THURSDAY, 31 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison scare campaign, Labor’s positive economic plan, higher education, marriage equality, Senator Hinch’s citizenship.
TERRI BUTLER MP, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR UNIVERSITIES: Well it’s wonderful to be here at QUT, my alma mater. I’m Terri Butler the Federal Member for Griffith and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Universities. And it’s particularly lovely to be here welcoming Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Minister for Finance, and of course Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Education here today on this beautiful Brisbane day. It’s a lovely winter’s morning in Brisbane. So welcome and I think we’ll start with Jim.
JIM CHAMLMERS MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Good morning everybody. We’ve just been treated again to the laughable spectacle of the Treasurer of Australia ranting and raving in his usual breathless way about “reds under the bed”. Is it any wonder that the Australian people don’t take Scott Morrison seriously anymore. He has shown himself again and again, and especially today, to be laughably not up to the job of being the Treasurer of Australia. The more he rants about Bill Shorten and reds under the bed, the more Australians will conclude that Scott Morrison is not up to the task of being Treasurer of this country.
You don’t grow the economy by giving a $65 billion hand out to multinational corporations and the four big banks or by cutting wages for weekend work or by ranting about Bill Shorten. If you want to grow the economy you need to care about investing in people. Growth in this country comes from the bottom up, its inclusive growth that we want. And instead we get from this Treasurer more and more unhinged ranting about Bill Shorten, about reds under the bed. If only he spent as much time on his actual job of growing the economy and fixing the budget instead of ranting about Bill, the country would be much much better off.
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Jim, it’s great to be here with Terri and with Jim to talk about a real plan for economic growth. Labor’s real plan for economic growth includes investing in health and education; making sure wages growth is strong. You see this very sharp contrast, as Jim has just pointed out, with Scott Morrison’s plans. Scott Morrison said today that wages growth was important for economic growth and yet he supports cutting penalty rates and attacking wages. Scott Morrison says that investing in health and education are important for productivity, and yet he supports cuts to health care, cuts to Medicare and cuts to schools, to TAFE and to universities.
Today we’re here at a fantastic university. We’ll have the chance to talk to students and staff about the Government’s plan for university cuts: that will see billions of dollars cut from university funding, which will see fees go up, which will see students having to repay a higher debt sooner for a poorer quality education. That’s not how to boost productivity in Australia, by attacking universities. We’re also in National Skills Week. We know that 148,000 fewer young Australians have an apprenticeship or a traineeship today than when Labor was last in government. We’re actually cutting investment, not just to universities, but also to TAFE, to vocational education, to traineeships. And of course we all know that this government has cut $17 billion from schools funding as well.
If this government is serious about a plan for economic growth, they’ll stop attacking the wages of ordinary working Australians in order to give a $65 billion big business tax cut. They’ll stop cutting health and education funding in order to give big business a $65 billion tax cut. We saw the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, just this week telling universities again that the reason that their funding had been cut by billions of dollars was so that big multinational corporations could get a tax cut. That doesn’t add to our national prosperity. It goes in exactly the wrong direction if we want to be a clever, rich prosperous country.
JOURNALIST: What would Labor do to address the costs that higher education could cost the budget? If you’re opposed to the government’s plan how would you address that?
PLIBERSEK: Education funding is actually growing at around about the same pace as inflation. The idea that higher education costs are growing rapidly is absolutely not true. Australian students already pay the sixth highest contribution to the cost of their own education in the OECD. And we know that every dollar that we spend on higher education returns about $23 to the national economy. So instead of continuing to see this as a cost we need to see it as the real investment in our national prosperity that it is.
JOURNALIST: So no cuts to higher education in Labor’s plan?
PLIBERSEK: Well when we were in government we always insisted that every dollar be well spent but we substantially increased university funding from around $8 billion a year to around $14 billion a year because we know the return we get. We see the research that we get that drives medical discoveries: new medicines, new devices, new procedures. We see the research in engineering, in industrial processes. All of these add to our national prosperity. They are an investment in our prosperity not a cost.
JOURNALIST: What about capping university places then, is that something Labor would look at?
PLIBERSEK: We’re proud of the fact that during our time in government 190,000 extra students won a place in university. We believe that every Australian who is prepared to work hard, to apply themselves, who has got the intellectual gifts should be able to gain a place in a university. Not based on their parent’s income but based on their ability to work hard and their smarts. But we see also that university is not the only path for young Australians. At the same time as we’ve seen university funding continue to grow at a more modest pace in recent years, we’ve seen massive cuts to TAFE, to vocational education and to schools. We need to have an education system that works for children, before they start school with well-funded pre-schools, right through the school years, through vocational education and university. We want every Australian to have the opportunity for a great rewarding well paid job. We won’t do that without investing in our education system.
JOURNALIST: A couple of questions on the same sex marriage debate. What do you say to the argument that are being pushed that legalising gay marriage will impact on school curriculums?
PLIBERSEK: Well it’s just a nonsense argument. And what you see are the opponents of marriage equality trying to make this about anything other than marriage equality because the vast majority of Australians support the idea that if two people love each other they should be able to show that through marriage. The opponents of the marriage equality debate can’t win against love so they’re making it about everything else.
JOURNALIST: And we’ve had former Prime Minister John Howard this morning raising concerns about the protection of religious freedoms and urging the Government to be clearer about this issue. Do you think the Government could do more to ensure religious freedoms are protected, do you think they need to?
PLIBERSEK: Well once again this is a side issue, it’s a diversion from the debate about marriage equality. Everybody supports proper protections for religious freedom. There is nobody in this debate suggesting that any Church should be forced to marry two people of the same gender or that any Church should be forced to do anything against its teaching. We have been absolutely clear from day one that no Church will be forced to solemnise a same sex marriage if it’s against their teachings. So let’s just stick to the issue. If two people love each other should they be able to go down to the Registry office or find a celebrant that is prepared to marry them and get married? Yes they should, it’s a simple as that.
JOURNALIST: And Derryn Hinch, do you think his position is in doubt with these latest concerns about his citizenship?
PLIBERSEK: Look I couldn’t comment. I’m not sure that we have the full details, it’s really for Senator Hinch to answer those questions.