Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Queanbeyan - Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Liberal Party’s trade union royal commission




SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Liberal Party’s trade union royal commission; Essendon Football Club

MIKE KELLY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Well g'day everyone, welcome to sunny Queanbeyan, it's wonderful to be able to also welcome Bill Shorten to our wonderful town here today, because nowhere will you find working families more under pressure from the cost of living and that need people to stand up for them like Bill Shorten. Bill is a good friend of these people, these are the people that Bill's here to fight for, so it's a pleasure to have him here taking up the cause of working families. No area in Australia has suffered more from the impositions of this Government through the sackings and the hits on renewable energy industry, we need someone to stand up for us and that person is Bill Shorten. So thanks for coming Bill, appreciate it.

Happy New Year everyone, it's great to start the year in Eden-Monaro with Mike Kelly, Labor's candidate at the next election. At the start of 2016 we faced the same sort of government we faced at the start of 2015 - a chaotic and divided government, who don't seem to have any policies other than cutting services in health and education, and increasing the cost of living for ordinary Australians. It's very important this year that we start the year having an important debate about the future of our tax system. For the life of me, I do not understand why Malcolm Turnbull keeps going soft on multinationals, yet is allowing this discussion about increasing the GST to 15 per cent to continue.

So today, I issue a challenge to Malcolm Turnbull that on the day before Parliament starts this year, at the National Press Club, I'm prepared to debate Malcolm Turnbull about why increasing the GST to 15 per cent in any set of circumstances is a bad idea. Now, if Malcolm Turnbull's fair dinkum, he'll front up.

The difference between the Liberals and Labor is that the Labor Party is opposed to increasing the GST at 15 per cent, and that's the policy we'll take to the next federal election. I can promise you right now and every day between now and the next election that I will not increase the GST to 15 per cent. And until Malcolm Turnbull rules out that he too will not increase the GST to 15 per cent, everyday Australians face the prospect of paying a 15 per cent price hike on everything.

I believe it's important that we rule the line under 2015 and start 2016 being up front and straight with the Australian people about our policies. I can promise Australians that we'll do a better job in healthcare, and education, that we will stand up for Australian jobs and that we are fair dinkum about acting on climate change. And certainly it is long overdue to drop any discussion about increasing the GST to 15 per cent and the attack on penalty rates which the Liberals keep talking about. This is what we will do and I challenge Malcolm Turnbull to a debate about raising the GST to 15 per cent and I will put the case against it, and we'll see if he's willing to turn up and put the case for increasing the GST to 15 per cent. Happy to take any questions on that and any other matters.

JOURNALIST:  Bill Shorten, some of your Labor state counterparts have put the case to increase the GST, saying that it could pay for increases to health and education spending. Are you increasingly out of touch with your counterparts at the state level and would you like to see them change their mind and don't you think that the increasing number of state leaders might have - might be right on this?

SHORTEN: First of all, let's understand what I think and what I stand for. I'm against increasing the GST to 15 per cent. You can vote for me and Labor; we do not support increasing it at the national level. Now, your question goes to some state premiers, like Mike Baird and different people conjecturing at the state level about possibly increasing the GST. Let me be really black and white about this. I understand that state premiers and state opposition leaders have effectively been taken hostage by the Liberal Budget from Canberra with $80 billion of cuts to schools and hospitals. So they're worried about that. But the answer to solving cuts in education and hospitals is not to make everyday Australians pay a 15 per cent tax on everything.

That's why Labor last year put up some alternative propositions. One, we said we could do more to tax multinationals who are gaming the Australian taxation system. Two, we think the superannuation tax concession loopholes of the super wealthy are ridiculously generous and we have also said we'd look at the excise on tobacco. I do not see the case has been made to put a cost of living tax on everything by 15 per cent, and there are alternatives which would avoid the need to see the swinging cuts in hospitals and schools.

I think at the very end of last year all Australians were really upset when they discovered that 579 Australian companies paid no tax in the previous financial year. There is something really unfair about our tax system that some large companies can game the tax system, that some high net wealth individuals seem to be able to minimise all their tax and everyday Australians are facing a Liberal campaign to increase the GST to 15 per cent.

JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, doesn't your focus on a tax the Government has not announced and may never announce actually suggest that Malcolm Turnbull is a pretty effective political small target at the moment and you don't have a good issue to go after him on in an election year?

SHORTEN: Well Tim, let's be diligent. I'm standing here talking about what we will do at the next election. Labor will not increase the GST to 15 per cent, we will not do it. And why won't Malcolm Turnbull come out and say that he won't do it, why doesn't he not just take it off the table? And in fact, while we're at it, why won't Malcolm Turnbull consider debating us before the Parliament starts? The Liberals keep talking about taxation. This GST conversation doesn't seem to go away. The Liberals want to keep this idea on the table; well we're taking it off the table because millions of everyday Australians want the Labor Party to stand up for every day Australians. That's what I'm doing today.

JOURNALIST:  Will Labor adopt any of the recommendations from the royal commission into trade unions?

SHORTEN: We're going to study the royal commission recommendations which were released between Christmas and New Year, but let me just make some important principles about the royal commission. First of all, the royal commission did discover some examples of bad behaviour within some parts of the union movement. I despise thievery, I despise people taking money from union members - but what I also recognise is that the Australian trade union movement has got a very good track record of for standing up for workers.

We'll have a look at the recommendations, it certainly did uncover things which certainly meet the displeasure and the outrage of the Labor side of politics, as well as the Liberal side of politics, and I can promise Australians that Labor has a policy for ensuring that all institutions are run honestly and with the absence of corruption. In terms of the specific recommendations we'll have a look at what the Liberals are proposing, we haven't seen their legislation yet, but what I also want to make very clear is that I believe that standing up for workers, which is what unions do every day, standing up for their penalty rates, opposing increases to the GST, well I think they're on the right track with that.

JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, the ASADA findings have just come out, you might have seen, the Sports Minister has just put out a release saying the political interference from the previous Labor Government has drawn out the length of this case. Is that a fair assessment? Are you responsible, or is Labor responsible for causing undue frustration to players and fans?

SHORTEN: There go the Liberals again, they are turning what is a diabolical situation and trying to play politics with it. My first thoughts are with the players who have been caught up in the scandal. These players put their trust in people, and I believe have been systematically let down, and now they are carrying the can. So my first thoughts are not about trying to play Liberal versus Labor, it's about the players and their families who put their trust in people and have been let down. Secondly, my concerns and thoughts are with the fans of football and with the Essendon Football Club. Essendon's got a long and fine tradition. It's been a horrendous three years for anyone who supports that famous football club. I hope now that we can start moving beyond it. But my thoughts are first and foremost are not about trying to say Liberal or Labor, who is better, who is worse, but there are players, young players whose family's trusted that club and they are the ones who have now got to face the prospect of their careers being jammed or delayed through no fault of their own.


JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, you started a tour around the country talking about these - what you say proposed changes to the GST. Isn't this just a scare campaign about a policy that hasn't been announced? And if 2015 is the year of ideas, what's 2016 going to be?


SHORTEN: Again, I tell you one idea we can put out right now; we won't increase the GST. It beggars belief that the Liberals are so arrogant with the Australian people they can play with the Australians like cat with mice, just pretending, 'well, they may, they may not'. The truth of the matter is, and you've been around politics, and you've all been around politics a fair while, many of you, the truth of the matter is that the Liberal Party need to rule out increasing the GST to 15 per cent, and every day Labor will be on their case to make them rule it out, or we'll fight the election on it.


JOURNALIST:  To be clear on ASADA Mr Shorten, do you believe this ruling is unfair, unjust, on the players of the Essendon Football Club?


SHORTEN: I haven't read the ruling in-depth. I have seen some of the reports, like yourself. But I am making it very clear that I think these young players are the meat in the sandwich. They are caught up in something which they never, from what I've seen, understood, and I think that they are paying a big price for other people's decisions. I also feel the other people are caught up in all of this are people like AFL and people like the Essendon Football Club. The Essendon Football Club's in my electorate. It has a long and proud tradition. The last three years has been difficult for everyone concerned at that club. But I go back to where your question started and what I think - there are players, young men, whose parents and they trusted to take the instructions and do what they are told and my heart goes out to them.


JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, the Chinese downturn appears more pronounced than previously thought. We have seen a horror start on the markets to the year here. Are you concerned that the assumptions and forecasts in MYEFO just last month are already way off?


SHORTEN: I think even bigger than MYEFO is what's happening in the markets. I understand that there are a lot of people who have their superannuation tied up in the Australian stock market. And, of course, what happens on the stock market, therefore, has a flow-on effect to everyone or most people in Australia, even beyond the Budget. I think that it is a tough volatile start and we have seen that. But I think the fundamentals of Australia are still pretty strong. This for me is not a topic to try and have a crack at the Liberals and what's happening in terms of the global economy. I think the fundamentals of the Australian economy are strong. We have got smart, bright people, who have worked very hard. We have got a lot of natural resources and I think when you combine the fortunate geography of this country and you combine it with the capacity and ability of Australian people, we have got strong institutions, they are well regulated, this is volatile times, but I'm positive, nonetheless, and I'm not unduly panicked and I think it's a time for everyone to get behind Australia, not to be saying that everything's doom and gloom. I'm also very bullish about China and India in the long-term. Massive growth there, we are on the doorstep of the world's largest middle class. But what I would say is that now is the time to make sure that we don't undermine confidence by going after people's penalty rates, by talking about increasing the GST to 15 per cent. What we need is people to be able to come into this supermarket and the small businesses in Queanbeyan, to be able to shop, because they are well remunerated because they have got a good safety net of workplace entitlements and that we don't have them all contemplating a 15 per cent GST. I think Malcolm Turnbull could do Australia a favour, dump the discussion of the GST, that would give everyone a lot more confidence in the high street and I think they also need to come clean and stop their people talking about tackling workplace entitlements, because millions of Australians rely on penalty rates.


JOURNALIST:  Is Labor prepared to support the reestablishment of the ABCC and registered organisations, now that they are actually justified by the findings of the royal commission?


SHORTEN: I'm not sure the entire case is made out. Let me be clear about both pieces of legislation. Labor believes there should be one law applying to everyone. I want to make that very clear; unions should not be above the law, that's never been the case for them and they should never be above the law. But the ABCC I don't believe is creating one rule. It creates a different set of rules for construction workers to everyone else and that case hasn't been made out. In terms of the registered organisation's discussion and commission, the Liberals haven't presented their final response to the royal commission and what their legislation will be. We'll study it very carefully. I'd also invite you to look at Labor's clean unions governance, which we have been proposing, with stronger powers and stronger regulation, too. I have got no doubt that people of goodwill will make sure that we have clean and strong trade unions, and just as we make sure that we have clean and strong corporate Australia. For me the issue is corruption. We have got to fight corruption wherever we see it, not just in unions, not just in corporate Australia, but in every aspect, because Australians have got to have fades in their institutions.


JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, with respect, you didn't answer a previous question on whether Labor leaders across the country are united on your attack against the GST. Do you have a message to Premiers who have put this on the table and are discussing this?


SHORTEN: Whether it be Jay Weatherill or Mike Baird, let me just say to them I understand that the Federal Liberals are putting you between a rock and a hard place. I understand that be it Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal budgets are the same. I understand that State Governments are facing the prospect of massive cuts to hospital funding, massive undermining of the healthcare system, massive cuts to schools, and massive cuts to their education system. I understand why some Premiers are saying what they are saying. What I also understand is you don't solve a problem by putting a new tax of 15 per cent on everything. Again, I commend what Labor said last year, that we believe that there are ways to help ensure we have a strong education system and a strong healthcare system without making everyone in Australia pay 15 per cent more on everything, and that is why I'll be touring around all over Australia in the next three weeks, because we get the message loud and clear. Australians don't want a 15 per cent GST and I'm going to give them a message - if you vote for Labor, you won't get a 15 per cent GST.
Thanks everyone.