WEDNESDAY, 17 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s blood cancer Right to Trial Program, Labor’s $8.6 million to the Cancer Council; Superannuation; Wages growth; Climate change policies; Tax cuts; George Christensen.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, I am really pleased to be back at this hospital. But I am even more pleased to be making an exciting announcement. If Labor is elected, we will provide $20 million to help with more clinical trials and make them available to people diagnosed with blood cancers and leukaemia. Leukaemia shouldn't be a death sentence. If you can't access a trial, then potentially the inability to access that trial becomes a death sentence. 6,700 of our fellow Australians will die this year due to blood cancers. This $20 million is so important to assist. I have a very good friend who passed a couple of years ago. I miss him. He died of leukaemia. For years he fought it. I don't want to see other people die when we could have prevented it. That's why this is such an important announcement. $20 million to help people in the fight of their lives get access to more treatment. This will save lives. I'll hand over to Catherine King to talk more about this great announcement and how we're going to help close the gap in health care between the west and the east.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks, and it's terrific to be here at Midland Hospital yet again with Bill, with Chris, with Hannah, with James, with Kim and with Madeleine, our fantastic Labor team over here in the west. Well, blood cancers are one of the second most diagnosed cancers and they include leukaemias, myeloma and lymphoma. They are a very significant burden on our health system but, more importantly, for patients who are diagnosed with these blood cancers, particularly if they don't get access to clinical trials after all other standard therapies haven't worked, it is really very much a death sentence. We've worked very closely with the Leukaemia Foundation on this $20 million program for improvement in access to clinical trials. The Leukaemia Foundation has worked with the Garvan Institute and this will mean that Australians who have exhausted all other options for access for treatment for leukaemia will get access to clinical trials through the Leukaemia Foundation's right to trial program. 47 people a day are diagnosed with blood cancers, 47 of our fellow Australians, and this will go a long way to improving their care. To also bridge the gap between the east and west in terms of health services today we've also announced further information about our cancer package. Two new radiation therapy centres in Geraldton, in Albany. Ten cancer nurses in prostate, lung, metastatic cancer across the community here in Western Australia, and Camp Quality in Kalgoorlie, a fantastic organisation, ensuring that children when they go home from an acute episode in hospitals back into their community are well looked after. We've also announced a further telestroke network, which we announced already. We even did the national announcement here in Western Australia but we've announced a further telestroke network for Geraldton today. Again, this is all part of Labor's commitment to Western Australia to really make sure we bridge that gap between the east and west when it comes to health care.
CHRIS BOWEN SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bill. Of course, as well as today's important announcements, later on today we will see the pre-election fiscal outlook. Coming so close after the Budget you would expect it to confirm what we knew from the Budget. That is, that almost a quarter of the coming surplus is based on spending less on Australians with a disability. The Government says there's not enough demand, which is an insult to every Australian with a disability. We also know that it will confirm that to pay for their never-never tax cuts, the Government will have to engage in spending cuts of $40 billion a year over the medium term. $40 billion a year. Now, the Government wants to have lots of discussions about tax cuts. That's fine. We're happy to have that discussion. They're delivering tax cuts, which give a millionaire a tax cut of $40,000 a year and - sorry, give a millionaire a tax cut of somewhere around $11,000 a year and give somebody earning $40,000 a year a tax cut of $11 a week. That's their plan for Australia, but they'll also have to make deep cuts to pay for it. They will have to make deep cuts to health to education. If they want a debate about tax cuts, they've got to 'fess up what are the spending cuts to pay for it. We know they've got form. They promised no cuts to health, education, pension, the SBS or ABC in 2013 and then they delivered all of the above, all of the above. Now, we'll deliver bigger tax cuts for Australians this year earning less than $48,000. We know that can be afforded, but we are not going to sign up for never-never tax cuts which will be paid for by cuts. Liberals cut. They cut health, they cut education and they've cut the pension when they've had the ability to do so. They should have the moral fortitude to 'fess up as to what the cuts are, then we'll have a proper Budget debate. So of course, the economy will be front and centre in this election. We relish that. We have alternative plans for the economy and for the budget and we invite the government to be truthful with the Australian people about what their cuts are.
