31 January 2018


SUBJECT/S: National Press Club address; National Integrity Commission; Industrial relations; private health insurance; cost of living.

KARL STEFANOVIC: In his first major speech of 2018, Bill Shorten has promised to boost wages, lower health insurance and set up an anti-corruption commission if he wins the next election. He's getting on the front foot early and the Opposition Leader joins us now. Good morning to you Bill.


STEFANOVIC: You mentioned a whole bunch of things but it was much ado about nothing really, wasn't it?

SHORTEN: No, I think that 2018 politics has got to be better for Australia than 2017. And what we have got to do is convince Australians, it doesn't matter if you are Liberal or Labor, that we're not in it for ourselves but we’re in it for the people of Australia. That's why I addressed restoring faith in the system by setting up a National Integrity Commission and by dealing with what I think is the number one issue for Australians; a sense that cost of living is out of control, that people are getting left behind and we can do better.

STEFANOVIC: What I'm saying is there was a lot of bubble and squeak and not much meat.

SHORTEN: No, I don't think that's right, mate. National integrity commission - we laid out the design principles, it's already been endorsed, what I said yesterday by all of those who have been campaigning for better safeguards against corruption at the national level of government. 

And I would invite Mr Turnbull and the Government to join with us now. It doesn't need to wait for an election to do these ideas. I have also belled the cat on the performance of the private health insurance companies. People are sick of premium increases; far and excessive of inflation and wage rises.

STEFANOVIC: I'll get to that in a second but how are you going to increase - it's a very simple question, how are you going to increase the minimum wage?

SHORTEN: First of all, I think there's a couple of ways. One is that we can restore penalty rates. Second is that we can help run the argument that women are underpaid. Thirdly, we can make it easier for enterprise bargaining to happen so people can lift their wages. And finally, I think we need to revisit the principles of the minimum wage. I think there needs to be new consideration taken into account when workers are pushing for wage rises, that the minimum wage is no longer a living wage. We have got a lot of costs out of control, housing prices, electricity, utility prices, private health insurance premiums, health care costs. So I think it's time for Australia to get a wage rise.

STEFANOVIC: How do you pay for it then?

SHORTEN: It's got to be done with the capacity of industry to pay. But can I tell you not giving people a pay rise - well, let's be clear here. Corporate profits went up 20 per cent last year, wages only 2 per cent. Productivity over the last 10 years has gone up 20 per cent. The real wages only 6 per cent. I'm saying there's money in the system. But it's only going to the very mega wealthy and corporates and it's not been shared fairly amongst middle and working class people.

STEFANOVIC: How precisely will you reduce the cost of health insurance premiums then?

SHORTEN: I think we have got to sit down with the private health insurance companies and say your premium increases are out of control. I think that the Government - and the Liberal Government could do it now, the Minister has got the capacity to set what the increases are in the public interest. Did you know that private health insurance industry gets taxpayer rebates of $6 billion. In fact, private health insurance companies, the big ones, have a better return on profits or return on equity than the banks. They are making north of 20 per cent profit every year but the exclusions in policies the last 10 years, there used to be 8 per cent of private health insurance policies had exclusions, it is now up to 40 per cent. No wonder people are really cheesed off.

STEFANOVIC: Will you abolish the Private Health Insurance Rebate?


STEFANOVIC: You seemed to indicate that that might be the case yesterday.

SHORTEN: No, I just think that the Government wasn't listening yesterday. We are very clear that we think there is a role for private health insurance but it's got to work for people. I mean, if they are going to get billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidy and they are making 25 per cent profits, where do people come into the equation here? We want health insurance companies to put the people ahead of just making rampant profits. I think that is reasonable. There is reform there, everyone knows it.

STEFANOVIC: There are some saying this morning that you are promising nothing but class warfare, higher taxes, popular stunts and less bickering. Your drama is you still aren't popular, people aren't silly.

SHORTEN: First of all, let's go to the heart of what you're getting at. When the Government accuses Labor of class warfare, all I'm doing is standing up for middle class and working class people and saying cost of living is out of control. I actually think class war is when a government is giving multinationals and millionaires tax cuts yet they are making millions of ordinary Australians pay more taxes. To me - this is the week that a lot of kids have gone back to school, to me, class war is when you can give $37 billion over the next 10 years to property investors, yet we are going backwards in maths, in English and science in our schools. Do you know there's 100,000 of our fellow Australians, older Australians, on waiting lists for aged care, that to me is class warfare. When the people who have nurtured our kids, paid the taxes, made our communities, they have got to wait to get proper aged care.

STEFANOVIC: Good to talk you to today and all the best in the coming year. No doubt we will be talking to you in the not too distant future. Appreciate your time.

SHORTEN: Yeah, likewise, thanks for the interest. Cheers.