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  • Written by Scott Morrison & Bill Shorten


DAVID SPEERS:  Good evening and welcome to the Sky News Courier Mail People’s Forum live from the Gabba in Brisbane. Would you all please welcome Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

[Applause]

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here tonight. I’ll get you to shake hands for a little longer, we do need to capture the moment for prosperity and for the front page tomorrow as well. We appreciate that. The format for those watching at home is pretty simple; we have an audience here of 109 undecided voters chosen by Galaxy Research. They will be asking the questions, I'm here to make sure we get some answers. We’re going to try and get through as many questions as we can this evening. Starting though with some opening statements, we had a coin toss a little earlier which the Prime Minister won and Scott Morrison is going to speak first. Over to you.

PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you very much David and thank everyone here for being here this evening, thank you Bill. It's a great privilege for us to be here on this important occasion. Over the next few weeks, you and around Australia, Australians will be making a decision about who you want to lead this country for the next three years; either myself as Prime Minister or Bill Shorten.

This is an important decision and tonight you’ll expect from us - and what you'll get, what my commitment is - is direct and honest answers to your questions. It's about your questions and the answers to those questions tonight. But my answers tonight will cover one particular theme and that is this; that Australia is the best country in the world and I have a plan to keep it that way. But the road ahead depends on how we manage our economy successfully, in the years ahead. Just this last year we have announced the first Budget surplus in 12 years. Now what that does is demonstrate our ability to manage money and to be able to deliver on the commitments that we make. And so tonight is to talk about those commitments and how we can make them happen. Thanks very much for your attention.

SPEERS: Prime Minister thank you. Mr Shorten over to you.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good evening everybody and thanks for coming along tonight to help in the national election. Australia needs a change. After six years of Coalition Government this country needs to change. The economy is not working in the interests of working and middle class people. Going to the doctor, the out-of-pocket prices have gone up 20 per cent plus. Your power bills go up, it's an adventure to go and open them. Wages are the only thing that are not going up and we also see the cost of child care more and more expensive, making it harder for working people to make ends meet. And of course we've seen chaos in Canberra. You voted for Mr Abbott and got Mr Turnbull. You voted for Mr Turnbull you've got Mr Morrison. You vote for Mr Morrison you might get Clive Palmer, who knows.

What we need in this country is we need change for the better. So I offer you the prospect of real wage rises, pensioner dental, making sure the pensioners get proper affordable dental care, cheaper childcare and real action on climate change. Best of all, I lead a united team, we're stable and we've got a plan for the fair go for all Australians. Thank you very much.

SPEERS: All right Mr Shorten thank you. You can clap for the opening statements.

 

[Applause]

 

All right, let's get straight into the questions then. We’ve got the first one here. I just ask you to stand up for us.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. My questions is to both of you. Most people do not report their sexual assault. For those who do, the majority of cases do not even make it to court, less than 1 percent of rapists are jailed. This is wrong, how are you going to address this issue?

SPEERS: All right. Prime Minister do you want to tackle that one first?

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. I can't think of a more disturbing prospect. I have two daughters and I just couldn’t imagine the horror. That's why - I'm the son of a police officer - that means to me, we need to ensure that there are the proper resources that are available for our police and law enforcement authorities. As a Government that's what we've been investing in. But we also need to ensure we address the real cause of where this all happens and that's the disrespect of women. That can happen very early in life and we need to teach our children as they grow, the respect of women. Because while disrespect of women doesn't always end in violence, it's certainly where it starts. That's why our plan of $326 million - which has now gone to over $800 million with the funds we've spent on domestic violence in particular and violence against women, is a bipartisan plan I should say and one with the states and territories which needs to deliver on that goal, but we cannot tolerate disrespect of women.

 

SPEERS: Mr Shorten.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Sorry, I should have asked, what was your first name?

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Lana.

OPPOSITION LEADER: G’day Lana. You know, it's a good way to start the debate with us more in agreement than in disagreement. So thank you very much for your question. I agreed with a lot of what Mr. Morrison said. Probably the only things I'd add to his answer is that I think we can do even more in terms of protecting women who are in violent situations. We've got a couple of examples which I hope the Government will consider along with us. One is that take for instance, women in abusive relationships. Quite often people say; ‘Why didn't they leave?’ But the problem is, if you don't have anywhere to go, if you can't afford to go anywhere, then you're trapped. So what we intend to do is invest in more refuges, both in cities and in country towns. We're also proposing a new concept called domestic violence leave. You know if you're at work and you're in an abusive relationship and you need to change the kids schools, you need to change the locks or you need to just do the paperwork which happens, it can be very overwhelming. So what we're proposing is to introduce family violence leave, which we also think would work. We've allocated some new funding but at the end of the day what we also have to do in this country is make it very clear that any attitudes about degrading women are unacceptable. So this is a good topic to start with.

 

PRIME MINISTER: We agree on that as well, because we’ve already legislated for domestic violence leave and we’ve also already increased funding for the very programs and refuges in the most recent package we announced.

SPEERS: There is a difference though with domestic violence leave as to whether it’s paid or unpaid?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve legislated to make it possible through employers and we think that’s a good thing. These are issues that have to be worked through with the employers.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Yeah, there is a slight difference, it’s not the topic which I’d say would be the key reason to vote for one or the other but there is a difference. We believe that domestic violent leave should be paid. They are some people in the community who say, if you make it a paid right that somehow people will ‘claim’ it. That’s not right. I just think that the incidence of it means that this country – and it’s a collective responsibility – can afford to have some modest paid domestic violence leave. Were proposing ten days. If we form a government, we’re certainly going to support that as an employer of best practice in the Commonwealth.    

SPEERS: Thank you both let’s get to the next question, over to you sir.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hi my name is Phil, my question for Mr. Shorten.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Thanks Phil.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What number of policies does the Labor Party have in total at this stage and what are the costings? We've heard from Labor about a ‘great plan’ before, but we end up with higher taxes and more in deficit, but without all these plans eventuating. Can you please outline how much the policies will cost and how much more the Australian people will be paying in tax to make them happen?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Thanks Phil. Big topic. The Government say that we can't afford our policies. We have a different view. It's about priorities. In terms of our costings, we're going to release them towards the end of next week, the full box and dice. An hour won’t permit me to go through all of our policies and all of our costings, but we will be the first Opposition to release it, not in the very last week of an election as in many elections. So, if I get your details at the end, I'll make sure as soon as the button is pushed on the release, you get a copy of it.

Let's go to the, I think, the question inherent behind it, which is saying that if Labor wants to pay money for pensioners to be able to get dental care or if we want to assist households get their child care subsidies so that it's not as expensive, the question is; ‘how do you pay for our nice promises’? Well it’s a matter of priorities. I actually think that we can afford to make multinationals pay their fair share. I don't think as a country we can afford, we can keep affording to give away money in subsidies to property investors who are making losses on their investments. Or indeed one of the issues which is causing some concern and debate currently in Australia, you'd be surprised to know that you can get an income tax cheque in the mail for owning shares, even though you haven't paid any income tax. So, we're going to win back some of the unsustainable subsidies. It's all a matter of priority.

At the end of the day I think this nation functions best when working and middle class people are getting a fair go. The cost of childcare has gone up 28 per cent. I would rather spend some scarce and important taxpayer money on child care than give it in, sort of, tax subsidies to the top end of town.

SPEERS: All right. Prime Minister are there further costings to come from you?

PRIME MINISTER: We released a Budget just before we went into the election, there’s 700 individual measures in that Budget and we'll follow that same process. But let me pick up on a point that Bill made. There’s $387 billion worth of individual higher taxes that the Labor Party are proposing at this election.

They are spending more, they are taxing more. That's what the Labor Party is proposing.

But I want to particularly pick up on multinational tax. Of all the taxes that they're raising, only $2 billion over that next 10 years will actually be for multinationals. $54 billion will be what they're taxing retirees. So they're going to be taxing retirees 27 times more, than multinationals.

Now back in 2015 when I became Treasurer, we took through the Parliament the Multinational Anti-Avoidance legislation. So far that legislation since 2016, has captured some $7.7 billion in additional tax liabilities for multinationals. So, we've achieved in less than three years, what the Labor Party is proposing to do for multinationals over the next 10 years. And interestingly, when we introduced that legislation back in 2015 the Labor Party actually voted against it.

