Thursday, 30 June 2016

Don't let the election distract you from what's happening to workers

Fletch is 51, and a fitter by trade. He’s been employed at the Carlton United Breweries plant in Melbourne’s Abbotsford for 34 years – since he was 17. When I met him last Tuesday, it was in the street outside the brewery; here, amid the puddles of a rainy Melbourne winter, Fletch is one of a group of tradies camped out in a canvas army tent, maintaining a “community protest” next to the shut gates of the CUB compound.
There are no trees in this industrial laneway and with the sky overcast it’s as grey as it is miserable – but Fletch and his colleagues are maintaining their uncomfortable vigil. Two weeks ago, he and more than 50 other fitters and electricians from CUB were summoned to a meeting at a hotel and told that their jobs had been re-contracted to another service subcontractor.
Management explained they could reapply, but one look at the new contracts was eye-opening. It wasn’t just that their existing conditions had been stripped, or that the new contracts contained nightmarish clauses – including one in which management could oblige them into medical or psychiatric treatments, at their own expense – they were also being told they could come back to work at jobs they’d been doing for years if they accepted pay cuts of up to 65%. They said no. Now, they’re here.

Fletch, a worker at a Carlton United Breweries depot in Victoria, Australia is protesting against new conditions with a sign reading, “Are you next?”
This is Fletch. Before casting a vote, I’d recommend strongly you consider his sign. Photograph: Van Badham for the Guardian
The level of petty vindictiveness that infests industrial relations law in this country is manifest in what’s happening at Abbotsford. Injunctions prevent the protesting workers calling their action a “picket”, and they’re certainly not allowed to call the people that CUB is bringing into the compound in buses with blacked-out windows “scabs”. There’s even an injunction insisting they can’t use a megaphone outside the facility.
But the injunction can’t apply to everyone, and allies of the workers have parked a truck laden with megaphones outside the gates. Every 15 minutes, a guy called Steve bellows into the sound system: “Shame ... Shame ... Shame...!” towards the factory at a volume you can feel through your feet. Every hour, he plays the soundtrack of Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech in defence of equality from The Great Dictator. Chaplin’s inspirational tone is encouraging among the gloom, because otherwise the scene on the street outside CUB is akin to a newsreel from Thatcher-era Britain with only the addition of some mobile phones.
Also in the protest tent is Harry, who’s 20 and only halfway through a fitting apprenticeship that he doesn’t know how he will complete if he can’t get back to work soon. Tom, Huey and Vaughan are aged between 23-50, with 21 years at the factory between them. There’s another guy I don’t get to talk to, because he’s on the phone to his partner – their kid’s had an accident and been taken to hospital. You can see in the stiffness of his movements and hear in snatches of his voice the enhanced edge of frustration his own situation brings to dealing with the crisis at home.
Labour economist John Spoehr from the University of Adelaide says a third of manufacturing workers who lose their lobs in similar circumstances become long-term unemployed. There have been enough retrenchments around Australia in recent years for everyone to be worried for their economic future. When the job you’ve had for 34 years is re-offered to you with a 65% pay cut, it’s hard to believe there will be better jobs going elsewhere.
There aren’t. I’ve written earlier about the downturn in Australian manufacturing – a phenomenon occurring on these shores not for reasons of technological change, or of international uncompetitiveness, but for dovetailing causes of inactive government policy and corporate greed.
CUB brew the Carlton beers, Pure Blonde, VB and the Bulmer’s ciders – these are not products vulnerable to competition from downloads or an app, and CUB yet dominates the Australian beer market, owning five of the 10 biggest brands and, with VB, Australia’s single most popular. CUB’s international owner, the London-based SABMiller, is hardly facing tough times, either. It’s maintaining US$22bn a year in revenue as it prepares to sell itself to another beer giant, Anheuser-Busch InBev, in a deal worth US$104bn. It’s certainly not burdened with a heavy tax bill: last year, SABMiller miraculously generated zero taxable income in Australia, despite recording A$2bn in total earnings. That’s a lot of money not to pay tax on.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is one of those fighting for the workers at Abbotsford; the national president of the AMWU, Andrew Dettmer, finds SABMiller’s actions “despicable”, and points to the global context of a growing problem. Says Dettmer:
At time when the IMF, the OECD and the rest of the architecture of trickle down economics are saying workers need a pay rise, and more money from income needs to circulate in economies to maintain growth, companies like SABMiller think it’s not their responsibility, and they’re going to reduce workers’ pay regardless.
SABMiller insist that its action in Abbotsford is technically legal because it has no direct contractual relationship with the maintenance crews laid off – it’s been with one subcontractor, and it is merely passing a contract to another who will simply assert the workers’ pay and conditions at its own discretion.            
The argument the workers’ unions are making is that what’s taking place is a “transmission of business” manoeuvre, a corporate sleight-of-hand where a workforce is passed from one company to another to force new conditions on employees – like cutting their pay, or stripping their conditions – to improve the overall corporate master’s bottom line.
With the media stunts, grip-and-grins, policy blurts and corflute art of an election going on, it may be opportunistic timing for SABMiller to do this to a local workforce, but it would be a mistake for Australian voters to allow themselves to be distracted from its meaning. Weakening “transmission of business” protections has long been a habit of Liberal industrial relations policy, and as Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash travel the country flattering company owners as they spruik a “new economy” and their infamously unexplained “plan” for “jobs and growth”, one has to wonder if the kind of carefree cruelty dished out to workers at CUB is what they mean by an “agile” and “flexible” economy. Only last week, Griffin coal mine employees walked off the job when confronted with a 43% pay cut.
I took photos of Fletch and the others camped outside at CUB standing with a sign they’d made, reading “Are You Next?”. Before casting a vote, I’d recommend strongly people consider that thought.

Bill Shorten, Subjects: Labor’s positive plans infrastructure; WestConnex; Sydney Airport, Port Botany, Eddie Obeid, ICAC, restoring the Senate Committee exploring a federal Integrity Commission, Turkey terrorist attack, marriage equality, visa rorts under Turnbull’s watch, UK Labour leadership, Brexit, PBO costings.



MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH: Morning everyone. Welcome to Port Botany and it's great to have Bill and Albo back here in our community to talk about things that are very important to people living in the electorate that I represent. Jobs and infrastructure. We're standing on the cusp of two of my electorate's and the nation's economic powerhouses. The second biggest container port in the country in terms of volumes is here in Port Botany. Sydney Airport, the busiest airport in the country. Both these important pieces of infrastructure employ thousands of people in the electorate I represent, and are very important to our nation's productivity and economic growth.
Now, Labor will invest in these facilities and others throughout the country. Labor will also invest in these facilities and others throughout the country. We'll also invest in upgrades and new infrastructure. In this electorate, the electorate of Kingsford Smith, we've already announced a $108 million duplication of the freight rail line from Mascot into Port Botany. That will mean more of the freight from this busy container terminal will come out on a rail line rather than on trucks, taking about 300,000 truck movements off local roads per year. So in the process, we'll create job, we'll make this port more productive, and we'll improve the living standards and lifestyles of people living in the wonderful community I represent. That project in itself is a great symbol of Labor's investment in infrastructure. I'm now very pleased to hand over to our leader Bill Shorten who's going to talk a little bit mo re about this important announcement today and our commitment to infrastructure in Australia. Welcome, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Matt, great to be here. Good morning everybody. We're close to the finishing line now. Only three more days to go, but it's really great to be leading the only party with a serious infrastructure policy put out at this election. Labor has led the debate about nation-building infrastructure and today we're pleased to be able to launch our fantastic policies, Labor's infrastructure policy. What's contained in this policy is a blueprint for the growth of Australia. We are most committed to an infrastructure financing facility, a $10 billion concrete bank, which will unlock the opportunities for private sector investment to work with Government investment to make sure we build the infrastructure our country needs to move ahead in leaps and bounds. Only Labor's got a proper policy for cities. Only Labor has a policy to have a first rate National Broadband Network. Only Labor's got a consistent commitment to public transport. Labor's committed to making sure Infrastructure Australia becomes turbocharged with extra resources to help depoliticise infrastructure decisions, to make sure we create a Reserve Bank of infrastructure policy in Infrastructure Australia. Labor's committed to making sure we unlock the congestion in our cities, to make sure we build the roads in our outer suburbs and regions we desperately need. Labor stands here proudly putting forward its infrastructure propositions, because we're committed to jobs, we're committed to infrastructure, we're committed to improving productivity and the competition of Australian enterprise. I'd now like to invite Anthony Albanese to talk further about our policy, then I might like to say some further remarks on one other matter.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Bill. It's great to be back here in Kingsford Smith, the electorate with the fine representative of Matt Thistlethwaite. This electorate delivers, as Matt said, two of the most important pieces of infrastructure that drive our economy. Can I say this, it is somewhat extraordinary after three years, the Turnbull Government have not yet released an infrastructure policy for this election. They haven't released a cities policy or a shipping policy or an aviation policy. Labor does all of that today. We're able to do that because we have been working on this from Day One. You can trust us. Because when we were last in Government, we doubled the roads budget, we increased the rail budget by more than 10 times. We invested more in urban public transport, between 2007 and 2013, than all previous governments combined. We rebuilt, or had new, some 7,500 kilometres of roads and 4,000 kilometres of rail lines. We revolutionised the interstate rail freight network. We took six hours from the journey from Brisbane to Melbourne and nine hours from the east coast to the west coast. We created Infrastructure Australia and the Major Cities Unit to drive that change. What we would do is take Infrastructure Australia even a step further, through the $10 billion infrastructure financing facility. We understand economic growth is driven by investing in infrastructure and by investing in people. Together with our education, apprenticeship and trade policies, and our infrastructure policies, we have a plan for the nation's growth. During this election campaign, we have committed to important projects such as Perth Metronet, Brisbane's Cross River Rail, Melbourne Metro, Adelink light rail, Western Sydney rail through Badgerys Creek, connecting up the north west with the Campbelltown sector. Our opponents talked about cities but haven't actually committed anything or committed to a structure like the Major Cities Unit and they continue to undermine Infrastructure Australia's approach.
We also have an approach to aviation and shipping that's consistent with Australia's national interest. What we've seen around our coast with the replacement of the Australian flag off the back of ships, with foreign seafarers being paid foreign wages is a disgrace and is not in our national interest. We'd revitalise Australian shipping in terms of our national security interests, our environmental interests as well as our economic interests. We'd to the same in terms of the national interest in aviation. The current government, during this term, tried to also get rid of cabotage or Australian preferences for Australian aviation in our north. As Qantas and Virgin indicated at the time, that would be the thin end of the wedge and would see Australian airlines undermined. We have the most open system in the world, but it's one in which Australian jobs and Australian aviation plays a particularly important role. Avia tion and shipping are by their nature international industries. They're ones that are competitive. They're ones Australia competes with if it's allowed to on a level playing field. But what the current government has wanted and has done in shipping but also wants to do in aviation is open that up so Australian wages are competing with foreign wages and Australian industry and jobs undermined. Our policies in these two areas indicate that we wouldn't do that.
We have a comprehensive plan for infrastructure. The current Government has four ministers for infrastructure. It's not clear who's in charge of any particular project, let alone who's in charge of major projects like the Badgerys Creek airport or major road and rail projects. That's why I'm very proud the Labor Party remains the party of nation building. In Bill Shorten we have a leader who understands infrastructure, who's provided every support, to me as the shadow minister, over the last three years, to back in the commitments we've made during this election campaign and the comprehensive plan we're seeing not just today but announced in the Budget replies, announced in our Cities Policy that was announced in 2014. That's why we will be ready to go on Day One, if we're successful at the election on Saturday night, in getting this country moving when it comes to job creation through nation build ing infrastructure.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Anthony. I said before we took questions I wanted to just address a couple of other remarks. We are close to the finishing line. I'm sure some of you are pretty happy about that. But increasingly, I think the issues are coming into focus. People are now making decisions and they're focusing on what is most important in this election. Some of the key issues people have been talking to me about wherever I've travelled throughout Australia are jobs, education and Medicare. Many people report to me and explain to me they feel let down by this Government. They feel let down by the lack of a jobs approach of this Government because of a lack of commitment to invest in infrastructure and apprentices. They feel let down in education by the stubborn refusal of the Liberals not to properly fund school education using the Gonski principles, and to make it harder for working-class kids to go to universit y by radically cutting the funding to universities and TAFE. Of course, there is real fear that if the Liberals are returned on Saturday night, Medicare will be further undermined and dismantled piece by piece, brick by brick. I genuinely observe and discern a mood to change the Government and we are going to fight this election right down to 6pm on Saturday night because our issues are biting. Are there questions?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, why isn't the WestConnex project in your infrastructure plan? Do you and does Mr Albanese still support it or do you want to rip it up and not see it go ahead?
SHORTEN: We absolutely support the WestConnex project. But let's face it, the Government has made a complete mess of it and I meet get Anthony to explain to you quite how they've made the mess they have.
ALBANESE: There's now going to be an Australian National Audit Office inquiry into the financing of the WestConnex project and that's because here at Port Botany, you can see the problem. We're at the port, WestConnex comes nowhere near the port. WestConnex in its original design, recommended by Infrastructure New South Wales, was that the number one priority which had to be addressed was getting access to the port. That was done prior to the port being privatised. So the port was privatised, the State Government got the money, but the road that was supposed to fix the problem doesn't come here. It doesn't even come to the airport, it comes to the other side of the airport, so that's the problem here. In terms of today's story, by the way, what's interesting - and I've had a briefing from the Department only today, from my Department - what's interesting there is the New South Wales environmental approvals happened on April 20. Greg Hunt sat on that for six weeks and didn't refer it to the Shadow Environment Minister until just a few weeks ago, until May 31, during the caretaker period. Now, major EIS's aren't normally approved by Government and Opposition under the caretaker conventions. But in this case, it could've been approved by the Department. The Minister chose to not allow the Department to approve it, but to bring it in therefore delaying the project. So the question for Greg Hunt is why did he intervene in his Departmental processes and bring the project forward? That's a question for him to answer.
REPORTER: From an international perspective, if you become Prime Minister at the weekend, you will be the fifth Australian Prime Minister in just over three years. What can you say that would reassure people your leadership will be any more stable than that over the last few years?
SHORTEN: We've got positive policies to invest in people, to invest in infrastructure, to make sure we've got new industries in addition to our mining and resource industries which are supported. We've got fully funded policies and we've made some hard decisions. What we've done is trust the Australian people. We've shown the Australian people respect in this election campaign by outlining our policies. We are most committed to working as a united team, which I think is in stark contrast to the current conservative Government in Australia. What we have done, for the last three years of Opposition, is we've worked hard to provide a positive policy agenda for Australia which focuses on promoting Australian jobs, focuses on providing our young people and mature aged students the best possible quality education that a nation can give its people and of course, preserving our universal health care s ystem. We want people in Australia to be able to go and see a doctor when they're sick and not be discouraged by the price and the cost of healthcare.
REPORTER: Eddie Obeid has been found guilty this week of misconduct. How much damage will he do to Labor's brand particularly here in New South Wales and does this add further weight to calls from parties like the Greens and independents for a national ICAC?
SHORTEN: First of all, let me say about Eddie Obeid's conduct: simply disgraceful. Betraying the trust of people in the Labor movement and people who vote Labor, he deserves everything he's got coming to him. I also know that the matters you speak about are state issues. I also know this is the final step in the process which has been unfolding for several years. I'm focused on the future. The Labor Party's learnt a great deal in terms of our last three years of Opposition on what is the basis of a successful government. In terms of issues about federal integrity, I am definitely supportive of the federal Labor Party, if we form a government, of reconvening the Senate committee investigating the value and the benefit and the pros and cons of a national Integrity Commission. That was set up by the Senate, which Labor supported. It's now been stopped because of this election. We want to get ba ck to the business of getting the Senate to investigate the merit of a national Integrity Commission.
REPORTER: Could we get your thoughts on the terror attack in Turkey?
SHORTEN: It's a deplorable attack. I, like thousands of Australians, went through Istanbul on the way to the Gallipoli 100 years centenary. Istanbul is a fantastic city. Turkey is a fantastic country. We have many proud Australian people of Turkish origin. So my heart goes out to the population, to the people of Turkey, to the government of Turkey, and of course, to the Australian Turkish population who've made such a great contribution to this country.
REPORTER: What's your stance on New Zealand immigration detainees?
SHORTEN: Well, I think if you break the law here, you shouldn't. Let's be very clear here. These are difficult issues. These are difficult issues, but if people break the law in Australia then they have to face the consequences of what they've done and what they've done wrong.
REPORTER: Mathias Cormann has described your debate and your opposition to a plebiscite over gay marriage hysterical. What do you make of those comments, considering you too used to support a plebiscite?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I've supported marriage equality. I've voted for it previously when it came into Parliament in previous terms. I actually think what's happened since 2013 is the debate has moved beyond the Parliament, putting the case to the people. The people are now leading in terms of public opinion on marriage equality. The people have changed my mind. I had a look at, of course, everyone who saw the Irish referendum, remember that was a real wake-up call to Australia. If the Irish could do it, a traditionally very Catholic nation, I think a lot of Australians woke up after the Irish referendum in particular and said ‘We should do this. Why are we taking so long?’ I've also seen lessons out of the Irish referendum which show - and they had to change it that way, they didn't have the mechanism available to us of legislating in Parliament to change the Marriage Act -&nb sp; that debate, whilst it was ultimately successful, did trigger some very ugly arguments.
