SUNDAY, 10 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Sri Lankan New Year Festival; Malcolm Turnbull abolishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal; Royal Commission into banking system.
JULIAN HILL, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRUCE: Welcome everyone, delightful to be here today on a sunny afternoon and the welcome and introduce the Hon Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition. We're here at the Sri Lankan New Year Festival to celebrate culture. This is such a multicultural area, of course the Sri Lankan community are an important part of that. But we're also here celebrating the best of modern multicultural Australia where people celebrate and remember their identity and language and history as they make lives in the broader community and welcome people. We'll be talking to people as well this afternoon about the things that matter in the coming election - jobs, education, health and particularly how kids are going to afford a house, so it's my pleasure to welcome and hand over to Bill Shorten, thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Julian and Julian's Labor's candidate for the seat of Bruce, and he will make if given the opportunity a distinguished contribution in our Federal Parliament.
I'm here with Chloe today, we're at a Sri Lankan Festival celebrating New Year. But also today what I'm hearing from people here, and indeed as I do every day when I travel out amongst the Australian people, is they like Labor's positive plan for the future. They like our plans for Australian jobs, they like the fact that we'll properly fund our schools, government and non-government. They like the fact that Labor will defend Medicare against all of the Liberal Government attacks, they certainly like our ideas about fair taxation.
And might I add in the last 48 hours a lot of everyday Australians have come out to me and said it's great that the Labor Party is standing up for the customers of Australian banks in calling for a Royal Commission, asking Mr Turnbull to start a Royal Commission, and if he won't, welcoming the fact that if elected a Labor Government will. We need the strongest, most stable and healthiest banks possible. But we also need well run banks with an ethical culture which is what Australians expect. Back in 2009 in the Global Financial Crisis, or as Mr Turnbull's indeed called it the global banking crisis, Australian taxpayers stood alongside our banks to make sure that they were stable. And now we've seen scandal after scandal, stories of retirees losing their savings, small businesses being taken to the cleaners, many, many, many people losing literally millions of dollars of their savings because of unethical and corrupt practises within banks.
Now indeed the Government said there's no need for a Royal Commission but if the Government says there's no need for a Royal Commission why on earth did Mr Turnbull give such a strong speech at the Westpac Bank about the need for the banking sector to lift its game. The Government says there's no problem with banking; tell that to thousands, indeed tens of thousands of Australians who've seen their money fritted away, not invested properly or indeed their trust abused.
And indeed in the same vein, a lot of Australians want to make sure that we have proper treatment and payment of minimum conditions for Australia's truck drivers - for the truck driving industry. We want to make sure that our roads are safe for truck drivers and indeed everyone else who uses Australia's roads.
There's a clear correlation between low payment of drivers driving through the night, employee owner drivers and indeed poor safety. The heavy transport industry has a fatality rate 12 times the national average. The cost of heavy vehicle collision crashes and loss of life costs $2 billion a year. It's been clearly proven in Government report after report, independent reports, there is a correlation; if you pay your truck drivers very poorly, some of them will be forced to take risks with their safety and the safety of all other Australians.
We call upon Mr Turnbull to work with the Labor Party in ensuring a fair deal for Australia's truck drivers and indeed Australia's road users, and we also ask Mr Turnbull not to talk tough about banks and do nothing. That's the real difference in this upcoming election; Mr Turnbull talks and does nothing, Labor acts. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Michaelia Cash says safety won't be compromised if the Road Safety Tribunal is abolished. Do you disagree with her?
SHORTEN: Michaelia Cash has to deal with certain truths. The truth is that the heavy vehicle industry has 12 times the fatality rate of the national average across all industries. The truth is that report after report shows a correlation between low paid and unsafe driving. Australian motorists don't need a lecture from an out of touch government about road safety. Now we are more than happy to sit down with the Government and with the industry, the owner drivers, employee drivers, the big truck companies and the small, and the representatives and employees of the Transport Workers Union, and if there's a problem with a particular wages order, by all means let's talk it through and see what needs to be done. But this Government can't help themselves, they seize upon any debate and any issue and now they want to abolish the independent umpire. Road safety is more important than a kneejerk reaction from Mr Turnbull pandering to the right wing of his party. The orders which have been put in place, and the orders which have been made about road safety, these decisions and evidence and submissions and arguments has been going on for two years. But the Federal Government only joined in this debate last month in March. No, Mr Turnbull is playing politics to keep the Abbott wing of his party happy, and in the meantime road safety and the importance relationship that it has with paying our truck drivers fair minimum wages is getting thrown out the door, plus of course independent wage tribunal. Mr Turnbull if he's willing to get rid of the independent tribunal which is setting drivers rates, what independent tribunal is he not prepared to get rid of if it sets the rates of wages higher than Mr Turnbull and his buddies at the big end of town like.
