THURSDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to transform public schools with a record investment; Bank CEOs ; Indonesian intelligence sharing; IPCC report; religious freedoms; silicosis screening; energy.
JO BRISKEY, CANDIDATE FOR BONNER: Hi my name is Jo Briskey, I am Labor's Candidate for Bonner where we are here this morning. I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Bill and Tanya, the Deputy Premier and Graham from Moreton and Corrine our state member here to this fabulous school in Bonner, Mansfield State School and to acknowledge the incredible announcement that we've seen from Bill Shorten and the Labor team to properly invest in our local schools and in particular our fabulous state schools. So this school here, Mansfield State School one of the great schools in the electorate of Bonner will be receiving $800,000 just in the first three years if a Labor Government is elected. What that means is the difference that that makes in our classrooms, the difference that it makes for our kids, making sure that more kids get one-on-one attention, make sure those that are potentially falling behind get the support that they need. It's critically important that they invest properly in our education and absolutely thrilled to welcome everyone here today and I'll hand over to Bill to say a few more.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Jo and good morning everybody. I'd like to thank Kym the principal of this school and the school captains, they've been fantastic hosts to Tanya and I and Jackie, Jo and Graham.
What I would like to do is just briefly talk about Labor's fantastic announcement for public education in Queensland, indeed public education in Australia. Labor is committed to handing on a better deal to the next generation. One of the best things you can do in public life as a politician is to make sure that we give our kids the best start in life.
Labor wants to make sure that kids who go to government schools get the best possible start in life. We believe in needs-based funding.
So Labor has cleared space in the budget if we get elected to make sure that we can properly fund our public schools. It’s a real shame that in the last five years the Coalition Liberal Government have cut billions of dollars from school education. In particular they have cut $14 billion plus for public schools across the next ten years.
Now due to the fantastic pressure that Labor and parents who send their kids to non-government schools have done we've been able to remedy some of the cuts to the low fee Catholic system and non-government schools, but unfortunately the government refuses to reverse its cuts to government schools.
There’s 2.5 million Australian kids who go to government schools and we are saying to the parents of children who send their kids to government schools you are entitled for the taxes you pay Canberra, to see an investment in your kids in government schools. That’s why Tanya and I are pleased to announce that because of our policies, our funded policies, we're able to make a promise that in the next three years alone, Queensland would see an additional $647 million being given to public schools in Queensland.
This is the equivalent in the next three years of funding an extra 1,600 teachers. We think this is important because if kids get the best resources then they’re going to do really well, and like all of the science, all of the expertise shows, that the more we invest in the early years of a child's education, the better they do in life. And this promise is built upon also our statement last week that we will fund universal access for three and four year olds to preschool.
Labor has got a plan for the education of our young people. This morning what I would like to do is hand over to Tanya Plibersek to talk more about our commitment to making sure that every child in every school gets every chance to do as well as they possibly can. Over to Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Bill, and thank you Jo Briskey, who is our fantastic candidate for that introduction. I also want to thank Kym Amor, the principal of this wonderful school, and a very important range of guests that we have here with us today, as well as the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett, the state member for Mansfield, Corrine McMillan, we have some important guests from the education sector, Kevin Bates the President of the Queensland Teachers Union; Kevin Goodworth, the CEO of Parents and Citizens Queensland; Andrew Pierpoint the President of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association; Terry Cook the P&C President and Kate Williams, the P&C Treasurer for this marvellous school.
A school like this would benefit to the tune of about $800,000 over the first three years of Labor's commitment to reinvesting in our wonderful public schools. As I was talking to the P&C President and Treasurer earlier they were telling us about their fundraising efforts and what they want to do in the classrooms here. I was reminded how hard parents work every day to make sure their kids are getting a great education.
Right across Australia this weekend there will be parents at the Bunnings sausage sizzle or baking cakes for cake stall at the fete and they are doing that because they know a dollar of extra investment in their kids' education makes all the difference.
Labor wants to do much better than that. We want to help parents invest in their children's education. $14.1 billion over the decade, $3.3 billion over the first three years of a Labor government and for Queensland that means around $647 million extra for state schools in the first three years of a Labor government. Of course that funding will be distributed on need. So the schools that have the greatest need get the greatest help.
We believe that every child, in every school, in every state and territory in every system deserves to get a world-class education. Government’s all about choices and we choose to prioritise our children's education. Thanks.
