TUESDAY, 11 APRIL 2017
SUBJECTS: Protecting TAFE; Adani; housing affordability.
GRAHAM PERRETT, LABOR MEMBER FOR MORETON: Welcome to SkillsTech, Acacia Ridge. It's great to be here having a tour around the automotive section with Bill Shorten.
Acacia Ridge is in the middle of Moreton, a place with about 19,000 small businesses, many of them, many of them connected to the automotive industry.
And Bill has been catching up with a few apprentices to talk about the wonderful things that Labor will deliver. I'll hand over to Bill to say a few things.
BILLSHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Graham and good morning everybody. Great to be here, and it's great to be here at Queensland TAFE SkillsTech.
This morning I've had the privilege of meeting some of the teachers here and some of the students. Adults who are up-skilling, young people who are learning a trade, and indeed, school students who are getting a flavour of pre-apprenticeship.
I've been travelling all around Queensland last week and this week in the Bill Bus, and we've been talking about jobs and jobs and jobs.
You can't have a plan for jobs unless you have got a plan for apprenticeships. Here again today, Graham Perrett and I, we reiterate our commitment to making sure that parents are able to encourage their kids to do an apprenticeship because we will have a well-funded TAFE. Because a Commonwealth Government that I lead will make sure that at least 10 per cent of all the employees on major projects are apprentices. And we will crack down on dodgy 457, 417 visas - these are the category of visas, and others, which give temporary work rights to people coming from overseas.
This country should train its own people first to do the jobs here first, and only then, after we have given our own people opportunity, should we look at bringing in other people from other countries to do the jobs.
So Labor has a plan for jobs and it is about putting TAFE at the centre of everything we do. We are a tradie nation, 1.6 million of our fellow Australians have a trades qualifications, but under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, we have seen the number of apprentices, enrolled apprentices, fall dramatically from 420,000 to about 280,000.
I don't want to think that apprenticeships are something that people see in a museum. We have got to encourage young people and adults to do apprenticeships.
And following on our commitment for jobs, I am pleased to also announce today, that not only are we committed to putting apprenticeships and TAFE at the centre of our plan for jobs, but we are calling upon the Turnbull Government to bring forward some Financial Assistance Grants, which they are scheduled to provide local government, we want to bring them forward from financial year 2018/19, we want to bring them forward, about $620 million.
What this will allow, is this will allow councils to start getting on with the jobs which councils do right across Australia. Currently they are frozen - so the amount that councils receive has been frozen. We want to see an increase in that and we want to bring that forward.
The money is in the Budget, we know we are going to spend it, we would rather spend it sooner rather than later. Because local roads need to be built, because local sporting grounds need the upgrades, because libraries and kindergartens and the waste transfer stations, all of the sort of things we take for granted in our communities. In small councils and in big cities, we want to see the work commenced.
This is a great idea to help generate a bit of confidence in our economy. Local government is the backbone of a lot of the services we take for granted. There is a lot of good quality jobs at the council level. We wants to get some confidence going again at the local government level, stop starving our councils and stop ruining the amenity of the local communities, bring it forward. So that is what we are proposing today.
And throughout the ongoing trip, which we go through Queensland and New South Wales, we are going to make sure we put jobs at the forefront of everything that we do. From TAFE, to apprentices, to temporary visas for overseas workers, cracking down on the rorts, and bring forward the Financial Assistance Grants so councils can get the jobs going in the local community when people need them.
We are happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of jobs, do your support Adani's Queensland mine, and on what conditions?
SHORTEN: We are very keen to see jobs. We are very keen to see jobs in mining, mining is very important for Australia's future. But I also have to sound this note of caution: we need the Adani project to stack up. It needs to stack up environmentally, it needs to stack up commercially. I haven't seen the case made for the taxpayer to underwrite a billion dollar loan - a billion dollar loan underwritten by Australian taxpayers, to build a rail line.
I think taxpayers would legitimately say, "we are interested in the jobs" but these projects of big business, they have got to stand up under their own logic, their own commercial sense rather than being just supported with a billion dollar loan underwritten by the taxpayer through the Commonwealth Government.
JOURNALIST: And environment conditions, does that play into it as well?
SHORTEN: I mentioned that briefly, but thanks for coming to that. It is important that in order to make sure we have good jobs we are not wrecking the environment on the way through. I am a person guided by the best evidence. The best evidence, the best science should always be at the forefront under our decision-making.
So to re-summarise our position on Adani, if it stacks up commercially, if it doesn't require a billion dollar loan to be underwritten by the Commonwealth taxpayer, and if it meets all the proper scientific and environmental tests, well that is good. That should be the process. I think everyone needs to be very transparent in it. If it stacks up, well that is excellent news.
JOURNALIST: In your opinion, does that mean Prime Minister spoke prematurely?
SHORTEN: Well, Mr Turnbull is over in India. No doubt he was quite impressed by meeting the people at Adani. I just say that when you come back here, when the excitement of the overseas trip finishes, we've got to make sure on one hand we are creating jobs and on the other hand we have to make sure it stacks up.
