THURSDAY, 2 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plans for jobs in renewable energy; Labor’s positive plans for the economy; Superannuation; Joe Hockey; The Reserve Bank; Penalty rates
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH: Morning everyone, welcome to Kingsford-Smith. I'd like to thank Mark Martin and the team here at the Advanced Centre for Photovoltaics at the University of New South Wales. This is a world leading research and development institute and Mark perfectly described this institute to me a moment ago when he said if you want to be an astronaut, you want to work at NASA. If you want to work in photovoltaics and solar research, you want to work right here at the University of NSW. The team here recently broke a world record for the conversion of sunlight into energy. And, of course, in 2013 a Labor Government was proud to partner with the team here on research and development, and the results that they've achieved perfectly highlight what can happen when Governments invest in re newable energy and it's technology.
Now walking through the Institute a moment ago, you would have seen a lot of young people. Young PhD students from all over the globe who want to work at this fantastic institute, and there's a lot at stake for young people in this election. Particularly, on climate change. Bill, Tanya and I are here today to tell the people who work here and to tell young people throughout the country that there is a better choice when it comes to renewable energy. There is a better choice when it comes to tackling climate change, taking real action on climate change and that is Labor Party's policy on renewables and on tackling climate change, and that's why I am really proud that Tanya and Bill have joined me here today, and I'll now hand over to Bill who is going to make a few comments.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Matt. Good morning everybody. It's great to be at the University of NSW. It was no less a person than Vice-President Gore who told me that he thought the University of NSW was the premier solar research centre in the world. And the work that is being done here proves that Australia can compete for jobs of the future. That's why Tanya, Matt and I are pleased to be here today, continuing to talk about Labor's commitment to real action on climate change by prioritising renewable energy and making sure we get our fair share of the jobs of the future. By prioritising renewable energy in our energy mix and getting to the goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, we will make sure that Australia gets its fair share of the 2.5 trillion dollars of investment that is forecast to be made in renewable energy in the Asia-Pacific region alone.
The rest of the world in the last two years has added two million jobs, renewable energy jobs. Australia by contrast with the indecision, the confusion and the climate scepticism of the current Liberal government, we have gone backwards by nearly 3,000 jobs. Today I will be announcing that a Commonwealth government by 2030 will be deriving 50% of its energy mix from renewable sources. What we will do is put markers in the ground, pegs in the ground so we help create a market for investment in renewable energy. Mr Turnbull loves to talk about jobs and growth but that's just an empty three-word slogan. What we need is really practical developments which actually assists the creation and maintenance of good quality jobs.
The research which we've been privileged to see this morning is going to drive a new wave of investment, advanced manufacturing, helping households have lower prices for their energy and also cutting pollution. The University of New South Wales should be congratulated. We're the sunniest continent in the world but last year the United Kingdom had four times the amount of solar rooftop installation that Australia had because of the uncertainty under the Liberals. If we want the best researchers, and we have the best natural advantages, Australians should have a government in Canberra who is determined to take real action on climate change by focusing on renewable energy. I would like to invite my deputy Tanya Plibersek to talk further about the benefits of what we are talking about today.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY FEDERAL LABOR LEADER: Thank you so much, Bill, and thank you, Matt, for welcoming us to your electorate and the University of New South Wales for hosting us here. Australia, of course, has been a leader in renewable technology and it's been a laggard. When we first came to government in 2007, about 7,500 roof tops across Australia had solar panels on them. When we left office it was over a million. We tripled wind energy production when we were in government. We tripled employment in the renewable sector. We were in the top four countries for renewable energy and now we are not even in the top 10. We have enormous natural advantages in this country, as Bill has said, we're the sunniest continent on earth, we have all sorts of natural advantages but one of those natural advantages is our smart young people and this very institution. We need to capitalise on that through government poli cies that continue to support investment in renewables. Thanks.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer this morning has accused you of waging a war on growth and using tax as your bullets. How do you respond to that?
SHORTEN: Sounds like the Liberal Government is getting more desperate by the day. The truth of the matter is the Government's economic plan is unravelling the longer this election goes. Let's never forget that when Mr Turnbull came in he and Mr Morrison were keen to have a 15% GST. And then they dropped that for the time being to look at state income taxes, double taxation for every working Australian and now they have a tax giveaway which they don't want to talk about or pretend most of the money is not going to if big banks or overseas shareholders.
