MONDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget; negative gearing; Nuclear Royal Commission
TIM WATTS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GELLIBRAND: Well thank you all for coming here today, my name is Tim Watts, I'm the Federal Member for Gellibrand in Melbourne's west, and I'm delighted to be joined here today by the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten and our education spokesman, Kate Ellis. I'm particularly delighted they've come here today to talk about Labor's new 'Your Child.Our Future' policy. I'm taking a particular interest in this policy this year because my daughter is starting prep this year and I was at the school gates dropping off my daughter this morning and one of the other parents came up to me and we were having the usual discussion about how is your kid settling in at prep and he said to me that he was a bit worried because at their home they don't speak English at home and he was worried about how they were making the transition to an English speaking classroom, and I said well that's great because that's what Labor's 'Your Child.Our Future' policy is all about. It's about needs based school funding, so if you've got a child from a home, non-English speaking home, maybe a bit financially disadvantaged, need a little bit more in help in the classroom, that's what this policy is about. Melbourne's west knows that a policy like this is really in our interests, so I'm extremely happy to have Bill and Kate here to talk to the great kids at Footscray West Primary School about it. So on that note I will hand over to Bill to give the good news.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Tim, and it's great to be here with Kate Ellis, our shadow education spokesperson and Tim Watts, the Member for Gellibrand representing families in the western suburbs of Melbourne. There is nothing more important to our nation's prosperity than funding education properly. A nation which gets its education system right, its schools, its TAFEs, its universities, is laying down the best possible economic future for all of us. That's why Labor has been so committed to ‘Your Child.Our Future' plan for education. It is a once in two generational proposal to change the way we support the learning needs of the next generation of Australians. We will make sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity, and what's even better is we can explain how we will fund our education policies. Unlike Mr Turnbull and his Liberals, we don't need a 15 per cent GST on everything to try to fund our schools and our hospitals. I was really pleased on the weekend to be able to outline another way in which Labor will not only help the bottom line of the Budget, but also give new home owners or prospective people who want to get into the home owning market a better leg-up and also how we can better fund our schools. Today is all about making sure that our kids get the best start in life. With Labor's ‘Your Child.Our Future' we'll make sure that not only do the kids get a great start in life, but we set up the economic prosperity of our nation for many years to come. I'd like Kate Ellis now to talk a bit more about the detail of our proposals.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you very much, Bill, and thank you very much Tim and to the principal and all of the teachers at this wonderful local school. Labor knows that you cannot be serious about future economic growth without being serious about education policy, that if we don't invest in making sure that our school rooms are delivering, then we won't see the economic returns that we hope for our nation's future. Now, for a long time we've talked about some of the evidence that suggests that Australia needs to do better, about our international competitiveness slipping, about the gap between poor-performing schools and higher-performing schools getting larger and larger, and the equity issues within the Australian education system. Last week there was new data that was released that specifically showed the problem that we have in Victorian schools. New data last week showed that 70 per cent of Victorian principals feel that they do not have sufficient resources to run their schools and to run their classrooms. What's perhaps even more alarming is that 60 per cent of Victorian principals said that they could not run their classrooms without relying on the local fundraising efforts of their school community. Now, I don't know about you, but I want principals focused on education, focused on teaching our children, focused on the classrooms, not focused on handing around the bucket and trying to get donations in order to have the pens and paper to put on the tables. This means we need to get serious about funding education and we need to get serious about ensuring that those funds are directed to the programs that matter. That is what Labor's policy announcement, 'Your child.Our Future' will do. It will make sure that the funds flow to the students and schools that need it the most. It will also mean that Australian parents don't have to sit and reflect upon on what post code they happen to live in as to whether their children will have access to a great school or not. It means every child, every school will deliver the education which Australian parents expect and deserve.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Kate. Are there any questions on our education policies or anything else?
JOURNALIST: You said that there were – those findings were alarming, I guess results, how does that reflect on how the State Government is also performing in education?
