13 May 2019


MONDAY, 13 MAY 2019 
Subjects: Labor's plan for the NSW Central Coast; Labor's vision for Australia; Morrison's negative gearing scare campaign exposed; first home buyers policy; anniversary of Abbott horror budget; US-China trade dispute; Frydenberg's failure to release costings; Gladstone Port worker; Clive Palmer in Fiji; Wallarah coal mine

ANNE CHARLTON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR ROBERTSON: Hello everyone I'm Anne Charlton, I’m Labor's candidate for Robertson in the upcoming federal election. It’s great to have Bill Shorten here on the coast today. In my electorate every day when I am out speaking to people I just more and more see families that are struggling. Families that are struggling with the cost of child care, families that are struggling with their day to day bills. We need a Labor Government in Robertson and this is a team that is going to deliver that. So thank you so much for being here today. Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Anne. Great to be here and great to be with Anne Charlton running in Robertson. Emma McBride running in Dobell. Our central coast team. And today we are launching our plan to deliver a fair go for the central coast. We are doing this all around Australia, outlining our regional plans right across this marvellous continent and we'll be doing a fair bit of it this week, pulling together our set of policies, our vision and plan for the future. To end the chaos, to stop the cuts, to take real action on climate change. But I have to say today as we enter the last week of the election it was pretty interesting and instructional to talk to the Year 11 and Year 12 students at this very impressive school. Now a lot of them started school 12 years ago and we're still arguing about climate change 12 years on. This election is about the future. It's about the future we hand on to our kids. It's about the sort of future we want for this country. This government has proven incapable of taking any serious action on climate change in the last six years. This election is a turning point for how the nation deals with climate change. We're ranked 55th out of 60 countries for the way we're handling climate change. The Prime Minister acknowledges that under him our carbon pollution has gone up and is projected to go further up. The future generations of Australia deserve better from the current crop of political debate. Labor will take real action on climate change. We'll help reduce our emissions on 2005 levels. We'll help put 50 per cent of our energy mix being from renewable energy in the future. This is what the future deserves, the very best efforts from people in government in 2019. We've had 13 different energy policies from this government, three different prime ministers and still the power prices go up and our climate pollution goes up. Today we say again in this last week and we will say it every day until May 18th. Vote Labor to stop the chaos on climate. Vote Labor to take real action on climate change. Now I'd like to briefly pass over to my Shadow Treasurer who will talk about the latest boring scare campaign from the government which has no scintilla of truth to it. Over to Chris.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks very much Bill. Of course today we see the release of a New South Wales Treasury note which reflected the conversations they were having with the federal Treasury in 2015. What does that note confirm? What does it tell us? The federal Treasury was saying that negative gearing reform would be good for the economy, could improve the efficiency of the tax system and was very much on the table for Scott Morrison as Treasurer. When it comes to negative gearing Scott Morrison is full of it. He will say anything. We know that he with Malcolm Turnbull took a submission to the expenditure review committee of the Cabinet to say that negative gearing should be reformed and they got rolled. We know that Scott Morrison said there were excesses in negative gearing. But he's now chosen the cheap, shrill scare campaign instead of good policy. Three years ago Bill and I and the Labor Party announced our negative gearing reform policy. Since then they've engaged in every scare campaign imaginable. They've said housing prices will go up and down, sometimes in the same interview. But all that time they were getting advice from the Treasury that negative gearing reform could be good for the economy and good for the efficiency of the tax system. We know that our negative gearing reforms - carefully designed, grandfathering all existing investments, allowing negative gearing going forward for new properties - are carefully designed to encourage housing supply, put first home buyers on a more level playing field with investors and be good for the budget. Now house prices have fallen on this Government's watch. Josh Frydenberg would have you believe that house price falls under him are wonderful but under the Labor Party would be a disaster. But all that time they've been getting Treasury advice to say what they're telling the Australian people is untrue. So this is just the latest installment, the latest reminder. When it comes to negative gearing, when it comes to housing, Scott Morrison and the Liberals are just full of it. We have the most comprehensive plan. Not just negative gearing reform. The  National Rental Affordability Scheme, build to rent policy. In 2016 we announced a National Housing Supply Council which the government finally caught up with us on three years later yesterday. Australians know when it comes to action on housing, housing supply, it's only Bill Shorten and Labor who have got the positive policies and the plan for action.

SHORTEN: Thanks Chris. Good morning everybody, we might start off with some questions.

