08 May 2016

SUNDAY, 8 MAY 2016

SUBJECT/S: 2016 Election; Labor’s positive plan for the future of Australia. 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. This election Australians have a clear choice. A choice between Labor's positive plans for the future, and three more years of dysfunction, of dithering and of disappointment. 

I will fight this election on issues vital to millions of Australians. I will fight this election on schools and education. I will fight this election for health, hospitals and Medicare. I will fight this election for real action on climate change. I will fight this election to help create a vibrant economy, growing jobs, with reasonable conditions, and security for all. I will fight this election to make Australia a fairer place, where the needs of families, small businesses, the great bulk of Australians, are placed at the top of the priority list. 

This election is much more than a choice between parties and personalities. This election is a choice about what sort of Australia that we want to live in. What sort of Australia do we want our children to grow up in, that we want our older Australians to be able to be secure in their retirement. A choice as basic as this: will this country be a country that ensures that the fair go is for everyone? Or that the fair go is just limited to the fortunate few? 

Now every election is about trust. Trust Labor to deliver better jobs and reasonable conditions. Trust Labor to stand up for schools, TAFE, child care, universities. Trust Labor to protect Medicare and bulk billing. Trust Labor to take real action on climate change, focusing on renewable energy. Trust Labor to ensure that Australian women get a fair go. Trust Labor to make sure that multinationals pay their fair share. Trust Labor to conduct Budget repair that is fair. 

This election is most definitely about what I stand for and what my opponent stands for. What my party stands for, and what the Liberals stand for. My opponent has openly said that he wants to give States the right to raise separate income taxes. That he thinks that in a perfect world the Commonwealth taxes should not be used for government schools, just to fund private schools. For six months he's toyed with Australians with the prospect of an increase of the GST by 50 per cent and a GST to be put on everything. And in his Budget this week just past he has launched retrospective changes to the tax treatment of people's superannuation undermining confidence in the whole superannuation system. And the centrepiece of his Budget this week was to reward millionaires with a $17,000 tax cut, to provide $50 billion of tax breaks to Australia's largest companies. It is very important that Australians understand that my opponent's views and those of his party are a real risk to the living standards of all Australians. 

This is my opponent's 55-day election campaign that he's given Australia, but I and my united Labor team are ready for this election with our positive policies. 

In fact, it was about 10 years ago tomorrow morning, sometime around 4:30 as I remember, that I was privileged to be witness to one of the great Australian stories of tragedy and triumph; the remarkable Beaconsfield rescue. It was a story of defiant Aussie spirit, people working together, looking after their mates, and winning through. I never forget that it was the death of Larry Knight but what I saw in those intervening 14 days has stayed with me every day of my life since then. It reminds me, even today, that Australia succeeds when we work together with common endeavour and shared reward. It is an Australia where everyone gets the fair go. This is the Australia that I and my united Labor team are ready to serve. A Labor Government who will put people first. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister's central argument against you is that you are vulnerable when it comes to actually paying for your big spending promises. We've just heard him say when Bill Shorten – “when you hear these promises from Bill Shorten, remember that Labor has no credible or coherent way to pay for them”. How will you counteract that during the campaign?

SHORTEN: Well, Mr Turnbull's pretty quick to brush over the fact that he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to confirm that he's going to spend $50 billion of Budget money over the next 10 years, Australian's taxpayer money, to give big business a tax break. By contrast, my priorities couldn't be any more different than my opponent’s. We've proposed through making multinationals pay their fair share, through changing the unsustainable tax concessions at the top end of superannuation prospectively, we've proposed through going after wasteful government expenditure, including the joke of a direct action policy, which my opponent’s now adopted from Tony Abbott, we will do budget repair that is fair, we have proposed making sure that we don't spend the wasteful money that my opponent, this current Government, wish to do on giving big business tax cuts. We have proposed not spending and handing back money in the form of tax cuts for people on $1 million a year. We have proposed saving money to the Budget bottom line, by reforming negative gearing and capital gains tax laws, which mean that Australians aren't having to face a choice between having hospitals and schools cut. Labor has announced a proper path of Budget repair that is fair. 

I just don't share Mr Turnbull's proposition that the only way you fix the national Budget is by cutting school funding, is by increasing the cost of going to university, is by getting rid of bulk billing incentives for people who need pathology and X-ray tests. Labor's priorities and the way we have approached Budget repair is that it has to be fair. But we've rolled up our sleeves, we're going to fix up the dodgy system and the VET loans and the vocational educational loans by reprioritising public TAFE, restoring public TAFE and clamping down on the rorts in the private sector of vocational education. 

When you look at all the figures we have put together, we've done the job that this Government should have done. That is who we are. We have positive plans. 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, are you prepared to publicly debate the Prime Minister on some of these issues that you're mentioning today, during the election campaign? 

SHORTEN: Absolutely. Anywhere, any time, happy to be in the debate, and I'm happy to turn up, and if he doesn't, I'm just happy to talk to the Australian people. I've done 25 public town hall meetings since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister. We're up for the debate, because I believe that Australians are hungry for an election which is more than just slogans. They want to know the detail, they want to know the positive plans and we've got a lot of them.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when you said you'd run government like a unionist, this something that we've already seen the government trying to use against you, so can you explain what you mean by that?  

