TUESDAY, 30 APRIL 2019
Subjects: Labor’s solar schools policy; Labor’s $21 million investment in WA TAFE; climate change policies; wage increase for childcare workers; Coalition’s failure in economic management; chaos under Palmer and Hanson preference deals; aged care workers; economy; RBA and interest rates; Labor’s plans to invest in people and infrastructure; religious freedom.
HANNAH BEAZLEY, CANDIDATE FOR SWAN: Hi everyone, I'm Hannah Beazley, Labor's candidate for Swan in the upcoming election. It is a pleasure to welcome you here today to one of our local schools that will benefit from our announcement today. And as usual it is a great pleasure to welcome Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, and Tanya Plibersek our shadow minister for education, back into my electorate of Swan and my community, so thank you all.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, it's great to be here at a great Catholic primary school, doing great things for the kids and doing a great job actually for Australia. Now Tanya and I and Mark Butler are here visiting with Hannah and we're pleased to say that a Labor government, if it gets elected on May the 18th, is going to invest a billion dollars to help make our schools solar schools. Four thousand schools will benefit from an upgrade, or indeed the introduction of new technology, to get their power bills down, and to also make sure we're doing more on climate change. These are very sensible proposals which are going to help schools with the cost of living challenges, which are going to help provide power into the grid and means that we can do something proper on climate change. In terms of where we go on this, what the government's - what we will do as the government is we will work with both government and non-government schools to roll out this program. What I'd like to do now is to ask Tanya to talk further about this program and also Mark Butler.
TANYA PLIBERSEK SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well, thanks very much Bill and it is such a delight to visit this lovely school. I will let Mark answer some questions in more detail about the new solar schools program. But I wanted to make an additional announcement today that Labor would invest almost $21 million extra into TAFE facilities here in Western Australia. We've got so many fantastic projects before us in this new TAFE investment plan including for example $10 million towards a new state-of-the-art TAFE facility in Armadale. That would be matched by the Western Australian government, so it'd be a beautiful new TAFE there. Almost $5 million for three new NDIS and aged care training centres at Joondalup, Mount Lawley and Rockingham. And $3 million for a new Metronet training facility at Midland TAFE. Obviously Metronet will be a huge job generator here in the West. We're expecting about ten thousand extra jobs and having new training facilities at that TAFE into engineering, metal fabrication and the jobs that will be required from the build of the Metronet is really important. The solar schools program is a very exciting program. We made sure that about half of Australian schools had solar panels when we were last in government but this is a significant step up from that last program. Obviously the technology is much better than it was when we rolled out those initial schools with solar panels on their roofs. But even schools that have those earlier panels, like this school here, talk about the savings that they're already making on their electricity bills. Now that panels are cheaper and more efficient, you'll see even greater savings. But the exciting thing about the program that we're announcing today is it's not just panels on the roofs, it's batteries, so that the power can be stored for the use of the school or in periods when the school is not using the power it can be sold back into a virtual power network. It can power homes and businesses in the local community. That means that the school can even, not just reduce its own power bills, but potentially make money from the power that it's selling back into the grid. When you think about the number of days that schools are not using a lot of power, particularly during the Christmas holidays, particularly on the weekends, you see that they are peak times for domestic power use. So the school is not using the power but the power can be sold back into the grid for homes that are using their air conditioning a little bit more over the summer holidays or using the, you know, got the tele on a little bit more during the weekend and the summer holidays. This is an absolutely win-win situation for schools, but also it provides reliability and stability in the power grid too.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions ?
JOURNALIST: On your climate change policy, you have said that it's impossible to price and you have also quoted research saying it would have the same economic impact as the Coalition's policy. Let's put all this to rest, why couldn't you have costed this with the PBO before the election, just like you did your negative gearing policy? And they could have taken into account the cost of climate change, which you've said is over $10 billion, you've quoted a figure on that as well.
SHORTEN: Alright, I think I understand your question, it's about the cost of climate change and the cost of our policies. I've got Mark Butler here today as well, which as a little aside, I've got my climate change minister with me, we're in Western Australia, I don't think, a little prize could get Melissa Price photographed with Scott Morrison, while they're over here talking about climate. But that's just the small part. The big picture is, as we heard last night in the debate, this government has got every excuse in the book not to take action on climate change. Climate change is real. Climate change is extracting a big cost as you said correctly, Greg. It's estimated at $18 billion dollars a year in natural disasters and some of that is obviously due to more extreme weather events and climate. Sorry, Greg I'm going to do you the courtesy of your three point question and get I and Mark to answer it if you will let me. Now on the cost of climate change, we think there is a big cost. You and I know that this government is going down every rabbit hole, down every burrow, on every sideshow, to avoid one fact: they don't have a climate policy, do they? I mean if they were going to have a climate policy which was serious Malcolm Turnbull would still be Prime Minister. But you talk about modelling, why don't I get Mark to talk about the plethora of material which is already there.
