've already got a massive problem with cost of living. What any GST is obviously going to do is put more costs on our already high cost of living. So what that means is, this is going to essentially be a tax on the Territory. It's going to hurt families, so it's great to have Bill here because we've been talking to not only families, but business people.

It's important that we get the settings right  to help people stay in the Territory, so that we can build the Territory. Infrastructure's one thing, we need jobs as well, people need to be able to afford to live here, to stay here, to raise a family. I've got a young family and I know how difficult it is when you're trying to pay the bills, pay your mortgage, kids in school. So that's what we're absolutely committed to and it's fantastic to have Bill up here in Darwin to have a look at what's happening here, thanks very much.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it's great to be here in Darwin. I'm here with Luke Gosling, Labor's candidate for Solomon, also accompanying me is Senator Nova Peris and the Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon. We are here today to talk about Malcolm Turnbull's proposed GST.

Labor is dead against creating a 15 per cent GST on everything. One of the reasons we're against it is because it's going to particularly hit Darwin and more remote communities in the Territory. Families in the Territory already have to spend more than you do, for instance, in Sydney, just for the household daily necessities. And what a GST of 15 per cent will do, is it will increase the gap; it will increase even more disproportionately the amount that people in Darwin, Palmerston and indeed even further, what people in remote communities in the Territory have to pay for the cost of living.

Cost of living is the number one issue for Labor. We don't accept that the answer to Australia's challenges is to put a blanket 15 per cent tax on everything. A 15 per cent GST on everything is a tax on the Territory. Labor is not going to support it; we don't think the case has been made out to increase the cost of living for everyone, and we are deeply sceptical about the Liberals' plans.

So Labor is here today, we're telling the people of Darwin and indeed right through the Territory, Labor has got your back, we're not going to sit by and watch Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals put a 15 per cent tax on everything. I might just get Warren Snowdon to talk a bit more about some of the consequences in more remote communities where the cost of living is even higher than it is in Darwin and Palmerston.

WARREN SNOWDON, MEMBER FOR LINGIARI: Well, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the further you move away from Darwin or even Alice Springs for that matter, the costs increase dramatically. So the poorest of Australians who live in these remote communities will be impacted quite substantially, more than any other Australians in fact, by an increase in the GST to 15 per cent across all items. This includes fuel, so already we know the highest fuel price in Australia are paid by people living in these remote communities. You add another 15 per cent on the GST which ordinarily applies, that radically increases the amount of costs to buy fuel. If you apply that to all foods, well you can see what it does to household budgets, and these are the poorest of Australians. Food security is one of the most major issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people around this country, in terms of getting good health outcomes - a 15 per cent tax on Territorians is a tax on health.

SHORTEN: Thanks, before we take questions, I should just again reinforce what I said yesterday about the Paris shootings, the atrocities there. Whilst in Australia we have our domestic political debates and these are very important, I want to make it really clear that when it comes to fighting terrorism, that all of our political differences get put to one side and I've had a good conversation with Malcolm Turnbull overnight. Labor and Liberal will work together in terms of national security. Okay, happy to take questions on GST, domestic matters and anything else.

JOURNALIST: Should Australia expand its air strikes in Iraq and Syria or put Australian soldiers on the ground?

SHORTEN: Well, we've all seen the dreadful atrocity, terrible criminal murders which happened in Paris late Friday night, Paris time. It's been - it would appear that it's been triggered by the ISIL or the ISIS terrorist organisation who Australia, as part of an international coalition, are trying to militarily stop their actions in northern Iraq and in Syria. Our defence forces, in particular our RAAF, but also our infantry and land forces who are doing training of Iraqi forces are doing a great job. Labor will be guided by the best military and defence and strategic advice. I believe our men and women in the RAAF and indeed more generally in the ADF are doing an excellent job. They are professionals who are trained for this and of course Labor will be guided by the best military and strategic advice, and that's what should guide us in this matter and I just want to put on record I congratulate the French for their speedy response overnight. Obviously France is showing the terrorists that they're not going to take any of this terrible behaviour sitting down and the French have already retaliated - I say good on them.

JOURNALIST: Is it a good idea that we should really just get into a situation of a country has a terror attack, and so that civilised country just decides, right our response is we will just bomb you. I mean, is that a sensible way to deal with domestic terrorism around the world?

