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Transcript of press conference: Westfield, Penrith: 23 August 2013: Western Sydney blitz; small business package; National Broadband Network; Mr Abbott's $70 billion of cuts; Merrill Lynch on Coalition's budget black hole; Paid Parental Leave; Coles and Woolworths; Abbott's boat buyback policy; Better Schools; News Limited; jobs

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Campaign Transcript


23 AUGUST 2013

E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Western Sydney blitz; Small business package; National Broadband Network’ Mr Abbott’s $70 billion of cuts; Merrill Lynch on Coalition’s budget black hole; Paid Parental Leave; Coles and Woolworths; Abbott’s boat buyback policy; Better Schools; News Limited; Jobs. _____________________________________________________________

PM: It’s great to be out here in Penrith with a fantastic local member, David Bradbury. It’s good to be here in the part of Australia that he proudly represents and it's good to be today right across a whole bunch of seats in Western Sydney. This is a tough election campaign. We are fighters and we intend to take the message out to the people of Western Sydney as we do right across the country about how we best build the new industries and jobs of the future and contrasting that with the cuts and cuts and more cuts which Mr Abbott stands to deliver if he's elected Prime Minister.

We’ve spent a week or so focussing in this campaign on how to build the new industries of the future and the new jobs of the future, whether they were in manufacturing, whether they were in the services industries, whether they were in mining services, whether they are in oil and gas, whether they're in medical research and whether they're going to be generated by the National Broadband Network because we believe in jobs and jobs are going to be created by the new industries of the future.

We've also spent a week or so in this campaign focussing on the contrast between what we intend to build and the jobs that we are getting behind for the future and where those $70 billion worth of cuts that Mr Abbott talks about are going to fall. Cuts to jobs, cuts to health, cuts to education. And we, therefore, believe that this is a very clear contrast between our plan for building the country's future and his plan for cutting and cutting to the bone.

We've also today been talking about cost of living pressures and I know they are real here in Western Sydney as well. And about what we've done in partnership with the Reserve Bank to keep our interest rates at the lowest they've been in 60 years, to

make sure that people on average incomes are paying less tax now than they were five or six years ago. That we're helping families, having increased the Childcare Rebate from 30 to 50 per cent and also through practical measures like what we're doing with the Schoolkids Bonus. And this we contrast on cost of living arrangements with the whole debate about paid parental leave. And on Paid Parental Leave, we're out there proud of our scheme, modest and affordable, out there already helping more than 300,000 Australian families. But the contrast is just unbelievable with Mr Abbott's uncosted, unaffordable, unfair and just irresponsible paid parental leave scheme, which would pay $75,000 for millionaires to have a baby, for six months.

So that's what we've been doing out there arguing our plans for building the jobs and industries of the future and we've spent a solid week or so in contrasting that with Mr Abbott's plans to cut, cut and cut jobs, health, as well as education services, and bringing that to bear on the big debate about paid parental leave. Our affordable scheme, his unaffordable scheme. Our fair scheme, his unfair scheme. Our economically responsible scheme, his economically irresponsible $22 billion scheme designed, it seems, to help millionaires have a bub.

Today, we and the period ahead, we're going to be focussing again on how we build the new jobs and industries of the future. Out here in Western Sydney, people must have jobs. Right across Australia, people must have jobs. If you don't have jobs there's no household pay packet. If you don't have a household pay packet, it affects everything. And so one of the big generators of jobs are small businesses like this one here. Small businesses are the heart and soul of the Australian economy. And we've got more than three million of them and they employ about five million Australians and our job is to make sure that we make their working day as easy as possible, so that they can focus on making fantastic bread and not having to deal with a whole bunch of red tape.

And so on red tape in the last few days what we've outlined is our plans to cut red tape when it comes to compliance with superannuation payments, using the Clearing House. We've outlined our plans to cut red tape for small business by allowing small businesses to use another government service to deal with paid parental leave, so that they don't have that administrative burden as well. But the third one today, which I will talk about and ask David briefly to add to, is cutting red tape when it comes to compliance with the Goods and Services Tax.

