If elected, Labor is ready to lead - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

CANBERRA

THURSDAY, 16 MAY 2019

SUBJECTS: Labor’s Fair Go Action Plan for the ACT, Labor’s plans to make multinationals pay their fair share, Labor’s plans to make childcare more affordable for Australian families. 

ANDREW LEIGH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FENNER: Good morning. My name's Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and federal Member for Fenner. We’re here today with the ACT Labor team, launching Labor's Fair Go Action Plan for Canberra. There's a huge amount in it, so we’re going to take it in turns to go through each of the important parts of what Labor would do for Canberra. We have here our full complement of ACT House candidates, Dave Smith and Alicia Payne, as well as myself, and our two Senate candidates, Katy Gallagher and Nancy Waites. 

We're enormously proud of the positive plan that Labor has put forward for Australia and today's work reflects how much better off Canberra would be under a Shorten Labor Government. I’ll hand over now to Katy.

KATY GALLAGHER, FIRST LABOR SENATE CANDIDATE: Thanks, Andrew. I’m just going to go through the health commitments. I think in the last few weeks, we've seen day after day announcements from the ACT Labor team about commitments specifically made for Canberra that fit under the national ALP strategy of a fair go for all. It's very appropriate that we make today in the Capital Region Cancer Centre, which is a symbol of what happens when Labor governments work together. This was funded under the previous federal Labor Government and the ACT Government to deliver a specialised cancer centre for people in the ACT and it's absolutely fantastic that it's here providing that service not just Canberra residents, but to the surrounding region as well.

The commitments that we have from federal Labor work in partnership with the ACT Government again. A specialist in-patient palliative care centre to complement the services that are offered here. An outpatient centre at Calvary which is where a lot of the elective surgery work is done, so really important that surgeons have their outpatient rooms to see people. Also upgrades to the QEII Family Centre which has served this community for over 60 years. Fantastic to have that offering for mums and babies. And importantly, the pensioner dental program which for anyone spend any time in health knows that your dental health is linked to your overall health and often pensioners simply can't afford the dental work they need. So under Labor's plan 32,000 pensioners will be able to access Labor's pensioner dental plan, which again is $1,000 every two years to help you meet those costs, which everyone knows who’ve had dental work are extraordinary.

So I think that sums up really the major features of the health package. We've obviously got the other initiatives around reducing elective surgery waiting lists and investments in the emergency department, which also will go to help meet the demand of this busy tertiary hospital, but also Calvary Hospital as well.

ALICIA PAYNE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CANBERRA: Hello. I’m Alicia Payne, Labor’s candidate for the seat of Canberra. One of the issues that Canberrans raise with me more than any other is that they want to see action on climate change. Labor has a plan to get to 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and zero pollution by 2050. Our plan includes investing in renewable energy by doubling the capital for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and helping households to get solar batteries. We want to see more electric cars on the roads, and we're going to work with our biggest polluters to reduce their pollution. We're also going to create a new Australian Environment Act that would factor climate change into national law for the first time and ensure that the federal government returns to taking a leadership role in protecting our environment. We would ban single use plastic bags and micro beads from 2021. We're also investing in programs to deal with the extinction crisis.

Labor will take serious action by our environment. Here in the ACT, my colleagues and I have been able to secure over $2 million for funding to work with community groups to clean up now urban waterways, which is such an important part of life here in Canberra. These areas are so important for water quality flowing into Lake Burley Griffin and also provide an important home for birds and other wildlife. We've also secured funding to work with the ACT Government on a more connected network of bike paths around our city.

DAVID SMITH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BEAN: I'm Dave Smith, Labor's candidate for Bean. Labor’s committed to delivering really important and overdue infrastructure to the electorate of Bean. In concert with the ACT Government, we’ll be delivering a new $6 million indoor sports complex. There’s $4 million that will be going into upgrading and constructing new bike paths around the electorate of Bean in the Tuggeranong Valley.

