21 JUNE 2013
SUBJECTS: leadership speculation, Superannuation, National Plan for School Improvement
NEIL MITCHELL: Bruce Billson, the Shadow Minister for Small Business is with us, Joe Hockey sends his apology and we’re joined by Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten. Good morning.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning gentlemen, good morning Bruce.
NEIL MITCHELL: Is there, Bill Shorten, any question that Julia Gillard will be Prime Minister heading into the election?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Will you review your support for her?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Have you been asked to?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Is this a total invention, this media – this leadership issue?
BILL SHORTEN: Oh listen, the leadership debate comes up in the context that Labor is doing it hard at the moment in the polls. People want to make sure – Labor voters want to make sure that Labor is as competitive as it can be at the election.
What I would say to Labor voters listening, and indeed conservative voters who still want to see a strong opposition and a strong government and a strong debate in Australia, the Government led by Julia Gillard and the Labor Party generally is focused on jobs and growth. We have a plan for jobs and growth.
We want to see the schools in Australia provide better outcomes for our kids. We want to make sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme succeeds. We want to make sure that there’s no fifteen per cent tax paid by low income earners on their superannuation. So we want this election to be about ideas, not just personalities.
NEIL MITCHELL: You know the way words are analysed at times like this. Do you totally and unequivocally support Julia Gillard as Prime Minister until the election?
BILL SHORTEN: I support the Prime Minister.
I know what the leadership speculation is about, but what I also know is that what Australians want. I think you said it as I was listening to your show as I was coming in, if you didn’t say it exactly like this I apologise, but the people have had a bit of a gutful about just politics and they just want to get on with the issues.
There are big issues in Melbourne today, right now. There’s the issue of are our schools providing the right outcomes for our kids, are our roads congested and clogged up, will people have enough money to retire on? People want us to get on with the issues not the personalities.
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you unequivocally and totally support this Prime Minister into the next election?
BILL SHORTEN: I do support this Prime Minister, and you know that words are important so that is why I’m saying I support our Prime Minister. What I also know is I support our Prime Minister because it’s only Labor who’s got a plan for the future. The Opposition has got a small target strategy. I mean, they have now gone off on a frolic about northern Australia. I’m interested in what happens in North Sunshine, North Essendon and North Frankston.
NEIL MITCHELL: I’d like to get to northern Australia in a moment.
BILL SHORTEN: Good.
NEIL MITCHELL: So that support from you really is unequivocal until the next election?
BILL SHORTEN: I continue to support the Prime Minister and the reason why I continue to support our Prime Minister, Prime Minister Gillard, is because the issues that she’s talking about are the issues which matter to Australians. What matters to Australians is ultimately not even Liberal or Labor.
What matters to Australians is are their kids getting a good education, are the schools that they’re in working properly, do they have the adequate resources? What matters to Australians is will they have enough money to retire upon. There are issues out there that matter beyond personalities. Personalities are easy and interesting and fun to talk about but what really matters is what sort of world are we creating for our kids.
NEIL MITCHELL: But it’s not just us that’s talking about it, it’s the whole Caucus, as you know, and you still haven’t said whether you support her until the next election.
BILL SHORTEN: I continue to support our Prime Minister, full stop. I continue to support our Prime Minister, full stop.
NEIL MITCHELL: Will you guarantee that support until the next election?
BILL SHORTEN: I will continue to support our Prime Minister, yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: You will continue to support her…
BILL SHORTEN: Neil, you want to talk…
NEIL MITCHELL: No, you haven’t given me the guarantee.
BILL SHORTEN: So I continue to support our Prime Minister, yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Will you guarantee…
BILL SHORTEN: Black and white, yes I continue to support our Prime Minister. And Neil, at some point…
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you guarantee that until the next election?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, Neil, I’ve answered your question eight…
NEIL MITCHELL: No you haven’t, with respect Minister.
BILL SHORTEN: Sorry, well, when you say with respect I’m not sure you do mean that.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay. Well, without respect…
BILL SHORTEN: So words are important.
NEIL MITCHELL: Without respect…
BILL SHORTEN: Okay. Well, you say words are…
NEIL MITCHELL: …do you guarantee support until the next election?
BILL SHORTEN: You want to keep talking about leadership, I support our Prime Minister. But what I also know is I want to talk about the issues in Australia beyond it. The Libs love the fact that you spend your time and that we all spend our time talking about leadership. When will there…
NEIL MITCHELL: I’m not Kevin Rudd.
BILL SHORTEN: Well, no, I can tell that.
NEIL MITCHELL: Have you spoken to Kevin Rudd about this?
BILL SHORTEN: I haven’t spoken to Kevin Rudd about the leadership. I do speak to all of our Caucus colleagues. But what I also know, what I also know, is that what Australia wants is a debate about the issues. While we sit here and you ask questions about the leadership, you’re letting the Liberal’s off scot free. They haven’t got costed promises, you know that. You know that the Liberal policies they haven’t thought through. Why is it that in this interview, we’ve been doing this interview for six minutes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you deny there is turmoil in your party?
