Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Passing of Richie Benaud; Tony Abbott’s cut to pensions






SUBJECT/S: Passing of Richie Benaud; Tony Abbott’s cut to pensions; Labor’s plan to stop tax avoidance by multinationals; Australian Labor Party; GST; East-West Link.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Welcome everyone to the heart of my electorate in Avondale Heights. I’m here today at a great aged care centre doing wonderful things, with great people and on my visit today I’m accompanied by the State Member of Parliament for this area Ben Carroll. Before I talk about pensions and issues affecting older Australians, we’ve all just heard breaking news in the last number of minutes that cricket great Richie Benaud has passed away. Richie Benaud was the voice of cricket. He was the voice of all our summers. He was our voice. Rest in peace Richie Benaud, we won’t see your like again in our lifetimes.


If I might turn to the issue of pensions. Talking to these pensioners here, they have a simple message for Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and this Budget – don’t pocket our pension. Pensioners cannot believe that for the last ten and a half months, they’ve got Tony Abbott proposing a cut to pensions, an effective cut to the real rate of pensions of $80 a week in the future. Tony Abbott before the last election, 18 long months ago said that there’ll be no change to pensions under a government he led. He lied. In the last Budget Tony Abbott put forward a Budget proposition in his papers, in the Budget which would see $23 billion taken off pensions in the next 10 years. Now today we’ve got the latest minister for pensions Scott Morrison, offering up thought bubbles about the 5th different position the Abbott Government might take on pensions. Pensioners are sick and tired of Tony Abbott and his Liberals touching their pension. The first thing that the Abbott Government needs to do, and it beggars belief that it’s been ten and a half months and they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to this position, is Tony Abbott should say he will not touch or cut the rate of pension indexation in this country. The message from pensioners is clear today to Tony Abbott – hands off our pension, stop telling lies and certainly your Budget shouldn’t put us in a worse position in terms of the pensions. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: What is the Labor government’s position then, what can you promise for pensioners, in terms of these concerns Bill?


SHORTEN: I can promise Australia’s pensioners that a Labor government will not touch the pension. We believe that the pension is a modest payment. People on the full pension get barely $20,000 a year, that’s right a year. What we would say to Tony Abbott who is in government right now, is that you’d be better off looking at how to clamp down on legal loopholes for multinationals not paying tax in Australia. All Australians this week have seen the evidence, where you’ve got tech giant multinational companies explaining with a straight face why they’re not obligated to pay tax in Australia, or very little tax. It isn’t good enough. Why should pensioners be doing the heavy lifting of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s rotten and unfair Budget, when multinationals are sitting there with the best lawyers in the world and the best accountants, shopping around for tax havens so they don’t have to pay tax in Australia. That’s what we would do.


JOURNALIST: Apart from the pension what else can you promise to make life easier for older people?


SHORTEN: Well first of all when it comes to making life easier for older Australians, we need to make sure that you don’t attack the Medicare system, so we would not support any proposals, price signals, taxes in drag on our GP health system, our Medicare and GP Taxes, we would not do that. The second thing we would say to older Australians is that we won’t touch your pensions. We believe that a modest rate of indexation which is fair is what should apply, and we wouldn’t be breaking our promises before an election to after an election. Thirdly the best way to set up our system for retirement income in the future is to have a properly funded superannuation system. We wouldn’t break our word and freeze superannuation at 9.5 per cent for the next 6 years. If we want to take pressure off the age pension it is logical to make sure that we encourage Australians to save for themselves. Most Australians do not have enough money saved for their retirement so increasing superannuation would be an important part of Labor’s policy program for the future of this country.


JOURNALIST: There are calls for a review into the leadership ballot which provided you your leadership. Are you sure everything was above board?


SHORTEN: First of all the leadership ballot was the first time a major party had opened the doors of decision making to tens of thousands of their paid up members, so I think that the ballot process was good. I think it was important to involve people. Now I’ve got no time for some of the individual complaints that have been raised, and if there’s been wrong doing - and this particular matter has been investigated, then there should be consequences for people who have done the wrong thing. But I certainly stand firmly on the side of improving our processes, for making sure that we keep involvement of our rank and file members in decision making forums of this party uppermost.


JOURNALIST: Should the AEC take over the next ballot?


SHORTEN: I’m open to that suggestion, yes.


JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon today, this morning, said that Labor was going to reform the carve-up of GST, what exact GST reform is he referring too?


