Bill Shorten’s meeting in Forrestfield last night got off to a very late start, apparently he got stuck in traffic on the way to the hall.
This is my summary of the questions he was asked. I may have missed some nuances due to the nature of microphones not working and the ambient noise and occasional applause from the audience.
Mr Shorten is quite impressive in person. Very across his facts and figures, and very willing to acknowledge that sometimes he would hold to something that would not be popular, but that sometimes difficult choices have to be made, and paid for.
It’s the first time I’ve attended one of these affairs, and it’s a long time since I had the experience of summarising such an event.
The questions asked of him covered:
Fracking in WA — with a group of about 15-20 lining the path into the hall to start with. Mr Shorten accepted a letter on behalf of the group presented by a young lad. (I was under the impression that WA had a secure moratorium on fracking, but apparently there is a renewed threat of it up the Swan Valley – why is it always good agricultural land that has to be fracked?)
Immigration — which he would like to reduce the number of people of Temporary Work Visas, by increasing educational opportunity for Australians, while at the same time maintaining migration, family reunions and refugee numbers. Refugees on Manus Island and Narue would never be settled in Australia, to do so would (apparently according to the security information Mr Shorten has) would just encourage ‘people-smugglers’ again, so taking refugees before they get to places where these smugglers operate is a much better idea. Also, restoring services to refugees and new migrants increases job opportunities for all.
Manufacturing in Australia — this would be improved by an ALP government insisting on local content, and for every contract awarded 1 in 10 jobs created would be an apprenticeship. He also pointed out that Australia still has some steel making ability, and he would like to see Australia also getting into using that together with recent lithium discoveries to create our own Lithium batteries (for example). He also pointed out that as an island nation, not to have our own mercantile fleet was a little strange, and it bothered him that our products were being carried by ships that did not have Australian ecological, or safety standards. An ALP government would stop the privatisation of TAFE and provide support for courses, as well as finance for small/medium businesses to employ apprentices.
Eating disorders — a request was made for more support for this under Medicare/NDIS, and Mr Shorten acknowledged that it had previously been raised and the ALP was looking to organise a Schedule Number for these conditions because Medicare currently does not provide sufficient support. He took the questioner’s contact details to pass on to … (I’ve forgotten the person who is dealing with the health portfolio, sorry)
Investments — Negative Gearing and Franking Credits were both raised. Mr Shorten pointed out that the Negative Gearing proposal of the ALP was grandfathered. If you have them now, it won’t change, but they would no longer be available as an investment option.
Franking Credits were originally to avoid double taxation on dividend income, which used to be taxed at both company and personal income levels. Paul Keating thought income should only be taxed once, hence the credits. But changes were made by the Howard government so that if someone just held shares, they got the credits even if there was no income from them. It was pointed out that it was still money from the government, even if it wasn’t a “pension” as such when that particular questioner insisted that he was not drawing a pension. Mr Shorten pointed out that the ALP would change the way those Franking Credits were issued, and increase access to other supports for those affected.
It was also pointed out that the ALP’s policy was to reduce the loopholes that enable multinationals to avoid paying taxes on profits made in Australia, and that concessions allowing them to ‘visit their money in the Caymen Islands and claim business deductions’ would also be reduced. “…that’s just not right”, he said.
Climate change — the ALP wants to have at least 50% Renewables by 2030, which would also reduce carbon emissions with the aim of 0% net emissions by 2050. This would lead to more jobs, and more opportunities for businesses to be developed. There was also mention of incentives to reduce emissions, but I missed part of what was said because of the applause.
Remote housing — Apparently funding has been cut for this by the ATM government over the past five years. Mr Shorten asked that we all write to our current MPs to point out that providing services and housing in remote areas encourages people into jobs that benefit them and their communities and being able to stay “on country” means that particularly Aboriginal Australians end up with fewer problems. It also means that there are jobs were the people are, rather than moving the people to where there are no jobs anyway.
Age Care — again it was pointed out that money had been cut from services and that by increasing funding to Medicare/NDIS, people who need the support would have it again.
Schools — This was asked twice; Catholic vs Public, and Private vs Public. Mr Shorten was very clear that because all parent paid taxes, they were entitled to get some support for the schools their children attended, but that not all schools need the same amount of support. In order for all Australian children to have the best chances in education, the ALP was proposing to reinvest $14.3 billion over ten years in both early childhood, primary and secondary education, as well as providing support for reducing/abolishing the privatisation of TAFE courses and un-capping some university courses. The investment would be base on the ‘rationality of need’, so that schools with higher needs would have greater amounts of support, including educational assistants, more teachers and more resources.
Medical cannabis — This was the last question of the night, and Mr Shorten admitted that it was a very fraught question. From the information that Mr Shorten had, he appreciated that medical cannabis could be very useful for chronic conditions, and appreciated deeply the temptations presented, particularly when children were in pain. The ALP would like to change the law on this following the recommendations of the TGA, but acknowledged that the process of getting those recommendations is a very long and expensive process.