FRIDAY, 10 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT/S: Penalty rates; foreign donations; housing affordability; energy; Victorian politics; Liberal divisions; WA election
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. Great to be at the launch of Peak by Don and Patricia Edgar. It's a story about how we need to reimagine and reinvent middle age.
We're talking about looking after older Australians, it's clear that 15 in every 100 people who face the prospect of having their penalty rates cut is over the age of 50. It will not help Australians save for their retirement when Mr Turnbull stands by and allows their real wages to be cut from July 1.
Importantly today, independent legal advice, from law firm Maurice Blackburn, has revealed that the penalty rates cut decision has significant implications for many industries. Not just retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy, but industries such as construction, transport and nursing.
Mr Turnbull and their allies One Nation must immediately support Labor's calls to stop cuts to penalty rates.
When you cut people's penalty rates without compensation you are cutting the real wages of ordinary Australians.
Mr Turnbull and his government are divided and they're out of touch. They've got a plan to give $50 billion away of taxpayer money to big business but they stand by and enthusiastically support the cuts to penalty rates.
Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal motto is: soft on big business, hard on workers. Soft on a tax cut for big business, hard on penalty rate cuts to working Australians - it's not good enough.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Some questions from Canberra, the parliamentary committee has failed to reach consensus on foreign political donations. Why shouldn't the ban apply to activist groups?
SHORTEN: We will work through the parliamentary committee report, but there is no doubt in my mind that Australians want to see greater transparency and greater accountability. Again, if the Committee hasn't been able to reach a combined position, I offer to Mr Turnbull that we can keep working through the issues together. We've got to make sure that Australians have confidence in our political process.
JOURNALIST: On the Government's housing affordability taskforce, it is establishing a taskforce to design a government lender that will provide cheap loans to community housing organisations. Does Labor support that?
SHORTEN: Labor has been looking at similar ideas. We are up for sensible solutions to help ensure that Australians have the opportunity to buy their first home and for those Australians who don't even have that prospect, to have secure and sustainable housing.
But you cannot have fair dinkum housing affordability until you deal with the elephant in the room and that is the unsustainable tax concessions of negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts.
If Mr Turnbull wants to have a policy which helps Australians buy their first home, he will tackle negative gearing. Every Saturday around Australia, young Australians and their parents bidding for the first house, are competing with investors and speculators who are receiving taxpayer funded concessions.
We have a system in Australia where all Australians are paying taxes, some Australians are able to use those tax concessions to help unfairly compete against first home buyers. No one can be serious and Malcolm Turnbull can't be serious about housing affordability unless he is willing to clamp down on negative gearing in the future. Mr Turnbull's only policy for housing affordability so far has been the patronising advice of ‘get rich parents’.
There is a solution that will help the Budget, help the bottom line, help improve the debt and deficit and that is reform negative gearing and most importantly it'll help first home buyers have a level playing field when they bid for houses.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that renting is part of the housing affordability problem that needs the most attention as opposed to first home buyers?
SHORTEN: There is no doubt that we have got to do more in social housing and community housing, absolutely. For some Australians they don't even have secure or regular accommodation, so for them the debate about home ownership is a pipe dream.
But you can't be serious about housing affordability if you deny the dream to this generation of Australians of being able to afford your first home, when you have a system which prefers investors and speculators over the legitimate dreams and aspirations of Australians trying to buy into the housing market.
Until Mr Turnbull starts backing first home buyers against the speculators and the investors, he is not fair dinkum on housing affordability in this country.
JOURNALIST: What's your view on bringing more unconventional gas and coal seam gas and shale to production in Queensland, New South Wales, WA, Northern Territory?
SHORTEN: There is a national emergency right now in terms of gas supplies. Mr Turnbull and the Liberals have been in power for four years and they've done nothing.
Mr Turnbull should pull people together, not just the gas companies, but the users, the consumers and the States, the big factories who depend upon reliable gas supplies - he should bring them all together for a national emergency meeting. One, they should get agreement on what the problem is. Two, we should get agreement on the solutions. And, three, we should have everyone in the room at the same time.
JOURNALIST: Should State Labor opposition and governments get behind it in a stronger way?
SHORTEN: Well, today I've said that we've got to look at all feasible options for regular and reliable supply of gas to industry and consumers. We need to look at reservations, such as the Queensland Government has proposed, to make sure that local gas gets used locally before it all gets exported overseas.
JOURNALIST: Should Don Nardella quit Parliament altogether?
SHORTEN: Don Nardella should leave the Labor Party. Don Nardella has, I think, let a lot of people down. It is not the way in which Labor MPs should act. I think he should leave thePparty, and in terms of the Parliament, it is up to his conscience what he does there.
But talking about people with problems, at a different level, at the national level, I just want to refer today to the Government leaking and briefing against their own Treasurer.
It is a highly unusual state of affairs where you see the Prime Minister's people publicly humiliating the Treasurer.
If the Prime Minister doesn't have confidence in the Treasurer, he should simply move him. He shouldn't go around in the sneaky way and just undermine him, and I think the question we are all asking is: will the Treasurer stand by and be publicly humiliated by the Prime Minister?
And the real problem here is that whilst these two characters are fighting each other and undermining each other, no one is looking after the Australian people. The Turnbull Government is hopelessly divided, hopelessly out of touch. They need to focus on the Australian people, not undermining each other.
JOURNALIST: How are you feeling about Mark McGowan and WA Labor's chances at the election this weekend?
SHORTEN: We will have to see how the people of Western Australia vote tomorrow. I will certainly be across there later today.
It is very clear to me that the One Nation alliance with the Liberal Party has rebounded on them. One Nation is a faction of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party like to say they don't agree with One Nation's policies but they are preferencing One Nation ahead of everyone else. It is political games.
If you want to change Western Australia and the direction, you should be voting for Mark McGowan.
But I think the other issue in tomorrow's election is that this will be a test for Malcolm Turnbull and his support for penalty rate cuts. The people of Western Australia have the opportunity to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull tomorrow that they don't support the cuts to penalty rates and they don't support Mr Turnbull's enthusiastic support for cutting penalty rates, and I think the challenge for Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday is, is he smart enough to get the message that cutting penalty rates is a deeply unpopular idea because it hurts the standard of living of ordinary Australians.
Thank you, everybody.