BUTLER: Thank you Bill, thank you Greg for your question. The PBO would not have modelled the safeguards mechanism for us anymore than it's modelled the safeguards mechanism for Malcolm Turnbull, who introduced the mechanism, and Scott Morrison, for whom it's continuing as a part of their policy mix. We of course, have had the Clean Energy Finance Corporation policy, which is underpinning this amazing program we're announcing today, costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. But if I can go to the point about the cost impact of the policy we've announced. It is impossible to cost this because a Labor government, led by Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek, would not be imposing a direct carbon price on businesses. It certainly would not be imposing a carbon tax, any more than Malcolm Turnbull or Scott Morrison have, because what we've decided to do after talking exhaustively with business groups over the last 12 or 18 months is simply adopt the safeguards mechanism that was introduced by Malcolm Turnbull. Now all that mechanism does is set a limit on carbon pollution. Businesses are able to stick to their limit then they won't hear from the government anymore. Obviously, required to report on those limits, but other than that there is no price impact at all. And if they're not able to stick to their limit, in the same way that they're not under the safeguards mechanism as it operates now, they will have the broadest possible range of offsets. But how business deals with that is going to be a matter for them. It won't be dictated by Canberra so it can't be costed by Canberra. It will be a matter for them. That is what business unanimously has asked the Labor party to adopt as our policy. Now if I can go to the broader macroeconomic impact because this is something that your paper has written a fair bit about. We've only seen over the last week or two again, Citibank, a bank very, very expert in analysis about climate and energy policy, declare over the last several days that the impact of Labor's policy would be immaterial, even on those businesses impacted by the policy, let alone the broader economy. Warwick McKibbin, who was commissioned by the Abbott government to conduct macroeconomic modelling of the 26 per cent target and the 45 per cent target found then that the Labor policy and the Liberal policy - remembering that the Labor policy includes international trading - would have no different impact whatsoever. The impact on the economy would be exactly the same, which would be that the economy over the course of the decade would grow in real terms by about 23 per cent. Now that was back in 2015 but Warwick McKibbin has written in the Financial Review only in recent days reaffirming that policy with one exception which is to say he thinks the costs of emissions reduction will actually be lower than he thought in 2015 because of the extraordinary technological improvements that have been made in the energy sector.
JOURNALIST: Will you be extending the childcare wage subsidy to other industries and if not, why did you say yesterday that childcare would be the first sector?
SHORTEN: Well first of all we think childcare is a unique sector. So the model in which we're going to finally sort out the underpayment of early childhood educators is a model, a template which we will only use in childcare. In terms of the first industry to see wages movement we have other mechanisms to help other industries. Now I make no apology for the fact that I want to reverse the penalty rate cuts which have seen, as the McKell Institute says, if they are not reversed, $2.8 billion dollars of pay taken out of the pockets of hundreds of thousands of low paid workers in restaurants, in accommodation, in pharmacy. So we've got a range of different strategies. But for early childhood educators, it almost, this government is so mean-spirited, Mr Morrison must have a very warped view of how you treat underpayment of workers in childcare. To rule it out, to say we won’t fix childcare unless everyone else gets an identical pay rise – well this is just absurd. The fact of the matter is and you may be aware that if you look at 96 occupational categories in Australia, childcare comes in at the 92nd lowest paid. 92nd. And it’s no coincidence in my opinion that it’s an industry predominantly populated by women, in other words 96 per cent of the workforce are women. So when you join the dots, a feminised industry, underpaid, early childhood education, underpaid. We've come up with a plan to help early childhood educators. I mean, the poverty of Mr Morrison’s wages policy, we heard it in the debate last night where when he was asked about wages he started talking about emissions reduction. You know join those dots for me. But the point about it is he doesn’t have a plan for peoples wages and the only answer that his poor old minister Birmingham gave today or last night about early childhood educators, he said 'get the providers to pay them more'. Well that's a great plan Simon because the providers will make parents pay more. So Mr Birmingham’s only plan to help early childhood educators is to make parents pay. We don’t have that plan, we've come up with I think a special solution to deal ... and you don’t have to take my word for it, ask all the parents who send their kids to childcare.
JOURNALIST: Will you review the RBA's target rate for inflation if you win the election?
