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  • Written by Malcolm Turnbull



Will you please put your hands together for the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.  My name is Chris Uhlmann ABC's political editor. I'm joined this evening by some distinguished colleagues from the Press Gallery; Laura Tingle from The Australian Financial Review, Andrew Probyn from the West Australian and Ellen Whinnett from the Herald Sun. Our time keeper is Hannah Porter. Gentlemen the only thing you need to remember is when you hear a bell you have 15 seconds to conclude whatever it is that you are saying. Time is short. We will not waste it. Bill Shorten has won the toss and elected that the Prime Minister should open the batting.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Thank you. We live in remarkable times. An era unprecedented in human history where the pace and scale of economic change is pre-eminent and unprecedented. China 40 years ago, barely part of the global economy, now the world's largest single economy and our largest trading partner. Within a few years half of the world's middle class will be living to our north in East Asia.

 

We have seen the pace of change in technology as great businesses and great industries are overtaken by newcomers. These are times of enormous opportunity and uncertainty. These are times of great challenge. These are times when we need a clear economic plan to secure our future. To ensure that Australians remain a high wage, generous social welfare net, first-world economy.

 

And I have that plan. My Government has set out a national economic plan, every single element of which, will create stronger economic growth, and more and better jobs for Australians in the future and that is not just a list of statistics. We measure the economy in numbers and percentages and growth figures, but where it counts is with every single Australian's life, and their opportunities.

 

The young person leaving school who wants to get a job, a strong economy means there'll be more opportunities. When he or she is a little older, wanting to start their own business they will be better able to do that if there is a stronger economy, greater confidence, the ability to invest, the ability to borrow, and grow that business.

 

And then larger businesses, where will they invest their money? Where will they decide to build up their operations? They'll do it in an economy that is strong and that is what we are creating with our national economic plan, based on innovation. We know that if we are to be competitive in the years to come we must be more innovative, we must be at the cutting edge of technology, so every element of our plan points to that.

 

Supporting start-up businesses, ensuring that our defence spending is spent in Australia on advanced manufacturing, on technology, ensuring that we give small and medium businesses a tax cut, so that they have more to invest in their business.

 

Five million Australians work for businesses that generate $10 million a year or less in revenue. They will get a tax cut on July 1 if we are elected. Right across the board every element points to more growth and more jobs.

 

Here in Reconciliation Week on the land of the Ngunnawal people which we acknowledge here in Canberra, we note that our policies supporting Indigenous entrepreneurship have had the result of creating 39,000 more jobs among Indigenous Australians, and increasing by 10 fold the amount of Government contracts going to Indigenous businesses.

 

Right across the board our future is underpinned by an economic plan for growth and jobs.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN

 

Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Tonight I would like to talk directly to the Australian people. I thank you for taking the time to listen. This election is not just about the next three years it's about the next 10 and 15 and 20 years. It is about your future, your future for your children and your grandchildren. This election is about a strong economy and a fair society. It is about Labor's positive plans for a strong economy and a fair society. Labor's plans which will one, ensure we have rigid budget measures, two, that we make sure that we have nation building infrastructure, Aussie jobs, Aussie apprentices, local content and, three, education from childcare right through to schools to TAFE and to universities, ensuring that Australians are equipped to compete for the jobs of the future in our region.

 

Labor has positive plans. Labor will ensure that we make sure that Australians get high quality education. We will make sure that Australian children get the best quality schools. We will do this by making sure that we have well-funded, positive plans.

 

The real challenge for Australia of course is to ensure that we have fairness in our society. The only way we can have a strong and sustainable economy, maintain a decent standard of living, make sure that there is equality for all Australians, is to ensure that we have fairness.

 

You can trust Labor to protect Medicare. Trust Labor to stand up for education and training. Trust Labor to ensure fair taxation and housing affordability. Trust Labor to take action on renewable energy and climate change. Trust Labor to ensure the equal treatment of women in our society.

 

This is Labor's plan. They are plans which will ensure jobs, education and Medicare. By contrast, our opponents have got a plan which puts big business at the centre of their economic strategy.

 

Our opponents have had three economic plans in the last three months. First of all it was a 15 per cent GST. Then it was to propose that state governments be allowed to levy additional income taxes and now it's a $50 billion tax giveaway for large businesses in Australia. This is a very expensive risk. $50 billion for large companies, $7 billion of that will go to large Australian banks, NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ. These are matters which are a very expensive gamble. Much of this money will go to overseas shareholders. It will derive little economic benefit.

 

Now of course these economic theories have been tested before by Thatcher and by Reagan but it's a very risky expensive gamble to take with Australian taxpayer money for little economic benefit. Labor has the best plans to ensure real jobs genuine growth and fairness in our society and I would ask you to vote Labor at the next election.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:


 

Laura Tingle.

 

LAURA TINGLE:

 

Mr Turnbull last September voters were expecting a leader who was going to move politics more to the centre and a leader who would get the country going again. Many feel that you have subsequently abandoned what you believe in and that nothing much has happened since you became Prime Minister. What do you say to those voters and, most importantly, will they see a different Malcolm Turnbull if you win your own mandate to the one that they see now?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well thank you Laura. I come to this role as Prime Minister and as a Member of Parliament not from a career in politics working as a staffer or working for a trade union. I came here to Parliament at the age of 50 after a career that had many roles, including many in business. Often in partnership with my wife, Lucy, my wife of more than 36 years. And together what we have done is built businesses, made investments, created jobs. We understand what makes the economy hum. We understand the importance of confidence. We understand why people hire, why people invest, how the economy grows.

