Doorstop – Cairns – Tuesday, 04 April 2017


SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for jobs; visit to Queensland; Turnbull Government’s $50 billion tax handout to big business; Liberal Party chaos; One Nation

SENATOR CLAIRE MOORE: Hello everyone. It’s really great to be in Cairns and I’m here to introduce Bill Shorten, but that’s one of those tasks you don’t need to do – this is Bill Shorten. Bill’s with us all week, this week, in Queensland, travelling through. Yesterday he was at the Whitsundays, and I think all of us still think about what is going on down there, sending our best wishes to those people.

Bill is here. As you can see, he has snuck in in that red bus and that’s the message: jobs, jobs, jobs. With us we have Bill of course, our Shadow Minister for North Australia, Jason Clare, who is also no stranger to this place, Senator Anthony Chisholm and Senator Sam Dastyari are here as well.

Thank you for turning out, here’s Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Claire. Good morning everybody. I’m in North Queensland talking about jobs and Malcolm Turnbull is in Canberra talking about a $50 billion tax giveaway for big business. The Government have all the wrong priorities.

I and my team will be here in Cairns today and throughout North Queensland and Queensland in coming days talking about the importance of Australian jobs. Of course in order to have good Australian jobs we need to have good Australian apprenticeships, so we’re listening to people about the policies that are important to encourage apprenticeships.

We want parents out there encouraging their kids, who don’t want to stay at school and are interested in doing a trade, to have the opportunity to get a trade.

In addition we’re talking about clamping down on dodgy foreign visas. We think we should be training our own people rather than importing skills from overseas.

And of course, we will be talking about the importance of good jobs, defending penalty rates so that families and working people can make ends meet.

By contrast, Mr Turnbull is busily selling his $50 billion tax cut. That policy has very few friends outside of big business. It’s a policy which shows no evidence of creating jobs, and Mr Turnbull has failed to explain how he can afford to pay for taking $50 billion out of the Budget.

We’ve got the Budget coming up in May. Labor is very concerned that Mr Turnbull is going to make families, Medicare, housing affordability, pensioners pay the price so that Mr Turnbull can give away his $50 billion of corporate tax cuts. Quite simply, Mr Turnbull’s economic policies just don’t add up.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: So are you saying that there aren’t enough jobs in Cairns at the moment, or why are you here specifically?

SHORTEN: Well we think that Cairns can do better. We think that Cairns has a lot of opportunities, it’s a marvellous, diverse economy. But what we also recognise is that since Mr Turnbull’s Liberals have been in Government, there’s been a thousand apprenticeships lost in Cairns.

We need to be a country who trains our young people to be tradespeople. We need to be a country which supports adults who are seeking to retrain to be able to be able to do apprenticeships. We have 1.6 million Australians who have apprenticeship qualifications now, we are a nation of tradies, but we’ve got to start training up the future generations of apprentices and that’s why it starts with TAFE, and that’s why Labor is here.

We also are holding forums with business today, and I might get my spokesperson, Jason Clare to talk about some of our approach on northern Australia. We see northern Australia as the gateway to our expansion into Asia and also to benefit from opportunities from overseas, but we need a Government who is going to back it up with more than just talk.

JASON CLARESHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks very much Bill. Cairns is doing it tough. Unemployment in Cairns is now 7.8 per cent, that’s double what it is in the inner parts of Brisbane. Youth unemployment in Cairns is 26 per cent, that is the highest in the whole country. At the same time, as Bill said, we’ve seen the number of apprenticeships drop by a thousand over the course of the last four years. In fact, right across Central and Northern Queensland, from Rockhampton up to Cairns, you can see the evidence of people doing it really tough, unemployment is up, average wages are down lower than they were five years ago, and house prices have fallen as well. That is why Bill and I and the team are on the bus from Cairns to Rocky talking to local business owners, talking to local mayors, developing local plans to create more jobs.