But it has been successful and it means that as a Government, we've been the most successful in cracking down on multinationals, to make sure they pay their fair share of tax so we can reduce tax for all Australians.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Listen there are a couple of points there which force me to answer to correct the record. First of all, if multinationals are being are so vigilantly watched by this anti big business Liberal Government in Australia, why do so many big companies practically pay no tax in Australia? Why does ExxonMobil - giant oil company, they extract all the oil out of Bass Strait and other places – why do they get away with such big revenues and pay no tax at all? You look at Facebook, a big social media giant, it makes in revenue in Australia nearly $600 million. The tax it pays, $12 million. So I don't accept that this Government is doing everything it can to make multinationals pay.

SPEERS: Let me jump in there Bill Shorten. Will you make Facebook pay more tax and how will you do that?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well first of all I'm going to finish the rest of the debate and the rest of the questions. I will come to that because there were three things that Mr. Morrison said -

SPEERS: Just quickly.

OPPOSITION LEADER: If we don’t answer them now, we'll lose the drift and you'll get away with saying it. So, this Government hasn't been tough on multinationals. Secondly this Government had one economic plan for three years; give away big business tax cuts. Remember that was their economic plan for three years? One plan, a one-point plan. Give away money to reduce the tax rate for big corporations in Australia.

But the third thing I want to make clear here and about this whole issue is that Mr. Morrison said that somehow there's $55 billion being slugged on retirees. This is a lie, it’s rubbish. It’s a policy lie. What happens currently in Australia - and it's going to take 30 seconds because for a lot of people franking credits don't affect you. If you've never heard of it don't worry about it.

But the point about it is, a lot of Australians I meet are amazed we have a law in Australia which has only been in since 2001 and didn't come out with, you know, Captain Arthur Phillip on the First Fleet. But in 2001 it was introduced, this law, that you can pay, you can get an income tax refund without paying income tax in retirement, so it’s not a tax.

What happens currently is, if you own a lot of shares and you don't pay income tax you get a dividend. The interest on the share and that dividend is tax free in retirement and we're not going to change that. But what happened in 2001 is they introduced a new rule. You’re got to love this rule; it's not illegal, it's not immoral but it's not sustainable. What happens now if you get a dividend in retirement and you don't pay any income tax -

SPEERS: Just quickly Mr Shorten

OPPOSITION LEADER: The Government gives you a 30 per cent refund.

SPEERS: Ok.

OPPOSITION LEADER: How can this be? So if we’re going to remove the gift -

PRIME MINISTER: David I’m happy for him to talk for longer, because he's got more taxes to explain than I do. He's got a lot more taxes he's got to explain tonight.

But we still don't get an answer to the question as to why Bill Shorten and the Labor Party voted against our Multinational Anti-Avoidance legislation back in 2015. $7.7 billion raised in tax liabilities in the last three years and that will continue to raise additional revenue over the next 10 years. I’m interested to know why you voted against it.

OPPOSITION LEADER: You wanted to have a threshold of companies, a buffer -

PRIME MINISTER: So you did vote against it.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Wait a second, hold your horses. We wanted to take the threshold for multinationals down to $100 million, they wanted to keep it at $200 million. We thought don’t go light.

PRIME MINISTER: So you voted against multinational anti-avoidance laws. 

OPPOSITION LEADER: We voted against your weaker laws for tougher laws, unfortunately you had the numbers.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, $7.7 billion -

SPEERS: Let's get a response from Bill Shorten's suggestions there, that the loophole as he calls it for franking credits is unsustainable.

PRIME MINISTER: He's explained the franked dividend system and so if I own a share in Qantas or Commonwealth Bank or something like this, I can deduct the full franked dividend amount from the tax liability I pay. Now why should I be able to do that when someone who has worked all their life, paid tax all their life, provided for their retirement and is now self-funded, they actually get because the company has already paid that tax, they get that sent back to them. That's what they live off. Now this is like $1,200 for retirees, up to $12,000. This is the money that is spent for them to pay for their private health insurance.

This suggestion that those people have not paid tax - we're talking about retirees, we're talking the mums and dads, we're talking about Nanna and Pop. This is the money they rely on not to go on to the pension. They've planned their entire retirement on the basis of it. They were the rules and the Labor Party now wants to change the rules, which will take their income away and try and force them onto the pension.

That's what I don't think is sustainable.

OPPOSITION LEADER: All right, well let's unpack that a little.

SPEERS: Just very briefly because I also want to come back to your suggestion Facebook should pay more in tax?

OPPOSITION LEADER: This is a complex issue and it's the heart of the Government's scare campaign. First of all, when franking credits were introduced - if you paid tax in the company, you shouldn't pay income taxes. It was about not ever paying two lots of tax. What happened is in 2001, John Howard said; ‘Actually we've got so much money coming in from mining, what we'll do is we'll say to people, even if you haven't, even if you don't pay any income tax, we’re going to give you an income tax refund in the same year’.

Remember, when Mr Morrison says it's all very hard, when it was introduced we started paying $500 million a year to people in a form of an income tax refund, where they hadn’t paid income tax. It's now $6 billion. Now it's not illegal, but the point about it is there's no rational reason to give someone an income tax refund when they haven't paid income tax. This money doesn't just grow on trees. What happens is, you all go to work -

SPEERS: Ok.

OPPOSITION LEADER: No, no, David -

SPEERS: We’ve spent a long time on franking credits here.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well no, no, I tell you what it’s a big issue and let's be really clear and I'll be another 10, 30 seconds on it. What happens is, it's important -

PRIME MINISTER: He's got a lot to explain.

SPEERS: We just need to keep moving to get through some questions.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Come on, let's be really up front here.

SPEERS: Very quickly.

OPPOSITION LEADER:  When you, when you pay an income tax refund to someone hasn't paid income tax, someone else has had to pay the income tax to the Government. So everyone who goes to work, the nurses, the doctors, the tradies, the firefighters, everyone who goes to work, you pay your income tax and then that gets sent to someone else who hasn't paid income tax at all, merely because they happen to own shares. The point is, it’s not fair, it’s not fair.

PRIME MINISTER: The point is the Labor Party are changing the rules for retirees and that means that people who are self-funded in their retirement - and that includes up to 50,000 pensioners over the next 10 years - will have the income that they rely on, which helps pay the bills today, taken away.

You vote Labor, that's what will happen to those Australians.

SPEERS: Just very quickly -

OPPOSITION LEADER: That’s not right, what he just said. The point is, where does this money for the income tax refund come from?

SPEERS: Mr Shorten let me just come back to this.

OPPOSITION LEADER: It comes from taxpayers. Why are you paying a gift to someone? It's a gift. It is. When you don't pay income tax and you get a refund, it’s a gift.

PRIME MINISTER: They’ve worked hard all of their lives and you’re going to tell them it’s a ‘gift’.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Everyone works hard mate.

PRIME MINISTER: Well I think self-funded retirees have worked pretty hard myself. I think they deserve to not have the rules changed on them.

SPEERS: Let me just try to come back to my point about Facebook. You suggested Facebook and Exon-Mobil on will pay more tax under Labor. How so? 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well we’re going to announce some more strategies in terms of multinational tax at our launch on Sunday, because we actually think that everyone is doing their bit in Australia, but Australia shouldn't be a soft touch when it comes to other companies from outside Australia coming here, exploiting our resources, making revenue in this country and then using strategies to minimise their tax in Australia.

If your mom and dad news agency have to pay tax, if an individual going to work, a council worker has to pay tax, they don't have the same options as multinationals. So we think we can do more.

PRIME MINISTER: I agree that we should do more and we’ll keep doing more. But all I know is as Government as Treasurer, we legislated to make them pay more, $7.7 billion more in three years. The Labor Party voted against it.

SPEERS: But what will you do, Mr. Morrison, you just said more needs to be done. What will you do about this?

 

PRIME MINISTER: We're working through the G20 on these issues, that's how we did the first tranche of reforms. It was called the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Regime, it will work through the G20.

SPEERS: So no further plans before the election though?