 

Our future and that of every Australian depends on this strong economy. Now every element of our plan supports that. Our opponents have nothing to say about the economy other than increasing taxes and denying tax cuts to business. Just heard Bill talk about the Thatcher and Reagan. What about Paul Keating who cut company tax, why did he do that? What about more recently Chris Bowen who wrote a book saying that clearly company tax reductions, business tax reductions will result in more investment and more employment. For every dollar cut from company tax you gets $3 going to labour, that’s to the employees, and $4 additional valuable in GDP.

 

So we understand that. I understand that. That this is a story about ensuring our future. All of the promises whether it is for schools or hospitals, will be of no value unless we have a strong economy. A strong economy generates the jobs and the taxes that will pay for all of those promises.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Did that answer your question Laura?

 

LAURA TINGLE:

 

I don't think it actually answered the question, Prime Minister, which is about your own position on a range of other issues other than the economy- about things like climate change, which people...

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

I'm very happy - you asked me about climate change. I'm delighted to answer that.

 

LAURA TINGLE:

 

Well it's more about the disappointment voters feel about you not being what they think you were, and they're very confused now about exactly what you stand for.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well can I say to you if you want to talk about climate change I'm very happy to talk about climate change. Would you like me to do that, Chris?

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

I think the question is about yourself Prime Minister.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

The question is about where I stand, and where I stand on climate change is where I have always stood. We need effective global action to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions to ward off the impact of global warming, and we need effective global action. And remarkably, we are seeing that. The agreement in Paris to which Australia is a party, which Australia is a party, my Government became a party to that, sees all of the leading countries in the world agreeing to reduce their emissions. Australia by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2030. 52 per cent on a per capita basis. We're playing our part. President Obama thanked me personally only a week or so ago for the commitment we have made. So we are playing our part. The world is finally moving together to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and I stand where I have always stood - recognising that we must take action as a global community to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to protect our environment, for our children, our grandchildren and the generations that come thereafter.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten this question was to the Prime Minister but you get an opportunity to respond to it. You might like to tell us who you are.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well I'm happy to do that but I also want the opportunity to address what Mr Turnbull said.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Sure.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

When Mr Turnbull got elected eight or 10 months ago, I thought my job would be harder, but I thought the politics would go to a better place in this country. I thought we would dispense with Tony Abbott's 3-word slogans and I thought we would see a more elevated debate about ideas. But on each issue I see this Government shrinking in to an Abbott-style government of three-word slogans and scare campaigns. And I do not expect the next five weeks of this election to be any different from the Government. On the two specific policy issues which Mr Turnbull addressed, one he says company tax -  by spending $50 billion over the next 10 years, he's saying this is the economic story which will make Australia a better place. But three months ago he said that 15 per cent GST was an idea worth considering. Two months ago he said that state income taxes, giving them the power to levy taxes, that was an idea worth considering, and now he says giving $50 billion worth of company payments from the taxpayer, by reducing their tax, that's the idea to go forwards with. We know that will generate 0.1% growth in the economy. And that is not going to - that is not going - for $50 billion- justify giving $50 billion from our budget.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

But Laura Tingle’s offered both of you the opportunity to talk about yourselves. Who are you Bill Shorten?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

I'm a person who stood up for the fair go my whole working life. I'm a person who has been in the workplaces of Australia, standing up for people, ensuring there are cooperative enterprises, making sure that people are well paid and companies are successful in their business. This is the way I look at Australia. I understand the pressures people have when they go to work. If they're on a fortnightly pay packet by the time they get to day 12 they're really watching their budget carefully.

 

I understand the importance of having a good job to everything else that Australians get to do in life. I also understand, thanks to my mother in particular, the importance of education, giving people opportunities. What I have discovered in my working life, and it isn't a person's background, or the school that they went to, or how much money their parents had which defines an individual. It's the opportunities they have inherent in every person. Now Mr Turnbull did talk about climate change as well.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Yes and we'll be going back there soon. Ellen Whinnett, Herald Sun.

 

ELLEN WHINNETT:

 

Gentlemen when this election was called three weeks ago, you both said it would be about trust. And Mr Turnbull, you particularly urged us to trust you on the economy, while Mr Shorten, and you said it again tonight, you urged us to trust you on health and Medicare. But how can the people of Australia trust either of you when you, Mr Turnbull deposed a sitting Prime Minister and you Mr Shorten deposed not one, but two?