SHORTEN: I will get Kate to answer that question at length, but what Kate's point is is essentially this: the Liberal Party keeps saying that spending more money doesn't change anything. Only people who already have a lot of money tell people who don't have a lot of money that extra money doesn't change everything. The truth of the matter is education is not a cost, it is an investment. We understand – and I understand as a parent with my own children in the school system – we want to make sure that every child of every parent gets the chance to do electives, that they don't have to have one musical instrument for six kids, that if there is the opportunity to do a second language. I understand, speaking to many parents of children with special learning needs that currently the system really squeezes parents of children with special learning needs. These parents are made to feel like bullies and trouble makers when they ask for the basic resources and dignity for their child. So what Kate’s research underlines is that there isn’t enough money being invested in our school kids. Now of course we want to see the money spent properly, we want to make sure that there is accountability and that means the States will need to work with the Federal Government and make sure that parents and taxpayers are satisfied that the resources are getting to the kids who need them. But I'm confident that at the next election, if you want your child to have more resources, more choices and a better start in life, you should vote for Labor's education policy. If you want your child to have less of everything in education, then you look at Mr Turnbull and his Liberal education cuts – but Kate can talk a bit more about the States.
ELLIS: I think the last thing that parents want is buck passing between Federal and State governments about whose fault it is that our schools aren't delivering to the standard that they should be. That's why at the heart of this education policy it's about the Federal Government and State governments working together. Now the Victorian Government has had to cover the hole that was left by the previous Liberal State Government and the money that had been ripped out of schools here locally, and we're pleased that they've done that. But what's really important about Your child. Our Future, is that it means that as a condition of federal funding, State governments will not be able to cut school budgets and State governments will have to put in the necessary co-contributions and that's something we really look forward to working with this Victorian Government to deliver.
JOURNALIST: Just on the poll, do you take any heart from some of these results you've seen over the weekend?
SHORTEN: Well I've made a practice of not getting unduly excited, or you know, positive or negative about the polls, but I do think that Australians are now beginning to see through Malcolm Turnbull. He says one thing when he was not the Prime Minister and he’s now doing another thing now he is Prime Minister. You know, marriage equality – before he became Prime Minister, he was all for marriage equality and having a vote in the Parliament. Now he wants to spend $160 million of taxpayers' money in a delaying tactic. Once upon a time he was for the Republic and now, you know, he looks at his watch and there is not going to be time for that for many years to come. He says that he believed in climate change – real action on climate change – and that he wouldn't want to lead a party that wasn't committed to it, including the sort of policies Labor now has. Now he is Prime Minister he has sold out to the climate change sceptics of Tony Abbott and he has got a policy which is an expensive clunker. I think increasingly we are seeing Mr Turnbull's Government fray at the edges – we’ve seen the chaos. Six ministers have gone since he became the Prime Minister. We’re seeing his judgment under question. It shouldn't have taken a week to work out that what Stuart Robert had done was wrong and I also now think increasingly he is becoming seen as all talk and no go.
JOURNALIST: Will you ask Labor MPs who currently have negatively geared properties to stop claiming it?
SHORTEN: No. The issue here with housing affordability and getting the Budget back into the black is that we've got to have a look at what we have been doing for the last 30 years, and ask ourselves are they the sort of policies we want to do for the next 30 years? What we've said very clearly is that if you have invested in a house and you are currently claiming negative gearing, you will keep it. Labor does not believe in retrospectivity. So in other words, we think that the nature of negative gearing needs to change in the future – it should be used for new housing and apartments, not for existing housing stock. But what we're making very clear is that for all those mum and dad investors, in fact for anyone who has invested under the current rules, that stays for them. We do not believe in changing tax laws which have a retrospective impact on people who invested in one system in good faith. But what we’re not going to do is put in the too hard basket the issue of getting the Budget back in the black, properly funding education and healthcare and making sure that people can revive the great Australian dream of owning their own home. Our policies are sensible and over the next 10-year period, they will significantly reduce the amount of government spending that the Budget does by about $32 billion. What worries me though, is that Scott Morrison seems to be on a frolic. We know that he hasn't made a good start at Treasurer. He's bizarrely criticised Labor for not raising enough money out of our measures. We're taking the long-term view that when we change things, I can promise you a Shorten Labor Government will do it in a slow and steady manner. The consequence of Scott Morrison's criticism of us that we are not raising enough money is that he would want to see the changes retrospective. Now, I think Scott Morrison needs to rule out right now, right now, today that he would make any retrospective changes to the tax laws. When Malcolm Turnbull, in the past he's always been - he wouldn't support retrospective laws, now he's got a Treasurer raising the spectre. I mean, again people are fast wondering if Malcolm Turnbull is all show and no go.