PRIME MINISTER: The way you actually make multinationals pay more tax is you share the information and data and tax paid by these companies in other jurisdictions. When you swap the information, which is what we introduced, so there's what is called country-by-country reporting, that's how you track them and that's how we have tracked them.

 

I don't know why Bill voted against it.

 

SPEERS: Look let me just ask this because, I do want to move to more questions –

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well [inaudible] -

 

PRIME MINISTER: That was the legislation Bill. 

 

SPEERS: From the other side of voters here, should companies, should multinationals pay a percentage of what they make in Australia?

OPPOSITION LEADER: I think the multinationals, a lot of them who are paying very small amounts of tax, need to be accountable in the taxation system in Australia. Whether or not, I'm not going to say it should be a blanket percentage, but what I do think is the companies are gaming.

 

Here's an example; just to show you what I think is a Government - I’m answering your question - the issue here is, you can be an I.T. company making great software and selling software in Australia. You're an international brand. You know, the young people, everyone buys, you know, spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying your products. Normally in an Australian company therefore, you'd have to pay a proportion of that revenue and profit as tax. But miraculously, these companies all have licensing arrangements with Singapore. Their operations are in Singapore or in other countries. So what they do is, they say; ‘Before you tax us on our money, we have to pay this parent company in Singapore a licence arrangement’. And hey presto, a lot of the money that an Australian company would have to be paid, pay tax on, all of a sudden is billed overseas and you can't tax it here. Okay another example.

 

SPEERS: No, we don’t have time for another example.

 

PRIME MINISTER:  I’m sorry, but I'm a former Treasurer, I've got to pull him up.

SPEERS: Ok. Very quickly.

PRIME MINISTER: Because that’s what was in our legislation. It's called profit shifting and transfer pricing and that's what we actually dealt with in that legislation.

 

Again - but maybe Bill didn't understand it when he voted against it - I'm still puzzled as to why they didn't support it.

SPEERS: Ok, very important to get to some more questions. We’ve got one right here.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hi my name is Kerry, I'm a mother and a grandmother. My question is for Mr. Shorten. What is the Labor Party attitude toward people who identify as Christians when they speak in public forums or on social media on topics where their biblical view might be unpopular amongst general society?

SPEERS: Are you referring specifically to Israel Folau?

AUDIENCE QUESTION:  No. There's a whole range of issues, abortion, euthanasia, gender dysmorphia, same sex marriage, a whole range of issues.

SPEERS: Ok, Mr. Shorten?

OPPOSITION LEADER: People of faith are entitled to practice their faith and they're entitled to have their opinions. I do believe that there should be freedom of religion in this country.

SPEERS: Did you want to add to that?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm passionate about freedom of religion in this country. Whatever your faith may be, whether it's Christian, whether it's Islam, whether it's Buddhist, or whichever it may be - and if it's no religion at all, that is I think one of the most fundamental freedoms that any Australian has.

 

But I simply say this; we live in a society and that means that we treat each other with respect in the way that we speak. We can believe everything that we believe. But I sincerely believe that as Australians - and it's part of my own practice of my own religious belief - that in the way we express things, we have to be very mindful of our respect for others.

 

We should have freedom of speech in this country but that does come with a responsibility and a responsibility for care in the way we express ourselves to each other.

SPEERS: Does that answer your question?

AUDIENCE QUESTION:  Mr Morrison answered my question, but Mr Shorten just talked about practising religion and that's a very different thing to speaking about it in public forums.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Alright.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: So when you speak in a public forum or on social media, you just get attacked and I can see that this deteriorating further as time goes by with Christians having less opportunity to speak what they believe is truth, because society says no that's wrong. I just want to make sure that if the Labor Party becomes the new government for the country, that our freedoms to speak about what we believe aren't going to be eroded further.

OPPOSITION LEADER:  What is it you feel that you can't say now?

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Well you can't really say on too many places at all, you can't really say something like; ‘Abortion is wrong, because abortion is killing a baby’. So if you say something like that and you’re a celebrity for instance, like it makes no difference if I put something like that on because I'm nobody, nobody knows who I am. But if somebody who is out there in the community and people know them says; ‘Abortion is wrong, it's killing a baby,’ then they get attacked for that viewpoint.

 

I mean the controversial case in point right now is Israel Folau and I didn't really want to mention that, but that’s an example of a situation where someone is talking about their religious beliefs, to use the word religious, but then is getting thrown to the lions.

SPEERS:  Can I just check that. Would you like government to do something about this? Because there's no breaking the law here. Would you like government to have some sort of law to do - what?

AUDIENCE QUESTION:  I don't think they can have a law, but I do think that the government leads by example in terms of, you know, the governments don’t, leaders of government and leaders of political parties don't weigh in on these sorts of issues when they come up. It needs to be generally held, I guess by the Party that you can speak freely about your beliefs.

SPEERS: I suppose you’ve both weighed in on this particular -

PRIME MINISTER: We had the Ruddock Review and that provided a recommendation and they said there should be a Religious Discrimination Act; that it should simply afford the same protections to people because of their religious faith and practice, as would be afforded to someone because of their sexuality, their gender identification, or any of the many other things that are actually covered by any discrimination laws in this country. Freedom religion is so important to who we are as a people and the same protections should be there for people of religion and their religious faith, as there for people for whatever other issue they may be identified with. People shouldn't be discriminated against in this country and for whatever the reason and religion shouldn't be a basis for discrimination.

SPEERS: Why didn't the Government get around to this during this term of parliament?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we had other priorities moving into the Budget, we were working through the response to the to the report and we're referring other matters off from the Ruddock Report to the Law Reform Commission as well. We initiated that process before we went into caretaker mode and that's an important priority for us on if we're re-elected.

SPEERS: Do we need this Act?

OPPOSITION LEADER:  I also want to just go to, I don't think people should be persecuted because of their religious faith. I've always thought that. But I also have to just for the sake of it, you mentioned a particular topic.

 

I don't think women seeking an abortion in this country should have to go through a whole ring of protesters either. So it's a very interesting and tough question isn't it? I don't think when people were campaigning for marriage equality, people have got different views on it, that's fair enough. But I also don't think that someone who supports marriage equality should be equated as wanting to, you know, support aberrant sexual practices merely because they support marriage equality.

 

I think you go to a deeper question here, not only for what motivates you but more generally, there is a lack of civility in the public debate. What happens too often in politics is it’s destruction. There’s nothing wrong with testing each other’s views, that's, that's entirely legitimate, that's our Westminster system. But somewhere along the line, we've become very uncivil. I think social media, got to tell you has to take and the mainstream media have to take some responsibility. Because what happens is, passes for news in Australia, is conflict. You know if X says Y is no good and Y says X is no good, that's more likely to get a run in the newspaper or on Sky News than a happy story. And in social media, well that's even far less accountable.

 

One of the things I've said to David earlier if I had the chance is I think that social media platforms, new media, need to be a lot more accountable for what gets said on it. Now that might satisfy every point you have about your sense that Christians are being persecuted. It's not a view I entirely share, but I do accept there examples of intolerance meted out –

 

PRIME MINISTER: Just to finish on that David, I agree, we need to learn how to disagree better. We're not always going to agree but we need to learn to disagree better. But I do know that many Christians around the country feel exactly the way you do. I know they feel exactly the way they do and so we need to make sure that Australians of whatever faith, don't feel like that.

 

SPEERS: Let's get to the next question, just over here

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hello my name's Mikayla, I have kind of two questions but I'm going to roll them into one. The first one is, why do the Labor in the Liberal Party keep funding Headspace when experts have acknowledged that it is failing our young Australians? The second question is, do you guys have any intention of providing funding to Australia's 24/7 professional phone counselling service Kids Help Line? Because I recently read an article that they're desperate for funding, so I guess they're to and that both related to youth mental health?

PRIME MINISTER: Let me respond because we've dealt in part with this in the Budget and we've made further announcements. We've got over half a billion dollars that we're committed to youth mental health strategy, to combat youth suicide. I think this is the biggest challenge we face in this country today, young people are killing themselves. They're killing themselves in remote Indigenous communities. They're killing themselves in the suburbs here in Brisbane and in my community back in Sydney.

