TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Sydney, Friday, 13 May

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP
SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 13 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Labor's plan for STEM schools; Death of Security Contractor in Iraq; Housing affordability; High Court dismissing challenge to Senate voting changes; Sky News Leaders' Debate; Mark Latham; Badgerys Creek Airport; Panama Papers.

ANGELO TSIREKAS, LABOR’S CANDIDATE FOR REID: Morning all, and welcome to Domremy College. My name is Angelo Tsirekas and I’m the candidate for the Labor Party in the seat of Reid and I’m going to be running hard to win back the seat of Reid for Labor. I want to thank Vivienne Awad, the marvellous principal here at Domremy, they’re doing a great job. I want to thank the students also for their attention and their explanation for what they’re doing in the classroom. We have today Kate and Tanya supporting us and Bill Shorten. I want to introduce Bill to say a few words to you today, thanks Bill.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good morning everybody. This is a remarkable school, achieving remarkable results with great students and obviously very proud parents. Today visiting these very clever young women reminds I think Australians of the importance of having a quality education for every child in every school in every post code. Today I’m pleased, with Tanya Plibersek and Kate Ellis, to be announcing that our fully funded policy of education and funding our schools properly means that every secondary school teacher who teaches in science and technology, engineering and mathematics, every secondary teacher will have the relevant qualifications in these fields by 2020. We have seen today if you show confidence in the kids, if you provide the teachers with the sort of support and training they require, then the sky is literally the limit. Also, this is a good opportunity today to remind Australians that only Labor has a plan to provide 25,000 scholarships for graduates of science and technology, engineering and mathematics, to actually then take a teaching degree. We are determined to make Australia a leader in educational outcomes, not just in the region but throughout the world. For the last 15 and 16 years, we have seen educational outcomes slipping in Australia. That's a betrayal of students and a betrayal of parents. It's a lack of support for our teachers. Labor's fully funded policies, prioritising the opportunities of science, technology, engineering and maths, backing up our teachers, giving them the best go at university, just like these young women today we have met, I think it's a limitless future for Australia. I just conclude on this observation, there is some debate in Australia at the moment - there is some debate and conjecture in certain ill-informed quarters that investing in education, investing in our teac hers, as we are outlining today won't deliver an economic dividend. Of course it will. In life there are some things which are simply beyond doubt. A smart educated Australia will be a prosperous successful Australia and I think that is beyond doubt. I will ask Tanya and Kate to talk further.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be at this beautiful school today with Bill and Kate and Angelo too. It was wonderful to meet some of the students earlier. I just wanted to say a few words about the gender pay gap. We know Australia has a significant gender pay gap of around 18 per cent and when I'm talking to these young women today we know that one of the most important ways that we can address this gender pay gap over coming years is to ensure that our young women are trained in science, technology, engineering and maths so that they have a qualification and skills to do the jobs of the future. We know also that young women at school, are much more likely to pursue these subjects when they've got great passionate, inspiring teachers. That means teachers who have done science, technology, engineering and maths subjects themselves and it also means having a fair number of fema le teachers teaching in these disciplines. So I'm very pleased that our policies today address those issues as well. I think anybody can tell you from their own time at school that an inspiring teacher makes all the difference and I remember my Year 9 maths teacher as well, having a woman teaching me maths for the first time made a big difference to my interest in the subject and my commitment to my studies. So it's a great pleasure to be here with Kate Ellis as well. I'll pass over to Kate.

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you, Tanya. I might just run through some of the specifics about what we are announcing here today. Labor has a clear plan to make sure that every single secondary teacher teaching STEM subjects has the relevant qualifications by 2020. We do this because we are encouraging all students to stick with STEM subjects and study them through to Year 12 by the same year. Now I think the parents would probably quite rightly be horrified if they knew the statistics of the number of secondary teachers in our schools at the moment who do not have relevant qualifications in their subject areas. In fact, a recent survey of principals said that 51 per cent of them said that they had teachers in the classrooms in STEM subjects who did not have relevant qualifications in the area. We also know that 40 per cent of those who are teaching maths in the Years 7 through to 10 do not have a back ground in maths qualifications. We need to change this. If we are going to inspire young students, we need to make sure that the people standing at the front of the classroom have the expertise and have the passion about the subject area that they are teaching. There are very important reasons why this is important for each and every student but also for Australia's economic future. When you look at projections as to the jobs of the future, we know that up to 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations will require a background in science, technology, engineering and maths. Now this figure comes out at the same time that Australia has a declining number of students who are sticking with this subjects through to Year 12. If we as a country are going to make sure that our students have the skills that they will need for the jobs of the future, then there is a very simple solution. That means we need to make sure that we increase the rates of STEM in schools and we need to make sure that we've got the teachers at the front of the classroom with the expertise to do that. That is what we are announcing here today. $393 million to ensure that there will be 25,000 scholarships so that we can get recent STEM graduates to go on and study teaching and share their expertise in our classrooms with our students. This is very good news and very important news for Australia's future.

