TRANSCRIPT - PARLIAMENT HOUSE
November 10, 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor opposing the Liberal Government’s unfair cuts to low and middle income families; Labor opposing the Government’s plan to introduce a new $1,000 baby bonus; Polls; Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals plan to raise the GST; WA Labor Party; Republic
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Today I want to announce that the Labor Party will be standing up for a 1.5 million Australian families who are facing unfair cuts from Malcolm Turnbull and his team. Labor's been prepared to work with the Government where it was fair and fiscally responsible to do so, but today Labor is making it very clear; we do not support unfair cuts to grandparent carers and to single carers. We do not also support introducing a $1000 baby bonus.
Labor's approach on family payments is fair and fiscally responsible. We understand that families are doing it hard to make ends meet, and that Malcolm Turnbull's family cuts fail the test of fairness. We understand that when families are concerned with the Liberal's proposing a 15 per cent tax on everything, now is the worst possible time to cut family payments for a range of people who are already battling to make ends meet.
Malcolm Turnbull talks a lot about fairness, but these family cuts are what Malcolm Turnbull puts into action, these cuts are not fair. Labor will not compromise the wellbeing and financial security of a 1.5 million Australian families. I'd know like to get Jenny to talk further about our position, and then Chris, thank you.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: Thanks very much Bill, as Bill Shorten has just outlined Labor will be opposing the unfair cuts to family payments that Malcolm Turnbull wants to impose on 1.5 million Australian families. These cuts are unfair and will hurt family budgets. For a typical two parent family with two children in school if you count the impact of the schoolkids bonus as well as these family payment cuts, a two parent family with two children at school will $2600 a year worse off. A typical single parent family will be $4700 a year worse off. That is why Labor is opposing these cuts. They're not fair and we will not support them.
Today Labor is also starting a new community campaign against Malcolm Turnbull's cuts. We are saying to Malcolm Turnbull it's time to give families a fair go. Labor will do everything we possibly can to support these families and oppose these cuts in the Parliament.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks Bill and Jenny. Well we know that the Turnbull Government is as addicted to unfairness as the Abbott Government was. They're taking the same approach when it comes to attacking those who can least afford it. But what we're announcing today is a plan, a position which is both fair and fiscally responsible.
As Bill and Jenny have said we will vote against the Government's legislation. However, we're also indicating that if the Government chooses to take a fairer and more responsible approach then we would support the change to family tax benefits for couple families, couple families where the youngest child is 13. We will not support, we will not be part of the attack on single parent families and families where the grandparents are the primary carers.
Also Malcolm Turnbull is seeking to bring back the baby bonus in a different form. Labor in government abolished the baby bonus; we will not be part of his plan to bring back $1000 payment for new born babies. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison lecture Australians about the need for cuts, at the same time they've done a dirty deal with the National Party as part of Malcolm Turnbull's transition to the prime ministership, taking the prime ministership off Tony Abbott. Well that’s a matter for them, we'll have no part of it, and we'll oppose it in a fiscally responsible approach. If they want to throw money at a deal with the National Party that's a matter for them, we won't buy into it.
Of course also Labor has a track record when it comes to means testing, a good track record. We've supported the Government's moves for tighter means testing and of course we means tested payments to ensure that they are properly targeted in office, and we'll continue to examine options for means testing appropriately and we'll continue to do that work. Now the approach we're taking is one which combines fairness with responsibility. If the Government chooses to split out some of the changes, those that we are prepared to support then they can pass the legislation but we will stand opposed to their unfair cuts.
Why are we here today? We're only here today because the Labor Party under Bill's leadership, with Jenny Macklin opposed the original measures; fought them all the way. That's why we're here today with force to back down from the government, but the back down wasn't enough, the back down wasn't enough because it still entails particularly unfair and harsh measures, and in some cases measures which are even harsher than Joe Hockey's 2014 Budget. Abolishing the supplements is even harsher than what Joe Hockey tried and failed to do and we'll have no part of that.
SHORTEN: Thanks Chris, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: I think the Government estimated that whole package, that compromise package as presented with savings make about $4. something billion, by your own reckoning what would your counter offer deliver to the Budget?
