MONDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: 2016 Election; Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for a 15 per cent GST on everything; Labor’s ‘Your Child, Our Future’ schools funding plan
JOURNALIST: After everything that's happened over the summer break, the Coalition is still in the lead 53-47. That must be worrying for you guys.
CHALMERS: Not at all. I think it's great that we're in the election year now. Australians have got a really simple choice - they can choose better schools or they can choose a higher GST. They can choose making every school better or they can choose making everything more expensive.
JOURNALIST: But with the GST, you've got 37 per cent of people who do support changes to the GST, despite the fact that there are no plans on the table. Again, that must be worrying for you guys.
CHALMERS: I don't think there's broad support in the community at all to make everything more expensive with a higher GST. There is support in the community - including in my community - to make every school better. That's what this year's about - making every school better or making everything more expensive. A really clear choice. I'm confident that when we make the case, we'll be very competitive.
JOURNALIST: But Bill Shorten has pretty much visited every supermarket in Australia talking about the GST and there's been no change in the opinion polls as a result. Again, is there any concern about that?
CHALMERS: Well, the election isn't today, the election is at some point later in the year. For some time, we've been releasing policies - more policies than any other Opposition in two decades, that I can recall. We've got a very substantial pledge out there to the Australian people to improve every school, while the Government works away at their plan to make everything more expensive by jacking up the GST. We think that when those plans are laid out and there is genuine contest that we will be very competitive.
JOURNALIST: What's the level of tension within the Labor Party over Jay Weatherill's comments about the GST?
CHALMERS: Well I think Jay Weatherill has the right to put his views out there about the GST, but his views should be based on fact. He's entirely wrong about the funding of Labor's plan to improve every school in the country, entirely wrong about the details we've put out there. We've put out tens of billions of dollars in savings, more than any Opposition in some time. If he wants to participate in the debate, he's got a responsibility to get his facts straight. And then from there, he's welcome to say whatever he likes about our plans. We're confident about our plans. We oppose jacking up the GST. We oppose making everything more expensive and we've got a funded plan to improve every school in this country.
JOURNALIST: Well Bill Shorten's approval rating is slightly up, does that encourage you?
CHALMERS: I think this election is going to be about the issues - the two issues that I have mentioned. Australians will have a choice about making every school better or about making everything more expensive. The leaders' contest is important, but it's not the only thing. It's about people in our community. We've just come back from months in our communities - weeks and weeks in our community since the Parliament last sat. And what's very clear is that people can't afford an increased GST and people want their schools improved. You can't talk about innovation in this country without improving schools. That's our plan, that's what the election is all about.
JOURNALIST: What about Mike Baird's plan this morning about increasing the GST but having the proceeds help fund the gap in health and education spending?
CHALMERS: Well Mike Baird's plans for the GST have been well-known. He's talking about trying to improve funding for schools and hospitals. It's definitely the case that Malcolm Turnbull is still pulling out tens of billions of dollars from schools and hospitals. It's no surprise that people are looking for a way to fill that gap. We don't think that's the way to do it.