JACKIE TRAD, DEPUTY PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Good morning everyone, it is great to be here with both Bill and Tanya, also Graham from the federal seat of Moreton and the fantastic candidate for Bonner, Jo Briskey. I am pleased to also be here with Corrine who is the local state member but also a former state school principal and as she will tell you, she will tell you, the state school education system, by far and away, carries or shoulders the greatest burden when it comes to educating the next generation. And as such, we have got a significant responsibility to make sure that our public schools are appropriately funded.
That’s why in the last budget I was very pleased to hand down a record education spent here in Queensland. But while the state is certainly doing its fair share, we are, unfortunately, being left behind by the Morrison, formerly the Turnbull, federal government.
And that is by and large, because back in the Newman-era when we had an opportunity to sign up for Gonski, the Campbell Newman Government turned their back on the Gonski funding model. So we saw our counterparts in New South Wales and Victoria stream ahead with significant Commonwealth funding while Queensland was left behind.
The deal that’s been put on the table by the Federal Labor Opposition represents an opportunity for Queensland to sign up to a fair funding deal for Queensland state schools, a deal that was given to Queensland back in 2012, 2013 but was dismissed by Campbell Newman and the LNP at that time.
It is an opportunity for us to make sure that our public schools are funded appropriately on a needs basis and we look forward, very much, to working with the Federal Labor Opposition to make sure that they can actually implement this fantastic education policy when they’re elected to government. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Good morning everybody. Are there any questions on this announcement or any other national issues?
JOURNALIST: Can you give me a yes or no answer on whether Labor will change its position to support a company tax rate of 25 per cent. If it is a no, would a Shorten Government return the tax rate back to 27.5 per cent?
SHORTEN: Fair’s fair, we have just seen this proposal this morning, so when you just want a simple yes no, we are not going to give a blank cheque to anyone and I seriously don't think you expect us to.
Let me make just make it clear about corporate tax cuts. We will never give corporate tax cuts to the big end of town. The government has proposed this morning to find $30 billion they say to look after companies whose turnover is less than $50 million and to give them a tax cut in 2022. We are not ruling it out we are not ruling it in. We want to see the numbers. You just do not spend tens of billions of dollars on a whim.
But having said that, I think people want better from Australian politics so we will keep an open mind on this question as we examine the numbers. But the other criteria we have is that our first priority is to properly fund our schools, to properly fund our hospitals.
What's the point of robbing the future generations by not properly funding our schools now. We'll consider their proposal and we'll have a good look at it.
We can afford to do that because we are making tax reforms by taxing multinationals, and winding back unsustainable tax concessions which only a few Australians enjoy.
But having said that, I’d like now to put a challenge to Mr Morrison, you can whistle up $30 billion for tax cuts for small to medium-sized businesses, can't you find $14 billion for public schools over ten years?
JOURNALIST: When you do go through that proposal, what will it take for you to get onside? What particularly what would you be looking at that you wouldn't agree with?
SHORTEN: First of all, is it affordable? Secondly we're not going to compromise our commitment to future generations by not properly funding our schools. This is a good school, the kids are impressive, the teachers are working hard, clearly they’ve got a very active parents’ council who is helping a great deal.
But just as this school and the kids here are trying their level best and the teachers here, they deserve a government in Canberra who is as committed to handing on a better deal to the next generation.
For me education is not a political problem to be band-aided like the current government.
Mum was a teacher and a teacher of teachers, Chloe and I are raising three kids. We understand that we want to give our kids the best possible chance. I want to give every Australian child the best possible start in life.
In a beauty parade between giving tax cuts to corporations, and funding education for kids, to funding our hospitals, making sure that the sick can afford to see a doctor, I am always going to pick our kids, and I'm always going to pick the sick over corporate tax cuts.
But if it is affordable, then we will look at doing both but at this stage we want to crunch the numbers and I need to go through the proper processes consulting with my colleagues.
JOURNALIST: Is there a ball park or a range in terms of company tax cuts and are you comfortable that Labor has come to this? Is it between X and Y?
SHORTEN: We have already said that we would support legislated tax cuts to 27.5 per cent for companies whose turnover is up to $50 million. There is no way a business over $50 million can be called a small business. I think some people would argue that companies of even $40-$50 million are not really small.
What I'm not going to do is engage in petty politics. For me I've got two questions, does it mean handing on a better deal to families and workers and kids and does it also mean that we can afford to look after our education system and our hospital system? If we can do those things, then we are open to having a constructive discussion with the government. We've got to study the numbers and I've got to consult my colleagues.