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Mr Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well Labor's learnt its lesson about that difficult period and I'm fortunate to lead a very united team. But we do talk about trust tonight and in this election. Labor can be trusted on Medicare. We will make sure that bulk-billing is preserved. We will make sure that GPs get regular modest increases in payments from Medicare so they don't have to introduce up-front fees for patients. Labor can be trusted on education. We want to make sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity because we would properly fund schools, government and non-government schools according to the needs. Labor can be trusted on climate change. I never thought when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister that I'd be debating Tony Abbott on climate change. And all of the climate change policies of the Government are essentially Mr Abbott's policies. You can trust Labor on fair taxation and to provide more action on home affordability and you can certainly trust Labor to ensure that women in our society get an equal go.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Prime Minister.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

I thank Bill for the name-calling but let me deal with the big issue that you've raised. We know that our future depends on strong economic leadership. I'm as committed to every Australian having a good education having the chance of a good education as everyone else here including Bill. I had a great education. I was brought up by a single dad who didn't have much money. And he struggled to send me to school and I had some really charismatic teachers that transformed my life. I would not be where I am today without them. I understand, as does Lucy, the transformative nature of good education. And, of course, we agree that government money should be allocated on the basis of needs. The difference between what we will spend, Federal money over the next four years, and what Labor is proposing is the difference between $74 billion and $78 billion. $4 billion is a lot of money but we are spending more than ever before. Our Government is, my Government is, and what we are seeking is great outcomes. So we are going to ensure that every child at the age of five, when they go to school, is assessed so that we find out which kid is doing well, which one is behind, so that action can be taken immediately. We want to make sure that this growing gap between the best performing and the worst performing kids stops growing and contracts. You see we have been spending more and more on schools and yet the outcome has been getting worse. Now, that's - money is important. But we have to make sure we get the right results, the right outcomes for our children because they are our future.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

And trust, Prime Minister, that was the question. Since 2007 the last Prime Minister to finish a full-term was John Howard. So can both of you understand that the people of Australia actually want an answer to this question this evening. How can they trust you through the course of the next term?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

My position in politics, the positions that I have taken in politics, have been consistent over the years. I am a well-known quantity in Australian public life. I did not come into this role as a political activist. I did not come in here as a political staffer. I came into this role as an adult, at 50, after a lifetime of working, building businesses. In many, many areas, creating jobs, standing up for the enterprise of hard-working Australians that we all know is the foundation on which our future is based and we are backing them. We are backing every one of them, the small businesses, the medium businesses and in due course all businesses.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Just briefly, Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Australians can trust me to be consistent about a range of issues. Taking real action on climate change. Australians can trust Labor not to support under any circumstances a 15 per cent GST. Australians can trust Labor to always defend Medicare especially against privatising any of the parts of Medicare. Australia can always trust Labor to make sure that working-class and middle-class families get a fair go from the workplaces to the schools, to making sure their kids get a fair crack at getting to university, not based upon their parents' wealth.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

And trust that you'll still be there at the end of a term if things get hard?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Earlier on I did specifically answer Ellen's question. I said that the Labor Party have learnt from that difficult period and we have demonstrated more unity of purpose than we have in a very long time. We have learnt our lesson.

 

ANDREW PROBYN:

 

Gentlemen, I put it to you both that neither of you have a medium-term health and education funding plan. You, Prime Minister, suggested the states be given the power to levy their own income tax, then you suddenly dropped that plan. You, Mr Shorten, you proposed spending some of the $50 billion that the Prime Minister proposes spending on company tax cuts, which looks more like a spending plan than a funding plan. Why should voters believe either of you, that you have a plan for health and education funding?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Andrew, if I can address that. We have set out our commitment for both education funding and health funding. Indeed, at the last meeting with the Premiers and the Chief Ministers we agreed on a funding for - a package for funding hospitals with an additional $2.9 billion. So our commitments are there. They're real but you need to have strong economic growth to sustain that. We have to recognise that the commitments we have, whether it is in health, social welfare, in education, are enormous. They're an enormous claim on the budget, and the budget's strength, its revenue-raising capacity, depends on having strong economic growth. Now, the Labor Party propose a series of measures, which will stop and slow economic growth. We know that if you want more investment you create tax incentives for investment, that's what we've just done with start-up companies. That's what we do with research and development. We have great concessions there to encourage it. The Labor Party is proposing to increase capital gains tax by 50 per cent. It's going to block a cut in company tax to over 100,000 businesses that employ over two million Australians. These are all measures that Labor proposes, which will slow economic growth. Everything we are proposing is driving economic growth, just as we drove economic growth with our export trade deals. Now, what we need is a plan and we present that plan to ensure that we have strong growth, because without that all of the promises, no matter how large, how extravagant, how generous - it doesn't matter - if you don't have economic growth you can't pay for it. And this is what is missing in Labor's presentation. There is no plan for growth. There is not one measure that will deliver stronger economic growth or deliver more jobs. And every element of my plan will do just that.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Mr Turnbull has the mother of all spending plans. And it's called a $50 billion tax giveaway to big business. It's not going to generate a whole lot of new investment and capital expenditure. How on earth does giving the four big banks in Australia a windfall of $7.4 billion, over the next ten years, incentivise investment? No, Mr Turnbull wants to spend taxpayer money; he just doesn't want to spend it on most taxpayers. We do have a well-funded plan for health care. We will protect GPs and make sure that it's... GPs are still able to offer bulk-billing. We want to make sure it's your health, not your wealth, which determines your care in Australia. We have got a plan not to increase the price of medicine by $5 for prescriptions and we have got a plan to properly fund our schools. Mr Turnbull airily dismisses the idea that more funding for schools is somehow not going to achieve results. The truth of the matter, Andrew, is that, if you want to have economic growth in this country, have a skilled workforce; if you want to have an innovation nation that Mr Turnbull loves to talk about, you need to be an education nation and, when we go back to talk about Mr Turnbull's grand strategy... well, his latest grand strategy, after the 15-per-cent GST, after state income taxes this proposal to give $50 billion in a ram raid on the Australian Budget, to give it to companies over the next ten years, even the Government's own figures say that'll only generate 0.1 per cent of GDP growth per year – it's good news for foreign shareholders; it's just not good news for people who depend upon Medicare and well-funded schools across Australia in the regions and in the towns.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Since 2014, you've been complaining about the $80 billion that was cut from the Budget – some of that was in education, some was in health; $57 billion of that was in hospitals, so are you proposing that you will put all that money back, because you've been complaining about it for two years, and how will you pay for it?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well when it comes to hospitals, Labor has been fighting the cuts of this Government. When people see the waiting times in emergency wards blowing out, Labor will complain. When people have paid taxes their whole life, are waiting for knee reconstructions or hip replacements and the waiting times are not just weeks but months and years, Labor will speak up for these people. We will announce our hospitals policy closer to the election – there is another five weeks to go of this marathon -

