Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Perth - Liberal’s Trade Union Royal Commission; Liberals’ proposal to increase the GST to 15 per cent.





SUBJECT/S: Liberal’s Trade Union Royal Commission; Liberals’ proposal to increase the GST to 15 per cent.

GARY GRAY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES: It’s a pleasure to have Bill and Chloe here to enjoy the Baldivis Fair. Baldivis is one of the most important primary schools in the southern metropolitan area of Perth. It's a big beneficiary of the building of the education evolution and it's a school that's been growing rapidly because of the suburban spread of Perth. It's a school that needs infrastructure and it's a school that preforms a terrific job in our local community. To have Bill and Chloe here, to get something of the sense of the lifestyle, the great quality of life that we have here in Perth and this wonderful school is just terrific. But for Bill this is his fourth visit to this part of the world, he came first when he was Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and we met with organisations, some of which are here today. He came again when he was Education Minister and he's been before as Opposition Leader and now again today. It's really important for me as a parliamentarian to know that my leader is as engaged with the national, international, the global issues of the day as he is with the local issues that affect my constituents and my community here in Baldivis in the southern suburbs of Perth. Bill and Chloe thank you for being here.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gary. It’s great to be here with Gary Gray and might I just congratulate Gary Gray for being re-selected to be Labor's candidate in Brand. He does a great job, not only on the western side of Australia but in Canberra representing his electorate. What's been really good going to this community function is realising and hearing the voices of people who are raising families, paying taxes, making ends meet. The overwhelming message this morning talking to people - cost of living. People are genuinely concerned that the Liberal Government and Malcolm Turnbull is going to put a 15 per cent tax on fresh food, on school fees, on medical costs - which currently doesn’t have that tax, and they want to increase the price of the GST. People have made it very clear to me that they are gravely skeptical that a GST, once it goes up to 15 per cent, they know that is forever and they know that any as yet unspecified compensation is only temporary or short term. The message I'm getting from people is please do your job but don't make us pay more for the things we need most in life. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Bill, just on the Trade Union Royal Commission, you've been effectively cleared of criminal conduct, but will questions remain about deals during your time at the AWU, particularly Thiess John Holland?

SHORTEN: I've always said for the last 18 months that this Royal Commission, Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission, was in large part designed to smear his political opponents. I'm pleased at this decision late last night. I stand by my record of securing the best possible conditions for members I've represented. I know that in my adult working life I've got up every day to make sure that we can do better for workers and their families - and I've done that for tens of thousands of members who I was privileged enough to represent. I think that the political nature of the Royal Commission has been exposed in the last few months. I'm determined put up my record for representing workers against that of Liberal ministers who voted for WorkChoices, who are now speculating about cutting penalty rates with no reason given other than just lowering the wages of people. And I know that Australian workers, the ones I represented, they certainly don't want a 15 per cent tax on everything.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the late timing of the release of those submissions last night?

SHORTEN: Well you're experienced members of the media, if something's coming out at 8 o'clock at night, I'm not going to speculate, but it does speak for itself.

JOURNALIST: The Commission said it was operating under an extremely tight deadline and that it didn't intend disrespect, do you accept that?

SHORTEN: This Commission’s cost tax payers $80 million. People who are writing some of the reports are being paid millions of dollars. If you were being paid millions of dollars to write a report do you think you could do it in a time line and not rush it at the last minute?

JOURNALIST: In terms of Mr Melhem, did you except Mr Melhem to act legally in setting up payments and services for [inaudible]?

SHORTEN: Cesar can speak for Cesar. I'll make it really clear, as I've done throughout my union career and also my time in Parliament; I and Labor have zero tolerance for wrong doing. We have zero tolerance for corruption. I don't care who you are, you could be a union rep or you could be a commercial director in a large company. As far as I'm concerned, criminality is criminality and it deserves the full force of the law.

JOURNALIST: Should he stand down or resign from the Victorian Parliament?

SHORTEN:  Again, you'll have to speak to Cesar about his matters. What I know though, is that this Trade Union Royal Commission made a real point of trying to scrutinise myself. I always knew all along what I'd done and that's stand up for workers. Again, if the Liberals want a debate about workplace relations, let's bring it on. I know where I stand in terms of fighting for workers, in terms of the safety net, better superannuation, making sure that their wages are reasonable and fair. I also stand on the side of people not having to pay a 15 per cent GST. No-one, no Australian worker can afford just to have a 15 per cent tax paid on everything and they're deeply skeptical, especially when the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull seem to be not interested in going after some of the taxation loopholes in our system. A lot of people say to me why does Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals want us to pay 15 per cent tax on everything we spend our money on, yet they won't do anything about making multinationals pay their fair share or the loopholes in the taxation system which only some Australians seem to be able to take advantage of.

JOURNALIST: Can you rule out a hiking the GST under a Shorten Labor Government?

SHORTEN: Yes, Labor will not increase the GST. We do not support a 15 per cent GST. We do not support it being on fresh food. I don't want to see people go to the doctor have to pay a GST. I don't think it's going to help on housing transactions and the cost for young people trying to get into a house. A GST is a lazy tax. It's a tax which disproportionately affects people on lower incomes. People on the very top income brackets generally only spend 75 per cent of all the money they earn so they save 25 per cent. But people on the lowest income brackets spend more money even than they make every week just to make ends meet. So it's a regressive tax. The burden of a GST is disproportionately felt by people who don't have a lot of money to begin with. And as for all this talk of compensation, the problem with the Government is they haven't quite explained what is this problem they're solving with the GST. This is a Government who's obsessed about having a GST. When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is a GST which is meant to fix up all the hospitals and schools, it's meant to help give tax cuts, it's meant to fix the deficit which has doubled under the Liberals. I don't think that the way you solve tax problems in this country is by increasing taxes on people.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the influence of the unions in WA Labor given the events of this week with Gary Gray facing a fairly bitter preselection battle?

SHORTEN: Politics in the Labor Party is always a very democratic exercise. There's always going to be views. I made it clear that I supported Gary Gray being re-selected as the Labor candidate and now it's occurred unanimously. He was the only nomination. But if we want to talk about politics inside Labor and Liberal, eight weeks ago Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister of Australia. So I think that if you want to look at how politics is played, Labor has its processes, I'm a fan of Gary Gray’s, I supported Gary Gray, I'm pleased that he's been re-selected unopposed and he will keep doing a good job both here and in Canberra. Last question, thanks.

JOURNALIST: Gary Gray said yesterday the union stranglehold over the party had caused a succession of political failures for Labor in WA, does that concern you and is it something that you will discuss with Mr Gray?

SHORTEN:  I've supported reforming the Labor Party. I want to give more voice to rank and file members. This is a process which occurs over time. But in my time as leader, I've got the Labor Party to back me into making sure that we have 50 per cent of our parliamentarians are women within the next 10 years and we're already above 40 per cent. I want to give a greater voice to women in Australian politics and unlike the other political parties I've actually backed up my talk with real action. When it comes to increasing the role and say of local branch members, something I know Gary Gray really believes in, we will keep pushing this case because we're a modern Labor Party. We're a Labor Party that is for all Australians and we want people from all walks of life, if they want to make a difference to this country, to consider joining the Labor Party because we want you. Thanks, everyone. Have a lovely afternoon.