TUESDAY, 21 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Jobs of the future; Bronwyn Bishop; Tony Abbott’s plan to increase the GST; Polls
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everyone. It is great to be here with Alannah MacTiernan, our Parliamentary Secretary for Western Australia, and champion of innovation right through Australia but also here in Western Australia. We're at PDC Engineering; this company makes me feel proud to be Australian. What we have here is the best part of the mining boom. We see here innovation, invention, technology, new technology combined with old skills of engineering now competing with the best in the world. Australia can compete with all of the countries in the world and our inventors and our experts and our businesses are the equal of anywhere in the world. This is a successful export business, and based upon what they do is the story of the jobs of the future.
Labor's committed to making sure all our children get access to learning about technology. It is estimated that nearly half of all the jobs in the next 10 years, or in 10 years' time, haven't yet been created so it's most important that we have policies in our schools, in our TAFE, in our universities encouraging the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is only my Labor team who has a policy for jobs for the future.
If Labor is elected at the next election, we will make sure that every Australian child has the chance to learn about technology and computer coding. It is only a Labor Government who will deliver 100,000 extra places which will not have a HECS debt for people who want to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is only a Labor Government who will make sure we have a smart innovation fund backing in the best and brightest of our private sector to compete with the world. So it is fantastic to be here today. We see here the jobs of the future right now. We see here a innovative, capable company, PDC, and what they are doing is challenging the rest of the world, competing with the rest of the world and we're winning because we're good at innovation in this country. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten do you think you can win the next election for the Labor Party?
SHORTEN: I think the next election will be won by the party who has the best views about the future. I think Labor has the best views so yes, I think we can win. What I believe in is making sure that this day-to-day bickering and too-ing and fro-ing I think is turning off the Australian people. People want more in their politics than they are currently getting from Mr Abbott and his team. People want a vision of the future, not just the next 24-hour media cycle but for the next 10 and 15 years. Australians want a government who is as brave and optimistic and planning for the future as Australians are. That is why Labor stands for jobs, education, health and fairness. That is what will win the next election.
JOURNALIST: Where do you stand on raising the GST?
SHORTEN: I'm against raising the GST. What a lazy bunch of people we have in the current Government led by Mr Abbott. Why is it that when confronted with a problem of schools – not being able to fund schools and hospitals – why is it that Mr Abbott and his out-of-touch Liberal team always resort to increasing taxes for real Australians? Mr Abbott has created this crisis in funding. He broke his promises from the last election and Labor will never let him off the hook. He thinks he can go around breaking his promises and everyone forgets. Mr Abbott said before the last election "No cuts to schools, no cuts to health, no cuts to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and the SBS", and also he said no new or increased taxes. There is no promise that Mr Abbott makes which he then doesn't break. So when he talks about increasing the GST and increasing the cost of living, he just doesn't get how real people are organising their lives. It's hard enough for most Australians to go fortnight to fortnight and make ends meet and what we've got is Mr Abbott, on a frolic, an out-of-touch frolic of broken promises saying ‘I've got a great idea for Australia, I will increase the taxes’. I do not understand for the life of me why Mr Abbott will not muscle up and tackle multi-nationals who are not paying their fair share of taxation. I do not understand why Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey find it too hard to rein in the excessive tax concessions for the very few people who already have multiple millions of dollars in their superannuation. I do not know why Mr Abbott wants to keep paying taxpayer money to carbon polluters, to big companies who are polluting our environment. He wants to pay them billions of dollars and yet his only idea is to make everyone else pay 50 per cent more on what they buy and that he wants to extend the GST to fresh food, to school fees, to medical costs. Mr Abbott is very out of touch.
JOURNALIST: This morning South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said he did not have the luxury to go against tax reform. Are you at least open to discussion about tax reform?
SHORTEN: There is an ocean of difference between talking about tax reform on the one hand and making millions of Australians pay more GST every time they go out and buy the essentials of life. Here's some ideas for tax reform for Australia: rein in the excessive tax concessions at the very top end. Mr Abbott will die in a ditch to defend the ability of a few tens of thousands of people who have multiple millions of dollars in their superannuation and not pay any tax on the income drawn down from multiple million dollar piles of superannuation. Yet, on the other hand, he wants Aussies to pay more for fresh food and their school fees for their kids. Mr Abbott if he wants to do tax reform should actually stand up to some of the large multi-nationals who are paying no tax or little tax in Australia. Why is it so hard for Mr Abbott, when given a choice between real Australians and the very top end of town, his default position is always to back the top end of town against real Australians?
JOURNALIST: Are you speaking about Bronwyn Bishop when you make that statement?
SHORTEN: Oh well, I understand she is still the Speaker today but this is not good. That Mr Abbott has failed the leadership test so far. Mr Abbott's created a new concept in Australian politics. You can have one of your best friends, you make them Speaker, it was his captain's pick to make Mrs Bishop the Speaker, then she gets a helicopter to fly between Melbourne and Geelong – I mean, it’s bred a new industry of internet memes about photos with helicopters, Mrs Bishop. But what he does is he says on one hand does he pick Mrs Bishop using taxpayer money to get a top of the line helicopter to fly to a Liberal Party fundraiser or do you just ask her to go? It is not a hard choice for most of us. But Mr Abbott has not shown leadership. Every day it goes on.
He's now invented this concept called probation. He has put the Speaker of the Parliament, in the hierarchy of Australian politics, the person who is number three in line and he said she is on probation. Here's some questions that Mr Abbott has to answer: what is probation for the most senior Parliamentary representative in the Parliament, the Speaker? How long does probation go for? Is there any docking of her pay?
Does Mr Abbott really think that we need to have the Speaker of the Parliament with training wheels on? What's the consequences of infringing probation? What is the test that Mr Abbott says will actually require, for him, to ask Mrs Bishop to go or is he just too beholden to the extreme right wing of his party.