JOURNALIST:  On the first home buyers scheme that you signed up to yesterday what problems do you envisage there might be with that policy and does it deserve modelling and consultation to check its effect on house prices. 

SHORTEN: Well I'm going to get Chris to supplement it because he's been working very hard in this area of policy. But let's call it as it is. I think the government scratched around yesterday looking for something to announce because as you know all I can do is talk about us. So they've proposed a modest program, a restricted program which may potentially assist 10,000 people. We're not in the business of bagging every idea just because someone else has an idea. But if you want to tackle housing affordability it's only part of a much bigger picture. That's why we need to reform the unfair playing field where property investors are getting subsidised by the Morrison government to buy their sixth or seventh house and first home buyers have got an unlevel playing field. But I might get Chris to supplement.

BOWEN: Well thanks Bill. I think what Australians are sick of is political parties saying just because somebody else thought of the idea we say no. Yesterday we saw an idea. It's unobjectionable, it's modest as Bill said. It will have a small impact. But it's one that we're prepared to tick. In terms of the policy it works best, it will work best as part of a broader suite of reforms as we are proposing. This is all they've got. Five minutes to midnight, a week before an election, six years into government they come up with this idea. Whereas we've been putting ideas out consistently and this can fit in with those ideas. But that's all they've got. In terms of the detail, of course it's up to the government to provide further detail, but we would envisage the scheme working similarly to the Keystart program which has existed for several decades in Western Australia under governments of both persuasions. It's still operating today. It's operated under governments of both persuasions in Western Australia and has broad support. It does provide a similar level of support for first home buyers. So we're prepared to give it a tick. We'll obviously work closely on the implementation details. But it only will work as part of that broader suite of  measures which only Labor can bring to the table.

JOURNALIST: You're saying the government needs to provide more detail, why have you decided to back it without looking at that detail first?

BOWEN: Well as I said, we see it as a modest proposal. The government themselves said that it's only going to have a modest impact. We don't disagree with that. We think it might help some people, a relatively small number of people in the greater scheme of things. We don't think is going to have a big impact either way on the housing market. But it's an idea as I said in keeping with what already happens in Western Australia, what happens in New Zealand and what happens in South Australia. So it's not a new concept in that regard. It's not a radical proposal, it's a sensible enough proposal, one that we're prepared to support. As I said when we see an idea from the other side we don't automatically say no.

JOURNALIST: A certain percentage of those home mortgage holders will default and that cost will go back on to the government. Have you costed that in your Opposition policy costings? And secondly the big four banks have really been receptive to this idea because they're set to make money off it. Is this something that taxpayers should be putting forward?

BOWEN: Well again the proposal is put forward by the government, which we agree with, it concentrates on smaller lenders, non-big four bank lenders which is good for competition. On default -again if it works, as I have said we envisage it working as the Western Australian model has, default is almost non-existent, minimal. The scheme is carefully designed to ensure that default is minimised. As I said it's worked for decades in Western Australia where the default rate, I think I'm right in saying - lower than the average in the broader housing market.

JOURNALIST: So how much will it cost?

BOWEN: Well there's no cost to the budget itself. It's off budget.

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, just on housing, do you accept that your capital gains tax changes will make property less attractive to investors and could see housing prices fall?

BOWEN: No. Again, our capital gains tax reforms are part of the broader suite of measures. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg will defend every tax concession which benefits high wealth individuals. Remembering that 70 per cent of the value, 70 per cent of the value of the capital gains tax concession goes to the top 20 per cent of income earners or wealth, excuse me, in Australia. So this is a highly regressive tax concession which needs to be reformed, needs to be reformed. If you get your income from working at a factory or an office you pay your marginal tax rate. We accept there should be some sort of a discount for capital gains. But the 50 per cent discount, which was designed in a very different era, is no longer fit for purpose. It needs to be reformed and of course all existing investments made before 1 January 2020 fully grandfathered as always.

JOURNALIST: Just on foreign policy, the Prime Minister said today that we shouldn't choose between friends and customers. Should we take a side in the US-China dispute?