JOURNALIST: Is there a requirement to change education standards if teachers aren't getting these qualifications when they're doing their training initially?

ELLIS: This is part of the strategy to ensure that all teachers have these qualifications. What we're focusing on today is ensuring that those graduates, those experts in STEM, share that expertise in our classrooms but of course we also need to make sure that those teachers who are already in our classrooms go through the necessary professional development to upskill and we've also got a strategy in place for this. The states and the territories are also working to increase the STEM focus within our education system and, of course, that means that this needs to be a key part of teacher training for the future.

JOURNALIST: Does Labor want it to be compulsory to study science or maths up to Year 12?

ELLIS: We want to - sorry, I should say we want to make sure that every student through to Year 12 studies a STEM subject. That means we need a flexible curriculum. We want to make sure that there is enough diversity in STEM that is on offer, that there is something that interests each and every student. So that doesn't mean strictly maths, strictly science, but we do want to ensure by 2020 every student is studying STEM through to Year 12. A number of the states and territories have already required maths to be studied through to Year 12 and what we want to see is that right across the nation every student by 2020 has a focus on the subjects that we know will be necessary for the jobs of the future.

JOURNALIST: Didn’t some of the states, when Christopher Pyne suggested this, they said no way, we're not going to do this, we run our schools?

ELLIS: A number of the states reacted to the very narrow suggestion Christopher Pyne put forward. He talked about pure maths and talked about pure science. What we've seen here today and what you will see in schools across Australia is the diversity in STEM that is being offered. We may be talking about robotics, we may be talking about coding, there is a whole range and we want to ensure a flexible curriculum but we do want to ensure that STEM is an important part of each and every year 12 study.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's breaking news out of the Iraq that there's been shooting of a soldier and an army officer has been injured. Early reports suggested this is near the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Will you be seeking a briefing and is this a war we should be involved in?

SHORTEN: Yes, we will seek a briefing on that most serious matter. In terms of our commitment to defeating terrorism, Daesh and the other groups in Northern Iraq and in Syria, Labor and Liberal take the same position. It is really important, especially in this heated election environment, that the men and women of our defence forces know that where they serve Australia, and that their families back here in Australia also know on behalf of the ones they love overseas, Labor and the Coalition are shoulder to shoulder with the Australian people in defeating the sort of terrorism which is ruining literally millions of lives in that part of the Middle East.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there seems to be a campaign starting up against you on your changes of negative to gearing from real estate agents and so forwards. Is this a mining tax style campaign against you and worried are you?

SHORTEN: When it comes to a choice between believing the RBA, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and major corporate real estate agents worried about losing some of the taxpayer subsidies which underpin their business model, I choose the RBA. The jury is well and truly in on our changes. First of all, they're not retrospective. So in other words, people who have invested under current laws relating to investment, no change. That's a little different, isn't it, to the Liberal plan on superannuation. Also, what we make clear is going forward you can still negatively gear except it will be for new housing only. The truth of the matter is, in the great suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney and elsewhere, we see every Saturday at auctions first homebuyers, people who just want to get that fundamental Australian dream of having a mortgage, having a house, we see them constantly being competed against unfairly by property speculators going for their fifth or tenth property, and what happens is these property speculators are receiving taxpayer subsidies. You know, I have a simple message for the millions of Australians who are going to work today, who are paying tax as a result of going to work today, the millions of Australians who don't negatively gear: your taxes are being used to subsidise the business model of large property speculators and real estate agents. Now I understand that vested interests will always scream in defence of their particular part of taxpayer subsidy. In Australia, over $10 billion a year of taxpayer money goes to subsidise negative gearing. We're not scrapping negative gearing entirely, but we do want to do Budget repair that is fair. We don't think the case is as fair as perhaps some people argue it is. I don't expect the real estate agents and their lobbies and their scare campaign to be reminding Australians that their profits are built upon the t axes which every Australian pays. If I have to choose between supporting a business model which leads to lucrative commissions for some real estate agents and property speculators funded by taxpayer money, or a choice between them and the young, impressive women we've seen who are the finest, who are going to NASA, who are making remarkable steps forward in their science education, if I've got to choose between the big end of town and the negative gearing brigade who don't want their $10 billion of taxpayer subsidy in any fashion diminished, or the schools and the hospitals of Australia, I choose the schools and the hospitals of Australia every day.

