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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Perth: 10 April 2016: GST; Mathias Cormann's made up costings; Malcolm Turnbull abolishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal; Joe Bullock; ABCC

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SUBJECT/S: GST; Mathias Cormann’s made up costings; Malcolm Turnbull abolishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal; Joe Bullock; ABCC.

TIM HAMMOND, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PERTH: Good morning, as the Federal Labor candidate for the seat of Perth it’s a great pleasure and privilege to welcome Penny Wong, Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to Western Australia and also to the Federal seat of Perth. I’d now like to hand over to Penny for a few remarks. Thanks Penny.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: It’s great to be here in Perth and I’ve had a good visit today with Tim in the electorate and last night I got to speak to the Women Lawyers Association who are having their national conference here. So that’s been great for Western Australia.

This is a great state, a state with optimism and a state that’s been so good for Australia’s economic growth. But it’s also a state that’s been experiencing some of the challenges of the transition in our economy and the shift in our economy where we see the mining sector moving to the production phase. Western Australians understand those economic changes in a very real way. They see it in their local economy, they see it in terms of wages and conditions and jobs.

But unfortunately they’ve got a Federal Coalition Government that’s letting them down. They’ve got a Government who doesn’t have an economic plan. They’ve got a Government that wants to walk away from public schools. They’ve got a Government which has floated double taxation. Can you imagine that? Your income being taxed twice, both by the Federal Government and by the State Government. Something Colin Barnett was pretty happy with, but I suspect Western Australians wouldn't be happy with.

So what this state needs and what this country needs, is a government that has a plan, a government that’s prepared to invest in our people, to invest in our universities and to invest in our schools. A government that will never walk away from public schools, as Malcolm Turnbull has flagged. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: What could Federal Labor do specifically for Western Australia in relation to the GST? We had a situation on Friday where the Commonwealth Grants Commission put its recommendations out and still Western Australia’s return was kept at 30 cents in the dollar. That’s two years in a row of 30 cents in the dollar, do you agree that that is penalising Western Australia?

WONG: Look, I understand the concerns here in Western Australia about the GST and Western Australians rightly want a better deal for their schools and their hospitals and I guess what I’d say is this: it’s all very well for Mr Turnbull to come out and offer Western Australia a payment, as he has today, but what you always get with Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party is they give with one hand and take with the other.

Let’s remember it was the Federal Coalition who cut half a billion dollars that Labor had set aside for public transport here in Western Australia. Let’s remember it’s the Federal Coalition who is cutting schools and hospitals here in Western Australia. So what I’d say to Western Australians is this: if you want a better deal for Western Australian schools and hospitals there’s only one party which is putting that on the table and that’s the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: But what would you do specifically with the GST?

WONG: As I’ve said, I understand the concerns on the GST and I’ve seen Mr Turnbull’s comments today on the payment and we’re supportive of the payment. We understand the issue, it’s been certainly put to us very strongly by Tim and others, but ultimately if the issue is your schools and hospitals here, a Liberal Government has cut funding and will continue to cut funding to schools. You’ve got a Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, who wants to walk away from public schools, you’ve got a Labor Party that says, whether it’s to Western Australia, or anywhere in the country, we will stand up for good funding of our schools and proper funding of our hospitals.

JOURNALIST: But you’re still not committing to the change of the formula in any way?

WONG: I’ve explained to you that we understand the importance of improving federal support for Western Australia, in particular in your schools and your hospitals. What I would say, we’ve put on the table a very clear policy to improve needs based funding for schools here and across the country. You’ve got a Prime Minister who’s flagged walking away from public schools. So if you care about a good deal for WA have a look at the schools funding Labor’s promising.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s fair that South Australia gets six times more, the quantum amount is six times more than Western Australia for next financial year?

