WEDNESDAY, 11 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plans for targeted teaching in our schools; Election campaign; jobs for regional Australia; Labor’s plan for Mackay; national security; Adani coal mine; foreign investment; Government retrospective superannuation policy; Tony Abbott plans to visit North Queensland
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks and good morning. Its great to be here with Frank Gilbert, Labor’s hard working candidate for Dawson and of course I'm accompanied by my very hard-working Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Ellis.
I would like to thank the school, in particular the school captains for the informative and discursive tour they've given us. Today, again, on day three of the election campaign, education is a number one issue for Australians at the ballot box. Australians will have a very clear choice. They can support $50 billion in tax cuts by my opponent for multinationals, or they can back in properly funding the schools and school children of Australia. Today, Kate will be talking further about a specific announcement of targeted teaching which will ensure there's more individualised learning approaches for all of our kids. But the fundamental issue at stake here is what sort of nation do we want to be in the future? Do we want to be a smart educated nation making sure that our kids have got the skills for the economy of the future and the jobs of the future? Or do we choose to be a nation which turns its back on giving every child, every opportunity in every postcode.
The opportunity for an equal opportunity of a quality education, it's in the parents - it's in the DNA of all parents to make sure that your kids, other than being safe and resilient, get a quality education. I want to put it into the DNA of the nation that every school is a great school, that every child gets a great start. The nations who will succeed in the future are the nations whose are investing in education. Investing in education is the best economic plan that anyone can put out and lay out for Australia. If you look at the success of the emerging nations of our region, they are increasing their investment in schools. Back in 2000, Australia was in the top five when it came to reading and writing and in 2006, in science we were right up near the top, but now we're slipping down the global rankings. We are far lower than we were in reading, in writing, in science and mathematics. That's not good enough. If we want to be a smart and successful nation, we need to be an educated nation. I will make sure that a Labor Government I lead will give our kids, wherever they live, in the regions and in the cities, a great opportunity for a quality education. I would like to get Kate now to talk further about our specific announcement. Kate.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you very much Bill, and thank you, Frank, for welcoming us here today. As Frank mentioned, the schools just within this electorate in Dawson will see an additional $35 million to support them in 2018 and 2019 under Bill Shorten and Labor's plan for our schools. But we've made clear from the beginning that we know it's not just about the dollar figures, it's about the additional programs that that money can support and Labor has stated that we will ensure that our funding goes towards evidence-based programs in our classrooms.
Now when we look at what's happening in Australian classrooms, we know that there are some fantastic initiatives underway. Today, Labor is announcing an additional $4.6 million to support the expansion of targeted teaching. In terms of targeted teaching, what this means is that we measure where a child's learning is at, what they need to learn next and make sure that they get the individual attention and learning that they need and deserve. There are some very clear reasons why this is important in Australian classrooms. We know that Australian evidence shows that within one year level there can be a difference as big as five to six years of where each child's educational learning is at. What that means is that we don't want to see the advanced students get bored because they already know what they're being taught each day and, equally, we don't want to see those students who have already fallen behind get further disengaged because they don&# 39;t understand what's being taught to them in the classroom. That's why we need to measure where each individual student's learning is at and what they can benefit from being taught next. This is already occurring in a number of classrooms across Australia but the funding that Labor is announcing today will ensure that we will be able to spend that money on coming up with the best national resource to expand this throughout our schools and throughout our classrooms across Australia.
We know that recent Australian evidence has shown that through targeted teaching we can increase the number of students in a classroom who are meeting the benchmarks by as much as 20 per cent. But these things don't happen without resources. As we go and visit schools across Australia, we're already hearing of the additional support and additional resources that schools have or plan to have in the near future. They can only get that if they are adequately supported from the Federal Government. That's why we are so pleased that today's announcement means we will have the resources to expand targeted teaching but our funding commitments mean that school principals and teachers will be able to roll it out and Australian students will benefit.
SHORTEN: That's great. Thanks very much, Kate.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will your school funding plan boost the economy because we see of course today that we won’t see the full gain till 2095.
SHORTEN: I think it contradicts common sense to say that somehow making sure that our kids are smarter and more educated won't improve the economy. I have travelled up and down the length of Australia in the last three years, I have never once met a parent who came up to me and said, "Please, Bill, if you're elected, can you spend a little less on my kids? Can you spend a little less on our schools?" It is absurd logic. Chris Bowen was 100 per cent right yesterday at the press club, there will be a 2.8 per cent improvement straight away if we implement these changes and over the longer term 11 per cent improvement to our GDP. If we were to do a poll of the emerging nations of the world, how many countries around the world would say, "We're really pleased, we're not going to put more into spending on our schools – on our kids." It is not a recipe for success. Again, I have to go back to the lived experiences o f parents, aunts and uncles, people in our community. We want to make sure our kids grow up safe, that's probably our number one goal raising children. We want to make sure they're resilient, that's pretty important too. I think very close to that, every parent knows the best gift they can give their child is a quality education. I want to make sure every child in Australia gets a quality education so we run a quality economy and people have got quality jobs. I am determined to fight this election on growing Australia's success. I want us to be a smart, modern and successful economy. The educated nations of the world will win the race for a better future. I'm determined that Australia will be a winner not a loser.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull has today outlined the importance of winning the seat of Lindsay, saying if the Coalition holds on, they will win Government again. What is Labor's chance of taking that seat?