JOURNALIST: Doesn't this just lock in the advantages that baby boomers have had for three decades though? Will we ever see a government do a negative that will impact on baby boomers at all?
SHORTEN: Well, maybe I'm a bit old school, but if you're going to make a hard change and changing the negative gearing laws up to last Saturday, everyone said was just too hard. If you're going to do hard change, you don't do it at the expense of people who have already invested in the current rules. A Shorten Labor Government does not believe in retrospectively changing tax laws, but nor do we believe in just folding our arms and not having any change at all. That's why our policies are carefully costed and the very fact that we can make promises about school education for every child and every school getting every opportunity is because we've been doing the hard work in opposition of becoming ready to be an alternative government.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull says your policy will distort the housing market. I guess you disagree with that?
SHORTEN: Just ask anyone who went to a housing auction on Saturday and, you know, and the prices they've see that they have to pay to be able to get into housing market, the distortion, Malcolm Turnbull, is already happening. Now I get that Mr Turnbull's a very successful businessman, I understand he already has seven houses but I understand what's really going on in the streets and suburbs of this country. 30 years ago it took 3.2 times your average annual wage to be able to afford a house. Now that's blown out to 6.5 times your annual wage. Labor and I, we want to see people be able to realise the dream of affording their own home. There are parents and grandparents who genuinely worry how their kids will ever enter the housing market. I'm on their side. We want to level the playing field. Why is it that Mr Turnbull will fight so hard for a system where it's a battle, an expensive battle to get your first house where Malcolm Turnbull will give you a tax deduction for your 4th house. It is a distortion right now.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this policy will translate into some of the younger voters who haven't even got into housing market, who have no idea or are learning about what negative gearing is about, are you pitching to them or are you trying to pitch it more broadly?
SHORTEN: I'm pitching our policy to help get the Budget in the black, to help make housing affordability can be a reality for most Australians, not just a very few, and to make sure we can properly fund our education and healthcare promises. I am thinking about the future. I am thinking about how Australians can afford housing. I'm interested in how we can get the Budget back into the black. This proposal of ours will cut the taxpayer funded concessions which are going to the fortunate few, and what we will do is we're still have some negative gearing for new housing but that's so we can create new jobs and create more housing stock. I think that a lot of Australians privately thinking well at last someone's talking about housing affordability, at last someone gets that we want our kids to be able to afford to buy a house without having to go into a lifetime of debt.
JOURNALIST: The Nuclear Royal Commission in Adelaide has recommended that South Australia take world’s nuclear waste in exchange for dollars and jobs is that something you'd support?
SHORTEN: I'll read the recommendations of the Royal Commission before I comment.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull also says that your policy won't provide any budgetary relief. Are you certain it will?
SHORTEN: See, Mr Turnbull wants to have it both ways. On one hand he wants to say that our policy will have a negative impact and then on the other hand he criticises it because he doesn't have a big enough impact. The truth of the matter is that while Malcolm Turnbull has been looking to increase the GST to 15 per cent for the past five months, we've been trying to look at how do we actually get the Budget on a proper footing. How do we make sure that the taxpayers who are giving concessions to a certain group of Australia's that we're getting the best bang for our buck. I'm interested in how you bet the Budget properly under control, I'm interested in how we get young Australians into their first home and I'm interested in how I make sure that every child and every school gets every opportunity. Thanks everyone.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
Doorstop: Melbourne - Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Labor’s plan to fund health & education – and balance the Budget