THURSDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: $10.9 million for Bentley Hospital; A Fair Share for WA; Foreign Affairs in the Pacific; Luke Foley; negative gearing; trade; live exports; remote indigenous housing; WA state politics; China’s Belt and Road Incentive; Fairfax and Nine merger
HANNAH BEAZLEY, CANDIDATE FOR SWAN: Good morning everybody thank you for coming out. My name is Hannah Beazley, I'm Labor's candidate for the federal seat of Swan. Bentley Hospital here is right in the heart of our community, so I'm very happy this morning to welcome Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Premier for Western Australia, Mark McGowan to my home turf and I invite them all to speak to you today. Thanks very much.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Hannah, and it's lovely to see everyone. This is my 17th visit since the last federal election, so it's great to be back here with Hannah Beazley and of course the Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan.
Great to visit Bentley Hospital, I'm pleased to announce that because of the hard work of Hannah Beazley and of course all of the good information and research which Mark McGowan constantly advocates for Western Australia, that a Labor Government, if elected, will provide $10.9 million to help upgrade the Bentley Hospital.
Labor federally has been campaigning for a Fair Share for Western Australia. As we know, that's been the hallmark of Mark McGowan's premiership. He's just said upfront, Liberal or Labor nationally we want a fair deal for Western Australia with the GST, and of course Labor federally has been leading the debate with our proposition of a 70 and then a 75 cent floor. And then of course more recently I suggested to the current government, let's make the floor the law, and they've seen sense on that after initially criticising us.
But a fair share for Western Australia isn't just about a fair GST distribution. A fair share for Western Australia is a fair share for Western Australians’ health. That's why we have found the money to reverse the cuts to West Australian hospitals, and to provide $10.9 million to the Bentley Health Service.
It was great to meet a young family welcoming the arrival of their first child. We want to make sure though, that this precious community resource, this community health service, this hospital gets upgraded. This hospital is showing a little bit of its age and we want to make sure that the people in this community who pay their taxes to Canberra, get their fair share of taxes reinvested in health care. That's why I'm really pleased to acknowledge Hannah Beazley's work, and we're going to make sure that West Australians get their fair share of health care from the nation's capital.
I'd now like to hand over to Premier McGowan and then we're happy to take questions.
MARK MCGOWAN, PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks very much Bill, and it is great to be here with Hannah Beazley who I've known for many years and with Federal Opposition Leader, and Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, and welcome Bill to Western Australia, and particularly here to this great community asset, which is Bentley Hospital.
One of the things that I've been very impressed by is the fact that Bill Shorten understands that Western Australia needs a better deal, not just on GST, but also on funding for hospitals, for TAFE, and for schools.
Whilst we hope the GST issue is resolved in the Federal Parliament next week, and we expect that will occur, what we also want to see and we are seeing from Federal Labor is commitments to schools, hospitals and TAFEs across Western Australia.
Here today is a $10.9 million commitment to Bentley Hospital. This hospital was built in the 1960s. It needs some significant work done and I'm very pleased to see the Federal Opposition will undertake that work if they're elected at the federal election next year. This will mean that maternity services, mental health services, aged care services here at the hospital will have a significant improvement, and as you can see while the hospital is much loved, it does need some work.
This hospital, Bentley, services the surrounding suburbs, Victoria Park, Cannington, and Bentley itself, but also a bit further afield - areas like Wilson and Belmont as well - people come here from those areas as well, so I'm very pleased that this major community asset will receive an important upgrade if Bill Shorten is elected next year. And $10.9 million is nothing to be sneezed at, so once again, can I thank Bill for coming to Western Australia. He's been a regular visitor to Western Australia, more so than really, any Opposition Leader in the last ten years and I'm very pleased and impressed that he's put in the amount of effort for our state, and I think if Bill is elected next year it will be a dividends for all of us here in Western Australia.
Thanks, I'll hand over for questions.
SHORTEN: Thanks Mark, are there any questions on this, federal issues of course?
JOURNALIST: On federal issues, the Prime Minister (inaudible) engagement across the Pacific, will you adopt that and carry on with it if you win Government?
SHORTEN: Not only will we adopt it, we announced it Monday week ago. We announced Monday week ago we'd set up a Pacific Infrastructure Bank. So I know people get sick of politics and and you know, he said she said and the backbiting, I'll just say to the Prime Minister, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Great.
JOURNALIST: Negative gearing, obviously it's an issue that you're going to take to the next election. Is it one you can afford to park do you think, given the heat has come out of the housing market now? It might have been a policy for a year ago, but not now?
