MONDAY, 7 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your Child. Our Future’ plan for Australian education; Marriage equality; Bass link interconnector; Liberals’ dirty deals with the Greens.
BRIAN MITCHELL, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LYONS: Good afternoon everybody, thank you for your patience. We’re here today with Bill Shorten at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School in Deloraine to talk about Your Child. Our Future. This is the program for Labor for the next election, where every child, no matter where they live, no matter what school they go to; catholic, independent, public will see their education improve. So for the better education program for the next election, the only choice is a Labor vote to make sure that your children have the best education possible. Here’s Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Brian. It's fantastic to be in Deloraine. I encourage all Australians to visit Deloraine at some point, because It's one of those Tasmanian heartland towns which is actually a slice of Australia many of us think no longer exists. So Deloraine is a great community to raise a family, but it’s important whether you live in the big cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide or a smaller country town like Deloraine, that our children, no matter what their post code, no matter what the wealth of their parents, that they get the best start in life. That's why Labor's policy, Your Child. Our Future. is all about making sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity. Parents and teachers work hard to give our kids the best start in life and they deserve a National Government in Canberra who is as committed to the future of our children as parents are and teachers are. Labor has a fully funded policy which will have the goal of making sure that by 2025, within the next 10 years, Australian educational outcomes are amongst the top five in the world. By 2020, if we are successful at the next election, our aim is to see 95 in every 100 children completing Year 12. Labor is committed to education and giving every child every opportunity in every school, but we also see an education policy as being an economic policy. Labor has economic plans to lift jobs, to have fairer taxation, to tackle education and healthcare. By contrast what we've seen in recent days is the amazing spectacle of the Liberal National Party Coalition ripping itself to bits. There is a civil war going on in the Liberal Party and we see great division, dysfunction and chaos. It seems that the Liberal Party is spending all their energy fighting each other, the Labor Party is spending all our energy coming up with plans for the future of Australia. Malcolm Turnbull promised new economic leadership but it's really just more of the same, fighting with Tony Abbott, Tony Abbott fighting with Malcolm Turnbull. We’ve got the Treasurer Scott Morrison in witness protection. We have the Attorney-General being overruled on his job and we have the right-wing of the Liberal Party not even allowing Malcolm Turnbull to go for a walk in Sydney on Saturday night. The Liberal Party need to get their act together because Australia deserves better and the Labor Party is ready to offer a better plan for Australia at the next election. Happy to take questions on education or any other matter along with Brian.
JOURNALIST: Do you think a double dissolution election is more likely after Senator Brandis's comments on same-sex marriage plebiscite timing?
SHORTEN: Well there’s a lot in that question. First of all, Malcolm Turnbull is afraid of bringing down a budget. Labor will welcome an election whenever it’s called. What Australians want is they want to see their Government getting on with business. This speculation about an election date is Malcolm Turnbull's way of drawing people’s attention away from the fact they don't have a plan for Australians. Now when we saw the Attorney-General, the Attorney General is the chief law Minister of Australia, he makes it clear that under one Liberal plan there’ll be a plebiscite, a taxpayer-funded opinion poll which doesn't bind the Liberal Party. He says this dreamed up plan by Tony Abbott to kick marriage equality down the road into the future, he says on Sunday morning, ‘absolutely, it will happen before the end of the year’. Then you have Malcolm Turnbull by afternoon tea time rushing out, his people rushing out to contradict their Attorney-General from Sunday morning. If the Liberal Party and Mr Turnbull can't maintain a policy for more than six hours, what chance have they got of introducing fairer taxes, prioritising Australian jobs, making sure that we’ve got a first-world hospital system, looking after our kids and properly funding schools?
JOURNALIST: So is a double dissolution election more likely then?
SHORTEN: Listen, you're asking me to read Malcolm Turnbull's mind. I don't even think Malcolm Turnbull knows his own mind from morning to afternoon.
JOURNALIST: How is your education policy going to help boost retention rates in year 11, particularly in Tasmania when we're well below the national average still?
SHORTEN: Great question. Labor's education policies can simply be summed up as needs-based funding. By needs-based fund, what we do is we've studied what makes a great school. There was a fellow called David Gonski, he and a committee of experts over recent years looked at what are the resources which great schools have and then our policy is needs-based which means that the Federal Government wants to make sure that over time, working co-operatively with states, working co-operatively with the Catholic Education Commission and non-Government sector, that we will deliver the right resources which have been identified by experts as giving kids the best chance. So, when you talk about Tasmania, Tasmanian schools have got plenty of challenges, not just Government schools, but non-Government schools and what they need to do is if you're in a smaller community, or if you have some distance to go, or if you've got more children from poorer backgrounds, we want to make sure that those schools get the same resources as the wealthy schools. We want to make sure every child in every school gets every opportunity. Now the Labor Party has cleared room in our Budget because it's important that you have Budget repair that is fair. That's why we're looking at some of the superannuation tax concessions that the super wealthy enjoy and say perhaps rather than these people, who already have millions of dollars in superannuation don't need more taxpayer support, why not spend it on a school like this one at Deloraine. We've also said that we want multinationals to pay their fair share of tax. I'm sure I speak for the great body of Australian people who are frustrated when we see tech giants and other companies treating our taxation system as a doormat as they shuffle billions of dollars around the world to help minimise their tax profile in Australia. We want to crack down on multinationals so that every school in Australia and the parent of every child in Australian schools know that they've got a Government who's prioritising them, not multinationals or expensive loopholes in our tax system.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) don't agree with a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, is it better one be held soon as possible rather than be put off to next year?
