Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: University of Canberra - Tony Abbott’s unfair changes to Higher Education; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the Petrol Tax;




SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair changes to Higher Education; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the Petrol Tax; Petrol Station Tax; Cost of living; National security legislation; Senator Nova Peris.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s great to be at the University of Canberra with my Higher Education spokesperson Senator Carr, Assistant Shadow Minister for Education Amanda Rishworth and hardworking local member Andrew Leigh. We’ve just had the chance to talk to students and staff and post-graduate researchers. It is refreshing to see the optimism which our young and our researchers commit so much of their energy and the belief in the future of this country by studying so hard. But it’s also a timely reminder that there are many secondary school students who are either starting their exams or indeed will be starting them very soon. In Victoria Year 12 students start their exams today and students, current students, researchers and prospective students and their families are really worried sick by the Abbott Government's wholesale attack on the access to higher education for Australians.

What we see is the Government is proposing, through their changes, to significantly increase university fees, making it harder for students to pay off their debt and scaring others from the contemplation of going to university. I have some NATSEM modelling done which will affect, which talks about the effect of students and I just want to share those numbers with people. A teaching student, a female teaching student now has to pay $28,000 over eight years. Under Tony Abbott's education plans, they will have to pay $96,000 and it will take on average 19 years to repay it; bad news for teachers. A female journalist which may be of interest to some of the people here, currently would pay $20,000 over 10 years. They will have to pay, under Tony Abbott, $93,000 over 22 years. Female social workers who are now studying would pay $29,000 a year, over eight and a half years, under Tony Abbott, they will probably never be able to repay the nearly $300,000 which their fees increase by.

These numbers worry real Australians. It is most important we're successful and defeat the unfair changes to higher education. And in the last couple of days we’ve seen the debate spread with Tony Abbott's talk of a GST. We have university students having to pay more fees. We’ve got a limited number of scholarships which will have to be paid for by every other student going to university. We’ve got researchers and post-graduates, post-grad doctoral students who are going to have to pay a lot more and now, if that wasn't bad enough with the increased HECS fee interest rates, now, Australian students and prospective students now face paying a GST on their extra university fees which the Abbott Government's inflicting. This is a tax upon a tax in education which is a disaster for the future of Australia and talking about a tax on the tax, before I pass to my Shadow Spokesperson for Higher Education, I just want to briefly talk about more unfolding news of this Petrol Tax ambush on Australian motorists.

On Monday Tony Abbott says we want to have a mature debate on taxation policy in Australia. He’s a leader looking for a cause and he hasn’t got a clue what he wants to do. But then on Tuesday, he says well I’m sick of the Parliament of Australia, in a sort of petulant foot-stamping manner he now says that he’s not even going to take to the Parliament increasing taxes. It is bad Government in this country when they want to increase the taxes of ordinary Australians and they don't even have the courage to go to Parliament. This is a gutless action by a gutless Government who lied before the election about increasing taxes and are now putting a new Petrol Tax on every motorist.


And today we find out that not only will motorists have to pay a Petrol Tax but there is now a Petrol Station Tax. In other words each petrol station, there is about 6,500 in Australia, will have to pay on average $800 more to collect the tax. This is a Government who on one day says they want to reduce red tape but on the next day goes out and increases taxes on small business, extra costs to collect this Petrol Tax which no-one wants and no-one asked for and Government didn't tell us. So all in all, we’ve got a Government from education to petrol putting pressure on cost of living and denying opportunity to ordinary people. I might ask my shadow Kim Carr to talk further about the progress of the Government's ill-fated, ill-conceived legislation in the Senate.


SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION: Thank you Bill. Well the Government Senators produced a Senate report yesterday and the Labor senators produced a minority report. The Government senators called on the Government to change their program because they recognised the inherent unfairness of the Government's proposals. They’ve been suggesting that there needs to be a structural adjustment fund. Only you have a structural adjustment fund when people are seriously disadvantaged by the Government's own proposals.


So for the Government now to recognise the fundamental flaws in this program goes to the heart of the problem here, the injustice of the problem and no amount of tinkering, no amount of fiddling is going to change that injustice. We today begin the debate in the Senate on these higher education bills. All the indications are that the Parliament, that is the Senate, will not support these measures. These are propositions that the Government should withdraw. Go back to the drawing board.


The Americanisation of Australia's universities, the proposition of $100,000 university degrees, the proposition that the fundamental principle of the Australian fair go, that is that if you're able to have the ability, that you have a right to expect that you can get a quality education in this country, irrespective of your parents' income, irrespective of your postcode, these are fundamental issues that the Australian parliament must defend and we are looking forward to a majority of Senators seeing that way.


JOURNALIST: What you're calling the Petrol Station Tax, what’s wrong with highly profitable multinational fuel companies having to absorb the costs of excise increases?


SHORTEN: Well first of all many petrol stations are independent and many others are franchises, run by mum and dad small businesses. This is a Government who loves to talk about small business except they just don't like to do anything for them. Go and ask the petrol station operators and proprietors of Australia how they feel about having to pay for extra systems to collect this tax which Tony Abbott never told people. Tony Abbott loves to talk about “Team Australia” and manning up. All I say is this - if you're so confident that Australians like your Petrol Tax, take it to an election, don't ambush people, don't ambush people.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Prime Minister's “Team Australia” comment last night in relation to tax reform?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, if we’re going to debate about tax reform, the power of reform is not just saying you want to have reform as if the repetition of the word reform is sufficient to get Australia going again. What the leader needs to do, what the Prime Minister needs to do is explain to us what reform he wants, rely upon the power of his proposition and champion the case. But this isn't a Government whose ever going to win a medal for bravery in reform. It is not brave or reforming to cut $80 billion from schools and hospitals in Australia and then blackmail them, blackmail the States into pushing for a GST.

