Bill Shorten has thrown down the gauntlet to Malcolm Turnbull, challenging the Prime Minister to a debate on the GST before parliament resumes for the year.
Opposition leader Shorten -- giving his first press conference of the year from a Queanbeyan, NSW grocery store -- again launched attacks on the government over claims it was investigating increasing the GST from 10 to 15 percent.
"It's very important this year that we start the year having an important debate about the future of our tax system. For the life of me, I do not understand why Malcolm Turnbull keeps going soft on multi-nationals, yet is allowing this discussion about increasing the GST to 15 percent to continue," Shorten said.
"So today, I issue a challenge to Malcolm Turnbull but on the day before Parliament starts this year, at the National Press Club, I'm prepared to debate Malcolm Turnbull about why increasing the GST to 15 percent in any set of circumstances is a bad idea. Now, if Malcolm Turnbull's fair dinkum, he'll front up."
Parliament resumes on February 2, so any such debate would happen in the next fortnight.
The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Shorten would make uncertainty over a GST increase one of the centrepieces of Labor's election campaign, with 2016 looming as an election year. That plan was on show during the Queanbeyan press conference, with Shorten mentioning GST at least 25 times in fielding around 10 questions from reporters, including 10 times in his opening prepared remarks.
"Labor will not increase the GST to 15 percent. We will not do it. Why won't Malcolm Turnbull come out and say he won't do it. Why doesn't he just not take it off the table? In fact, while we are at it, why won't Malcolm Turnbull consider debating us before the Parliament starts?" Shorten said.
"The truth of the matter is that the Liberal Party need to rule out increasing the GST to 15 percent, and every day Labor will be on their case to make them rule it out, or we'll fight the election on it."
Shorten also addressed for the first time the findings of the Royal Commission into Trade Unions, which were released late in 2015. Shorten, who himself was called to testify before the commission, said Labor would "study the recommendations".
"First of all, the Royal Commission did discover some examples of bad behaviour within some parts of the union movement. I despise thievery, I despise people taking money from union members... It certainly did uncover things which certainly meet the displeasure and the outrage of the Labor side of politics, as well as the Liberal side of politics," he said.
"I can promise Australians that Labor has a policy for ensuring that all institutions are run honestly and with the absence of corruption. In terms of the specific recommendations we'll have a look at what the Liberals are proposing. We haven't seen their legislation yet."