I do not see why our children of a same sex couple have to go to school, when they go to school, see the vile and homophobic literature which was put out, which Irish kids had to see. I think the people of Australia, the majority of them, have clearly moved, even in the last two or three years, to supporting marriage equality and all popular opinion polls would seem to indicate the truth of what I'm saying. Now the question is: what the best way to achieve it? Malcolm Turnbull, in his heart of hearts, knows a Parliamentary vote is the most expeditious and fairest way to do these matters. He conceded in one of his rare public appearances with me during those debates, such as they were, he conceded it was his second best option. Well, I don't see why Australian taxpayers should have to pay $160 million for the second best option which was just a deal, a price Mr Turnbull paid, to get Conservative support in the Liberal Party to bec ome leader of the Liberal Party. Why should Australians, not just same sex couples, why should all Australians have to pay a price just because Mr Turnbull did a deal to appease the right wing of his party?
REPORTER: On Four Corners the other night you appeared to leave open the door to a possible refugee resettlement deal with New Zealand, if you win the election. Is that what you're doing? Are you considering a possible deal with New Zealand and would that not act as an incentive for people to come by boat to eventually be resettled in a first-world country like New Zealand?
SHORTEN: Well, I appreciate the ABC's doing a bit of cross-promotion of their show there. I stand by my comments that I made to the Four Corners show. Indeed, let's also be very clear here. When it comes to deterring people smugglers, on July 3, if Labor's successful, it's going to be the same blunt opposition, the determined opposition, to people smugglers, that they had on July 2.
REPORTER: Joe Hockey the US Ambassador has ruled out Australia making any further concessions on the TPP in order to smooth its way through - to smooth its passage through Congress. Is Labor in lock-step on that stance, and if not, are there some areas Labor would be comfortable revising if the alternative is to kill off the deal completely?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen Ambassador Hockey's comments and I will acquaint myself with them and the thinking behind them. When it comes to free trade, Labor is up for achieving good free trade agreements. But as we've seen earlier this week, over a couple of days, I do not believe this Government is in full command of the visa program. We've seen persistent, serious allegations of 457 visa rorting. We've seen irrefutable evidence it is possible for $50,000, to be able to get false and illegal visas and achieve false entry to Australia. One thing which we said about our Free Trade Agreements is if they involve the movement of natural people, what we want to do is make sure our visa system isn't undermining the protections which Australian jobs have. In terms of the TPP, we will look at the detail of that, and if we form a Government we'll approach the negotiations in good faith.
REPORTER: How are you a couple of days out from the election?
SHORTEN: I think there is a discernible mood to change the government. I think the issues which Labor are talking about: jobs, education and Medicare, they are amongst the most important issues to Australians. Australians do feel let down by the Liberals, the way they've smashed the apprenticeship system. The way they've surrendered control of their visa system to crooks and scoundrels, the way they haven't really done very much at all in infrastructure. Their retreat from funding mass public transport infrastructure and the jobs that go with it. Australians are very concerned this government has let them down on jobs. They're very concerned this Liberal Government's let them down on education. They realise at this election we can end once and for all the education wars and the best way to fund them by voting Labor. They feel very let down by Mr Turnbull and the Liberals' constant undermining of Medicare. Mr Turnbull should unfreeze the GP rebate, reverse his very harsh cuts to bulk-billing incentives for blood tests and X-rays and he should not be increasing the price of medicine. That just harms too many people and it undermines Medicare.
REPORTER: How many seats to you need to win to prevent your colleague just here with you, Mr Albanese, becoming the next Labor Leader?
SHORTEN: No, a seriously silly question I rate that. The point is, we're in it to win enough seats to form a government. I have to say, if you want to talk about unity, let's have a look at how many seats does Mr Turnbull have to lose before Tony Abbott moves on him? The truth of the matter is, for the last three years, I am my team have worked very hard. We learnt the lessons of 2013 and we are unarguably the most united we've been in probably two decades. I'm very grateful to my team for that.
REPORTER: Why has Labor surrendered to at the government's delay to the increase of the superannuation guarantee to 12% rather than choosing a faster path?
SHORTEN: Oh, You'd never trust the Liberals to increase superannuation. You know the history of superannuation? I won't give it to you chapter and verse but just a couple of key facts. It was Labor working with unions and employers who forwent a three per cent wage rise and put that into compulsory super. The Liberals had nothing to say and opposed that. When it was introduced in 1992, the compulsory three per cent for all Australians, that was rejected. When it was moved to 9 per cent - sorry in '92 - that was rejected by the Liberals. When we sought to move it and increase it to 12 per cent, the Liberals opposed it then and they've frozen the increases. If you're worried about making sure we lift the levels of compulsory superannuation, vote Labor on Saturday.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, there's been a robo-call campaign started overnight using the same quote you highlighted yesterday at the Press Club. But as you are aware, that was just part of comments Mr Turnbull made, in fact, it was taking aim at Labor. Do you support or endorse this type of campaigning?
SHORTEN: I don't accept the assumption of your question, that Mr Turnbull's being quoted unfairly. I thought maybe someone might ask me that question, so I have actually got the quote which we say shows that Mr Turnbull can't be trusted with Medicare or schools funding and to make massive cuts. He had a ping at Labor. That's sort of standard business for him. He can't talk about his own policies but then he went on to say: “the other point I would make is that what political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily ultimately what they will do”. I want to draw your attention, he says "What political parties". He didn't say what the Labor Party says. This fellow is so contemptuous of this election that he's already writing his leave pass before he's been elected. He said: "What political parties". If he just wanted to say the La bor Party he would've just said Labor. He's normally pretty good at trying to complain about us. I have to give Mr Turnbull marks for consistency, though. There's something nice about him, so I'll give him marks for consistency. Whenever he says anything which gets him into trouble, he very quickly moves to "I'm a victim and everyone's misrepresenting me." It was Mr Turnbull who said "What political parties say isn't ultimately necessarily what they will do". This fellow, four days before an election, has warned Australians "Don't trust me." Fine. If he wants to tell 'em that, so will we
REPORTER: (inaudible)
SHORTEN: I don't know about every Robo-call campaign going on in this election, but I do support exposing a Prime Minister who is not prepared to say he will keep his political promises. This is election time. This is the time when you put forward your program, economic and social, for the betterment of this nation. I stand by our election policies. I stand by our commitments in infrastructure, in aviation, and maritime industries. Mr Turnbull's saying: ‘Well I may stand by it or I may not.’ He's the ultimate bet each way guy and he doesn't really expect to be held accountable and he just said what he really thinks. He gave us Malcolm Turnbull's Political Philosophy 101.
REPORTER: When Malcolm Turnbull says Labor had one position on the Schoolkids Bonus and then they did another thing, is he wrong?
SHORTEN: Well, the idea, the proposal to get rid of the Schoolkids Bonus, that was Malcolm's decision. Frankly, he's the one - remember Tony Abbott said there'd be no cuts in education? The famous Penrith interview? That's where Liberal politicians go to say silly things. That was the policy they all signed up to. Now, Malcolm Turnbull made the decision to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus. We've had to make tough decisions about which are the cuts we can repair. What can we do sensibly, repairing the budget without smashing the household budget? Our proposition for parents of school-aged children is this: vote Labor and you will get the full Gonski-based resources funding which ensures every child in every school gets every support. I think there was a question to Anthony.
REPORTER: We've heard Bill's assessment of the past three years and the unity of team. How do you think it's gone? Has he done enough and would you have done any differently?
ALBANESE: Well, everyone has seen the last three years. What they've seen is the Labor Party under Bill Shorten's leadership that's taken the initiative on policies. Policies across the spectrum. Education, health, infrastructure, the economy. We haven't been a small target at this election. That is to the credit of the leader, Bill Shorten and the entire team. I back our team. Our team across-the-board. I mean, Scott Morrison, every time I see him on an interview, I just cringe, compared with Chris Bowen who's so on top of the economy. When I look at health, I look at Catherine King and I look at how on top of health care and the Medicare issue she is. On infrastructure, it's unclear to me who at any time I'm shadowing. All I know is there's a lot of 'em over there, and they can't get their act together. Who is in charge of cities policy for this government?
Can I say this: that on every single policy I've put forward, I have had the total support of Bill Shorten and the leadership team. They have given me the freedom to go out there and negotiate with the sector, the sort of comprehensive plans we see being brought forward today. That's why we are in a position of forming government, hopefully on Sunday. My objective - I spent 12 long years in opposition - and I think I stand by my record. I understand the key is whether you're round the Cabinet table. Not dividing up spoils of Opposition. No-one in our show is interested in that. What we've been interested in for three years, and we've done each and every day as a united team, is how do we get back into government, not so we can sit there for ourselves, but so we can make Australia a better country? That's what drives us each and every day, and that's why we're in a strong position between now and Saturday. We've got three more sleeps to go. We're almost there. But what I want to see on Sunday, I want to get my incoming brief as a minister in a Shorten Labor government. That's my only focus.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, Does the Corbyn stand-off in the UK prove to you though that involving rank and file membership in a leadership ballot more problems than they solve?
ALBANESE: Good try. What the UK shows at the moment is a little picture of what’s coming down the track of what happens when you have a weak leader who isn't in control of his party, who makes promises during an election campaign that can't be fulfilled. He promised - Cameron promised the Brexit poll. It's ended up very badly indeed. Not just for him personally, who cares about that? It's ended up bad for Britain; it's ended up bad for the international economy. That's what happens when you are so weak that you have a right-wing rump in your party that is dragging you behind, it's like a ball and chain, and you can see it on Turnbull as well. You can see that ball and chain dragging behind him as he tries to get around this campaign. It's not the flu that's causing him the problem. It's the weight he's carrying. That's why he's not fit to lead. It's over. They 've been there for three years. Abbott was hopeless. Turnbull's been worse. Let's get rid of 'em on Saturday.
SHORTEN: Listen, we might take one more question that was a pretty good ending.
REPORTER: There's questions over the reliability of you relying on negative gearing and capital gains tax in terms of your costings and also combine that with the questions over hospital funding, considering there's only four years budgeted in your costings. What are you going to do to try to win the economic argument in the last few days?
SHORTEN: Well, whilst I want to answer your question, I can't let the assumptions in your statement go unchecked. The PBO has released a statement today. They're aware people are saying what they've said is unreliable. The PBO is saying the exact opposite. Let's be straight here, the PBO costing and methodology is the same as the Treasury costing and methodology, which is the Government rely upon. But we weren't content just with that. We got three of Australia's leading financial experts to be an independent costing panel, and those - led by Bob Officer and by the way, Bob Officer, historically had done the work in the Commission of Audit for no less than John Howard. Mike Keating. James McKenzie. So we've got a costing panel. We've got the PBO who stands by their work. We've got the PBO who does exactly the same numbers as Treasury. I think the Government is going to have to try a li ttle harder to discredit us than that. When we talk about our economic argument, it's very straightforward. Mr Turnbull is proposing to give away $50 billion out of the Budget that this nation cannot afford to go away. I mean, let's call it as it is here. Mr Turnbull says Brexit's very serious yet at the same time he's advocating, in a time of what he says is serious economic events overseas, he's advocating to take $50 billion away from the Australian Budget to pay it to large companies and overseas shareholders. He cannot have it both ways. Either he thinks Brexit was a serious issue and on that basis he should cancel his corporate tax giveaway, which Australia can't afford, or he just doesn't think that's a serious issue which warrants him cancelling his signature policy.
In the meantime, we say the best way to sustain growth and to develop the Australian economy and the best opportunities for Australians is invest in people. You know the story there. From the early years of child care, right through to the Gonski-based schools funding, to making sure we put TAFE back at the centre of our vocational education strategy, to make sure the massacre and collapse of you our apprenticeship system is changed and we save that again and of course, we want to see working-class and middle-class kids to go university. That's our people strategy.
On infrastructure, we've heard Anthony and I talk about that. We want to make sure that we turbo-charge infrastructure policy-making. We want to create a long-term policy bank in infrastructure by supporting Infrastructure Australia. We're backing it up with roads funding, with public transport funding in our major cities and of course, the NBN. The NBN should be first-class technology and Mr Turnbull's giving us second-class technology. Of course we want to diversify the Australian economy from its high reliance on the minerals industry. That's why, for instance, we're backing renewable energy. It's why we're backing the transition in the auto industry into other advanced manufacturing. It's why we will stand by the steel industry in Australia and Arrium. It's why we've got tourism infrastructure funds to help turbo charge tourism jobs in this country. That's our economic plan for Australia. I nvest in people, invest in infrastructure, and make sure that we have new industries to diversify our economy. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Coalition spends up big in its marginal seats and small in Labor electorates

