FRIDAY, 4 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Dysfunction and division in the Liberal Party; National security leaks; Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. Now that Parliament has risen from the last fortnight, what we see is a Government at war with itself. They are obsessed about worrying about their own jobs and not the national interest.
We see leaks from the highest security Cabinet committee of the Government, we see Liberals calling the Police in to investigate Liberals. We see great division and dysfunction at the heart of the Government. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Is Tony Abbott becoming worse than Kevin Rudd in terms of causing dysfunction and destabilisation?
SHORTEN: I think that Malcolm Turnbull's got a lot of explaining to do. He told everyone to justify rolling Tony Abbott that he would give new economic leadership. Malcolm Turnbull set a test for himself and for his Government; would there be new economic leadership. Every day Malcolm Turnbull is failing that test.
The Abbott camp are deeply unhappy because Tony Abbott has been replaced by a Prime Minister who is emerging to be an imposter. Malcolm Turnbull is so concerned about his own popularity that he is so anxious now about making any decisions. In the meantime this country is going backwards.
JOURNALIST: The fact that they are targeting the area of national security, how much of a concern is that?
SHORTEN: Well, I've given up trying to read what's in the Prime Minister's mind. To be honest, I don't even think the Prime Minister knows what is in his mind. Every day there's a new stumble, new chaos, every day a new thought bubble, every day another day wasted for Australia.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Government is delaying debate on the Australian Building and Construction Commission until the May Budget. Do you think that's because they don't want to use it as a double dissolution trigger?
SHORTEN: This Government changes its mind between morning and night. When the Liberals got elected in 2013, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull was part of his team said the biggest issue in Australia was debt and deficit. Now they've stopped talking about debt and deficit. They said this year that the biggest issue was the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Now they don't even care about that enough to push that issue through next week or the week afterwards.
Malcolm Turnbull is only concerned about Malcolm Turnbull. What we've got is a Prime Minister when he rolled Tony Abbott who has emerged as a big disappointment for Australians; he said one thing before he became leader and now he is doing another since he became leader. When it comes to Australian jobs, such as Australian seafaring jobs, Malcolm Turnbull said nothing. When it comes to fighting Tony Abbott for his job, then Malcolm Turnbull’s very active.
JOURNALIST: Cardinal George Pell has agreed to meet with victims over in -
JOURNALIST: Italy, do you welcome that?
SHORTEN: Yes, I think that the Royal Commission set up by Labor into Institutional Responses on Child Sexual Abuse has revealed shocking evidence and I think many Australians are shocked and angry by the evidence which has been revealed at the Royal Commission.
Now the Royal Commission made some findings about litigation and compensation last September and they proposed a single national redress scheme as their preferred option. Labor in October, a month later, after consulting with survivors, with their representatives, has endorsed the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse's preferred structure to help survivors and victims deal with what they've been through, a single national scheme.
Yesterday I asked Malcolm Turnbull to join with Labor and pick the Royal Commission's first preferred option. I was disappointed that Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal Government are going with the lesser option, not the preferred option of the Royal Commission, not the preferred option of survivors and victims. See, yes, I'm always pleased when there is recognition of survivors and victims, but what we now need is we have moved beyond just needing to perhaps just talk about every aspect of the individual evidence, now is the time for action.
The Turnbull Government should join with Labor and go with the Royal Commission's preferred position about a single national redress scheme. The tens of thousands of Australians who were abused whilst in the care of institutions and then poorly dealt with in terms of the response of institutions deserve better than what we are seeing right now.
JOURNALIST: How will Labor's negative gearing policy affect small business and traders. How will it be applied to them?
SHORTEN: I really appreciate the question. We saw yesterday the Government has been launching scare campaigns basically ever since Labor proposed to tackle negative gearing. I will answer your question specifically but I just want to explain why we are changing negative gearing in the future, what it means and then I will come to that very important part of it.
