Shorten addresses Bundy on all the hot topics
OPPOSITION Leader Bill Shorten was in Bundaberg to do "more listening than talking" but that didn't stop him explaining the Federal Labor Party's stance on a host of issues.
Mr Shorten held his 55th Townhall Meeting at the Brothers Club on Tuesday night.
After a speech to the 300-strong crowd, Mr Shorten took questions in groups of three and answered residents' concerns on a variety of issues.
"I want to hear your ideas for the future of the region," Mr Shorten said.
"Politics as usual isn't good enough for Australia.
"It has become a personality based circus, and no side of politics holds the high moral ground."
He said Bundaberg was a classic example of what was going on around the nation.
"There is good news, it's not all gloom and doom," Mr Shorten said.
He talked up Bundaberg's agriculture sector, our export potential at the port and the region's liveability.
At the same time, he said Bundaberg's disproportional burden of unemployment, our hospital and the NBN were all areas of concern.
"The hospital needs work in a big way," Mr Shorten said.
"And the NBN.
"You have been given second class at a pretence it's first class.
"At a national level Bundaberg has been returning LNP members for a considerable period of time but I'm not sure you are seeing that dividend back.
"I'm not here because the election is going to be won or lost in Bundaberg.
"I'm here because the future of this country is not just in the major cities..., it's regional Australia."
Mr Shorten said the the government needed to look after the poor and the middle classes and slammed the Coalition Government's tax cuts for multi-nationals.
"The wealthy look after themselves," Mr Shorten said.
He was concerned at the declining standard of living and wanted Australia to be an opportunity nation.
"Are we going to be the first generation of Australians to pass on less in the future?".
Mr Shorten answered questions for an hour on a number of topics.
Below are some of his comments on some of those issues.
WHEN asked about his stance on the cashless card, Mr Shorten said the cashless card had been trialled in a couple of locations and he was waiting on the Federal Government to release a report on the card before making a final decision.
"I have met some people who swear by it," Mr Shorten said.
"Others say it is diabolical."
The Opposition's view is that local communities have got to want the cashless card.
"I hear a lot of objections here to it," Mr Shorten told the crowd.
"The community has to be in support for us to back it."
Mr Shorten was concerned about welfare bashing in debate about the card.
"I want to end the notion that people on welfare are lesser," Mr Shorten said.
"There is too much poor shaming... in this country.
"You can't help growing old, you can't help being on the disability pension and you can't help it if there is no jobs."
There are some people claiming benefits that shouldn't be, Mr Shorten said, but you can't judge all people on the actions of a few.
"Bringing in the cashless card has to be a community decision."
AFTER a question on Centrelink payments, Mr Shorten said Centrelink and other government services had been "cut to the bone".
"If anyone has ever tried to receive or follow up on pension or a benefit which is legitimately theirs, you get the run around on the phones... the Centrelink robo calls and letters of demand.
"It's not the way to treat people.
"I wish this government was as diligent chasing up multi-nationals to pay their tax as they are Centrelink."
A QUESTION on electricity prices quickly turned to privatisation.
Mr Shorten said if the government of the day hadn't privatised the electricity providers we would have a lot lower prices now.
He said the privatisation of electricity "hasn't had the analysis it deserves".
"We shouldn't be exporting gas to Japan and other countries," Mr Shorten said.
"Companies there can buy Australian gas cheaper than we can buy it here for our own manufacturing.
"There are a lot of issues, it's not all to do with climate change.
"This government has been in for four years and all they do is whinge about Labor. All they ever do on energy is blame Labor."
MR SHORTEN said that if Labor won the next election they would slow down the privatisation of training and put more money into TAFE.
"We want one in every 10 employees to be apprentices," Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten also wanted to charge more for 457 visas.
"This country should not have skill shortages.
"Periodically we will have, but where there are bona fide issues.
"We will increase the cost of those visas and put the money into training so that any labour shortage is temporary.
"We want to employ Australians."
Mr Shorten said a Labor Government would rebuild the safety net that is Medicare.
He accused the Coalition of diluting the safety net making it harder for Australia's poorest to survive by making health care more costly.
"The government is making you pay for the same universal health care system again by freezing the rebate.
"Some of you might think 'oh well we can't fund everything.'
"I know that.
"The way we can help lift the freeze and stand up for people at the very bottom... is because we won't go ahead with corporate tax cuts for large companies."