SHORTEN: I don't think Malcolm Turnbull's been out to Penrith or Lindsay since his remarkable frolic into federation reform a couple of months ago. Remember, he went out there and made a comment or a promise, a pledge, two days before the last meeting of state leaders and himself and he said he thought the best reform to federation, in federation history, was to allow states to introduce state income taxes, double taxation. I don't think that went down very well with the voters in Lindsay or anywhere else in Australia. It is an absurd, out-of-touch idea, to say the way you cure the future in terms of the Budget is to allow state governments to levy new taxes but he also has said that he believes that in a perfect world, a Malcolm Turnbull-run Australia, that we wouldn't be - that the Commonwealth would not be in the business of funding Government schools, that they would be in the business of funding non-Government schools. We know wh at Mr Turnbull would like to do if he was given power and they're just not good ideas for Australia. Parents across Australia pay their taxes to the Commonwealth Government. They do so in the legitimate expectation that some of those taxes - not all of them but some of those taxes come back in the form of investment in their children's future.
We know what Malcolm Turnbull would do if he formed a Government and was successful and won the seat of Lindsay. He would be open to the proposition of increasing the 15 per cent - the GST to 15 per cent, he's up for getting rid of funding to state schools, he's up for double taxation and he certainly has lost any interest he once may have said he had in climate change. For me, though, the contrast couldn't be more significant for the people of Lindsay and the people of Australia in the Budget he brought down barely 8 or 9 days ago. In that Budget, when given a choice, he chose big business over people on $65,000 a year. He chose to give people who earn a million dollars a year a reduction in their tax bill, or a tax cut of $17,000 but he just didn't choose the children who go to state and non-Government schools around Australia and of course he's there with Fiona Scott and that was the local Liberal member and the divisions in the Liberal Party w ere again today on display because she famously was supported by Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott is running his separate election campaign because he doesn't have confidence that Malcolm Turnbull can do it. I think Tony Abbott will be in Mackay tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Are we going to be facing another election campaign, Bill Shorten? Tony Burke this morning wouldn't rule out going back to the polls if he was faced with the choice of that or doing a deal with the Greens. Do you want us to be on the road again in August?
SHORTEN: No, my aim is to win this election. We are going to win this election on the basis of having the better policies and that is the case we want to put to Australians. I want to make it very clear that whilst we are the underdog in this election, I genuinely believe our positive policies are better for Australia’s future than Mr Turnbull's tired out-of-touch policies. I don't think anything summarises or highlights the difference more clearly in this election to be held on July 2 than the competing attitudes towards education, schools, our children and jobs and the economy of the future.
JOURNALIST: That's ruling it out. No second election?
SHORTEN: Our aim is to win the first one.
JOURNALIST: You won't rule it out?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to prejudge what the Australian people will do. The only way you can have a second election is if there's a not a clear outcome in the first election. I believe that with our policies to help regional Australia, on jobs, education, properly funding our schools, making sure that our kids can compete with other nations in the future by having the best quality education. I am determined to fight this election on the choice between Malcolm Turnbull giving cuts to large companies and people who earn a million dollars a year, that's his plan for the economic future of everyone, and my economic plan to create jobs in the future which is give people a high quality education, every child, every postcode no matter where they live.
JOURNALIST: On jobs, there's calls in this region for a restructure package for regional Queensland like what we've seen in Victoria and Tasmania. There's reports that Turnbull's poised to announce something in that space. Does the region need one? Would Labor do something like that? What's your reaction?
SHORTEN: Every policy we have is designed to create jobs. Let me just go through some of our local factors and then our national approach on jobs. We believe the money to be spent on the Bruce Highway, some of that should be brought forward to generate blue-collar construction jobs right here, right where they're needed. We believe there is a bright tourism future in Mackay. We think if we can do more work to make the airports of this region, Proserpine and Mackay, more user friendly for overseas visitors, that's going to generate more dollars in the region. We also believe fundamentally that renewable energy offers us a bright future for a region such as Mackay with its strong history in the sugar industry. We believe that regional - we believe in our renewable energy for this region, helping drive new jobs. Tourism in this region, through the practical measures I just outlined, drives jobs. Bringing forward expenditure on the Bruce Highway drives jobs and more broadly, nationally, I believe that if our kids are well trained with apprenticeships, well trained when they finish Year 12, that helps create a productive workforce. When companies around the world are looking where to invest, they look at the quality of the workforce. I want Australia to be competing with the world and winning. When we've got a decent health care system, what that means is sick people are able to afford to go to the doctor whilst they're still bulk billing which only a Labor Government can really be trusted to save in its current form.
