JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks for coming out today. I wanted to touch on two issues which are in the national media today: the first one about tax and secondly about the LNP candidate in Longman.
The Parliamentary Budget Office has released this week a very important report which shows that the tax system in Australia is broken because it's asking ordinary working people to carry a heavier and heavier burden under Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal Party. What the PBO report does is it strengthens the case that Labor has been making, which is unless we deal with the loopholes in the tax system - the holes in the tax system - then middle Australia, people on low and middle incomes, will be asked to pay a bigger and bigger share of tax to maintain the level of services that they need and deserve.
What Labor has been saying for some time now is that the country can't afford to give the biggest tax breaks to those who need them least. We can't at a time of record debt, at a time when ordinary working people are being asked to carry the burden for Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann's Budget failures, we can't have a Government that wants to give $17 billion to the big four banks; a Government that wants to give big tax breaks to foreign multinational corporations; or a Government that wants to give the lion's share of personal income tax cuts to the very top end of the tax system.
What Labor has been saying for some time, and what the PBO report confirms is the key challenge for policy makers in Australia, is we want to make the tax system fairer, we want to broaden the tax base. That's how we pay down this record debt which has accumulated under the Liberals. It's how we can afford to give bigger and fairer tax breaks to people on low and middle incomes who are most likely to spend and invest in the economy; the people who need tax breaks the most. We can't continue to have these loopholes which are eating away at the tax base in this country. We need to reform the tax system, fix the tax system, to make it fairer and to give tax breaks to those who need and deserve them the most.
The other issue around today are these very damning revelations in The Courier-Mail today that the LNP candidate for Longman has been caught lying about his military service on multiple occasions across multiple websites. What these revelations show is that Big Trev is a big fraud. The LNP candidate for Longman said that this was a one-off, an honest mistake. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said that this was an innocent and honest and one-off mistake made by the LNP candidate for Longman. We now know that that is not true.
What we know from these very damning and very damaging revelations is that the LNP candidate for Longman has been engaged in a deliberate pattern of deception. This is a deliberate pattern of deception which shows that the LNP candidate for Longman has repeatedly lied about this military medal. This is not a one-off or innocent or honest mistake, as the Prime Minister and the LNP candidate for Longman have claimed. This is a pattern of behaviour; a pattern of deliberate deception which should disqualify the LNP candidate for Longman from standing for this seat or from serving the good people of Longman in the national Parliament.
We call on the LNP candidate for Longman to stand down today following these damning and damaging revelations about a pattern of lies and deception about his military medal. If the candidate will not step down, we call on Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership, to show some integrity for once and if his candidate won't step down in Longman we call on Malcolm Turnbull to sack him. This is not an honest, one-off, innocent mistake. This is a pattern of deception which can only end one way: in the LNP candidate for Longman standing down today. If it doesn't end that way, then Malcolm Turnbull should sack him.
JOURNALIST: Isn't this whole thing about deception though? The whole point of the by-election is that Susan Lamb was wrong about her citizenship, and that's what sparked the whole thing.
CHALMERS: No, there's been no deception on the part of our candidate. Our candidate thought she had done the right thing. She was relying heavily on advice in that instance. I think she's been upfront all along. I remember in the Parliament a very heartfelt explanation for what's gone on here. It's very, very different to what we're seeing from Trevor Ruthenberg, the LNP candidate for Longman. What we're seeing from Trevor Ruthenberg is, first of all, a deliberate pattern of deception which should disqualify him from standing in this by-election and serving in the Federal Parliament. But after that, we're seeing in his explanation another lie that it was somehow this one-off innocent mistake. What we know from new revelations today is that this not one-off, this was not innocent, this was not an honest mistake. He lied repeatedly across multiple websites about this military medal.
JOURNALIST: He's now saying it was another honest mistake. That obviously he was a new MP at the time, he wasn't quite aware of the rules, he had a lot of work and was under a lot of pressure - according to reports anyway, that's what I've read, he's saying that. Do you think that it could be possible to make two honest mistakes?
CHALMERS: There's multiple websites which contain this wrong information, so his explanation in the first instance that somehow he hurriedly filled out a form just doesn't hold water. Repeatedly he has said on multiple websites - the one from his time as a key member of Campbell Newman's health-and-education-cutting team, another time on his personal website, on the Parliamentary website for the Parliament of Queensland. He has been caught out lying about his military medal. He tried to pretend it was some kind of one-off mistake and what we know from these new revelations today is it wasn't one-off, it wasn't innocent, it wasn't honest. He should stand down as the candidate for the LNP in Longman and if he doesn't do that, Malcolm Turnbull should show some leadership and show some integrity for once in his life and disendorse him.
JOURNALIST: Susan Lamb said the other day it was up to the people of Longman, the voters, to essentially decide whether or not this was an honest mistake or, perhaps, Trevor Ruthenberg was deliberately misleading the voters, the people of Queensland. Why don't you just leave that to the voters of Longman to cast their own judgement?
CHALMERS: I think these new revelations today are very important and very damning. They're very damaging. What they show to the people of Longman, the people in the broader community, is that this is a guy who tried to pretend it was a one-off mistake and now we know it was anything but. So I think it has become a test of leadership for Malcolm Turnbull. It's become a test of integrity for the LNP candidate. If the LNP candidate for Longman was an honest and decent person he would stand aside. If Malcolm Turnbull was any kind of leader, he would insist on that. And if the candidate doesn't stand aside then Malcolm Turnbull should disendorse him.
JOURNALIST: So you're saying he should go, but Bill Shorten has declined to directly criticise Trevor. Why is that?
CHALMERS: We've got new revelations today which I'm responding too - a very important story in The Courier-Mail today - which shows this was a pattern of deceptive behaviour. In the last few days, as this has been an issue in the Longman campaign and in the national media, people have made a number of comments about Trevor Ruthenberg's deception. I think this has been elevated today. I think it has become a very serious test of decency and honesty and leadership. These new stories today; these new revelations today which show that this is a pattern of behaviour and not a one-off mistake I think elevates it as an issue.
JOURNALIST: In regards to Craig Kelly's comments on MH17 - he's apologised for those comments now. Does that make it the end of it?
CHALMERS: I think the families of the victims of MH17 deserved an unqualified apology from Craig Kelly today, and I don't think they got it. No unqualified apology contains the word "but". In one breath, Craig Kelly tried to say that he was sorry for his disgraceful and insensitive contribution but in the next breath he tried to blame everybody else for interpreting it wrongly. This guy is a disgrace. I heard his interview this morning. I don't think it was the real apology that the families of the victims deserved from Craig Kelly.
I also make this point: it is tempting to dismiss Craig Kelly as some kind of fringe dweller on the backbenches of the Liberal Party. The problem is that he frequently represents the views of the extreme Liberal Party that the Liberal Party has become. This is a guy who effectively writes the energy policy for the Liberal Party in Canberra, and it's been very disappointing to hear his original comments, but also to hear his failure to unreservedly apologise today to the families of the victims. Thank you.