SHORTEN: Australian foreign policy should be pursued with Australia's national interests at its heart. The United States, as I've said on many occasions, is our longest standing ally and we have shared values. But I did notice that Mr Morrison characterised China as a customer. You know, I think we need a bit more sophistication from the people who want to be Prime Minister than simply telling one of the largest countries on Earth ‘we just see you as customers’. There's no doubt that trade is important. But I actually think we need to grow up in the 21st century and stop having a simplistic view of the rise of Asia. I don't look at China or Japan or Korea or Indonesia just as customers. I see them as very complex, dynamic societies. I see them with lessons to teach us and things that we can teach them. I see a much more sophisticated relationship than viewing China as some sort of customer going through the Australian McDrive-through and just saying, you know, what can we get from you? In terms of that, the other part of your question where you say is there a dichotomy - we'll just pursue our own interests. America and ANZUS is fundamental to our security and nothing's going to change that. But I think we need to take a more sophisticated 21st century view of the rise of Asian societies rather than just view them as customers. 

JOURNALIST: Perhaps the only significant move in opinion poll numbers this morning is in your personal popularity. We note that it comes after the press conference where you tackled last week the issue of your mum and your mother's treatment in news media. Can you tell us, does that rise in popularity accord with what you're getting from the electorate, the sense you're getting as you come, not just to school yards but more broadly around Australia?

SHORTEN: Today is a day of anniversaries and I want to congratulate Mr Morrison on achieving a birthday. It's another anniversary. It's about 2,046 days since I've been Opposition Leader. In that first 2,046 days, I've made a practice of not commenting on the polls - good, bad, indifferent or whatever. 

JOURNALIST: Go for it, Mr Shorten. 

SHORTEN: No, no. I'm a very disciplined unit and I will wait the next five days and I'll give you all the commentary in five days’ time. But there is another anniversary which I'd like Senator Keneally to talk about.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, SENATOR FOR NSW: Thank you. It is Mr Morrison's birthday and while we wish him a happy birthday, I hope he gets some time today to spend with his family, it is also the fifth anniversary of the Abbott 2014 budget. We all remember that budget. We all remember that budget for the cuts that it inflicted. It inflicted cuts to schools, some $30 billion. Cuts to hospitals, some $57 billion. They cut the ABC. They cut the ABC $35 million. Then they cut it $254 million. Then they cut it $83 million. And let's not forget that this 2014 budget, this horror budget from Tony Abbott, came after his pledge on the eve of election night 2013, where he said there would be no cuts to schools, no cuts to hospitals, no cuts to pensions, no cuts to the ABC or the SBS. What did he do when he got in? He cut schools, he cut hospitals. He tried to make families pay $7 to visit the doctor. In the past four years if their GP Tax had gotten up, some $700 families in Australia would be worse off - he would've added to the already growing cost of seeing a doctor in this country. They cut $1.3 billion from renewable research. They tried to close down ARENA. They tried to introduce $100,000 university degrees. They even cut $500 million from Indigenous Affairs. Before they then turned their back on a voice to the parliament. Let's be clear here today on the anniversary of the 2014 Abbott horror budget. Scott Morrison is just Tony Abbott in a baseball cap. And a minority Morrison-Palmer government would just bring back more cuts and more chaos. More cuts are coming, winter is coming, Mr Morrison. If a Morrison government is re-elected, it'll be more cuts to hospitals, more cuts to schools, more cuts to families, more cuts to renewable energy, more cuts to Australia. We can't afford, we cannot afford five more years of the cuts and the chaos that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments have wrought upon Australia. It's time to vote them out.