JOURNALIST: What's your reaction to the High Court dismissing Bob Day's challenge against Senate voting changes, these reforms are now set to stay in place?

SHORTEN: I think the outcome there is about as surprising as real estate agents complaining about losing their negative gearing taxpayer-funded subsidies. We focused this election in terms of schools and hospitals. We're ready to fight this election on policies. Big things happen this year in Australia. In many ways the Opposition is now acting like the alternative government. We've got fully funded policies. We're putting a clear choice to the Australian people. We've got 100 positive policies and amongst them we are saying that we want a level playing field for first home buyers. We want to make sure that every school in Australia is a good school, where the teachers are getting support, where the kids get every opportunity. We believe in an Australia where it's your Medicare card, not your credit card that determines the level of care you get. By contrast, Mr Turnbull is backing in the rent s eekers at the top end of town and the property industry, he's backing in the multinationals with billion-dollar tax cuts. His only idea in the last budget was to provide a $17,000 tax cut for someone earning $1 million a year, but for someone on $65,000, nothing except cuts to family tax benefit payments.

JOURNALIST: He said you're a dangerous threat to the economy, Mr Shorten, is that true?

SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull can call me all the name under the sun he likes. What I think is dangerous for the economy is that this Government's tripled the deficit. What I think is dangerous for this economy, is that under this Government real wages growth has flat lined. What I think is that we've got an out of touch Prime Minister, who thinks that the best advice you can give someone trying to enter the housing market is to get a rich parent. What I think is dangerous is that this Prime Minister stood out at Penrith and said the most important reform in the history of federation was that we would allow states to levy income taxes as well. What I think is dangerous is as we stand here today supporting young girls learning maths and science, better qualified teachers, that he instead thinks that the Commonwealth Government should be out of the business of funding state schools and only fund non-gover nment schools.

JOURNALIST: Isn't the problem with STEM graduates that they can make a lot of money in corporate world and that going into teaching will leave them short-changed. Will you give a commitment to pay them a better wage to attract them into teaching?

SHORTEN: Thank you for the question, Mark. I'm the son of a teacher. Mum explained to me that when she started teaching in the 1950s, teaching was a way out of the working class, that teaching had a community respect and a degree of fairness in terms of remuneration such as going to work in the bank or going to work in a law office. But the status of teaching has slipped back in Australian society in the last 30 and 40 years. Now the payment of teachers is a state matter. But what I want to do is lift the profession of teaching. A teacher is what will give a young person a chance to form a passion with an area of learning, to open their eyes to opportunity. Teaching doesn't get the respect it deserves in Australian society. What we will do to help state education budgets, to help the budgets of the Catholic education commissions around Australia, is that we will provide long overdue funding to make sure that the schools get the resources they need. The truth of the matter is at the moment, that our education systems are caught in a dreadful tug-of-war. You know, you've got the expectations of parents, legitimate. You've got teachers who aren't, you know, if they want to get a decent wage above $100,000 they've almost got to leave the classroom to do it. What we are doing is we are bringing reinforcement to the future of education in Australia by making sure that schools are not underfunded when it comes to resources. We want to make sure that the sort of clever robotics we saw and the coding that we saw in this school is available in every school. I want to see as many young women going into science and mathematics as we see men and I want to make sure that well-trained graduates come back to teaching, that's why we're giving them the scholarships. The status of education, the status of teaching is up for grabs in this election and it is a referendum on educa tion. What we will do is we will back our schools, the parents, the kids and the teachers, Mr Turnbull, he'll just back the millionaires and the people who've got 10 investment properties.

JOURNALIST: You've got the leaders' debate tonight, your first one. How are you feeling and what makes you think you can beat Malcolm Turnbull tonight?

SHORTEN: Well, what I'm looking forward to is outlining Labor's positive policies. Frankly, more than seeing Mr Turnbull, I'm interested to meet the voters of Macquarie. What I'm interested in is listening to people. I've been doing these town hall meetings all over Australia and I always come away with more insights, more lessons and more experiences of people than I had before I started them. I'm very interested to explain our policies and I feel very fortunate and indeed, just a bit pleased that we can put forward an extra half a billion of funding in schools in Western Sydney which Mr Turnbull says he's not going to do.