Pretty simply it's like this, right now in small businesses if you've got a small business generating more than $2 million in its GST turnover, they are required to submit four Business Activity Statements every year. Now, that's a lot of red tape and we understand that it takes about - the GST compliance represents about half of the time it takes for small businesses overall compliance with business tax regulation. So, we want to cut that further. At present, as I said, it's four BAS statements a year. If you've got a business generating more than $2 million worth of turnover. What we're going to do is multiply that by 10. So if you've got a business with a turnover, for GST purposes, of $20 million, as of the re-election of our government, if the people return us, we are going to make sure that those small businesses only have to submit one BAS statement a year, not four, if that's what they want to do. That reduces enormously the overall burden of business compliance, on the part of the small businesses of Australia. And the beneficiaries of

this nationwide will be 1.35 million Australian small businesses. It's all about taking some of the burden off small business.

I’ll conclude by just saying this, we're in the business of making it easier for small business to get out there and prosper, whereas Mr Abbott is imposing on small businesses and independent retirees and families the tax burden to pay for his unaffordable, unfair and irresponsible paid parental leave scheme. Do you want to add something on the tax changes?

BRADBURY: Thanks very much. It's great to have the Prime Minister here in Penrith and great to be here with Kabin Joshi who runs this local bakery here at Westfield Penrith. As the Prime Minister said we're announcing today an important measure that will cut red tape for small business - small and medium businesses. Mr Abbott has, he's really had a few of these three-word slogans out in this campaign, cutting red tape, has been one of them. But I've got 3 letters for Mr Abbott and that is GST. Because never before had small and medium businesses been strangled with red tape quite like they were when the Liberal Government introduced the GST.

Well today we're taking out the scissors and we're going to cut some of that red tape. For the 1.35 million small and medium businesses across this country, we're saying to them that you will only have to put in one BAS return per year and what that means is it will ensure all of the headaches, all of the heartache - all of the paperwork that small and medium businesses are being buried in will be taken away on that quarterly basis. They’ll be able to put quarterly instalments in, without having to do all of the reporting, but at the end of the year they’ll reconcile that with an annual statement. That is something that will cut red tape and allow small businesses like this one here in Penrith to get on with the job that they do best which is to employ millions of Australians. It’s great to have the Prime Minister here with us.

PM: Thanks very much, David and over to you folks for questions.

JOURNALIST: Labor's had years to bring in this reform on the GST, why has it on the GST, why has it taken this long?

PM: Well, you know something, we've been working on the whole question of improving the regulatory environment for business over a long period of time and we have changed a large number of regulations already. But when you talk about cutting red tape, you can either mouth, as David just said, a three-word slogan or you can do it in three specific ways. What we've outlined in the last 48 hours is three specific ways to do it. One, on superannuation payments by small businesses. Two, on meeting their compliance obligations with paid parental leave, and number three, most importantly, reducing the number of BAS statements, which small businesses with a turnover of less than $20 million have to pay. These are three plans for the future, it builds on what we've done in the past.

JOURNALIST: They’re have already been concerns about how much this might cost the government, have you put a figure on the costing?

BRADBURY: The cost is small but unquantifiable across the forward estimates. So, this will not have a significant revenue impact, but it will remove a huge paperwork

impact. That's the point. People are not going to be paying less tax, but they will be spending less time drowning in the paperwork involved with meeting their obligations under the tax system.

PM: What we're talking about, if you're introducing a simplified tax compliance arrangement, it takes the burden off these folks in terms of time. That's the important measure here. What we're doing is making sure that for the Government we shoulder that burden by only requiring one completion of a BAS statement each year for businesses with a turnover of under $20 million. That's the right thing to do by business. Over to you, mate.

JOURNALIST: Bank of America, Merrill Lynch has identified what it says is a $30 billion hole in the Opposition's costings. Is that a bit embarrassing to your Government when you've been consistently saying there's a $70 billion hole?

PM: You know something, all mystery would be removed from this question if Mr Abbott, just for once, would come clean on his $70 billion worth of cuts or X billion dollars’ worth of cuts. We've had figures from Mr Hockey and Mr Robb of $70 billion. We’ve had other suggestions of 50 to 60. Saul Eslake today has talked about 30. Remember, these are all figures which are added to the existing budget bottom line. So, Mr Abbott's out there saying he's going to restore the surplus, I think. Right now there's something between a 30, if you take Saul Eslake's figure, if you take Joe Hockey's figure, a $70 billion figure, which is added to the budget bottom absent their details. What's the fact here? The fact here is that if you are going to have any confidence whatsoever in what Mr Abbott is going to do in the future if he was elected as Prime Minister, where are his $70 billion worth of cuts, which jobs go, which health services are cut, which schools are cut, etcetera. That, we believe, is the responsible way in which you put yourself up as plans for an alternative Government.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider introducing things like PAYG payments or fringe benefit payments for small businesses?

