TRANSCRIPT OF MINISTER BILL SHORTEN
INTERVIEW WITH VIRGINIA TRIOLI AND MICHAEL ROLAND
ABC 24 BREAKFAST
7 AUGUST 2013
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Better Schools; Company Tax; Paid Parental Leave; News Corp; Australia
TRIOLI: Education Minister, good morning. Thanks for joining us.
SHORTEN: Good morning to both of you.
TRIOLI: Ok so leading into this election now, we now seem to have a, not a stalemate but at least level pegging when it comes to education funding. In your particular portfolio voters can go to the booths knowing, alright, education funding is covered, is protected, there is no real differences in policy.
SHORTEN: No I don’t think that is correct upon deeper analysis. I understand that last Friday, after three years of trash talking Labor’s Better Schools program, all of a sudden the Coalition, probably through their robo calls and their focus groups and their market research, said ‘oh my goodness we have got a giant gap in credibility on education’. Because for three years they’ve opposed everything that Labor has stood for, that former Prime Minister Gillard and Peter Garrett pushed, that I have been pushing with Kevin Rudd in recent weeks. What is good is that for our Better Schools program it means that for every child in every school will get more resources so that they can get the best start in life, teachers can get more support, school communities can have more authority.
So we’ve got a good plan and what happened is that on Friday, after bagging the scheme forever-and-a-day, the Opposition do this sort of inconsistent turnaround of rhetoric. But on the Saturday – where on the Friday the Opposition said you can have brand Liberal on education, no strings attached, to the states – the Liberal government in Victoria said, actually having had a look at Tony Abbott’s education policy, having had a look at Kevin Rudd’s education policy, Denis Napthine Liberal Premier in Victoria said I will take the Labor strings deal. I’ll take the Labor deal with strings, about reform looking after needs based funding, rather than simply trust to election result and an Abbott education policy. So what you had is the verdict came in on the brand of education, the difference between Liberal and Labor. State Liberals had a look at the exam paper submitted by the Liberals on education, had a look at what Labor said and even in the sort of five seconds to midnight before the election, they said we want the Labor model. And indeed even the LNP government who have been very obstreperous and obstructionist and difficult to deal with, even they tried to race to the finishing line to sign up to Labor because they know what people know, parents know, you can’t trust the Libs federally on education.
ROWLAND: The Coalition argues one point of difference is under their plans, schools would have much greater autonomy. Is that a good thing?
SHORTEN: These guys have swallowed the right wing cliché dictionary and just spit out the words without knowing what they mean. Independent Schools Council of Australia, the Catholic Education Commission, all the Bishops, all the dioceses across Australia, these people really jealously guard their independence and they’ve said, we really want to go with Labor’s model. So if this was some sort of plot to take over schools and to have a Commonwealth public servant in every school ticking attendance rolls, as the Opposition have fancifully made out, why would the Catholic Education Commission, why would the Independent Schools Council, why would Liberal Premiers – Barry O’Farrell and Denis Napthine are in the same party as Tony Abbott and they’ve said, listen, forget politics, Labor’s better on education. If you’re the parent of a child going to school today, getting your children ready for school, feeding them, working out all the dramas which you have before you send your kids to school every morning, every parent should know that even Liberal governments think that Labor’s education policy is excellent.
TRIOLI: Bill Shorten can the Government offer business something similar to what the Opposition is going to do today, a little more certainty, a little bit of help with a company tax cut?
SHORTEN: Well, I have had a look at the reports about what the Opposition are saying on company tax. Their promises today, to me, could be categorised as rob Peter to pay Paul tax. What I mean by that is that they’re proposing to introduce a new levy on Australia’s largest companies of 1.5 per cent to pay for their parental leave scheme. So there is a 1.5 per cent putting onto Australian companies, then they’re miraculously saying but we will charge you 1.5 per cent less tax. If you take one step forward and one step backwards, you’re actually going nowhere and that’s what’s happened with their company tax proposal. But the big issue, the big issue isn’t that they’re trying to cover up their new tax they’re putting on big companies, the big issue is how do they pay for billions of dollars in tax cuts and the only way they can do it is cutting education, cutting health, cutting jobs. These people, whatever the question is they try and ask, the only answer Liberals have at the national level is cut services.
