FRIDAY, 1 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s extreme plan to walk away from public schools; oil bribery scandal
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks for coming everybody. It's an absolute pleasure to be here this morning with Bill Shorten. Of course, Bill and I have held, I think, three press conferences together this week because as alternative Prime Minister and Treasurer we're on the same page about the challenges and opportunities facing Australia, the same page about the approach an alternative Labor Government will take. An incoming Shorten Labor Government will have a Treasurer and a Prime Minister working together in the best interests of Australia.
It's a particular pleasure today to welcome Bill to Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School in my electorate. The Labor Party believes in funding every Australian child at school, regardless of the choices their parents make, regardless of which system those children are educated in, our model of funding, the Your Child, Our Future model of funding says that every Australian child deserves funding from their Federal Government. Mr Turnbull believes the exact opposite.
That's just one aspect of Mr Turnbull's plans falling apart as we speak. Watching Mr Turnbull's unravelling thought bubble has not been pretty watching for Australians over the last 48 hours. Of course, devoid of an economic plan, he searched and scratched around and came up with the wrong plan, a plan to take Australia backwards, to take Australia back to the pre-1942 tax arrangements, to take Australia back to the pre-1960s school funding model, to take Australia back to a divided economy, a divided education system, a divisive policy.
Now, regardless of what the premiers and chief ministers say today, Mr Turnbull should take this plan to an election. Let him go to the people of Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory and explain why he thinks their schools should be underfunded. Let him go to public schools right across Australia and let him explain why he thinks the Federal Government should not fund their schools. Let him come to schools like this and let him explain why he believes in two separate education systems, not one education system which respects the rights of parents and children to make a choice, but funds those choices accordingly. Mr Turnbull's ideas have been falling apart. We've seen the Treasurer contradict him, we've seen the Treasurer say there would be no increase in the tax burden and then Mr Turnbull having to confess and admit that over time, of course, the tax burden could increase as States increase income taxes to fund the education system as Mr Turnbull retreats.
Well, our policy's clear when it comes to income tax, our policy's clear when it comes to education funding. We've got a plan for the future. We're happy for the Australian people to vote on that plan, Mr Turnbull should allow the Australian people to vote on what could only very generously be called his plan and his thought bubble. It's a particular pleasure to have Bill at Our Lady Queen of Peace which does a great job, a very important part of the Greystanes community, a very important part with St Paul's Catholic College next door, the education of our young people here in Greystanes in Western Sydney. It's always a pleasure to have the alternative Prime Minister in my electorate, it’s a particular pleasure to have Bill Shorten in my electorate talking about education and tax this morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Chris, and it's great to be here in Chris' electorate. It's great to be here at a school which is working so hard to make sure that the students get the best start in life. And that's why it's important that we have a Labor Government elected at the next election. Only Labor has got a positive plan for the future of all Australian schools. Only Labor has a fully funded plan which will extend over the next ten years to provide certainty for parents, for teachers, for the Catholic education commissions, for the government sector, to make sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity. Labor believes that we should have needs-based funding in Australia. We believe that it shouldn't be the wealth of a child's parent or the postcode where they live which determines their educational opportunity. Every child in every school getting needs-based funding will deliver every opportunity, not just for our children in the future, but also for our economy. A good education system is a good economic strategy and Labor has positive plans on education.
And by contrast, the choice couldn't be starker between Labor and Liberal at the next election. Mr Turnbull, fresh from announcing that he wants States to be able to levy income taxes, so people pay more taxes, fresh from announcing this week an inadequate Band-Aid over the hospital system to repair some of the damage done by Liberal cuts to hospitals, Mr Turnbull's now come up with a trifecta, he's completed the trifecta of bad ideas for the future of Australia. He has now proposed that he wants to abandon funding of government schools throughout Australia. He only wants to see that he will fund private schools. Mr Turnbull has come up with the most outlandish idea in the history of Australian school education. The parents of Australia will not fall for this. The choice couldn't be clearer on school education in Australia. On one hand you've got Labor who wants to have a sector neutral approach. So if parents choose to send their children to government schools or non-government schools, Labor will make sure that schools funding is sector neutral, because we respect the right of parents to make educational choices for their children and we will back them up. It's a positive plan and we explain how we can fund every cent. Not only will we fund this for this election, we've got a positive plan fully funded for the next decade so that schools, like this very good school, like this very good diocese in terms of the education they're providing right across the western suburbs of Sydney can make long-term plans.
