THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation
27 JUNE 2013
SUBJECT: Labor leadership
SALLY WARHAFT: Bill Shorten joins us now, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister. Good morning.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning Sally.
SALLY WARHAFT: When did you make up your final decision to, well, turn your back on Julia Gillard and support Kevin Rudd?
BILL SHORTEN: For the last three weeks I have been debating with myself, talking with lots and lots of people from all walks of life. My final decision was made when the Prime Minister spilled the leadership position. It was extremely difficult. I believe, and as I say, wrestling with this for two to three weeks. For three years I have completely supported our Prime Minister I do believe that she was the only person with the skills and the capacity to have accomplished what we have accomplished in a minority government. I also recognised that Labor was looking at a prospect of being well defeated to the extent, and these things happen, you win and you lose, but even more important than that I cannot believe it is in the interests of Australian democracy or Australia people, people in my electorate in the north western suburbs of Melbourne, that the Coalition and the conservative view of the world presented by Tony Abbott should control the Senate and the House of Representatives and have unlimited power in Australia.
SALLY WARHAFT: Does it hurt you inside to be rewarding somebody who has been accused by your own party very, very publicly of destabilising the Government since the minority Government was formed? Is that painful for you today?
BILL SHORTEN: Yesterday and today have been incredibly difficult, but difficult because I can see the strengths and the merits of both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. I know that for me to have said that I would support Kevin Rudd as leader means that I will lose some friends. I also know that there will be people who really disagreed. But I also know that in politics, you need to be true to yourself above all else. I know that it isn’t just about me, or Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd, it is about what elected representatives think is in the best interests of the country.
I think even staunch Liberal supporters, who want to see their team successful at the election, wouldn’t necessarily want to see a potential one party control of Australian politics – I guess maybe some would – but I think most people would. Just as one of the things that I’ve noticed in the minority Parliament is that it isn’t always bad to compromise, it isn’t always bad to try and negotiate hearing the other person’s point of view. But if one political party stands to clean sweep everything, looking at the Coalition’s vision of Australia it’s different to mine and different to Labor voters. There’s a lot of people who want Labor to be competitive at the election. There’s a lot of people who know that only Labor will properly fund government and private schools in Melbourne.
SALLY WARHAFT: Even Tony Abbott a week or so ago, I think it was at Martin Ferguson was it, that he was seeing off. He teared up in talking about the great institution of the ALP. It seemed to be somewhat about that. Bill Shorten a lot of people thought that you might be rewarded with the Treasury portfolio in return for supporting Kevin Rudd, that clearly hasn’t happened because Chris Bowen has been sworn in as Treasurer today. What would you like to do, what portfolio – there’s going to be a lot of manoeuvrings going on in the next day or two – what really appeals to you?
BILL SHORTEN: Staying where I am. I am incredibly conscious that what I’ve done here has not be created by a desire for promotion or advancement. It never has been, but I’m determined that not even the perception can exist. I think that Julia Gillard’s been a remarkable Prime Minister in difficult circumstances and I think she’s received, a lot of people were turning off her because she actually has got things done in a very contested environment. I think Kevin Rudd has an ability to connect with the Australian people. What people should take from the events of the last 24 hours is that the Labor Party wants to be a real alternative to form the next government of Australia, that we’re capable of putting our division behind us.
There are legacies which could have only been created by Prime Minister Gillard, which in my opinion can only be kept by Prime Minister Rudd.
The tragedy of a lot of the personality fighting and the in-fighting has been that it’s given people a distraction from what’s important. I know that the schools reforms, which only Prime Minister Gillard could have negotiated, mean that for schools in Moonee Ponds and East Keilor and Niddrie and St Albans where I live, where my kids go to school, we need those resources for our teachers, for extra electives.
Only Prime Minister Gillard could have got the education policies forward in the last two and a half years, and I believe that it’s Kevin Rudd who gives us the best chance to save these things. The national disability insurance scheme. We’ve taken off the tax, a 15 per cent tax, paid by 3.5 million low-paid workers on their super; they used to pay 15 per cent tax on their super contributions now they pay nothing.
The conservatives want to give all the money back to the mining companies but they don’t want to provide – they want to put a new tax on savings of low-paid people.
SALLY WARHAFT: You talk about all these big things: NDIS, Gonski – but the Government comprehensively failed to sell them, essentially. Do you really believe that Kevin Rudd as a single messiah figure can come in and turn all of that around?