Extract from The Guardian

The Turnbull government has pledged to spend $859m on 73 infrastructure projects in Coalition-held seats and only four Labor-held seats benefit

The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, has plenty to smile about: his seat of New England is a major beneficiary of Coalition grants.
The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, has plenty to smile about: his seat of New England is a major beneficiary of Coalition grants. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
Most of the new infrastructure projects on which the Turnbull government is spending $859m are in Coalition-held seats, especially marginals.
The projects have all been announced since the 3 May budget and are detailed in the Coalition’s costing document released on Tuesday by the treasurer, Scott Morrison, and the finance minister, Mathias Cormann.
An analysis by Guardian Australia of the projects reveals that 73 are in Coalition seats and just four are in Labor seats, although several others serve multiple electorates including Labor seats.
The seat held by the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, New England, is a major beneficiary, receiving grants for the Armidale airport roundabout, Inverell shire traffic flow improvements, the Jewry Street bridge, the Munsie bridge upgrade, Scone bypass, Tenterfield heavy vehicle bypass and an upgrade of Tamworth regional airport.
Joyce is locked in a tight contest with the former independent MP Tony Windsor.
One of the biggest commitments was $105m for the Gateway and Pacific motorways, to benefit the Liberal National party seats of Bonner and Flynn and the Labor seat of Moreton in Queensland.
The other biggest commitments were all in Coalition-held electorates: $110m for the Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes upgrade in McPherson; $65m for the Bowen basin service link and Walkerston bypass in Capricornia; $60m for Outback Way in O’Connor; $50m for the Murrumbateman bypass in Eden Monaro, and $50m for Appin Road in Hume and Macarthur.
Liberal-held marginals benefited from a large number of projects including Lyons, in Tasmania, with seven projects, and Dobell and Robertson on the New South Wales central coast, with four and three respectively.
The only projects in Labor electorates were Ryans Road in Port Adelaide, the Hobart airport roundabout upgrade in Franklin, and the Monaro highway widening and Pialligo Road duplication, both of which are in Canberra but also benefit the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro.
Asked at a doorstop on Wednesday why most of the new infrastructure money was to be spent in Coalition seats, Cormann said: “In the course of this election we’ve made commitments right around Australia.”
He said he would leave “commentary” on the appropriateness of the spending to others: “It will be a matter for the Australian people to decide whether they support ... the commitments that we’ve made, which are fully funded in the budget.”

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Welfare and pension crackdown will reap $2bn over four years, says Coalition

 Extract from The Guardian

Scott Morrison says savings will offset announced extra spending over past few weeks and budget bottom line will be $1.1bn better over next four years

Further funds taken out of welfare system
Acoss chief warns the crackdown could lead to significant hardship for vulnerable people if it creates more automated or aggressive debt recovery. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP
The Coalition has said it will collect an extra $2bn over the next four years by cracking down on welfare and pension recipients.
The treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the money saved in the crackdown would offset the extra $1.2bn in election spending it has announced over the past few weeks for things such as tennis courts, CCTV cameras and community grants – principally in Liberal and National electorates.
With another $300m in savings made elsewhere, it says the Coalition’s budget bottom line will therefore be $1.1bn better – over the next four years – than it was before the election campaign.
It says the welfare crackdown is an election promise.
It also says the vast majority of Australian welfare recipients “do the right thing” so they needn’t worry about the Coalition’s proposed changes.
“Some welfare recipients make genuine mistakes in the information they supply to the government, which can result in reduced or cancelled payments,” Morrison said in a joint statement with the social services minister, Christian Porter.
“These reforms will cut red tape and ensure that mistakes are minimised so that recipients who are doing the right thing are not adversely affected or inconvenienced.
“These measures will also better target fraud in our social welfare system. We will better manage the welfare system to ensure we prevent, detect and deter fraud and compliance.
“No one who genuinely needs social welfare support and who is honestly disclosing their employment income and non-employment income will be worse off under our commitment,” they said.
They say a re-elected Coalition government will:
  • Ensure welfare recipients, including pensioners, disclose their assets and investments more often. It will require them to self-report more frequently, and submit to “improved auditing activities”. This will collect $527m over four years.
  • Ensure greater income data matching for welfare recipients, collecting $661m, and improve non-employment income data matching, collecting $527m. It will use income data cross-checking between the Australian Tax Office and Centrelink to do so.
  • Adopt real-time monitoring and real-time data analysis of online transactions to immediately address potential non-compliance by welfare recipients, collecting $285m.
In material accompanying the announcement, it says there are around 270,000 former recipients of social security and family assistance payments who owe more than $870m to the government and are not making appropriate effort to repay individual debts.
“We have saved more in this campaign than we have spent,” Morrison said on Tuesday.
“Labor have not saved anything in this campaign. They have spent and spent and spent.”

