25 June 2016


SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for Queensland; Brexit.

CATHY O’TOOLE, LABOR’S CANDIDATE FOR HERBERT: Thank you very much for coming along today. It is really fantastic to have Bill Shorten here back in Townsville as we move into the last week of the campaign, and of course Bill made a strong commitment to regional Queensland and Townsville as the largest city in northern Australia by starting the campaign here in Townsville. The people of Townsville have welcomed Bill here several times during this campaign. It is very clear to people here that Labor has a very strong vision for our community that includes job creation, caring for the reef, ensuring that our young people have the best opportunities for apprenticeships, our older workers can get back into work. Our community under a Labor Government lead by Bill Shorten will grow and thrive. That is why it gives me great pleasure to welcome Bill to speak with you this morning.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody and it's great to be back in Townsville. I think over the course of this campaign I’ve spent six or seven nights up in Townsville and indeed even more in regional Queensland. I've chosen to do that because Labor has got positive plans for Queensland, and it's my pleasure, amongst my opening remarks today, to launch Labor's Positive Policies for Queensland. We've got a plan, in particular, when I think about regional Queensland and Townsville, we have a plan for jobs. We've made it clear that we want to see local jobs in regional Queensland and in Queensland generally. That we've got a plan to lift living standards. It's Labor who's been leading the agenda this year on jobs in Queensland. Our commitment to Cross River Rail in Brisbane. Our commitment to the Northern Australian Tourism Infrastructure Fund. Our commitment to the Townsville Stadium.

Now, on top of this, we're also very committed to making sure that the workforce of the future gets the best possible skills. That's why we're offering the best-funded plan for Queensland TAFE, for Queensland universities, and of course for Queensland schools. And as part of our Positive Plans for Queensland, we're also very committed to ensuring that we've got the best possible healthcare system - a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. We've also made it clear that, in Queensland, we want Queensland women to get equal treatment to Queensland men. That's why we're making sure we've got policies which empower their participation in the workforce. When women are treated equally in the workforce, you've got a much better, productive workforce. So when you look at the range of policies that Labor's offering Queensland - jobs, education, Medicare, investment in infrastructure, investment in roads, investment in rail and, of course, investment in the National Broadband Network, first-class technology - then what we see is a positive plan for Queensland's future.

I might also add that today, Labor is talking about the Made in Australia campaign, which we intend to drive if we are elected. We believe that Made in Australia is the only three word slogan that Australians should hear in the next three years. On the demand side, we're going to put more money into improving the promotion of Australian exports throughout the world, because we think that the Australian brand is a brand not only that we can be proud of, that carries value in the global community. On the supply side, we want to make sure that Made in Australia really means something to Australians. That's why we're backing Australian apprenticeship positions. That's why we're backing the Australian steel industry, and in particular, the rescue package for Arrium steel. That is why we believe in local content. Local content in Commonwealth taxpayer-funded projects, and local content when contracts are allocated in region al Queensland, to make sure that locals get their fair share.

When we say Made in Australia, what we also mean is overdue, major reform of our visa system. Currently, there are a million people in Australia who have got visa work - visas which give them work rights. We want to make sure these people are not being exploited and that their presence doesn't mean that Australians are missing out.  When you realise that there's over one million Australians who are underemployed and regularly wish they had more work, and 730,000 Australians out of work, and that we've got discouraged job seekers who've dropped out of the job market, we need to make sure that our visa program is dealing with the needs of shortages in the workforce, but not denying Australians an opportunity.

We're also making it clear that, to have Made in Australia mean something, we need the best technology possible. That's why a first-rate NBN is fundamental to making sure that we can make things in Australia. It reflects, also, our commitment to advanced manufacturing – in particular, the pursuit of new industries, not limited to tourism and renewable energy, but certainly we see them as the focus of new industry growth right throughout Queensland and, indeed, Australia.

So there you have it. We have positive plans for Queensland. And we're also fundamentally committed to making sure that Made in Australia actually means something in the future of this country. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: You’re wanting wavering voters to be angry about Medicare and about jobs, but aren’t they more likely to be more angry and more anxious about the vote we've seen in the UK with Brexit, and does that risk sucking all the oxygen out of your campaign?

SHORTEN: I think the major lesson of the Brexit outcome in the United Kingdom is the need to elect a government that can deliver stability and deliver unity. One thing we know about Mr Turnbull's Liberals is they are a very divided party. One thing we can be sure about is that the temporary suspension of hostilities between the Abbott wing and the Turnbull wing of the Liberal Party will be back out on full display in the days after July 3rd. Only Labor can deliver both stability and unity. We know that Mr Turnbull, if he is elected, will have to spend most of his time wrangling a right wing of his political party who didn't want him there in the first place, and are determined to bend Mr Turnbull to the will of the right wing of the Liberal Party.

