THURSDAY, 18 MAY 2017
SUBJECTS: NDIS; Malcolm Turnbull's unfair Budget for millionaires and multinationals; Geelong Convention Centre; ATO Deputy Commissioner; bank tax.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here in Geelong today. First of all, I want to say a really big thank you to Grant and everybody here at Bethany, all of the staff, and particularly I want to say a thank you to the people with disability and the family members who have come along today to tell us about their experience of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Of course it was initially rolled out here in Geelong, so there's been a lot of experience, and it's just wonderful to hear how it has transformed people's lives - transformed the lives of people with disability and also transformed the lives of family members. It doesn't mean there aren't issues that have to be dealt with - there are, they are real. But to hear the way that people's lives have been changed is just so significant for Bill and for me.
Thank you so much, Bill, for coming here today. It's very, very special to have you here, and I'll hand over to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Jenny. Good afternoon everybody and first of all, I'd like to acknowledge the work that Bethany does in the Geelong and surrounding communities, and I'd like to thank people with disabilities, their families, their carers, the paid staff, for all the work they're doing.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme has been a journey for Jenny and I, along with literally hundreds of thousands of Australian families.
In politics, sometimes, you wish you could get more done, but when it comes to the NDIS, I just want to acknowledge the work of Jenny and families, and so many people have done. Eight years ago there wasn't a National Disability Insurance Scheme - now there is.
We were hearing today from families and staff of people - consumers of the scheme, that we need to do things a bit better, and we will. More flexible respite care, making sure that someone at the end of the phone is actually providing the support and that there is enough staff to do it, and that there is a human contact in the system - that this doesn't become another bureaucracy. But having said that, there's no doubt in my mind that we're never going back from where we are now - we have a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
I want to end that midnight anxiety for parents in their 80s, awake late at night wondering who on earth will, if not, love their adult child with a profound or severe disability, at least care for their child.
I believe the National Disability Insurance Scheme does help alleviate some of that midnight anxiety, but there is clearly a lot of work still to go. From making sure that education properly funds the needs of kids with disabilities, through to work opportunities, through to making sure that our houses are properly designed, through to making sure that the NDIS works well.
But today at Bethany has reminded me of how the NDIS is proof that politics can change people's lives for the better. And again today, we made it clear to people here that Labor is 100 per cent committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We helped drive the creation of it, we helped have the debates and the arguments which put it on the political map. We're not going to allow things to go backwards.
Now there is a political debate in Canberra, which there often is. Mr Turnbull wants to fund the Budget by allowing millionaires to pay less and 10 million people to pay more. We, Labor, want millionaires to pay a little bit more and 10 million people to pay less. It's just about priorities.
For the NDIS, I just want to thank the people that we've met, the families, the individuals, the staff, because they are making a real difference in people's lives, and that is what it's all about.
We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: While there has been, obviously, the stories here today from clients and their families about the benefits, there also has been issues raised, as you've said. What are you going to do about fixing those?
SHORTEN: The best way we could fix the issues is vote a Labor Government in. Let's be blunt; we get it. We get it fundamentally, it's a priority, it's in our DNA to do better in terms of disability.
Practically, some of the issues which I've mentioned in opening, we hear the message loud and clear that it's right to put the person with a disability at the centre of the system. But we've got to remember that they have got a family. For each teenager with a disability, they might have younger siblings, and mum and dad have got to allocate their scarce time, perhaps, to the child with the highest needs. But that still has an impact on other members of the family, it has an impact on the mums and the dads. So more flexible respite, we get that message loud and clear. We're very committed to making sure that the education system doesn't get forgotten about.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme helps people with a lot of their needs. There is a whole debate about schools funding, and we want to make sure that Mr Turnbull doesn't forget the need to make sure that we properly fund the educational needs of children with impairment in the government and non-government sector. I also think there is a clear point, that the actual operation of the NDIS, or the authority, that we give enough staff to make sure that it succeeds, and we don't tie it up in too much paperwork.
JOURNALIST: On that, was it a bit of a disaster placing it here in Geelong?
SHORTEN: No, it was brilliant putting it in Geelong.
JOURNALIST: But we've heard issues today about, you know, some of the logistical things, and those are things that can't be changed while you're not in government.
