31 May 2016

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s pledge for a Northern Australia tourism powerhouse; Labor’s positive plans for Australia; Labor campaign launch in Penrith;Malcolm Turnbull’s $50 billion tax cut for big business; National Accounts

SHARON HOWES, CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: I'd like to introduce you to Bill Shorten. Welcome Bill, it's always fabulous to have you in our region.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you Sharon and good morning everybody. Just as yesterday, Mark Butler and I announced a rescue plan for the Great Barrier Reef and one of the focuses for the rescue plan was defending, maintaining and improving our tourism industry in Far North Queensland, which generates between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs. Today, I am pleased to announce that Labor will create a Tourism Infrastructure Fund for the north of Australia. $1 billion which will help generate new tourism infrastructure to take advantage of the marvellous rise of the middle classes of Asia. To our near north, we live on the border of the fastest growing middle class in the world. In the next number of decades it is projected that the there will be no less than three billion members of Asia's emerging middle class. And Australia, particularly the north of Australia, is so well placed to grab that tourism boom which comes to nations once in their history. Now I want to make sure that tourism and Australia grab that wave. What we want to do is take part of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, which Labor has supported, set up by the Liberals, a $5 billion fund. We want to take $1 billion of that and get that money working in the interests of jobs and tourism. We want to see more Asian tourists coming to the north of Australia. We want to see more eco-tourism. We want to see more support for convention centres and stadia. We want to see more support for our airports and ports so that we can make it easier to be a gateway for tourism and to grab those opportunities that I just referred to. And another plus, of course for this proposal is that we will be able to ensure that Indigenous communities can also develop business opportunities and develop jobs. This is exactly the sort of thing we need to get Australia going again. This will generate jobs in the start of all these projects. And there will be jobs at the end of these projects on an ongoing basis. And it won't cost the $50 billion tax giveaway to the big end of town to secure all these jobs and tourism as part of Australia's exciting future. Happy to take any questions. 

REPORTER: The peak body for tourism operators in this region say the tax cuts are the best thing to boost employment and growth in the industry. Are they wrong?

SHORTEN: The numbers don't stack up in terms of the corporate tax giveaway that Mr Turnbull's providing. Really, Mr Turnbull's had three different economic plans since he became Prime Minister. The first was a 15 per cent GST. Now, that wasn't going to help tourism. Then his second plan was allowing states to levy second income taxes on everyone who works. That's not going to help tourism. And now Mr Turnbull's trying to pretend that a $50 billion tax giveaway to the top end of town will miraculously create economic growth. The research has already shown, the most optimistic research of Mr Turnbull's own Treasury department, shows that by giving $50 billion away over the next 10 years, it will generate exactly 0.1 per cent GDP. It's a shallow policy from a Government with no real economic plan for the future.

REPORTER: The representative from the tourism chamber is wrong then? He is saying it will benefit small businesses and particularly those up to $10 million which you're not supporting?

SHORTEN: I think the idea of having a billion dollars for airports and ports, for convention centres and stadia, making sure that we can grab the events, we're on the right track. We're about tourism, not just today or tomorrow. We're about making sure that Australia has the infrastructure to grab the wave of Asian tourism. If we don't act now, we will miss an opportunity which other countries will not miss out on. So absolutely, I believe our policy is superior to Mr Turnbull's. Please remember, when we talk about a $50 billion tax giveaway, it's already been estimated by the Australia Institute, $11 billion of that is going to go to foreign shareholders in the US. That doesn't help local business here. $7.5 billion over the next ten years will go to Australia's big four banks, Westpac, NAB, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, how does that help local business? No, I think what we need to do is to make sure that we've got the right projects in the north, generating jobs during construction and also afterwards with the service jobs.

REPORTER: Why is a Melbourne boy like you launching his election campaign in Western Sydney?