SHORTEN: We think that the RBA should be independent in terms of its setting of monetary policy. The RBA has said that it likes to see inflation between two and three per cent. I think the bigger problem or the bigger challenge for me isn't what the RBA says inflation should be, it’s the fact in the last quarter inflation was zero per cent. Can I tell you, that’s the equivalent of the alarm going off in the fire station. When you've got zero per cent inflation that means people aren't spending money. The reason why people aren't spending money is under this government they're unconfident. And one of the reasons they're unconfident is we see cuts to schools and hospitals. We also see wage stagnation. You know Mr Morrison loves to talk about a strong economy. But a strong economy for exactly who? The reality is that there is one million Australians that have got to hold down two jobs to make ends meet. There’s one million Australians plus who every month say they'd like more work. The reality is that we've seen prices going up, cost of living, childcare, healthcare, energy prices. This economy is not working in the interests of middle and working class people. Under Mr Morrison it’s never been a better time to be a high-priced CEO or a multinational in Australia. Under Mr Morrison it’s never been a worse time to be a middle class wage earner in this country.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've just described the recent inflation number unless I’m wrong as alarming.
SHORTEN: That was the metaphor I used.
JOURNALIST: Well, tell me if I'm taking you out of context here because I wanted to get a sense of how much peril you believe the Australian economy is in when inflation is flat-lining. Just how bad is it?
SHORTEN: I think this government's economic record is pretty bloody hopeless. Let's just call it as it is. Let me answer your question, you've asked. First of all let’s go to some key numbers. Under this government, debt has gone up. Debt has doubled under this government. That's a problem because if interest rates go up all of a sudden Australians will be stuck with paying bigger interest rate payments on a government’s national debt that they’ve run up. We've got the problem of under-employment. We’ve got the problem of wages stagnation, now you see zero per cent inflation. This economy is not operating in the interests of working people. What we've got is a government with a very threadbare policy offering. You all saw, well hopefully you all saw the debate last night. What we saw is two contrasting policies. We've got a positive vision for the future. We understand that if you invest in education you're going to get a productive workforce in the future. We understand that if you aim for the world’s best healthcare system you're going to have healthier Australians. We understand that when you take on cost of living and don't just leave it, that what we do is we see price restraint in childcare, private health insurance. More renewables will ultimately mean lower prices. We're the only party with a wages policy and we want to take real action on climate change. By contrast, what did Mr Morrison offer viewers watching last night? His only argument for re-election is that he's not Labor. I mean his only argument is very threadbare. You and I know this is the most threadbare policy offering in a century of Australian elections. They just basically say it'll trickle down. If we look after the top 10 per cent, the top 5 per cent, maybe you'll get more tips on your plate when you go out to lunch. They say that they’re going to give you tax cuts in five years’ time. But do they explain to you where the money's coming from? They’re promising you unfunded tax plans on the never-never which can only be delivered if there are cuts to hospitals, and services and they're promising business as usual. That’s not good enough for Australia. The Australian people need a government worthy of the people.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you your reaction to Steve Dickson resigning from One Nation over the strip club incident.
SHORTEN: He should have. His comments were appalling, absolutely appalling. Should have resigned. But it just I think highlights the bigger problem this desperate Morrison government has. No wonder they're cranky in their public presentation at the moment. They realise that they've pulled the wrong reins. They've made as their key allies Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party and Clive Palmer. You know, this is chaotic. Imagine if Mr Morrison sneaks home at the election, courtesy of Pauline Hanson's One Nation and Clive Palmer. Imagine if we have a country who if you vote Liberal or One Nation or Palmer United party and you have Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson calling the shots to the government. I mean does anyone seriously believe that Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson just give their preferences to Mr Morrison without there being an IOU on the other side of the election? I promise you this - a vote for Morrison is a vote for Hanson and Palmer and it's a vote for chaos, chaos, chaos.
JOURNALIST: On wages, what about aged care workers, don't they deserve a pay increase as well and can you promise that to that industry?
SHORTEN: I think that aged care workers are underpaid. But we have got a Royal Commission under way, let's see what the Royal Commission produces in the way of it. I want to pay a compliment to our aged care workers. They do a lot of work with a lot of vulnerable people. I think that we need to invest more in aged care generally. But I think let's have the Royal Commission. The solution that we have looked at for early childhood educators is a recognition that nothing else has worked. They are underpaid, they're highly trained, and it is long overdue that we do the right thing.
JOURNALIST: Which childcare workers will get the pay increase, will it be all of them?
SHORTEN: Our plan is that all childcare workers would see an improvement in their wages.
JOURNALIST: On the economy and interest rates, if the Reserve Bank decides to reduce interest rates next month, a rate reduction during the height of an election campaign, what do you think that that says about the economy?