The Australian Council of Social Services chief executive officer, Cassandra Goldie, warned the crackdown could lead to significant hardship for vulnerable people if it created a more automated or aggressive debt recovery approach.
She said after three successive budgets have increased pressure on the most vulnerable households, the crackdown would take further funds out of the welfare system while doing nothing to ensure income adequacy for those living on the lowest incomes.
“Acoss strongly opposes taking any more money out of income support payments,” Goldie said.
“This is the last place the Coalition should be looking for savings to fund new election spending promises.
“People are struggling to survive on $38 dollars a day Newstart payments which have not been increased in two decades.”
Sarah Saunders, of National Seniors, said while they had not received the details of the crackdown, people would resent being treated as “ripping off” the system.
“Obviously if people are receiving payments they shouldn’t, we support a crackdown,” she said.
“But people resent being treated as ripping off the system if that is the mentality.”
Saunders said seniors would welcome better engagement because they struggle to get through to Centrelink and “when they do, they often get the wrong information”.
She said an audit office report published last year showed Centrelink telephone services were getting worse even though older Australians were more likely to rely on telephone services or to go into a Centrelink branch rather than use online services.
She said of the 56.8m calls made to Centrelink 1800 or 13 telephone numbers in 2013–14, 43.1m calls were answered while 13.7m calls were unable to enter the network, that is the calls were blocked and the callers heard the busy signal.
National Seniors has already warned that age pensioners are angry at the tightening of the assets test which is estimated to push 100,000 people off the pension. 

At election campaign's 11th hour, sneaky tactics trump credible arguments

Extract from The Guardian

The Coalition suddenly retrieves welfare savings from the back of the couch and Bill Shorten adds a postscript to his final pitch at the National Press Club

Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann
Proper scrutiny of the welfare savings announced by Scott Morrison is very difficult at this point in the campaign. Photograph: Adrian Muscat/AAP
You wouldn’t believe it. Just four days out from the election the Coalition has found $2.3bn from yet another “crackdown” on welfare recipients and pensioners that more than pays for all the pork barrelling it’s been doing for the past eight weeks.
Every CCTV camera, road, football stadium and netball court showered upon Coalition marginal seats can be funded from cracking down, again, on overpayments, waste and, in some cases, rorting, which were already cracked down upon with such determination last year that it was forecast to yield $3.7bn. That’s a lazy $6bn in waste and abuse.
The Department of Finance “signed off” on the latest $2.3bn before the election, which does raise the question as to why it wasn’t included in the budget in May. If it had been in the budget it would have been the government’s second-biggest saving.
The government says it’s all about data matching and data analytics – recovering debt from people who were inadvertently overpaid, or who have made mistakes, or who in some cases have been abusing the system.
But the peak welfare group, the Australian Council of Social Service, is worried – not that the government is trying to recover what is owed, but that the aggressive debt recovery of inadvertent overpayments will target people living on so little, and that the promised automation could remove human discretion from the process.
And National Seniors says one reason older Australians might not be across the system is that in 2013-14, 29% of them had to wait more than 30 minutes on hold before they could even talk to someone at Centrelink.
Either way, suddenly retrieving the savings from the back of the couch at this point in the campaign makes proper scrutiny very difficult.
It doesn’t serve the interests of the people about to be affected by the changes, but it did serve the Coalition’s broader political point – to extend just a little further the gap between its projected deficits and those of Labor – cue Scott Morrison’s message about Labor being a threat to the economy.
On the other side of politics, Bill Shorten was making his final campaign pitch at the National Press Club.
It was a strong speech, framing Labor’s economic argument in the context of Brexit, arguing that Labor’s policies are far better placed to avoid the inequality and social division that fuelled the disillusionment and anger behind the Brexit vote. Cue Labor’s message about the need to reduce inequality, retain Australia’s social compact and not cut payments to the lowest-income families or erode the revenue base with corporate tax cuts.
But then Bill Shorten tried a grand finale – a “gaffe” that he said “marked the end of the prime minister’s credibility”. (Labor was so excited, it had already turned the alleged gaffe into an ad.)
Shorten quoted Turnbull saying that “what political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily what they do”. It was, Shorten insisted, the defining moment of the campaign, proving the prime minister would be prepared to lie.
Except Turnbull had been talking about several policy reversals the Labor party has made in recent days – Coalition policies they have railed against for years but have now quietly accepted.
Sneaky tactics keep trumping credible arguments in this election.

Election 2016: Crackdown on welfare payments cornerstone of Coalition's final budget costings

Extract from ABC News

Updated 26 minutes ago

The Coalition has announced a plan to claw back $2.3 billion in savings - largely by cracking down on welfare payments - as it unveils its final budget costings.

Key points:

  • The Government plans to overhaul checks and balances in the welfare system to recoup just over $2 billion
  • Commonwealth owed about $3.5 billion in welfare debt due to fraud and overpayments
  • Labor sceptical about how much money the Government would be able to claw back
The Government predicts it will save just over $2 billion by intensifying its efforts to identify welfare fraud, and using technology more effectively to ensure people receiving Centrelink payments and pensions are not overpaid.
The Coalition said the savings would allow it to pay for its election promises, and lift its bottom line by just over $1 billion since the budget in May.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth was owed around $3.5 billion in welfare debt due to fraud and overpayments.

The figures broken down:

  • The Coalition says its election promises over the past eight weeks have cost the budget $1.2b
  • To offset that, it will crack down on welfare, bringing in $2.3b over four years
  • The Treasurer says that means a $1.1b boost to the budget
  • He says Labor will increase the deficit by $16b over four years
"We are not weakening the system, we at strengthening it, so those entitled to the payment and support which are important get that support, but ensuring that the system doesn't have the leakage and the waste and the overpayments or the abuse of the system which at the end of the day cost Australian taxpayers," Mr Morrison said.
He said the Coalition would overhaul the checks and balances in the system and use technology more effectively to recoup the money.
"Our existing integrity measures are successfully identifying and recovering fraud and overpayments, and we will build on these ... I think every Australian would expect the Government to be doing that," he said.
Opposition's Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said he was sceptical about how much money the Government would be able to claw back.
"Obviously, we would need to know exactly how many people would be affected and how it is different to the $5.7 billion in savings announced since the 2015/16 budget from better compliance," Mr Bowen said.
"This Government has a habit of announcing compliance measures with very significant amounts of money attached to them."
Labor's Finance spokesman Tony Burke said now the Coalition had released its full costings, voters faced a stark choice between the two parties.
"The Government is offering the worst of all worlds in these figures. They have continued deficits with no structural reform," Mr Burke said.
"Both sides of politics hit surplus in the same year. Both sides of politics have deficits across the forward estimates. But only one side of politics - that is Labor - is dealing with the structural deficit.
"Our reforms, year on year, make structural improvements to the budget. Their changes, year on year, see the budget deteriorate structurally."
But Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the Coalition's announcements demonstrated its resolve to bring the budget back to surplus and exercise fiscal discipline.
"Since we came to government we have made more savings to the tune of $10.3 billion and in this costings announcement here today we can again show that the frugal, modest commitments we have made in this campaign are more than paid for by genuine savings in other parts of the budget," Senator Cormann said.
"Unlike the Labor Party, which has been making unfunded spending promises after unfunded spending promises in this campaign, and Labor putting up the size of the deficit, putting the Triple-A credit rating at risk."

Is globalisation coming to an end?