JOURNALIST: Mark Latham has written an opinion piece, in which he's commented on your appearance, what do you make of his foray into the campaign? 

SHORTEN: I think I'd put Mark Latham's fashion advice in the same box that I'd put Scott Morrison's. And I mean seriously, though, what I'm focused on is the issues. I said at the start of this election, it's not just about the personalities, what I think's important, and what Australians are hungry for, is a debate for ideas. I'm ambitious for this country. I'm ambitious that the kids get the best quality education. I'm ambitious that the sick people can get to see a doctor when they need to see a doctor and not delay it too late. I'm ambitious that first home owners can have a level playing field when they commit to buy their - to fulfil the Australian dream. I'm ambitious for the middle class and working class of this country. I am ambitious that this country can have real action on climate change. I am ambitious that we can look after the pensioners. I'm ambitious that we can have a retirement income system that remains the envy of the world.

 

JOURNALIST: What are you going to do about aircraft noise in inner Western Sydney? It's a big issue. It's a big issue for a lot of people in this area of the world.

SHORTEN: Labor’s committed to Badgerys airport. We see that it will create jobs, provided it has the proper public transport links. We're also committed to making sure that over existing areas near Badgerys Creek, the proposed location of Badgerys Creek airport, that it's a no-fly zone at night time. Cities need airports in the 21st century just like cities in the 19th century needed railway stations. But we need to make sure also when we talk about our transport connections, the liveability of our cities, access to our cities, that we make sure that we've got good public transport as well, that our roads are not clogged and one of the best ways around not just Sydney but Australia, is to have proper funding of public transport as an alternative. So I appreciate that you've let me talk about planes, trains and automobiles.

JOURNALIST: The median house price in this suburb is $1.5 million. The median rent per week is $700. Can you guarantee your negative gearing policy won't push those rents up?

SHORTEN: I can guarantee that our measures will give a better chance than currently exists for first homebuyers to enter the housing market. We've had the experts come out and look at our proposals, not the people getting the taxpayer-funded subsidies who are keen to maintain their business model and their profits. We've had everyone from Jeff Kennett to the Grattan Institute to the McKell Institute. The RBA last week, killed the scare campaign. No, I'm confident that our proposals are sensible, well measured, they will generate jobs and housing affordability.

JOURNALIST: So there’s not a guarantee though?

SHORTEN: In terms of housing prices, I am more than confident that housing prices will continue to increase under Labor's policies. What we will do, though, is give first homebuyers a chance at having a level playing field. The other thing we'll do, is we're making a decision that you can't just keep forking out taxpayer cash to one small group of Australians and not fund our schools properly. Malcolm Turnbull conducts this debate about negative gearing in the atmosphere, environment, as if there's no other issue in Australia. The truth of the matter is our proposals are not retrospective. The truth of the matter is all the experts have said it's not going to lead to the doom and gloom which Mr Turnbull's desperately trying to scare people with, and the truth of the matter is, Mr Turnbull has no plan for health, for hospitals, he has no plan for child care, he has no plan for schools, TAFE, un iversities. He's got no plan to make sure that we're an education nation.

JOURNALIST: You've been entirely silent on negative gearing in the plight of first homebuyers until we arrived in Sydney today. Is that because you know that regional Queensland stands to be hit hardest by that policy at a time when they're reeling from the mining boom ending?

SHORTEN: As much as I don't wish to disagree with the assumption of your question, I haven't been quiet about negative gearing. I first announced our policies at the Labor Party conference and we've been speaking about it right across Australia. The truth of the matter is in regional Queensland what affects housing prices there is the downturn of the mining boom. The truth of the matter is what affects housing prices in that part of Australia, is whether or not you've got a job or whether or not you’ve lost your job. The best thing we can do to help out in North Queensland - and I've been there for most of the start of this campaign because the Labor Party is committed to regional Australia much more than the Liberals with their policies - is that we will build infrastructure in North Queensland. We will restore confidence and we will make sure that kids and young people and older people, that t hey get the same access to quality services right throughout this marvellous country of ours, as they do in Sydney and Melbourne.

JOURNALIST: Everyone said this is a lovely school. Do schools like this need more money from the Federal Government?