SHORTEN: First of all, negative gearing, for anyone who currently has a property investment and is able to claim a tax subsidy, if you currently are doing it it will remain. The fundamental principle, so there's no change, we're grandfathering everyone. So I saw an interesting speculative piece in one of the local papers here today, saying that lots of people are going to miss out. That's just wrong. But when it comes to negative gearing in the future, it's just not fair that first home buyers don't have a level playing field. Do you know how many people go to auctions, young people and their parents, they've saved and saved for the deposit, and all of a sudden they face competition from property investors being subsidised with the tax payer money of the people who are trying buy their first home. It's perfectly legal now, we don't pass any judgement on what's happened, if you've got it you keep it, no worries, but hard decisions have got to be made, and it's just not fair. And when I've got to make a choice between upgrading the aged care facilities or the mental health resources or the maternal resources or give a tax subsidy to someone buying their sixth or seventh investment property, I'm just going to choose the health of Australians over the tax system.
JOURNALIST: So what do you say to people whose property values will go down under this policy?
SHORTEN: Well they won't. I just don't buy that argument. And this Government, they're amazing aren't they? Property values in Perth have gone down about 13 per cent while the federal Liberals have been in, but apparently when you're a Liberal Federal Government, these are good property price falls. But when there's a Labor Government and we want to put first home owners on a level playing field, that's bad. The truth of the matter is that all of the experts, Saul Eslake respected economist, the Grattan Institute, all the experts know that when you've got scarce taxpayer dollars, far better to put it into health and education and aged care than it is to give a tax subsidy to someone buying their sixth or seventh investment property.
JOURNALIST: So in terms of housing prices, what's your preference? To go down, stay the same or go up?
SHORTEN: Well first of all there's a lot of factors that go into housing prices. The reality is that in parts of our big cities, there's no more land, so value is going to maintain. The reality is what affects housing prices is supply of land. It's whether or not there are foreign investors, and to some extent, it is negative gearing. The best way I can characterise our changes is that we're going to lower one of the gas burners underneath the boiling pot of house prices. Property is still a good buy. People still need to live in houses. But I just don't think it's fair that our first home buyers get discriminated against and the taxes they pay to Canberra, are being used to subsidise a property investor over a first home buyer.
I think the great Australian dream is to own your first home, not to be able to get the world's best tax deduction.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull will be appearing on Q&A tonight, that'll be great television.
SHORTEN: I don't know if it will be.
JOURNALIST: Will you be watching?
SHORTEN: No but I'm doing a town hall meeting at Ellenbrook and I invite people to come to that. I want to hear from the people not from Malcolm Turnbull. I don't want to speak ill of the past - I'll leave that to the Liberal Party to bag him but he had his go for three years. I suppose I'll be curious to read what it is he'd do now that he didn't do in the last three years. But really, in fact I don't even want to go there that's - he's got you know, the Liberal Party didn't treat him well, they didn't treat Julie Bishop well did they? No Western Australian Liberal MP voted for her, gee that was a bit of a let down when she's done so much for the Liberals in the west but the Liberal infighting and instability it's what turns people off politics.
I want to say to Australians who are weighing up will they watch one Liberal Prime Minister bag another Liberal Prime Minister, Labor hears you loud and clear you're sick of the instability. I've been Leader of the Labor Party for over five years now we're working on our policies, we're being up front with the Australian people. What people want from political parties and a potential government is they want stability, they also want a bit of optimism, they want a bit of hope.
We're saying to first home buyers, you've got more hopes with us. We're saying to people who want to get proper health care in the west, you've got more hope with us. We're saying if you want TAFE, an apprenticeship for your kids, Labor is the party you can hope and rely on. If you want a good education we've said that we want to introduce universal access to kinder for all three and four year olds, that's where we should use scarce and valuable taxpayer dollars to give the next generation the best possible start in life and of course, we've got to properly fund our aged care.
It's disgraceful that aged care workers are paid so low. We've got a whole Royal Commission which is after five years of Liberal mismanagement of aged care. These are the issues that matter not what jacket Mr Turnbull wears tonight.
Sorry I'll just share it around.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten the ABC journalist who says she was abused by Luke Foley has just released a statement, she says that he put his hand through a gap in the back of her dress and inside her underpants, he rested his hand on her buttocks and there was a witness to this. Should Luke Foley resign or at least step aside?
SHORTEN: I think as your question just signalled the statement has just been released. I haven't seen it so I can't - I think you'd appreciate, I'm not going to start commenting about serious matters like that without getting the facts and so I appreciate it's a very serious matter but I'm unable to assist you further and it's an issue for Mr Foley.