BRADBURY: The beauty of what we're doing today is we’re actually bringing in a greater alignment between the payment of GST obligations and PAYG instalments. So the question earlier was why has it taken so long to do this? This is actually the next step in a process that we've been implementing for a period of time. When it comes to big business, we have taken measures to bring into alignment their instalments for both income tax and GST and, now, today we're announcing we're going to do the same thing for small business, but in doing so will take away a huge amount of paperwork that small businesses are currently being smothered with.

PM: Over to you.

JOURNALIST: The store holders you met this morning were complaining about the power of Woolworths and Coles and dealing with them. Do you think if re-elected there's a case to maybe look at breaking up the supermarket chains?

PM: We're not in the business of breaking up the supermarket chains. What I'm in the business of doing is making sure there is fair competition in Australia. I worry

about the impact on some of the smaller food and grocery providers around the country. I worry about the stories you hear from many of those folks out at the Flemington markets this morning about how local fruiterers and grocerers are being squeezed out. I worry about those things. There’s one answer to it- it’s to make sure our competition policy is meeting each of those challenges on the ground. So I'm not about to say “smash this, smash that”, but what I am about to say is that competition policy must be fairly applied so that folks who are out there, been running a good neighbourhood business selling fruit and veg for the last 20 or 30 years are not squeezed out by unfair, uncompetitive practices. Over here. I’ll come back to you soon.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition has today released some more details about its boat policy, buying smugglers can back boats from would be people smugglers can you reflect on this?

PM: This is a genuinely interesting policy, this one. I take it you've all seen the detail of what Mr Abbott seems to be putting out today. Mr Abbott's plan to have, it seems, a 3-star general, sitting at the end of a jetty with a cheque book to buy back fishing boats in Indonesia, is about as irresponsible as his plan for a paid parental leave scheme which gives $75,000 to millionaires. That's what I think. Over there, and I'm coming back to you in a minute, mate. There, and then I’ll flick back, I won’t leave you out.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you happy with your reception in Western Sydney and in light of the polling what do you think of how things are going so far?

PM: Look, I said at the beginning of the campaign, we enter the campaign as underdogs, we're still underdogs and we are fighting, fighting and fighting. And there are things worth fighting for. Fighting for these small businesses so they don't have to shoulder the tax burden of paying for Mr Abbott's unaffordable, unfair and irresponsible paid parental leave scheme. Fighting for some of the families I met this morning who are prospectively recipients of our Paid Parental Leave scheme, which is affordable and modest, but they are worried - really worried - about what tax burden comes on to them to pay for his $22 billion folly. Fighting also for people that I've met in the last 2 days who depend on that cheque to come in with, say, $1,200 a year, if you've got 2 kids at school, called the Schoolkids Bonus, and when that is dropped by Mr Abbott in order to pay for his unaffordable and unfair paid parental leave scheme. So, I'm out there fighting for what I believe are the right priorities for Australian families to make sure they have got jobs in the future, they don't have their jobs cut, without a household pay packet, frankly everything else falls apart. Fighting also for their health and hospitals, fighting for them to keep their Schoolkids bonus which Mr Abbott wants to rip away, fighting for small business to reduce their red tape compliance rather than having small business having to shoulder that burden for his unaffordable scheme, and fighting for self-funded retirees, who Mr Abbott is going to slug $1.7 billion, once again, to pay for his unaffordable scheme. Now, mate, I don't want to disappoint you further.

JOURNALIST: The generation of jobs is an issue here in generation of here in Western Sydney, what sort of jobs of the future can people realistically look forward to as a result of your policies?