The Government has asked the Productivity Commission to give them a report to tell them where the parts of Australia are that are hurting the most. Well you don’t need a report from people in Canberra to tell you the parts of Australia that are hurting. It is here in Northern Queensland and Central Queensland. It’s not just Cyclone Debbie that has hit Central Queensland and parts of Northern Queensland hard, it is the big changes that are happening to our economy. That is why we’re here, to help to get Cairns back to work, we are here talking to local business owners and community leaders to give us their ideas about how we get Cairns back to work, rather than what the Government is doing, which is just getting advice from people back in Canberra.

SHORTEN: Thanks Jason.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will Labor repeal the company tax cuts that passed Parliament last week?

SHORTEN: At the moment, I don’t believe Australia can afford $50 billion of tax handouts to big business. Mr Turnbull needs to explain where the money is coming from to pay for the corporate tax cuts that he is so keen to hand out to big business. Where is the money coming from?

Mr Turnbull can’t even say how many jobs that this so-called business tax cuts are going to provide. He can’t say how many jobs will be delivered, in fact, in the last 24 hours we’ve seen the Government give up trying to prove that there will be jobs created and they’ve said just go down to the pub and talk to people about the business tax cuts.

Unlike Mr Turnbull I live in the real world. I was in a pub in Proserpine yesterday, they were talking about the cyclone, they were talking about a whole range of issues, they were talking about Australian jobs. No one came up to me in the pub brandishing a pot of beer and said “By the way Bill,  just vote for the $50 billion corporate tax giveaway”. That is not what is front of mind for most Australians. Most Australians are worried about jobs for their kids, they are worried about whether their kids will be able to afford a house, they are worried about making sure that their ageing parents get the medical care they need, they are worried about penalty rates being cut; they are not worrying about $50 billion in corporate tax cuts.

JOURNALIST: Was that a yes or a no to repealing the cuts?

SHORTEN: First of all, I can’t answer that question until the Government explains where they are funding the cuts from. You can’t just withdraw $50 billion from the nation’s ATM and pretend it doesn’t have an impact or that someone somewhere else doesn’t suffer. What Mr Turnbull needs to do, and we’ll see it in the Budget is the following: where is the money coming from, Malcolm, that’s going to pay for your $50 billion tax hand out to big business? Is it coming from Medicare? Is it coming from schools? Is it coming from family payments? Or is it coming from pensioners? 

This Government has got a fairy tale where they say you can miraculously hand away $50 billion of taxpayer money from the taxpayer money tree and they’re not explaining who is paying for it. Remember once upon a time the Liberals used to care about debt and deficit, under this Government in the last four years the Government deficit has gone up, the amount of debt that this Government is incurring on behalf of every man, woman and child is going up. But what we see instead is Mr Turnbull worrying about his political survival, trying to keep big business happy with corporate tax cuts that other people will have to pay for. So, yes, we don’t believe this nation at this moment can afford tax cuts and we haven’t seen Mr Turnbull explain how he is going to pay for the tax cuts full stop. 

JOURNALIST: But if they are offset in some way that you’re happy with you’ll seem to be saying let them stand?

SHORTEN: Well that is a very big if. It’s a $50 billion hypothetical question isn’t it? Where does Mr Turnbull think he can find $50 billion? That’s not money you get down the back of the couch. This is taxpayer money. This is the principle of the Turnbull Government’s corporate tax cuts: you press the ATM, you withdraw from the nation’s budget $50 billion, $50 billion from taxpayer funded budgets in the next 10 years. If you take $50 billion out, what is going to replace it? And I can tell you Turnbull and his crew have got form. Their form is in a Budget: cut Medicare, go after the pensioners, go after family payments. This is a Government who wants Australians to have the highest retirement working age in the world so that they can afford to give their friends corporate tax cuts. Labor is not falling for that. 

Running a Government and running a nation is all about priorities. We choose working and middle class families, we don’t choose corporate tax cuts which are unfunded and we certainly don’t choose tax cuts if it means that others have got to go without. People are much more deserving than big end of town. 