WONG: It’s always good to come to Western Australia as a South Australian and I do like to say to you, we’re not the Eastern Seaboard and we don’t have, I hope, the same reputation here in WA as those from the Eastern Seaboard. But I don’t make any apologies for being a South Australian and I don’t make any apologies for standing up for a fair contribution, a fair system of funding for our schools and hospitals, whether they’re in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, or New South Wales.

JOURNALIST: Mathias Cormann was suggesting today that a Federal Labor Government would have to raise $50 billion in taxes to fund its unfunded promises.

WONG: This is a Coalition Government that has no economic plan. And now instead of developing an economic plan and telling Australians about it, he’s just making numbers up. That’s what Mathias is doing. That’s what the Coalition is doing. They’re just making numbers up. Labor’s policies have been fully costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office. We have put on the table over a $100 billion in savings that have been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. This is a desperate attempt by the Government to try and distract attention from the fact that they have no economic plan.

JOURNALIST: Will Labor support plans to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal?

WONG: Can I say about that, what we are focussed on is improving safety on our roads and time and time again we have seen inquiries which demonstrate the link between driver safety, road safety and the remuneration or the payment for the work that drivers do. We want safer roads and that’s what this Tribunal is about, that’s what the order is about.

But I would say this to Michaelia Cash: you’re the Minister, instead of encouraging people to take industrial action, why don’t you sit down with the parties and try and work through these issues? Because road safety, driver safety, is too important an issue to play politics with. What an extraordinary thing, isn’t it? This is the Minister who tells all of you, and I’m sure - you’re all here in Perth, I’m sure she tells you regularly - about the lawless industrial action that keeps being taken, who’s out there demanding that people take industrial action. Well, your job, Senator Cash, isn’t to gee people up to take industrial action. It’s actually to resolve problems.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

WONG: I think Joe is entitled to be afforded the dignity of making sure he resigns at the time he has indicated. I don’t have any issue with it. I thought Joe behaved very appropriately in terms of articulating why he was resigning and the reasons for that. Joe and I obviously disagree on many issues, but I thought how he approached his resignation and the speech he gave, very upfront, very clear, was a responsible and decent thing to do.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

WONG: It is not unusual to have arrangements in the Senate for vacancies, once vacancies are filled. That is a practice that’s been observed on both sides of politics, including this year. So it’s not an unusual situation to have to pair for a vacancy. I wish Joe well and I thank him for his contribution.

JOURNALIST: So what advice have you had about when Pat Dodson would actually be in a chair in the Senate?

WONG: I haven’t spoken to Pat since he was in Canberra. He’s obviously a great candidate and it will be fantastic to see him sitting in the Senate, not just for the Labor Party, but for Australia.

JOURNALIST: But have you made queries about logistically when that could happen at the earliest?

WONG: What the Constitution says is that a Senator has to resign by way of communication with the President of the Senate, that’s ultimately a matter for Joe. And then I’m sure the Party and the State will make the appropriate arrangements.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

WONG: Ultimately decisions for preselections are matters of state branches, state and territory branches. My job as the Leader in the Senate is to work with the Labor team and to continue to oppose the bad things that this Government is doing.

JOURNALIST: Have you been talking to the crossbenchers and are you getting a feel for what’s going to happen on that April 18 sitting?

WONG: On that, we’ve got a Government that’s got a plan for a press conference, but no plan for the Parliament. We’ve got the Senate sitting for three weeks and the Prime Minister simply saying, oh we want the ABCC passed, but he hasn’t got any other legislative agenda. So what I would say to the Government is, if you want to bring the Senate back for three weeks, Labor’s prepared to work, but you need to tell us and the country what your program is. It’s Malcolm Turnbull all over again, there’s no plan, there’s no economic plan and there’s no plan for the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: But in your discussion with crossbenchers have you gauged whether or not there’s enough support for the bill? I mean how many are changing their positions?

WONG: Ultimately Labor has its position on the bill, we’re clear about that. We’ve been clear and consistent about that for some time. The crossbenchers have a range of views, it’s a matter for the Government to negotiate with them. Thanks.