SUNDAY, 14 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: Liberals’ cuts to TAFEs and apprentices; Cormann’s refusal to outline tax handouts for wealthiest Australians; Labor’s investments in health, cancer treatment and the NDIS; Peter Dutton’s slurs against Australians with a disability; Great Barrier Reef and climate change; franking credits; Labor’s plan for better hospitals, not bigger tax loopholes
JIM CHALMERS, LABOR CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Scott Morrison's made an announcement about training and youth unemployment today. This is another dodgy con job from a dodgy snake oil salesman. The Liberal Party and Scott Morrison have cut $3 billion from training and skills and apprenticeships in the last six years. There are 150,000 fewer apprentices in Australia right now than when they came to office in 2013. TAFE enrolment has dropped by 24.5 per cent during the life of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government. Scott Morrison can't run from his shameful record on cutting investment in training. Scott Morrison can't run from his shameful and atrocious record when it comes to investment in training and apprenticeships in this country. No arbitrary jobs target that he plucks out of the air a few weeks out from an election will make up for six years of big cuts to TAFEs, apprenticeships, skills and opportunities for our young people.
Labor will invest $1 billion in skills and apprenticeships and TAFE. We will create 100,000 free-fee places. We will create 150,000 apprentice incentives in areas where there is a skills shortage. And we'll make sure that on every big Government project every 10th worker is an Australian apprentice. That's because we do understand that this election is about choices. Bill Shorten has just run through the choices, and the things which are at stake in this election. This election is a choice between better hospitals and schools and TAFEs, or bigger tax breaks for the top end of town.
Mathias Cormann was on TV this morning all at sea, with his inability to admit that his tax policy - the Liberals' tax policy - will hand tens of billions of dollars to the wealthiest Australians at the expense of hospitals and schools and TAFEs in middle Australia. Mathias Cormann and the Liberal Party have to come clean and admit - they need to 'fess up - that their tax plan is designed to take money out of hospitals and schools and TAFEs, and give it to the wealthiest Australians in this country. The Australia Institute says that $77 billion of the Government's tax plan will go to those in the top tax bracket, and that is a shameful indictment on the warped and misguided priorities of this Liberal Government, and just how out of touch they are. That they want to take money out of our hospitals and schools and TAFEs and give it to those who need it least.
This election is about choices. Labor chooses to invest $2.8 billion to restore Scott Morrison's cuts to hospitals. We choose to invest $2.3 billion - a game-changing investment in cancer care and treatment in this country. We choose to invest $40 milion into getting the workforce that the NDIS needs and deserves if they are to properly invest in Australians with a disability. And the contrast couldn't be clearer. There are too many Australians with a disability waiting for the care that they were promised, and that's because we have a Liberal Government that celebrates that fact that while people wait they can prop up their Budget with $1.6 billion of savings out of the NDIS.
This is a Government where a senior minister slurs Australians with a disability, and says that they use their disability as an excuse. Peter Dutton's half-hearted apology yesterday is too little, too late. And Scott Morrison is yet to apologise for backing Peter Dutton's shameful comments about Australians with a disability. When Scott Morrison backed in Peter Dutton's shameful comments, it showed that Scott Morrison had failed the leadership test, the character test and a values test. They need to front the cameras - Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton - and give a genuine apology; not just to Ali France, as important as that is, but to the millions of Australians who would never use their disability as an excuse for anything. Over to you.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Coalition's promise to (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: I think Australians will judge Scott Morrison on his record and not what he plucks out of the air weeks before an election. Whether it's this arbitrary jobs target for young people, or whatever else he says in the next few weeks, people know and understand and they won't forget or forgive the fact that Scott Morrison has pulled $3 billion out of training and skills and apprenticeships. There are 150,000 fewer apprentices now in this country than there were in 2013 when this Liberal Government came to office. So I think Australians will see through these kinds of stunts and these kinds of announcements only a few weeks before an election - 34 days now from an election - less than five weeks. They will see through that and they will judge him on his shameful record. They will judge the Liberals on six years of cuts and chaos.
JOURNALIST: Mr Chalmers, a Freedom of Information release shows that the Great Barrier Reef is facing massive increases in the number of bleaching experiences. Will a Labor policy around the environment do enough to limit that climate change, at least globally, partially, to prevent that destruction?