KING: And I also forgot to mention that we've got Bill Petch from the Leukaemia Foundation who would like to say a little bit about our commitment of $20 million to improve the care for people with blood cancers. Bill.
BILL PETCH, CEO OF THE LEUKAEMIA FOUNDATION: The Leukaemia Foundation absolutely supports today’s announcement. It's a very significant step forward in creating access and equity of access to new and emerging therapies for people with blood cancer. These are therapies they wouldn't normally be able to get access to and be available to them. This is such an important step forward to survivability for people with blood cancer. It's the second most diagnosed cancer in this country and the second biggest cause of cancer death in this country. So when you fail standard treatments, clinical trials are really your only option. But, when one in five patients don't get access to clinical trials and less than 40 per cent of patients get access to genomic screening, that becomes a problem. So the right-to-trial program is an absolute life-saver for a whole lot of people and we're absolutely pleased to be able to support this initiative today. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Bill. Well said. Good morning, everyone. There's a lot of you and we're keen to have all the question we can do. I might just start on my left and work around and see if everyone can get a crack.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, yesterday when you said you had no intention of increasing taxes on superannuation, were you not including already proposed Labor policies of up to $34 billion worth of changes to the super savings? Were you just saying there wouldn't be any new ones, or did you forget that policy?
SHORTEN: Thanks for that. And I should also give a shout-out to James who asked the question yesterday. I thought I was being asked have we got any unannounced changes to superannuation and we've already made the announcements of the changes we're going to make. But obviously we have changes which we outlined three years ago, and of course I should have picked the words better, no question. We have no proposals other than what we've already announced previously. No changes to the general taxation treatment other than what we have announced recently. Just to remind people, we have said that we will lower the concessional contribution cap from $250,000 income to $200,000. We've also said that we will change the non-concessional contribution caps to $75,000, so we've made some announcements. But I also have to say I notice that the government has reverted to type with their, you know, lying about our policies. When you close down concessions and loopholes, this is not some massive increase in taxation. We're just saying we think these resources can be used better and of course when it comes to helping people contribute to their superannuation, we're not going to be lectured by a government who, with no mandate and no notice, changed the rules for amounts higher than $1.6 million. They made retrospective changes, which we opposed the retrospective nature of those changes. Also, we're not going to be lectured by a government who's frozen superannuation contributions, the compulsory contribution at 9.5 per cent. That's been such a disaster for low-paid people and middle-class people in this country. It's just real economic vandalism.
JOURNALIST: So, I'd like to clarify the compulsory employer contributions. Will you increase that? It is at 9 per cent currently, would you increase that? And what would you say to the Grattan Institute report that says that could hurt low-income Australians?
SHORTEN: The Grattan Institute have been very busy and we like to talk a bit about some of their reports, not just your one. On your specific answer it's at 9.5 per cent now and I'll ask Chris to supplement.
BOWEN: Yeah, thanks Bill. I'll answer that and add on the general issue as well. We'll get the superannuation guarantee to 12 per cent on the existing legislated timetable. That's the difference between us and the Government and the Liberals. The Liberals always find an excuse to delay increasing the superannuation guarantee. They promised in 1996 to keep the increases and they reneged on the promise. They promised to continue increases in 2013, they’ve reneged on the promise. And if you add up all those delays, an Australian today is now retiring with $100,000 less in their superannuation. So, that's what Liberals do. The superannuation guarantee increase is running about 23 years late and every day of that delay is down to the Liberal Party. Every day of it. As Bill said, just on the broader issue, Scott Morrison seems to want a pat on the back for saying no changes to superannuation over the next three years. Well, that's what Tony Abbott said in 2013, and during that term, Scott Morrison, as treasurer, brought down a retrospective tax change. He said it wasn't retrospective. Well the giveaway was in the effective date - 2007 - which applied in 2016, the $1.6 million cap. So Scott Morrison wants to be very careful in his claims about superannuation. The other person who needs to be careful in his claims about superannuation is the Treasurer. The Treasurer has been very active in the last 24 hours looking at the Labor Party's website. He appears to have nothing better to do. Good luck to him. I've had a look at the Liberal Party website. The Liberal Party has got four election policies that have gone on the website. Congratulations. They've got four of them up. Well that's okay. They've got a Liberal plan on their website. The trouble is if you click on the plan, Safari could not open because the page is down. It's terrible when that happens, isn't it, Josh. The Liberal Party plan is not active on their website. Before they start casting aspersions around, they might want to get their house in order. Their Liberal Party website plan is broken, just like the plan itself. The website is down. The plan is not active. It has been wiped. So before Josh wants to get tweeting, maybe, just like your policies, get your policies right - get your website right, first as well.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, Chris. The Grattan Institute is warning that an increase to the compulsory super guarantee to employees would hurt low income workers.
