Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview - ABC AM - Malcolm Turnbull’s GST hike; visit to the Pacific Islands






SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s GST hike; visit to the Pacific Islands; Climate change


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The impacts of climate change will be top of the agenda during talks between Bill Shorten and Pacific Island leaders this week. The Opposition Leader will meet with Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and other foreign dignitaries, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. Well Bill Shorten joins me live on the line now from Port Moresby, Mr Shorten good morning.




BRISSENDEN: We'll get to climate change in the region shortly, but first on tax. Now you've ruled out an increase in the GST and broadening the base, something that would give the Government, under the 15 per cent that's been modelled by the PBO, an extra $65 billion in revenue. Why rule something like that out?


SHORTEN: Because where does this money come from? It comes from the pockets of working people.15 per cent every time you go to the supermarket or you pay the doctor's bill or you go to hospital. The people who pay this are the people who are going to work every day and battling to make ends meet. I don't believe that reforming this country should have to be paid for by people paying extra in their GST. I think there are other ways to do the business of making this nation function better, without putting the bill on a lot of Australians who already don't have a lot of spare money to put into savings. And so once you increase the amount of money that is being paid for the costs of living and the ordinary items of life, it just puts greater strain on them.


BRISSENDEN: This 15 per cent as modelled by the Parliamentary Budget Office though will provide compensation and income tax cuts to people.


SHORTEN: Let's see the detail of that Michael, I'm not about to fall for a bit of froth and hype. The truth of the matter is if the Government were serious about increasing revenue - and remember for two years the Liberals have said there's not a revenue problem - but if they were serious about doing it why not make multinationals pay their fair share? Why not tackle some of the unfair concessions which the very top earners in society get? I mean at the moment in Australia we have a system where if you're in the top 2 or 3 per cent of tax earners you can put a lot of your income into tax privileged categories and actually pay less tax proportionately than a lot of other people.


BRISSENDEN: Under this plan though would raise $65 billion. Getting tough on corporate tax avoidance won't go anywhere near that, will it?


SHORTEN: Michael, it's all about priorities isn't it? What I don't understand is why the Government simply hasn't bothered to articulate a proper plan for multinational tax reform. I don't understand - and I'm happy for you or anyone else to explain - why the Government wants to maintain unfair taxation concession loopholes for the very top income earners. Also I don't understand when the Government makes all these promises about the GST what they say is we're going to pay for hospitals and schools, we're also going to hand back income tax cuts and we're also going to compensate people. You'll find that this money doesn't stretch very far with all those marvellous promises being made by the Government. No, I think instead the Government should focus on income tax, focus on income tax concessions at the top end for superannuation. I think they should focus upon multinational taxation, people paying their fair share. And I think they can probably go to, the trifecta would be to stop paying large polluters to pollute through their discredited Direct Action plan.


BRISSENDEN: Okay if they take this to the election as an issue you're prepared to fight them on it?


SHORTEN: Absolutely. I think the Government should be very upfront. I think the big test for Malcolm Turnbull and his team is how will it handle the Budget. I think they need to articulate all of that detail because I think that Australians, when there was a change of leader from Abbott to Turnbull, Mr Turnbull said, oh well, we're going to do economics differently. Actually we haven't seen a lot of detail about what's different. I think that in fact with this Government we'll still see the same thing, which is that they want to increase taxes for people on ordinary incomes.


BRISSENDEN: Okay well I guess we'll see in the coming months whether there is new detail from the Government. But you're in the region at the moment talking to those countries that will be affected by climate change most. What do you hope to learn on this trip that you don't already know?


SHORTEN: Well I do think it's important to highlight the drastic consequences of climate change. Remember the Liberal Government famously made, when their ministers last visited the region they were making jokes about water lapping at the doors of people living in houses in the Pacific Islands. The fact of the matter is the Pacific Islands are at the front line of the harmful consequences of climate change. In Papua New Guinea alone they are experiencing terrible drought, widespread drought, 90 per cent, 80 to 90 per cent of the citizens of Papua New Guinea live in rural and remote areas so they rely a lot on food supplies and they're seeing pressure being put on their food supply system because of global warming.


In addition we're visiting the Marshall Islands and Kiribati over the next two days, three days. Rising water levels mean that these people not only lose their food security and have economic pressure; they may well indeed lose where they live. So what the Pacific Islands have been saying to my delegation of Richard Marles, Tanya Plibersek and myself is that they look for Australia as a large Pacific nation to give leadership to the rest of the world in climate change and they are distinctly disappointed with Australia's actions.


BRISSENDEN: Okay this trip presumably was set up when Tony Abbott was prime minister to make a point of difference with his government, but signs are that that point of difference won't be quite as stark with Malcolm Turnbull, isn't it?


SHORTEN: Oh Michael what do you think practically the difference is on climate change with the change of leader? There is no - let's not fall for this sort of message that because we've changed the salesman somehow the product has changed. When it comes to climate change what different policies has Malcolm Turnbull introduced? They have stuck with Direct Action, they've got the same low targets for reduction of carbon emissions. There has been no change Michael -


BRISSENDEN: Well there's certainly been a change of emphasis on renewable, hasn't there?


SHORTEN: Well what actual change has happened on renewables? I mean what Labor says is that we want 50 per cent of our energy mix to come from renewable energy by 2030 and Malcolm Turnbull has attacked that as ‘reckless’. The Government, some of their rhetoric has changed, Michael. You know, they're not saying that wind turbines make them feel sick. But, Michael, this nation needs more than a change in terms of just hot air and rhetoric. Substance matters. And to be fair, people like yourself have, it's the role of you and me and our chats to help draw out what has actually changed. There is no change in Direct Action, there is no change in their low emissions targets reductions, there's certainly no change in their plans for climate change which aren't going to do enough according to the Pacific Islands to stop the dreadful consequences of climate change.


BRISSENDEN: Just quickly we still don't know your figures on emissions reduction targets. Are we likely to get them this week?


SHORTEN: You won't get them this week no, Michael, I'm in the Pacific. But what I can tell you is that we've said that we're committed to 50 per cent of our energy mix coming from renewable energy by 2030. We don't believe that the Government's Direct Action plans whereby they're paying large polluters to keep putting out large amounts of carbon pollution, that doesn't change anything either. We want to see and at the end of this week we'll have a clearer picture, having travelled through the Pacific Islands, of some of the direct consequences of climate change. The rest of the world but certainly in the Pacific doesn't understand why Australia, which is a leader in the Pacific, is following the rest of the world when it comes to climate change.


BRISSENDEN: Okay, Bill Shorten, we'll have to leave it there, thanks very much for joining us.


SHORTEN: Thanks Michael, bye.