SHORTEN: Because Western Sydney in many ways is the heart of Australia. It's a community of two million people. It's diverse. There are many great cities in Western Sydney. It's not just one homogeneous city. From Campbelltown to Liverpool right through to Bankstown, right through to Parramatta, it's a marvellous part of Australia. If you took Western Sydney all on its own and just looked at its economic activity and its population, it would be the third largest city in Australia. The other thing is that Labor's values speak to the values of people in Western Sydney. I've travelled extensively through my time in Western Sydney. They're interested in good schools for their kids. They want the best in life for their kids and to give them the best start possible. They want a Medicare system where it's your Medicare card not your credit card which determines the level of health care you get in Australia. They want to see real jobs through infrastructure. Labor and Western Sydney share common values. I think it's great that on June 19th, I will be launching Labor's campaign to be the next government of Australia in the heart of Australia, Western Sydney.

REPORTER: Are you planning to keep in place the 49 cents in the dollar top rate for tax earners for a decade?

SHORTEN: Yes, we do. We've made that clear. Mr Turnbull on Budget night sprung two surprises on Australia. One was he proposed as his only economic plan to give $50 billion away from the Budget, which will principally flow to large companies, the big end of town, the banks, the mining companies and overseas investors. And he also proposed, whilst he gave no tax relief at all for any Australian who earns less than $80,000, and for Australians who earn between 80 and $87,000, basically the price of a cup of coffee and a piece of Vegemite toast, $6 a week. He only provided tax relief for people above $180,000. He's not going to go ahead and continue with the deficit levy, even though there's still a deficit. What he effectively said to Australians is if you earn $60,000, nothing for you, except cuts to family payments. If you earn $87,000 a year, you will get $6 a week, but if you earn $1 million in a year you're going to get $17,000 back in your tax next year rather than what you got last year. It's the wrong priorities. In a time of tough budgetary conditions, a time when this Liberal Government's tripled the deficit, in a time when they have got no plan to help do anything to reduce net public sector debt, I have to make hard choices. I choose to prioritise bulk-billing. I choose to prioritise the ability of people to get X-rays and mammograms and CT scans without having to pay large upfront fees. I choose to make sure that every child in Cairns or in Western Sydney gets comparable resources to a child in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

REPORTER: Strategists are suggesting you will pick up, up to 12 seats a this the election. Are you confident you can do that?

SHORTEN: I'm confident that Labor has the most positive plans for Australia. I'm confident that our plan for economic growth and real jobs, where we see prioritising education, schools, TAFE, universities, childcare, where we're prioritising nation-building infrastructure with local content, Australian apprentices, where we're prioritising rail and road, where we're making sure that we have an NBN which is delivered on time and within cost. I'm confident that our approach on jobs, on infrastructure, on education, that's the right plan. The best way to have sustainable economic growth in Australia is to include working-class and middle-class families. Our measures to ensure that we're protecting Medicare, that we protect the safety net of conditions at work, including penalty rates. Our priority to make sure that every child gets a quality education. We would take Australia on the right track. All Mr Turnbull is offering by contrast is a staunch defence of the property speculators, keeping $32 billion in subsidy flowing to those people. He's offering a staunch defence of people who earn a million dollars a year. They will get a $17,000 tax cut under Mr Turnbull if re-elected and he's offering a staunch defence of big business, where he will provide the banks with an extra $7.4 billion over the next 10 years. It's all about choices. I'm confident that in the remaining four and a half weeks of this election campaign, Australians will hear very clearly the valuable contribution we want to make on behalf of all Australians.

REPORTER: Taxing people at nearly 50 per cent of their income, what incentive is there for work hard and Chris Bowen has said you might reconsider this. Under what circumstances would you lower the tax rate?

SHORTEN: We would like to lower marginal rates of taxation.

REPORTER: For high income earners though?

