SENATOR HELEN POLLEY: Welcome everybody today. Great to have with us Chris Bowen, the next Treasurer of our great country here with us in Hobart. We also have Madeleine Ogilvie, the State Member for Denison. We have Jenna Butler our candidate in Lyons. We have Scott Faulkner, another candidate in Denison. And of course, we have Kevin Midson from Franklin.
We have a strong team that we will be taking to the State election and it’s fantastic to have Chris down here. We’re meeting with people from business community, we’re meeting with people from local government. We’ve had a fantastic tour and met with the Vice Chancellor of the university here. Things are looking really good here in terms of going forward. I would now like to ask Chris to say a few words.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much Helen. It’s great to be back in Hobart and it’s great to be back in Tasmania. Tasmania is a very important part of our economy and is front and centre of the thinking of the Labor Party, the alternative government. This is my second visit to Hobart since the Federal Budget. I note that the Treasurer hasn’t been to Tasmania since the last Federal election. It appears that Tasmania simply is no longer on the map for the Federal Liberal Government. Of course we had Bill Shorten in town here last week announcing our important commitment to Hobart airport and we will continue to visit, and not only visit, listen and announce our plans for the future of Tasmania and the Tasmanian economy. It’s been a great visit, particularly with Helen today. So far we have met with the University of Tasmania and talked about their plans; seen what important initiatives and investments they’ve made; the commitments from previous Labor Governments and what we will work on together in the future and no doubt that will be an important part of our agenda.
I do want to deal with one important national matter. On Friday – Thursday afternoon in fact – the Treasurer completely ambushed the property sector in Australia. No consultation, no discussion. The Treasurer announced a significant change to the way investments are conducted in residential property by Managed Investment Trusts, effectively banning them. Now the Treasurer and Prime Minister lecture people that improving housing affordability is all about increasing supply and yet in one foul swoop, with no consultation, ambushing an important part of our economy, they have stopped in its tracks, the growing and emerging ‘built to rent’ market in Australia.
Now this is a Government and a Treasurer who makes it up as he goes along, without a framework or governing philosophy which enables him to come to sensible solutions, frankly a Treasurer who is not up running a G20 economy. Now I call on the Treasurer to re-think urgently, to sit down with experts, sit down with the property sector, and to re-think his approach here. It’s perfectly appropriate that a government make legislative changes, which they have considered, which they have consulted upon, and which people understand. But this is clearly a Treasurer who is not up to the job and task, the job at hand. And I call on the Treasurer again to re-think his approach, confess that he got it wrong, and start afresh when it comes to Managed Trusts and the property sector.
Housing affordability is an issue right across the country, regardless of whether you’re in Sydney or Hobart. Of course there are different issues, of course it’s a bigger issue more in some places than others, but everywhere, people want to see increasing supply so children and grandchildren can be housed, so that we as a country can deal with this housing affordability crisis. Firstly the Treasurer has come up with a damp squib of a package in the Budget that achieves absolutely nothing, but now he’s actually making the situation worse. His actions actually worsening housing affordability in Australia and he needs to come to terms with the issues.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor support the Year 1 testing flagged by the Government?
BOWEN: Well I think that Tanya Plibersek is making statements today in Sydney, no doubt in response to that. What we want to see is education invested in. You can have all of testing your like, but unless you’re investing and providing the resources for teachers to get along and to do their job with the support of the Federal Government then you are going to be behind the eight ball. Now the Government, as I understand it, has had this report for a long time, since last April, so it’s clearly not a priority for them. And of course, I would refer you to Tanya Plibersek’s remarks in Sydney.
JOURNALIST: The [inaudible] has said that it would require a City Deal with Hobart similar to what Malcolm Turnbull has announced with the northern city of Launceston, is that something that a Shorten Government would continue with? City deals?
BOWEN: We’re fans of City Deals. We think that City Deals will provide a good model going forward. Of course, we would do them differently. We would have proper consultations with the councils as a group, et cetera, and they need to be handled differently depending on which part of the country, but certainly we believe that City Deals can play an important role if properly calibrated. I look forward to continuing discussions with Helen, with Madeleine as the Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy here in Tasmania and with the University of Tasmania, and of course, with Tanya Plibersek, on our policy offering going forward, in particular. But I have been very impressed with what I have seen today at the University of Tasmania. We need to be capitalising on Tasmania’s strengths. We should not be writing off the Tasmanian economy. We should recognise the challenges but the Treasurer and the Government federally, need to be focused at the task at hand. The State Government needs to be working cooperatively. And I think now that Tasmania simply is not on the map when it comes to this Federal Liberal Government’s agenda.
JOURNALIST: A Shorten Government is at least two years away, considering the federal election cycle. What is a priority for you considering we are still two years away from an election?
BOWEN: Well I’m not sure when the next federal election is. It might be quicker than that. We have a Deputy Prime Minister before the High Court. Malcolm Turnbull may or may not know when the next federal election is. It’s not due for some time, but we live in an environment in Canberra, where the unexpected is expected. I say this, whenever the election is, we will be ready with comprehensive plans when it comes to the Budget and the economy and regional economies and Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: So you are preparing for a federal election if the Government loses this vote?
BOWEN: The Prime Minister calls the election, not me, the Prime Minister advises the Governor-General. We will be ready this year, next year or whether it’s in 2019. We will be ready with our policy offerings and those policy offerings will be the result of deliberate consultation, discussions and travel around Australia.
JOURNALIST: What sort of costing would the Federal Government, if you were elected, would you invest in in a STEM project?
BOWEN: Well that’s something for discussion with the university, with the State Government. Again, I’ve seen the pay-off of previous investments, today. The proposal which is behind us for a STEM Centre for Hobart is one which is very interesting. It requires further discussion, further consultations, we’ve had a good meeting with the Vice Chancellor today, as part of our consultations. We’ve got further meetings with the Chamber of Commerce, with others, and Mayors this afternoon. And that will all go into our policy development.
JOURNALIST: It’s all about the digital economy isn’t it?
BOWEN: Tasmania has great advantages and great resources that we need to capitalise on. We want to see more Tasmanians taking up the opportunity to attend this university. University is not for everyone – we need proper investment in TAFE as well – but we want to see Tasmanians have the opportunity to come to a great university like this and study courses that will add to the country and their own incomes over their lives. STEM and the digital economy is right up there in terms of what the city and what this university can offer people all around Tasmania.
Okay, thanks very much.