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

'Every dollar back' – how will you explain what you've been saying for the last two years?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well first of all Labor will always stand up for the people who are vulnerable in this society and people who want quality health care. When it comes to our hospitals policy we're not going to announce our whole policy platform tonight, as much as it may be desired by some of the panellists, but what I can promise Australians, right here right now, is we will put more funding into hospitals than Mr Turnbull has promised by some significant dimension because can afford to... we can afford we can -

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Just quickly that significant dimension was $57 billion.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

We can afford to do what I just said because we're not going to hand out $17 billion to the top 3 per cent of income earners over the next ten years, because we will do Budget repair that is fair. We will have rigid Budget discipline but we're not going to hand $50 billion to large companies who, frankly, are not going to... and reward them for old investment and, instead, we're not going to gamble with our healthcare system and our school system in Australia; absolutely, we won't.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Laura Tingle?

 

LAURA TINGLE:

 

I've got questions, for you both, on company tax, which we've obviously had a bit of discussion about already, and the Budget. Mr Turnbull, dividend imputation does mean that most of the benefit of the company tax cut goes to foreign shareholders. Treasury's own modelling acknowledges other taxes will have to rise to fund the revenue hole it creates and that it'll create very few jobs. Why should we believe it will supercharge the economy? And, Mr Shorten, does Labor have a ceiling on how much tax it thinks it... should be collected as a proportion of the economy, given that you're advocating higher taxation, and is it correct that, on your own figures, the Budget bottom line will be worse, over the next four years, before some of your new tax measures kick in?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, Laura, let me speak to you about company tax and speak to you as somebody who has been in business most of their life and understands how business operates, understands how companies make investment decisions. If you want to have more of something then you lower the tax on it. If you want to have more investment then lower the tax on investment. If you want to have less of something then increase the tax. Labor is proposing to increase the tax on investment – that will result in less investment and, if you have less investment, you will get less jobs; that's... that is very straightforward. Now, as far as company tax is concerned, over the next three years, if we are returned to government, company tax will come down from 30 per cent to 27 and half (27.5) per cent in the first year for companies with revenues up to $10 million, in the second year up to $50 million and the third year up to a hundred million dollars ($100 million) and then there'll be another election and then, over the long term, our plan will see company tax coming down to 25 per cent for all companies but, over the next three years, the beneficiaries are going to be small and medium companies, almost all of which would be Australian-owned and most of which, by numbers certainly, will be family-owned. Now, these companies employ millions of Australians. The companies up to $10 million in turnover employ five million Australians and they will all benefit from that support because they will see more investment in their business. This is why other countries have reduced their company tax rate. Why has Britain reduced its company tax rate to 20 per cent? They did that in order to drive economic growth and jobs and it was successful. Our company tax rate is now the seventh-highest in the OECD. Paul Keating reduced it. Paul Keating reduced it, a Labor Treasurer. Peter Costello reduced it. Bill Shorten proposed reducing it, last year. Chris Bowen wrote a book about reducing it but, now, of course, in this election, it is anathema to the Labor Party. They have no plan for economic growth and no plan for jobs. It's the same old Labor – just spending.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Same old Liberals; just give tax cuts to the top end of town and let the rest of the people just make do with not much at all – that's what I would say, Mr Turnbull. Now, in response to the two points which Laura raised... first of all, on company taxation, the Government's economic plan remember, for six months, they kicked around having a 15 per cent GST and realised that that was electoral poison, so they're not going to talk about it this side of an election. Then Mr Turnbull declared, famously, at the Penrith Panthers leagues club, that one of the great reforms to federation, the greatest since 1901, would be to allow states to levy a second income tax, on Australians who go to work, on top of a Commonwealth income tax and now the Government, having run out of 'Plan A' and 'Plan B' has now gone to 'Plan C' - tax giveaways to the top end of town which will spend $50 billion out of the budget.

 

The election is about choices. We are not convinced that giving the largest banks in Australia $7.4 billion over the next 10 years is good for the budget, that it’s good for Medicare or that it’s good for the nation. We are not convinced and we have seen some of the evidence from the Australia Institute that of this $50 billion, $11 billion which Mr Turnbull is proposing to spend, $11 billion of this will in fact go to American shareholders or indeed the American tax man. That's not a plan.