The lesson in the United Kingdom is that where you have a divided conservative government, where you have one wing of the conservative party trying to placate the more right wing of the Conservative Party, you just get disunity. We've even seen the problems in the Australian Liberal Party emerging even before the end of this election. You've got Tony Abbott contradicting Malcolm Turnbull about the use of the word "invasion" as a description of settlement in Australia. You've got Corey Bernardi this week basically calling his boss a liar. We see Mr Malcolm Turnbull so hostage to divisive elements in his party, he cannot even propose binding his Cabinet Ministers – his praetorian guard of Government – to the outcome of a plebiscite, where he wishes to spend $160 million of taxpayer money, and he doesn't even have the strength to be able to convince his party to agree to that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, why did you decide to hold a second campaign launch in Brisbane tomorrow, and how much of that decision was to try and take away from the Coalition's official campaign launch in Sydney?

SHORTEN: Brisbane's a very important city. Queensland's a very important state. There's nothing which says that you can only launch a campaign in one state. I think if you find what we've been doing, we've been launching our policies, our positive policies, all over Australia. I'm as committed to Brisbane as I am to Sydney. I'm as committed to the regions of Queensland as I am to any other regions. The fact of the matter is that Queensland needs a government which is united and stable. The truth of the matter is that, if Mr Turnbull gets re-elected, one thing we are guaranteed is disunity.

I'm looking forward to seeing the uncomfortable photos of the papered-over reconciliation between Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull tomorrow. Whatever the handshake does, we will know what they're thinking behind that. Each doesn't respect the other. You've got poor old Mr Turnbull - he knows that, on this marriage equality plebiscite, it's not the right way to go. But what we are seeing is the same thing we saw in the United Kingdom - David Cameron didn't want the referendum about leaving Europe, but he was forced to do it by the right wing of his party. In Australia, we've got Malcolm Turnbull - he doesn't believe in a plebiscite on marriage equality. He doesn't even want it to bind his party members. He's being forced to do it by the right wing of his party. The parallels are interesting, and the parallels for me are this - not even the substance of the issue, they're quite distinct, but it's a method of Mr Turnbull's leadership. He is a weak man beholden to the right wing of his party. The disunity that that represents in the Liberal Party is not a risk worth taking for the Australian people. I've seen first hand what disunity can do to a government, and I know that Australians should not take the risk of re-electing a Liberal Government, because the one thing they guarantee Australians is disunity in their ranks.

JOURNALIST: Haven't you lost the argument now on company tax cuts, because they provide an economic stimulus which will be needed in these times of uncertain economic times after the Brexit vote?

SHORTEN: No, not at all. I think the fact that Mr Turnbull very rarely even talks about his corporate tax giveaway of $50 billion shows that he knows what a fundamental economic mistake he's made. We know, again, this is the classic sign of Turnbull weakness. We know he wanted the 15 per cent GST. He sent poor old Mike Baird and Scott Morrison out to argue for it. And then he ran away from the battle because he didn't have the ticker to even run the case for the 15 per cent GST. Now he's run up the flagpole, handing away $50 billion out of our budget, and no replacement revenue. It's such a disastrous policy, it's breathtaking. It'll be paying overseas companies and overseas shareholders by increasing their profits and reducing our budget revenue. What that means is that Mr Turnbull is going to pay to give multinationals, big banks, mining companies a tax cut, and he's going to pay for th at by increasing the cost of Medicare, by increasing the cost to individuals and healthcare, by under-funding our schools and our hospitals. What we need at the moment in the global economy is we need stability. We don't need a $50 billion corporate tax giveaway. What we need is a skilled workforce. What we need is a healthy workforce. Because that guarantees a productive workforce in changing economic times. Colin. Sorry, I'll come to you next.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about some of the major banks suspending their foreign exchange activities, leaving some Australian travellers stranded overseas with no money. I mean, it's a free market, after all. Should they be allowed to do that?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, let me talk about our flexible exchange rate. The reason we have a flexible exchange rate, a floating exchange rate is that it can cope with variations in market sentiment. It can cope with events around the world. Our floating exchange rate is doing exactly why we brought the floating exchange rate to do. It's a shock absorber for economic and stock market turbulence.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, [inaudible] the JCU is actually asking for $60 million from the next Federal Government. If Labor forms government, would you consider putting in that extra $30 million that's needed to get it off the ground?

SHORTEN: Well, what we've said is what we'll commit to, and nothing more. But what I can reassure people about higher education is that James Cook University's position is going to be a heck of a lot healthier if Labor get elected on July 2. We are not going ahead with 20 per cent cuts to university funding. We've put in a floor of minimum student guaranteed funding for each student. What that means is that the university, rather than try to have to bail out the massive, smashing cuts of Mr Turnbull in higher education, because we've provided that stability and continuity of income, it may well mean they can find alternative sources for income other than just trying to rely on ramping up student fees.

JOURNALIST: Isn't the lesson from Brexit that it was mostly Labour people in post-industrial towns who voted to leave? They've had enough of elites - they feel as though they're not being heard and their towns are being overtaken by immigration and isn't that, perhaps, what's fuelling the protest vote, a third-party vote in this country?