SHORTEN: It is not the only way to deal with the domestic challenges of terrorism, but what France has shown and what Australia and our coalition allies are showing and indeed a lot of people in Iraq are showing is that the terrorists aren't going to succeed by dividing us. So you're quite right, it's a lot more than just a military response - I understand, but you're not going to drain a swamp of terrorism in this part of the Middle East by military action alone. And it is really important that we make it clear in Australia that we're an inclusive society. What the terrorists want to do is they want people to be fearful and they want us to turn upon each other, that's what they want.

So it is really important that as Australians are looking with shock and horror and sympathy to what's happened to the French, that we make sure that we don't fall for the terrorist trick, the evil trick of turning, you know against people in our own population. The best way we defeat this form of evil is by sticking together, and I've always taken the attitude, as I said at my preliminary remarks, that when it comes to fighting terror, Liberal and Labor are in this together and that's what Australians expect of us.

JOURNALIST: Are you keen for the Federal Government to review the Darwin Port lease?

SHORTEN: We would like them to explain whether or not they've done all the foreign investment review processes. We want to hear from our security and defence experts, are there any implications in terms of our national security. I think what we need in this climate is just the facts on the table and that's what we're seeking from the Government, we want to make sure all the processes were properly followed.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor clear on whether or not the leases actually have been registered, signed - registered yet (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: Well, the second part's a hypothetical question. I've requested from Malcolm Turnbull on Friday, we want a thorough briefing, we want all the facts on the table. I know that my colleague Senator Nova Peris was pursuing these matters in Senate Estimates and I think it's fair to say, Nova, that you didn't get a satisfactory answer. When you've got really important decisions, including ownership, control of our key strategic infrastructure and the Port of Darwin certainly falls into that category of being very important, it's just important to make sure that all the T's are getting crossed, all the I's are getting dotted, that we see the procedures, that we have all the facts at our command and that's what Labor is requesting next.

JOURNALIST: Do you want the deal put on hold if it can be?

SHORTEN: Well, again we need to see what are the circumstances and arrangements behind it before we start going to the next stage.

JOURNALIST: But aren't you just saying that in the meantime, circumstances of arrangements going forward, aren't you just making noise on the sidelines if you don't actually want something about it?

SHORTEN: No, in your last three questions you said if - we want all the facts and before I start going into hypotheticals about how we react upon whatever the set of circumstances are, I think there has been and you know, I congratulate the media as well for helping draw attention to this - I think there’s been a sufficient question mark. People just want to know what all the facts are, have all the issues been gone into, has all the detail been examined from every angle. And I think that is sensible from the Opposition. We're not opposing things for opposition sake. I'm interested in the Territory going ahead, I'm interested to see more infrastructure here, I'm interested to see hospitals and schools properly funded, I'm interested to make sure that we don't have a cost of living Territory tax through this 15 per cent GST, but when it comes to something like the sale of the Port of Darwin, we just want to know what has actually happened and have all the strategic interests of Australia being fully examined.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any re-evaluation of how refugees are assessed particularly coming from Syria, following these attacks and the revelation that one of the attackers was carrying a Syrian passport?

SHORTEN: Well there's plenty in your question, I'll just unpack it. First of all in terms of the circumstances of the background of these seven criminal gunmen and their associates and confederates, I think we need to get a lot more information about who these people are and the circumstances whereby they are able to carry out these crimes. When it comes to the issue of refugees more generally, Australia should analyse the background of all these people who seek to come to Australia, not just refugees, but everyone, so we've got to make sure that's done thoroughly. But I really want to stress here, I do not believe that the vast bulk of refugees are bad people. They will make a contribution to Australia. We've taken refugees for a very long time. What we can't do to remind you of an earlier answer I gave is fall into the trap of increasing suspicion and fear of each other in this country. So, yes, they should be fully checked, absolutely, and if the Government says it needs to take a little longer to do that, fair enough. But I for one am not going to support calls that we stop being an immigrant nation, that we stop taking refugees because of this act of evil in Paris. If we do that, then the evil people win.

JOURNALIST: Did you discuss the Port deal with Malcolm Turnbull last night?

SHORTEN: Whilst I won't go into what I did speak about with Malcolm Turnbull, that matter did not come up.

JOURNALIST: Based on what you know about (inaudible) present time, does Labor see any reason why it shouldn't go ahead?