Posted 20 Jun 2016, 7:20am

Underemployment and an ever widening wealth chasm has created a deep sense of mistrust in trade and globalisation - particularly notable in the Brexit debate. We are entering dangerous times, writes Ian Verrender.
They assembled by the thousand in New York's Zuccotti Park, a spontaneous grass roots movement born of anger and disillusion. The date was September 17, 2011.
Within weeks, the Occupy Movement, which began as an outpouring of outrage over the behaviour of Wall Street's elite and the growing disparity of wealth, had gone global with protests in more than 80 countries.
Five years on, the left wing movement against capitalism and globalisation has manifested itself in mainstream politics, with many of the very same arguments employed by far right wing groups whose main objection is to immigration with more than a nod towards racism.
This Thursday, Britain will vote on whether it should leave the European Union. Until a few weeks ago, there appeared little chance the country would vote yes. Despite warnings from the UK Treasury about the dire economic consequences of an exit, there is now a serious chance that Britons may begin a retreat to their shores.
Across the Atlantic, the Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, talks of building a wall along the Mexican border and rails against the free trade ideals that have led to a mass restructuring of the American economy.
On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders, who refuses to concede defeat, tapped into a similar vein of discontent among Americans about the growing wealth disparity that now is approaching levels not seen in almost a century.
The US, too, has begun to look inwards.
For the first time since 2009 when the financial crisis wreaked havoc, global trade in value terms declined in 2015, as commodity prices slumped and exchange rates shifted.
In a related development, for the first time since it began to open its economy four decades ago, Chinese exports declined 25 per cent over the year to February, a trend that shows no sign of abating with further heavy falls in April.
More than a few commentators have posed the question: Is this the beginning of the end for globalisation? A definitive answer remains elusive. What is clear is that disenchantment within the developed world is spreading, much of it based around inequity and inequality but with trade as the flashpoint.
A quick glance at the US Federal Reserve of St Louis statistics show that on almost every measure, wealth inequality is growing. Student loans are up. So too are food stamps and health insurance costs. In the meantime, labour force participation, home ownership and median family incomes have plummeted.
From the end of World War II until the late 1970s, US household income grew sharply; a trend that was replicated through the developed world. It was also reasonably well distributed across income bands.
Not only has income growth moderated, the vast bulk of the gains have been concentrated at the top bands as the wealthy take a greater share of the pie. Wealth concentration is back towards levels not seen since the 1920s.
Trade is fundamental to human nature. As individuals, we specialise. We trade our expertise in a given area for food, clothing and shelter. Nations have learnt that it is beneficial to do the same.
The post war era saw a dramatic increase in global trade. The gradual dismantling of trade barriers helped turbocharge global economic growth, resulting in a huge lift in living standards and the rapid ascent from poverty for millions of people in the developing world.
But the pace of change has come at a huge cost to many in the developed world. During the past three decades, manufacturing and heavy industry has shifted to lower cost nations while new technology has replaced those engaged in repetitive and unskilled jobs.
The result has been vast armies of unemployed and barely employed workers.
It has been a boon for consumers world-wide as the cost of goods has fallen dramatically in real terms. Try consoling an unemployed casualty of the automotive industry shutdown with that cheery news and see how far you get.
Some claim it to be a coincidence, but the dramatic rise in wealth concentration has neatly sat alongside the rise in the theory of trickle-down economics.
Tax cuts for the wealthy and for large corporations were supposed to incentivise individuals and large businesses, resulting in ever larger profits and greater employment prospects. The profit side worked. Not so for employment.
It also has coincided with the ascendancy of monetarism, where central bankers control the global economy through the magic of manipulating interest rates.
Since the 1980s, central banks have attempted to smooth out the booms and busts, a strategy that appeared to work until around 2000 when the dotcom boom unravelled and the US began its disastrous foray into ultra low interest rates, a move that helped spawn the real estate boom and the ensuing financial crisis.
Interest rates now are zero or even negative in most of the developed world. That's pumped up asset prices such as stocks and property - further concentrating wealth - but done little to generate investment, real economic growth or jobs.
And in the midst of all this, we've seen a proliferation of so-called free trade agreements, many of which have little to do with trade, and certainly nothing to do with free trade.
The US has been pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership throughout the Asian region and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe.
Both deals have been problematic, primarily because they contain clauses that would allow corporations to sue sovereign nations and are seen as a US attempt to assert political, diplomatic and corporate influence.
These agreements now are viewed with suspicion across the developed world. Even Americans hate them, blaming the North American Free Trade Agreement for the exodus of American manufacturing to cheaper destinations.
The Turnbull, Abbott, Gillard, Rudd and Howard governments have all played the free trade agreement card when it has suited them. Then, on cue, they will restrict foreign investment or dole out a subsidy to an ailing industry if it means scoring political points.
As our very own Productivity Commission has pointed out, the benefits of free trade go to those who lower their own internal trade barriers, not to those who sign preferential and potentially dangerous bilateral agreements.
Having politicised trade, is it any wonder voters now blame politicians and free trade for their predicament?
The tragedy of the unfolding drama in the UK and the US is that by restricting trade, the world will be poorer for it. Unemployment will be made significantly worse.
If the UK cuts ties with Europe and even partially closes its borders, it will be a less attractive place to invest. It could also fuel the ambitions of far right nationalists across Europe itching to split the union, with potentially dire social consequences.
The sad reality is that no amount of withdrawal and disengagement will alter the march of technology. Trade, particularly in services, takes place more easily across borders than ever before.
We are entering dangerous times. Underemployment and an ever widening wealth chasm has created a deep sense of mistrust and alienation. That's not good for growth or jobs.
Ian Verrender is the ABC's business editor and writes a weekly column for The Drum

Bill Shorten, Subjects: Medicare; Hospitals funding; Costings; Customs scandal; Superannuation.