SHORTEN: I don't quite compare the Australian political circumstance to the United Kingdom. But what I do recognise is that the lesson for me in Brexit is that you have a disunited, conservative government, a divided conservative government you will get uncertain economic outcomes. And voters have rejected the disunity of that conservative coalition government. What we also recognise is that our economic plan deals with some of the issues which go to the heart of your question. Mr Turnbull is not proposing inclusive growth. He's proposing tax cuts for the top end of town. He's proposing tax cuts for the elites. Instead, what we want to do is properly fund the safety net of our healthcare system. We want to make sure that all schools in rich and poor suburbs alike, that the kids get the same opportunity. That's why it's so important to have a strong minimum wage and penalty rates to make sure that people, working-class and middle-class families, have a reasonable set of income and they can make decisions. It's why our decisions to defend family payments underneath $100,000 are exactly the right way to go. Divided societies create economically uncertain outcomes. Mr Turnbull can only be trusted to divide his own party and, indeed, to have a divided society. 

JOURNALIST: There's a lot of mixed results around mixed polling around how Labor is tracking in marginal seats. I know you won't be sharing internal polling with us, but can I ask you two quite specific questions on your momentum at the moment? Do you believe you can still win? And do you expect to win?

SHORTEN: I believe that Labor can win this election. I believe that our arguments about funding Medicare properly, not going through with the massive cuts of the Turnbull Government - I think that issue is biting. I think our commitment not to go ahead with a $50 billion tax cut for large corporations but, instead, prioritise the educational outcomes of Australians - I think that issue is biting. I think our commitment to a first-rate NBN, I think people are sick and tired of Malcolm Turnbull flogging them second-rate technology. The long-buffering nightmare of the Turnbull era could well be at an end if we get elected. I also know that when it comes to climate change, that Australians don't want to see a government put off the hard decisions. And indeed, they want us to deal with those issues. I think that when you look at the range of issues we offer right to what we're saying today about Made in Australia - I think there's a lot of blue-collar working-class and middle-class families who are sick of seeing all of our jobs being exported overseas, who are greatly sceptical that there aren't rorts in some aspects of our visa system. And they want a government who's on their side. Our proposition that we're on the side of middle-class and working-class families, I think, resonates very well. In terms of my expectation, what I promise you is this. Every minute of every day up to the election, I will keep promoting our positive plans for Queensland, and for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Jeremy Corbyn bears some responsibility for not working the base of those working-class and middle-class families, as you called them, towards a Remain vote?

SHORTEN: I think that the principal responsibility goes to a divided government. David Cameron never wanted to have this referendum. But he couldn't even lead his own party to that conclusion. What we saw there was David Cameron hostage to the right wing of his political party, compromising his own beliefs, providing weak leadership - does sounds familiar, doesn't it? What we then see is the outcomes which have happened. What I can promise Australians is that we are united in Labor, and we will deliver stable government. Mr Turnbull just says, because there's been an upset, you should vote for him. The problem is, the nature of the upset that we've seen arises out of weak leadership and a divided government. Labor is not divided. Mr Turnbull's party is divided. Full stop. 

One more question, thanks.

JOURNALIST: Your plans for negative gearing - will that push up rents for those families who are struggling already?

SHORTEN: No, it won't. 

One more question.

JOURNALIST: Can you win government without the seat Herbert, Mr Shorten?

SHORTEN: I want to be in government, but I want to win the seat of Herbert. 

JOURNALIST: Can you do both?

SHORTEN: Labor's got the best candidate in Herbert, Cathy O'Toole. We were on the scene of the Townsville Stadium decision long before the Liberals were dragged kicking and screaming to it. You won't see anything from the Liberal Party about standing up to rorts in 457 visas. Cathy O'Toole wants a first class NBN. And I guess the other thing which I can say about our party, which you can't say about their party, be it in Herbert or any other seat, is that we are not relying on the preferences of One Nation to get elected.

Another thing that came out of the Brexit result is that you saw that the political debate in that country has gone more and more to the extremes. What worries me is that it is clear that if Mr Turnbull is any hope to retain a range of seats in the government column, he is going to rely upon the votes of more extreme views, which are not healthy for this Australian democracy. I will govern this country from the centre of Australia. I will work with all groups, but I will work not for any particular group. I will include, I will not exclude. Mr Turnbull, the only formula whereby he can win this election is if parties like One Nation give him the preferences that allow him to govern, and the problem with Mr Turnbull getting another chance at government is we've already seen him surrender his values and his views on climate change, on marriage equality. We see that elements of the conservatives within his party giving him orders and ins tructions - what we see is a weak prime minister hostage to the right wing of his party, hostage to the political fortunes of even more right-wing parties outside his government.

That is why, in Herbert, in Dobell and a range of other seats, just vote Labor, because we will give you stability and unity - something which Australia sorely needs. 

Thank you, everybody. See you a bit later.