TRIOLI: But as an Education Minister, are you really comfortable with the Government’s argument against the Opposition’s paid parental leave scheme, that women who’ve studied and worked and got themselves to a certain level and got themselves to a decent income level which I hear the rhetoric from the Government is something that you would support, then getting that wage replaced when they take maternity leave. Philosophically, what on earth is wrong with that?
SHORTEN: The idea that women should be supported in terms of –
TRIOLI: But their replacement wage, the wage they’ve worked hard to get to that level of, that that gets replaced by government when they say they have in place a proper maternity leave scheme.
SHORTEN: I see your point and the idea that it should be easier for women to participate in the workforce is one which Labor always supports. For the record 300,000 families, 300,000 families have benefited from Labor’s policies that we’ve put in and are paid for. The issue is most companies who have women staff who are well remunerated already have in place schemes. So the real issue is, should the tax payer or a company tax pay for it or the arrangements that companies have already struck? The argument is not, do you support women getting well paid when they’re raising children. The argument is –
TRIOLI: The issue is should it be public money –
SHORTEN: - it’s where it should come from. And my view is that most companies – and I have negotiated conditions for men and women for 20 years both in my last work and also now as a representative in Parliament, being on the Labor side because we believe in equal pay, the proposition is the hole we need to fill is allowing all women to be supported when they go on parental leave. And you will find a lot of the companies that we’re talking about already have in place schemes so all we’re doing is cost shifting back to the taxpayer. So the argument is not about parental leave, which is a Labor idea, the argument is who pays.
TRIOLI: I know that but the argument the Government is making is one that sort of seems to pit women against women. It’s true the rhetoric we’ve heard on this couch from Labor Ministers is why should the taxpayer pay for rich women, when a lot of these women aren’t.
SHORTEN: I see what you’re saying and my view is that it’s about what problem are you trying to fix. And my view is there is already a lot of schemes out there for people who are in better off wage brackets. What I am interested in is 1) having costed policies, which the Libs clearly don’t have and 2) what I am interested in is making sure that all women get an equal go and by that, that’s why we backed in equal pay for people in the community services sector, that’s why we’re pushing to, we’ve already abolished the 15 per cent tax on superannuation that women who earn less than $37,000 pay.
I mean, the Libs are trying to hide this fact, but they’re introducing a new 15 per cent tax on the superannuation savings of people who earn less than $37,000 – that’s 3.5 million people, over 2 million of them are women. So when the Libs say they’re standing up for women, their track record doesn’t necessarily match up to their rhetoric.
ROWLAND: The Prime Minister yesterday rapidly escalated the war of words with News Corp. Australia, particularly in the wake of the Daily Telegraph front page that urged voters to toss you guys out, I am paraphrasing them. Are you worried through, as a senior minister, this is serving as a distraction from Labor’s campaign?
SHORTEN: People are entitled to their opinions. Of course, when you own 70 per cent of the print media in Australia it is possible to get your opinion out more easily than for other people. I think that what we’re seeing with the Daily Telegraph story, which was, I think any reasonable person would say, quite an extreme piece, front page, is that in North America and the UK you see newspapers a lot more politicised, they state their political colours very early on and that’s the way they go, maybe that’s the way the world is going. What we’re keen about though is to make sure in this election, people realise there is a choice. Labor’s got a positive plan in terms of creating jobs, in terms of promoting better healthcare, better schools. The conservatives are coming out with policies which really do need to be examined.
TRIOLI: I am going to have to jump in, I apologise Education Minister but the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is speaking in Sydney, let’s have a listen.
Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111 www.alp.org.au
Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600