Bill's Transcripts

Radio: ABC Darwin - Superannuation to pay for HECs; Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals 15 per cent GST






SUBJECT/S: Superannuation to pay for HECs; Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals 15 per cent GST; Fuel Prices; Euthanasia


ADAM STEER, HOST: Bill Shorten, good morning to you. Welcome to the Top End.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be here, good morning.


STEER: Before we get to the GST, Western Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back wants university students to be able to pay back their HECS debt with their super. Would Labor support that idea?


SHORTEN: I don't think so. The reason why is we want people to have their superannuation savings for their retirement and not used while people - for other purposes. I think Joe Hockey famously suggested last year that people could raid their super for their home loans and I think the expert advice was that would undermine the retirement savings nest egg. I think if this Senator's trying to do something about the cost of university and students, there are other solutions. I think the Turnbull Liberal National Government should drop their rampant deregulation of university fees. They should restore the funding cuts they've made. What's happened is there's a big debate about can kids afford to go to university. I fundamentally think kids should get to university based on their deep thinking and hard work, not deep pockets. Labor's come up with a proposition which would restore some of the funding cuts the Liberals have made without rampant deregulation. I think there's other ways to solve the challenge of encouraging working class and middle class kids and mature age students going to uni other than raiding superannuation.


STEER: But wouldn't it help ease the burden at a time when they are trying to pay a mortgage and having young families if they didn't have that HECS which can be a considerable amount of money out of your fortnightly or weekly pay.
SHORTEN: Listen, you're right about the HECS debt - it's an important issue. What's the problem we are trying to solve here? We are trying to keep downward pressure on the price of going to university. Rather than raid someone's superannuation, I'm more interested in making sure that we don't muck up the university fee system to begin with by putting upward pressure on fees. The Liberals are still pressuring the Abbott agenda on higher education, they've just delayed it by one year. But they have already banked their very tough cuts to university funding in their Budget numbers going forward. So I just don't see why young people should have to bear the burden by going into their superannuation when there are smarter ways to help fund our university system and keep downward pressure on the price of going to university.

This idea has only come out this morning. Why are you dismissing it so quickly?


SHORTEN: Well no, I think when you asked me the question, I said I don't believe so and I've explained to you because I've been following higher education all my life. My mum was a university teacher after she had been a teacher in the school system. So I was sort of a university kid. I went to kinder at uni. I'm interested in how universities are funded because I want people from all walks of life to be able to have the chance to better themselves. So, I'm very, very focused on how we make sure that people from the regions, mature age students seeking to retrain and kids from modest backgrounds get to go to university - I just don't think raiding your superannuation is the right answer at first blush. I mean it's an initial idea but I think the real challenge here is the cost of going to university and the Federal Liberal government is still proposing cuts to university funding, rampant deregulation. I think if we want to properly fund our university system like other countries do in the world, you know, we can do it by having - making multinationals pay their fair share of taxation. I don't see why every answer that the Libs have is putting the challenge back on to young people.


STEER: Let's go back to the GST, your tour around Australia talking about the 15 per cent increase has been described as some as a scare campaign and Labor have run out of ideas and turned all negative?


SHORTEN: No, completely wrong. The truth is that putting a 15 per cent GST on everything is scary. Look at Defence families, young Defence families up here in the Territory. They've got a fixed income, they've had little wages growth and yet now they have got the prospect, and the Liberals are debating having a 15 per cent GST. Now, I've entered that debate and the Labor Party has entered the debate but we've entered it on the side of the ordinary people. We will not support a 15 per cent GST.


STEER: But aren't you unnecessarily alarming people by stating as fact that the Government is going to put up the GST when it says it hasn't made a decision?


SHORTEN: Well, we can remove any sense of alarm by the government ruling it out. But the truth is they haven't ruled it out. So I think it is legitimate if the Government says that they're considering a 15 per cent as part of tax reform, Malcolm Turnbull stood up in Parliament and said "it can all be compensated for it's all very" – you know, it's a good idea. Well yeah, I am going to do my job and say people want to know – my job is to explain where the Labor Party stands. We think that idea of getting working families, working people, single people - you don't have to be in a family to have to pay 15 per cent on everything is effectively taking from them their income and Scott Morrison was ventilating, he's the Treasurer, ventilating this idea that we give tax cuts to wealthy Australian companies. It's all a matter or priority and with the Labor party we're true to our values, we think if ordinary people were getting ahead, if cost of living pressures are being - There's pressure on them to keep it down, we think we're doing our job properly.

STEER: Why it is irresponsible to raise the GST though? States need more revenue don't they? This is what some of the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles told me earlier in the week:

Adam Giles: I don't support an increase in tax, I do know that we need more money to pay for health into the future. If it's just about politics I'm not interested. If it's about working out ways that we can improve levels of health in the Northern Territory, I'm a supporter. To me the case hasn't been put to why the GST should increase, I think Canberra talked about an increase but they haven’t sold it properly yet.

STEER: The states do have a revenue problem, so if it’s not raising the GST, even if you did - you ruled out, I think your Shadow Treasure ruled even considering raising the GST at 12.5 per cent earlier in the week. If it's not the GST where are you going to raise the money from?