BOWEN: Well, I make this point, we have low wages growth in Australia under this Government, and Bill is the only leader putting it on the agenda. Whether it be the living wage, whether it be reversing the penalty rate cuts, whether it be cracking down on sham contractors. Bill Shorten is the alternative prime minister putting wages on the agenda. Now on the superannuation guarantee, it actually may be one of the ways and is one of the ways we can actually improve the share of the economy going to workers over time. Putting the miracle of compound interest to work for them through superannuation. That's what the SG does. Now, some people will oppose superannuation increases, just like they opposed it being introduced, just like the Liberal Party opposed it being introduced in the first place and said that superannuation would be a disaster. It's one of Labor's great achievements. We're very proud of it, and only Labor will defend it. And the other point that I would make is that we have as well as the policies that Bill outlined, outlining policies to improve superannuation for women. It is not conscionable that so many women in Australia are retiring in Australia into poverty, having committed no crime but to work hard all their life. We want to pay the superannuation guarantee during paid parental leave, and we want to crack down on superannuation theft. That's what it is. Employers, some, bad employers stealing from their employees. We've all seen too much of it as local members. We know this is a big problem. The Liberals ignore it. We'll make superannuation a National Employment Standard, so they can be pursued through the courts, because employers who don't pay superannuation are stealing from the employees and they're also getting an unfair advantage over their competitors who are doing the right thing.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you’ve referenced in your modelling which shows that your emissions target reduction would cost the same as the Government's. How will it cost the same as the Government’s, considering that you have a bigger target? How will it cost the same?
SHORTEN: Because we are costing our 45 per cent reduction with international offsets, so in fact, it does cost the same. The Government's 26 per cent doesn't have that. But further on climate change – we've given hundreds of talks about our policy on climate change, and we think it is an important issue in this election. So we can, you're referring, quite accurately to the McKibbin modelling but there are other costs which we should recognise. Inaction on climate change is going to cost Australians in the future. Just ask the Property Council, just ask the Insurance Council. Just look at the increase in extreme weather events, just look at the number of weather records broken on a constant basis. Did you know that our natural disasters cost us in 12 months, $18 billion. Now, we can't turn all of that around overnight with the policy, but we want to be a Government who hands on a better deal to our kids on climate change. The other cost of inaction is of course rising energy prices. Single biggest contributor to rising energy prices is a lack of a climate and energy policy in this country. The current Government is on to their 13th energy policy and their third Prime Minister. This isn't good enough. We're seeing a rise in prices because we're not creating policy certainty, because therefore the generation is not being invested in.
JOURNALIST: The question on superannuation yesterday was very clear. It's hard to believe that you misunderstood it. You could easily have specified that you only meant you would add no more policies on top of the ones already announced. Does it not look dishonest, like you’re trying to hide something when you don't mention that?
SHORTEN: Obviously, going back and reading it and rereading what James asked me, you're right. I was answering a question which I thought I'd been asked, and I accept that it was a different question asked. But you're all formidable journalists. You know that our policies have been out there for three years. I'm sure that you're probably all aware of them. And of course, today has been an opportunity to remind people of them.
JOURNALIST: You have an opportunity today to clear the record and be up-front with the Australian people about how much you will raise income taxes on superannuation.