By contrast, you've got Mr Turnbull who is turning back the clock to the 1960s and says that fixing school education in Australia is just too hard for him. So without so much as a backward glance to millions of Australian school children in government schools, to millions of parents who send their children to government schools, he said that he's out of the business of school education for parents who send their kids to government schools. On one hand you have a positive plan for school education in Australia, on the other you have reckless wrecking by Mr Turnbull who has come up with the most outlandish idea in the history of school education.
We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Should the States be allowed to use income tax to fulfil the recommendations of the Gonski report?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull's only idea is to cut school funding and make Australians pay more in their taxation. There are other things that Mr Turnbull could do. He should not be a soft touch when it comes to multinationals not paying their fair share of Australian taxation. He should clamp down on the excessively generous and unsustainable tax concessions provided by all taxpayers to the lucky few who already have millions of dollars in superannuation. He should stop wasteful Government spending such as paying large companies to pollute and deliver poor environmental outcomes. He should do something about the excessive negative gearing tax concessions going forward over the next decade which don't provide a level playing field for first-home buyers. Mr Turnbull's got plenty of other options other than asking Australians to pay more and get less in schools and hospitals.
JOURNALIST: But isn't he only saying that States should fund it if - sorry, isn't the Federal Government only saying it will consider cutting funding to schools if States fund it?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull's cutting funding to schools. When the Liberals got elected at the last election, they promised that there would be a unity ticket on education. In other words, what they were saying is you could vote Liberal or Labor and you will get the same policy on education. That was a lie then and it is a lie now, and it is a lie under Mr Turnbull as well as Mr Abbott. Mr Turnbull supported Mr Abbott cutting money to schools, over $30 billion over the next 10 years, cutting the money. He has no plan to repair the damage they made. What they've have done is they have caused an economic disaster in terms of funding of schools and indeed, funding of hospitals. Now they're saying having caused the problem, the only answer is for States to increase income taxes. Australians don't want a lazy government in Canberra whose only idea to sort out the national budget is to punish the household budget.
It's very straightforward with Mr Turnbull with his plans for double taxation for Australians, that you will pay more and get less under a Turnbull Government.
JOURNALIST: Do the States need to be more accountable for their spending?
SHORTEN: States should always be accountable. Every level of government – council, state and national government – should always be accountable for their expenditure. Taxpayer money should be jealously guarded and it should never be wasted. But the difference between Mr Turnbull and myself, the difference between Scott Morrison and Chris Bowen, is that we understand and respect that if you have scarce taxpayer money, you've got to make choices about where it goes. First of all, we'll stop wasteful government spending and the Turnbull Government's wasting a lot of money, let's be really clear on that, they're all talk and no action on dealing with wasteful spending. But also when you've got scarce taxpayer money, you've got to ask yourself, why does Mr Turnbull want to give tax cuts to large multinational companies yet not fund marvelous schools like the one we're in today? Why does Mr Turnbull want to keep paying large companies to pollute and undermine our effort to take real action on climate change yet not fund the emergency wards of hospitals?
You tell a lot about a Government by the choices and what they do. Mr Turnbull's talking about lowering the taxation rate for people who are on $300,000 and $400,000 a year, but he wants States to be able to levy income taxes on all of Australia's millions of hardworking taxpayers. Mr Turnbull, six months after he's been in, has proven to be a massive disappointment. Whenever there's a hard issue: negative gearing, dealing with multinational taxation, funding schools, he keeps running away from the hard issues, he makes grandiose statements that as soon as there's any examination of the detail, he gives up and in the meantime Australia's hospitals and schools are not getting the funding they deserve.
JOURNALIST: I was going to ask you about the revelations about industrial-scale bribery that Fairfax Media have revealed this week. Do you think that the Federal Government does enough in terms of resourcing law enforcement and other agencies to crack down on bribery and what are your general observations about the scale of what seems to be going on as unveiled by Fairfax?