JOURNALIST: The Australian Institute of Company Directors has released a tax plan urging the Government to overhaul negative gearing. Why should the Government listen to them when it is ignoring other experts?

SHORTEN: This is a Government who will always defend the big end of town. If there is a political beauty parade, they’ll always pick the investor and the speculator, the millionaire or the big company but they never pick the pensioners, they never pick the people who are trying to afford to buy their first home. They don’t pick our retail and hospitality staff who need Sunday penalty rates. This is a Government who deep in their DNA is disposed to look after the few rather than the many and this corporate tax cut is a classic example of Mr Turnbull’s out of touch priorities.

In Cairns, the millionaires don’t need a tax reduction of $16,000, the 16,000 people who rely on penalty rates, they need to have their penalty rates defended. It’s all about priorities. Labor is here talking about jobs, apprentices, cracking down on dodgy 457 visas which allow foreign workers in to undercut our own jobs. We’re talking about making sure that penalty rates get defended, whereas Malcolm Turnbull is fighting to the death to make sure that large companies get an unaffordable tax cut at the expense of services to the rest of Australia.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott said this morning the Senate is a more of a house of obstruction than review, even John Dawkins, a senior figure from your party says you should be talking more to the Government to get important economic policies through. Don’t they have a point, isn’t Labor’s behaviour helping to turn off voters from all major parties?

SHORTEN: Well, I’ll go through the rage of issues you raised in that question. First of all, Tony Abbott attacking how politics is working, that’s Tony Abbott attacking the Government. Every morning we get up and we read the newspapers to see the latest internal Liberal division. If it’s not Tony Abbott attacking the way Malcolm Turnbull is handling the Parliament of Australia, it’s the revelations on Four Corners last night that Michaelia Cash and Senator Cormann, Mr Turnbull’s key confidants in the Senate, are having secret night time meetings with Pauline Hanson. I mean I think every Australian, if they’ve got a bit of time, should watch the Four Corners show to see the explosive revelations that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party are divided, they hate each other almost as much as the Liberals hate each other. And the revelation of the close, secret and clandestine meetings between senior Turnbull Government confidants and Pauline Hanson show that either One Nation is a branch or a faction of the Liberal Party or that the Liberal Party is in danger of becoming a faction of One Nation. 

In terms of Labor working constructively with the Government, we will work with the Government so long as the Government is not hurting ordinary people. Here is four or five things we will work with the Government today on: a banking royal commission, defending penalty rates, hands off Medicare, making sure we get rid of negative gearing tax benefits prospectively which disadvantage first home buyers. That is a platform for change and if Malcolm is feeling particularly constructive and bold we will work with him to take real action on climate change as well.

JOURNALIST: Will you change your position on tax cuts only for businesses with turnover of up to $2 million is that…

SHORTEN: We’ve made clear that for businesses up to $2 million we will support a reduction in their tax burden. But let’s also be clear, beyond that the Government has not spelled out how they’re going to pay for the cuts and I notice that the beleaguered Treasurer Morrison today when pressed for economic modelling about how this last minute deal they did last Friday and the shemozzle of the Senate sitting, when pressed to show what jobs that deal would create Mr Morrison just said ‘everyone should go down to the pub’.

Well you need to go down to the pub and have a drink after listening to Scott Morrison, but I’ll tell you one thing you won’t find in a pub is a whole lot of people queueing up to give a tax cut to the big banks and foreign multinationals. That’s just how out of touch the Turnbull Government is. 

I’m very pleased, in closing, that the Bill Bus is back on the road. We discovered during the last election that people want to be listened to, they want to have their view heard. They just don’t want to do it through Canberra and through Parliament. So the bus is out and I want to thank Senator Dastyari for helping organise the bus. What this bus is going to do is it’s about listening and talking to people. We’re going to travel to big towns and little towns. We think that politics belongs to the people of Australia and we think it’s important that the Labor Party gets out and returns control of politics back to the people that’s why we’re out where the people are. We’re going to be talking about jobs, jobs and jobs and of course defending penalty rates. 

Thanks everybody, see you again.