PM: Well I'm glad you asked this question because this is a vast region of Australia, not just of Sydney, about two million people or so live out here. So their future in jobs is as important future in jobs is as important as anyone else's across Australia. So when I look at Western Sydney for the future, what I see, is a big, strong, opportunity in a number of new areas. When I look at what the University of Western Sydney is doing and how you grow new innovation centres around that university, I see new jobs being generated. I see new jobs being generated in the education services export industry coming out of the great universities of Western Sydney. I see through Westmead and the sort of research I've seen there in the last several days, medical research generated by 600 plus medical research scientists being applied commercially through our new technology funds so that they are generating new businesses and new jobs as well. I also see great opportunities which we haven't even dreamt of yet, that once Western Sydney is fully connected to the National Broadband Network there will be job opportunities and business opportunities we haven't even imagined yet. But I also see a strong future for creative, dynamic, entrepreneurial, hard-working, small businesses like this, and if we can cut the red tape burden from them and not throw onto them a new $22 billion bill to pay for unaffordable schemes like paid parental leave, I see new jobs coming out of each of those sectors for the future and I'm passionate about that applying to Western Sydney as well. I don't want, on the NBN, a digital divide whereby the folks who live in the flash suburbs in Sydney get high grade broadband services, and folks who live in the western suburbs of Sydney don't. That's unfair, it's wrong, but also denies economic opportunities and business opportunities for the future. One here.

JOURNBALIST: Just further on jobs, can you expand on the undertakings you made to the ship builders and the union yesterday about improving the flow of naval ship building?

PM: What I said yesterday, and I will have more to say about this in the period ahead, is the central importance to Australia of generating new jobs in high skills manufacturing, in agribusiness, and all the services industries I've just referred to before, and one of those manufacturing industries and heavy engineering design industries goes to ship building and the Defence industries more generally. What I said to the workers, and I said it in front of the cameras as well, very plainly, was that if the Government is returned at the next election, what we need to look to is a steadier flow of projects to our principle Defence industries, including the ship building industries operating at Williamstown. I believe that's important for the future of our Defence industries, just as I believe passionately in the future of manufacturing in general, and the car industry in particular. You've got to get behind these industries, work with them to make sure we keep those core skills for the future, and the tens of thousands of jobs which hang off them. I am passionate about jobs, jobs, jobs. Mr Abbott is passionate about cuts, cuts, cuts. That's the difference in a nut shell. Over to you. Don’t worry, I’ll head back over here.

JOURNALIST: We heard you again speaking about News Limited's coverage of you and you have often blamed the Murdoch press for your position, are you laying the alibis for your defeat?

PM: I think what I was doing this morning is describing some facts. Fact one is what Mr Murdoch has said publicly about who he backs for this election. Fact two is the pattern of newspaper ownership which he has, which is the daily and the Sunday paper in this city, in Brisbane, in Melbourne, in Adelaide, half of it in Perth, and I think most of it in Hobart. Those are just facts, and so people reach their own conclusions and I've said multiple times before, it's a free country. But people make their own judgements about fair and balanced reporting and what appears on front pages. I don't blame any journalists. That's just a matter of Mr Murdoch being a very, very powerful man, and a very, very powerful man who has already nominated the person he wants to be Prime Minister. There was someone here who had a question.

JOURNALIST: You keep on talking about the Coalition’s cuts. Can I just ask what happened to your hand, with that cut on your hand?

PM: I actually don’t know, it just hurt. So, I noticed last night it was starting to bleed a bit, so I just stuck something on it. No, I wasn’t involved in any fisticuffs with anyone else. I’ve got no idea about that. This you recover from, I worry about whether in the case of Mr Abbott’s cuts, you can recover from them. If he’s going to rip away funding from your schools, funding from your hospitals and funding from basic things like the Schookids Bonus. Once those things are done, the damage is permanent.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Well the key thing in terms of this election is - let’s just be pretty basic and honest about it all, I’m upbeat about what we can do to build jobs and build industries of the future and in response to my friend’s question over here before. I went through where we are investing and, one of those categories of investment is infrastructure and one of the biggest categories within infrastructure is also the National Broadband Network. This National Broadband Network is huge in its economic potential. Not just in in the construction - it’s massive there - but in the applications for businesses right across the country. New customers, new supply networks, new opportunities, new ways of organising the business of your firm, however small and however great. So the core thing is this, we have a positive plan to build jobs and build new industries. Mr Abbott has a secret plan about where his $70 billion of cuts will fall in jobs, health, education, what will happen with the future of the GST, will it be on food, will it be at a higher rate, what will happen with the Fair Work Act? Will it take away basic protections and penalty rates and overtime whatever might be said in a given forum in a given as opposed to other spokesmen might be doing and planning. On this one it’s just all part of the same pattern. For example today I’ve been out in Western Sydney. I’ve been here, this is my fourth location and I started at Flemington Markets, went on to Granville South. I think I’ve been to Toongabbie and now I’m here in the great city of Penrith with a very good local member and I’ve been out and about in crowds like this, with a whole bunch of people who I’ve never met before and I’ll met some of the again soon, talking about what I’m on about - engaging in a real conversation, whether they support us or they oppose us but part of the hidden bits which you’re talking about is Mr Abbott hiding from engaging with real people and copping it direct from folks. I believe that’s the strength of our democracy and you should be out there talking to people and hearing the positive stuff and hearing the negative stuff. Are you a local paper?