BOWEN: Well if you look at the support for the change to families, coupled families which children 13 years or over, that comes to in underline cash terms $485 million. When you look at our opposition to the Government's $1000 baby bonus that comes to $374 million. These are all over the forward estimates. So that's a total of $850 - $860 million. Now of course we're also - because we're opposing the abolition of supplements, we would also by definition, also oppose the increase in the fortnightly rate by $10, that is a woefully inadequate attempt at a you know, half compensation for getting rid of the supplements but because we'll opposing the abolition of supplements we would also by definition therefore also oppose the $10 a fortnight increase. So we would say that the measures we are prepared to support show our willingness to be responsible.
JOURNALIST: But what is the total saving when you include the savings and the fortnightly increase.
BOWEN: Well let's go through it if you like David because it's you've got to take it all into account. So as I said the Family Tax Benefit B changes which we are prepared to support comes to $485 million. Reducing to $1,000 for single parent and grandparent families so that's the Government policy we will not support, that’s $1.1 billion so we oppose that. Then as I've said the $1,000 baby bonus, renewed baby bonus, comes to $374 million. Increasing the $10 a week - fortnight increase, costs the budget around half a billion dollars so $546 million over the forward estimates we'll oppose that. But then abolishing the supplements comes to $1.7 billion over the forwards, so the total Labor position when you take into account the savings that we are prepared to support and the new spending that we're prepared to block, if you count the $10 a fortnight which I said is almost by definition obviously our position that comes to $1.4 billion.
JOURNALIST: What's your message to families who will no longer receive the Family Tax Benefit part B now once their kid turns 13 because you promised them last year when their kid turned six you would oppose that entirely - your platform was that was unfair. What makes this fair?
SHORTEN: I’ll get Jenny to supplement my answer. We've held the line for family whose are children are older than six. A little bit of historic after perspective is important here. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, supported by the whole Liberal Cabinet, wanted to take away family tax benefit payments from families once their child turned six. We said this was outrageous and plenty of people said we should give in and agree. So the first thing we’d say to families is but for Labor's staunch defence, once their youngest child turned six they would lose their benefits. What we are also saying today is if you're a grandparent carer, if you're a single parent, if your child even if you're in a couple and your child is 13 or younger, we are going to back you up. What we recognise on balance and it's a compromise and I don't think the Governments treating families the way we would but we're not the Government and we've got to deal with the cards we get played by a pretty tough Government, is that we're saying that couples once their child is older than 13 we think has a better opportunity of being able to try and make ends meet. What we say to all parents of all children is that it's only Labor at the next election who will oppose a GST. What we are saying to all families of all children is that it's only Labor who supports properly funded schools, it’s only Labor who says that we'll properly back up families when they need to go to the doctor and go to hospital, so we have got the backs of families in this country in a way which Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals just simply don't have. But Jenny might talk further about some of the policy.
MACKLIN: I'll just add one point that is very important for couple and single parent families. Of course both will lose their end of year supplements, so if you're a couple family, receiving Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B, you will lose both of your supplements and for a family with one child, that's worth around $1,000 a year. Labor will oppose the abolition of the supplements and that will support both single parent and couple families. We do understand yourself how important it is. There's 1.5 million families who will lose their end of year supplements if Malcolm Turnbull gets his way.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there has been an idea put forward by Deloitte on superannuation, which is different to your policy but applies this 15 per cent discount as you've probably seen. What's your thoughts on that approach to superannuation tax concessions?
SHORTEN: I'll get Chris to supplement my answer but let’s get a couple of facts on the table. Labor's been talking about reining in the excessively generous tax concessions that people who have millions of dollars in retirement currently enjoy. There's been no case made that once you already have millions of dollars in your superannuation, why you should get the income stream from it, the interest, tax free. When other people going to work have to pay taxes on their income at a much lower level. Labor's been very forth right and remember, David, that we've been basically pilloried since we announced this earlier this year and everyone said it's the end of the superannuation system and bad old Labor and we shouldn't be talking about it. Now the Liberals, the latest regime of the Liberals has taken over and they've had a look at the books and have discovered that they have to make some harder decisions. If the Liberals are fair dinkum about thought bubbles on superannuation, they don't have to look beyond our already costed policies. If the Liberals want to talk about superannuation. I don't think they need to go searching down the end of the garden for solution, they could come and look at Labor's policy and we don't mind if in a collegiate fashion, they take our good ideas and implement them because we’re interested in Australia's best interests, no not who has the ownership of the idea. But I might just get Chris to talk further.
