EIGHT MILE PLAINS
WEDNESDAY, 6 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s broken promise on pensions; Stephen Brady; GST; Superannuation; Christine Milne.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone.
It is really exciting and stimulating to be here at Cook Medical in the electorate of the hard working local member of parliament and colleague of mine, Graham Perrett.
What we see here today is Australians competing with the best of the world and winning. Today’s visit for me is all about the jobs of the future. Australia needs to focus on not just next week but on the next 10 years. There are hundreds of people here making and designing the best technology in the world which will literally save and extend the lives of thousands of Australians and thousands of people throughout the world. 92 per cent of what gets made here gets exported. This is an Australian champion that I am standing in front of.
That is why the Abbott Government needs to reverse its anti-science policies. Science shouldn’t be the issue of partisanship, but the Abbott Government has been horrendous for the future of science and for future jobs in Australia. $3 billion worth of cuts, 1 in 5 employees at the CSIRO have lost their jobs, we have the prospect of young people seeking to study science in Australia being put off by the prospect of $100,000 degrees. When Australia is transitioning from the mining boom to the non-mining sector, now more than ever, we need to be supplying the services, the advance manufacturing. We need to be a ‘fleet-of-foot’ nation which is providing services to the rising middle-classes of Asia. Now more than ever we need a government that is focused on science as part of our future, not turning its back.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about the resignation of Christine Milne?
SHORTEN: I have just heard about the resignation of Christine Milne. I would like to place on record, she has been a distinguished public advocate and in public life for 25 years. I haven’t always agreed with every policy she has had or every position she has taken, but I can certainly respect the conviction and the passion with which she advanced her issues and I congratulate her on two and a half decades of distinguished public life.
JOURNALIST: Who do you think should succeed Christine Milne?
SHORTEN: That will be a matter for The Greens.
JOURNALIST: What was your reaction to the Stephen Brady story around this morning?
SHORTEN: We heard some rumours about the Tony Abbott-Stephen Brady matter in Paris last night. I hope sincerely this story isn’t true. I think the Prime Minister needs to just clarify exactly what did happen. I also wonder how this story has dribbled out from the Foreign Affairs Department. It shows to me some disunity within the Government quite frankly.
JOURNALIST: So you are calling on Tony Abbott to clarify exactly what has happened?
SHORTEN: I think if there’s nothing to see here and nothing been done wrong I think the quickest way to deal that is for the Prime Minister to just deal with it. It does show of course this information’s been leaked out about the Prime Minster of someone on his staff, it does show to me that there is some degree of unhappiness about what may or may not have transpired.
JOURNALIST: You tweeted about this matter yesterday and Steve Gibbons, one of your former colleagues, tweeted back that you need to toughen up on your treatment of Mr Abbott and also you let him off the hook. Do you need to toughen up and are you worried about what your colleagues are thinking about your performance?
SHORTEN: I think that Tony Abbott does need to explain what’s happened but I’m not going to jump to conclusions. What Australians want, people who actually check out their facts, find out what’s going on, what we don’t want is policy being run by post 9pm tweeting.
JOURNALIST: But are you worried about the assessment from a former colleague that you need to toughen up, you let him off the hook on various issues?
SHORTEN: No, not at all.
JOURNALIST: WA will be getting one off payments to fund road projects to make up for losing out on a bigger carve up of the GST. Significantly more than what Labor was suggesting, is $500 million too much?
SHORTEN: Well, let’s not airbrush history here. Two weeks ago before the train wreck of the Premier’s conference I proposed a one-off payment to Western Australia to help smooth the transition from the mining boom. I proposed this two weeks ago. As soon as I and Labor said this you had all the attack dogs from the Government rushing out saying this was a silly idea and a stupid idea. Now the truth of the matter is not only have they copied Labor’s sensible proposal they’ve doubled it. They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
JOURNALIST: And do you think it’s a bit rich for Joe Hockey to say that yesterday’s interest rate cut is the sign of a struggling economy given his comments in the past?