JOURNALIST: What is your response to being called a hypocrite by the Government today for claiming $1200 day trip from Melbourne to Sydney for a Labor party fundraiser?
SHORTEN: There the Government go again – they’re attacking Labor. My response to the Government attacking Labor is: different day, same strategy by them. The low road of smear and fear and grubbiness. I know that whatever I have done has been on official business consistent with what Ministers on both sides do. The Government is desperate, they are like a sideshow alley busker trying to pull a three-card trick, and say ‘look over here, look over there by don't look at what's really happening’. The real test here is that Mr Abbott is incapable of controlling his Speaker. Every Australian knows, the whole world just about knows, the use of a helicopter, taxpayer funded, to go to a purely party political fundraiser and you have got a Prime Minister who can't even control his Speaker, no wonder Australians are turned off politics at the moment.
JOURNALIST: What was your official business in Sydney?
SHORTEN: I was addressing the national council of the Maritime Union of Australia. A matter of public record.
JOURNALIST: The MUA says you were there campaigning for the leadership?
SHORTEN: I know that when I was addressing the Maritime Union of Australia, we were talking about industrial issues relevant to seafarers in Australia. And again, one of the issues we spoke about then has come back to life now where we see the Government trying to introduce Work Choices on water. We are seeing an Australian crew in Tasmania being replaced as the vessel which they've worked on is foreign flagged with lower conditions.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you need to pay back the money?
SHORTEN: It was a straightforward flight to do official business. Full stop.
JOURNALIST: Did you or did you not do any campaigning for the leadership? Any campaigning whatsoever? You did not speak to a single person about the leadership?
SHORTEN: Oh seriously? Let's talk about what matters here. I'm going to answer your question, no worries. I was doing official business consistent entirely with what people on both sides of politics do. I can tell you what I wasn't doing, I wasn't going to use a helicopter to fly to a purely party political fundraiser and I was doing lots of real work in terms of your day job as a Member of Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Do you think we need to overhaul the issue of parliamentary entitlements?
SHORTEN: Yes, I have said previously, I said last week, certainly over the weekend, that Labor is up for a genuine discussion about improving the situation so that we don't see this egregious flagrant abuse. But I have to say that entitlements shouldn't be used to just do purely political party fundraising. I think it was Tony Abbott who, when he flew down to Melbourne, I think it was last year but it might have been 2013, where he flew down to do a fundraiser for the Liberal Party on the night and he was late back to his party meeting the next morning because he did a brief press conference in front of the Peter MacCallum hospital. He put his own caucus on notice then that if you are going to do political work, or party political work you must also be doing a range of other things. He actually said that to his caucus.
So when we talk about overhauling entitlements, Labor is up for greater transparency and trying to restore trust in the system. But what the Speaker, his own colleagues already know it was out of line, we have seen the unedifying spectacle of the Treasurer disagreed with what she has done, you’ve had Peter Costello, you’ve had John Hewson, you’ve had practically every senior Liberal come out publicly, and plenty more privately, this situation with the Speaker using a helicopter to fly a short distance to raise money for the Liberal Party, using taxpayer money, is an unacceptable set of events and now what's happened is you don't see any contrition. I think we all watched the press conferences of the Speaker and, indeed the Prime Minister. They desperately don't want to talk about what they've done wrong. There is no acceptance of contrition or that they've done anything wrong. So if what they did was already bad enough and frustrating enough to Australians and further diminishes Australians' confidence in politics, now we have a test for Tony Abbott's leadership and he's failed. He has created a new political concept of probation for one of the most senior people in Australian politics with no detail of what probation means. Mr Abbott has to explain why won't he act against Bronwyn Bishop? Why has he created this new concept of probation? And what does that actually mean? Why won't Mr Abbott just come out and condemn the behaviour?
JOURNALIST: What's the difference between Bronwyn Bishop's trip and yours if you were, as the MUA says, campaigning?
SHORTEN: I was doing official work in my capacity as Shadow Industrial Relations Minister, full stop. There is no comparison. Furthermore, I think we all know that what we see here is the Government is desperate, is desperate, to move off with the mistake that Bronwyn Bishop's made. The whole of Australia knows that getting a helicopter funded by the taxpayer to fly down to Geelong, from Melbourne, to do a party fundraiser is beyond the pale and we all know that Tony Abbott can't control her or he won't control his Speaker and he has failed the leadership test. Last question thanks.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of reports Tanya Plibersek is positioning to take over with the support of Wayne Swan?
SHORTEN: Just complete rubbish. Tanya does a great job. Like Tanya, I enjoy getting counsel from Wayne Swan. I can tell you what, the Labor Party's more united than we have been probably for a decade and a half. I'm grateful to the support of all my colleagues including Tanya Plibersek –
JOURNALIST: You are not worried about the latest Newspoll -
SHORTEN: Sorry, I am going to talk about the question which I was asked first.
I want to make this point because it is an important question you asked. I can assure Australians that the Labor Party has learnt its lesson from our time in government. We are united. We are focused on the future. The reason why Alannah MacTiernan and I are here today is because Australians want to see our politicians and the Labor Party talking about the future. I can guarantee Australians at the next election we will have propositions about winning the race for good jobs, making sure that young people at school today can have the prospect of employment, making sure that Australia is competing with the rest of the world when it comes to technology and grabbing the good jobs around the world for Australia and we'll do that through properly funding the education system, by having a good safety net with our Medicare system and we will not do it by introducing a tax on working people and lower income people which will see them much worse off. We are just cleverer than that proposal. Very last question.
JOURNALIST: Will you lead Labor to the next election?
SHORTEN: Absolutely, thanks everyone. See you.
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