But one of the issues that keeps coming up on doors for me is constituents want a government that will stand up for their workforce and stand up for those workers’ families and that's what Labor would deliver from day one of the Shorten Government. On day one, a Labor Government would be committed to supporting fair and better wages through a new submission to the national wage case which will be coming up in the coming weeks after a federal election. We’ll restore the penalty rate cuts which have done so much damage to the hip pockets of workers right across retail, hospitality, pharmacy, and if we don’t make a change will affect other areas as well too. But even more importantly, and this is a real distinction between Labor and the government, is we’ll be creating new low cost jurisdiction so that workers will be able to get their entitlements back in a way that doesn't leave them broke and happens in a timely fashion, whilst the government is relying on the preferences of the party that actually supports ripping off workers

NANCY WAITES, SECOND LABOR SENATE CANDIDATE: Thanks, David. My name's Nancy Waites, I'm the second Senate candidate for ACT Labor. And we're ready to invest two hundred million in stage two of Canberra's bright light rail future. But the Liberals are still in the dark about what it takes to make this the country's most liveable city. Canberrans have been tapping onto light rail stage one with such enthusiasm that extra services have been added. And we’re ready to give Canberrans two hundred million more reasons to love light rail stage two. We know that in two decades’ time, 200,000 Canberrans will be living within one kilometre of the Woden corridor, and with light rail stage two they'll be able to have a smooth journey home, avoiding growing congestion and also spending more time with family friends. And roads are part of the story too. We will invest 250 million in duplicating the Barton Highway from Murrumbateman through to the ACT-New South Wales border. And there will also be 68 million to go into creating the Dunns Creek Road, to create a stronger connection between the rapidly growing population of Googong and Canberra.

We know that Canberra is a growing vibrant city, but at the same time some of us are doing it pretty tough. There are around 26,000 Canberrans who are currently living below the poverty line and we know that it's the way that we work with vulnerable communities that is the true measure of us as a community. And so Labor will reverse the Liberals’ cuts to emergency assistance organizations, enabling these vital groups to work with Canberrans - groups such as Communites@Work and the YWCA and the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services here in the ACT. And with Labor's cuts to taxes, We’ll have 52,000 working Canberrans paying fewer taxes and being able therefore to make ends meet more easily, particularly for those on low incomes. So we believe - we're making these changes because we believe in a fairer Australia and also in creating communities where everyone can flourish, particularly the most vulnerable.

LEIGH: Thanks, Nancy. The ACT is a public service town. Many of us have worked in the public service, at the moment or in the past. And yet under the Liberals, we've seen the public service literally decimated. We've seen more than one in 10 federal public servants who work in our great city leaving their jobs. Under federal Labor, we see a much brighter future for the Australian public service. We’ll remove the arbitrary average staffing level cap, which is only having the result that Australians are getting worse services and that there’s fewer full time ongoing staff in the federal public service. We've seen a blowout in spending on consultants and contractors. Labor will rein that back in, in favour of having ongoing staff and the institutional knowledge that brings. One of the reasons we've seen the Census failure, the ATO website outages, the robodebt scandal, problems in the National Disability Insurance Agency is this arbitrary public service cap. Under Labor, that goes. We’ll make savings on consultants, contractors and travel to make sure that we return the budget to surplus faster than the Coalition and we begin the hard work of paying down government debt, more than half of which has been accumulated under the Liberals.

I know many Canberrans are passionate about education and under Labor, we’ll see pre-school extended to three year olds. Every public school in Canberra will get more resources. We’ll provide additional vocational opportunities, with 100,000 fee-free vocational education places nationally. We’ll uncap university places, which will mean that nationally 200,000 more young people will be able to attend university. More than 3,000 young people in Canberra will go to university who wouldn't get a spot without a Labor Government. Labor believes passionately that we need to invest in education.

In contrast to the Liberals’ chaos and cuts, we present a unified team. Even today, you've got Barnaby Joyce attacking his Coalition partners. Right here in the ACT, it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that Zed Seselja doesn't get endorsed by his predecessor Gary Humphries, because that's the guy he knocked off. When you ask Kate Carnell who she thinks would make a good senator, she's got some pretty positive things to say about one of the independents who is running in the ACT race. By contrast, Labor's done the hard work. We're unified nationally, we’re unified here in the ACT. If we're given the privilege of governing on Saturday, we will ensure that all Australians and all Canberrans are better off. We’re happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: You guys are promising millions here, millions there. But when you look at the bigger breakup of the federal funding pie, we see cities like Melbourne or Sydney getting billions here, billions there. Does it not pay to be a safe Labor seat for Canberra?

