ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 24 JANUARY 2019
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Queensland Jobs Not Cuts bus tour; Yang Hengjun; Adani; Liberal candidate for Gilmore; negative gearing; Labor’s plan for a fairer Australia.
LISA MILLAR: The Opposition Leader joins us now from Mackay in Queensland. Bill Shorten, thanks for joining us.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Lisa.
MILLAR: We've got a lot to get through this morning so we will get cracking Mr Shorten. But just on that story we've heard out of China, how concerned are you about the detention of this Chinese Australian writer?
SHORTEN: You can't sugar-coat this. This is an Australian citizen who has been detained in China, the Embassy has just been notified. I'm very supportive of all efforts to reach out to him, to get to the bottom of what happened - what is happening. But it is very concerning, I can't pretend otherwise.
MILLAR: What does it say about diplomatic relations that it's taken five days for Australia to be involved, or to have any access in regards to this, when the arrangement is that it's supposed to take place after three days to have communications?
SHORTEN: Yes it is disappointing Lisa. It's not the way the arrangements are meant to work. Now I don't want to do any megaphone diplomacy, we've got an Australian citizen who has been detained in circumstances we're unaware of, and it's been a slow response from the Chinese Government to talk to the Australian Government. But it is serious, it matters at times like this - I don't think I need to do any domestic politics, we are disappointed, the Opposition is disappointed that this is unfolding the way it is. We are very supportive of the Department's efforts to reach out and to get to the bottom of this. This is not the way which relations between our two countries should be conducted at all.
MILLAR: Mr Shorten in Queensland I imagine you're getting a real sense of the concern people have about the economy and the loss of jobs. You're in the heart of the mining area. Will you guarantee that you won't do anything to hamper an Adani mine, if it does get over the hurdles that still confront it?
SHORTEN: There's a couple of big hypotheticals there aren't there, Lisa. But I'll go to the Adani matter, and then I'll go to jobs in Queensland. Adani has had a number of false starts. Labor's position is that there should be no Commonwealth taxpayer money used to subsidise this project at all. A position which I might note, has now been adopted by the Federal Government. It has to stack up commercially, it has to stack up scientifically and environmentally. In the meantime, what Labor is doing is making sure that we don't put all our eggs in the basket of one project, of one company. In the last few days, in my bus tour of Queensland, Central and Northern Queensland, we've announced significant investment in infrastructure, which will generate literally hundreds and hundreds - indeed, thousands of real jobs. $800 million for example, to complete the Rockhampton Ring Road; $280 million to complete the second and final stage of the Mackay Ring Road. I visited Maryborough, not in a Labor seat, in an LNP seat which is pretty strong. But for me that doesn't matter. We visited Maryborough, the EDi Downer rail workshops, and announced our commitment to make sure that we have Australian procurement. That if we're going to spend money on rail in Australia in the next 10 years - we're going to spend $100 billion at least, I want to see those train carriages built in Australia, in Maryborough, and other locations where we build rail transport in Australia. So we're focusing on a range of different industries and jobs and to conclude this point in Queensland, we've announced significant commitments to tourism and to new sources of energy. We announced a national hydrogen plan, because we think that hydrogen is one of the alternative fuels of the future. North Asia, Japan and South Korea are already making significant, eye-watering commitments to develop hydrogen, and I want Australia to be at the front of the hydrogen race, not at the back, as we sometimes are with other technologies.
MILLAR: Mr Shorten, just in the last few moments, we have been hearing from your Deputy, Tanya Plibersek, who said about the Gilmore preselection that Warren Mundine has been very clear for the last 20 or 30 years that he wants a seat in Parliament, and he will take any party that will have him. For a long time - and I am quoting her, ‘he was desperate for the Labor Party to give him a seat in Parliament, there's a reason we didn't and the voters of Gilmore will discover that’. What is the reason?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen those remarks. But I think what you said in the preamble is correct. So I'm not going to spend my time talking about a Liberal candidate but it's correct to say that Mr Mundine wasn't successful in convincing the Labor Party to run.
MILLAR: But he was the head of the Labor Party.
SHORTEN: Well we've had plenty of administrative heads of the Labor Party who haven't ended up in Parliament. The point about it, in answering your question is that he wasn't able to convince the Labor Party to back him, and it's a free country, if he wants to run for any party, I guess being in a party, that's up to him who he chooses, if he wants to change his views. He's running in Gilmore, but doesn't it highlight the confusion and the chaos.
MILLAR: It seems to be fairly specific though Mr Shorten, that Tanya Plibersek says, there is a reason the Labor Party didn't, and leaving it up to the voters of Gilmore to discover what that reason might be?
SHORTEN: I think you just said earlier on that it was just, in very recent moments, that Tanya made that comment so, I haven't seen them. But it's a matter of record that Mr Mundine was unsuccessful in convincing the Labor Party, over many years. So he's going to try his hand in the alternative, the Liberal Party. The point about what's happened in Gilmore is they had Ann Sudmalis, then they picked another fellow, Grant Schultz. Now Mr Morrison has exercised his leadership prerogative to parachute in Mr Mundine into Gilmore. Isn't the point about this that we start 2019 the way we ended 2018? The Liberal Party are talking about themselves, they're not talking about jobs in Queensland or anywhere else. I mean, who the Liberals pick is up to them. Our candidate, Fiona Phillips, she stands on the side of no cuts to hospitals, no cuts to schools, lifting the wages. The big sentiment I get travelling around Australia Lisa, and I got it over the summer and perhaps even you've heard it in your travels, is that Australians are sick of the instability of the Government and they're also sick of the fact that everything is going up except wages.