 

Indeed, as your question identified all of the evidence has shown from Treasury, Mr Turnbull's own government department, that the impact on the economy will be just be 0.1 per cent improvement in GDP. Now - that's why we're not going to do it at this stage. Mr Turnbull says tax cuts are a lovely idea. The truth of the matter is, we need to get the budget repaired because the real sweet spot of reform is to lower the marginal rates of taxation for working people.

 

Mr Turnbull in his budget gave $17 billion back over the next 10 years to the top 3 per cent. He gave $5 a week to people between $80,000 and $87,000 a week and nothing for anyone under $80,000. By contrast we recognise that just - when you give a tax cut to a company, a lot of these businesses Mr Turnbull's talking about will take that as income which means they've still got to pay the higher income taxes. Dividend imputation mitigates against in the Australian system some of the international analogies Mr Turnbull is using. Now you asked about Labor and what we would do - sorry, Chris.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:


Finish that point.


BILL SHORTEN:

 

Laura asked us about Labor, what we would do over the four and ten-year period. I undertake that before this election campaign is over we will provide all of our forecasts once we have released all of our policies which we haven't yet. We will provide forecasts over four and ten years. Our principle is we will have more repairs to the budget bottom line than spends. We will have a credible path to balance because we're committed to repairing the budget and let's not forget the deficits tripled under the current Government. We are not going to do it in such a way that penalises people who want to see the doctor or parents who want the best start in life  for kids at the schools they send them to.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Can I just briefly -

 

LAURA TINGLE:

 

The question though was Mr Shorten, is there a ceiling of what you think - where tax can go as a proportion of the GDP? The Coalition said 23.9 per cent. You’ve advocated higher tax as part of the budget repair job. How high can tax go under Labor?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well we are determined to put downward pressure on taxes as a proportion of GDP and we will provide all of our figures before the election campaign has concluded, but I have to say, that government spending under this Government, the Liberals, are now - now sees Government spending as a proportion of GDP at global financial crisis levels of 25.8 per cent. Whilst Mr Turnbull says he's against restraining Government spending, the truth of the matter is that under the Liberals for the last three years it's at global financial crisis except there's no global financial crisis.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Alright just briefly to both of you. You've talked extensively and we have seen your health and hospitals plan and Prime Minister you have talked about the plan you have in company tax cuts. Can you each agree this evening that at least on those things, and just very briefly, that the other side will have a mandate if it wins so it doesn't have to deal with a Senate where nothing is going to go anywhere? Prime Minister

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well we certainly will - we will certainly support the commitments that we have made if we are returned to Government. But as for the prospect of a Shorten - of a Labor government, how would you know what they are going to do in Government? I mean a few weeks ago, Labor said they were going to take every day to the election, a promise, a pledge, to roll back our abolition of the School Kids Bonus.

 

They said they were going to reverse that. They got petitions signed. They had websites. They had mail outs. They went out and spread that gospel right across the nation. That was their mission. And then on Thursday, Mr Shorten did a backflip. Uncluttered by any consultation with his Shadow Cabinet, he made that decision on the run. Now how can you believe any promise that he has made? How can you be sure that anything he pledges will be proposed in Government?

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

So that's a no then? That's a no then on this point?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

The only focus that I have Chris is on delivering our national economic plan and we are presenting that to the Australian people because we have a plan for economic growth and Mr Shorten does not.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Mr Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well I'm no clearer at the end of that answer than the start in terms of an answer to your question. There is a clear choice at this election. I would expect that if Mr Turnbull wins he will push through his tax giveaway over the next 10 years in this term. He will push forward with giving $50 billion of money to large corporations. In turn the choice is this. If you want to be able to go to see the doctor without paying up front fees vote Labor. If you want to go and see - you want to have a well-funded school, no matter what the circumstances of the parents or the suburbs or the big towns or the country towns you live in vote Labor. And by the way, if you want to see downward pressure on the price of your medicine vote Labor.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

I’ll take that as a no too. We’ll move on to Ellen.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

To be fair Chris he will have the numbers to do whatever he wants.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Not necessarily in the Senate.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Well, I have to say that when it comes to corporate tax cuts Labor doesn't think they're the right idea for this nation full stop.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

No. Alright Ellen.

 

ELLEN WHINNETT:

 

Both of you are raiding superannuation nest eggs.  I think Mr Shorten will take back $14 billion over ten years and Malcolm Turnbull you’re on a similar path of about $2.9 billion over four years. Can you give a guarantee tonight to retired Australians and those who are about to retire that there will be no further changes to superannuation in the next Parliament?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Yes I certainly can give that undertaking. Superannuation is a critical part of Australian savings. What we have done is made some big changes, proposed some big changes, which will make the super system fairer and more flexible. It will have the result that people on very high incomes, people with very large superannuation balances, will not get as big a tax concession as they have had in the past. But nonetheless, they will still have superannuation; it will be for everybody, still a very, very generous system. But it is designed to ensure that Australians have an income that enables them to be independent of the age pension or supplement it.

 

That's the object of superannuation. It's not designed, it should not serve to be a substantial wealth creation vehicle for the very rich. So with all due respect to those who suggest we are only serving the interests of the wealthy Australians, there are many that are unhappy about the changes we have made.