SHORTEN: Let's be clear, I think it was a masterstroke to put it in Geelong. Poor old Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce, they talk about decentralisation. What we did is we put a service which was needed, we've headquartered in Geelong. When you look at the fact that they have the Transport Accident Commission here, when they've got such skilled services such as Bethany, and Karingal, and others already here, it's a natural hub. There's a critical mass to provide the opportunity for staff to come here.
Having said that, we also want to make sure that the Government doesn't cut people's funding in terms of staff. This government always loves to complain about public servants, but the point about it is, many public servants are people such as who work in the Disability Insurance Scheme. They just need the resources to do their job and help people.
It's really important to me that we don't, you know, shrink life in Australia down to a 1800 number, that there's real people helping out.
JOURNALIST: Have those resources not been properly and adequately -
SHORTEN: I might get Jenny to supplement this.
JOURNALIST: Have those resources not been adequately, already given under the plan? Or under basing the NDIA here?
MACKLIN: I don't think it has got anything to do with the National Disability Insurance Agency being based in Geelong, let's separate that.
I just want to really reiterate the point that Bill Shorten just made, it was a great decision to have it in Geelong. Certainly a great decision for Geelong, and a wonderful outcome for many, many people here in Geelong with disability, who were able to come into the scheme right at the beginning.
But what we're seeing now are some issues, that in part are being driven by the government not providing enough resources to the National Disability Insurance Agency, not just here in Geelong, frankly, right around Australia, to make sure, as many of the people here today said, they want to be able to speak to a person that they know, somebody that they can go and see, not just ring a 1800 number. So that's just a practical thing that we think should be addressed and could be addressed by extra staffing, something the government should get on with fixing.
JOURNALIST: The unemployment rate has dropped largely on the back of a lift in part-time jobs. Does that show employers are taking on people again?
SHORTEN: We're pleased if there are more part-time jobs in this country, but it would be remiss of me not to note that over 11,000 full-time jobs have gone.
I want Australia to be a country where people can find part-time work, but I want Australia to be a country where we've got full-time jobs too. And I think that the number which is still concerning to me, is that 1.1 million of our fellow Australians are complaining about being underemployed - they want more work. So yes, we are pleased that there are more part-time jobs. We're concerned though, there's been 11,000 full-time jobs gone, we're concerned that the number of hours that people are recording working has fallen, and we are concerned, of course, that there are 1.1 million people who are underemployed.
All of this comes though at a time of flat wages growth. In particular, we are most concerned that on 1 July, people's penalty rates start to fall. This nation, or at least the working and middle class people in this country, can't afford to have less money in July than they had in June.
This is what makes Mr Turnbull's false attempt at fairness so hollow. Under Mr Turnbull's Budget, on 1 July this year, someone who earns a million dollars can expect a tax reduction of $16,500. So on 1 July, a millionaire will pay less, but on 2 July, which is a Sunday, a shop assistant who works an 8-hour shift - a working mum, 8-hour shift on a Sunday, will lose $77.
This Government's priorities are all wrong. Where the battlers have got to pay more tax and the millionaires pay less. Where large companies are going to get a $65 billion tax reduction in the next 10 years, but a working mum in a shop on a Sunday, she loses $77 for an 8-hour shift. This Government has the wrong priorities.
JOURNALIST: On the Geelong Convention Centre, will a Shorten Government play a role in working with the State Government to fund a convention centre based here?
SHORTEN: We will certainly look very carefully at what Geelong and the regional councils have been asking for. Labor's got a great track record of investing in Geelong, we will study their proposal. I can see the case that Geelong needs a larger convention centre, although the theory of the argument is strong.
We want Geelong to be a hub for visitors, for conferences, but you have to have a facility to be able to attract the conferences and the conventions.
So Geelong - and Richard Marles has been in touch with me, we're certainly looking at it. We will talk to Daniel Andrews and the state Labor members here. See the difference between myself and Malcolm Turnbull is that I know where Geelong is and I know that not everything happens on the south east, you know, in Toorak or South Yarra. I get that a lot of stuff happens in Geelong. That's why we put the National Disability Agency in Geelong.