But what Mr Turnbull said on Sunday night is an example of how their economic plan is unravelling. He promised on Sunday night in that debate there would be no changes after the election to superannuation. Yet his right-hand man, his numbers man, Senator Sinodinos, has said in the last 24 hours that the party room could well change superannuation measures after the election. Who is telling the truth? Is it the case that the Government believes can have one economic plan before an election and another economic plan after the election? Why is it that Mr Turnbull and his team think it's possible to make one set of election promises on superannuation before an election and then say by the way we may well renegotiate what we said on superannuation after the election? If they're not telling the truth about their plans on superannuation, what else is it they're prepared to change after the election? Is it a 15% GST? Is it more cuts to hospitals and schools? Is it the revival of the state income taxes that would allow double taxation on every working Australian? Mr Turnbull needs to come clean. Who is telling the truth? What is going to change? And why are they upending superannuation arrangements which are clearly retrospective?
JOURNALIST: Given that Labor is maintaining the deficit levy for a decade does that mean Labor is forecasting deficits for the next decade?
SHORTEN: We have decided that in the current circumstances in order to make Budget repair that is fair that we need to maintain that deficit levy. Hard choices have to be made. It's one of the reasons why we will not provide a $50 billion tax spend on large business. Mr Turnbull's old bank yesterday revealed, or the day before, revealed that 60% of this tax spend would go to overseas shareholders. The Australia Institute has demonstrated that $7.4 billion of Mr Turnbull's Budget spend is going to go to ANZ, Westpac, NAB and Commonwealth Bank. Australians are rightly questioning the Government's priorities. Now we see the Government saying we might change superannuation, we don't know if it's retrospective, to be fair to Julie Bishop she doesn't even know what the policy is, at least she is being honest about it, because clearly Mr Turnbull said on Sunday night no changes to superannu ation. Now we see a whole raft of backbench revolt, Senator Sinodinos sent out with a fire hose to calm down the angry troops, and he says well, we will renegotiate it afterwards in the party room.
Australian superannuation should not be a political football between different factions of the Liberal Party. Mr Turnbull should get the message. Please, Mr Turnbull, do not upend superannuation arrangements. People don't want surprises in superannuation. And, furthermore, if they make these changes in superannuation under pressure from their backbench after an election which we are not guaranteed of, what other cuts will they have to implement to make up for the hole in their expenditure which they do by reversing superannuation change. And now we have the spectacle of the Treasurer throwing around his usual sort of angry comments about the Opposition. Today we are here talking about climate change. You can't have an economic plan for Australia if you don't have a plan for climate change. If you don't have a plan for renewable energy and the jobs that go with it.
JOURNALIST: Have you costed the policy you are announcing today and what is it?
SHORTEN: In terms of our commitment, in terms of Commonwealth electricity use in the next number of years to 2030, it was the Government's own report by Dick Warburton which said that renewable energy forces downward pressure on prices. Also, when you have a look at the remarkable technology we see behind us, the people we have just had the privilege to meet , they're great Australians and they're modest Australians. They're winning world records for improving the utility and the efficiency, the conversion of sunlight into energy, so there will be no net cost in terms of what we're proposing.
But what I do know is that a Labor Government will create certainty in renewable energy and investment in markets so we won't have the up and down craziness of the last three years under this climate sceptic Government. I know that if you want an economic plan you have to have a plan for climate change. I also know that I lead my party and we are in lock step on taking real action on climate change. Mr Turnbull doesn't lead his party on climate change, his party leads him.
JOURNALIST: With all that money raised from the deficit levy, will it all go back towards bringing the Budget back to surplus or could it go to some of your election promises?
SHORTEN: We have made it clear that we have several priorities of equal importance. We have rigid Budget discipline and we intend to make sure we reduce debt over the next 10 years. That is an absolute priority of a Labor administration if we get elected after July 2. But what we will also do is we will drive real jobs, genuine growth through our prioritisation of education, properly funding our schools, properly funding TAFE and universities. We will also make sure that we drive real jobs and sustainable growth through nation building infrastructure, public transport as well as roads. We will make sure that our NBN is operating and the promises that are being made get kept. But we will do all of this by prioritising people first. We will be investing in industry through advanced manufacturing, through the prioritisation of renewable energy and also the sort of announcements, the real practical announcements we made up in Cairns about tourism infrastructure generating a vibrant tourism sector.