BILL SHORTEN: I agree that there is concern about the performance of the Labor Party, yes I do. But what I also know is that there’s concern about what will happen if Tony Abbott becomes the Prime Minister of Australia. And we’ve got to stop allowing the Liberals – and I agree that leadership discussion does distract, but what I also know is that the Liberal Party don’t have costed policies about a whole lot of stuff.
They want to put on – and I’m never going to give up on this argument – they have got a plan to put a fifteen per cent tax on the superannuation contributions of every Australian who earns less than $37,000. That’s one and a half times the GST, on 3.5 million people. When on earth will we ever get the analysis – the fact the Liberal Party of Australia want to put a new tax on people’s superannuation?
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you believe there will be a leadership ballot next week?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you believe there will be a leadership ballot before the election?
BILL SHORTEN: No. But I do believe that unless the Liberal party get a proper examination of their policies then Australian politics is being let down by people who should be examining two sides of this political race.
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you believe Kevin Rudd should pull his head in?
BILL SHORTEN: Kevin Rudd’s campaigning for Labor. I’m not going to start bagging individuals. What I also know is that there are two horses in this race and I also know that only the Liberal Party wants to put a tax on 3.5 million Australians on their superannuation. We know for instance there’s a gender savings gap, or in plain English, women have less money when they retire than men.
Now, people aren’t going anywhere once they retire, and if we don’t increase superannuation well then the taxes will go up to pay for the aged pension. Why is it that no-one is debating the fact that the Liberal Party want to put a tax on 3.5 million Australians? Why is this not talked about?
NEIL MITCHELL: Have you been frozen out of the decision making…
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: …by the Prime Minister?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Are you on good terms with her?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Does she still take your advice?
BILL SHORTEN: She takes advice from all sorts of quarters. Sometimes she takes my advice.
NEIL MITCHELL: Have you advised her on the issue of leadership?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Will you?
BILL SHORTEN: In terms of what Neil?
NEIL MITCHELL: In terms of what is going on within your party, Minister.
BILL SHORTEN: Well, what I’m talking about, and even if the media won’t – I tell you what Neil, even if the media won’t talk about the Liberal Party and their lack of policies and their new tax on superannuation, I will.
NEIL MITCHELL: What is your party talking about behind closed doors, do you think?
BILL SHORTEN: Why the Liberal Party want to put a fifteen per cent tax – fifteen per cent tax…
NEIL MITCHELL: Are you serious? You don’t believe that your party is obsessed by the leadership?
BILL SHORTEN: I tell you what, Neil – I know that some people are obsessed by the leadership. I’m obsessed by the fact that not enough Australians have enough to retire on. I’m obsessed by the fact that no matter what Labor says, we can’t seem to get anyone interested in the fact that there’s a fifteen per cent tax on 3.5 million Australians.
NEIL MITCHELL: Whose fault do you think that could be, Minister?
BILL SHORTEN Well, let’s be clear; it’s partly the Labor Party’s fault, but how come there hasn’t been an analysis of the Liberal Party’s great big new tax on 3.5 million Australians? I tell you what, if Julia Gillard said she was going to do that, people would go crazy. They’d be dropping out of trees like koalas on LSD. They’d been going nuts, but when it’s the Liberals or the Coalition proposing a fifteen per cent tax on superannuation, not a whisper.
NEIL MITCHELL: Bruce Billson, what’s your answer to that?
BRUCE BILLSON: Oh, look Bill keeps going on about this, hoping no-one will notice that he and his government have imposed eight-billion dollars worth of new taxes on superannuation. They’ve made more than fifty major changes to the superannuation that Kevin Rudd said he wouldn’t alter not one jot, not one tittle. So Bill goes on about this, and he talks about one of the supposed goodies that’s coming out of the mining tax, that’s raising a poopteenth of the funds it’s supposed to provide, and what we’ve said is that there’s no scope to be promising things from a mining tax when the revenue’s just not there, and the Australian community understand that.
You can’t keep, as Bill does talking about all the upsides and more spending when you’re borrowing money to make these commitments, and ignoring the impact in the longer term wellbeing of the economy and people’s interests in government that lives within its means. So Bill’s got his eight-billion dollars of extra tax, and he doesn’t want to talk about that.
NEIL MITCHELL: Oh okay, so what the answer is, yes the Coalition’s going to put a 15 per cent tax. Anyone who’s listening to this show who earns less than $37,0000 should realise that if the Coalition’s elected on September 14th, they will be paying 15 per cent tax on their superannuation contributions that they’re not paying now.
BRUCE BILLSON: I think they should also realise, Neil that we’ve been promised a no-carbon tax, yet we’ve got one. We’ve been promised no changes on superannuation, yet there’s been more than fifty. We’ve had eight-billion dollars of extra taxes implemented by Bill and his team, and if Labor is re-elected, I wonder how long these promises that they’re making now will last.