SHORTEN: Well, we think the quickest way to have marriage equality would be to have a vote in Parliament next week. I'm going to let Malcolm Turnbull into a secret. Every MP is turning up to Parliament next week. We could have a conscience vote in the House of Representatives next week. See, there are some Australians who are definitely against marriage equality, I get that and respect that at one level but many other Australians want marriage equality and there's also a lot of Australians who can live with marriage equality and actually think there's a lot of other issues which are more important. You've got to ask yourself why we're even having a plebiscite at all. It's a $160 million scheme dreamed up by Tony Abbott and some of the anti-marriage equality brigade to sort of delay having a vote in Parliament on marriage equality. Now the reason why they do that is that they want to delay it. Malcolm Turnbull, before he became Prime Minister was really clear, the old Malcolm Turnbull, if I can call him that, not the new Malcolm Turnbull, the old Malcolm Turnbull said of course we should just have a vote in Parliament, he was very clear. Now, I happen to agree with that. Let's have a conscience vote of our members of Parliament. Why do we need to waste $160 million on a plan devised by the opponents of marriage equality? Furthermore, if you look at international experience, when you've had these big divisive plebiscites or referendums, you've seen a lot of pretty ugly arguments raised. Now, I don't think it is healthy to have that big nasty public debate when in fact we can have it in the confines of Parliament. Parliament was created to debate the issues representing the people of Australia. We could get on and do this and get on to other issues as soon as possible. In the event that Malcolm Turnbull is too scared of the right-wing of the Liberal Party and personally I know he agrees with me, to be fair with him, he just hasn't got the strength to take on his political party which he says he leads, at the next election if you vote Labor, we will introduce a bill for marriage equality within 100 days. People will still have a conscience vote. But I just think we should get on with it because there is plenty else happening in this country. We need to have a fair taxation system. Our young people aren't able in many cases to buy into the housing market. I want to improve the opportunities for Australians who are thrown out of work to be retrained. I want to make sure that we can reduce waiting times in the emergency wards of our hospitals. I'd just say to Mr Turnbull, just show some leadership, show some consistency with what you used to think and then I think this country can get on with business.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor fund a second Bass link interconnector?
SHORTEN: Good issue to raise. I've spoken with Julie Collins, she’s going to have a conversation and ask for a briefing from the State Government about what is going on with energy in this state. Brian has been briefing me on some of the issues in terms of storage levels and dams, what’s happening with the first Basslink. In the first instance it's a State issue, but Julie Collins is going to raise these matters and ask for a briefing from the Tasmanian Government. I think the Tasmanian Government would be well advised to talk to us because if you talk to the Liberal Party in Canberra, all they can do is argue about who is right and who is wrong about the Abbott-Turnbull wars. So we will certainly talk to Will Hodgman. I also just have to say Tasmania is one of the powerhouses of renewable energy in this country. For the most part of the last 900 days, we have seen complete inaction about supporting renewable energy in this nation from the Liberal Government. And so I think that’s something which Will Hodgman needs to factor into his considerations and discussions with Julie Collins.
JOURNALIST: Our State Government (inaudible).
SHORTEN: Oh well first thing’s first, we need to see what Will Hodgman says to Julie Collins in the briefing. But I do think that renewable energy is part of our energy mix of the future. Only Labor has a policy to promote and prioritise renewable energy in this country.
JOURNALIST: Our State Government is spending $44 million extending schools to Year 12. Do you think that will lift our completion rates to 95 per cent?
SHORTEN: The best way to lift completion rates is vote Labor at the next election. We’re the only party who has got fully costed polices to make sure that every school in Tasmania gets the resources it deserves.
JOURNALIST: Is there any way the Government could use the ABCC legislation as an early election trigger if they don’t put it to the Senate next week?
SHORTEN: I think the Liberals have got caught with their hand in the cookie jar doing a dirty deal with the Liberals here – sorry with the Greens. What you have is that the Greens are very much against this legislation. The Liberals are very much for it. The Liberal Party has banged on in Parliament and said we need this legislation for Australia. But it appears that because they have done a deal with the Greens about changing the voting system in the Senate, all of a sudden the steam, you know, the energy which the Liberal Party had for having this legislation pass, they have gone on a go-slow. So I don't trust the Liberals. I don't know what they are up to with their games with the Greens. What I do know is that in Australia, if we want to have better workplace relations, we need more co-operation at work. My whole track record has been about building and fostering harmony and co-operation at work. That means that both unions and employers have to treat their employees well and unions have to recognise the ability of companies to make profits. It also makes it very important that we have a proper safety net for Australian workplace conditions. A Labor Government will not support the Liberal calls and those of the far right in the business community of slashing penalty rates. If you are worried about your penalty rates, vote Labor at the next election. Last question thank you.
JOURNALIST: Back on energy – is there a role for the Federal Government in the short-term given the crisis is already costing the State tens of millions of dollars?
SHORTEN: I think we need to get more facts into the picture – I understand some of the debate as I showed from my previous answer to your question. But when we talk about energy, I have to make this point about the ongoing chaos in the Liberal Party. I wish the Liberal Party would spend as much energy dealing with the deficit as they are dealing with each other. This latest book, 'Road to Ruin', you know, it really is a case of they all hate each other in the Liberal Party and we are seeing the whole ugly mess. I want the Liberal Party to put as much energy into Australia, Australian jobs, Australian energy, renewable energy, hospitals, schools, making sure that we have got a fair taxation system. It is not the job of the Liberal Party to be in Government just to fight each other. It is now long overdue for Malcolm Turnbull to stop the waffle, stop the in fight, show some courage, stand up and start making decisions for Australia, not just for himself and the Liberal Party. Thank you everyone.