 

Now Headspace I believe has been a success and I'll tell you why. When the Health Minister went up to Grafton a few years ago and there had been a cluster of youth suicides, he went there and he visited. We put a Headspace in there, here hasn't been one since. Now it's not perfect, but what we've done is increase the funding for it to reduce the waiting times. We've added significantly another 30 centers that'll be established, 20 in regional areas and we're putting them in in spots where we know there are real great risks.

 

We're also increasing the funding for Indigenous youth mental health, particularly in places like in Western Australia where there's been a real spike in the Kimberley and that needs to be addressed. There’s about $16.9 million going into that event. Youth mental health I think is the thing, that's the reason why we need a strong economy. It's the reason why you need to manage your budget well, because that I cannot think of an even greater priority than stopping our young people, who have given up hope in life, from killing themselves.

 

SPEERS: All right, Mr Shorten?

 

SHORTEN: Mikayla you asked two questions, I'll answer both of them. First of all on Headspace, I share the views of Mr Morrison in terms of we think it has done some good things. We're proposing also to support it going forward, but I'm interested to talk to you afterwards about your particular concerns and in terms of Kids Help Line I'll take that on board. That's a good point and I'd like to talk to you afterwards about what we can do. Let's go to the deeper issue of mental health generally, it used to be a stigma and it's still sometimes has some stigma there unfairly. I remember when I was at school in year 11 and we were at the school assembly. They said a boy in year 12 had had cerebral hemorrhage on the train, you know. I ran into a sister 10 years later and that was only when the penny dropped that he committed suicide. So even in the 1980s when I was at school, people weren't saying what it was.

 

Now I understand you got to be careful of copycat or similar behavior, but it was a hidden question and one good thing that we've seen in the last number of years is people are more willing to talk about it. You know I would I would hesitate to say - and we can do a quick show of hands here, this challenge of mental illness and indeed suicide is more pervasive and I just want to do a quick survey. How many people here have either known someone in their family or known a family where someone's taken their own life with a show of hands? Gee that's amazing isn't it? So you know I think it absolutely priority point you made Mikayla I’d like to talk about the Kids Help Line.

 

SPEERS: All right thank you both. Let's get to the next question.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hi, my name is Lynn and my question is to both the leaders. Post Offices provide vital services to Australians nationwide, enable the Government's community service obligation, it’s funding responsibility to be met. The majority of these are privately owned small businesses. Many of these organisations are under serious financial pressure with increasing costs and diminishing returns, leading them to fear of their ongoing survival. They’re small businesses. The Minister of Communication has the power to direct the activities of Australia Post, what action would your Party take to prevent further licensed Post Offices closures across the country?

PRIME MINISTER:  Bill, I’m happy if you want to? Alright, first of all, they’re small and family businesses and so we need to support small and family businesses with lower taxes which is what we've done. Bringing down the 25 percent tax rate, to ensure that they can write off the equipment that they buy as part of their business. We've done that through the instant asset write-off, increasing the amount you can write off from $20,000 up to $30,000.

 

We're making it easier for them to get access to finance, through our $2 billion securitisation fund, so they’re the more general things we're doing around small business. One of the other things we've done is provide mental health support actually, for small business and family owners because they're under enormous stress. For them to be better and for them to be more well, it's important to help them run their business. But when it comes to Australia Post, one of the things our Government did, is we actually did increase the prices of letters and the sorts of things that go through the Post Offices.

 

At the end of the day, they are businesses and the way businesses do better, is if our economy is more healthy. Our economy is more healthy when there is a lower tax burden on those who are walking in and out of Post Offices, that are coming in there to buy the goods and other things that are now sold in those businesses. So they're a retail business like any of the others and we want to see them succeed. And no Government has done more to lower the cost and lower the burden of paperwork, than our Government has, to ensure small businesses continue to be the heroes that they are in our economy.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Thanks Lynn. Did you work at one of those agencies? Or you’ve just got … you just know?

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No.

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Ok. I agree with Scott, 25 per cent tax rate for businesses under $50 million, agree also that when a business, a small business invests in new productive machinery that under Labor, we would give them an extra 20 per cent tax write-off on their investment of the new technology straightaway. So that's a plus, maybe tip a project which is marginal, it will support the family or the business investing in the new technology. But I'm interested in Australia Post specifically as a set of businesses. Listen, I can't remember the exact number, don’t hold me to it, but about 2,500 to 3,000 Australia Post outlets around Australia. Other than the big four banks Australia Post has the best regional network. So I think that having an Australia Post business in your local country town is a sign of health. And when you add on Star Track Express and it’s ability to compete in terms of parcel delivery, I think there's probably more that we could do if we looked at giving these small businesses in Australia Post the ability to compete with the banks of Australia. I think that if those Australia Posts, if we could invest in their technology, to modernize the payment system, if we could assist them to be able to compete with the banks - it's very early days, I'm not saying we've got a specific policy at this election. But what I am saying is I've thought long and hard about Australia Post and wouldn't it be good if we could use Australia Post to provide opportunities to put more competition on banks, to be able to provide services in the bush?

SPEERS: Are you talking about as a lender as well?

OPPOSITION LEADER: No, I don’t - we wouldn't necessary want them lending, but there must be a capacity to somehow recognise that the network of distribution which Australia Post branches have, be they a family businesses or direct businesses of Australia Post, there's got to be an opportunity to help revitalise competition in the bush and there's got to be an opportunity to compete with the banks.

PRIME MINISTER: They can be payment centres now. They do have those relationships to enable them to be payment centres now and so they can become a service delivery hub all around the country.

SPEERS: Ok, let's get to our next question.

 

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Can I make a comment?

 

SPEERS: Lynn we’ll get back to you if we have time, I promise. Let's get to the next question. Could you stand up for me?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. My name is Javier. My question is to both of you and thank you for your answers. We hear a lot about the investment in current problems and current issues of a slowing economy. We don't hear enough often about investing in the future of Australia, in the future of Australia's main resource of Australia. That means Australians, the kids. In terms of allocation, we don't hear often about what are the plans to support those kids that are often to the gifted and talented spectrum? Other countries do cater a lot for them, make sure that they’re on the best possible path for their future and to support the Australian economy or to support their country’s economy. What are your plans to support this case, in the system and out of it in every stage?

SPEERS: Bill Shorten, why don’t you go first on this one?

OPPOSITION LEADER:  All right. First of all, Australia is not leading the world in terms of the education of children at an early age. The research shows, I’m going to, the research shows that if we invest in the early learning of three and four-year-olds then that has a disproportionate benefit to accelerate their learning opportunities at school. I'm talking about universal kindergarten for all three and four-year-olds, 15 hours a week, 40 weeks of the year. Labor has got a policy it’s a point of difference with the Government. We have agreed to fund universal preschool. You know, some of the smartest countries in the world, achieving the best educational outcomes are doing just this, but we're behind the pack. And we make this choice because we’re – there’s other things we’ve decided not to do, like, as I’ve said give tax subsidies to the top end.

 

In our school system, again we’ve made a clear choice. We’re going to put back the $14 billion that the Liberals promised in 2013 to public schools. $14 billion, I know, it’s sort of a big number but the point is, what it practically means in schools is more teachers to help kids, not just the kids who want acceleration, but also the kids who are struggling to keep up. No country ever went backwards by investing in education.

When it comes to universities, we're the only Party out of us two who is offering to fund extra places. Universities are doing it hard at the moment and what we want to do, is put more money into the system, allow them to recruit more students, which will mean they're going to be offering more choices to Australian kids. The other thing is of course is TAFE. We've seen the number of apprenticeships and traineeships drop radically under the current Government and what we want to do is put money back into TAFE. Because we think that gives a whole lot of people who mightn’t, you know, fit in the academic school system, the chance to go and learn a trade and develop themselves there. So, we've got a vision for those future, for the education investment in our young people.

 

SPEERS: Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Over the last five and a half years, each and every year, we've been investing that $400 million a year in preschool education for 4-year-olds. At this point in time, even after all that time with the funding which is matched by the State and Territory governments, we're still not achieving the rates of actual take-up of that in preschool education. That's why we're going to continue to focus on those elements of the programs.