SHORTEN: I think the Fairfax inquiry and the revelations are tremendously alarming and I'm grateful for the lid being ripped off some of these carryings on of multinational companies engaging in global bribery. Now when it comes to anti-corruption, Mr Turnbull's always out there bashing the unions but he's been disappointingly silent on the conduct of Australian multinationals engaged in global bribery. Labor has announced that as soon as the Senate resumes on April 18 – Mr Turnbull just wants to talk about unions and undermining the safety net of Australia's working conditions – well he's got a fight on his hands. We want to have a Senate inquiry into the revelations that we've seen about global bribery. Mr Turnbull needs to be tough on multinationals as much as he's willing to be tough on schools and hospitals. So we take it very seriously, the revelations are deeply disturbing and we won't let this issue go.
JOURNALIST: On health, Mr Shorten, would you consider a complete federal takeover of public hospitals if you are elected?
SHORTEN: No, we wouldn't consider a complete takeover. What we believe is cooperation between different levels of government. I'm going to get Chris to supplement this answer in a moment, but when it comes to our health system, there is a role for the Federal Government to assist the States make sure that our hospital system doesn't descend further into crisis. The issues which keep me up at night about our hospital system are not Mr Turnbull's walking away from it, not his sort of fancy comments with no substance behind them, what I want to see is that we do something about the waiting times in emergency wards. What I want to see is that people waiting for a necessary hip replacement, people waiting for treatment for cardiac conditions, I want to reduce those waiting lists.
The job of a government isn't just to make big, hot air statements with no substance. What matters to me is whether or not at a hospital people are waiting months and months and years to get necessary elective surgery which will bring them greater comfort and indeed better medical outcomes. What worries me is the waiting time in our busy hospital wards of the emergency sections of our hospitals. What worries me is we're asking our nurses and doctors to do more with less and indeed, when you look at the announcements today that Mr Turnbull's trying to wrap up and put a bit of lipstick on and say this is fantastic and he's helping, the truth of the matter is, will Mr Turnbull reverse the cuts he's made? Does he acknowledge that there's a role for the Federal Government to try and work cooperatively with the States? Why is he not working with the States about properly funding issues? And what is he going to do about waiting times for the people in the real world which he clearly doesn't know about – hip replacements, knee replacements, cardiac conditions, waiting time in emergency wards – that's what matters to me. It's not a matter of one level of government taking over or getting rid of another level of government. What matters here is making sure that patients receive timely care, that we maintain universal health care and while he's at it, if he's so interested in health care he should reverse the cuts to Medicare, he should drop his attack on bulk billing which means that people will have to pay more to get necessary blood tests, images at the X-ray facilities and he should also do something about helping GPs, rather than simply say they've got to do more, how about he does something to help them with the indexation of their costs so that GPs aren't effectively taking a pay cut because Mr Turnbull can't be trusted to run the health system of Australia.
But I see that Chris will talk further about the COAG and the propositions that are being debated.
BOWEN: Sure, thanks Bill. And Bill makes a very telling point about elective surgery and today in Western Sydney, the hospital which serves this area, Westmead Hospital, it's been revealed that they are engaging in a moratorium on elective surgery. Without going into the details of that particular hospital's decision, this is not a hospital system which can afford Mr Turnbull's cuts. And people here in this community, in Greystanes, in Parramatta and Western Sydney, are paying the price for further ongoing cuts to health.
Now as Bill said, we believe in cooperative federalism. Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey cut $80 billion out of health and education, didn't even give their Liberal Premier mates a telephone call before the Budget. What we've done is quite the contrary. With our education funding package, we consulted closely with our State and Territory colleagues. Likewise in health. Catherine King and I have been meeting with State Treasurers and health ministers. We've met with Tim Pallas and Jill Hennessy, we've met with Curtis Pitt and Cameron Dick. We're meeting next week with Tom Koutsantonis and Jack Snelling. We are consulting across the board about the hospital funding needs and just as we've announced a very detailed, funded and costed schools funding plan, we'll be using those consultations to inform a hospitals funding plan which we will, of course, Bill will be announcing at the appropriate time. But we've been leading the debate, leading the policy debate, announcing our policies. Mr Turnbull didn't even tell the States about his thought bubble which he revealed a few kilometres west of here at the football field in Penrith, at the Penrith oration, where he put out his thought bubble about taxing powers going to the States and the States all of a sudden withdrawing - the Commonwealth, my apologies, withdrawing from State education funding. That's the quality of policy development you get under Mr Turnbull.
SHORTEN: Final question, thank you, if there is one. All right. Thanks everyone.