DOORSTOP TRANSCRIPT - Monday 24 February, 2014

Joining a cycle of doorstops at Parliament House this morning, I spoke to reporters about the Group 20 Financial Ministers Communique that commits leaders to boosting GDP. Ultimately the success of the G20 in Australia will be judged around tangible results including job creation.



SUBJECT/S: G20 growth target; multinational profit shifting and tax; Manus Island; Craig Thomson; Sydney’s second airport

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION: We've seen the headline recommendation coming out of the weekend G20 meetings as being a two per cent growth boost. Now, no one can object to that. Two per cent more growth is of course a good thing. But, an aspiration is not a plan. And from Joe Hockey, what we're getting is hints of a set of policies that are going to cut into growth at the same time that he aspires to more growth. If I came out here and told you that I'd like my running times to be two per cent faster, but I was going to sell my jogging shoes and sack my jogging partner, you'd have reason to doubt me. So, when Joe Hockey tells you that he's going to boost Australia's growth rate but he's not going to build the NBN, not build urban rail, hacking into school funding and Trades Training Centres - and potentially demand driven universities - Australians have a right to ask 'well, how serious are you are you about this growth target?'

The other thing we saw out of the G20 was a proposal to move on multinational profit-shifting. It's essentially the same proposal that Wayne Swan and David Bradbury took to last year's G20. But three-quarters of a billion dollars has been dropped from it because the Government wasn't willing to go hard on multinational profit-shifting. So that's $700 million, around the cost of a new hospital, which has got to be made up for in service cuts or tax increases. The Government is walking away from good moves on multinational profit shifting and they're walking back on transparency of multinational tax paid, which has really got to leave you asking the question, ‘how serious are they about making sure that all companies pay their fair share of tax?’

JOURNALIST: Do you think Scott Morrison should be sacked?

LEIGH: I think we need a proper investigation on what's occurred on Manus Island. It's a location that is integral to maintaining the refugee policy which Labor put in place and which saw a 90 per cent decrease in boat arrivals before the election. And that investigation needs to happen quickly. It needs to be independent and not in a matter of a year or so, but happen speedily.

JOURNALIST: Would you agree with the Greens calling for a royal commission?

LEIGH: I sometimes feel as though this parliament is doing nothing but calling for royal commissions. I think a quick acting independent investigation can allow us to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. When you've got the Minister coming out at nine o'clock on a Saturday night admitting that he misled the Australian people, we need a quick and independent investigation.

JOURNALIST: Are there any merits to the [inaudible] Cambodia [inaudible]?

LEIGH: I'm not in the business of responding to thought bubbles from the Government. If the Government has a serious policy proposal they want to put to the Opposition, we're happy to entertain those.

JOURNALIST: It's more than a thought-bubble. The Foreign Affairs Minister is canvassing the option.

LEIGH: If the Government has proposals we will talk to them about those and we'll apply to those the principles that we brought to bringing about the Refugee Resettlement Agreement.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about Cambodia specifically? It's been described as an authoritarian regime.

LEIGH: If the Government has a serious proposal to put to us, we're happy to do that. But this is a Government that takes great joy in floating ideas, whether they're economic or foreign policy. We'll respond to serious policy proposals.

JOURNALIST: What about a motion to investigate whether Craig Thomson has misled parliament. Would you support that?

LEIGH: Well as Tony Burke has already said this morning, Labor supported that motion in the last parliament. And if it needs another motion of parliament to get it up, we're happy to support it.

JOURNALIST: Do you support a second Sydney airport at Badgery's Creek?

LEIGH: Certainly I think that Sydney needs a second airport and sorting out the precise location is a matter that will be nailed down by NSW colleagues. But you get a strong sense that Sydney Airport is at capacity and that that's a real brake on the productivity of the region. It's one of those infrastructure issues I spoke about before. Unless you get the infrastructure right, it's hard to see why we should take aspirational growth targets seriously.

JOURNALIST: And do you understand why Western Sydney MPs are so upset about it though?

LEIGH: There's invariably politics around the locations of airports. I do think it's important to expand the air transport capacity of our biggest city - the gateway to the region for many Australians. If you're not willing to make those tough calls, and it's not just on airline infrastructure, it's also on urban rail which the Government has walked out of, it's also about the National Broadband Network. If you're not willing to make those calls, then you're not serious about growth.

JOURNALIST: So, Bill Shorten's right in backing that then?

LEIGH: The details of location would be a matter for Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten and my NSW colleagues but my firm view is that Sydney needs another airport. Thanks folks.


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