I agree that early childhood education is really important, but those funds have to be matched by the State and Territory governments. If you're going to extend into to other years, it's not clear at all yet that the States and Territories would match what the Labor Party is suggesting, so that may never happen.

When it comes to schools and public schools in particular, we've increased funding as a Government since we were elected by over 60 per cent for public schools in this country.

Here in Queensland in particular, our increase in funding for schools in Queensland has risen three times faster and more than the State Government has put into these schools. So, we've been meeting our obligations and more and we've engaged on the needs-based funding model which was delivered by Mr. Gonski and we've extended that out over the next 10 years, which will mean that we'll see a further more than 60 per cent increase in funding for our schools over the next decade.

See, spending money on schools is obviously important. But what you're spending money on is the important thing and it's the quality of teachers and investing in those teachers. The funding that we're putting into schools is about ensuring we're getting that professional development, that work to invest in the teachers.

Give me a great teacher for my kids any day, over a school hall. Any day of the week. Because it's a great teacher that is going to change my kids outcomes in life when it comes to how they get ahead. We've got to be more interested in how we spend the money, not just how much we spend. Because when the numbers are big and you're not careful about how you manage money, you always spend more.

It's one of the lessons of managing money; people who can't manage money, particularly governments that can't manage money, they always spend too much of it. Then they all come after you in higher taxes. We’re seeing a bit of that in this election.

SPEERS: Let me jump in there Prime Minister, are you saying tonight, ‘schools are getting enough’?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry?

SPEERS: Are schools getting enough?

PRIME MINISTER: We have the plan over the next 10 years to increase it by over 60 per cent and that's what we are doing. We think that is a great investment in the future of our schools and we're going to focus through the second set of reforms that we worked up with Mr. Gonski, to ensure that we're getting the right outcomes. You've got to get the return from the investment you make, before you start taxing people more to just throw money at the problem.

SPEERS: What do you say to that Bill Shorten?  

OPPOSITION LEADER: It sounds like Mr Morrison thinks that what they're doing is enough. I don't share that view. No country ever went backwards by investing more in education. Now of course teacher quality is important. My mum was a teacher for 35 years, she then became a teacher of teachers. I've always been brought up on the value and the power of teaching. The smartest woman I've ever met was my mum, she was a teacher. I get it. But what I also get is that government is about choices. We’re not talking about building school halls, I'm talking about funding more teachers for special needs. If you think that we're spending enough on education, ask a parent of a child with special needs. If you think that we're spending enough on education, ask the parents who are frustrated that their kids who are very talented are not getting that extra attention exactly as Javier is raising. If you think we're spending enough on education, ask a whole lot of people across our government school system who say we could desperately use some more. If you think we’re spending enough on education, why have the number of apprenticeships and traineeships dropped away?

PRIME MINISTER: My point on that that David is we don't think we're spending enough and that's why we are spending more over the next 10 years.

SPEERS: Ok but there is a difference -

PRIME MINISTER: We are increasing the spending on education over that period. 80,000 extra -

[Inaudible]

SPEERS: Between what you’re taking to the election. What specifically would your extra money Bill Shorten, pay for that the Government’s plan is currently not?

PRIME MINISTER: The extra money that we’re spending -

SPEERS: No, I’m talking about on top of the extra money.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m just making that point.

SPEERS: What would Labor’s additional spending pay for?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Alright, every three-year-old will get access to kindy and the Government is making no plans for that. We want to make sure that schools receive, for example, my local primary school down the road from where I live, it's a school of 450 kids, they’ll get an extra $500,000 over the next three years. That'll mean they can employ more teachers, offer more music classes, offer the chance for kids to learn languages, offer the chance for kids to go on school camps, without, without asking parents who can't afford to pay, that their kids can't even go on the camp.

What it means at university is we'll have 200,000 extra kids getting the chance to go to university. What it means in TAFE is that we will pay the upfront fees for 100,000 people over the next three years.

SPEERS: Ok.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Practical, real.

PRIME MINISTER: The real difference, the big difference of what is being done between the two parties is that under Labor, they will pay a greater share of what the state governments are spending on schools, so federal taxpayers will pay more. The state governments will pay less and you'll get the same.

SPEERS: All right let's move on. We’ve got to move on.

OPPOSITION LEADER: What’s actually happening is three-year-olds are just not getting kindy. The TAFE places aren’t there. Mr Morrison says that if we do something, that therefore someone else will stop doing it. My problem is -

PRIME MINISTER: My problem is you’re increasing the funding split.

OPPOSITION LEADER: He's out of touch. It's not happening now, go on ask a teacher and a parent.

SPEERS: Let's move on. We've got a question right here.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Good evening my name is Janine and I'm retired and my question is to Mr. Morrison. No not Mr Morrison, Mr Shorten,

OPPOSITION LEADER: Some people say we look the same, I don't see it myself.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you plan to have a Budget surplus in the next three years or is it more like a 10 year plan?

OPPOSITION LEADER: We plan to have a Budget surplus each year that we're in government and we’re going to release our costings next Thursday or Friday.

PRIME MINISTER: We'll have a Budget surplus and we won't be increasing taxes to achieve it, particularly on retirees.

SPEERS: Ok, I don’t want to go right down the rabbit hole on franking credits again.

OPPOSITION LEADER: David, fair is fair.

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s true.

SPEERS: Each time my opposite number has a bit of a jab, you say we've got to move on, I just want to answer it.

SPEERS: I think we've had a good discussion about franking credits with respect, can I just tease out –

OPPOSITION LEADER: No.

PRIME MINISTER: Can we talk about their housing tax? I can talk about the other taxes if you like.

OPPOSITION LEADER: You can make up anything you like.

PRIME MINISTER: So capital gains tax isn't going up?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Nup.

PRIME MINISTER: It is.

SPEERS: Will the budget bottom line, with the surpluses be bigger under Labor?

OPPOSITION LEADER: We don’t want to release our full costings until next Thursday or Friday, but yes, because we're making reform decisions. When Mr Morrison says that we're going to stop giving people a tax refund, when they haven't paid income tax, we're stopping a gift. It's not a new tax. If I stop giving someone who is wealthy some money, we're stopping giving them some money. That is not a new tax.

SPEERS: And do you agree Mr. Morrison that a lot of these benefits, whether it's franking credits or negative gearing, are going to higher income earners?

PRIME MINISTER: No I don't, I don't agree with that at all because our tax plan benefits everybody earning over $40,000, everyone over $40,000.

SPEERS: Your personal income tax cuts you're talking about.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes I thought that was the question.

SPEERS: Let's talk about personal income tax cuts?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I can, but if the other taxes we're talking about - the negative gearing, abolishing that as we know it, increasing capital gains tax on residential home purchases -

SPEERS: Ok, your personal income tax cuts, how much is going to the top end, to the highest income earners, to those earning in the highest income bracket.

PRIME MINISTER: There are three components to what was in the most recent Budget. For those earning over $40,000 – for the big change, which is having the same tax rate going down from 32.5 cents, down to 30 cents for between $40,000 and $200,000, the bill for that is 96 billion. The bill for actually extending the tax threshold from 37 to 45, the bill for that, so we’re talking about people earning between $37,000 and $45,000 and then $45,000 and above, so these are people -

SPEERS: What about those earning more than $180,000 dollars a year?

PRIME MINISTER: Yep, I’ll give -

OPPOSITION LEADER: Do you want me to help there?

PRIME MINISTER: I wouldn't trust your maths for a heartbeat Bill.

Let me give you an example. Today, if you're between 15 and 24, Ok, you account for about 2 per cent of the total percentage of income earners that are paying the top tier tax rate: 37 cents and 45.

OPPOSITION LEADER: I just thought we could get to the answer quicker.

SPEERS: If the cameras didn’t catch it, $77 billion dollars is the suggestion from Bill Shorten.

OPPOSITION LEADER: It’s not a suggestion is it, actually?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t accept that.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Okay.

SPEERS: It’s from the Australia Institute as well. 

PRIME MINISTER: The Australia Institute’s is not a figure that I would –

SPEERS: Ok so what’s the number PM?

