TUESDAY, 17 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Infrastructure in Australia and the Sunshine Coast; Liberals backtracking for multinational tax action; Labor protecting penalty rates.
BILL GISSANE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FISHER: It's terrific to have Dr Leigh with us here today. The Mayor challenged all candidates to get senior members of the parties, the respective parties, onto the Sunshine Coast to explain exactly what our needs are. I'm pleased to say that Andrew is the first amongst many senior people from the Labor Party who are going to grace us with their presence and I’m sure he'll have plenty to tell you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's great to be back on the Sunshine Coast, a place where I would frequently visit my grandparents when they lived in Caloundra. I'm here with Bill Gissane, talking about Labor's positive plan for the Sunshine Coast. Labor believes the Sunshine Coast will benefit from the strong emphasis on infrastructure which is based on the needs of Australians, not simply on pork barrelling in marginal seats. Bill Shorten has committed Labor to a “concrete bank”, to making decisions at arm’s length from party politics based on what the needs of communities are. That concrete bank will have benefits to the Sunshine Coast and right across Australia. We've had a 20 per cent fall in public infrastructure investment since the Coalition came to office and the last Budget ripped a billion dollars out of infrastructure investment. Labor believes we need to spend smart on infrastructure investment, on the Sunshine Coast and across Australia. To do that we've obviously got to have revenue and Labor is committed to making sure multinationals pay their fair share. I've been troubled in recent days to see Scott Morrison walking away from plans to tighten thin capitalisation rules. Kelly O'Dwyer walking away from a register of beneficial ownership. Josh Frydenberg standing up at industry conferences defending tax loopholes for multinationals. Only Labor will get tough on multinationals, making sure they pay their fair share so that Australians can get the schools and hospitals we deserve and the infrastructure that a growing population demands. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Can we expect any funding commitments for the Sunshine Coast?
LEIGH: Certainly Labor's funding commitments will be rolling out over the seven weeks to come – the longest election campaign since 1954 - and we'll be making those based on the needs of communities. A Labor Government committed to the upgrade of the Bruce Highway and that's been, of course, re-announced on the Magical Mystery Re-Announcement Tour the Coalition has gone on. But there is not a single new infrastructure project coming out of the last Budget. Deeply disappointing given the cuts to infrastructure we've seen under this Government.
JOURNALIST: Bill, what is it that you want to see for the area of Fisher?
GISSANE: I'm taking out the Mayor's challenge to make sure that our elected representatives and our senior people know exactly what the Sunshine Coast needs. By having them here firsthand, they can see the problems we have, the opportunities we have. If I can get a fair hearing from them, I'm very confident we can get some money coming our way because they can see the value in what we're doing here.
JOURNALIST: Are you hoping for more developments like SunCentral?
GISSANE: Not necessarily. I think our focus is going to be on infrastructure that supports SunCentral. Caloundra has many needs, it is smack-bang in the middle of Fisher and I want to make sure our people in Canberra, our leaders in Canberra, understand the specific needs we have here on the Coast.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell me what your opinion is on penalty rates? Obviously that is a bit of a topic of discussion this morning?
LEIGH: Labor is the party that has fought for penalty rates. We believe penalty rates are important for defending our weekends, making sure that people who work in a cafe on a weekend are appropriately remunerated for the work they do. Penalty rates sustain people on low and average wages. The campaign by the Liberals to strip away penalty rates reveals they simply don't understand the needs of low-wage workers and don't understand the value to all Australians of keeping the weekend as a time when most people can be out there enjoying time with friends and family.
JOURNALIST: How can Labor make sure that penalty rates do stay?
LEIGH: We have made a strong submission to the independent arbitrator. We believe that penalty rates are vitally important in Australia and Labor will fight to defend them against a Coalition Government that would like to see workers not paid penalty rates and therefore, go backwards. We have got the lowest wage growth in 30 years and the Liberals answer to that is to cut wages still further.
JOURNALIST: What is your opinion of the issue here on the Sunshine Coast? Obviously tourism is a huge sector.
GISSANE: Penalty rates are an essential part of the wage structure on the Sunshine Coast. We do not have high wages on the Sunshine Coast. Let me repeat that: we do not have high wages on the Sunshine Coast. If a person is stacking shelves on the weekend and that makes up their wage, it's totally unfair to take that away from them. However, we do need to converse with small business. There are possibilities for flexibility in the system and we've got to look for a cooperative approach, not a conflict.
JOURNALIST: Now, Fisher is obviously a LNP stronghold. How confident are you that Labor can maybe swing the vote?
LEIGH: With a candidate like Bill, I think we're in there with a shot. The thing about Bill is he is somebody who deeply understands the issues, has a delightful self-deprecating sense of humour, which came through last night in a community forum we held in Maleny. Not taking yourself too seriously goes a long way in politics. Bill is somebody who is passionate about the needs of the people he aspires to represent, but not full of himself. He will be a great member for Fisher and somebody who will ensure that the Sunshine Coast is never taken for granted in the halls of power in Canberra.