10 May 2016

TUESDAY, 10 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Q&A;Budget; Labor’s positive policies; Child care; asylum seekers, hung Parliament.

EMMA GRIFFITHS (HOST): The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, hello.  


GRIFFITHS: I'm pretty good. I'm wondering will you be extending those tax cuts to people in lower tax brackets?

SHORTEN: What we will do is stand up for people in lower tax brackets by not passing on massive tax cuts to millionaires and multinationals, and instead making sure that Duncan's kids get a quality education regardless of –

GRIFFITHS: That doesn't make any difference to his take home wage or what's in his pocket.

SHORTEN: No you're right, and I thought he made a good point and we aren't going to be changing, at this election, the tax-free threshold. But what I can say is that Duncan nailed the issue about, there was nothing in this Budget for millions of Australians who work hard and pay taxes. What I can say Emma, is he said on that show that he had kids of school age, we'll make sure they get a quality education based upon their needs. We'll also make sure that when they're sick or when they need a blood test they'll still be able to go to a GP or a pathology laboratory and be able to bulk bill because otherwise Duncan mightn't be able to take his kids to get the medical care they afford. I don't know which job Duncan has but because of Labor there is a far, far greater opportunity for him to earn penalty rates.  I also heard him say that he can't afford to pay any more GST. It's only Labor that can be trusted to stop the GST from going to 15 per cent.

We understand, unlike Mr Turnbull that a lot of Australians are doing it hard, that's why we won't go down the inappropriate path of providing a millionaire who's earning, a million dollars a year in fact, a $17,000 tax cut, whilst people like Duncan get nothing in their tax and face harsh cuts.

GRIFFITHS: Bill Shorten, Duncan's on the minimum wage at the moment that's about $656 per week. There are people who are worse off than that on the Newstart allowance getting unemployment benefits, and if you're a single person with a child on Newstart, then you are getting $570 a fortnight. Why do you need to review the level of Newstart which you've promised to do, why don't you know that that is not enough and you can commit to putting it up now?

SHORTEN: Well, we do believe there's a long overdue inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart. You're quite right, these are very low amounts of money. That's why we're committed to using the review to investigate what should be the case, but again I'm going to say that Mr Turnbull wants to talk about tax cuts for companies with large turnovers, I understand that in Australia at the moment living standards are falling, I understand in Australia that we have record underemployment. I understand also that wages growth in this country, and you mention the minimum wage along with Newstart, I understand that wages growth is at historic low levels. This is all because we've got a government in Canberra who are seriously out of touch with the way that people are organising and living their lives. Mr Turnbull's always got a lot to say about industrial relations on one topic, but never about how everyone else is making ends meet.

GRIFFITHS: Bill Shorten, single parents copped it under the last Labor Government in 2013, they faced cuts of $100 a week in payments when they were moved from a parenting payment to Newstart. Will you reverse that?

SHORTEN: We are certainly looking very hard at that matter. What we learned through that, and we recognise that to have been a decision which wasn't the decision we should've made, is that single parents do need greater support if we're going to be able to encourage and participate in work. That is why, along with our review of Newstart, that is why we are in the trenches defending bulk-billing. That is why we are in the trenches defending the proper funding of schools.

GRIFFITHS: But that's money that single parents lost, $100 a week in payments. Your families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin has already been on the record saying that is was the wrong thing to do, it was unfair. What are you going to do to rectify that situation?

SHORTEN: Well I think the situation which single parents face has got plenty of challenges right now, and I agree with Jenny about that decision and her analysis. But what I also know is that if you're a single mum and your kids are sick and you're also trying to balance everything else, you've got your energy costs, you've got your transport costs, you've got your food costs, and you have to pay to see the doctor. Something gives. So I think that our defence of bulk-billing and Medicare is fundamental to the economic wellbeing of single parents and many millions of our fellow Australians. From pensioners, people on fixed incomes, right through to people who don't earn a lot of money.

GRIFFITHS: Bill Shorten, we also hear on this program about Family Tax Benefit payments, A and B, and wondering are they going to stay the same under a Labor government, if you are elected?

SHORTEN: Well, the Family Tax Benefit, and I've got some numbers about the cuts which have been made, and which Mr Turnbull is still seeking to make in this current Budget. In Queensland, 333,000 families have lost the $726 per child end of year supplement, we certainly, we certainly believe that this government is taking the axe too far. Labor has always been up for sensible means testing –

GRIFFITHS: Will there be changes?

SHORTEN: For families who are earning 60, 70 and 80, there's $60,000 and $65,000 a year for instance, we do not see that the case has been made out by this government to persist with these cuts. A clear example of something which is right on our mind as we speak, is that the person earning $1 million a year, got a $17,000 a year tax cut present from Mr Turnbull, but a working mum, a single mum with teenage kids, she faces losing nearly $4,700 dollars. We are not up for that change at all.