Labor wants to see first home buyers to be able to compete on a level playing field with property speculators. Currently, the tax system is organised in such a way that you get rewarded by the Liberal Government if you buy your 10th house, but you get no support if you buy your first house. So we proposed that if we were elected from 1st July 2017 that we would remove negative gearing for existing housing. But what we have also made really clear, and we will keep making clear every day until the election, is if you have invested under the current laws, nothing changes. We have a principle that no tax changes should be retrospective in nature. So for anyone who has currently negative geared, you will be able to do that. But we think in the future something has got to done to deal with the issue of housing affordability. 30 years ago, 2.3 times the annual wage would be the cost of a typical house. Now it's gone to 6.5 times the annual average wage, so getting out of reality, out of choice for a lot of Australians. A lot of parents and grandparents who will be going to real estate auction this weekend just wondering when they see the prices, how on earth will their kids be able to afford it down the track to be able to get their first home. So that's the change we are making, you'll still be able to negatively gear for new housing.
What the Government has done since we've announced it, is they've gone, "Oh my goodness, Labor has an economic policy which helps to get the Budget repaired, which helps first home owners realise their dream and helps make some room in our Budget to pay for schools and hospital funding. The Liberals are panicked, they don't have an idea. Mr. Turnbull has been corralled by Tony Abbott into giving away tax reform so that they have to go back to the 2014 Budget with swinging cuts to health, education and pensions. So what the Liberals have tried to do is to smear our policy. We had the Assistant Treasurer contradict the Prime Minister. Remember the Prime Minister said that, you know, every house price in Australia would go down, which is wrong. Then the Assistant Treasurer said a couple of weeks ago actually housing prices would go up, so their first attempt at a scare campaign got contradicted by their own spokespeople.
Then more recently there was a report came out by BIS Shrapnel and poor old Scott Morrison the Treasurer, desperately like a drowning man looking for something to grab onto, grabs this report and he says, "see, that just proves everything we're saying. The report said that some negative gearing policies would be bad." But it's emerged in the course of yesterday that the report which the Treasurer was brandishing like a drowning man grabbing hopelessly, that that report turned out it was written before Labor's policy and it doesn't model Labor's policy. So their latest attack yesterday - so they've had two strikes. Their latest attack yesterday was to say that this would be bad for small business, which is your question. Our policy does not affect business investment assets, full stop. So there is no effect.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify that, so they would still be able to access negative gearing?
SHORTEN: The issue is for - our policy doesn't go towards partnerships or businesses who make investment decisions full stop. It's on a different playing field to what we're talking about.
JOURNALIST: When will you reveal your full tax policy?
SHORTEN: Well, to be fair, I think Labor's done what oppositions haven't done in 30 years. We've outlined our policies, not just on taxation but we can explain to you how we'll pay for higher education so we don't have $100,000 degrees. We've explained how we'll make sure that every school becomes a great school and every child in every school gets every opportunity. We've revealed how we'll tackle multinational taxation so that multinational companies pay their fair share of taxation in Australia. We've revealed how we'll tackle excessive tax concessions at the very top end of superannuation. Most recently we've revealed our plan for budget repair, housing affordability and that's to do with negative gearing. In the meantime, Malcolm Turnbull said six months ago that he would give new economic leadership and he said since then that everything was on the table - increasing a GST, looking at the excesses of negative gearing, looking at changing the taxation arrangements and superannuation. What's happened, though, since then is Malcolm Turnbull has been basically paralysed by worry about losing popularity and he has got a divided government. You've got Tony Abbott, an insurgent former Prime Minister concerned that Malcolm Turnbull is trashing his legacy and so what's happened is Malcolm Turnbull is gradually getting corralled and moved into bringing down a Budget which just involves a lot of cuts. Labor is putting forward policies, it's time for Malcolm Turnbull to explain his economic plans to Australia. Last question.
JOURNALIST: If you get in at the next election would you consider funding Stage 3 of the light rail on the Gold Coast to the airport?
SHORTEN: Our decisions on infrastructure will be based upon the benefit cost ratio or the analysis of Infrastructure Australia. What we want to do is take the politics out of infrastructure investment and just make long-term decisions and what's good news is my infrastructure spokesperson will be here today to talk further about these matters. Thanks, everyone.
JOURNALIST: Just one question about the Timor Sea. What's the Labor's policy on sea boundaries between Australia and Timor-Leste?
SHORTEN: Labor's taken a step forward. We think that Australia should respect international conventions. What we've seen and Tanya Plibersek gave a speech at the Press Club several weeks ago, that we would try to negotiate a fair deal with Timor-Leste, but in the event that negotiations didn't deliver a final outcome, we would work through international processes. This is more than the Liberals have offered Timor-Leste. Thank you.