MONDAY, 27 JUNE 2016

BILL SHORTEN: Six days to go in the election and Labor is most committed to defending Medicare. We've just been visiting hospitals talking to patients, talking to their parents, talking to the kids, talking to the hard working staff here at this very, very good facility. There is no doubt in my mind that defending Medicare against the ruthless cuts of the Liberal Government is a first order issue for Australians. Mr Turnbull has made choices in this election, so have I. Mr Turnbull's chosen to give a $50 billion tax cut to large corporations. We've chosen to properly fund our hospitals. Mr Turnbull has chosen to defend banks, we've chosen to defend Medicare. Mr Turnbull has chosen to keep going ahead with his six year freeze on GP rebates, we've chosen to unfreeze the rebates. Mr Turnbull has chosen that from Friday, the bulk-billing incentives which are available for blood tests, which are available for X-rays, for those bulk-billing incentives, will be cut. We've chosen not to cut them, and in doing this, we do so because we fundamentally believe that the health care of all Australians and any Australians is a matter for all of us. You cannot be Prime Minister of this great country if you're not prepared to prioritise the health care of Australians. We believe that an economic plan requires a healthy Australia. We believe that a prosperous Australia requires an Australia where it is your Medicare card, not your credit card, which determines the level of health care.
This election on July 2 will be a referendum on the future of Medicare, we remain absolutely committed to put forward our positive plan for health care in this country. Our positive plans to help save Medicare from the dismantling by Mr Turnbull piece by piece, brick by brick of our Medicare system. And we are confident that the Australian people, on July 2, will choose to prioritise and defend Medicare, not large $50 billion tax cuts for large corporations.
Before I go to questions though, about defending Medicare and other matters, I feel it is important to talk about the major, massive corruption scandal facing Mr Turnbull and his Government. If the reports in today's media are even half true, the Australian Government has lost control of its visa system to the crooks and criminals. When you look at the very serious allegations which are being raised, Mr Turnbull has serious questions to answer about the integrity and administration of our visa system, and the Government's abject failure to uphold a straight visa system in this country.
These are serious allegations. Allegations of organised crime, running immigration rackets, providing false visas which allow people to illegally enter this country. It's a most serious matter that whilst this Government has been in charge, the Liberal Government, with senior ministers serving as Immigration Ministers right under their very noses, we discover that if you pay up to $50,000 you can get a bogus work visa to illegal enter this country. Mr Turnbull has to explain to us, how widespread is this problem? How many tainted work visas are there? Labor's been calling for reform of the visa system and today's scandalous revelations require the Government to provide a full accounting immediately of the crisis in our visa system. The crisis in our visa system which undermines people's confidence in the ability of this Government to competently manage anything. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Has Peter Dutton taken his eye off the ball here with what you were just talking about in favour his laser-like focus always being on asylum seekers and part B, isn't this another reason why Labor should back a Federal ICAC?
SHORTEN: Well there’s plenty in what you say, so let me take all of the parts of your question, Heath. First of all there are a million people currently in Australia who have visas which give them some work rights. It is appalling and astounding and many Australians will be up in arms as they learn the news that it is possibly for criminal gangs, for organised crime overseas, to manipulate and bypass, almost casually, the integrity of our visa system. The fact that Australian visas are for sale for cash, for sexual favours, for corruption in other countries, undermines the very heart of our immigration system. In terms of the investigation and the best response, let us just recognise that there are even more allegations which are going to be revealed, we understand, tonight and tomorrow.
But Labor will not allow the Government to sweep this massive undermining of confidence in the integrity of our visa system. The fact that this Liberal Government has handed control of our visa system to criminals and crooks. We believe that the Government must make a full accounting, we'll certainly see what further facts come to light in the next 12 hours and 24 hours. We are not going to let this issue rest. Australians are very concerned to make sure that Australian jobs are going to people who are properly here. This Government cannot tell us right now, as we speak, who is here, what are the circumstances in which they're here, are they actually doing what the visas say they're meant to be doing, how many people have manipulated the system and got in under Australia's guard, and then we see a complete breakdown of the visa system. This is a major crisis for the way we handle visas and the way we handle people co ming to this country seeking to work. Full stop.
I answered part B by saying we'll watch what gets revealed in the next 12 hours. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that the Government simply brushing the matter off and saying that we'll worry about it on July 3. That won't cut it. I talk to everyday Australians, Labor's been talking about reforming the visa system. Everyday Australians will probably at some level think we always wondered if this system is being reason properly. Now we know it. You have senior ministers, Dutton and Morrison, renowned for arrogance, renowned for their addiction to secrecy, and clearly now renowned for their competence at managing the visa system. This is a major crisis and nothing less than a full accounting will satisfy the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: What will you do to get to the bottom of this visa situation and to crackdown to stop these rorts?
SHORTEN: Well, Labor has, we announced a series of reforms I have to say, not even knowing the extent of the corruption which has now been revealed. What we've said is that employers should not be allowed to bring people here unless they've tested the local labour market. We have to make sure there's more resources for enforcement, we have to make sure that the job listed on the application is actually bona fide. What these allegations reveal is that Australian laws are being gamed by criminals and this government hasn't got a clue what to do about it. They clearly haven't been aware of it and now we find out that our visa system is in tatters.
JOURNALIST: Just on Medicare, obviously that is a focus as we head to July 2. Do you think that voters believe your message though, considering the latest Newspoll actually has the Coalition ahead?
SHORTEN: I'm very confident that Australians are very concerned about the future of Medicare. I have to say to people that Australians, wherever I go, want to be reassured that we will defend and save Medicare. They want to hear Labor's policies to make sure that we keep downward price on the cost of medicine. They want to hear Labor's policies that we will save bulk-billing in GP clinics. It was the Royal Australian College of GPs who said that the Liberal policies mean that 14.5 million Australians will pay more to see the doctor. Australians want to hear that at least there's one major political party in this country on their side. The people we just visited in these hospital wards, they know the importance of well-funded hospitals, the parents here know the anxiety of long waiting times making sure their child is okay. Labor is the only party who can be trusted to properly support our hospitals, to ma ke sure we retain bulk-billing, to keep downward pressure on the price of prescription medicine. This is what Australians want and Labor will defend and save Medicare with every ounce of effort that we can muster before the 2nd.
JOURNALIST: If that's the case though, then why is the Coalition now ahead in the Newspoll?
SHORTEN: Well, I think you're question assumes an election outcome which I don't.
JOURNALIST: On your costings that were released yesterday afternoon, how can voters trust your economic credentials when you've said that the deficit will be $16 billion worse over the forward estimates under Labor?
SHORTEN: We're very determined to reduce the deficit, but we're not going to do it by smashing household budgets. Our numbers, our costings which we produced yesterday well in time for the election, in good faith with the Australian people I might add, our costings show we achieve balance in the same year they do. And because we're introducing long-term reforms, what it means is that we can make long-term improvement to reducing debt, reducing government debt, in the future because we're making the long term reforms now, without making savage cuts to the things which really matter to Australians – Medicare and education. And furthermore, this Government is deceitfully relying on fake savings which no-one in Australia expects them to be able to pass. I mean, I think it's long overdue for the Government to reveal their own costings, don't you?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, your costings yesterday showed that you're banking the savings from the Coalition's proposed changes to super, so are you adopting all of their policies and if not, are you not giving retirees total uncertainty until Labor does reveal its own plan?
SHORTEN: Well, let’s be straight about superannuation here. The Government, in their budget, ambushed a lot of us with their radical changes on superannuation. I'm on record as expressing severe concerns, like a lot of other people too I might add. When we are in government, if we win the election, we're going to revisit these measures because we're not sure how workable they are. The Government says, hand on heart, they're not retrospective. We're sceptical of this and if we form a government we'll be in the best position possible to actually see the accuracy of what they said before the election as compared to afterwards.
JOURNALIST: Will you be committing to the policy?
SHORTEN: The Government says the changes are not. We are sceptical of this. Truthfully, what we need is to get the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance, and Treasury to actually sit down and examine these rushed changes by the Government to see if they stack up or not. Government is the best place for us to do that from.
JOURNALIST: How can you include those savings in your costings unless you're supporting them?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all the Government has asserted that they’re not retrospective but let's also be very clear here. When we form a government, if we wn the election, we will revisit these measures to see their workability, to fully understand if they can actually be done. There's plenty of people who are saying that these changes will be very hard to implement. For example, one of them is, they require people to keep records for ten years retrospectively when in fact they don't. But, the fact of the matter is that the best place for us to determine the truth of what the Government's finally said will be using the most senior public servants if and when we win the election.
JOURNALIST: Tony Burke this morning talked up the benefit of ten year costings and you said this election is about healthcare. Are you going to the election with a questionable bottom line since you've said nothing on hospital funding beyond the four years of the budget, and as Chris Bowen said this morning, have your prioritised schools over hospitals?
SHORTEN: First of all, I don't know if we've seen the Government's costings over ten years, in terms of health care, and I can tell you the answer to that, they haven't revealed them. What we're doing is providing long-term forecasts and long-term analysis of our position because Australians deserve to be treated with a long-term vision, not just a short-term fix til after the election. When it comes to healthcare, we're making it clear that we will unfreeze the GP rebate going forward and this is a benefit and something we factored in over a decade. When it comes to retaining the bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and for X-rays and for pathology, we've been able to analyse that over the ten years. With our hospitals agreement in particular, we are optimistic that because of our better planned, more productive investments we're making over four years, and these are four y ear agreements with the states, that at the conclusion of four years, especially if Labor gets elected on July 2, we will have achieved improvements which will actually see us be able to estimate lower costs in hospitals than we otherwise would.
JOURNALIST: Picking up on that point, how do you anticipate those costs for hospital will be lower? What are you basing that upon? This morning we heard Andrew Leigh say that all the costings, all the amounts for hospital funding are in the costings. Is that true and does that mean you wouldn't you renegotiate with state and territory governments for future hospital funding past the forwards?
SHORTEN: I'll answer that but I realise it was a second part of the earlier question which I just want to come to about education and healthcare. We've made choices about what we've prioritised. We are prioritising defending Medicare and we are prioritising properly funding schools. What we're not prioritising is giving a $50 billion tax cut to large corporations.