JOURNALIST: So then, specific packages are needed in this area?
SHORTEN: I think I've outlined a whole set of approaches. Also, what I want to say is that we've got national policies tailor-made for regional Australia. A proper health care system decreases the cost of health care on employers, means you've got a healthier workforce. A properly educated (journalist interjects)…
…This an important question, the jobs, sorry, Eliza, I’ll just finish this. A properly educated workforce with the skills to compete in the future gives us a competitive edge. The NBN gives us a competitive edge so Labor has got a lot of policies for the region and a lot of specific ideas for the region too.
JOURNALIST: Why won't you support the $500,000 lifetime cap on superannuation? Are you helping people at the top end of town?
SHORTEN: No, the real issue here is not that we don't think the concessions in superannuation need to be brought in. I'm going to take a bit of time with this answer because there's a lot of superannuants who are really disturbed by the wrecking-ball approach of Morrison and Turnbull. Peter Costello, Labor brought in compulsory superannuation but it was never meant to be used as a tax minimisation tool where everyone could dump - or a few lucky people could dump millions and millions into super and pay very little or no tax.
What happened is Peter Costello and John Howard in 2006/7, because they had all the mining revenue, just basically created an unsustainable loophole at the top in terms of superannuation where people, if you had millions and millions of dollars, you could put it into super and not pay any tax comparable to what people who go to work. So that's been over the top and for well beyond the last 12 months Labor said we need to rein in those concessions at the top end but you could have knocked me over with a feather and more importantly it appears you could have knocked millions of people over with a feather who have superannuation accounts, when Morrison and Turnbull recklessly not only adopted our principled approach for the future but appeared to be maneuvering it so people who've invested under current laws will be retrospectively penalised. The people who are affected by this aren't people likely to vote for Labor but the point about it is superannuation a nd people who have superannuation accounts are sick and tired of meddling, they don't like surprises. We are gravely concerned that the Liberal Party have gone back on one of their fundamental policies under Abbott and now they're saying they're going to retrospectively change superannuation and the Liberals don't appear to understand the consequences of what they've done. Julie Bishop is in reverse gear, retreating at a million miles an hour from Scott Morrison, more division in the Liberal Party I might add, our concern is that if you make changes to superannuation it is far preferable that they be prospective in nature and you give warning to people rather than in this Morrison and Turnbull frolic so we are committed to reducing the concessions at the top end but we've been consulting with people. I get the impression that Turnbull and Morrison are recklessly undermining the superannuation system and to go perhaps to the end point of your question, Eliza, you said some of the people will be affected by the retrospective changes are very well off. Let me broaden who's affected by that. We ask Australians to compulsorily commit to retirement income, they don't get the value of the money now, they have to save it for their retirement. Australians will do that but it turns Australians into a seething rage when they discover they make investment decisions and if Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison can make a retrospective decision, as a lot of the experts are saying they've done now, what is safe from Turnbull and Morrison, if re-elected, if they don't understand the changes they are making are retrospective?
JOURNALIST: Five men have been arrested in Cairns over an alleged plan to take a small boat to Indonesia to join IS. How would Labor deal with radicalised people such as Shayden Thorne?
SHORTEN: We absolutely support the actions of our security forces. I think it has been one of the highlights of the last three years that the partisanship on national security is diminished and I think this is important. It is important that those who would do harm to Australia hear this and all of those Australians who want to secure Australia. You can vote Liberal or you can vote Labor, you'll get the same approach on national security. It is a very important issue and, again, it's worth repeating that because your question goes to an important concern for millions of Australians. When it comes to fighting terrorism, when it comes to maintaining national security, Liberal and Labor are working together and that's what Australians expect from both their political parties.
JOURNALIST: What will a Labor Government do to make sure the Adani coal mine gets up and running?
SHORTEN: It's a matter for the Queensland Government in that regard. The Commonwealth Government I lead wouldn't be putting taxpayer money into the Adani mine. These matters have got to sink or swim on their own commercial viability. Our focus in the future is very much encouraging the development of renewable energy in a positive way.