SHORTEN: Well I'll answer that but it’s just a little point in what Adam Giles said. Adam Giles said Canberra haven’t put the case and if Canberra what to talk about it, that confirms that Labor's on the right track. The Canberra Government, lead by Malcolm Turnbull and LNP are talking about a GST. Now, in terms of where we find alternative income, the problem which we are trying to solve is that the Abbott Government, now the Turnbull Government made massive cuts contrary to their election promises to health and education, massive cuts schools, hospitals. So, having taking the States and the Territory Government's effectively hostage by cutting their money, their now trying to get the Premiers and Chief Ministers to look at, you know, to become a reluctant cheer squad for the GST. There are alternatives, multinationals, global multinationals companies in my opinion and I think supported by the evidence are not paying their fair share of tax in Australia. So, using best practise standards from around the world I think we can collect more revenue from them to pay their fair share, that's who I am. I'd rather start with a wealthiest companies in the world than a family in Palmerston to make up the challenge of funding schools and hospitals. We've also said that there is superannuation tax concessions which are just excessively generous. A tax concession means that someone who has millions of dollars already in their superannuation, millions already, can earn income from that lump sum could be tens and tens of thousands of dollars, $100 000 and pay no income. Yet, you know, the technicians who work at the ABC, people working in Katherine looking after our welfare or indeed service people, you know, defending Australia. They have to pay their marginal rate of taxation, so we want to clamp down on the excessively generous tax concession at the top end, we've also said bluntly that we think that if you want to help fund health and other measures look at the tobacco excise rather than asking everyone to pay 15 per cent on everything. There are alternatives out there, plus there’s also the challenge to cut government waste. You know, it's not just a matter of raising taxes and we've said that the government propositions where they're paying billions of dollars, or hundreds of millions of dollars to large polluters in terms of climate change, we think that is the wrong way to spend government money.

STEER: The Finance Minister has said again this morning that any proposal will be put to the people at the next election. So won't voters be able to make up their minds then?

SHORTEN: Absolutely, and I hope the Liberal Party, The Liberal National Party are honest enough to unveil their plans for a GST at the election and we will fight that election on the GST. Labor has got sensible practical policies which don't involve working people having to pay more off of everything at the supermarket and in every aspect of their, you know, commercial interactions. Petrol, that's a hot issue in the Territory. The media, you guys have been really standing up for the Territory on it but you know that we pay a fuel excise and then you pay GST on that.

STEER: So what would a elected Labor Government do for the price of fuel? Particularly in the Northern Territory.

SHORTEN: Well it is a big issue. First of all, I accept there is a problem. You know, I'm talking anecdotally someone who drove from Canberra to Alice Springs, you know, they go via Port Augusta it's a $1.17 there.  You go up to Coober Pedy, a $1.40. The further north you go, we're seeing price, you know, I think too much profit being taken. Darwin –

STEER: So what would an elected Labor Government do?


SHORTEN: We would get the ACCC and we would encourage strongly and give the resources to the ACCC to keep on the hammer of petrol companies. As has been observed, the terminal gate prices are 96, 98 cents, I think it’s 96 cents a litre when it leaves the terminal. But you paying $1.28 here, so the ACCC, and they have had successes in the past, and there was a lot of pressure and indeed yourself and others were campaigned on unleaded petrol, but now we see the sort of margins being reaped in diesel, so we’ve just got to keep working with the ACCC. We believe in competitive markets, I just don’t want to see the consumers – the motorists – not getting the benefits of competition.


STEER: Bill Shorten, the polls aren’t being kind to you at the moment, is your only hope for victory at the next election if Malcolm Turnbull does raise the GST?

SHORTEN: The next election will be decided by 15 million Australians and they’re going to weigh up whose got the best fair dinkum policies. I’ll fight the election on Australian jobs, on a fair tax system, on quality education, universal healthcare where it’s your Medicare card, not your credit card that determines the quality of health, and of course, real action on climate chance. Australians will decide whose got the best plan for the future in the next 10 years. I’m confident that at the election, when people see our sensible policies dealing with the real issues, which get Australia going, then we are very competitive.

STEER: What do you mean fully funded health policies?

SHORTEN: Well, in terms of our health care, we’re seeing at the moment, and I’ll be at Western Pathology today, we’re seeing the Government taking away money for bulk-billing incentives for people who take pathology tests. Put another way, we’re concerned that the Turnbull-Liberal Government’s proposals to cut the bulk-billing incentives will mean that patients seeking blood tests are, for really important issues, fundamental issues; cancer diagnosis, chronic disease such as diabetes, for pap smears, they’re going to have to pay a co-payment or a new charge when they are getting these basic tests. We think that universal health care is not some sort of welfare policy, but it actually makes Australia a more efficient and successful nation. In America, where they don’t have the universal Medicare schemes that we have in Australia, employers have to pay the health insurance policies of their employees – it’s much more expensive. We’ve got a good system so I think that’s a fundamental driver of Australian success.

STEER: Very briefly, Bill Shorten, because I do know you have to go, we’ve got a question on the text 0487 991 057 – what’s your position on euthanasia?

SHORTEN: I believe it should be left to the patient and the doctor to work through the best form of pain management. My mother passed away April of 2014 – she suffered from the chronic pain and she had a number of bones in her spine, and they were sort of basically fused so they deteriorated. And I was worried about this question of euthanasia. Mum was very clear, she was a very learned person, smart person, she said honey, let me make the decision about my pain with my doctor, and you know for all the best will in the world, you’re my son and you love me, just let the patient and the doctor sort it out together. And I think that system, you know I know there are some people who say it should be really allowed, and there are others who think it’s terrible. I don’t think it’s terrible. But I do think it’s a highly personal choice.

STEER: So you would support it if it was highly regulated?

SHORTEN: I like the AMA guidelines on this. I worry about trying to regulate things because when your regulate something, then you open up a debate about everything that’s not specifically in the regulation, so perhaps I don’t quite agree with getting into the highly regulated state, But I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think it shouldn’t be left to doctors and patients and because I think that’s right, and I think that a lot of other people need to stay out of it.

STEER: Bill Shorten, thank you for your time today.

SHORTEN: Thanks very much