SHORTEN: Well, I don't accept your characterisation that it’s raising taxes. When you wind back a concession that is stopping a tax expenditure which is not raising it. But let's be very clear - we're not going to take a lecture from the Government. Our policies are out there for people to see. But we're not going to take a lecture from the Government who retrospectively ambushed people with superannuation with their holdings by creating a retrospective timetable to pay more taxes. And also, one of great shames of this Government is that for the last number of years, mandatory minimum contributions have been stuck at 9.5 per cent.
JOURNALIST: Do you dispute the Government's figure of $34 billion over a decade?
SHORTEN: I'll get Chris to supplement this but I do dispute the characterisation as a tax increase. I absolutely do. What happens when you give a concession to someone is that's a tax expenditure. If I was to give you a concession on something, that is money that we take out of the tax system, which you get. That is a concession to you. And that, therefore, becomes a choice. Is it the best use of a concession to give someone a concession, preferential treatment on one aspect of superannuation, or to invest in other parts of our nation's priorities. I'll get Chris to answer.
BOWEN: Of course, Jim Chalmers and I will be releasing the budget bottom line and impact of all our decisions very shortly. Now that we have the pre-election economic forecast we’ll be doing that over the course of the campaign. The Parliamentary Budget Office updates all our costings on a regular basis after every economic statement. But the superannuation tax concession reforms and winding into those reforms and reversal of some of the Government's measures, which our analysis shows are regressive, benefitting high income earners and high wealth individuals primarily, does return to the Budget $30 billion over the medium term on the current projections.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten opposed to superannuation taxation, income tax. The Government is going to the election with tax cuts aimed at people on $90,000 to $120,000 in 2022. They are not high income earners, if you live in Sydney, you live in Perth, that is not a high income. What do you say to those people that, under your present plan, you are not offering anything else?
SHORTEN: First of all, this Government's going with proposed tax cuts which means that you have to vote in at least two elections. By 2022, we think this Government is making up these tax cuts. Or in other words, they can't pay for them. The question which this Government hasn't yet answered is - how do they pay for these? See, once you take this tax income out of the budget, you’ve got to replace it. There's only two or three ways you do it. By raising more taxes somewhere else. By paying more interest on the national debt, which has doubled under the Liberals, or by cutting services. And this is why the Grattan Institute, who was quoted earlier in another matter, they’ve released a report that shows that this Government has got secret cuts that will involve tens of billions of dollars of cuts to services. So we think that these tax cuts that the Government are promising are a mirage. We certainly agree with the Government on the first round of tax cuts. In fact, we've got better tax cuts for 3.6 million people under $40,000. But this Government cannot explain its mirage of tax cuts in the future, on the never-never, unless they explain what they're going to cut in the way of services. And it's a matter of choices. I'm not going to make a promise about tax cuts which are a mirage which this Government hasn't explained how they pay for them. I think Australians want to see the detail and that's what we're doing with our plans and our proposals. I mean for example, for me the killer number which shows this Government's either radically out of touch or just lying to the people of Australia, is that under Mr Morrison's tax plan for Australians, if you're a millionaire, you'll get a tax cut under Mr Morrison of $11,000. But if you're a person on $40,000, Mr Morrison only wants to give you $11 a week. It just shows you his priorities and who he is backing in. And the only way he can pull off this stunt of giving millionaires $11,000 in tax refund and people on $40,000, $11 a week, is by taking the axe to health and education services. And as we've seen today, I just think that health is more important than giving a millionaire an $11,000 tax cut.
JOURNALIST: You ruled out any further changes to superannuation taxes.
SHORTEN: Let's be really clear, other than what we've already announced.
JOURNALIST: Other than what you've announced, yes. What about any changes to superannuation arrangements to stop accounts being eaten up by fees and exorbitant charges?
SHORTEN: I'll get Chris to answer that.