GRIFFITHS: So, you mentioned the single parent there, so I go back to that question about that cut that you gave them in 2013, that was a Labor government that did that, and are we going to see any announcement in the next seven and a half weeks to address that problem?

SHORTEN: We'll be examining the very point you're making. What this Government has done though for single parents has seen them, the ones who work, real wages growth has been very low, almost as low as it's been in 20 years, and indeed for as long as we've been keeping wages records. Again, whilst we examine the question you've asked, what I've also got to say, through you to listeners, a lot of people are working hard to make ends meet. This Government promised child care reform, and now they've shelved it. This Government promised no cuts to pensions, and they cut pensions.

GRIFFITHS: Well Bill Shorten, on the child care question, Labor, you have not detailed your child care policy. You've said you'd spend the same amount as the Coalition, so about $3 billion, but you won't say how that money is going to be spent. Will the rebate, the Child Care Rebate or the Child Care Benefit be cut or changed under a Labor government?

SHORTEN: We've got seven and a half weeks to go of this election. Child care will be one of our important policies which we will announce in that time. But suffice to say at this point, as we look at the landscape of child care, the Government for two years kept justifying cuts to people receiving child care benefits by saying they would have a better plan. And in last Tuesday night's Budget, barely a week ago, they shelved all of their plans to improve child care. We will announce further policies in the course of this election campaign.

GRIFFITHS: Bill Shorten an issue of today, again for the second day running, asylum seekers and Labor's policy on that. You're facing pressure from candidates now. The candidate for Herbert Cathy O'Toole this morning didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement of your party, of the party's offshore processing policy, saying it's the best option that we have. Clearly there is disquiet –

SHORTEN: I just want to correct that -

GRIFFITHS: Why shouldn't –

SHORTEN: I was standing alongside Cathy O'Toole, just to set the record straight there. She clearly said that she supports the Labor policy. But the issue which you're going to generally, there's a lot of people in the Australian community who want to make sure that whilst we don't see people drown at see, and we stop the people smugglers, they want to ensure that people are treated humanely when they're directly or indirectly within Australia's care. 

GRIFFITHS: But on your policy, why shouldn't anyone believe that you'll be forced to bow to pressure to change it after the election?

SHORTEN: Because unlike Mr Turnbull, I run my party. Unlike Mr Turnbull, who doesn't have a united party, we debated these issues out at our National Conference. As you would recall Emma as a student of, you know, politics here, we did have those debates and arguments. People of goodwill have different views about the best way to one, defeat the people smugglers and stop the drownings at sea, and two, make sure that we're not putting people in a situation of semi-indefinite detention.

Now Labor has got a good policy. We will not put people the smugglers back in business. But we don't view the people seeking to come to this country are criminals. We don't view that wanting to come to this country means that you should, and coming by boat, means that you should be kept in indefinite detention. We will make regional processing work. 

GRIFFITHS: Bill Shorten, a bit earlier I spoke to the Greens Deputy Leader, Larissa Waters, it's been an interesting day for relations between Labor and the Greens, because the Greens have put up this deal on the table if there's a hung Parliament, and you've said, don't be silly, you're dreaming. But here's a bit of what Larissa Waters told us a few minutes ago. 

WATERS: It's very interesting to see that apparently today we've got leprosy and the two big parties are falling over themselves to distance themselves from us. Well, that may be the case, what they're saying today, but I am confident that in the event of a hung Parliament, you would see them banging down our doors and the doors of everybody else in the cross benches. 

GRIFFITHS: You can't really rule out doing any deals, do you, I mean a hung Parliament is a viable option. 

SHORTEN: We do rule out doing a deal with the Greens. Let's be really clear what's happening here. Labor is determined by our positive policies, by our strong opposition to Mr Turnbull's out of touch priorities, of giving, cuts to multinationals and the top end of town. We are determined, with our vision for schools and hospitals, with a vision for Australian jobs, and renewable energy, and fair taxation, that we form a government. 

In the meantime, what's happened is that the Greens are competing with Labor, the Greens aren't seriously running against the Liberal Party. What they want to do is by supporting the Liberals in middle suburban and outer suburban seats and regional seats, by changing their practices and allocating preferences to the Liberal party, what they want to do in return is get from the Liberal party, who they say are their ideological extreme political enemies, in return they want Liberal votes in the inner city to flow to the Greens. 

The fact of the matter is that this talk of a coalition by the Greens is merely an attempt to appease their voters. Because the truth is that when you vote Green in Australia, there's a chance your vote will go to the Liberals, and when you vote Liberal in Australia, in some seats your vote will go to the Greens. The Greens are competing against us, they don't wish to be in coalition with us.

GRIFFITHS: Bill Shorten, thanks very much for the chat this afternoon. 

SHORTEN: Good talking to you again, cheers Emma.