ABC RADIO NATIONAL WITH ALISON CARABINE
WEDNESDAY, 23 APRIL 2014
SUBJECT/S: Joint Strike Fighters; Commission of Cuts; Abbott Government’s GP Tax; Rebuilding Labor; Liberal Party lobbyists; Senate.
ALISON CARABINE: Bill Shorten, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning.
CARABINE: It was the previous Labor Government that foreshadowed the purchase of the JSF fighters; can we take it from that that you will be supporting the Prime Minister’s announcement today?
SHORTEN: Yes, it was Labor who believed that the joint strike fighter was an appropriate addition to our air power. There had been some problems in terms of aspects of the aircraft but it appears that they have been ironed out, so Labor does think that the addition to our air force is the right way to go.
CARABINE: But since Labor’s last white paper the budget has deteriorated, the 58 stealth fighters will cost nearly $12.5 billion. Can we still afford such a big outlay or should the government maybe looking at cutting back its order from the Pentagon?
SHORTEN: Well these are very long term purchases, the acquisitions are over a very long period of time, so these defence purchases are necessary for our forward security plans over a number of decades, it’s pretty long term investment.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, we’ll get to Labor reform in a moment but still on budget matters, later today the Treasurer will spell out a timetable for releasing the recommendations contained in the Commission of Audit. Do you think we will see the entire report made public before the budget as the government has promised or do you suspect a selective release with the more politically explosive recommendations held back?
SHORTEN: Well the government has deliberately not released the Commission of Audit before the South Australian election, before the Tasmanian election, before the Western Australian Senate by-election, so whatever the government does with the Commission of Audit, its timing is always political. They deliberately withheld it before Western Australians could see it, so I am deeply sceptical about when the government releases the Commission of Audit, it’s all to do with politics and nothing to do with the interests of Australians.
CARABINE: The Treasurer will be outlining the areas the Commission has pinpointed as pressure points for the budget. Later today you’ll be at the opening of a GP Super Clinic, is it now beyond doubt to Labor that health will be hit hard, or hit in the budget?
SHORTEN: The Abbott Government is desperate to break election promises. Before the election they promised not to do anything with pensions, they promised not to have any new taxes, yet we see persistent and consistent leaks and rumours and spin from the Abbott Government that they want to put a new GP Tax on people going to the doctor. The Abbott Government in opposition said they would be no new taxes, in government they are undermining the universal nature of our Medicare system.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, on Labor reform, you’ve outlined a number of proposals to rebuild the party, but how much will actually be in place but the time voters will next get a chance to cast judgement on Labor, how different will the party look by the time of the next election?
SHORTEN: Labor needs to rebuild, we need to change in order to demonstrate to the Australian electorate that we will be strong in terms of the issues that matter to Australians, healthcare, schools, jobs. Labor needs to ensure that we have the best possible candidates, that we are a membership based party, not a faction based party and that involvement in the Labor Party is open to all walks of life, not just some.
I’m confident that we will have good candidates, very good candidates at the next election. I’m confident that the Labor Party will heed my call to be a membership-based party, not a faction-based party. I’m confident that we will attract more and more people to our ranks. So the rebuilding process can’t occur overnight, but the rebuilding process has commenced.
CARABINE: One of the most contentious areas is the tight grip union bosses have over Senate pre-selections. This is one area where you say you want to see real change. But nothing really specific in your speech on how you plan to proceed – surely you have some ideas on how to, in your own words, set a new standard for selecting Labor Senators?
SHORTEN: Where I’m leading, which hasn’t occurred before, is that I’m proposing that there should be a local voice, local members should have a say in terms of who our Senators are, instead of just the status quo. So I’m proposing that we change the way the Labor Party has picked its Senators for 100 years and give more local members a voice in the selection of Labor Senators. I’m confident that people will embrace this debate, I’m confident that we will have a renewed strong team representing Labor in the Senate at the next election.
CARABINE: There will be a major review of the ALP National Platform, starting with Chapter 1 which covers Labor values. You say the Party needs a new chapter, isn’t it a bit late in the day to be rethinking what you stand for? Could you ever imagine the Liberal Party asking such core questions of itself?
SHORTEN: The Liberal Party get lobbyists to tell them what to think, and they’re a party of lobbyists for lobbyists. Labor values of fairness, of ensuring a government that governs for all, not just for some – these values have been around for a long time. But it is important that we are expressing our ideas for the future of Australia.
The word doesn’t stand still, Australia doesn’t stand still. It is appropriate that Labor, having lost a federal election, revisits how we talk about our ideas and what we we’re talking about, and that we do so from a Labor Party base that is being rebuilt. Yesterday I made it clear we want people to join the Labor Party. And the deal is, the new democratic contract with the people who join the Labor Party, is you join Labor, you commit your energy and ideas to our cause, we will give you a real say in the selection of the people who represent the Labor cause in Parliament.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, Clive Palmer is flexing his muscle in the Senate, he’s threatening to block the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes. That means you could theoretically have the numbers in the new Senate to preserve both taxes. Do you believe that Clive Palmer will be true to his word, or is he just foxing here?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that the challenge is for Tony Abbott and how he deals with Clive Palmer. Clive Palmer has four Senators, they hold a balance. Tony Abbott will either have to negotiate with Labor, which he doesn’t like doing, or the Greens, which he said he would never do. So he’ll have to negotiate with Clive Palmer. What we will see is Tony Abbott doing deals with a minority party to get his way, and we think the challenge here is for Tony Abbott to see if he keeps his promises or if he does and says anything to deal with the minority parties.
CARABINE: But you say Tony Abbott will have to deal with Clive Palmer, that makes him the power broker in the new Senate. How much faith do you have that he will exercise that power judiciously?
SHORTEN: We’ll have to see what he asks for and we’ll have to see what policies he puts forward, we’ll also have to see how Tony Abbott reacts. I notice that Tony Abbott, who had proposed to take benefits away from the orphans of military veterans, when Labor has put that he shouldn’t do this, he’s said no, he’s going to stick to his guns and take benefits away from the orphans of veterans. I predict that that will be something that Clive Palmer will also oppose. It will be interesting to see if Tony Abbott climbs down from his high horse and doesn’t take away benefits from the children of veterans. So I think that we’re going to see that Prime Minister Abbott will horse trade, and we will see just what he’s prepared to give up, and I would recommend to Tony Abbott that he reconsiders his GP Tax and instead gives up his $75,000 paid parental leave scheme to very wealthy Australians.
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