SHORTEN: Absolutely. I've spent my adult working life representing people, standing up for people's pay and conditions. I'm proud of that. What that's done, through that journey, is it's given me a great understanding of how everyday people live their lives. I know that parents, are not there sitting, angsting over a tax cut for millionaires, but they do need their family payments. I understand that parents work hard to educate their kids. Parents pay their taxes to Canberra in the reasonable expectation that some of those taxes will come back in the form of proper support for State schools at the State level. I know in my experience when I've seen people injured at work, the importance of our health care system. I understand that families, pensioners, self-funded retirees, the people I've spent my entire life working alongside, that the decisions of a government make a difference to their quality of life. The Australian people are not in any fashion greedy. They don't look for a handout in my experience, but I think they are very frustrated, that Mr Turnbull has got a plan, to spend $50 billion in tax breaks on large companies. That he's got a plan to cut the tax bill paid by the very highest net worth individuals, but not for them. I think they're very frustrated that Mr Turnbull seems to think it's fair that the taxpayer subsidises people buying their tenth investment property in an unequal playing field that's contrasted with their children trying to buy their first home.

JOURNALIST: Why should people trust Labor again after the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard years?

SHORTEN: It's not about Labor or Liberal when it comes to these fundamental issues. It's about the Australian people. And when it comes to the issues that affect the Australian people, they can trust Labor. Trust Labor to stand up for schools and education, and we've costed our policies. Trust Labor to protect and improve Medicare, because that is in our DNA. Trust Labor to make sure that working class and middle class kids can get a chance to go to university and not pay $100,000 degrees. You can trust Labor to stand up for people's conditions at work. You can trust Labor to be tough on multinationals that are paying less tax in Australia than the High Street businesses. You can trust Labor to support reductions in the tax bill paid by small businesses, but what we are not prepared to do, is to go down the path of rewarding the top end of town on a theory which says that if you just give the very top a leg up, that will trickle down to everyone else. This country works best when we've got common endeavour. When opportunity is not defined or confined to particular postcodes or to children who have wealthy parents. This country works best when we have fairness, entwined with economic growth.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you're the first Labor leader to survive a whole term in about 10 years. Do you not want to tackle this issue head on today? 

SHORTEN: Which issue is that?  

JOURNALIST: That the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years and you're involvement in it.  

SHORTEN: Labor's learnt its lessons, and I think by your question, you indicated that we have learnt our lesson. That we are united. We understand that a party that can't govern itself, can't govern the nation. There’s one prediction that I can reliably make about what will happen after July 2. The Liberal Party will go to war with itself again. They view this election as a skirmish before they can settle scores with each other. Mr Turnbull's problem is that I think that eight months ago, many people hoped that he could change the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party has changed him. 

I frankly think it is amazing that in Mr Turnbull's pitch to be re-elected, he didn't even mention climate change. He famously said that he did not want to lead a party that wasn't interested in climate change. Now he's airbrushed climate change out of his presentation altogether. Mr Turnbull's priorities for instance, when he talks about, before he became leader that he would have a conscience vote on marriage equality, now he wants to spend taxpayer money on a plebiscite which won't even bind the extreme right of his party. Mr Turnbull has great difficulty being true to himself because he doesn't control his party. For better or for worse, I and my party are in lockstep. We have shared values and positive plans for Australia. Perhaps two more questions.  

JOURNALIST: You're launching your campaign in a state that has a very high proportion of small to medium businesses. What are you going to say to them when you go on the campaign and they want the tax cut that the Government's offering? 

SHORTEN: Let's be clear, Labor absolutely supports a tax cut for businesses under $2 million. But businesses of $10 million and $50 million and $1 billion, Matt, are not small businesses. It's a matter of timing. What small businesses want is they want confidence back in the High Street. They want see their potential customers having good meaningful jobs. They want to make sure their kids are getting a proper education based upon proper needs based funding. They want to see that their customers are able to get to see a doctor when they need to, not dependent on their credit card. They want to see an end to the constant wrecking of the Australian way of life by a Government that is seriously out of touch, led by a Prime Minister who's seriously out of touch. Tasmanian small businesses and Tasmanians generally, like the people of the regions of Australia, recognise that we need to have a manufacturing sector in Australia, they recognise that we need to have a proper TAFE a sector, they recognise that tax cuts which just go to the top 1 per cent is not a plan for Australia. It's just a plan for the top 1 per cent. Last question.  

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) the campaign in Beaconsfield?  

SHORTEN: Well, this is 10 years tomorrow morning since the anniversary of the remarkable rescue of Grant and Todd. So, I was scheduled to come down here, I couldn't be here tomorrow, so I was scheduled to catch up with the guys and have a beer and I'm looking forward to doing that in a minute, they’ve also got other things they want to do too, it is Mother's Day. But I'm here because this is, for me, the real Australia. People saw during that mine rescue glimpses of an Australia which I think don't always appear on the nightly news. These are towns and families here who work hard for their money. They don't have a lot of money in this community but what they do have is community spirit. So I'm here because I am touched by the way which they've lived their lives in the last ten years, I never forget that one miner died, but these two guys got rescued, and the people who rescued them, they weren’t some sort of special crack troop or special forces, they were their fellow miners off other shifts. I saw what happened then, and I commemorate the anniversary of that remarkable story. Thanks. 

JOURNALIST: You're not looking to exploit these same people that you've just praised?   

SHORTEN: Listen, I think it's entirely up to Mr Turnbull when he calls the election. Mr Turnbull hasn't consulted me about when he calls it but one thing’s for sure: we're ready. We're united. We've got a plan to put people first and I look forward to seeing you all on the campaign trail, but there's a couple of patient guys who’ve been waiting for a beer and I’d better go and join them.