JOURNALIST: You were a regular visitor here with the last federal election, do you see a potential contest in Corangamite again? You received a small swing, do you think Labor will get all the way next time?
SHORTEN: I think our policies for people in Corangamite speak to their lives. We don't want to increase their income taxes; we don't want them to have less funding in their schools; we want their sons and daughters to be able to bid for a house without the unfair competition of negative gearing; we want to make sure that they can afford to see their doctor and that it’s their Medicare card not their credit card. Labor's policies are the policies which I think speak to the middle class and the working class getting ahead.
The reality is Australians are feeling squeezed at the moment, there have been no pay rises under this government. The only new jobs that get created are part time jobs, not full time jobs sufficiently for the people who have been dislocated by change. Now I think that Labor and Geelong and Corio and Corangamite, we speak the same language and we're committed to the same outcomes, looking after people.
JOURNALIST: And would you like to see Libby Coker stand again for your party?
SHORTEN: It'll be up to the party who is picked, I think she did a fine job. One thing is for sure, the Labor Party has got a lot of good people who want to make a contribution. And they want to make a contribution, because you know what, we look at this last Budget, why is it that under Malcolm Turnbull millionaires pay less and ten million people pay more. Under a Labor Government I lead, millionaires will pay a little bit more and ten million people will pay less.
JOURNALIST: The ATO has been rocked by a scandal involving the Deputy Commissioner, does that undermine public confidence in the office?
SHORTEN: I think we need to get all the facts. It would be remiss of me to comment on the individual matters, although they are clearly very concerning, I don't want to impinge upon anyone's rights, nor do I want to impinge upon the prosecution if the wrong thing's happened. But clearly here, down the track there will have to be questions of competence for the government to answer. And I also think it makes Labor's support for having a Senate Committee investigating the merit of a National Integrity Commission seem quite on the money.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with the decision to let the ACCC take a closer look at the banks?
SHORTEN: Well, we all know window dressing when we see it. Mr Turnbull says he's got a $6 billion tax on banks, he just won't tell us how he's going to implement it, he won't tell us exactly if it's every bank owned by one of the big four banks? I mean will Mr Turnbull's bank tax apply to Bank WA, will it apply to St George? Will it just apply to the four big banks' headline companies? There is a lot of detail not here.
I think Mr Turnbull has had the whistle blown on him though by Rod Sims, he is the chairman of the ACCC. Mr Turnbull is going to spend a million dollars he says, to give it to the competition commission to keep an eye on those four big banks. The problem is, the guy he says is the watchdog says that the watchdog has no teeth. So it's a pretty useless gesture by Turnbull.
The real question Turnbull has to answer here, is why is he keeping his bank levy as a secret bank tax? Why is he colluding with the banks about the way in which the bank tax will be levied? I mean it's the same reason that Mr Turnbull is colluding with the banks on stopping a Royal Commission; because he is soft on the excessive economic power of banks.
Mr Turnbull needs to explain to Australians how much Australians will pay as a result of his bank tax. He can't just fob off these inquiries and be out of touch and turn his bank on them and pretend that people aren't concerned.
If you want to be strong on the banks, then you vote Labor, because we are the only people who want a banking royal commission. The banks don't respect Mr Turnbull, they think he's weak and they think they can run over the top of him. What they need is a banking royal commission and Malcolm Turnbull is too weak to give it to them.
JOURNALIST: You say you want a banking royal commission; won't that also be passed on to taxpayers or customers of the banks, I mean they'll have to pay for expensive lawyers etc.?
SHORTEN: I think if you speak to tens of thousands of victims of banks in this country, if you speak to retirees and people approaching retirement who invest in good faith, in financial products recommended to them by banks and financial advisers, they would say this royal commission is a very small amount to pay in order to have some proper justice in this country.
There is a problem in this country; the banks have excessive economic power. Nothing that's been done so far works. I mean you've got poor old Mr Turnbull, who says he wants to give them a bank levy, a secret bank tax, but he's also proposing to give them a tax cut in the coming years - he doesn't know which way is up. He's just doing everything he can to stop a banking royal commission. Banks play an important role in our economy but they have excessive economic power at this point in time, and a banking royal commission will deal with the real issues in a way in which nothing else that Mr Turnbull wants to do. Thanks everybody.