CHALMERS: We're confident that the climate change policy that Bill Shorten and Mark Butler announced a couple of weeks ago now will start to turn around the shameful increase in emissions that we've seen under this Government for a whole range of reasons, but including to make sure that we can look after what is one of Australia's greatest assets, the Great Barrier Reef. Remember, the Liberal Party's policy on the Great Barrier Reef was to funnel half a billion dollars towards their mates in the Great Barrier Reef Fund. Money that wasn't asked for, and that was advised against by the Department. Labor will always have a more effective policy on climate change, and a more effective policy to protect all of the jobs that go with having one of the natural wonders of the world.
JOURNALIST: Regarding health funding, Labor actually committing to a 50-50 split with the states?
CHALMERS: We're committing to restore to the $2.8 billion that Scott Morrison will rip out of health to fund his tax cuts for the top end of town. That $2.8 billion does represent the difference between the 50 per cent funding that Labor had agreed and the 45 per cent funding that the Liberals have cut it back to. We think that will make a big difference for the provision of health services in our hospitals, whether it be more doctors and nurses and beds, more capital upgrades, particularly for our stretched emergency departments.
JOURNALIST: But there's no set cap? There's no set cap? In other words, if the states spend more, it won't be 50-50, is that correct?
CHALMERS: The commitment we're making is for a $2.8 billion injection to restore Scott Morrison's cuts to our hospitals.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's misleading to suggest it's a cut, because it's just not matching what Labor is (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: No, that's not true. The difference between the Liberals and Labor when it comes to funding the activities that happen in our hospitals is Labor had established a 50 per cent benchmark, the Liberals have cut that back now to 45 per cent. For those people who for billions of dollars or percentages are not that easy to grasp, what it means on the ground and in our hospitals is that Scott Morrison is pulling out funding that goes towards more beds, more doctors, more nurses, more care, and more investment in our overstretched emergency departments.
JOURNALIST: So Jim, your next agreement will be 50 per cent with the states? That's what you're promising?
CHALMERS: Our next agreement will contain the $2.8 billion-
JOURNALIST: -No, no, no, it will be 50-50 with the states? Will that next agreement be 50-50?
CHALMERS: As it stands right now, the $2.8 billion represents the restoration of the 50-50.
JOURNALIST: Jim, the Centre Alliance say they won't assist Labor in getting dividend imputation through the Senate. Is it time for a reality check on the franking credits policy if it's not going to pass Parliament?
CHALMERS: There's a couple of hypotheticals there.
JOURNALIST: They're saying they won't vote for it. How will you get it through?
CHALMERS: We don't know the make-up of the new Senate. We don't know the outcome of the election. We're not getting ahead of ourselves. What we are doing is we are laying out policies well in advance and seeking a mandate for those policies, whether they be in tax, whether they be in health, in education and right across the board. Nobody can accuse us of keeping our policies hidden. There's none of what Tony Abbott did, which is to promise one thing before the election and another thing afterwards. We've been very clear, we are seeking a mandate of our tax changes. We will deal with the hands that we're dealt in the Senate.
JOURNALIST: Jim, if you are serious about being so open with your policies, if you're a critic of the $77 billion in tax cuts for higher income earners, isn't Labor in effect saying higher income earners will never get a tax cut under us? That's the read on the rhetoric, isn't it?
CHALMERS: You can draw your own conclusions. What we're saying-
JOURNALIST: -No, I'm asking you to draw yours.
CHALMERS: Let me finish. What we are saying is that when we've got a Budget where debt has doubled under the life of this Liberal Government, when we've got all of the need in our hospitals and schools, we make different choices to our Liberal opponents. And what we've said for some time now is that the country can't afford to give tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks millionaires or multinationals. The country can't afford that and it wouldn't be fair in any case. We've got different priorities and our highest priority is to invest in schools and hospitals and TAFEs and to give tax relief to people who are more likely to spend it in our floundering economy; people who need it more to provide for their loved ones.
JOURNALIST: Labor has seized on the Prime Minister (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: Not at all, thanks very much.