JOURNALIST: How can you assure WA farmers and producers that if elected in the next federal election you won't ban live exports considering what the State Ag Minister was suggesting during the whole live export debate?
SHORTEN: Oh no, we think that the live export and sheep trade is on borrowed time and it has been for a while. Time and time again it's been asked to get its act together.
We think that what the government should be doing now, the current government is helping transition some of these live export farmers to new industry and to new opportunities. I just - it's not sustainable, it's had scandal after scandal and now I think though, the farmers have been let down by this current government. They've got no plan for transition and they've also undermined the animal welfare protections which frankly if had been in place maybe have caught some of the shocking images that we've seen, maybe they wouldn't have happened.
But you know, this government has been asleep at the wheel on animal welfare and Labor is - Labor can't ignore the facts.
JOURNALIST: Won't a transition be at the cost of the livelihoods of these farmers and producers?
SHORTEN: You've got to wonder any industry which relies on cruelty to animals, how sustainable is it? Labor hasn't invented these facts we didn't invent the images which we've seen in our houses, on our TVs. I do think that though, the farmers need to be supported so what you need is an honest discussion with the farmers rather than just trying to pretend that it's business as usual and nothing is ever going to change.
JOURNALIST: Will you be going to discuss that with farmers?
SHORTEN: My shadow spokesperson has been talking to people, absolutely.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about the government's move to block CK's acquisition of Australian pipelines and how concerned are you about the impact it could have on Australia's relationship with China?
SHORTEN: Well it's a serious issue but the pipelines represent 76 percent of all the pipelines in Australia and I don't know how the ACCC gave it the tick and now the government's had to step in at the last minute. The government has a national interest test we're not going to second guess them from Opposition on this one.
JOURNALIST: What action to ensure that any memorandum of understanding signed by Australian governments will be released so that Australians know what we're signing up to?
SHORTEN: I think that's a fair point in terms of putting the information out there, I mean I noticed that the current Prime Minister is having attack at Labor Premier Daniel Andrews in Victoria for signing a memorandum of understanding but the current Foreign Minister welcomed the Chinese initiatives now another Federal Minister has contradicted the Foreign Minister's position. This government's a shambles on it's handling of China I mean my approach would be to say to China, we won't give you any surprises, your rise in the world is legitimate, we see that you're very important for our exports. But we will always, if I am Prime Minister, determine Australia's foreign policy interest not just to keep another nation happy but in our national interest but I think it is appropriate to be respectful of other countries and not necessarily just humiliate them in the media.
I mean, but if this government is giving out lectures about China policy why didn't they stop the Darwin Port being leased? I mean that's amazing and they've got nothing to say on that. So I think Mr Morrison is playing Victorian state election stuff and I don't take it that seriously.
JOURNALIST: Is Victoria overstepping the mark in signing onto that?
SHORTEN: States engage with trade relationships with other countries, they send trade delegations, I'm not running for Premier.
JOURNALIST: So should that MoU be released though?
SHORTEN: I think overtime agreements that governments enter into MoUs should be available to the public but again, you know why the current federal government is talking about it. They can't visit Victoria because no one likes them so what they're trying to do is just you know, cause a bit of mischief, stir up the issues because they've got nothing to say about hospitals, schools and jobs.
So let's put the current Prime Minister's comments in the 'doing it for state election reason' as opposed to long term national interest.
JOURNALIST: Should Luke Foley stand aside while these allegations are being -
SHORTEN: It's a fair question but I -
JOURNALIST: It's a serious question, it's a serious matter.
SHORTEN: Yes it is and I said it was a serious matter, it's a fair question but as you'd appreciate that's just broken whilst I'm here so I'll go and get myself acquainted with the facts.
JOURNALIST: Last night you said the relationship - the scandal between the Federal Government and McGowan Government about remote Indigenous housing funding was madness, if elected would you commit to a new funding model for remote WA Indigenous communities?
SHORTEN: I’ll just let the plane go.
The question was at a town hall meeting I had last night a member of the public was complaining about the fact that the federal government is just not funding remote housing in Western Australia and I said this is madness.
I know that Premier McGowan and his ministers have been trying to get the federal government to focus on Aboriginals living in remote communities but it's not on the federal government's to do list. I mean they've got Tony Abbott, the envoy for getting kids to school, pretty hard to get to school Tony, if you live in a house of ten people.
So I do think remote housing has to be fixed, we will fix it if we come to power but I again, we're talking about human beings here. Why should it wait until Labor gets elected, if we get elected to sort out the issue of remote housing? I'm sure Mark has got a view on the remote housing.
JOURNALIST: What is your commitment on it?