BOWEN: Thanks Bill and of course, David that's an idea that as you said Deloitte has put out but others have talked about. When we formulated our policy we focussed on those who could most afford to pay. High income earners, and those who have higher balances in their superannuation account. So those over $250,000 a year in income and with earnings of greater than $75,000 in the retirement phase. Let me make a couple of points. Firstly, as Bill said, the Government has been dragged kicking and screaming to the table on superannuation. Not just the Government but the Treasurer himself who when he was Minister for Social Services ran a scare campaign against our very sensible changes and now he says he wants a mature debate. He could have had a mature debate when we were proposing our sensible changes.
Secondly, he says he'll concentrate on the contributions tax and not the earnings tax. Earnings tax exemption is unsustainable and unfair and if the Government fair dinkum and Scott Morrison is fair dinkum he'll deal with it. If he's not, he'll squib it.
And the finally point on contribution’s tax is obviously as I said, we targeted our changes to high income earners. This proposal would affect many more people including middle income earners. If the Government wants to have that so called conversation as parts of Turnbull's talk-a-thon well he should actually start make some decisions, put the plan out there so we can have a proper debate and compare our plans to his.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Newspoll shows today that support for the Government hasn't been dented despite a scare campaign over the GST, does this show our on the wrong side of the debate?
SHORTEN: We haven't even begun to debate the GST campaign yet. I wouldn't predict that Australians want to pay 15 per cent more on everything. The Government though is - they're trying to say in some sort of a dinner party way, let's talk about everything. Are they seriously talking about putting 15 per cent on fresh food or not? Are they seriously talking to Australians that they're going to put up the price of everything? I think that the Government should actually get down to business and tell people what they actually plan to do. Running the Government isn't like running a dinner party. You owe it to the people who pay your wages to actually spell out what you're doing. There is a great anxiety and confidence concern that 15 per cent is going to become the new tax on everything that people pay for. I couldn't be any clearer and we call keep talking to the Australian people directly and through the media and through the parliament. Labor does not support increasing the price on everything by 15 per cent. We do not support paying the school fees at the local Catholic school, 15 per cent on those fees, we do not support paying 15 per cent to go to the doctor, we do not support paying 15 per cent on fresh food. If you don't want to pay an extra 15 per cent on everything, then Labor are the party to vote for at the next election. This debate hasn’t yet even begun so it would be premature to put up the white flag and say that this is an inevitability, putting a GST at 15 per cent is not inevitable in this country, nor is it good for this country. It is a regressive tax which unfairly hits low and middle income earners the most and Labor’s on the side of low and middle income earners.
JOURNALIST: The Government says it wants to start a conversation. Is it going against the premise of democracy by not even talking about the idea?
SHORTEN: Why don't we go back and have a look at what Mr Turnbull use to say when he was opposition leader to Kevin Rudd. Let's see a little a bit of history here, let's have a look at what Malcolm Turnbull said when he wasn't in charge but wanted to be in charge. He use to press Kevin Rudd mercilessly and forensically in that style of his to say you must rule things out. You must spell out what your plans are. Why is it that now he's Prime Minister where clearly he has a plan and he won't tell us. I think what's important in democracy is trust. I actually think it's important Malcolm Turnbull trusts Australians, I don't need to engage in a conversation, but to actually tell them what the Government’s going to do. This is leadership by thought bubble, it's leadership from the rear and it's not good enough and in Australians supermarkets this Saturday and Sunday let’s go and talk voters, shoppers, consumers, people battling to make ends meet and say how do they feel about paying an extra 15 per cent at the fruit and veggie part of the supermarket? How do they feel about paying 15 per cent on a whole lot of things they don't currently do now?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Andrew Joe Bullock a member of the right in WA has quit the faction, are you concerned this could be a clue to him leaving the party, and secondly given the dysfunction in the WA branch is it maybe time for a national executive to step in and clean it out?