SHORTEN: Well, when there were interest rate cuts under the previous Labor Government Joe Hockey would rush out and say that this is an emergency. Now he’s in charge of the shop what he called an emergency he just regards as good news now. The real problem is that the Coalition, the Abbott/Hockey Government, called the economy wrong with the 2014 Budget. It was a horror Budget, just as we’re moving from the mining boom of unprecedented levels back to a more normal state of affairs and we’re seeing a transition in our economy, we needed a Budget that built confidence. Yet what we had last year was Joe Hockey take the axe to confidence. Remember their attack on the pensions, their attack on kids going to university, their GP Tax, their broken promises, families losing up to $6,000. They got the economy all wrong last year, now what I’m afraid we’ll see this year is the Government, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, more focused on saving their own jobs by the end of the year than actually helping Australia build confidence for the next 10 years.
JOURNALIST: How does Labor’s policy on superannuation help build confidence?
SHORTEN: Well, I think what Labor’s policy on superannuation’s exactly what we need. Let’s talk straight here to the Australian people, when someone has two or three or five or $10 million dollars in their superannuation there is no serious case that can be made to give those people a 45 cent tax deduction as well. I think that what we need in this country is a determined effort to make sure that most Australians can get to a comfortable level of retirement rather than turning a comfortable level of retirement for a very small group into a tax haven. And after all if the Government won’t support our sensible measures to put a cap on the excessive largesse in terms of a few people in our taxes and the concessions a few people get, why on earth are they proposing to start cutting people who may earn $16 or $20 thousand dollars from a part pension at all, this is an inconsistent Government. The real problem here is it doesn’t matter if it was adopting Labor’s ideas to help Western Australia or adopting Labor’s ideas to actually do something about putting a cap on the excessive tax concessions and superannuation. Whenever Labor says it the Government just plays politics, the country needs better.
JOURNALIST: So is Labor saying it won’t support changes to the part pension even though ACOSS and other organisations have long advocated for changes to this?
SHORTEN: Well, what Labor won’t do is engage in writing blank cheques. The only pension proposition on the table and it’s the only pension proposition which has been on the table for the last 359 days since the last Budget has been a cut to pensions. We are not letting the Coalition off the hook for their attack on pensions. We do not support their cuts to the pension for 2.5 million aged pensioners. Ever since we belled the cat and said that the Abbott Government was cutting the pensions, the governments just engaged in a farrago of lies. They’ve just been saying that Labor’s making it up. Well the Government have been the ones who’ve been making it up, they are cutting the pension, they need to drop that. That’s the only pension measure. Labor’s not going to engage in a debate about hypotheticals, we’ll wait to see the detail and anyway, go and talk to the pensions of Australia -they don’t trust anything Tony Abbott says on pensions.
JOURNALIST: So you won’t rule out that you will in the end support a change to the part pension if they reverse those other changes to the CPI?
SHORTEN: What we are saying, straight up, no hint of playing games, is we want the Government to drop their cuts to the pension. There is no other proposal on the table. Let’s wait and see what the Budget says, but the Budget should be about building confidence, it should be about giving Australians hope for the next 10 years, it should be honest, responsible and fair and about the future. All we know is that this Government can’t be trusted. They said there would be no changes to pensions before they got elected, so they’d say and do anything to get the votes of people yet ever since then they’ve lied and lied and lied and they’re attack on pensioners is unconscionable. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Just quickly coming back to Christine Milne, even though the selection of the new leader is a matter for the party what would you like to see in the new leader of the Greens? What qualities?
SHORTEN: Really, who the Greens pick is a matter for them. What I’d like to see is Tony Abbott keep a promise at this next Budget and he should drop his attack on pensioners. He should be building confidence. What we want is honesty, fairness and responsibility out of the next Budget, not the horror show which was the last Budget and the Government needs to do much better than just try and fight to protect their own jobs in the next 12 months.
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