LEIGH: Let’s look at the last big infrastructure project funded by the federal government in the ACT. You won't find one under the Coalition. You have to go back to the Majura Parkway, half funded by the Gillard Government. And if we look at the Morrison Government's last budget, it had a desultory $20 million in infrastructure spending for the ACT. Federal Labor sees the importance of the ACT getting its fair share of infrastructure spending. As Nancy pointed out, that $200 million investment in light rail stage two is 200 million more reasons why Canberrans should be able to enjoy the benefits of light rail and the benefits to reducing congestion for motorists.

JOURNALIST: Andrew, you’ve spoken about the gulf approaching close to half a billion dollars between Labor and the Coalition promising Canberra specifically. Zed Seselja says Labor is able to promise more and spend more because you’re taxiing more. What would be your response to that?

LEIGH: Well, if you're a tax-dodging multinational, then you will pay more tax under Labor. If you are trying to shift your profits off to the Cayman Islands, you will pay more tax under Labor. Labor’s willing to crack down on tax dodging multinationals because we've done the hard work in opposition. Starting with our first multinational tax policy in 2015, we've now built up nearly 20 policies that will crack down on multinational profit shifting. So we'll make those tough decisions. But don't believe the Liberals’ scare campaigns. It's all they’ve got. If they had positive plans, they wouldn't be parking black trucks and putting black signs by the side of the road. It's a black mark by their name because they just don't have anything positive to say to Canberrans.

JOURNALIST: As of close of business yesterday, I think around three and a half million Australian voters had already voted. Do you think three weeks is too much time for pre polling? Did you do enough perhaps in the lead up to pre poll in the last two weeks say before this week to get those votes?

LEIGH: We've done plenty work on pre-poll, maybe I should get Nancy to supplement this. We’ll obviously look at the duration of pre-poll after the election, it will be an issue to be discussed as many issues coming out of the campaign. But we’ve had some great conversations on pre-poll, all of us have spent many hours there and enjoyed that opportunity to engage with voters. Nancy?

WAITES:  Yes, there have been some great conversations at pre-poll and as Alicia was saying, one of the biggest issues that is raised with us is climate change. This really is the climate election. People are wanting to see action and as I keep reminding voters, we have a 20 page plan that lays out a comprehensive approach to how we can tackle climate change in this country.

JOURNALIST: The ACT Greens are today moving a motion that there should be a climate emergency declared. Is that something that Labor agrees with?

LEIGH: There are clearly serious issues going on with the climate. Whether we talk about a specific declaration of a climate emergency or not, we know that there are catastrophic risks to the Great Barrier Reef if we don't act on climate change. Rather than bringing lumps of coal into parliament, we need serious action to reduce emissions. We saw our emissions going down under the last Labor government and we’ve seen emissions going up under the Coalition government. And we've seen power prices going up at the same time. So only Labor will take serious action on climate change. If you want to see a reduction in Australia’s carbon emissions, there’s only one way to achieve it - vote Labor on Saturday.

JOURNALIST: How much of a threat do you consider the ACT’s independent candidates?

LEIGH: It’s a great democracy and people in the ACT have many, many political views. I love seeing more people standing for politics. But if you want to get things done, you need a party of government. You need a party that can put forward a prime minister with a clear mandate of change. We've done that hard work, unified under Bill Shorten for six years. We have more positive policies than any opposition in my lifetime – maybe in the post-war era – has brought to an election. We're pretty proud of that hard work we've done. We are as ready to govern as any opposition has ever been.

JOURNALIST: Canberrans are probably paying more than anywhere else in the country for child care. Labor's childcare policy has been criticised, concerns that smaller operators will be subject to payroll tax. What assurances can you give that if elected, Labor’s childcare policy will see those savings passed on to parents and make sure the wages of quality workers are raised?

LEIGH: We will ensure that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has appropriate powers to ensure that the significant resources we're putting into early childhood flow through to benefit parents. This will benefit all families earning less than $174,000. We're not only extending pre-school to three year-olds, we're also ensuring that childcare is more affordable and we're ensuring that the wages of early childhood educators rise to a level which is commensurate with their talents and the importance of their work. So we'll have that careful price monitoring power. As Bill Shorten said, if we see that that the monitoring power from the ACCC isn’t having our intended effect, we're willing to step in with an even more forceful approach. So we will put parents and kids first in ensuring that we get those child care reforms right.

No other questions? Thanks, everyone.

ENDS

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.