JOURNALIST: You obviously think this tribunal shouldn't be abolished, if it is though, do you agree that the safety of drivers and motorists will be compromised?
SHORTEN: I have no doubt that setting safe rates for our truck drivers improves the safety of roads for all users -
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) specifically, if that is abolished will the safety of drivers be compromised?
SHORTEN: I have no doubt that there is a correlation, a proven correlation between paying drivers very low rates of pay and poor safety. So of course, I think that if this Government simply wants to get rid of a tribunal whose decision is improving road safety yes I do think that's a threat to all the road users. Ask any parent who's driven through the night, or done the long country hauls and driving alongside the big trucks, of course people worry about their safety. It's been proven that if you pay people too low you are creating a system of unsafe rates of pay. We've all seen the scandals, the evidence, we've all seen the destruction and we all know that some drivers are pushed beyond breaking point so they don't take the proper rest periods. So they're maybe taking drugs and other matters which compromise safety. The evidence is in and one of the factors is pay rates. It was shown before this tribunal was introduced that the average rate of an owner driver was about $32,000 a year, an employee driver more like $56,000 a year. If you're trying to pay the bills, pay the mortgage, put the food on the table for the family and you've got unsafe rates of pay, well something's got to give and we don't want that to be the safety of Australia's road users.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of Malcolm Turnbull's claim that the tribunal was only ever designed to advantage the Transport Union?
SHORTEN: There's Mr Turnbull again just shrinking into Tony Abbott. This is about setting minimum safe rates of pay for drivers. The truth of the matter is that most drivers or many drivers in this industry are not even members of the union. But all drivers are entitled to a safe system of work. All road users are entitled to have governments who are standing up for road safety. If there is a problem with the implementation of a particular decision of the road tribunal, Mr Turnbull should be calling the industry together, including the unions who he hates, and working out a sensible, pragmatic compromise. But instead what Mr Turnbull's doing is he's playing politics. He wants to get rid of the independent regulator, in terms of wage rates which I believe is not in the best interest of the safety of Australian motorists. He's commissioned, or his Government's commissioned two reports in 2014 and 2016. Both reports demonstrate that there has been a reduction in terms of crash rate, that there is a correlation; if you pay truck drivers ridiculously low wages you will end up getting poor safety outcomes, it's just common sense. And I don't know why Mr Turnbull has now turned his back on being a pragmatic middle of the road politician just to keep the right wing, union hating, anti-minimum wage brigade of the Liberal Party, keeping them happy. Mr Turnbull needs to stand up for all Australians not just play political games to keep the right wing of his party happy.
JOURNALIST: Do you think your calls for a Royal Commission into the finance sector are (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: I wish that we didn't have allegations of rate setting by our big banks. I wish that CommInsure had actually just paid out the legitimate claims of people who had life insurance policies. I wish that thousands of victims of Timbercorp weren't victims. I wish that the people who suffered at the hands of Trio didn't lose their life savings. I wish that the financial scandals which keep happening, they keep being reported. Every time the banking sector has a scandal they say oh we've learnt our lesson and the lessons keep rolling out sadly. What I want is to have a proper discussion, to make sure that our banking system lives up to the high levels of confidence and trust that Australians display in it. It's not Labor who creates the frustration in the community, that as interest rates have gone down credit card interest rates haven't followed them down. It's not Labor who creates the legitimate concern in the community when we see international investment banking shopping around and using tax havens and now we see the mounting concern about whether or not our tax system is being compromised. No I think the time is well and truly overdue for a Royal Commission. Labor is on the side of the consumers who have lost their money, we're on the side of consumers in the future who shouldn't have to lose their money. If the banking industry’s got nothing to hide then they wouldn't be worried by this Royal Commission.
Thanks everyone have a lovely day at the Sri Lankan Festival.