What I say to Mr Morrison, is why is that you can always find money for tax cuts for corporations but you cannot find the money for public schools and government schools.
Parents who pay their taxes to Canberra have a reasonable expectation that a government of whatever political persuasion will reinvest in the education of their children. The problem is, that Mr Morrison hasn't chosen public education. Government schools are great schools and they deserve government support, just as he is extending to corporations and those who attend private schools.
JOURNALIST: So when you say you would support 27.5 per cent does that mean that if you <inaudible> at the next poll the tax rate would return to 27.5% or is it still unclear?
SHORTEN: No, no, listen I'll say it once again. Sorry if I haven't been clear.
We have already said we will support a tax rate of 27.5 per cent for companies up to $50 million and the government has just proposed today, fast tracking a corporate tax reduction for companies up to $50 million of 25 per cent. Again I am happy to repeat what I've said.
We will consider it if it can be afforded. My first priority is schools and hospitals. My first priority making sure kids get a good education, my first priority is to make sure that we properly fund our hospitals and that we help improve and save Medicare from the cuts this government has made.
Now if we can do these things, then we're happy to look at what the government is proposing. We won't be unreasonable. What I am not going to do is sacrifice the education of the next generation merely because Mr Morrison wants to look after big business. And certainly, it’s Mr Morrison who was the one, as Treasurer, which was only up to eight weeks ago, where he championed tax cuts for big banks.
I am deeply sceptical that if Mr Morrison's government is returned, that they don't have a plan to start giving tax cuts for bigger companies than $50 million. It is in the DNA in the Coalition to look after the top end of town. You can see through some of their tax cuts, you see that through the policies they roll out every day, in the way they suppressing workers’ wages. The fact that they would give corporate tax cuts than properly fund our schools.
And I have to say, today the Senate is talking today to the heads of the big banks – there’s a the Parliamentary committee hearing. I think the big banks need to come with a very humble attitude and I think they need to explain, has anyone lost their job at the top end of the big banks because of the scandals over the last few years?
Everyone knows that Mr Morrison ran a protection racket for the big banks for the last two years. He voted 26 or 27 times against having a Royal Commission. This Royal Commission has uncovered scandal after rip-off after rort and I think what a lot of Australians are saying to me is that why is it that if you steal from a bank, you go to jail but if a bank steals from you, someone gets a bonus? I think the big banks are going to have to explain who’s lost their job at the top of the tree and what bonuses have they paid back to help compensate the victims for the poor ethics in banking which Mr Morrison never wanted us to find out about.
I'll just share the questions. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns about potentially inviting Indonesia into Five Eyes community?
SHORTEN: I wasn't aware there was a specific plan to do that -
JOURNALIST: The Indonesians are suggesting that they would like greater intelligence sharing with Australia and our partners.
SHORTEN: There is a big difference between greater information sharing and five eyes. What I will do is maintain my bipartisan policy on national security. If there is any proposals to develop intelligence sharing - and Indonesia is an important neighbour of ours - I'll take a briefing from the security agencies rather than just do megaphone diplomacy at a press conference at Mansfield Primary.
JOURNALIST: And separately, Adani is inching closer to its coal mine in the Galilee basin which would have an operational life of 60 years. The IPCC says we need to phase out thermal coal within 32 years. The Queensland Government's willing to press ahead with this project if it stacks up financially, would a Shorten Labor Government save the coral reef and shut this down?
SHORTEN: There are plenty of hypotheticals in that. First of all, let's see if Adani does actually occur or materialise. It's had more false starts than I’ve seen many other businesses have.
In terms of the IPCC report, climate change is a real and present danger. We are seeing the climate warming and we have a government in Canberra who just wants to stick their head in the sand. It is beyond belief that for the last 10 years, Australian politics has been stalemated by the inability to develop an agreed policy on climate change. There's no doubt in my mind that we need to do more to save the Reef.
And by that, I don't just mean handing $440 million to a private charity that no one has ever heard of after half an hour's meeting. I mean, that's just a joke of a process especially when aged pensioners have to wait 7.5 months just to get the aged pension.
But returning to the Reef, one of the ways which we improve the chances of the Reef is by taking real action on climate. And the way we take real action on climate is to improve and increase our investment in renewable energy. Coal will be part of our energy mix going forward for the foreseeable future but what we need to do is we need to have agreed policy in Australian politics about climate change and about energy. Renewables will provide cleaner and cheaper energy in the future. What we need is to have an election, elect a Labor Government and end the climate change wars because Labor will back renewables, because we understand that it is not only better for householders and business, it is better for the environment and it will generate a lot more jobs.