 

But look at what we have done for people on lower incomes. Anyone earning up to $37,000 a year will not be paying the 15 per cent tax on their superannuation contributions. We have committed to that. We have ensured that people who are out of the workforce, and this will very often be women, who come back into the workforce, will be able to catch up with their concessional superannuation. Their concessions, the $25,000 they'll be allowed to contribute on a concessional 15 per cent tax basis. They'll be able to catch up from the past five years and roll that forward, when they come back into work. And we have ensured, too, that people who are over 65 and under 75 can continue contributing to superannuation because of course, many of our senior Australians are very actively working and should be able to continue contributing to super. So it's going to be a fairer system, a fairer system and once those changes are implemented, they will stay that way.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

The Labor Party's always supported improving superannuation. It was the Labor Party who introduced superannuation, got it to 3 per cent, got it to 9 per cent, we proposed moving it to 12 per cent and we passed that, but then the Liberals reversed it and have frozen it at 9.5 per cent. Labor's the party of superannuation. I can give this guarantee tonight. No change that the Labor Party has ever contemplated are retrospective.

 

One of the quite shocking developments in the Government's budget on May 3 was that Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have now created real uncertainty about the whole superannuation system because they're proposing retrospective changes. Now Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison say the changes aren't retrospective. Just ask one of the many people affected by these changes. Now, the other thing about retrospective changes to superannuation. Whilst this affects just some people and not all people, I have a basic principle of government. A basic principle of Parliament which I adhere to.

 

Never introduce retrospective changes to laws. And the reason why is that every person in the superannuation system is now undermined because if Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison with no warning, with no electoral mandate, can introduce changes which retrospectively penalise investors in superannuation, how do we know they won't do it again?

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Andrew Probyn.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Can I just say that the changes we're proposing are not retrospective at all. It is perfectly clear that they only operate from - in one case from the night of the budget and the rest from July 1 next year.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

That's simply not right. People don't have to take my word for it. Take the word of experts from the Institute of Public affairs through to CPA and Alex Malley, Australians know that this government is now saying that people who made investment decisions based on old laws from 2007, are now having to recalculate amounts based on decisions they made in good faith. If we believe in the rule of law, retrospective changes are poison to confidence in superannuation.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Andrew Probyn.

 

ANDREW PROBYN:

 

Gentlemen, the last time Australia had 1600 people in offshore detention centres, it took six years to clear them. But only after New Zealand, Canada, Sweden and Norway agreed to resettle some of them. 43 per cent were eventually resettled in Australia. What's your plan to stop 1600 people staying indefinitely on Nauru or Manus when clearly resettlement options in third-world countries or developing nations is unattractive to many of these detainees. And will you rule out letting any of these detainees come to Australia?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well thank you. I can rule out any of the detainees coming to Australia.

 

We had a situation when Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister, that we had a border protection system established by John Howard which had stopped the boats. There was no people smuggling, there were no unauthorised arrivals. And then Labor dismantled that. We begged them not to do it. The consequence was 50,000 unauthorised arrivals over 1200 deaths at sea that we know about. The people smugglers were back in business with a vengeance. We returned to office in 2013 and we set that right. There has not been a successful people smuggling operation for over 660 days. We have stopped the boats. We have once again restored the security of our borders. The security which Labor abandoned.

 

Now, we are committed to ensuring that the people that are detained on Nauru and Manus, who came under Labor's government, they came - they arrived during the Labor government, we are committed to ensuring that they are treated humanely and have the opportunity to return from whence they came, to the countries they came from, or be resettled in other countries. But they will not come to Australia. Because if they were to do so, that would be used as a marketing message by the people smugglers and the boats would start again.

We have - Labor taught all of us a very, very harsh lesson. They proved what happens if you abandon secure borders. Thousands of arrivals, deaths at sea, the people smugglers back in business. They - their business model is finished. We will do nothing that will give the people smugglers the chance to get back into business.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

When it comes to stopping the people smugglers, whoever forms the government after July 2, there will be no change in policy about our determination to defeat the people smugglers, the criminal syndicates who prey upon people, take them out to sea and in too many tragic cases drown. Labor has the same approach as the Government when it comes to deterring and defeating the people smugglers. When it comes to people being on Nauru and Manus, as you say, are semi-indefinitely, what we will do upon being elected, if we are elected, is I would send my Immigration Minister immediately to sit down with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to work through how we can have regional resettlement which stops people being kept in indefinite detention.

 

QUESTION:

 

With John Howard, however, he allowed people to come back to Australia. If you're so confident, Prime Minister, about your boat stopping tactics, why wouldn't you allow resettlement?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, the situation has changed since John Howard's day. The people smugglers are much more sophisticated. They use social media, modern technology to distribute their message. The reality is that every time there is a change in the debate here, they are out there marketing and saying, "Look, there'll be an opportunity." They're out there marketing now, telling their customers that if Labor is elected it will be all on again. That is what they are saying. Bill says that’s not the case. But of course they know what Labor was like in Government just as we do. The reality is we have to be very firm about this. We do no favours to anybody by being weak on border protection in the way Labor was. The truth is that Bill leads a party that is hopelessly divided on this issue. There are dozens of his Members and his candidates who disagree with the policy that he just described. He claims to be on a unity ticket with me but his party is not. The regrettable, the melancholy fact of the matter is that Australians cannot trust Labor to keep the borders secure.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Shame on you Mr Turnbull for what you just said. The people smugglers.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