SHORTEN: We'll sit down with the state and make sure that it's properly funded. I mean again, but let's not let this current government off the hook they've still got six more months to run before an election.
We should all work together and I'll work with Mr Morrison, this shouldn't be a source of political football. We're talking about Australians, we're talking about people who live in remote communities because they don't have the political voice to attract the Prime Minister's attention then the rest of us have got to stand up for the disadvantaged in our community. I don't think that the future of Australia means that everyone has got to move to the city.
Federal governments have had long time responsibility to fund remote housing. Remote housing for Indigenous Australians is not politically sexy for a lot of the people but I have to say how we treat the least advantaged in our society is a measure of our society as a whole. So we will put pressure on the government, we could use a bit of help from the media, the West Australians are doing what they can so we're determined to fix it.
JOURNALIST: Will you be visiting any country WA electorates ahead of the federal election?
JOURNALIST: Can you say which ones?
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you quickly -
McGOWAN: I've got time pressures guys I've got to go -
SHORTEN: So we don't want you to miss any state issues or -
McGOWAN: If I can just mention one thing at 11 o'clock today we'll have a minute silence in the State Parliament and then we'll have a motion, and then we'll have a motion that all sides of politics will be able to speak on acknowledging the hundredth anniversary of Remembrance Day. So I definitely want to be back by 11 to do that and to move that motion.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns that Mr Shorten's views on negative gearing could impact your stamp duty receipt bottom line if it comes into play?
JOURNALIST: None at all? - It won't drive down the amount of transactions in WA?
MCGOWAN: No I don't - What I want to say about it is I actually admire the fact that Bill and Federal Labor are actually indicating how they're going to pay for their promises. I think that needs to be respected. And to make a tough decision and say you're going to actually do something to pay for your commitments, should be encouraged.
JOURNALIST: Premier, do you support the Opposition Leader's suggestion of cutting live exports completely?
MCGOWAN: Well, we've said there's a major problem like exports. We all know that. And I've told the industry numerous times that if there's any further examples like the Awassi Express, they'll lose all support everywhere and that the industry would most likely, in terms of overseas exports, end and be an industry based upon using local abattoirs. I've been very clear with the industry. Everyone understands our position.
JOURNALIST: Do you support it shutting down?
MCGOWAN: I just explained our position.
JOURNALIST: Would you support those farmers that then, essentially would be out of a job - I think it's something like 85 per cent of nation's are in WA. What would you then do to support those farmers through the transition?
MCGOWAN: What occurred of course was that Barnaby Joyce shut down the animal welfare unit in the federal Department of Agriculture. The Federal Government did everything they could to encourage the situation that occurred with the Awassi Express and then pretended it hadn't happened and then, they closed down the industry for months on end. So if there's any blame here, let's shoot it home to the Federal Government. But all I'd say to the industry is higher animal welfare standards are needed. If there's any more examples like the Awassi Express, the industry will close.
JOURNALIST: How would you support the farmers though? You didn't answer my question.
MCGOWAN: The farmers can currently farm sheep and send them to abattoirs in Western Australia - and employ West Australians - and engage in a chilled meat industry. I've been very clear from the beginning that if there's further examples like the Awassi Express, that will be the future.
JOURNALIST: There seem to be concerns in relation to the Forrestfield-Airport rail link, that the contract was so low that it might affect quality. There was a briefing that came out yesterday on Channel 7 News. Are you aware of that? Are you concerned that now the quality of that tunnel may well be in danger?
MCGOWAN: Well we're doing our best to ensure that there's high quality and high safety standards. The last Government entered into a contract that was hundreds of millions of dollars lower than the next bidder. And they knew that these issues may well arise. So if there's any questions on this, you need to pose them to the Liberal Party because they're the ones that did it. Now, we have to pick up their mess and we have to make sure quality standards are maintained and high standards of safety are maintained and that's what the minister and my government are doing every day.
JOURNALIST: Were you shocked when you saw that you saw that briefing note? Were a bit surprised when you read some of the detail of that briefing note which said there are concerns about quality and the risk of it not being done on time?
MCGOWAN: Yeah, well they knew. I am shocked, I am shocked. They knew what they were getting the state into. They went and signed it up on that basis and now we're seeing the results and we have to once again, fix up the Liberal Party's mess. As you know, it was a very, very poor eight and a half years of government that set Western Australia up for high debt, higher deficits, poor governance. Here's another example of it.
JOURNALIST: Premier, when can we expect a decision around fracking and whether or not it will go ahead in WA?
MCGOWAN: Look, the Government's got a report on the matter, we're currently considering it at a cabinet level and we'll make a decision we hope by the end of the year.