SHORTEN: For all Australians, actually. I think all Australians work hard. I don't think it's the case if you earn a million dollars, somehow you're a more worthy human being than someone who earns $80,000. So we would like to help reduce the marginal rate of taxation. But you have to do it when the Budget can afford it. Each one per cent in reduction in income tax across-the-board for the very rich to the not so well-off is somewhere between 6 and $7 billion a year off the bottom line. Our first challenge in Australia is to have rigid Budget discipline which improves the country's finances, but doesn't punish family households. Mr Turnbull's made a choice to reduce corporate taxation. Anyone with a basic knowledge of corporate taxation knows all that means is that the real beneficiaries are foreign shareholders and companies who've already made pre-existing investments in their business and now they get a windfall in terms of corporate taxation. So it would be lovely to reduce marginal rates of taxation but you can only make these promises when you can afford to pay it. I would love to be in a position where I could tell every Australian everything they want to hear. But that's not the sort of leadership you’ll get from me. I will tell it straight. And I'm saying it straight right now. It's a bad idea to give people on a million dollars a $17,000 tax cut when you're cutting family payments for people on $60,000 a year.

REPORTER: You keep talking about the corporate tax cut being for the top end of town. But as part of it, you're also opposing the redefinition of a small business from $2 million to $10 million for turnover. How can you equate a local builder who might have $4 million of turnover with a bank or a foreign shareholder and is there perhaps room for maybe some compromise there, you might support raising that to maybe $5 million or something?

SHORTEN: It's not Labor who's chosen to define a small business tax cut as extending up to a billion dollars. I'm sure when you read the Budget papers you were privately as surprised as me when you saw Mr Turnbull stretching the elastic of a definition of a small business from a $2 million turnover to $1 billion. And the truth of the matter is, that Mr Turnbull sort of panicked a bit in the debate and by the end of his debate he was saying "Please ignore the fact I'm going to give a $7.5 billion tax cut to big banks" and he only wanted to focus on the first couple of years. I'm not just interested in the next election. I will look at the long-term and medium-term financial interests of this country. The problem with this country is we have a structural deficit. The problem with this country is Mr Turnbull is making a promise which will permanently damage the underlying basis of our Budget for the long term. The truth of the matter is when you examine the real cost of Mr Turnbull's big cash splash for business, the bulk of the return isn't for those businesses that you're talking about, the bulk of the return are, the bulk of the profit is going to mining companies, and it's going to banks. And the truth of the matter is, that even if you give a corporate tax cut, the reason why you do it is to incentivise new investment. But the fact of the matter is Mr Turnbull's come to the party a bit late. The mining companies have already made their Capex. Now Capex is on the lowest level of capital expenditure investment in Australia. It's at the lowest it's been and it has been declining for 14 quarters. The whole time of the existence of this worthless Liberal Government it's been flat lining capital expenditure and Mr Turnbull is now going to give big mining companies a reward for investment they've already done? It's contradictory theory and the truth of the matter is the people who are cheering, the corporate tax cut, are banks with $7.4 billion, American shareholders who are able to pocket the whole profit, and what we want to do by contrast is focus on real jobs. Real jobs in public transport across our cities, real jobs in tourism.

REPORTER: Could I just ask, the Treasurer has done two interviews ahead of the national accounts figures coming out tomorrow. What's your reading of that?

SHORTEN: I would say that Scott Morrison is in damage control, isn't he? He hasn't been the most active participant in this election but they've had to let him do the damage control on the national account numbers. The truth of the matter is that this Government has endangered our triple-A credit rating. The truth of the matter is this Government has run out of plans for Australia. That's the only explanation why they've given Australia an eight-week election period because Malcolm Turnbull has found governing Australia simply too hard. He’s like the dog who caught the car and now he's the Prime Minister he doesn't know what to do with the job. He came up with a 15  per cent GST argument. That didn't go across well with Australians because we all live in the real world and we know it's a regressive tax increase. He said at Penrith, interestingly, where we're going to hold our launch, he said his contribution in western suburbs of Sydney this year was to have the idea of allowing states to levy an income tax. So now they've reached to the sort of - the bottom of the barrel for Liberal Party policy, quick give the very well-off a tax cut - same old Liberals - quick, let's give the big end of town a tax cut - same old Liberals - and that's not going to help everyday Australians. So we are determined, we see the national account figures tomorrow, I hope they're good. But all the instinct I have is with Scott Morrison out today in a rare outing in this election, it just tells me that they're preparing us for more bad news under Liberal stewardship.