BILL SHORTEN: No I don’t believe in messiahs – well, without getting into that debate there was one 2000 years ago – but I don’t believe that it’s fair to put all that burden on one person be it Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd. I do believe the whole Government needs to communicate its accomplishments better. But what I also know is that people in Australia, and there’s a lot of people who want to vote Labor, they get disillusioned by the in-fighting but on the other hand they trust Labor to advance the case for its vision for the betterment of people on education and schools and jobs and growth.
I do believe that Kevin Rudd will provide that opportunity going to the next election.
I’m interested in what happens in Australia first and foremost, I’m interested in Labor providing its visions. The individuals, all of us, we are just passing through.
SALLY WARHAFT: So was that your choice, you either have to have the embarrassment of bringing back, recycling someone that many of your colleagues have publicly trashed as a madman or driving off a cliff into electoral oblivion?
BILL SHORTEN: I would put the choice differently Sally. The choice is do we allow Tony Abbott to get unfettered control of the nation, or do we put aside our differences, make hard decisions, admit mistakes? Do people like myself pay a price for being seen to support one not the other? But the individuals are not important as what happens in Australia and the very incredibly difficult proceedings of the last 24 hours to me show that Labor cannot and has not giving up winning the next election. We can win this next election because our ideas are better and what Labor has done is demonstrate that it can put aside its personal animosities because we know there are things which are more important than us. We know that the kids in our schools, the carers and the adults with disabilities are more important, we know that we need to give a choice to Australians at the next election. We are determined to fight this election and we have not given up.
SALLY WARHAFT: You really think the Labor Party can win this election under Kevin Rudd?
BILL SHORTEN: I believe that we now are in a far better position to be competitive. It’ll be the people of Australia who decide who wins and loses, but for whatever people think about the turmoil of the last day-
SALLY WARHAFT: The last three years and three days.
BILL SHORTEN: Well I don’t accept that everything that’s happened in the last three years is bad. I know that for a child at East Keilor Secondary College in Melbourne, that they will get the equivalent resources of 10 extra teachers, more choices in their languages, more choices in their sport-
SALLY WARHAFT: Bill Shorten that may well be true but Julia Gillard in her speech last night herself acknowledged that entire term of her Government had been plagued by this in-fighting and lack of unity.
BILL SHORTEN: Lack of unity has been one factor, I agree. But also a minority Parliament, where you’ve got a very aggressive Opposition and that’s their job, where every piece of law has been won by one vote, that adds to a sense of instability and tension. We’ve seen incredibly difficult economic circumstances overseas, most of the Western world has got unemployment queues far greater than our own.
I know that only Labor could have got us through the last five years. I also know that when you look at what matters – if we were talking to each other in 10 or 20 years’ time and you looked back and say ‘well what of 2010 and 2013 still exists in 2020 and 2023?’. I bet you that the superannuation increases we want, that’ll stand the test of time, people retiring with more. That national disability insurance scheme, the new school infrastructure that we built. The fact that we’ve added nearly a million jobs – these things matter.
SALLY WARHAFT: You’re a key strategist, do you think the election date will remain on September the 14th?
BILL SHORTEN: I’ve no intelligence that it won’t be, so yes I think it’ll still be that date.
SALLY WARHAFT: What about the many, many people who will accuse you of just being somebody who changes your mind to suit your own circumstances?
BILL SHORTEN: Well I think it would have been easier for me to slip below the radar and do nothing. I believe that there will be some of my friends in the movement who will never talk to me again. I believe that there’ll be some people in the community who will be unhappy with me.
I will ask for those few people who are mean to my kids or my family, you shouldn’t do that, if you’ve got a hassle take it out with me.
But I also believe, life’s a journey and you don’t always work everything out when you reach maturity, I’m now 46. What I do know is I have to be true to myself now and I have been.
SALLY WARHAFT: Well mending those broken relationships will probably take some time but there will be plenty of time. Bill Shorten thank you for taking your time this morning to talk with us. I was going to ask you how you were feeling and the mood, but I think you’re probably expressing that without having to answer it. It sounds pretty sombre.
BILL SHORTEN: Oh no I believe that we’ve done the right thing, but it is not easy and I think that Prime Minister Gillard who I’ve supported relentlessly for three years is an excellent person and history will treat her better than the current media. But I also know that I believe in the Labor cause, I believe politics has the power to make peoples’ lives better I could not stand by and watch us be defeated heavily to the point where a Coalition conservative government with unfettered power would at the very least would hold Australia back for the length of time they were in and perhaps even do worse in industrial relations, the environment, education, things which I think are fundamental to this country’s future.
SALLY WARHAFT: Bill Shorten thanks for joining us this morning.
BILL SHORTEN: Thank you Sally.