JOURNALIST: Were you impressed by the quality of the names that were attached to that - (inaudible) fracking?
MCGOWAN: I saw the ad in the paper. Obviously, it's an issue that arouse - sorry, I saw the names in the paper. It's an issue that arouses some passion. We're committed to a scientific inquiry at the election. We've done that using some very eminent scientists. We currently have the report. Once it's considered, we’ll make an announcement and a decision on the matter.
JOURNALIST: What is the economic incentive though? Can you outline the economic incentive around fracking in WA?
MCGOWAN: Look, I'm not going to go into the details around the report or any of the other issues around it until such time as we release our position. But I hope to do that before the end of the year.
JOURNALIST: Are you encouraged by Mr Shorten's comments about remote indigenous communities and has that made any progress - with the relevant minister?
MCGOWAN: I am. I'm very impressed by what Bill Shorten had to say. He understands that Aboriginal people in remote communities are some of the most disadvantaged people in Australia - and anyone who has been to a remote community, sometimes hundreds even a thousand kilometres - more than thousands kilometres from a capital city - obviously, have a lot of needs and deserve to have a decent housing situation. The idea that if you out there living in a remote community in the middle of the desert, somehow you're just going to wander out there and get a job and buy a house, doesn't work. It's not the way it works in that environment so you -
JOURNALIST: If you were accused of what Luke Foley has been accused of -
MCGOWAN: Can I finish that one?
JOURNALIST: I didn't know, I thought you had.
MCGOWAN: No, I haven't. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: I'll ask another one later.
MCGOWAN: Thanks, Jeff. Yes. Thanks, thanks. So I'm impressed by - no, I don't think you're listening.
Anyway, I'm impressed by what Bill Shorten had to say. He understands the needs of people living in remote communities and we want to make sure that the Commonwealth Government that's had a responsibility in this area since 1968, continues to deliver on its responsibilities.
JOURNALIST: If you were accused of what Luke Foley has been accused of, would you stand down pending an inquiry?
MCGOWAN: Look, I've just heard about it too, I'm not going to engage in what's going on in New South Wales.
JOURNALIST: Will you consider signing up to the Belt and Road initiative, signing an MoU like Daniel Andrews has done in Victoria?
MCGOWAN: Look nothing has been put before me in that regard but I want to make a point about that. I saw the story yesterday about it. I went and had a look at what other state premiers, in particular, my predecessor did. He signed numerous MoUs with government in China - numerous of them. All sorts of things committing to Chinese infrastructure in Western Australia - Colin Barnett signed those as far back as 2011. This has been the practice of state governments for a long period of time. I don't know why the issue of Daniel Andrews is being treated differently to that of Colin Barnett seven years ago but I think that's an important question.
JOURNALIST: It is something you would consider though?
MCGOWAN: I want to have a - look, I haven't seen any Belt and Road MoUs and obviously you treat them on their merits at any point in time. But having a strong relationship and a good relationship with China is something I think is important. There are a number one trading partner. Hundreds of thousands of West Australians and Australians depend upon a strong relationship there.
I think Daniel Andrews is being treated differently to the way that Colin Barnett, the former Liberal Premier, was being treated. And I'll give you a copy later on of the agreement that Colin Barnett signed which talked about Chinese infrastructure being developed in Western Australia.
SHORTEN: I'm just going to comment about Fairfax and the Channel 9 decision by the ACCC.
MCGOWAN: I'm going to have to go.
SHORTEN: Yeah - you go, mate.
Just to finish up, I noticed that the ACCC has today given the green light to the Channel 9 merger with Fairfax. I am extremely sceptical of the merits of that decision. It's happened. I'm concerned about jobs which may be lost for working journalists.
But I also just want to make this point - condensing media ownership in Australia is not healthy. The argument that says that the Twitter-sphere and social media compensate for a greater concentration of media ownership of our newspapers and television stations, I don't accept. I appreciate that are traditional forms of media under more attack and competition than ever before in the digital age, from social media and a whole lot of different sources. But major newspapers and free to air television still set the news of this country.
I am concerned with greater concentration of media ownership in this country, that we will see less competition, more job losses and for our newspapers and mastheads in our capital cities, they are tremendously important in setting the information to the nation. They are still one of the preeminent forms of media and I remain sceptical about the merits of greater concentration and less diversity in our media ownership.
JOURNALIST: Obviously you accept though that you would be stuck with it as Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: I am not the Prime Minister, it's very hard to put Humpty back together again.
But I just want a register greater media concentration of very influential parts of our media doesn't lead to greater competition, it leads to less diversity and I get concerned about job losses especially in the regions of Australia.