I haven’t seen Joel’s remarks but we all know that what Tony Abbott says in Western Australia is not what he says in Tasmania. Before the last election Tony Abbott was going to be the best friend that Western Australian voters had ever seen, he was going to fix the unfairness of the GST system. But Tony Abbott would then very quickly hop on a jet, get down to Tasmania and says I’ll be the best friend that Tasmania has and make sure they get a better deal in the GST.


The problem is that what Tony Abbott has said in different parts of Australia has all come to a crashing collision because he can’t keep all of the promises that he made before the last election. The other thing I’d say about GST is this; the future of Australia doesn’t rely on simply increasing the GST on a whole range of items not currently paying the GST nor does it rely upon increasing the rate of GST from 10 to 15 per cent. The people in Canberra, in Government, what they should be doing is not be looking at increasing the burden on the less well off, which is what an increase in the GST will do, they need to be doing a lot more work on how they make multinationals pay their fair share.


Labor put forward a costed policy barely halfway onto the term of the current government. We knew that multinational taxation was a coming issue and of great importance. We’ve proposed reforms which are costed, which would add billions of dollars to the bottom line of Australia. But instead this is a government whose only prescription for Australians is you pay more tax to go to see the doctor, if you’re a pensioner or on a fixed income your rate of indexation will get cut. And, but the way, on the GST for amongst the states they know they can’t deliver all the promises they made and they’re not even trying to deal with that hypocrisy, which they did before the last election.


JOURNALIST: Bill since you brought it up, the GST on internet downloads and movies and music, should that be on the table?


SHORTEN: Well, certainly having said that the GST shouldn’t be increased and shouldn’t be extended to a whole range of matters that’s it’s not, I get that there’s an argument about making sure that product providers across a range, across the same category should be paying the same taxation. So we’ll look carefully at what the Government proposes with regard to entertainment downloads.


JOURNALIST: What about the Federal Government spending a billion dollars on two C-17 planes?


SHORTEN: Well we try not to make defence procurement a party partisan issue so I have to find out the detail of that proposal and if there is a good, solid defence case for it well then Labor would be supportive of that. When Labor was in government we replenished our strategic airlift capacity and if that’s part of that ongoing process of making sure that our air force can do the job it’s expected to do, that wouldn’t be an issue of partisanship.


But talking about defence procurement, it’s the Abbott Government who’s got the submarine procurement, it’s the largest defence decision in a generation. Our most important strategic defence weapon, our submarines, and the Abbott Government can’t even keep a promise to build these subs in Australia. See, when it comes to partisanship in defence procurement, Labor isn’t seeking to do that, we’ve offered a process forward for the submarines and it’s the Abbott Government, you know, they’ve done some deal with another nation and I don’t think they’ve been straight with the Australian people on the terms of that deal.


JOURNALIST: Speaking of building Bill, what’s your take with the East-West Link, what’s your position at the moment, should that go ahead? What would you really like to see there for Melbourne commuters?


SHORTEN: I think it’s red hot that the previous Liberal Government, state government, rushed a deal whereby on a one page letter billions of dollars of contracts are allegedly issued, you know, I think that that is red hot. I think the Andrews Government’s working through with the builders and the contractors. I’m optimistic they’ll reach resolution. In terms of the broader question about public transport, we need to improve our roads but the first step towards improving congestion on our roads is to make sure that we’ve got well-funded public transport. In the north-west where you’ve got a lot of people from Avondale Heights who would get the train at Essendon and North Essendon railway stations, they need to make sure that we’ve got more railway track in the underground so that we can get more people using trains and not having to rely on driving their cars.


JOURNALIST: Do you have a personal position on the East-West Link? Would you like to see it built?


SHORTEN: I’d like to see our road congestion improved but what I also recognise is that you’ve got to do this through the best, most rigorous, independent process. Everyone knows that something shonky happened between the previous state Liberal Government. You don’t write a contract for billions of dollars and rely upon a one page letter. So this is, you know, I think the Andrews Government’s been prudential in the way they’re approaching this issue. You can’t solve roads without solving public transport and that’s what we need to do in this state, have an integrated transport plan which looks at spending more money on roads and public transport.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible] about those that want to invest in Victoria though, in terms of sovereign risk in Victoria?


SHORTEN: Let’s be blunt if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true is it? And this, the East-West Link contracts were rushed at a very unhealthy pace.


Any other questions? Thanks everyone, have a nice day.