WEDNESDAY, 04 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Family Violence Announcement; National Crisis Summit on Family Violence; Iraq; GP Tax Chaos; Liberal Party’s secret plan for a Student Tax; $100,000 degrees; Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Polls.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Every week in Australia a woman is killed by a current or former partner and the impact on their children is unimaginable. Here in Canberra the community is reeling from a violent attack on the weekend which left a young woman dead and her three children including a one week old baby without their mother. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as we’ve heard would like to see a national summit held to discuss ways of tackling domestic violence and he joins me now in our Canberra studio, Mr Shorten, welcome.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning.
BRISSENDEN: As you've heard from the Prime Minister he announced in January there would be a special COAG to deal with this issue. Rosie Batty’s agreed to be part of an advisory panel. Isn’t that the best forum to have the states, the police commissioners, the community, everybody address COAG?
SHORTEN: COAG is a good idea, I'm not in the business of knocking good ideas but what I would say and the reason why Labor's said that we believe a national crisis summit is necessary, and we will do it within the first 100 days if elected, that's if the Prime Minister doesn't want to do it now - is that this problem requires not just Premiers and Prime Ministers. This is a problem where 17 in every 100 Australian women will face violence from their current or former partner, where only 20 per cent of these acts of violence will get reported to the police. We need a summit where you bring together not just powerful premiers and the Prime Minister - survivors, the people who work in the legal services, the people who understand the epidemic of violence within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
BRISSENDEN: And COAG can't do that?
SHORTEN: Again, COAG is part of an answer, absolutely. But one of the things about family violence is that at its core it's about gender inequality. The violence is the ultimate outcome of gender inequality but the key risk factor, to suffer family violence is not your race, it's not your ethnicity, it's not your post code, your wealth, it is whether you are a woman. So I think if that we're going to tackle family violence, and there's a lot of good work being done already, not just a proposal on COAG; the National Plan for Preventing Violence Against Women, which the previous Labor Government introduced, the Royal Commission in Victoria, Rosie Batty being Australian of the Year. But what we need to do is make it the central political debate in the national parliament and that means including survivors. People are disempowered by family violence, COAG is not going to be the answer where it doesn't have the voices of the survivors and the people who work alongside them.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, there are a lot of political debates currently in the Parliament, some of them have bipartisan support and you think that one would be one that wouldn't be hard to find some bipartisan support on. Also –
SHORTEN: Yes, I do hope the Prime Minister just doesn't simply say we've got this under control and we're doing something. This is a genuine reach out. It doesn't have to wait until an election, I've spoken to lots of people within the world of working on family violence. They think a crisis summit’s a good idea. We just ask the Prime Minister not to sort of say no but rather just work through it with me and work through it with people.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, on Iraq, this also has bipartisan support, the current troop deployment, how long does it have it for?
SHORTEN: Well Labor, from the start of this intervention, set out its principles. You know, we do believe that as part of an international coalition when invited in by the Government of Iraq there's a responsibility to protect citizens from the sort of murderous violence that we see committed by Daesh. We set some criteria, you know, is the Iraqi Government inviting us in? Is the Iraqi Government adhering to what it says about making sure that minorities in its country get a fair deal? Do we make sure that we're not crossing the border into Syria and do we make sure that Australian soldiers aren't doing the job that Iraqi soldiers should be doing on the front line?
Now I've had the chance to go to Baghdad and the Middle East and see our operations up close. The professionalism of our defence forces is something to behold but it was made clear to me, even on the front line there, that us being in the front line of fighting isn't going to help the Iraqi security forces and it may be counter-productive. So I'm satisfied this current intervention meets the principal test that Labor has put in.
BRISSENDEN: The Prime Minister, as you heard, is clearly prepared to be flexible, leaving it open. Is that something that you'd be prepared to countenance as well? Clearly the situation could change, we may need to be more involved?
SHORTEN: I think the sectarian violence is horrendous and beyond the capacity of most of us living in peaceful Australia to even comprehend. In terms of flexibility, Labor's set out its principles and those are the principles upon which we can judge further decisions rather than just reacting day to day. This is a training mission and I think it will provide valuable and important work but Labor's not a blank cheque or open-ended that whatever's proposed, and that's why we've provided the Australian people with principles for intervention.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, on some of the perhaps less bipartisan issues that we're dealing with in politics at the moment, Medicare, the co-payment is dead and buried but do you accept that the system isn't sustainable and if we want to continue enjoying the benefits of universal healthcare then some reforms do need to be made?