JOURNALIST: But what about thermal coal exports? Surely they're part of the mix too.
SHORTEN: I said that coal will be part of our energy mix going forward -
JOURNALIST: But the trade mix – that we're exporting coal that's being burned -
SHORTEN: If you are asking me to predict what we will be doing in trade in 60 years’ time -
JOURNALIST: No, no. I am asking you, whether or not the IPCC's findings should have any bearing on Australia's policy regarding its exports of thermal coal?
SHORTEN: We are mugs to ignore global experts - no question. But also, let's recognise that one of the problems that's happened in the debate about the future of renewable energy, is everyone wants black and white. You guys want to dumb the debate down to are pro-coal or are you anti-coal. I actually take a longer term view, I’m pro-renewables.
Yes, coal will be part of our energy and export mix going forward. But that doesn't mean that everything is going to stand still as the Morrison Government wants to pretend. I want to see households have more solar rooftops. I want to see more batteries in households and more batteries in business. I want to force energy prices down. The only way we are going to do that is stopping this dumbed-down debate, are you for coal or against coal, do you have coal tattooed on you or do you have stop Adani tattooed on you. People are sick of really basic debates. What they actually want to see is fair dinkum policy. Only a Labor Government is going to lead us down the path of greater renewables and we're going to do it through intelligent policy, backing the science and not by dividing the community.
Sorry, you're next.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, returning to education. How much for Mansfield State School, how much does that proposed funding, how does it compare to what other schools in the area would get if it does go ahead?
SHORTEN: Well, I will get Tanya to supplement this answer because she is the real expert, but it will be about $800,000 over the next three years. What this will allow this school to do is get, for example, more teachers and more assistance to help the kids who are doing really well and want to be pushed further. It will also assist those who come with perhaps, slower learning development and make sure they get the attention they want. But why don't I hand over to Tanya to talk a bit more about the roll out across Queensland.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much. Obviously the amount of funding that each school will get will depend on the size of the school, it will depend on the need of the students.
Yesterday, last night, I was in Townsville at Kirwan State High School, and that school would be better off by about $1,950,000 over the first three years alone. Jo Briskey, Labor's candidate will have the opportunity of campaigning in every school in Bonner to talk about the benefit in every school in the local electorate, to talk about how every school will be better off over the next three years. And we will be able to do that right across Australia; talk to parents and teachers and principals about how their school will benefit.
Now, I think it is very important to say how this money is spent as well because we know that the best investment we can make in a child is to make sure that they get the individual one-on-one attention they need. That means in the early years of schooling, if kids are falling behind, to pick that up much sooner and to make sure that we intervene earlier to help kids get back on track. If a child is still struggling at the age of eight with reading or writing or maths, then it is very likely that they will continue to struggle right throughout their schooling. So early identification of problems and interventions that will help that child catch up. Making sure there is more one-on-one attention for kids who are gifted and talented so they are not bored out of their brains and disrupting the rest of the class, or just coasting. Making sure that we have more subject choices in later years so when kids get the basics under their belt in the early years of schooling, they go on in high school to be able to do more vocational education, languages, arts, music, more sophisticated science. These are the opportunities that we have when we properly fund our schools, we get kids ready for the jobs of the 21st century.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, question for ABC Canberra, will Labor consider moving to amend or abolish the ability of religious schools to exclude or to expel gay students?
SHORTEN: Frankly, I am shocked that the current Prime Minister hasn't ruled out right now already, extending new laws allowing the discrimination against children who are gay.
Really, that's not an education policy. Why are we having a debate which says that human dignity of children could be further subject to exemptions against discrimination? I don't want to make this a political football.
I think it's ridiculous that the Government hasn't provided the Australian people with the expert report. Everyone knows that voters in Wentworth would probably like to know this before a by-election. The Government has paid for a report. It has been sitting on it since May. Rather than have this debate which has got everyone up in arms, does it mean that gay kids will be discriminated against? Does it mean that religion will be discriminated against?
The Morrison government could short-cut this very divisive debate which divides our community, which leads kids and parents to be worried, simply by releasing the report. If there is nothing nasty in the report just put it out.