Look at the reaction of Premiers, in particular the Liberal Premier in Victoria is facing an election. He wants Tony Abbott's reforms like he wants another hole in his head. This is absurd politics. Go and argue your case to the Australian people Tony Abbott, argue your case to the Parliament of Australia, don't hide behind tricky, sneaky back door manoeuvres where you hand petrol companies a potential windfall and tax Australians. If you really believe in taxing higher education, charging greater interest rates, make it harder to get there, take it to an election Tony Abbott and if you convince Australians so be it. My money is that Tony Abbott couldn't sell any reform to anyone because it is not reform, it is just unfairness Abbott style.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten have you spoken to Nova Peris this morning since these allegations have come to light?


SHORTEN: On the reports about Nova Peris, first of all I have spoken to her. She assures me there is no wrongdoing and let me say this about Nova Peris. She is a remarkable Australian. She has my support and the support of the Labor Caucus. She’s made Australians more proud to be Australians with her athletic endeavours. Perhaps less well known though, but perhaps even more significant is the contribution she’s made to the Northern Territory and to the case for a better life for indigenous Australians.


JOURNALIST: Did Senator Peris make any suggestion to you as Ato Boldon has, that the email sighted may have been altered or faked in some manner?


SHORTEN: No, these are private matters, they predate her election to the Parliament of Australia. Nova Peris has my and the Labor team's confidence.


JOURNALIST: Are you confident that there’s no more accusations to come?


SHORTEN: Well I would refer you to my previous two answers. We are confident and Nova Peris has our confidence and the Labor team is resolute about this.


JOURNALIST: Did she discuss with you possible legal action?


SHORTEN: No I’m not going to go into private conversations, but I will, for the purposes of clarity just again, will reiterate that Nova Peris is a great Australian. These matters are deeply personal. They predate her election into parliament and we think, Labor thinks that she is a very good person.


JOURNALIST: Would you support an investigation into the allegations by Athletics Australia?


SHORTEN: At the fear of again repeating myself a fifth time, I will certainly do it though; Nova Peris has our confidence.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten as someone who has faced difficult personal allegations this year, what advice have you given to Senator Peris about how to handle this?


SHORTEN: Well I think I’ve answered this question five times before hand and my answer won't change.


JOURNALIST: Just in relation to the West Australian story that the Federal Government is seeking emergency powers to target and possibly kill Australians, is that concerning to you?


SHORTEN: Well first of all in terms of national security, there’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with these debates. The Government's proposed some new ideas, we’ve said that they should go to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and that’s where they’re going to go. I’m certainly not going to pre-empt with sensationalist headlines. Our attitude is making sure that we do what is best for the national security of the country whilst preserving the liberties of Australians.


JOURNALIST: Do you see a line that shouldn't be crossed though when it comes to the ADF potentially targeting Australians?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to answer hypotheticals about national security. There is a process, the Parliament's now dealt with two sets of bills brought forward by the Government, it’s in the process of dealing I should say with the second set of bills. There’s a process whereby the Parliament functions well through its Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The best thing I can do for Australians is respecting parliamentary processes.


JOURNALIST: Just back on the issues of the fuel excise. Do you believe that the Government will get a deal with the Greens over this?


SHORTEN: I don’t know if the Government has done a deal with the Greens behind the screens, there are some smoke signals that indicate this to be the truth of the matter. Labor doesn’t know. Labor is determined to fight for cost of living, we want to keep downward pressure on cost of living. You’ve got the petrol excise being increased when they said they wouldn’t do it. You know, its cheeky of the Government to say they said they’d do it in the Budget, people didn’t get to vote on the Government after the Budget and agree on their measures. Before the election Tony Abbott said, no one made Tony Abbott make these promises, Tony Abbott perhaps more than any other politician in the modern era staked his reputation on being a politician of conviction who keeps all his promises, not just the one he selectively chooses to remember. He’s put massive pressure on cost of living, we would say to the Greens and indeed Liberal backbenchers please don’t back in Tony Abbott’s bypassing of the Parliament and reward breaking promises. Please remember there are millions of Australians facing a GP Tax, reduction in the indexation rate of pensions, facing increased cost of petrol, facing real job insecurity. It is not the job of the Government to make life harder for ordinary Australians.




SHORTEN: I’ll take the lady’s question, I’m happy to talk to you afterwards.


JOURNALIST: There’s a danger that money raised from the fuel excise will be given back to the fuel companies, is Labor prepared to swallow that?


SHORTEN: What the Abbott Government’s done is display breathtaking cynicism. Not happy with lying to Australians before the election, not happy to increase cost of living pressure on Australians, they’ve now completed the trifecta by now saying that unless Labor vote for these measures, under the sneak backdoor what that they’re putting the new excise on it means that if the Parliament doesn’t approve the Governments backdoor sabotaging operation of parliament, if the Parliament doesn’t approve increasing petrol taxes, what happens is that if the bill is not passed within 12 months the money goes to the petrol companies ad so effectively what the Abbott Government’s done, is they’ve taken the Australian motorist hostage and threatening Labor saying that unless we vote to increase petrol taxes, oil companies will get the money. Well if that happens there will be a reckoning, but the reckoning will not be paid upon the Parliament for doing its jobs standing up for Aussies, it will be the Abbott Government who is handing away millions and millions of dollars of motorists money to oil companies show don’t need it. Shame on the Government. Thanks everyone.