SHORTEN: Of course it depends upon needs-based funding. We've got a very clear formula. I might invite Kate to add to this answer. But one good thing about Labor's education policies, one of many good things about Labor's education policies, is that we're not saying that the money just goes to government schools. We're saying it goes to non-government schools too. But what we do is we're breaking this old debate between government schools versus non-government and what we're doing is looking at need and we've got very good criteria to assess need and I might now get Kate to go through some of that.

ELLIS: Fantastic. What we've said about Labor's needs-based funding policy is that it is sector blind. We want to support every student in every postcode in every school, such is their need. Now in this particular school, it is a beautiful surroundings. We know that these students do come from quite mixed backgrounds and we expect that these students will benefit from additional resources. Although obviously, there are a number of other schools which will expect an even bigger rise in their funding. The important thing is that yes, we stand in this beautiful school that is part of the Catholic education system. What Labor's said is that we do not want to get into the debates of the past about private versus public. What we want to see is that every child receives a great education no matter what school their parents choose to send them and that means we look at the need, not on the background of the school

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if the real estate’s campaign is going to be as large as they say it will be, don’t you admit this will damage your campaign?

SHORTEN: Labor will not be deterred from promoting the national interest. Labor will not be deterred for standing up for first home buyers. Labor will not be discouraged from making Budget repair that is fair. I genuinely believe, and I am looking forward to the next seven and a bit weeks where we can talk about the choices that Labor has made. We will choose to do Budget repair which is fair. We will choose to back in our schools. We will choose to defend Medicare to make sure that it’s your Medicare card, not your credit card which determines the level of healthcare you get. We will choose to have real action on climate change focussing on renewable energy. We will choose to crack down on multinationals and make them pay their fair share. We will not go ahead with this marriage equality plebiscite to waste $160 million, which even Mr. Turnbull knows is a second-best option. We will also make sure that we stop wasteful government spending. I get that the real estate agents, that their head offices and their brands are keen to keep receiving $10 billion of taxpayer subsidy through the negative gearing tax concessions. I can’t blame them for being self-interested. But it would be a lack of leadership if you just accept that that self-interest should trump the education of the kids here.

JOURNALIST: On superannuation, the Prime Minister has said that his superannuation reforms would see those who are earning the most money paying more taxes than beneficiaries of which would be on lower wages. How do you justify Labor’s attacks on those?

SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull’s in sixes and sevens about superannuation. He’s just got one clear answer to give on superannuation: are his changes retrospective? What we've said is that when John Howard and Peter Costello basically allowed anyone to put any amount of money into superannuation to get some tax beneficial status, we’ve said that is ridiculous. We've said that is ridiculous but we've said in order to rein in that excessive, unsustainable generosity to the very top-end of town, we've proposed prospective changes. The golden rule of superannuation is no retrospectivity. If we ask Australians to save for their retirement, we do so on the promise that we won't change the rules under which they currently invest. Mr Turnbull has arrogantly doubled down on the shocking Budget where he has now created the spectre of retrospectivity. An early question was about what's good for the economy. I t is never good for the economy to be a champion of retrospective changes to laws.

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull gave his answer yesterday on the Panama Papers. Said 'this company never made a profit. I never did anything wrong'. He has cleared that off the table now, hasn't he?

SHORTEN: Oh well, Mr Turnbull would love to casually brush off any of the Panama Papers issues. The Panama Papers issues have revealed how extreme the lengths that some individuals and some corporations will go to avoid transparency and to avoid paying tax. Mr Turnbull's answers yesterday were not satisfactory. He has to make a full explanation, as my colleagues have called for earlier today. He has an opportunity tonight, at the debate to make a full explanation. 

JOURNALIST: Sorry, I just have one question for Angelo because this seat has been very important to Labor for a long time, it's been held since 1922 up until Craig Laundy took it in 2013. Tom Uren's held it, Jack Lang, it has been Labor to it's boots-straps. It is now gentrified, you as mayor would know, are you worried about the impact of your negative gearing policy on your chances of holding this seat again?

TSIREKAS: Good question. We've had some great Labor member here holding this seat for a long time and certainly, of course, the area has changed. I've been the mayor for 14 years. I have resigned from that position to commit totally to this campaign. I talk to a lot of young families and I can tell you know, they have been out-bid at every auction, every weekend. They can't afford to live here. Affordability is a big issue and certainly, negative gearing is important to help them and assist them rather than assist the investors.

Thank you. 

ENDS