JOURNALIST: You recently said you felt uneasy about some degree of foreign investment when it comes to the Kidman sale. Since that time Penny Wong has been forth right in her advocacy of greater Chinese investment. Can you articulate what approach you would take as Prime Minister, the Government you lead, what would its approach to foreign investment be? What are your guiding principles?
SHORTEN: Just to correct a couple of propositions inherit in your question and then come to the answer. I said I'm very uneasy and I'm uneasy in terms of the rushed nature of this process. It is an important issue it is lot of Australian land. It has some great public interest in what happens. The Government said that they would review the decision and they made a rushed decision within 9 days. Only the Federal Government have all the facts about this deal and I think they should come forward and be a lot more transparent in their process. In terms of what my very capable spokesperson for trade has said, she's right, foreign investment is part of the economic engine room of Australia. Really we've had foreign investment in this country since the First Fleet and that is part of how we constitute our economic activity. Australians also invest our money and our superannuation in other countries. The world works best when we've got fl owing trade between nations, and that includes investment. That's what I think but we've got to maintain the national interest and we've got a transparent foreign review process which considers all factors in each particular set of circumstances.
JOURNALIST: On superannuation, wouldn't many Australians rather have a bit more of their salary in their bank account each week rather than having 12 per cent super?
SHORTEN: I think that Australians understand that they've got to save for their retirement. That is what makes the tinkering, the retrospective tinkering of this Government, so dangerous. The proposition is that if you compulsorily save for your retirement, it should receive some beneficial tax treatment. I don't think someone on millions and millions of dollars need to be subsidized by taxpayers in the same way as someone who has an account of $100,000 or $50,000 needs to be supported. But this Government is playing with fire. They have got grave, grave questions to answer about the retrospective potential of the changes they're making. This Government is being attacked from the right, it's being attacked by the whole financial planning industry, the superannuants of Australia I think are really, really deeply angry to their back teeth that yet again this Government has said one thing and is doing another. They made a virtue of sayin g they would never change superannuation but what they've done is looked at our ideas and they've now injected a note of retrospectivity which has got people legitimately up in arms. It's not good enough for the Government to simply say it's not retrospective as if them saying it can change a fact. I think this Government needs to hold themselves to account. If we're going to have a multi trillion-dollar superannuation industry, if we're going to ask every Australian to save for their retirement, this Government needs to be black and white that it is not retrospectively changing the rules under which people invested. If they can do it this time they can do it again. Two more questions, thank you.
JOURNALIST: You said earlier this year you had a plan to provide infrastructure to pick up the misplacement of mining jobs. Do you have anything specific for Mackay today? People are waiting. Thousands of jobs have been lost. What do you have for this region?
SHORTEN: Our plan would include improving tourism access to this region. Our plan would include the promotion of biofuels through the strong renewable energy policies we have. Our plan would include bringing forward expenditure on the Bruce Highway. I might also note that what has George Christenson and Malcolm Turnbull done for Mackay in the last 1,000 days? We've also got a plan to make sure the kids in Mackay get equal footing to the kids in the eastern suburbs of Sydney or in a leafy eastern suburb of Melbourne. I want to make sure a family can raise a child in Mackay and get the same quality education. The kids we saw in that classroom, those preppies, under Labor, there will be 10 years of certainty for their parents about funding. These kids deserve a Government in Canberra who's as optimistic and brave about the future as they and their parents are. That's a plan for this region I can promise you.
JOURNALIST: Do you think parents are comfortable with political parties campaigning in classrooms with 5-year-olds?
SHORTEN: The point about that is not the 5-year-olds and how they vote. The real issue is drawing attention to education. The real issue here is making sure that parents understand there is a clear choice at the next election. I didn't ask Mr Turnbull to make education an issue in this election. He could have chosen to turn his back on tax cuts for multinationals. He could have chosen not to give $17,000 tax cuts to people who earn a million dollars a year but he didn't. By contrast, I know where I stand and my party knows where we stand on education. The best thing that a Government can do is back the parents and kids of Australia and the teachers of Australia. Educating your kids, educating our kids is in the DNA of parents. It should be in the DNA of the nation and a Labor Government I lead will make sure we educate our kids. It is the best thing we can do for them. Last question.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott will come to Mackay. Do you think that will help or hinder your campaign?
SHORTEN: I think the truth of the matter is that Tony Abbott thinks that Malcolm Turnbull's not campaigning very effectively. I think everyone north of Brisbane was surprised when Malcolm Turnbull got as far as Brisbane yesterday and turned around and is back in Sydney. I think that Tony Abbott coming up here is an admission by the Liberal Party they think their arguments aren't working. I also think it's fair to say Mr Abbott is going to campaign in the electorates of people who supported him more often than not so I guess they're each running around Australia shoring up the people who like them for the coming debates within the Liberal Party after the election.
Thanks, everybody. See you.