BOWEN: One of the important things, just to answer that as well, that Bill pioneered when he was Superannuation Minister was the concept of the Council of Superannuation Custodians, which we will implement in office. Which is to take superannuation out of the budget cycle, to have a transparent approach to the changes to superannuation every five years, which we have said, remains our approach in Government, and that was Bill's idea when we were in Government. It hasn't been implemented because we haven't been in office for six years, but it's a good idea. Because people are right to say that they want more certainty for superannuation and only Labor will deliver the Council of Superannuation Custodians. In relation to the other matters, fees and non-performing funds for example I would refer you to speeches that I've made and that Clare O'Neill is making I think as late as today, on Labor's general approach. To be fair to both the Government and the Opposition, we have both said that we'll take our time to work through the Productivity Commission review. We said we're not attracted to the best in show model, but it's a substantial report. I've said, for example, that no underperforming fund will have a friend in Bill Shorten or Chris Bowen, and I don't care if they're a retail fund or an industry fund. They'll have no friends in the Labor Government. They will need to lift their performance or get out. Now of course, we'll work through, with Treasury advice, the best ways of implementing that approach and of course, we want to put downward pressure on fees as we did when Bill and I were, respectively, Superannuation Ministers with MySuper and those reforms, and there's more to do. We’ve said that just a small reduction in fees over a working life massively changes somebody's retirement balance when they retire. And we remain committed to that, and I've said it before but it's so important to us, our reforms to women’s superannuation, and superannuation theft, are very, very high priorities for an incoming Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, every day you say to Australians that everything is going up except the wages, the Grattan report says that the change to the super guarantee could keep wages down by 2 per cent. Are they wrong?
SHORTEN: The empirical evidence shows that, over time, when there's been an increase in compulsory superannuation it hasn't affected wages growth. So, I'm familiar with what they say, but I don't accept it based on previous evidence.
What I would also say about the more general point about wage stagnation in Australia is: it's a problem. No lesser person than the Governor of the Reserve Bank has said it's the number one issue, low wages growth. No political party serious to form a government can be taken seriously unless they have a wages policy. This Government does not have a wages policy, other than patting themselves on the back about low wages outcomes. I think the Finance Minister in one of his media appearances said the low wages is the architecture, is caused by the architecture that they've created in the economy.
This goes to what the heart of one of the big issues in this election. It is a referendum on wages.
Did you know that this Easter, because of the penalty rate cuts, all the people who will be serving us as we have our holiday time, the total of $80 million reduction in penalty rates. That's what the cost of these arbitrary cuts is. That is $80 million not just not going to low-paid workers, although that's a disaster, but that is $80 million less that low-paid workers have to spend in the economy. The fact of the matter is that if you earn $40,000 or $50,000, you don't tend to be investing it in your investment property or your Cayman Islands. You spend every dollar that you get. So when we shrink the volume of money in the economy, when we shrink and cut by $80 million, that's $80 million less that's spent in the economy.
Labor has got a plan to get wages going. Now, I know that the Government says that wage rises are bad, but they're actually not. The United Kingdom saw an increase in some of its minimum wages and it saw an increase in employment, not a decrease. What we want to have is modest but meaningful pay rises. We want to work with the independent umpire, the unions, the employers. I get that if a small business is worried about capacity to pay that that is a relevant thing to take into account. But I think ignoring wage stagnation is a disaster for the economy, because after all, as your opening question correctly said, everything is going up in Australia except your wages, and only Labor has a plan to get your wages moving.
JOURNALIST: With your climate change policy, what proportion of the emissions reduction will be required from the electricity sector?
SHORTEN: Well, we want to make sure that we're getting all of the sectors contributing to it. We’ve said that we want to see the electricity or the power generation industry contribute, do its bit to reduce by 45 per cent. We think it can do that. We believe, through our system, and I'm not too proud to say it, we're borrowing from Mr Turnbull and the then-Treasurer Mr Morrison's National Energy Guarantee. We think that this is a good system which can actually be made to work, and as we explained to an earlier question, using international offsets, we think it's sensible and considered.
Sorry, I’m just going to go over here. I promised Dan soon.
JOURNALIST: On wages, Mr Shorten, you'll be meeting with some more workers today, but I would like to find out what you are going to do to increase their wages beyond your policies of re-introducing penalty rates and cracking down on labour hire. How will you work to increase the wages of people who are not on the minimum wage?