SHORTEN: I might just ask Chris to supplement because there's a point which is emerging through Mr Morrison's fantasy promises yesterday about East-West link which deserves your attention. 
BOWEN: I'll just add very briefly. You mentioned the Labor Party released our costings on Friday, the earliest any Opposition has released its costings ever. And I note that the government hasn't been able to lay a glove on them. But I'll just make this point. When is Mr Frydenberg releasing his costings? He's making policy up as he goes, big commitment yesterday for East-West Link. He admits it wasn't in the budget, it therefore hits the budget. They've made other commitments through this election campaign adding to around $6 billion. How will this impact on the budget? The government's budget rules are that any new spending must be offset by cuts. If they comply with their rules, where are the cuts? What are you going to cut Mr Morrison to pay for your promises? We've outlined our costings. Bigger budget surpluses. More money for health and education, fairer tax system under Labor as reflected in our costings. I invite the Treasurer to catch up with us and release his costings and reveal where are the cuts. 
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the Gladstone Ports worker. He reportedly had his pass suspended, temporarily at least, and his desk packed up. Do you have some concerns that he was treated unfairly and there's some sort of suppression of freedom of speech in that workplace. 
SHORTEN: Well, first of all Rosie, happy birthday. Listen I was unaware of this issue at Gladstone Port until last night. I understand the company has put out a statement today and I can add no more to that. But to the more principled part of your question. You know, I've been around work sites for 30 years. As a politician I've been visiting work sites for the last dozen. People are allowed to express their opinions and they should be able to do so without fear or favour. Full stop.
JOURNALIST: There's five days to go until polling day, you are spending most of your time in LNP-held seats, so that has to suggest a level of confidence from the Labor side. Is your polling sort of reflecting what the published polls are showing, that Labor is ahead?
SHORTEN: I want to talk to as many Australians as I can directly. About Labor's plans to end the chaos, to stop the cuts, to start to vote for real climate action, real action on climate change. To vote for real action on cost of living so that a million Australian households can get additional subsidies for that crippling cost of child care. I want to put forward the case that we need to get wages moving again in this country, put middle and working class people back on top in the system. So Labor is competitive. I don't put it any more strongly than that. There is a mood for change in the nation. We're now approaching 2020. The first two decades of the 21st century is up. A nation can't keep falling off the pace. Six years of this Government doesn't deserve more of the same. You know Mr Morrison made a virtue about being the, you know the only politician at his launch. But you don't only just vote for the leader. You vote for the whole party. The fact that he's got his own party in witness protection shows you that the disunity which makes Australians so angry, the constant infighting - so angry, it is barely masked. So I'm putting the case to the Australian people - vote Labor on May 18th to stop the chaos. Vote Labor to start putting middle and working class people back on top.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten, Clive Palmer has been spotted in Fiji, with five days to go until the election, can I get your view on that?
SHORTEN: I don't know what Mr. Palmer is doing in Fiji and I'm not sure if he told me you'd automatically believe it anyway, would you? But the real issue is not Clive Palmer. The real issue is that this character is going to be calling the shots in a Morrison-Palmer-Hanson government. People don't want any more chaos. It doesn't matter if you're Liberal, Labor, whatever you are. People are sick of Canberra focusing on itself and just fighting each other. Love us or hate us, the Labor Party is united. We've got 2,000 days of lived experience to demonstrate that we've learnt our lesson. We are united. We have got a talented front bench, one I'm proud to put out in front of people. And we've got fantastic policies. Chris said before about our costings, we're putting our costings out there because for the Australian people to trust us we know we've got to trust the Australian people and be upfront with our views and our policies. So the problem with Palmer is no matter where he's sighted he will be calling the shots in a Morrison coalition government. That is a recipe for chaos. And Australians are over the chaos. Vote Labor in the House and the Senate to end the chaos. 

JOURNALIST: Just some local questions Mr Shorten. The Wallarah underground coal mine is a major here on the coast due to its risk to the region's drinking water catchment. Environment minister Melissa Price has signed off on it. If Labor wins on Saturday would a Shorten government be in a position to reconsider Commonwealth approval?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all we're not going to engage in sovereign risk. But let's face it this coal mine has only ever moved forward under State Liberals and National Liberals. Only ever moved forward under State and National Liberals. Anne Charlton, for example, has been talking to me, in the same vein of environmental protection. We're pleased to announce that we are going to do a review on seismic testing offshore because this is a fantastic marine landscape. And we are practically going to call it the Anne Charlton review of seismic testing because she's been so active. What we want to do is review how they're doing the testing, the methodology. This is, people might not know but this is one of the most beautiful areas of the Australian coast line for whale movements. We've got to protect our environment. So I share the sentiment that you put about the coal mine. The point about it is that with this government if you want more development which doesn't take account of the environment then that's what the Liberals will give you. 

JOURNALIST: Why do Labor's policy costings include abolishing the First Home Buyers’ Super Saver deposit scheme but yet you've agreed to build on what Mr Morrison announced yesterday and agree to that measure.

SHORTEN: We're open to good ideas and that's what you'll get under Labor. But we're not open to bad ideas and I might let Chris have the very last word why the government scheme has been a turkey.
BOWEN: Well the government's so-called first home savers accounts are an undermining of superannuation. We made it clear from the beginning we would have no part of the undermining of superannuation. It was a thought bubble when the government was desperately trying, desperately trying to come up with a housing affordability plan. We've been consistently opposed to it. We'll tick a good idea. We'll oppose a bad idea. And this morning on 3AW when I was debating Josh Frydenberg he said thousands of people have used it. I asked him how many thousands. He didn't want to answer. The answer to that is two. 

SHORTEN: Thanks everybody.