SHORTEN: First of all the RBA has got to make its decisions independent of government pressure. So the decision they make, I'm not going to start putting pressure on them. I think though that if they felt they had to do that, that is not a reflection on the Reserve Bank. It is a reflection on the Australian Government isn't it? This is a government who has boasted about their strong economic management but the fact that we are even talking about an interest rate cut shows the anaemic weakness in the current government's economic management. What this nation needs is we need to make sure that we are not just relying on our mineral exports, as important as they are, to prop up our economy. We need to go back to the fundamentals. Let's invest in people, let's invest in infrastructure. You know let's invest in our human capital and let's invest in our physical infrastructure. We've got a plan, for example, in Western Australia to invest in Metronet. We've got a plan to make sure in Victoria or in Queensland we invest in key public transport and of course the Bruce Highway and you name it, we've been looking at infrastructure. That's good, that's more productivity. We want to upgrade our ports and upgrade our airports. The other part of our economic growth plan is to invest in people. The beauty of what Labor is suggesting, the vision under our plan, which we are trusting the Australian people with by telling them what we are going to do as we should. Imagine if we are a country where every three and four year old actually gets kindergarten. Fifteen hours a week, forty weeks a year. That just means they get the best start in life. That's world's best practice, it's only just good enough for Australia. Imagine if we are a country that puts back the $14 billion that the current government promised for public schools but never did. Imagine if every kid can go to a school regardless of their postcode, regardless of the wealth of their parents, the size of the school, get a quality education. Imagine if you're a parent of a child with a disability and you don't get treated like a bully merely because you demand for a fair go for your child. Imagine if we have 200,000 more people going to university in the next 10 years. Imagine if we can restore the 150,000 apprenticeships, traineeships, which have disappeared under the current government. Why don't we in this country have a debate about how can we be the best in the world? Imagine if a million Australian households actually get real help, $1000, $1500, $2000 a year to help with their childcare subsidies. And imagine if we were a country who doesn't desert our pensioners. Three million people are on the Commonwealth seniors health card or indeed on a pension, full or part. Imagine if we as a country decide that we are going to invest in the dental health of our older Australians. That's the sort of country which will grow into the future and where we see the fair go, not just for the top, but for everyone.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on religious freedom what do you say to schools like this one about your promise to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to stop them from choosing the teachers of religious faith that they want to and also what do you say to Mr Morrison about that issue.
SHORTEN: Well Miranda I know you've followed this issue extensively so thank you for your work on this topic. For me I've never been one who's been sectarian. And I think if you spoke to the Catholic Education Commissions around Australia they would agree that Tanya and I have been very good to work with. And so where that leaves your question is this. We don't think you should discriminate against people because of their sexuality. And I don't think most people do. And most people in the church accept that they've been working through these issues and it's working okay. But I also respect the right of parents to send their children to a school based upon the faith and the values taught in it. We will work through every issue. We will work through every issue. When I spoke to Bishops and leaders of churches, they agree. They don't want to see little children discriminated against. We will work through these issues. What I don't want to see is religion becoming a political football. That is why Labor led the case to make sure that the Catholic and low-fee Christian schools got their funding restored. My problem is of course that the government hasn't followed through with the government schools. We will work through this Miranda because I understand in Australia that it's not a question of majorities dictating to minorities. This country works best when we work together.
JOURNALIST: Do we need a religious discrimination Act in Australia.
SHORTEN: I'm not sure we do. But having said that we will always keep talking to people about it. I don't think anyone should be persecuted because of their faith. What I do also think is that if we are going to talk about priorities in this country - three million Aussie pensioners don't need to be forgotten in this election. Do you know the number of times I walk around in the community and the pensioners come up. These aren't people with a million dollars in shares and getting all the franking credits for not paying tax. I'm talking about three million battlers. And so many elections people have said what's in it for the pensioner? Now I know Mr Morrison says he indexes it every six months. Well every government does that. That's like giving yourself a medal for getting up in the morning. The real issue is what are we going to do extra for pensioners. And I'm making it very clear just as I've said this election is a referendum on wages, just because this election needs to be about real change in climate. This election also needs to be about you know cost of living and childcare. This election needs to be about our pensioners. And I and my united team, we're not going on with the antics of Palmer, Hanson et al. We've been doing the homework over the last six years and because of our economic reforms I can promise every pensioner in Australia, pensioners worried about their oral hygiene, their health, the cleaning, the costs of looking after their teeth. If you vote Labor at this election, we'll make sure in Medicare you've got up to $1,000 every two years for the rest of your life to make sure that you can have at least a fair go at having proper dental hygiene. Thanks everybody we'll see at the next gig.