SHORTEN: What we'll do is, the labour hire crackdown actually does help people above the minimum wage. One of the growing unfairnesses in Australian workplaces is you could be a diesel fitter at Volgren, which is the bus construction company, and you could have someone work alongside you- well, I won't use Volgren, because they might have a different arrangement for labour hire, but in many companies you’ve got someone who works directly for the employer and then they bring in someone else who has got the same trades qualifications and they work not for the employer but for a labour hire company who then contracts this person to the in-house company.
The problem then is that you have got two people working alongside each other and they are paid different hourly rates. What this does is this dampens wages growth, because what happens is if you can employ someone through labour hire cheaper than your direct labour, what you then do is say to your direct labour ‘I'd like to give you a pay rise but I can employ someone else from a labour hire company more cheaply’.
Another thing we are going to do to help people above the minimum wage is we're going to say in enterprise bargaining that at the end of a three-year enterprise agreement, the employer cannot arbitrarily terminate that agreement and say everyone is back to the award, which could be 50 or 60 or 100 per cent less than what they're getting now. Or the employer says you don't have to go back to the award but you do have to accept a significant wages cut.
Now, this is not a theory. What we've seen increasingly is right wing lawyers taking over industrial relations in this country, recommending to companies strategies to terminate agreements, force wages down. There have been hundreds of terminations each year. So, these are good, practical measures.
We'll have more to say about how we are going to help women get wage rises, too, and better deals, because what we often see in Australia is that an industry which is predominantly feminised - in other words, the vast bulk of people are women - what we see there is that on average their pay is less than an industry which is vastly populated by men. But I don't think that when you have got feminised industries the value of that work is actually any less. I think what it reflects is that for too long we've seen a gender unfairness, and that feminised industries, even though their work is important, like early childhood education – gee, that's an important job - because it's feminised, we think it’s been disadvantaged.
JOURNALIST: On Jane’s question, sorry, the cut in the electricity sector, will that be more than the 26 per cent cut in that sector that the Coalition is promising?
SHORTEN: No, our target is to reduce by 45 per cent-
JOURNALIST: -In the electricity sector?
That's our target. Our target is across 45 per cent for the electricity sector, yes.
JOURNALIST: Can I just confirm that-
SHORTEN: Sorry, I’ve just got a, Jono, good morning.
JOURNALIST: Good morning, Mr Shorten.
SHORTEN: Mr Lea.
JOURNALIST: You've had 23 hours to think about yesterday's answer. Can you give final detail on how much the emissions reduction target will impact the economy? What that figure will be? And you've talked about offsets. How much money do you expect or believe you need to spend on those international offsets to meet your target?
SHORTEN: We will see, across the 2020s, as a result of our energy policies and our climate policies, GDP growth of about 23 per cent. In terms of offsets, we allow companies to purchase offsets if they need to, if they can't meet their carbon emission reductions by changes in productivity in their workplaces.
JOURNALIST: I'm not sure that's a financial figure, though, in just how much it's going to cost the economy, because BA Economics says it will cost $472 billion over the next 10 years? Do you disagree with that, and if so, how much is it going to cost?
SHORTEN: Yeah, I do disagree with that, and what we are happy to do is provide you with further information about international offsets. But I don't accept that the price of buying international offsets is anywhere in that dimension.
JOURNALIST: Is there a figure on how much it's going to cost the economy?
SHORTEN: I've said that I think - I don't think, I know - our economy is going to grow. I don't accept the characterisation that it is a cost. We're going to grow, and we're going to grow because we are going to move to a lower carbon pollution economy. And there's other aspects which means that we will grow. But the modelling has been done. McKibbin did his modelling: 45 per cent with international offsets, 26 per cent for government without.
JOURNALIST: What if we don’t grow. There’s forecasts now that we're facing increasing headwinds, domestically and internationally. There's businesses out there which are concerned about facing a recession. What happens if we don't grow over the next five years?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, what I would say, what contributes to challenges for the economy is this current government. The economy is more than just climate change.
What I would put to you is this: global debt is rising, and under this government, they have no plan to reduce debt. Global debt, about 10 years ago, about $US130 trillion, now it’s $US230 trillion around the world.
What we've been lucky, as a world economy, is that interest rates have remained low.