PRIME MINISTER:  I’ve told you what the figure is from $47,000 and above, the figure is $96 billion

SPEERS: I’m asking about those on $180,000 a year?

PRIME MINISTER: No that been specifically set apart and I wouldn't believe the Australia Institute –

OPPOSITION LEADER: I'm happy to decode the question. What is the top income bracket going to get in 2024-25 and how much is that going to cost for the remainder of them medium term?

PRIME MINISTER: See this is the point about Labor -

OPPOSITION LEADER: It’s $77 billion dollars to the top 3 per cent of earners. That's nice money if you can get it.

PRIME MINISTER: Well the other day when you met a worker in Gladstone -

OPPOSITION LEADER: Where are you going?

PRIME MINISTER: And they were earning $250,000 and you sidled up to him, you we’re having a bit of a chat to him and he complained about this. What did you say to him? You said; ‘Oh we'll have a look at that.’

You couldn't look him in the eye and tell him that you were going to increase his taxes by 2 per cent on the 1st of July of this year. I'm just wondering, can you look me in the eye and tell me that you’re going to increase the taxes?

OPPOSITION LEADER: You’re a classic Space Invader. All I want to do - Ok, just a little bit a little lightheartedness, never hurt a debate did it? What the questioner David is saying is and it's a concern that I share - or it’s a concern I have, he's just asking the question - is that Mr Morrison's basic economic plan for all of you, is to give you a tax cut on the never-never. You've got to vote Liberal twice before you start seeing the big money roll through and what we're also getting at is that a lot of this tax cut is going to go to the highest level of income earners.

Now there's nothing wrong with people getting a tax cut, but you've got to work out how you pay for it. What the Government won't do - and this is why Mr Morrison wouldn't quite answers Speersy’s direct question - is I reckon he has got a pretty clear idea of what the top income earners are going to get by voting Liberal for the next two elections. It's billions of dollars of improvement. He doesn't want to say the number because then he has to explain, one, that's his priority and two, what has to get cut to pay for it?

PRIME MINISTER: Nothing.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Oh, fantastic, I love it, it’s magic pudding land.

PRIME MINISTER: It’s absolutely nothing and the PEFO which is the statement issued by the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Treasury at the start of every election campaign, answers this question. In that statement by those two independent officials from the public service, made it very clear, that our entire tax plan out over the next 10 years was all accommodated in the Budget with no reductions in expenditures.

So to suggest that, is a complete mistruth.

But let me finish on the point I was going to make David. Because this goes to the issue of income tax.

I don't believe that you have to hold some people down and tax them more, to tax others less. I think all Australians who work hard should benefit and keep more of what they earn. And I'll tell you why; because I think your money is better off in your hands. Not in his hands certainly and not in the Government's hands. Because when it's in your hands, you're making the choices about where it's spent. I don't think the Government knows better than you do about where your money should go. That's why I believe in lower taxes for everybody.

SPEERS: Let me ask how you -

 

PRIME MINISTER : If you control your taxes. You can't control your spending.

SPEERS: Prime Minister you dismissed the Australia Institute number of $77 billion, the Grattan Institute though, says the top 20 per cent of income earners will pay three per cent less tax overall under your plans.

PRIME MINISTER: No that's not true. The top tax rate -

 

SPEERS: So they’re wrong too?

PRIME MINISTER: No they are because 36 per cent of tax revenue will be collected from those on the top marginal tax rate under our plan. That's currently 31 per cent.

 

So those who are on the top rate of tax under my plan, will still pay an even greater share of the total tax burden under my plan. What that tells you is those who are working hard, those who are earning, pay more tax. 

 

SPEERS: Ok, Bill Shorten the point that the Prime Minister was trying to raise with you before, you did suggest to that Gladstone worker that you would look at tax cuts for those on higher incomes. Will you?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well its, Mr. Morrison’s had a couple of minutes so I'm going to just address -

 

SPEERS: Well, you’ve had -

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Yeah well he has, fair is fair.

SPEERS: Can you just answer the question.

OPPOSITION LEADER: I won’t even go into his space, the point about it is, under Mr. Morrison's tax plan, which apparently costs nothing, so you've now got this marvelous situation where you can take $286 billion out of the Budget over the next 10 years in tax cuts, but that costs nothing. Now, you've got to look at how you can take $286 billion out and it costs nothing. That’s fantastic.

SPEERS: Let’s look at your, let's look at your position though.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Let’s talk about the worker in Gladstone by all means.

SPEERS: Will you look at high end tax cuts?

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: First of all, we do believe that capital is taxed too lightly in Australia and income is taxed too heavily. And when the Budget is in a proper surplus, we will look at income tax reductions across the board. The answer is yes. But the other thing I said to that Gladstone worker is he was a unionised worker working at the Port and if this Government gets re-elected, woe behold anyone under an industrial EBA, woe behold anyone trying to negotiate wage improvements because under this Government they don't like to have proper bargaining between workers and employers.

 

SPEERS: Does that mean a yes or a no? Will you look at those high income tax cuts?

OPPOSITION LEADER: I said across the board, that would include that.

PRIME MINISTER: After he’s put their taxes up, mind you.

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: I just can’t make you happy. Never mind.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hi my name's Tamara, this is for both of you. I come from a very strong military family and friends. What is the Government going to do to support our men and women in the Defence Force that come back and then have to struggle with life? I don't want to see on Facebook, another friend has died any more, too much.

SPEERS: Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: The other day I was with Phil Thompson who is our candidate in Herbert in Townsville. As we walked to that press conference, Phil got a message; another one of his friends who he had served with, had taken his own life. We were all very conscious of that and I have no doubt that Bill and I have exactly the same view when it comes to expressing our deep gratitude for people's service and what they do when they come home.

That is why mental health care, for every single person, we've ensured that they all get it, free of charge. Whether you've served a day or you've served a decade, everyone will get that service. We've invested significant funds in the Veteran Centric Reform which has radically reduced the waiting times for veterans to be able to access services and payments and having their cases dealt with through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will always be there under a Coalition Government. We've also worked to try and increase the recognition and get veterans when they come out of the service to ensure that they have employment pathways back into alternative paths of employment in the private sector or in the government sector.

 

Getting people into jobs, getting them the right mental health support, ensuring that they can get access to the services through the Department of Veterans Affairs more quickly and more promptly and more tailored to their particular needs. Working with the veterans community is how you achieve this because they understand what their needs are better than anyone can and that's a big part.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Have you ever had to deal with DVA?

SPEERS: The question is have you ever had to deal with DVA?

 

PRIME MINISTER: We are aware of that and that's why we've pumped in significant resources. The waiting times have come down, but they haven't come down far enough. So we're going to continue making those investments, which we are doing.

SPEERS: Ok. Mr. Shorten?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I agree with a lot of what Mr. Morrison said there, but I am conscious that you made a bit of a follow up comment and so this isn't just about us talking at you I'm interested if you have an observation, how somebody could do better and I would like to listen to you.

SPEERS: All right we'll tee that up after the interview.

OPPOSITION LEADER: I was happy to do it then, but I can talk to you -

 

SPEERS: Let me just bring a microphone over to you, my apologies here we go.

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: It’s a good chance to get [inaudible] from a family person who's there, that's why I'm doing this.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: I've got friends and family who have fought DVA and are still fighting DVA and they keep on road blocking them in every possible way.

SPEERS: Maybe you can just give us an example of that roadblock. What's happened?

AUDIENCE QUESTION: My ex-husband got damaged in the military, he still can't get his payout.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I'd like to -

 

PRIME MINISTER: I’m happy to take the details, we’ll -

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Follow it up for you.

 

SPEERS:  I think when we’re talking about individual cases, probably best we follow it up after.

OPPOSITION LEADER:  The reason I wanted to do that is I actually get that, not everything is working properly in this country and all too often individuals feel powerless by the system.  Something which I've always been brought up representing workers is, my default position is that if you think there is a problem, that's what we've got to work on. That's the sort of prime minister I'll be. I want to hear what the real problem is not just tell you we've got it under control.

