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Labor slams Turnbull economic plans

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Labor has fired back over Malcolm Turnbull's admission there will be winners and losers in economic and trade reform.

The prime minister told a Business Council dinner before jetting off to the APEC summit in Peru fairness did not mean examining each economic reform decision in isolation and in the short-term but rather ensuring the system is fair "over a person's lifetime".

Labor leader Bill Shorten responded on Friday night in a speech in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine marking the 109th anniversary of the Harvester decision.

The historic court decision recognised for the first time wages should be calculated to support "a human being, living in a civilised community" and should be enough to provide "food, shelter, clothing, frugal comfort and provision for evil days".

Mr Shorten said Mr Turnbull's alternative to sharing the wealth of the land was "the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest".

An example of this was the government's $50 billion company tax cut, yet to pass parliament, which would make the "wealthy even wealthier and the rest of the population can pick up the scraps", Mr Shorten said.

"The prime minister has the nerve, the arrogance, to say we shouldn't talk about winners and losers in the short term.

"The short-term matters, the here-and-now matters. A job matters, your income matters, dignity matters.

"The costs and pressures faced by ordinary Australians can't be written off as 'short term'. Life doesn't take a holiday."

Mr Shorten said the winners in Mr Turnbull's Australia were "people making millions, companies bringing in billions and the big four banks".

"We don't see the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalised - the unlucky Australians - as collateral damage in the quest for economic reform," he said.

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt said the government would be pushing ahead with its company tax cut plan, having held "very constructive discussions" with Senate crossbenchers.

"If the UK and the US are potentially heading to 15 per cent company tax rates, we need to be tax competitive," Mr Hunt told ABC radio.

He said Labor's plans would shut heavy industry and reduce blue-collar jobs.

The draft laws have been introduced to parliament but there are doubts whether anything other than small business tax cuts will pass the Senate.

The opposition leader also took issue with the government's approach to the 457 working visa program, which he said was undermining Australian jobs and leading to workers being exploited.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said new measures to start on Saturday would ensure visa holders could only stay for 60 days after their employment ends instead of 90.

"We want to put Australian workers first and there are also jobs where there aren't enough Australian workers ... where we need to bring in foreign workers on short-term visas," he said.

"But we have got to make sure it's tightened up because when Bill Shorten was the minister for employment it spiked by 60,000 in one year."

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