You know, we shouldn't be using kids as a political battering ram in a sort of post- marriage equality debate to square off because Australia now has marriage equality. I really think as a parent, I don't like this debate. I think the Government should just put the report out, say "Nothing to see here" or if there is, then we have to deal with it.
I would really ask Mr Morrison, let's cut this religious debate out, no-one wants to discriminate against religion, but what I have to say is that I don't believe very many - I believe 99 in 100 Australians, hopefully 100 in 100 Australians would be appalled by the idea that there could be the contemplating of new laws to give a green light to discriminate against kids who are gay.
JOURNALIST: The Royal Australian College of Physicians is calling for the urgent national screening for stonemasons to check for dust lung disease, silicosis. Would you support this?
SHORTEN: Yes. I have seen the effect of industrial exposure to industrial diseases. I have seen it in the case of asbestosis and mesothelioma, I have seen it with benzene exposure, silicosis from my time working as a mining organiser. I think this would be a very sensible proposition and I think this is one which shouldn't be a political football at all.
JOURNALIST: Should schools that discriminate against gay students and their staff be entitled or receive government funding?
SHORTEN: I think we have got the current laws, and then the question is, does this report on religious freedom extend new exemptions to protection against discrimination? I would strongly say, let's let the current system be the starting point and not start extending the right to discriminate against people, full stop.
JOURNALIST: If I can take you back to energy briefly, would Labor - would an elected Labor Government revive the NEG or would you take certain aspects of that and produce it into something else? And if not, when would you release a comprehensive energy policy before the next election?
SHORTEN: First of all, you know, asking Labor to put forward its policy - we will before the next election - but the government is now on their fifth policy - their third Prime Minister and their fifth policy.
Originally, the Liberals liked an Emissions Trading Scheme. We said, we will look at that and then they moved off that. Then they had something called an Emissions Intensity Scheme. We said, alright, we will look at that and then they moved off that. Then they got the Chief Scientist no-less, who introduced a Clean Energy Target and we said, we'll have a look at that, and then they moved away from that. Then they had a National Energy Guarantee and we said, we will look at that. And as soon as we said we would look at that, they actually sacked their previous Prime Minister. So I have given up expecting sensible policy out of this government. The Prime Minister brings lumps of coal into parliament and brandishes it like some lucky charm.
In terms of the National Energy Guarantee, to get to the substance, we think there are elements to that framework which deserve not to be scrapped. Why should the nation go back to the drawing board because the current Prime Minister and the right wing of the Liberal Party don't want to do anything on climate change?
What this nation needs is to bring us together. What this nation needs is not necessarily to have winner take all, you know that black-and-white alternative. I think what we need to do is to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We need to recognise that there were elements in the National Energy Guarantee which industry, which the environmentalists like and that should be our starting point.
But the only way we are really going to get better energy policy and lower energy prices is by moving more to renewable energy and the reality is, the only we are going to move more to renewable energy is by the election of a Labor Government at the next federal election.
Very last question.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, is this something that we need to move on quickly, this issue of energy? Is it something we need to lock something down quickly or do you think we should wait and consider the options more?
SHORTEN: I think we've been waiting for ten years. I think the government should revive the National Energy Guarantee. If they are not prepared to do that, I think we will probably need to have an election. And then, we will put forward our energy policy, which involves more renewables, and the government can - I don't know, have their usual internal fight which they normally do about energy.
JOURNALIST: Just on schools - about how many schools do you expect you'll be visiting between now and the election?
SHORTEN: Well, lots of schools. I can't quantify it.
What I will say is there's 2.5 million kids go to government schools. We think that they deserve to get proper funding. Now, Labor said that Mr Abbott, then Mr Turnbull, then Mr Morrison have cut significantly into education. Initially, when Tanya and I said that, the government said we were making it up. But miraculously, after a strong campaign by the Catholic education parents and by Labor, they found billions of dollars to help support and reverse the cuts they’ve made to non-government schools, even after they said that there were no cuts, they had found the money. But now it is the turn of public education.
See, I am concerned this government has a priority for some sectors and some communities and not others. Public education is fundamental. It's where 85 per cent of the cuts have occurred. These are great schools; the kids here are so impressive, the teachers are doing great things, the parents are working hard, the state government wanting to invest in education. Surely, anyone who wants to be the government of Australia would understand the best thing we can do is hand on a better deal to the next generation. There is no better gift we can give our young people than that of education.
We want a fair go for all Australians, we want a fair go for the kids of Australia and we want a fair go for public education.
Thank you very much.