Bill Shorten promises to be a congenial Opposition Leader in the new-look federal parliament, but only up to a point.
In his first major speech since the election, Mr Shorten told the National Press Club on Wednesday that Labor would stand its ground and only cooperate where agreement can be reached.
And he warned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to stop acting like he still leads a government with a commanding majority.
“For the good of the country, it’s time to cut off some of the confrontational toxins and work on getting things done,” he said.
“Labor will take a proactive and a constructive approach to the 45th parliament … But all those Australians who trusted us with their vote can rest assured that we will hold firm to our principles. We will stand our ground.
“Labor will not sign up to fixing the national budget by smashing the family budget.”
Yet it was on the budget that the Opposition Leader offered his biggest compromise.
During a wide-ranging address outlining his approach for the resumption of parliament next week, Mr Shorten proposed superannuation reform aimed at improving the budget deficit.
A net improvement to the budget bottom line of $238 million over four years and $4.4 billion over the decade could be made, he said, by lowering the threshold for high-income super earners from $250,000 to $200,000 and not tying the $500,000 lifetime contribution cap to 2007.
“More budget savings – no retrospectivity,” he said.
“Our changes will apply from budget night.”
But in offering to compromise over the contentious super issue, Mr Shorten said Labor would oppose three other changes the Coalition has included in its super plan.
These were: allowing catch-up concessional superannuation contributions; harmonising contribution rules for those aged 65 to 74; and allowing tax deductions for personal super contributions.
“This new spending cannot be a priority, especially when it will set the budget back $1.5 billion over the forward estimates and $14.7 billion over 10 years,” he said.
“This isn’t about a short-term political fix, it is a long-term budget reform.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Adopt our savings
The Opposition Leader also called on Mr Turnbull to adopt Labor’s proposed savings – outlined during the election – worth $8 billion over four years and $80 billion over a decade.
The Prime Minister has already rejected that, saying Mr Shorten’s proposed savings were nothing more than tax hikes.
Instead, he wants him to support the government’s omnibus bill of budget savings measures, some of which the Opposition had already agreed to and had included in its budget costings.
“You can see there is a very big difference,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We are asking him to support things he has previously supported. He is asking us to support things we have always opposed.”
In response to questions at the press club, Mr Shorten said the government should also aim to reach compromises on policy initiatives, as the Coalition is only governing with a one-seat majority.
“These guys are acting like they still have a 90-seat majority in the House of Representatives,” he said.
Canvassing other issues in speech, the Opposition Leader put more pressure on the government over same-sex marriage, saying he would continue to pursue a free vote in parliament rather than a plebiscite.
But he would still consider the terms of the plebiscite once the enabling legislation was complete.
And, after being asked twice, he said Labor would negotiate with New Zealand over its offer to take some refugees from Australia’s offshore detention camps – an offer Mr Turnbull has refused.