For telling the truth. For telling the truth.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

No, I didn't interrupt you but feel free to go ahead. Shame on you for giving the people smugglers any hope they could be back in business. I have made it very clear what the Labor Government would do. We would defeat the people smugglers. We accept the role of boat turn backs as we should, because we don't want to see the people smugglers back in business. Mr Turnbull is playing with fire when he says that somehow Labor would be a better deal, and he shouldn't say that because he just conceded in his own remarks that the people smugglers are watching every nuance in the debate. I really wish that the Liberals had voted for our Malaysia regional resettlement solution - that would have saved hundreds of lives - but we didn't get that degree of bipartisanship. As for my party, I took the debate to my party. I had the arguments at the National Conference. It is a difficult issue. I took the debates and I won the argument and the party has locked into this position. We will implement the policy, which I just outlined. And Mr Turnbull shouldn't be using fear or smear in this election. He should run on his positive agenda because the problem is, it's the same old Liberals. All they can do is talk about us, because they don't have their own policies.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Can I just respond to that? Bill has accused us of planning to increase the GST when he knows we've made it quite clear that we'll do nothing of the sort and explained why. He makes one allegation after another. But on this matter of border protection, this is a very serious issue. What I have said tonight is absolutely true. If Bill becomes Prime Minister, his government will be tested by the people smugglers. Now, he assures us that he will be as strong and as resolute as we have been. And that - time will tell. But what we know, is what happened the last time Labor was in government. The truth is it gives me no joy to say this, but Kevin Rudd in 2007 said he too would turn back the boats. He said he too would be strong on border protection and we know what happens.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten, briefly on that.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Mr Turnbull says they're not interested in the 15 per cent GST - why on earth have so many Liberals backed it in? Why do they keep talking about it? I do not trust the Liberal Party if they have control of the Senate and the House of Representatives not to look at a 15 per cent GST. And in terms of what he said about the Labor Party, there's a big difference between me and Mr Turnbull. I genuinely lead my party whereas your party genuinely leads you.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, again, it's another cheap shot from Bill tonight.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

The facts are on the scoreboard.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

The truth is, Labor is divided on this issue. Everybody knows that. The truth is Kevin Rudd ran in 2007 and said he would be as strong as John Howard on border protection and he wasn't. What Bill is asking us to do is to believe that the Labor Party has changed and that he will be resolute in a way that the previous Labor Government was not.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Laura Tingle.

 

LAURA TINGLE:

 

If I could turn to a policy where you like to differentiate from each other, which is coming back to climate change. Isn't it true that when your safeguards mechanism kicks in, Prime Minister, there will actually be very little difference between your climate change policy and Labor's, and do the two of you agree that what we actually need to achieve on climate policy in the next term of Parliament is bipartisanship?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, bipartisanship is always desirable on issues - long-term issues like this. We do have a degree of bipartisanship with the commitment to the five per cent cut in emissions by 2020. A target, I might say, which we are going to exceed and exceed handsomely by nearly 80 million tonnes - so that is a success. That's a real success. As far as 2030 is concerned, we have a substantial target. We have to cut our emissions between 2020 and 2030 by about 900 million tonnes and we have the means to do so and we know what it will cost. Labor, on the other hand, has proposed to unilaterally increase that target to 45 per cent and increase more than double the renewable energy target. What it has not done is explained how much that will cost. The cost will be very substantial. My view is, as somebody who is committed to action on climate change and who has paid a high price for my commitment to that issue, for my commitment to global action in the past, my commitment is to ensure that Australia meets the target we agreed to in Paris and when the global community agrees to higher targets, as I have no doubt it will, that we will meet them, too. But I believe we should move with the global community rather than taking unilateral action that will not influence global action that may be worthwhile from a political point of view. I have a plan for practical action on climate change. It is working. I'm committed to it. Australia will meet its targets and we will work with the other nations of the world to tackle this issue effectively.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Bill Shorten.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

Malcolm, whatever happened to the old Malcolm Turnbull on climate change? You were so impressive when you were leading on climate change. Now you're just implementing Tony Abbott's policies. The truth of the matter is there are differences in our policies. We will have our policies based upon the best evidence of the scientists, not Tony Abbott and the climate change sceptics of his backbench. We've got policies which are aimed at making a real difference in terms of our pollution, cutting pollution, and we do so through focussing on renewable energy, through our better vehicle emission standards, through revisiting the rate of land clearing, through having an emissions trading scheme, which is internationally linked. But most importantly, we believe that you've got to take real action on climate change, because we don't want to be a government who passes on harder problems to our kids because we were too politically scared to act in the best interests of Australia. Once upon a time, 0.1 per cent of the world was subject to extreme weather events. Now it's 10 per cent. The truth of the matter is that climate change isn't just an issue happening in the Pacific with drowning islands. It's an issue which is affecting our very cost of living in the next two decades - our food security, drought, insurance premiums, sea levels, the bleaching of the coral reef of the Barrier Reef. These are all real issues and I believe I hope this is the last election where we have the climate change wars and I know that if Labor is elected, hopefully then a Liberal opposition will learn to back in the science and deal away with the..