BILL SHORTEN: Alright, now we’ve established the Liberal Party has got a fifteen per cent tax on 3.5 million Australians. The next issue which is really important to talk about is what happens to our schools? In Mr Billson’s own electorate of Dunkley, Frankston Secondary College stands to gain over a million dollars extra next year. Essendon Keilor College in my electorate stands to gain over a million dollars in extra resources. What this means is that if Labor gets re-elected, our kids are going to have more teachers, more electives, more subjects, more resources.
NEIL MITCHELL: Could I ask about the opposition? Kevin – ah, Tony Abbot today is – that’s the other opposition – Kevin Rudd – Tony Abbot today is launching a policy in the Northern Territory. Is it correct you’re going to offer tax breaks to people in the Northern Territory?
BRUCE BILLSON: What’s been announced today, Neil is the vision for 2030 for Northern Australia, and it shows you the contrast. You’ve got a divided and dysfunctional Labor Party, and you’ve got a coalition led by Tony Abbott that’s about competence and about vision, and one of our key objectives is to seize the opportunities in the north of Australia, recognise there’s an energy hub there – agricultural prospects are real – tourism’s something that could add considerably to the north of Australia. Four per cent of the population live there, but there’s enormous growth opportunities.
NEIL MITCHELL: Have you got a problem with that, Bill Shorten, in concept?
BILL SHORTEN: I enjoy dinner party conversations. I enjoy chat at the football. That’s all this is. This is a thought bubble with no visible means of support. It is easy for an opposition to say don’t look at us. Listen, we want to do something about northern Australia. Well, yeah sure, everyone loves northern Australia.
I’ve got no doubt that it’s a great idea to talk about northern Australia, but what I also know is that you’ve got to pay for your promises. What I also know is the idea that if you live in one part of Australia, curtsey of the conservatives, you get all the attention. I’m interested in North Frankston. I’m interested in North Essendon. I’m interested in North Sunshine. I’m interested in making sure that the schools there get resources. I’m also interested that all the lower paid workers in Victoria who earn $37,000 or less don’t pay a fifteen per cent tax on their superannuation.
NEIL MITCHELL: [Unclear]
BRUCE BILLSON: Yeah, sure. I mean, Bill’s just revealed something that’s not evident with Labor; they’re interested in knowing how to pay for their promises. This is a revelation. That’s the very point we were talking about earlier – promises that aren’t able to be afforded versus a sensible, measured and adult approach to governing the country.
NEIL MITCHELL: Can I ask you both something as Melbournians? I don’t think this comes in – well, it might come under you. I don’t know. This Sportsbet sign out at Tullamarine – I don’t know if it’s on federal land or not. It might be. We’re checking that through. Sportsbet rooting for the Wallabies and a kangaroo mounting a lion. Now, when you fly into Melbourne, you see that. Is that a good thing for Melbourne, Bill Shorten?
BILL SHORTEN: No. No, listen people – I think it’s very tasteless. I don’t know if it’s illegal. Bad taste has never been illegal, but it’s certainly not necessarily the first – I don’t want the first impression of Melbourne – the image of Australia’s emblematic national animal doing something to a lion. Like, what…
NEIL MITCHELL: What do you think, Bruce Billson?
BRUCE BILLSON: Tacky, unnecessary – big sign like that could have simply said we’re backing the Wallabies. We’d have got the ‘aha’ value that Sportsbet wanted without the unnecessary over reach.
NEIL MITCHELL: Bipartisan. Thank you both very much for coming. Have you had enough of it Bill? You’re getting – Bill Shorten, you’re getting a bit hassled by all of this, aren’t you? You’re sick of it all. You’re sick of it.
BILL SHORTEN: Neil, what I say is that I know that the Libs have got a small target strategy where they’ve got four word slogans and a lack of detail.
BRUCE BILLSON: He keeps talking about the Libs doesn’t he. I think he’s infatuated. There’s something else been going on here.
BILL SHORTEN: Oh well, no because I actually don’t think that you controlling the Senate is a great thing for Australian democracy.
NEIL MITCHELL: But you must be frustrated by your own lot that are tearing themselves apart.
BILL SHORTEN: It is frustrating when Labor can’t talk about the issues that are important because it’s all about ourselves, but what I also know is that this is an election where there’s two horses in the race, plus the Palmer United Party and everyone else. What I think is that I’m interested in who’s got the best policies on schools, on disability, on superannuation, on jobs.
NEIL MITCHELL: You also told me two weeks away, if the polls are right you’d get whipped. Now, the polls are even worse, aren’t they?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: You’re going to get whipped?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, we haven’t given up. And what I want to say to Labor voters is that the Labor Party has not given up. We think that as the election draws close, when there’s an examination not just on personalities but on ideas, I want every parent of a child in my electorate to get a Labor Government back, because I want every child in my electorate to get more resources in their schools. A vote for the Liberals is a vote for the status quo. A vote for Labor is better support in our schools for our kids. There’s nothing more important.
NEIL MITCHELL: Bruce Billson, thank you.
BRUCE BILLSON: Thank you, Neil.
NEIL MITCHELL: Bill Shorten, thank you.
BILL SHORTEN: Thank you, Neil.