 

SPEERS: Alright we’ll follow that up afterwards, let's get to another question right here.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hi thanks for your time, my name is Justin. I'm 39, each year I pay my tax, I’m happy to pay whatever the rate is, it goes to where it goes. But in all the years I’ve paid tax, I've never been asked where I want my money spent. So each year we get a tax refund it tells us where it was spent. When can we have a chance to actually say, like if we are lodging our tax, you can give us a list of where it can be spent, so if we’re in a regional area if we think the hospital really needs to be helped there, we're spending money where it needs to be not where the government thinks it needs to be spent. How can we do that?

PRIME MINISTER: You’ve got an opportunity right now if you'd like to tell us, but that's really what this election is all about; where you get to choose, about where the priorities should be and how we should run things. What I've been trying to say over these last few weeks is simply this; that where we get to spend it is only a question we get to ask if we're able to support a strong economy and keep our Budget under control, so we can actually invest in things.

 

Things like for example the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, we’ve listed 2,000 medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme well over $10.5 billion. I was with a young boy yesterday Luke Emery, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Orkambi is a drug we listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme last September on Father's Day. That drug means he can now run without getting breathless, for other kids it's adding 20 years to their life. I think the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is the most important thing that the Government has been able to do and it says something wonderful about Australian society that we can change lives, save lives and improve the quality of life.

 

But there are many priorities, we’ve spoken about many of them here tonight and the election is a chance to say; ‘Well those who can manage money, know how to spend money’. I think that’s a truism both of governments and in people’s own affairs. That’s what we’re offering, the choice. We know how to manage money, that means we know how to spend it.

 

SPEERS: Mr Shorten?

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Justin what do you do for a living?

 

AUIDENCE QUESTION: I work for a power company, manage emergency services.

 

OPPOSITION LEADER:  Good on you. I don't think anyone running for prime minister can make a promise saying that every individual will just, you know, you pay $20,000 tax, you just spend it where you think. So I understand the sentiment, but I'm not going to make you that promise and anyone who pretends that is just having a lend of you.

 

But I think that what you should know is what we would spend our scarce government resources on. I make no apology for the fact that I don't want to give a property investor buying their sixth house, a subsidy for making a loss. I'd rather spend it on a child care subsidy. Do you have kids?

 

[Inaudible]

 

Health? I'd rather spend money on making sure that if you get a diagnosis of cancer you don't face out-of-pocket costs, than spending it on tax schemes which only a few people at the top end can claim. What we want to do if we get elected, is have a proper change in this country. What we want to do is make sure the right priorities are running the government's decisions. I think that helping people’s cost a living, investing in genuine climate change so that we can have more renewable energy as part of the mix, investing in our healthcare system and our education system, I think they’re good priorities and we can do it by re-allocating money which is currently spent on tax schemes which only the fortunate few can access.

 

PRIME MINISTER: To spend money well you’ve got to manage money well.

 

SPEERS: Very quickly.

 

PRIME MINISTER: You’ve got to manage money well and when Labor was last in government, they stopped listing medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme because they ran out of money.

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: That’s not true.

 

PRIME MINISTER: It's in 2012 Budget Papers. The same thing happened with defence spending. It fell to 1.56 per cent of the economy. They raided the defence budget and they raided private health insurance because they ran out of money.

 

SPEERS: We're running out of time, very, very quick response

OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you David, my point is that this Government is having you believe that the last six years has been an unmitigated success. They just sort of forget the fact that everything is going up except your wages. They don't realise that waiting lists to get elective surgery have gone up in this country. They've doubled the national debt. They've basically got one economic plan for the last three years, which is to give $80 billion away in tax cuts to big business. There's a million people in Australia right now who are holding down two jobs just to make ends meet. There's another million people who every month say they would like more hours. There's 4 million people nearly who are in casualised or labour hire work. This economy is the killer, this is the killer number and I'll stop at this, 39 per cent is the increase in corporate profits since you last voted for Malcolm Turnbull. Wages have moved 5 to 6 per cent. This economy, maybe strong for some, it's just not strong for the pensioners, it's just not strong for a lot of the millions of wage earners.

 

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve heard him use that statistic many times  -

 

SPEERS: No, no, we’re nearly out of time, I do want to get one more question in.

 

PRIME MINISTER: I really want to get to that question, but I’ve heard him say this many times; corporate profits, which is the gross operating surplus on the national accounts, when you take out the mining profits from that equation had moved it exactly the same rate of compensation for employees, which is the wages. When you take the mining sector out - 

 

SPEERS: So let’s be clear, corporate profits PM -

 

PRIME MINISTER: Which is the way these businesses actually operate it has actually moved at at the same level.

 

SPEERS: Corporate profits rose 10.5 percent last year?

 

PRIME MINISTER: That includes the mining. What I'm saying is, you strip the mining companies out, compensation of employees and the gross operating surplus on the national accounts, which are those 2 figures he's referring to -

 

OPPOSITION LEADER: Alright I’ll give you a new number.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Have moved at the same level. But happy to go to the question.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Leave aside - I'm sure you are now, but I just want to follow up. Let's be clear, corporate profits, Mr Morrison says you can't count it, he wants to cut out different corporations and say some are in and some are out. Alright, park that even though the average is 39 percent, wages have stagnated. That is a fact and the man next to me has no plan to get wages moving again in this country.

 

PRIME MINISTER: It’s a stronger economy, not higher taxes.

 

SPEERS: We are going to squeeze in one more question, right here. Over to you.

 

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hi, my name is Melanie. A question for both of you; it’s great to see how passionate you are about the Budget. What’s actually happening in the space of climate change and renewables? Like that’s actually an issue that is sort of, going to get worse. So, what's happening in those areas long term, as well?

SPEERS: PM, to you first?

PRIME MINISTER: Our plan to take action on climate change - both parties have plans to take action on climate change, both of us do - we have a 26 per cent emissions reduction target. The Labor Party has a 45 per cent emissions target.

That means that we have to reduce, we have to meet our carbon emissions reductions by 328 million tonnes, out to 2030. The Labor Party has to hit 1.3 billion tonnes over that same period of time.

Now we've already made sure that we'll be meeting our Kyoto 2020 targets. When we came to government we were over 700 million tonnes behind in meeting those Kyoto targets. We've turned that around. By the 2020 target timetable, we will have exceeded that by 369 million tonnes based on the policies we put in place, the Emissions Reduction Fund and many other measures. Now we're continuing with that with a thing called the Climate Solutions Fund. It's $3.5 billion, which means that we will meet our 2030 target. So when we've set targets, we meet them. We do need to take action on climate change. It is not an option, we must take it on. It's not that any Party is not going to take action on climate change. That's not on the table, we agree about that.

What we don't agree about is the target. The target the Labor Party have of 1.3 billion tonnes that they want to reduce it by, they cannot tell you what that will mean to your job. They cannot tell you what it will mean to your wage -

SPEERS: Well let’s hear, can Bill Shorten tell us that?

PRIME MINISTER: And they cannot tell you what it means to the economy.

SPEERS: Ok, Mr. Shorten can you tell us that?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, answering both Melanie's question and your second question, I'm very passionate about taking real action on climate change. Here's one fact -  I can give you lots of numbers but I'll give you one basic fact - when Tony Abbott got elected we were pumping out carbon pollution, out of Australia about 512 megatons of carbon pollution. Now, it's gone up, 543 megatons, or 541 megatons of carbon pollution. This Government is not getting our carbon pollution emissions down, they're going up. What we want to do is take real action, so what we've said is we would like to see 50 per cent of our energy mix by 2030 coming from renewables. And yes, we do have a more ambitious target to really reduce carbon emissions, than the Government. We owe it to our kids. We owe it to the future to take real action and we've got a range of policies for doing that. Now the Government says; ‘Oh that'll cost you your job’. No it won't. Because if it was going to cost you a job, there's already 120 companies who even under the Government's fairly low target are reducing, or trying to reduce their carbon emissions. What we want to do, is that we recognise that if we invest more renewables, it'll create more jobs. Ask 2 million Australian households who put solar on their rooftop, do they think that's a cost or an investment?

The lived experience - this is one situation where business and the people are ahead of the Government and if you think this Government's going to do something on climate change, Malcolm Turnbull would still be the prime minister.

SPEERS: Ok a quick follow up on this -

PRIME MINISTER:  We have $25 billion - David, let me make this point.