But this government has constructed a wafer thin forecast of a surplus next year by robbing the NDIS, by hiding the cuts they're going to make.
What we've done with our economic reforms, and this is the bigger story, is that we've been very upfront. We know that what we need to do in this country is properly fund our schools and hospitals; properly fund our TAFE and our childcare. What we also need to do is give relief to low- and middle-class taxpayers, and that's what we're doing in our first term, but we also need to improve our financial bottom line as a nation.
This government has put together a surplus to get through the next six weeks. We all know it's tied together with sticky tape and Band-aid and heroic projections about wages. If you want to make sure that we secure growth for the future, you vote Labor, because this government's growth plan relies upon low wages and big corporate profits, and it relies upon cutting services.
The beauty of our plan for growth is that fairness and decency are good economic guidelines. If we get wages moving again, tick, economic confidence. If we invest in the physical infrastructure of the nation, as we are doing in Perth with roads and METRONET, tick, more jobs, more productive infrastructure. If we invest in people, if we're going to give all of our three year olds the chance to go to kindergarten as Labor wants to do, international best practice, that means that they, over the long term, are going to get a much better learning process and education. And if I can just finish about how we secure growth, we’re going to keep Australians more healthy because we think that funding health is an important issue.
I know that there are some around who say, Labor only wants to talk about health, well we want to talk about lots of things, and we have been over the last six years as a united team. But I am not going to be deterred or stopped from prioritising healthcare in this election because a healthy Australia is a productive Australia.
SHORTEN: I agree with that comment, Dan. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: Can I take you to George Christensen, and a tip of the hat to Galloway here, as well: George Christensen, is it right that he used taxpayer funds for flights connecting to overseas?
SHORTEN: No, I don’t think so, but Chris has been having a look at this matter. I have been working on some other propositions today, so I will get him to supplement. But it is a test for Mr Morrison. Is it really right that someone takes 11 weeks off every year to go to the Philippines? They’re elected to represent locals, not people in another country.
CHRIS BOWEN: Thanks, Bill. There’s two issues here. Has George Christensen been doing his job representing the people of Dawson? I don’t see how he can. We’re all hard working members of Parliament, people who want to be members of Parliament. I would say the same of most Liberal and National MPs, despite our differences with them. They want to do the best for their communities, and they work hard. You cannot do that having spent, as I understand it, hundreds of days, 300 days, overseas. You just can’t do that. You have to be in the community, you have to be talking to ministers, you have to be representing the community. You can’t be an effective member of Parliament with that level of overseas travel.
Every member of Parliament needs a break. Liberal, Nationals, Labor, Greens, everybody needs a break occasionally. Nobody begrudges somebody taking some time off. This is beyond the pale. He is not the member for Dawson, he is the member for Manila South. And I don’t care what country he was in. That’s irrelevant. He wasn’t in Australia, he wasn’t in Mackay. He wasn’t representing his constituents.
On the issue of travel, obviously I don’t have access to his travel details, but based on what I have seen and read he has very, very serious questions to answer about the travel. It is not appropriate to use taxpayer-funded travel to connect to a private overseas flight. It’s not appropriate and it astounds me that Scott Morrison stands by and says that it is OK. This is a test of his leadership. It’s not just a test of George Christensen, it’s a test of Scott Morrison’s.
JOURNALIST: Chris Bowen, can I ask, I know-
SHORTEN: Sorry, I want to get, I don’t want to annoy Tim.
[CROSSTALK AND LAUGHTER]
SHORTEN: Alright, what’s your question, if there’s no mileage in me nice to you?
[CROSSTALK AND LAUGHTER]
SHORTEN: I was only joking. It’s ‘be kind to Tim’ day.
JOURNALIST: Chris Bowen, can I ask you, are you suggesting that the Liberals have scrubbed clean their website of information that would embarrass them, or is the webmaster there just having a bad day.