In terms of your question, the hospital agreements are negotiated every four years. What we've done in our hospital funding package, which I know has been well received at the Monash Hospital here, is that we are providing extra resources for hospitals, full stop. We're going to the 50 per cent efficient pricing of what states require to run their hospital system. Now, what we've seen from efficient pricing when Labor last negotiated the hospital agreement, is we have seen improvements to the bottom line, both in patient care in terms of performance and in terms of cost. What we're also doing, apart from that 50 per cent efficient, funding delivering reforms in hospitals, is that we're also providing additional money to help reduce waiting lists for elective surgery, waiting times in emergency hospital wards of hospitals. So that combination of reform we believe will generate improvements but we'll have to see how that system rolls out and you can't be in a position to know the success of those reforms until we've undergone that period.
One thing I can guarantee, Mr Turnbull's not funding hospitals as well as we are. Full stop. Mr Turnbull's making changes which will discourage bulk-billing, which means that patients in some cases, tragically and sadly, defer going to see the doctor until they're sicker. He is increasing the price of prescription medicine and he's cutting the bulk-billing incentives for blood tests and for X-rays. This all means that the prospect for Australians is they're going to pay more for their healthcare if Mr Turnbull's returned on 2nd of July and that is a statement beyond doubt. Sorry I might share the questions around.
JOURNALIST: If Labor has nothing to hide with its costings why won't you release the PBO correspondence and how many of your policies does the PBO rate as low reliability?
SHORTEN: First of all, if we talk about hide and seek, the hide and seek game of this election is finding the Coalition costings, isn't it? We should almost set up a competition because they're not producing them. Labor brought out a costings panel. These are very respected leaders in the business world, very respected business minds, very respected accounting minds. Our costings panel has looked at all of our propositions and they've put their name to it. I'll back that up against Scott Morrison who can't produce his costings. At some point the Australian people deserve to hear from the Government on their costings, we've put ours out on the table. We've done it earlier than people have done it ever before in the past. Remember the Hockey ambush on the nation and the nation's media, dolling it out on the Thursday night before the election? I know that some of you have forensically as ked me, will you release your costings? We have and we stand by our costings, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Given healthcare is your focus this week, why aren't you –
SHORTEN: It's one of our focuses.
JOURNALIST:  Why aren't you giving the states an idea about how much you're budgeting for hospitals over the ten years ,and also which have you backed away from your promise to fully return the money that the Abbott-Joe Hockey budget took out of hospitals?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, we're doing what all the other political parties are doing with the hospital profile, we're providing four years. So we're doing nothing more or less in terms of transparency about the hospitals. What we are doing on hospitals though, which our opponents are not doing, is we're properly funding hospitals. I'll tell you what, if you did a straw poll of eight states and territories, they're pretty keen to get their hands on our hospitals package. I'm not saying the Liberal premiers won't vote for Liberal candidates, but I am saying their little inner health child is saying, gee, I just wish Malcolm Turnbull had done what Labor have done. I've got no doubt about that. When you look at the AMA, for instance, or the Royal College of GPs, the Royal Australian College of GPs, they know the greatest challenges to our health costs are l osing bulk-billing through the freezing of rebate and of course properly funding hospitals.
I can go to every hospital in Australia and say vote Labor because we'll provide for more funding for hospitals. I can go to every Australian who is currently on an elective surgery waiting list for hip replacements, for knee reconstructions and say vote Labor because we're actually going to make it more possible for you to have your surgery more quickly. I can look at everyone who uses prescription medicine and purchases prescription medicine and say vote Labor because we're actually keeping the price down and we're scrapping the price hike. And I can do all of that because we are not doing Mr Turnbull's key number one economic plan, which is a $50 billion tax give away to large companies. That is why we can make the promises we're making, full stop.
JOURNALIST: On the superannuation again, are you not leaving older voters and retirees in limbo by not admitting what your policy is going to be? Do you not consider them an important demographic in the lead-up to Saturday's poll?
SHORTEN: My words, I think all superannuants have been deeply let down by this government. Our policies on superannuation have always been well cast and well advised and consulted well in advance of this election. It was in the middle of last year that we proposed reforming the top end of superannuation tax concessions. What we've also said is that we want to restore the money which with the tax credit, which was the tax deduction which was available for people who earn less than $37,000 a year. There's 3.5 million Australians earn less than $37,000 a year. Currently, when they pay their superannuation they've got to pay 15 per cent tax on their superannuation, which is in many cases is higher than their actual marginal rate of taxation. The Government scrapped that tax deduction which would have seen literally hundreds and thousands of dollars put forward into people's low paid workers' superann uation accounts, and through our campaigning, we're able to make sure that that is reversed and that low income superannuants, low income workers get better superannuation.
In terms of what the Government's doing, we have concerns with the way they're implementing and rolling out. These changes are not due to 1 July, 2017. I'm confident if you get a government in charge who actually understands superannuation, we can move beyond the shocks and surprises which this government administered with no warning on budget night this year.
JOURNALIST: Just on super, you haven't answered the question as to how Labor can actually hang on to the Government's revenue from these retrospective super changes and not implement them retrospectively yourself. Are you planning some other hit to super that we don't know about, and secondly, you've complained about a $57 billion funding shortfall for health, yet your costings don't complete that shortfall, don't fix it. Are you going to make any more health funding announcements this week that might get you there?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I'm pleased that The Australian newspaper is recognising there’s a debate about these changes are retrospective, because that has been something which has concerned us and if there's been a change of –
JOURNALIST: And we've written about it before, many times –
SHORTEN: If there is a change of editorial policy which is actually saying these things are retrospective, that's a development in the public debate. Let me be very direct about this, I have grave concerns about the way this Government is handling superannuation. They froze the 9.5 per cent increase going up to 12 per cent, they froze it. They're happy to pocket 15 per cent superannuation themselves as a defined benefit, this government, but they have not supported working Australians lift super from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent. Then this government made a whole lot of unannounced changes on budget night which has caused great consternation. The best place for us to work through these changes, to understand the implications, is from government, and that is what we're going to do.
You asked about the $57 billion too, I beg your pardon so did someone earlier on. We would like to reverse every cut this government's done, but we have to make hard decisions. This government has smashed a lot of the issues which were important to Australians. Remember in 2013, in the week before the election, Tony Abbott said there would be no cuts to health care, no cuts to education? Then in the 2014 budget that's exactly what they did. We called them out on that. Not everyone agreed with us, as I recall, but we called them out on that. What we are doing, is we are doing improvements to what the Government is doing in health care. The simple fact of the matter is though, is this Government has tripled the deficit, the simple fact of the matter is this Government has increased net public sector debt on every Australian in the country. The fact of the matter is this Government has caused a lot of harm, we can't un do every bit of the harm, but what we are doing is we are reversing $12 billion worth of cuts to Medicare and bulk-billing and the GP rebate. We are reversing approximately $3 billion worth of price hikes that they're putting on other PBS, we are actually opposing cuts which over ten years will see something approaching $3 billion in terms of bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imaging centres and for pathology labs, and of course our hospitals package is much more generous than what the Government's offering, and so is the package we're offing for elective surgery. So when you total all those things up, we're a much better prospect for the health of Australians than the Government.
JOURNALIST: There is some independent praise for your release of costings yesterday and the rigour of the figures, there's also a view among experts that your budget deficits over the forward estimates would increase the risk of Australia losing its triple-A credit rating. Do you acknowledge that if you run the budget deficits you say you will run that there is a real risk Australia will lose its credit rating anyway?
SHORTEN: Complete rubbish. Not that you asked that question, but the proposition behind it. The only party in this election who has had the credit agencies question their ability to hang on to the triple-A credit rating is the Government. The fact of the matter is we're making long-term changes. It would be perhaps easy for us just to simply adopt every fake measure the Government has and say, see we could make it look better, but we knows that’s not right. We know that, for instance, the proposition that this government is ever going to increase the work age to 70, we know that won't get through any Senate of any foreseeable makeup of the future. So this government is massaging its own budget numbers based on false savings, zombie measures, I think they're known as.
By contrast, what we're doing is we're implementing change, but for instance with negative gearing, we're doing its prospectively. What we're doing is all existing investors, they invest under these rules, they're fine, because that's where we head and so we could make quicker measures, but the point about it is that would affect people more, disadvantage people far more, so we're going to do slow and steady improvement, structural budget reform without smashing household budgets.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, What would you say to Victorians who are considering not voting for you on Saturday out of spite for the way Daniel Andrews has handled the CFA dispute, and secondly, after the riots in northern parts of Melbourne yesterday, would you consider perhaps banning the burning of flags?
SHORTEN: Let's talk about the first question that you asked and I think in your question you answered it, you’re saying, is the CFA and a decision by Mr Andrews something which should be a reason to vote in a Federal election? You're quite right, they are separate matters, you are quite right. The fact of the matter is the safety of all Victorians is what interests me. I have no doubt that career firefighters and voluntary firefighters and their leaders will sort these issues out. I'm a bit disappointed that it has taken as long as it has, but, as I've said in the past, in each negotiation there is always a start, middle and end. Volunteers are at the heart of the CFA and I've got no doubt this will be resolved and I've got no doubt that it is a state issue. I think it's interesting today that Mr Turnbull's so-called political solution doesn't appear to stack up legally. I t hink what is important is the volunteers and career firefighters are not used as pawns in some Federal election when in fact the solution resides far closer to home at the state level.
In terms of burning the flag, I deplore burning the flag. Anyone who burns the flag is an idiot. I don't think we need a law to ban burning the flag, frankly, I think everyone knows it is a stupid, idiotic thing to do and I think 99.999 per cent of Australians think it is an idiot act to do. One more question.
JOURNALIST: One more question on Border Force. One of the main whistleblowers is a Joseph Petyanszki, he was an investigative chief for the Immigration Department from 2007 to 2013. You're saying today there is a full-blown crisis, surely then, it began on Labor's watch?
SHORTEN: No, I don't think that’s the case. I think that it was Labor who instituted a Customs Reform Board, I think they had a number of eminent Australians, David Mortimer, a business leader, former Police Commissioner Ken Moroney, Justice Wood. Now that was set up to improve the operations in terms of the culture of customs. What happened is this, though, this government merged customs in a sort of sidelining and abolishing the oversight of these very important people who could have, I think, potentially make a difference. This government, on its watch, has undermined our visa system. I think that it is outrageous, leave aside an election or not, that we don't know that the people coming here on work visas are bona fide. I think it is outrageous and undermines the integrity of our visa system to find out if there are hundreds of allegations, even if half of them are true, this is an incompetent gove rnment who has not been managing the visa system. Now the visa system is in crisis, there is no doubt in my mind that this government has lost control of the visa system in favour of criminals and crooks and this government needs to answer these questions right now