SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for cheaper child care; policy costings; tax policy; cost of living pressures; Clive Palmer; debates.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Well welcome Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be on your show.
UHLMANN: Now, you’re pledging to spend a lot of money through this campaign. This morning, $4 billion. This time on childcare over four years. Can you tell us who benefits?
SHORTEN: About a million Australian families will benefit from our initiative on child care. Everywhere I’ve travelled in Australia as Opposition Leader, one of the single biggest problems that people tell me is that everything is going up except their wages and child care is in one of the biggest things which is going up in price. It has gone up 24 per cent in the last six years. So what’s happening is mum and dad go to work and most of mum's wages are just going to pay the child care. So what we’re doing is we have made economic reform decisions to make sure that we spend more money helping people with the cost of child care and our proposals today, specifically for nearly a million families, mean somewhere between $1,500 and $2,100 back to families which they are currently spending on child care.
UHLMANN: Why won't child care providers just whack up their fees?
SHORTEN: Well good point. We are keeping an eye on this. We’ve asked the ACCC - as we give the subsidy to the parents we don't want the operators saying hmmm, yummy, we like that $2,000 subsidy we’ll increase the cost of fees. So first of all the ACCC is going to have the powers to monitor it. But if that doesn’t work I'm putting on the table today on your show we will look at introducing price controls like we do for private health insurers. I think that we want the money to go to parents, not to see more profit being gouged by particular operators.
UHLMANN: More money going to wages for childcare workers. Isn't that a reason for whacking up their fees?
SHORTEN: Well come along to Box Hill today where we’re going to talk more about how we are going to look after early childhood educators. Early childhood educators, it is a 96 per cent female dominated industry. I think that it is paid less than other male dominated industries because there are so many women working in it. You know it is a most important job. These are the first adults who we trust our kids to out of the family unit, so I think we should pay early childhood educators more. You will hear more about that later.
UHLMANN: If you put in price controls how can their wages go up?
SHORTEN: Well what we can do is we can make sure that if we are going to provide some support for the wages of early childhood educators, again we will say to the operators if Labor is providing some modest improvement in the wages of childhood educators, if Labor is providing a couple of thousand dollars a year for parents, what we say to the childcare operators is you don't get to pocket that. We want childcare to be sustainable, we want cost of living to be tackled and we want to see that the people working in the industry get a fair deal.
UHLMANN: Isn’t the problem though that you’re trying to give something to everyone, and everyone can’t benefit. In the end someone has to pay for this and in this case it will be those childcare providers who will get less money?
SHORTEN: No, not at all. What’s happening now is that this government is raising record taxes and they spend it on property investors on their sixth house with negative gearing. This is a government who is not tough on multinationals paying their fair share. Instead of being slack on the multinationals, instead of giving away unsustainable tax giveaways to property investors to buy their sixth house, we want to use that money to help subsidise the child care industry so that parents on the front line get cost of living relief.
UHLMANN: Let's go to that. How much are you raising in taxes over the next decade. The Government says $387 billion. What's your figure?
SHORTEN: Well we’ll release our figures before the election is concluded, but we’ve also made clear that we think we need to wind back what we give to negative gearing.
UHLMANN: You should know some of this now though, what you are raising in negative gearing and capital gains tax, what you’re doing in franking credits, so could you give us a figure over if not the next 10 years, over the next four years as to what you expect to raise.
SHORTEN: We will do that closer to the election but suffice to say we have done our maths and we are able to pay for the promises we are making. Once we have revealed all of our promises, then we will reveal the costings to back it up.
UHLMANN: I understand that, but some of this stuff would be well known to you by now because these are policies you have been working on for six years so can you give us a figure on what you intend to raise by way of cutting tax concessions and raising taxes over the next 10 years?
SHORTEN: We will once we have announced all of our policies. That will be very soon. But the point about it is that there are tens of billions of dollars going in unsustainable tax concessions, tens of billions of dollars. We think it is a better investment, rather than giving a subsidy to someone to buy their sixth house to spend it on child care relief for a million Australian families.
UHLMANN: OK, if you won't or can't give us a figure on what you are raising in taxes, well can you tell people today whose taxes are going to rise in order to pay for these programs?
SHORTEN: That's a really good point. First of all, the government loves to say that if we are not going to give a tax subsidy to a property investor, somehow that’s a property tax. It’s not. What currently happens in negative gearing - and first of all, anyone who is currently invested under negative gearing rules won't be affected. So it is a future change. What happens is when the government gives a subsidy, a reward for investing in your sixth or seventh property, that's an expenditure. That means we are using tax income and we are giving it to a property investor for making a loss. Instead of giving that tax money to a property investor for making a loss, I would rather give it to parents. So it is not an increase in tax. What it actually is, is it’s a reallocation of priorities. I want to give it to …
UHLMANN: So you’re saying it’s a big transfer of wealth from people’s pockets into government’s pocket. Why would you spend it any better than they will?
SHORTEN: Well it’s a matter of priorities. This is the truth in Australia at the moment. If you have a lot of capital you’re taxed very lightly. If you earn income you’re taxed much more heavily. What I want to do is to have a fairer, equitable system. Instead of just giving the property investors and the multinationals a lighter deal what we want to do is to use some of that money which we’re giving to them and reallocate it to spend it on child care. I would rather see a million Australian families, households whose incomes are less than $170,000 a year, get a couple of thousand dollars of tax relief than give that money either through slack tax laws to multinationals or through giving it to property investors. It is a matter of priorities.
UHLMANN: Isn’t it a matter of priorities that you also then let people know as soon as possible where this money is coming from, because you are actually arguing for very big change in Australia and people have the right to have enough time to know where that money is coming from and where it is going to.