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Can I just say, Chris, we absolutely support the science. I have always supported the science. It is - I recognise that we must take action. The big difference between our approach and Labor's, is what Labor wants to do is unilaterally increase our target without getting buy-in from other countries, unilaterally increase the renewable energy target at an enormous cost, which it is not able to quantify and in circumstances where it will not result in the effective global action the world and future generations need. That's my plan for effective global action. I understand this issue and I want to deal with it. We are dealing with it. The world needs concerted action..

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

We're against time constraints. Brief response from you and closing statement from the Prime Minister.

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

It does sound like a scare campaign on climate change again. I feel we're back in 2013 – Mr Turnbull saying it's all unilateral and great cost. There is a cost to not acting on climate change. Now, Labor could have squibbed the argument but we won't because we want to make sure that the future generations of Australians don't look back at us and say 'why didn't you act?'

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Final statement from the Prime Minister?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Thank you. The choice, on July the 2nd, is whether we secure our future, whether we secure our future with a plan that will deliver the economic growth we need to pay for the education that we've been talking about tonight, for the great healthcare services, for all of the services of government, the environmental services. Everything we need to deliver, for Australians, requires a strong economy and we have set out a series of measures, right across the board – from innovation through investing in defence and advanced industries to ensuring that business tax cuts are effective.

 

Mr Shorten has said that he doesn't want the banks to get a tax cut. Well, over the next three years, the only businesses that will get a tax cut are those with turnovers of less than a hundred million dollars ($100 million) and that doesn't include any banks and he's against that, as well. He's against every business, except the very smallest, getting any benefit, so the stuff about banks and big companies is just a smokescreen.

 

He has no plan for economic growth. Every element we have in our policy supports stronger economic growth. We are lowering taxes on investment so we get more investment. Labor is increasing taxes on investment and will get less investment. The opportunities for every single Australian depend on a strong economy. Otherwise, where is the future for our young people; where is the future for older Australians who want to change jobs, who get sick of working for someone else and want to start a business? Every opportunity depends on strong economic growth and we have set out a plan that delivers that.

 

What about the big trade export deals; what about the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, driving growth across the country especially in regional Australia? Labor opposed that, too; the unions led a campaign about that. What about people who work for themselves in the trucking industry? Bill Shorten had a plan, which he put into operation, which put 50,000 owner-drivers out of business, until we were able to abolish that tribunal just a few weeks ago.

 

See, the reality is Labor has a plan for spending; it has a plan for higher taxes; it does not have anything to say about growth; it has nothing to say that will deliver stronger growth – every element of our plan does that and that secures the opportunities for every Australian; it secures our future; it enables us to remain a high-wage, first-world economy with a generous social welfare safety net. Without that strong economy, we can't pay for any of the promises that are being debated in this election. The foundation, the fundamental basis, of everything we are considering tonight and over the next five weeks must be strong economic growth. We have a plan and our opponents do not.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Mr Shorten?

 

BILL SHORTEN:

 

I'd like to thank the Prime Minister for his comments, tonight, and I'd like to thank people for listening to this debate. Labor believes this election's all about choices. We believe that the way that you have a strong economy and you have economic growth is through delivering a fairer society, as well. Labor has positive plans on health care, on education, on renewable energy and climate change, on making sure that first-home buyers have a fair crack at being able to live the Australian dream and a fair taxation system; Labor has plans to make sure that women get treated equally in our society and we make sure that we have nation-building infrastructure which ensure Aussies jobs, Aussie manufacturing, local content and apprentices.

 

Our plan, for growth with fairness, includes properly funding our schools so that kids are able to compete for the jobs of the future. Our plan for economic growth ensures a healthy workforce through properly defending Medicare against privatisation and making sure we still keep bulk-billing and the price of medicines down. Our plan for Australia's economic growth is to ensure we have that nation-building infrastructure, public transport in our great cities, an NBN which is on time and not running over cost. Our plan for Australia involves helping small business be able to help fulfil their opportunities through our measures to help them. Our plan for Australian economic growth involves putting science at the centre of all of our decisions. Our plan for economic growth makes sure that we act upon climate change.

 

See, the Labor view is that you can't separate economic growth into one column and fairness in the other. To have sustainable growth, you need to have fairness. By contrast, Mr Turnbull's only plan is a great big spending giveaway of $50 billion to corporations. It's not right for Mr Turnbull to say that he's not proposing under his plans, to give seven and a half billion dollars ($7.5 billion) to big banks – he wants to give them a tax cut; I want to give them a Royal Commission.

 

The truth of the matter is that the way that this society works best is when middle-class and working-class families have a fair share of the opportunities of Australia. I believe in a fair go for all. I believe in the aspiration for kids to find a job, for parents to be able to raise their kids knowing that they'll get proper health care, for Australians to grow old and invest in superannuation without the threat of retrospective changes to superannuation laws.

 

I believe this country has a great future but so long as every Australian is included in that future, not just the lucky few at the top end.

 

CHRIS UHLMANN:

 

Well, there you have it. I hope that that has shed some light on your decision come July the 2nd. Happily, there are lots more things to talk about but we have five more weeks to talk about them and I'm sure that we'll be hearing a lot more from both these leaders, on every topic that you could possibly imagine, between now and the end of this quite long election campaign.

 

Can I thank my fellow panellists for coming on, tonight, and can I say, again, thank you to both gentlemen for being here and that's it from here, for now, for this Leaders Debate from the National Press Club. Thank you.

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