SHORTEN: No, I'm not concerned about anyone leaving the party and further more in terms of Western Australia, again, at the Canning by-election Labor secured a very respectable swing, much higher than the average. The Labor Party is committed to finding the best candidates from all walks of life. We fundamentally believe that the modern Labor Party needs to be a party for all Australians, not just part of the Australian workforce or just of unions, or just of factions. I'm very confident when you look at the issues of Western Australia; jobs, the decline of the mining boom, properly funded hospitals, properly funded schools, climate change, concern about paying 15 per cent price on everything. Labor has a very good story to tell at the next election and we'll certainly be telling it every day between now and whenever that election is held.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to the FTB-B cuts, that package of cuts was meant to pay for the child care measures, seeing as how it's only about $500 million which your, your stance would reap, how are you going to pay for that child care package?
SHORTEN: My colleagues are champing at the bit to answer this so I will delay them no further.
MACKLIN: First and foremost Labor's made very clear all along that we do not think it's fair to make low and middle income families through cuts to family payments pay for child care improvements. We understand how important it is to have and affordable and accessible child care system. It is very, very important for families. Like all of the different interests groups have made clear they don't want to see one group of families’ made worse off to pay for any improvements in child care. As my colleague Chris Bowen has outlined we are prepared to make sensible compromises with the Government to help the state of the Budget. In fact, Labor has agreed to $2 billion worth of cuts in the family payments system by tightening income tests at the top end. For example, it was Labor actually that introduced means testing for Family Tax Benefit part B, when the Liberals were tightening it to $100,000 we agreed to that measure. So we've indicated our support in the past for improvements to targeting family tax benefits at the top but we are not going to support hurting one and a half million Australian families by these cut cuts to family payments.
JOURNALIST: So do you have anything on the table at the moment specifically to fund a new child care package?
BOWEN: Can I just add to that and deal with your question David. The family tax benefit cuts first appeared in the 2014 Budget, Joe Hockey's Budget, with no link to child care, no link to child care whatsoever. We were told that they were vital for Budget consolidation; they remerged in the 2015 Budget and then were suddenly linked magically to the child care package. So, this is a false and artificial connection. As the cat has been belled by Arthur Sinodinos, Malcolm Turnbull's right hand man who said, "Oh, this is just an artificial political linkage for the purpose of the Senate." We happen to agree with Senator Sinodinos on this particular matter. It's an artificial political linkage that they choose to make. Well we don't accept the premise of that question. We don't accept the premise that they are necessarily linked. If the Government wants a child care package then introduce it, give us the details, argue them on their merits and we can have that discussion. But as I'm sure if Kate Ellis was here she'd point out we've seen very little detail about all that and this is just a convenient hypothecation by them for political purposes, one we don't accept.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, tomorrow marks the anniversary of the dismissal, I was hoping you reflect, I know you were fairly younger back then?
SHORTEN: It was 40 years ago. The dismissal remains one of the defining moments of Australian politics since Federation. It caused a convulsion, it was done I believe inappropriately, we had an elected Government sacked by the Governor-General. Australians I think remain gravely disquieted by the action which took place on the dismissal and it shouldn't be able to happen again. What I also care to believe is that it's 40 years on, and in fact to pick some other anniversaries, it's 115 years to since Federation, it's 245 years since Captain Cook first made landfall - isn't it time that we became a Republic. Isn't it time that we decided that we're cable of governing ourselves rather than borrowing the monarch from another country?
I think the dismissal is a timely reminder, not only at one of the most difficult and visible events in Australian politics. I think it's long overdue and now we have a Republican as Prime Minister, a Republican as Leader of the Opposition, I'm certainly keen and look forward with Malcolm Turnbull, to working with him to provide much needed momentum. It is time for Australia to set its own path in the world. It is time when we have those visits from other heads of state that the slightly bemused look when foreign visitors come here and when we toast the head of their State and they have to get up and toast the Queen. It is time for Australia to be independent, truly, not just in terms of our foreign policy but in terms of our constitutional arrangements thank you everyone. I did say it was last question.