JOURNALIST: Bringing it back to Jane's original question, she did ask you if you are planning to keep the deficit levy in place for a decade, are you indeed forecasting deficits for that decade?
SHORTEN: What we will do is, closer to the election, as we promised on previous occasions, we will outline our 4-year and 10-year forecasts. We will also be governed by the principle of making sure that our saves and improvements to the Budget outweigh our spends and we will talk about this as we finish outlining all of our policies in good time before the election.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us how your superannuation policy differs from the Liberals and is there any part of theirs that you would be willing to back or indeed block in the Senate should you not get elected?
SHORTEN: Thank you. As we have seen on a lot of economic policies in the last 12 months, Labor has been leading and the Liberals have been following. But they can't even follow us properly. They seem to - this whole debate of how they're implementing their changes is just becoming messier and messier as days go on. In terms of our policies we outlined last year, we led. We said if you earn more than $250,000, that the money you have paid into your superannuation would be taxed at 30 cents rather than 15. Currently you don't get to that 30 cents tax rate until you are at $300,000. So we brought that down by $50,000. We also said in a retirement phase if you had earnings, interest, from your superannuation lump sum which was delivering you more than $75,000 a year, that you would pay a 15% rate on the earnings above $75,000. And we said this because we knew that Howard and Costello were too generous b ack in the 06-07 Budget because prior to then there had been a limit, that superannuation was never intended to be a tool where people would minimise all their taxation. But we knew that Howard and Costello had gone too far. So we said prospectively we need to make sure we rein that in and we put some markers down.
To be fair the business community knew what we were doing and they said all right, we can see it and we understand you have to make decisions which benefit the national interest, not just some people. But when Mr Turnbull blindsided, side-swiped Australia on Budget night is they hadn't consulted on superannuation changes. They junked Tony Abbott's commitment not to touch superannuation at all. And then what they've done is they've introduced a couple of measures, one in particular, is sending our tax accountants around Australia pulling out their hair. What they have said is that you have to go back to 2007 and calculate if you've paid in more than a certain amount in non-concessional payments to superannuation and now they're asking people to record what that was, and then they will have to make adjustments because the favourable tax treatment which they were previously receiving under existin g laws Mr Turnbull wants to change. Now, Mr Turnbull wasn't straight on Sunday night when he said the changes aren't retrospective. Everyone from the conservative think tank, the IPA, right through to the CPA, the peak body representing accountants say these changes are retrospective. Mr Turnbull has to explain how it will work.
I will finish on this answer, on a point which Mr Turnbull needs to explain. Australians aren't required to keep their tax records for longer than five years. Nor are superannuation funds as a general rule. For Mr Turnbull’s changes people have to go back and calculate what they've done over nine years. The tax office is getting flooded, these people don't know the superannuation system. And clearly Senator Sinodinos is picking up the jungle drums of angry Conservatives and now he's saying they may change the policies. The truth of is matter is that this Government is saying one thing before an election, they are already flagging the will do something after an election, and if you can't trust them on superannuation, what can we trust them on in any aspect of their economic plan to keep their promises.
JOURNALIST: There have been calls for an investigation into exactly what was going on with Joe Hockey's cabcharges and the alleged cover up, would you back those calls?
SHORTEN: It's up to Mr Hockey to explain what he's done.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify on the policy today, you say it's been costed, the net cost is exactly zero and is that over forward estimates as well?
SHORTEN: The Commonwealth is going to be buying electricity up to 2030, we are proposing to have our purchasing arrangements which we'll prioritise up until 2030, getting to 50 per cent of our energy consumption from renewable energy. It's called leadership.
JOURNALIST: The Reserve Bank will be meeting next week. Do you think they should raise or lower interest rates?
SHORTEN: It's up to the Reserve Bank what they do.
JOURNALIST: If you're willing to defer to their judgement there, why are you willing to pre-empt the decision of the Fair Work Commission on penalty rates when yesterday you said they will not [inaudible] Saturday penalty rates?