SHORTEN: Well there's two assumptions in that question I'll briefly go to. One is I do believe the system is sustainable, that doesn't mean you don't make improvements. But remember in the last Budget we had the overcooked, overheated rhetoric of the Treasurer and the Government saying there's a crisis and unless the GP Tax was pushed through then, you know, it would be the end of Medicare as we knew it. In fact on 53 occasions the Prime Minister said that we had to have a GP Tax over 10 months. Now he's just dropped it. No-one thinks he's dropped it because he really thinks it's a bad idea. He's dropped it because he's under pressure for his job and there's a New South Wales election on and it's costing them votes. And the reason why I don't believe that they've really dropped it is that yesterday the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, said she that she stood behind the policy intent. She said the policy intent was and remains a good one. She went even further. She says there's a lot of people who attend a doctor who pay nothing and can afford to pay a bit more and that's where we have to land in this discussion. They want to increase the cost of going to the doctor, let’s be clear, this is a temporary setback and by all their rhetoric –
BRISSENDEN: And you would oppose any further changes?
SHORTEN: Well the case for co-payment hasn't been made. I think you understand that. You know, there are a lot of GPs, especially older ones in their late 50s early 60s who frankly were going to just throw-in the towel.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, on higher education, do you support the idea that the Government is floating this morning of fining universities that charge students too much? A sort of super profits tax for universities?
SHORTEN: There the Government go again. You know, this is band-aid on a band-aid on a patch up job on a bit of string and sticky tape. The Government is proposing a student tax on universities because they're worried that universities will introduce $100,000 degrees. This Government today has confirmed what Labor's been saying all along. That the complete deregulation, cutting funding to universities will lead to higher prices and fewer students.
Now the Government's saying they're going to tax universities for the ultimate consequence of the Government's policies. This is a Government who is making policy on the run. In higher education the challenge is not to price kids out of the market, adults out of the market. What we see is already enrolments down in some regions because they've been discouraged by the Government's talk of increasing the cost of going to university.
BRISSENDEN: News just to hand, we've just heard that the two of the Bali 9 who were on death row have been transferred, or are being transferred at the moment. Will this have a long-term effect on our relationship?
SHORTEN: Well first of all I want to talk about that quite devastating news. This is obviously a step closer towards execution. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran do not deserve to be executed. They aren't seeking forgiveness, they're not seeking freedom but there is no justice in executing two men who have repented and rehabilitated. I am worried that this is a test of the rule of power versus the rule of law. My thoughts are with them and their families. The Government's doing what it can, I believe.
I spoke to their lawyers in the last few minutes. People shouldn't give up and therefore I'm not going to start engaging in, if there is an execution recriminations and debate. My job, as a sensible political leader in Australia, is to create the air to the extent we possibly can where the executions do not happen. Not talk about recriminations and what else will happen afterwards.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, just finally a question on political leadership generally. Clearly the Prime Minister has come through a difficult leadership period but the fact that he has recovered in the polls is also a reflection on you, isn't it?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that this Government hasn't actually come through this period very well at all. We're faced with the scenes three weeks ago Tony Abbott, or the Prime Minister, and the Liberals said good government starts today. Yesterday, after dragging the nation through 10 months of cathartic debate about GP Tax, Tony Abbott says I was wrong. This Government has wasted 18 months of the life of this nation and at the end of 18 months confidence is not great, we've got rising unemployment, we've got pensions threatened with being cut, we've got unemployed people facing 6 months –
BRISSENDEN: All that's a given but shouldn't the polls be better for you?
SHORTEN: Well, what I would submit to you is that the polls move around and go up and go down but what really affects people, not here in Canberra, is cost of living, is can their kids afford to go to university? Can adults seeking to retrain get that chance? This is a Government that's worried about saving its own job. Does anyone think the changes, Michael and you're a seasoned political observer, does anyone think that Tony Abbott is repenting about his GP Tax for the time being with fingers and toes crossed for any other reason than saving his own job?
BRISSENDEN: Okay Bill Shorten, we’ll leave it there, thanks very much for joining us.
SHORTEN: Thank you.
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