SHORTEN: Well, the fact of the matter is we are arguing for a change in Australia. We don't want to - I mean, I think this Government is disgraceful in that they are offering a thread-bare policy agenda. All they are offering Australians is basically an unfunded tax cut in five years’ time, more of this trickle-down economics where the wealthy get wealthier and maybe a few crumbs come off the table for working families in this country. By contrast, we are saying let's change our tax system. Let’s stop giving money away to the top end of town. Let's start spending on the vast bulk of working, middle class.
UHLMANN: It's a big change and it's a big risk. Why should people trust you with that change?
SHORTEN: Because for the last three years, and indeed six years, we have been united. We are putting all our policies out there. You know you say you have got to give everything by the end of the election. We will. But the point about it is, we are putting out a lot of significant policies. We have been upfront with the people. We told people three years ago we intend to change the negative gearing rules, prospectively. We told people that we wanted to go after multinationals.
UHLMANN: Let's assume people weren't focused though, for example when you get asked through the course ...
SHORTEN: You can't have it all ways, you can't say when will you tell people ...
UHLMANN: But when you were asked during the course of the campaign are you lifting taxes on super you should say yes, shouldn't you?
SHORTEN: Well I've explained that I didn't understand the question that was being asked.
UHLMANN: But you were asked about whether or not workers on over $180,000 are going to pay more tax, that's true too isn't it?
SHORTEN: Let's go through each of those points rather than rapid fire, let's have a conversation. First of all, we have outlined our policies for the last three years. Now you say people haven't been paying attention, fair enough, that's your view. But you can't say that we haven't been upfront. Then you have gone to a couple of specific examples. Now when we talk about tax relief, the fact of the matter is that for the next three years, Liberal and Labor are offering the same deal to Australian people but where the disagreement comes is this government is ...
UHLMANN: Sorry I will stop you there because you are not. If you are earning more than $180,000 a year, you are going to lift people's taxes, aren't you?
SHORTEN: Yes, for the vast bulk of people we are offering the same thing. You are quite right, for the three per cent of tax earners we still think we need a budget repair levy until 22-23. So you are right there. But the point about it is if we are going to have a proper tax system in the country, we've got to start looking after income earners as opposed to taxing capital lightly and income more heavily. Or to put in plain English, how on earth are we a country who has the negative gearing rules or tax credit rules on shares which are unique in the world. I don't want to be the best in the world at tax loopholes, I want to be the best in the world at cost of living relief for childcare and for kinder and for aged care and for schools and hospitals.
UHLMANN: A couple of other questions, were you aware of anyone at all who is acting on Labor's behalf who was talking about preference deals with Clive Palmer? Were you aware of anyone in the Labor Party or in the union movement that was talking on your behalf?
SHORTEN: There couldn't have been anyone who was committing me to a preference deal. No, not aware of that. There is always conversations ...
UHLMANN: Not committing you to but starting conversations about the possibility of a preference deal.
SHORTEN: Hang on a second. As you would know as a seasoned journalist, there is always plenty of conversations. But you also understand, someone who has covered politics for a long time, that me and Labor, could not do a deal with a person who still owes the taxpayer nearly $70 million, owes workers an additional $7 million. That's a deal breaker for us.
UHLMANN: Did anyone...
SHORTEN: Only one leader in this country has done a deal with Clive Palmer.
UHLMANN: Absolutely. That's understood. But did anyone with your knowledge go and approach Clive Palmer? Did you know they were making those approaches?
SHORTEN: No. No. We are not doing that and let's be really clear here - there is no way that you can do a preference deal without me signing off on it. And somehow, though, what the Government is trying to do is look away from the deal they have done. There is one question which has not been satisfactorily answered. For Mr Morrison to give his preferences to Clive Palmer, for the Nationals, the Coalition partner, to give their preferences to One Nation, what have they promised Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer? The reality is for Labor the price of doing a deal with Clive Palmer, too high. Not worth it.
UHLMANN: These are really good questions. Why don't you ask the Prime Minister himself on Nine News. We'll offer you a platform to do so, to go head to head with him. Why aren't you doing a prime time, head to head debate with the Prime Minister.
SHORTEN: Well first of all you know that we’ve offered Channel Nine the opportunity to do it through the Press Club. You have declined.
UHLMANN: No, that's not -
SHORTEN: You've declined. I am sorry if you are busy at lunchtime. The point about it is ...
UHLMANN: Why not prime time, that's when we have most eyes and ears.
SHORTEN: They have invented iView You know it is possible to do an interview at one point in the day -
UHLMANN: At night time -
SHORTEN: You know, it is possible to do an interview at one point in the day and replay it. I often see that. But the point about it is, ABC want a debate, Channel Nine want a debate, the Press Club want a debate. It's not really for me to sort out ...
UHLMANN: You've got a big program, why wouldn't you want to debate everyone and everywhere.
SHORTEN: Yeah, but do you know what? For the last six years we have been debating the Liberals. We are talking to the people. We've got three debates with the Government. I tell you what I do find extraordinary. I mean I can't sort out Nine and Two, I don't want to pick favourites. The point about it is we are going to Western Australia because they have never had a debate before. There is normally three debates in any federal election. That's the precedent. Let's go to the heart of the matter. If we want to talk about debate, where is their industrial relations minister to talk about wages policy? Where is their energy minister? Where is their environment minister talking about climate change? Where is their education minister? This is a Government where apart from Mr Morrison, they are silencing most of their colleagues.
UHLMANN: Bill Shorten, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for this debate.
SHORTEN: I enjoyed the debate.
UHLMANN: Right thanks mate.
SHORTEN: See you.
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for cheaper child care; policy costings; tax policy; cost of living pressures; Clive Palmer; debates.