SPEERS: PM -

PRIME MINISTER: We have $25 billion worth of renewable energy investments happening right now, out to 2020, that's happening under our policy.

SPEERS: But do you accept that emissions have gone up under the Coalition?

PRIME MINISTER: He’s quite correctly quoted the figures, on the 2020 Kyoto targets though, we hit that by 369 million tonnes in surplus -

SPEERS: And just on this point -

OPPOSITION LEADER: It’s just like the old surgeons comment, the operation was a success, the patient died.

PRIME MINISTER: The rules that are set globally for meeting these targets are very clear and Australia is meeting our targets.

SPEERS: Ok, you did spend a lot of telling us the National Energy guarantee was the best way to tackle this problem.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one of many ways to tackle the issue -

OPPOSITION LEADER: I agreed with the old Scott not the new Scott.

SPEERS: Let me just establish, what was wrong with the NEG?

PRIME MINISTER: Well there are two parts to the National -

OPPOSITION LEADER: Peter Dutton didn't like it, Tony Abbott didn't like it.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m trying to answer the question.

SPEERS: Ok, let's just get an answer.

PRIME MINISTER: The National Energy Guarantee had two components to it. The first of them was the Reliability Guarantee, which ensured that there was enough baseload reliable power that retailers were selling into the market. That has happened, that actually went through the states last December, it was the most important part -

SPEERS: The emissions reduction, emissions reduction.

PRIME MINISTER: The emissions reduction target which was also built into the original, which we didn't ultimately believe at the end of the day needed to be legislated, that is still there though. The 26 per cent emissions reduction target has been there since we set it several years ago. So there has always been certainty about what the Government's emissions reduction target was. What there was not certainty about was ensuring there is enough reliable baseload power going into the system.

SPEERS: And Mr Shorten the question that's been, well, put to you a number of times through this campaign; why can't you tell us what it will cost in jobs and wages to cut emissions by 45 per cent?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Sure let’s go, let's go through it. The cost to the taxpayer of our policies is practically nil. We're going to spend $300 million to help some of the energy intensive trade exposed sectors, cement, steel, aluminum, but beyond that we're not going to spend taxpayer money. The cost to the environment - and by the way they’re spending $3.5 billion, so they're actually costing you more - but we don't need to make taxpayers pay more, because the cost to the environment if we don't act, to me is far greater than if we do.

SPEERS: But the cost to jobs and wages?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Yeah I’ll come to business. First of all not a cost to the taxpayer and in fact their plan is a bigger cost to the environment.

SPEERS: Ok, but the cost to jobs and wages?

OPPOSITION LEADER: Yeah, yeah, but just - the final thing is now business. Now every - Citibank, you don't take my word for it, Citibank issued a report only in the last few weeks to the ASX and to it’s investors, they've got a high standard of probity. What they say, people invest on, so pretty authoritative. So they said that our plan would have a marginal impact on terms of companies and the reason is simple; when companies invest in new technology to reduce carbon pollution, it makes them more efficient. I was at Sun Metal up near Townsville, the refinery. They have got a solar farm there. They told me that if they hadn't invested in the solar farm to help supply energy to the refinery, the refinery will be shut.

SPEERS: Ok.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Now well, there’s another one I want to tell you.

SPEERS: But you’re saying it’s marginal.

PRIME MINISTER: I can help him with it if he likes.

OPPOSITION LEADER: No, no.

PRIME MINISTER: He was happy to help me before.

SPEERS: Very quickly

OPPOSITION LEADER: I've just, I've just been in the real world I've seen what's happening.

SPEERS: Ok but you've not given it to us. You’ve not give us this number.

OPPOSITION LEADER: This scare campaign -

SPEERS: Ok, but we’ve not got this number, on the cost.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I was coming - the point you make is this. Every business who is required to lower their carbon pollution, will do it a different way. So how do I tell you an average where one business might have one way to reduce a tonne of carbon pollution and another business would have another way? The question is the equivalent of asking the bushfire brigade when the bush is on fire - why don't you have a committee meeting and work out the cost of water in the hose?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it's not like that at all Bill.

SPEERS: We need to wrap it up.  

PRIME MINISTER:  Because on the safeguard mechanism which would reduce by 75 per cent the allowable emissions that these companies would be subject to, there are 60,000 jobs in around 50 companies operating here in Queensland, who will have to pay more under Bill Shorten's plan. Which means those 60,000 thousand jobs here are put at risk and about half of those and more are upper in central Queensland. There's 100,000 in Western Australia, there's about 30,000 down in Tasmania

Whether it's in the cement industry, or it’s in the gas industry, or in the smelting industry, these are the industries that are going to have to pay more, potentially in foreign carbon credits which come currently at $42 Australian per credit and about at least half of their target is estimated to require those sorts of costs on businesses.

OPPOSITION LEADER: Speersy?

PRIME MINISTER: That could be between $77 billion and $35 billion.

SPEERS: We need to wrap this up gentleman.

OPPOSITION LEADER: The Prime Minister has just spoken a load of rubbish, every other country in the world is dealing with this. Many companies, indeed some of the companies in the industries he's talking about are already de-carbonising; they're already reducing their pollution. This nation needs more for a leader and more for leadership, than someone who can find an excuse to do minimum and bugger all on climate change.

SPEERS: Ok.

OPPOSITION LEADER: It's selling out the future, it's making us the laughing stock of the world and it's not helping business at all, because they're already moving ahead of the government. Real action on climate.

SPEERS: I don't think we're going get agreement between the two of you on this, but we have run over time so we need to move some closing statements, beginning with you Mr Morrison.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you David. Well, I want to thank everybody for the discussion tonight and I want to thank you for your questions and there have been some particular issues raised that I'm very keen to ensure we get those details, particularly the veterans issues and I think it was the lifeline service that was mentioned before.

This is a choice. The choice I think is between a Government that knows how to manage money, because when you manage money you can control what's spent and you never have to go back to you to ask for more and more and more and more. We've seen that before.

It's a Government that wants to lower your taxes, all of your taxes, so you can keep more of what you earn  - and the Labor Party wants to increase it by $387 billion on the economy and hold it back.

We are facing some very difficult times in the years ahead in our economy. Now is not the time to turn back. Now is not the time to put at risk the economy which pays for hospitals and schools and all the important services. You don't increase people's wages by putting up taxes on the economy. You do it by managing the economy successfully into the future. That's how we can guarantee the essential services that you rely on. That's what we've delivered, that's what we'll keep delivering and the times ahead will be difficult and we'll be able to steward you through.

SPEERS: Alright, Mr Shorten.

OPPOSITON LEADER: This nation faces a choice and thank you very much for listening to our spirited debate tonight. The choice is more of the same; do you really think that life has been so fantastic in the last 6 years? I've spoken about the increase to childcare, 28 per cent. The increase of your out of pockets to go and see the doctor, 20 per cent, a specialist nearly 40 per cent. The increase in energy bills in the last 3 years alone, nearly 20 per cent.

Wages have flatlined, penalty rates have been cut. Parents are worried if their kids will ever be able to afford their first home. Older people are worried about whether or not they’re going to be able to get aged care. The pensioners are making choices between prescriptions, energy bills, meals or indeed health care.

This economy is not working in the interests of working people and we've seen chaos, the issue that dare not speak its name. This is the third Liberal prime minister in five and a half years. What we need - and goodness knows what their arrangements they've made with a few of those small parties, what it's going to mean for chaos in the Senate if they get elected - it's time for a change. Labor is making it very clear that a vote for Labor will see pensioners getting proper dental support. A vote for Labor will see the wages moving again. A vote for Labor will see real action on climate change and a vote for Labor will see support for people with their child care costs.

SPEERS: That’s time Mr Shorten.

OPPOSITION LEADER: And we can do this because we're united, because we're stable and because we've made the decision to pay for our promises.Thank you very much.

SPEERS: Thank you both for the final statements, just hold the applause. To everyone in the room, thank you for some terrific real life questions tonight, for the spirited debate that has prompted. Don't forget your wristbands. We want you to pop those in one of the boxes so we can see who you think has won this evening's debate. But would we all please thank Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison.

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