REPORTER: Just on Andrew's question - small business has been crying out since 206 to be redefined from $2 million. Ken Henry recommended it. COSBOA recommends it. Is there a chance you will redefine small business to turnovers of $5 million which is what they're asking for?

SHORTEN: We really believe that small business is the engine room of the Australian economy. That's why in last year's Budget and this year's Budget when there've been proposals to provide tax relief and instant asset write-off we've backed it without blinking because that's in our DNA too. What we also have to do is make some hard choices about where the gain goes. All of our view is that what happens is that, and it really goes to a question asked earlier by yourself, about income tax, the problem when you have corporate tax cuts as nice has they sound to be, is that most people take them therefore from the corporation with the lower tax, they take it as profit, it comes as individual income, so these same people still hit the wall of high marginal rates of taxation. In the tough budgetary situation, in a tough budgetary situation, now is not the time to have a $50 billion cash splash, and for the record, let's not fall for the Liberal argument that this is just about a business on $2.5 million, the vast cost to the Budget of Malcolm Turnbull's last shallow desperate idea to justify his Prime Ministership of Australia is to give large corporations a $50 billion tax cut. That is not in the interests of Australia. It's not in the interests of sick people who need Medicare, it's not in the interest of our kids who deserve a quality education, it's not even in the interests of people who want to have tourism jobs as contrasted with our sensible moderate measure.

REPORTER: Do you think it's property that some MPs are paying $86 a day to travel from their Canberra accommodation to Parliament House and are you yourself claiming this allowance?

SHORTEN: I'm not aware of what you're talking about to be honest.

REPORTER: Are you not punishing high income earners by making them pay half of their wage in tax? You're not using them as your cash cow?

SHORTEN: To be fair, the higher deficit levy was a Liberal idea.

REPORTER: You're extending it for 10 years.

SHORTEN: Let's be clear. If you want to look at who the parents of the higher deficit levy was it's Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott. As much as Malcolm Turnbull would love people to forget that he was a key Cabinet Minister in the Abbott Government, he was. What I get, though, is hard decisions have to be made. And what I won't do to reward someone on $1 million is punish someone who needs a mammogram because they're fighting breast cancer. What I won't do, if I have to make a choice, is choose someone on $1 million rather than children in a poor working-class suburb to make sure that they get the right choices and lessons, that they get the chance to learn a language other than English and they get a chance to learn music and not have to share one musical instrument among six. What I won't do is punish someone who is a part pensioner on a waiting list to have a knee reconstruction who’s 67 years old. These are all people I know and have heard from in my town hall meetings. I won't punish him and make him wait another year on a waiting list so Mr Turnbull can reward people, who frankly in a time of relative difficulty are doing it relatively better than other Australians.

REPORTER: Is your proposed allocation going to come at the expense of vital infrastructure projects that farmers say are necessary for the region?

SHORTEN: Not at all. We'll have more to say about the remainder of the Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund. But let's tell it straight here. The Government announced, in fact as with most of Mr Turnbull's policy, it was announced by Mr Abbott two years ago. Two and a half years ago, or two years ago at the Budget they said Northern Australia fund: great. At the time we said yep, tick, and we voted for the legislation, tick. In the last two years they've done nothing and that's the real challenge in this election, isn't it. So we will keep investing in road infrastructure here. Of course we will. There will still be money available for other projects but I reckon tourism is a jobs generator. This is the sort of thing that we need to get Australia going again. Jobs in infrastructure, jobs afterwards, you know, it doesn't cost a $50 billion tax cut. I make this final point about this Government. They've had three years to do nothing. Why on earth would Australia give them another three years to keep doing nothing. Thanks everybody, see you later.