PM: Well here’s a local paper who deserves another question.

JOURNALIST: I just want to ask another question. Our local Liberal candidate, Fiona Scott, has said that your government can’t be trusted with the Gonski or Better Schools Package package because the last few years is off on the never-never, as she calls it, it’s not actually budgeted for.

PM: Well, can I say to whoever the local Liberal candidate is out here it’s pretty basic. We, the Australian government have signed an agreement with the States of Victoria, the States of New South Wales, the States of South Australia and Tasmania and with the Catholic education system and with the Independent school system. Six school systems across the country I think, from memory, covering about 70 per cent of the kids in Australia, school kids in Australia. And that goes from here until 2019-20. It covers that whole period. These are actual agreements which governments sign and systems signs with each other. We’ve committed to a new investment of $10 billion by the Australian government into all those schools. Because we want them to be better schools for the future. So these kids out in Western Sydney and these families their kids out here in Western Sydney have got the best schools to go to. Mr Abbott, worried about the politics of it, said ‘well I’ll try and give the impression I’ve committed to a bit of this’ and the reality is he’s effectively wiped $8 billion of that commitment away from those schools. This is not a theory, it’s a fact. Look at the statements that have been made. When you look at the compare and contrast I’ve got to say we have signed agreements with all those school systems. He’s saying by the way I’ll only commit to a little bit of that and I’m not going to give them the other $8 billion. Ask your local parish school whether they’re happy with that. Ask your local independent school if they’re happy with that, ask your local state school whether they are happy with that. You haven’t had a question yet.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Cut, cut, cut goes to the core question of his $70 billion figure-

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: When I say- the question of cut, cut, cut- let me take it in order, take both those elements. Cut, cut, cut is because his figure, $70 billion is out there from [Andrew] Robb, from [Joe] Hockey and with no substantiation as to where it’s going to fall. That is an absolutely fair question to ask based on what their stated policy objective is. They say $70 billion they do not say where actually the cuts will fall. On the question of this other business on his policy today. As I said that three word slogan of ‘stop the boats’, I think the Australian people want to know the other three words is ‘how will you stop the boats’? If the answer to that question is having a three star general at the end of the jetty with the cheque book to buy every fishing boat in Indonesia then I think the bottom line there is people will say that’s about as responsible as his unfunded and unfair policy on paid parental leave. Last question. I think, who’s not had a question here folks? Have you not, are you a journalist?

QUESTION: I’m doing journalism at university-

PM: Are there any other working journalists here who haven’t had a question this morning? I just want to be, did I ask you a question yet, I can’t hear -

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: (inaudible) freelancing? Well if you know Eric, as some of us know Eric. Eric is the biggest non-freelancer I’ve ever known in my life. Eric has a very considered, deep ideologue when it comes to industrial relations. He’s always been that way. He would also be the Industrial Relations Minister if Mr Abbott became the Prime Minister. So when he says that protections and penalty rates and overtime are on the table for removal I think we’ve got to take him at his word. You see, on the question of hidden agendas here, which is why I keep throwing it back on the question of cuts which our friend asked about before is our plans are out there. You see them all. Our budget bottom line is out there in the economic statement which many of you have criticised, it’s there for all to see and to make your judgments on. Their plans and what they cost and how they’d fund them are hidden. One final thing by the way on the cold question of paid parental leave, I said before, that it’s unaffordable, unfair, that it is on top of that, economically irresponsible, but you know something, the Liberal Party and the Coalition are hopelessly divided on this as well. Hopelessly divided. If you’ve seen the comments attributed to the National Party on paid parental leave scheme in today’s papers I think it sums up the level of unity in the Coalition on this paid parental leave policy. The Liberal Party is divided down the middle on their paid parental leave policy. The Coalition is divided down the middle on this paid parental leave policy. This is Mr Abbott’s captain’s pick on an unaffordable, unfair, irresponsible policy and if that’s his approach to his signature policy, that’s his captain’s pick. Well, is this the sort of person you want running a $1.3 - $1.5 trillion dollar economy? I don’t think so.