SHORTEN: We want to get the briefing and information. I don't assume automatically that the Government's made a mistake here, by the way, I don't assume that. but when Senator Peris was trying to get to the bottom of it in Estimates, it's fair to say that the answers weren't cleared up, and I’ve been watching the coverage in the Territory and I think people do want to know what is happening, and also probably want to know what's happening with infrastructure funding that is being raised from these privatisations and whether or not the promises which underpinned the reason or rationale for these privatisations have been kept; that Territorians are actually benefitting. In the meantime, Labor is just doing what I think Australians expect of a constructive Opposition. We've seen, there's been a fuss raised, there's inadequate detail out there, have all the Foreign Investment Review Board processes been completed? Are there any strategic implications which haven't been fully considered? I don't assume the Government has done the wrong thing here, but i think because of genuine public concern, I think the Opposition is right to say let's just see what are all the facts and I think that's what makes Australians more satisfied with the process if there is transparency.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about the way the Northern Territory Government is running the corrections system, particularly with youth justice. We've heard the detainees tear gassed, hooded and tied to chairs, and in the adult system, we've had sex offenders basically out in the community in work camps, moving freely among the community which has annoyed a lot of the communities?

SHORTEN: What I might do is get one of my colleagues from the Territory about those specific matters.

SNOWDON: I think there are legitimate concerns that have been raised around the treatment of juveniles. Many years ago I used to work with the juvenile detention facility here in Darwin and I understand the range of young people who might come through the system, but there is no way in which you can agree that those sorts of activities are reasonable, they are not. In terms of managing offenders wherever they might be, I think judgments have got to be made, judgments are made and whether or not the person who you were talking to - you were inferring to was the person in north-east Arnhem Land, well, well perhaps that person shouldn't be there. But I think at the end of the day the prison system is there to rehabilitate people as much as anything else, and if people have done their time, then we need to be talking about how we get them back into the community. These are difficult issues, I'm not sure how well they've been handled sufficiently well by the Northern Territory Government at this point. But at the end of the day, the community has got to be concerned that their safety is properly being addressed and decisions are made about who actually works within their communities.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask you one more question?

SHORTEN: I did say last question but -


SHORTEN: But because of my strong and deep bond with ‘The Australian'.

JOURNALIST: Thank you very much. Based on the thought process so far, do you think it's necessary for there to be any changes to the way in which major asset sales are handled around FIRB process, consultation with defence? What sort of changes would you like to see?

SHORTEN: I think there is a fair bit of flexibility in our FIRB process, that's the Foreign Investment Review Board. The issue there is that we're a nation who relies upon foreign, direct investment, whether or not it's the Duke of Westminster or whether or not it is an entity, a state-owned enterprise from another country, Australia benefits generally from the flow of foreign capital.

Also Australia invests a lot of money elsewhere, so if we put up too many draw bridges in Australia, other nations might genuinely say well you want to invest in our part of the world, yet you don't make us welcome here. So foreign investment is a good thing, it helps this country. But then of course you've got to make sure that when you have foreign investment that you are meeting a certain set of tests, you know, is it something which is against Australia's national security interests, for example. The Australian Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines I think, has a fair bit of discretion, you've got to look at each case. If you just want to dream up a set of rules rigidly and then apply them, I think then you can create disincentives for investment.

In this particular matter, there is no doubt that there is some concern. Now, whether or not the concerns are actually warranted, Labor wants to see what detail are. In the United States, when foreign entities have sought to buy American ports, it has been an incendiary issue, it's been very controversial. Australia, therefore, I think, is well advised to make sure that we understand all of the dimensions. I do not as a starting point think that there is something untoward here. But there has been sufficient concern raised, and our job as the Opposition is to speak up for all Australians. Just because the Government are in charge doesn't mean we've all got to genuflect and say, thank you very much for every press release and decision you make and just rubber stamp it, that's not who I am. So I think on balance, we will see what's happened and I think it would actually be in the interests of Landbridge, in the interests of Territorian Community and Australia generally, if we know that all the questions have been answered, then I think everyone can be much more confident in the process.

Now, I should just say I'm looking forward to my visit to Darwin today. I don't know if time will permit us to visit the most famous field in Australia, I speak of course of the Palmerston Hospital where apparently under the CLP and the Liberals you get paid money to dig a hole, then you claim credit and then after the cameras go, you excavate it, you fill it in again. That really has been a disgrace, the Palmerston Hospital, because the Palmerston Hospital is important not just for that community but indeed the whole territory. So we will be talking about health care with experts here today and tonight hopefully as many of you as possible are able to come to the Darwin Turf club and we'll have a Q&A. We don't necessarily need Tony Jones to have a Q&A - I'm looking forward  to hearing the issues of the Territorian community because Labor is determined to be accessible. We are a party of the people, from the people, and we think it's important that citizens are able to quiz their Members of Parliament directly. So have a lovely day and thanks very much.