MILLAR: Well one of the sentiments we are hearing in letters to the editor and people concerned is about the franking credits and some of the decisions you've made on taxes. Reducing what pensioners might be able to access, these small amounts. Did you make the wrong call on the franking credit decision?
SHORTEN: Listen, I don't want to get into a debate about the facts, but your last statement is 100 per cent wrong. We've made it clear that any pensioner who's in receipt of a part pension is not affected by our changes, so you can't say - I mean, you can, but it's just not right, when you say that pensioners are going to be affected, that's just not correct. The broader question of our reforms, going after multinationals, clamping down on tax loopholes which predominantly benefit just one small part of Australia, and the well-off. We can't in this country keep handing away bigger tax concessions and not better pensions. We can't keep giving away tax loopholes where we have a tax system, where depending on how clever your accountant is, paying tax becomes an option, whereas most Australians are paying increased cost of living.
MILLAR: But given the economy -
SHORTEN: So, we're committed to our reforms to make our budget sustainable.
MILLAR: Given the economy has already started changing since you made these announcements, and certainly on negative gearing, how committed are you to these policies, and are you ready for an election that is basically going to be a tax referendum?
SHORTEN: Well you can say that the election is just on one issue, but I actually think the issue for this election is making the economy work in the interest of working and middle-class people, and our policies sit four square with that; better-paid jobs, better hospitals and schools. But in terms of our changes to negative gearing, one point which gets lost perhaps in the rush of the media – digital 12-hour news cycle is this: we are grandfathering our proposals. Most people don't know quite what grandfathering means. What it means is that if you currently negatively gear under existing tax rules, there is no change to your investment. So whatever change we introduce which is to wind back negative gearing for existing houses in the future, because we don't think it's fair that first home buyers have unfair competition with investors buying their fifth or sixth property, subsidised by the government. So we are saying to Australians, if you've currently invested in property on existing rules, you are not affected. That's a very important point for us to get out.
So we are committed to creating fairness for first home buyers. In this discussion about the Government's trenchant defence of people buying their seventh or tenth property and getting a taxpayer subsidy to underwrite the cost of buying investment properties, I'm standing up for the first home buyers. I want the great Australian dream of owning your first home to be a reality, not a pipedream. This is a country where once upon a time, having rich parents was relevant to your financial health, now it's fundamental to your financial health. I want first home buyers to be able to enter the market. How is it fair that you could have a property investor bidding at an auction for their -
[FEED DROPS OUT]
That seems that we have lost the Opposition Leader there, unfortunately, we did get to hear quite a few of his thoughts though on some pretty critical issues that are bubbling around today. Mr Shorten we have you back, that's terrific -
SHORTEN: Sorry about that Lisa.
MILLAR: Can I ask you Mr Shorten, there's been a lot of talk about values and as we approach Australia Day, the Prime Minister certainly has been putting forward views. What are three values that you adhere to as a politician?
SHORTEN: Fairness. We think that Australia Day is about Australian values. I think fairness is a key value and as we approach this Australia Day, how is it fair that we have a tax system where how much money you have can determine your option to opt out of the tax system? How is it fair in this country that people's wages haven't risen, yet corporate profits have gone up by 13 per cent, wages have moved by barely 2 per cent. How is it fair that in some parts of Australia you can't access the same quality of health services that you can perhaps expect in the big cities? So fairness is a key Australian value.
I think another value which I back in is opportunity. I think this has got to be a country which provides opportunity to all. I think, for example it is not providing opportunity when women don't get paid the same as men. Or where we don't have opportunity for people - businesses in the regional Australia, to access the same NBN quality as we get in other parts of Australia. So fairness and opportunity represent some core values which I will champion.
I think a final value which I would champion is actually keeping my promises. We're being up-front with the Australian people. We think that the politics in this country is in danger of being broken. A lot of Australians don't think their individual vote changes anything. They think that politicians are just in it for themselves. By putting out our policies in advance of the next election, we're not being a small target, and perhaps the Government delights in a proposition it can make up scare campaigns. But this country needs a better standard of political debate. We don't just want to win the election because we're not them, although that's not a bad reason to vote for us, because we're not divided, we're not unstable. We want to win the election because we put forward a vision for Australia. A vision in education to be the best in the world. A vision in health to be the best in the world. A vision to have renewable energy and new sources of energy to put downward pressure on prices. A vision I'll conclude Lisa, which says that this country works best when we work together, when all Australians get a fair go, when they can access opportunity, that's when I think we actually get the best out of this nation.
MILLAR: Mr Shorten, we're going to have to leave it there. Thanks for your patience with us with the link. It's one of the benefits of being able to cross to regional Australia. Thank you very much.
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