BOWEN: I don’t know what their excuse is but I think they should get their house in order. I mean, Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer of the country, has got time to take to Twitter last night about the Labor Party’s website, which the national secretary advises us is being updated and all the policies will be put there, which hasn’t been the case in every other election, that all the policies are outlined on the website. As I pointed out to you before, Scott and Josh, congratulations, have got four policies on their website. The incumbent government of Australia: four policies. Well done! And their Liberal plan says “the link is dead”. Now I don’t know if it is because they are embarrassed by the lack of a plan - they’ve only got a plan for a scare campaign, that’s all they’ve got, they don’t have a plan for the country – or it’s a more reasonable, innocent excuse. Josh can explain the hypocrisy which is at the heart of his political operation. With due respect, it is not my job to describe what is happening with the webmaster of the Liberal Party of Australia, only to point out that the Treasurer is a hypocrite.
JOURNALIST: But you could release the pages that you have taken off the Labor website so we could look at them and see whether they have been excluded because of embarrassing mistakes.
BOWEN: They’ve been on the website. The national secretary advises us that some of them were taken down to be updated some time ago. They are being updated. They will be on the website, all our policies. Now obviously some of the policies we announced in 2016. This is the 2019 election. Those pages need to be updated and it will happen. Some of the conspiracy theories around - I mean we announced these policies, in 2015 or 2016. I made a major speech a couple of weeks ago announcing the start date of the negative gearing policy and going through the details again and outlining the plans in some detail, including the start date. You can accuse the Labor Party under Bill’s leadership of whatever you want; you can’t accuse us of not leading the policy debate and putting detailed policies out there very early for people to examine and to scrutinise. Since 2015, leading to the 2019 election, we have led the policy debate and we are proud of every one of those policies.
JOURNALIST: Can I just confirm with the emissions reduction target that you will release full costings that will answer Jonathon’s question before the election?
SHORTEN: Fair’s fair, I did answer it just before, but in terms of our climate policies, we are very clear about our directions. These matters have been modelled and the debate is not a new debate is it, Anthony? I was just reminded as I was listening to the discussion that the CSIRO and Melbourne University have said that if we don’t move to the Paris targets, which is what Labor is saying we should move to, but if we don’t move to it the CSIRO and the University of Melbourne say it is going to cost Australian families $14,000 per household. So there is a lot of information out there.
This nation needs to move forward on climate change. I’ve said that there are several key issues in this election. One is unity versus disunity. One is referendum on wages. One is who has got the best plan on health for all Australians. But another one is action on climate change. This is a real debate between the past and the future. The issue is this is a government who, if you vote for them on climate change, that’s the triumph of hope over experience. If they were fair dinkum on climate change Malcolm Turnbull would still be the leader.
JOURNALIST: In regards to Labor’s wages policy, the Fair Work Commission which sets the minimum wages was set up be a Labor Government. At the time, neither Labor nor yourself as Minister was complaining about decisions the Fair Work Commission was making. Can you explain what’s actually changed between now and then that we now have a problem in the decisions that they are making.
SHORTEN: It’s called wages stagnation. It’s called the deregulation of the labour market through legal tactics. The fact of the matter is that since 2016 corporate profits have gone up on average 39 per cent, wages 5 per cent. I’m going to repeat that, because that is a big issue. Under a Liberal Government it’s never been a better time to be a top end of town corporate profiteer but it’s never been a worse time to be a working Australian. Millions of our fellow Australians have had no wages movement. So what we have seen is the consequences of this government’s economic policies where they have had one plan for most of their life in government which is to give a tax cut to the big end of town. You know they did vote 26 times against a banking royal commission. And in the meantime we have seen penalty rates cut, we’ve seen the expansion of labour hire, casualisation, we’ve seen the greater use of the termination of existing wages agreements to coerce people into lower conditions. We’ve seen revelations of rampant wages theft. We’ve seen the over-reliance on fixed term contracts in health and education. I mean how hard is it being a young person in this country. You do your teachers qualification and you come out and you say you are doing everything the nation tells you to do and then you just get a series of rolling short-term contracts for years after years after years. So the problem is that under the Liberals you can’t trust them to get wages moving. But we will always consult. We will always make sure that the improvements are modest but meaningful. We’ll also take the advice of the economists, and we will listen to industry and business. Thanks everybody it has been a nice conference, see you all later today.