Let's be clear about this: other mining companies are not getting billion dollar railways built for them and I think that if you want to have a good commercial operation in Australia, I am not convinced that the taxpayer of Australia should underwrite the risk of the project through a $1 billion loan. I am not convinced of that, at all.
JOURNALIST: One of the concerns is the Native Title Act, will Labor be supporting the Native Title amendment when the Senate resumes in May?
SHORTEN: The current confusion over the workability of the Native Title Act all comes back to George Brandis. George Brandis strikes again. I have never seen anything that bloke touch which doesn't turn to custard. He is really, in an incompetent government, he is the gold medal of incompetence.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen has been out this morning strongly against the proposed super changes. Shouldn't the Government be doing everything they can to help young people get into the property market?
SHORTEN: Absolutely, the Government should be doing everything it can to help young people get into the property market. But, as someone famous once said: "It is a thoroughly bad idea" to raid people's superannuation accounts. In case you are not aware of the author of those comments that it is "a thoroughly bad idea", it was Malcolm Turnbull less than two years ago.
It was a thoroughly bad idea then, it still is. To put it in a nutshell: to solve the challenge of housing affordability, if you come up with a bad solution to fix the problem of housing affordability, you just get yourself two problems when there was one. If you unlock some people's superannuation, all you will do is push up the price of housing. If there is more cash available, what happens is the price of houses goes up and it just eats that extra deposit, which the Government says will be there. So you don't fix the problem of housing affordability and you create a problem in that there will be smaller superannuation accounts in the future. So you don't solve a problem by introducing another problem, all you get is two problems. You don't solve housing affordability and you raid superannuation.
JOURNALIST: If Labor isn't prepared to back the Government's idea to allow young people to access their super for a deposit, then what's your plans to (inaudible) the capital they need to make that deposit?
SHORTEN: Well, let's be straight here: young people in their 20s don't have a lot of superannuation, the account balances are very small. And so, first of all, there isn't this mythical pot of gold waiting there and what happens is if you raid your superannuation then you have absolutely nothing the older you get. And the nature of superannuation is its value isn't the immediate amount, it is compound interest, so each year it's there, it gets invested. Superannuation only really becomes worth very much for people when they are in their 50s and 60s. So first of all, there is not a lot of money there for the young to be able to get to it.
But the real issue here is we need more supply of housing and we need to do something about the price of housing. The real problem, and our solution, certainly our first step to a solution on housing affordability, is we have got to decrease some of the pressure for the inflated demand. What we see now is that people can get a tax concession - they get a tax concession for investing in their second, their third or their 10th property. So when you go on a Saturday morning and you take your kids along and have some part of the great Australian dream to buy your first home, you are competing with investors and property speculators. And not only are you competing with them, they're getting a head start on you through a taxpayer funded concession which Mr Turnbull loves.
I mean the problem with Turnbull is that he is so out of touch with the lives that ordinary people live. He famously said to a radio announcer, ‘Your problem is you won't let your kids money’. What kind of housing strategy is that? Telling the kids to get rich parents.
What we have got to do is reform negative gearing and that is what Labor is prepared to do. We want to give a level playing field so that young people and their parents when they want to live the great Australian dream of being able to afford their first home, are not suffering from unfair competition from property investors. Perhaps if there is one more question?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, changing negative gearing -
SHORTEN: Thank you for that.
JOURNALIST: - will slow down growth in housing prices at best. Your own frontbenchers have conceded that it will not bring down prices and many young people don't have the capital for the deposit. What's the plan for that? How should we get them into the market?
SHORTEN: Well, let's be very clear here. We want to take sensible steps, and the fact that our proposals are sensible is not a criticism of it, it just shows we thought it through. Did you know we will improve the Budget by $30 billion over the next 10 years by winding back negative gearing concession but we are not going to retrospectively change the laws. So if you have invested and you negatively gear your property now, we are not going to change the rules on you, it is a prospective change.
I tell you the best way to make sure young people can help get a deposit - don't cut their penalty rates. Young people who go to work need their penalty rates. If you want to help give young people the best opportunity to get ahead in life, Mr Turnbull, don't cut their penalty rates.
You have got to love Turnbull, at least he is consistent, he wants to give a $50 billion corporate tax give away. From July 1, if you earn $1 million, you will get the opportunity to pay $16,000 less tax courtesy of M Turnbull but when it comes to penalty rates - and of course, he won't reform negative gearing. So if you want to buy your 10th house, you are going to get the tax concession from Mr Turnbull. So that's his plan. Look after the well off.
Our plan though is to defend penalty rates. A lot of young people get a bad rap. It was really inspirational for me to come along and hear the stories of some of the apprentices. They have got friends who are working now, making perhaps more money but they are training for the future. Australia's young people have to pay more for their university than they used to before. They have got to pay the loans to go to TAFE. They are paying their Medicare as they should but a lot aren't going to call on the health care system. Young people get a bad rap in the country yet there is not a plan for youth unemployment from this Government. So what we say is don't cut penalty rates. If you want to give young people a chance to amass some money for a house, Mr Turnbull, don't cut their penalty rates.
Thank you, everybody. Nice to catch up.