SHORTEN: No, I'm not pre-empting the decision. In fact, I'm entirely consistent. When you've got strong independent institutions you've got to respect that. But what I have made clear, based upon 25 years of standing up for workers' conditions, is that the evidence in this case for the reduction of penalty rates simply hasn't been made. We've got flatlining wages growth in this country. We've got mounting inequality in this country, living standards are falling. Labor put in when it was last in government a prioritisation, a sort of legislative parameter for the Fair Work Commission to consider the importance of recompensing people for unsociable hours. My basis, based on 25 years of experience, and the evidence in this case. They will make their decision but I have a very clear picture about what's happening in Australian workplaces to Australian workers.
JOURNALIST: Doesn't the [inaudible] that the Fair Work Commission won't cut Sunday penalty rates compromise the very independence of the Commission, because you are of course a potential Prime Minister here.
SHORTEN: I've in fact put in a submission opposing the reduction of penalty rates, I'm entitled to my opinion and that's the difference between me and Mr Turnbull. My opinion is to stand up for penalty rates, my opinion is to stand up for a strong safety net of Australian working conditions. The Liberals haven't had anything to say about the most recent minimum wage decision. I think it was the right decision and all considerations, $17.70 for an adult working in Australia. So my views are based upon my values, the support of my party, based upon what I think are the real lived experiences of millions of Australians who depend on the minimum wage and upon penalty rates.
JOURNALIST: How can you say there'll be no net cost on the policy today, we don't know what renewables is going to cost in 10 years?
SHORTEN: Well, I would just submit to you history and evidence. Back in 2000 barely 100 suburban rooftops had solar panels now there's 1.5 million. If you look at every examination at the startling and significant improvements in the scale and the cost of renewable energy, again I'm giving a shout out to the professors and researchers here, they are now getting 35 per cent efficiency in terms of conversion of sunlight to energy. They're not stopping at 35 per cent or 34.7 per cent. These guys and girls are going to deliver remarkable outcomes. I'm very confident when you watch the impact, the combination of our natural resources, sunlight, great researchers, and a Labor Government, all the trendline is down in terms of the cost.
JOURNALIST: So has it been costed then?
SHORTEN: In terms of what I said, everything. Warburton did a review which showed that renewable energy has a downward pressure in terms of household prices –
JOURNALIST: But some of –
SHORTEN: I just want to keep unpacking this, Tommy, I'm going to keep unpacking it and then you can sort of give me your opinion. Yesterday, we were up in Brisbane. You saw those lithium batteries, the technology is practically changing in front of our eyes and we saw the range of new technologies. I have no doubt if you look at the tipping point about investment and renewable energy I could submit to you another number which shouldn't be ignored in this debate about real action on climate change. Two million jobs have been added around the world in renewable energy jobs. One country has managed to lose nearly 3000 jobs. That's Australia. Now Australians, we've got the best in the world research here and yet we're coming towards the bottom of the world in terms of jobs, the missing link between converting our natural advantages, our scientific genius, the hard work of a lot of people, the desire by Australian families to have lower h ousehold electricity prices is a government who is going to take real action on climate change. I might take one more question.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible], and secondly will you have to amend Commonwealth procurement guidelines which state that you have to achieve [inaudible] in government contracts. Given that renewables do have a higher cost at this stage than conventional energy –
SHORTEN: Andrew, let's not twist anything here. I'm not saying that on July 3 we would move to 50 per cent, so let's not twist anything there. But let's be straight, the Victorian Government has already moved to a goal of 50 per cent. A lot of the Commonwealth services are in the ACT, they're already sourcing renewable energy. I have no doubt that when a government leads to create market certainty, regulatory certainty, I've got no doubt that if we keep talking about the success stories in which we see here, I've got no doubt that if we take real action on climate change what we're seeing is that Australia won't be left behind for the renewable energy investment wave which is surfing right through Asia and the Pacific.
Let me repeat another number if the jobs number isn't compelling enough for you. If the success of the University of New South Wales is not compelling enough for you, the technological [inaudible]. There's $2.5 trillion up for grabs in investment in the future and renewable energy. I don't want Australia to miss out on that investment. Do you know in the future we won't be arguing whether or not renewable energy is a good thing. The households of Australia are leading the public debate, a million and a half solar panel installations on Australian roofs. My concern is that if the government keeps dragging the chain, if we give this climate sceptics and the Liberals another chance to be as inactive and as confusing and as contradictory as the last three years, Australia will slip further behind. But Labor has got good policies, they're practical policies, they're well thought through and I believe they'll help p osition Australia for more jobs and real action on climate change. Thank you.