TUESDAY, 1 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: 1 Year Anniversary of the National Disability Insurance Scheme; Abbott Government’s abolition of the Disability Discrimination Commissioner; Royal Commission into child sex abuse; Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; July 1 Cuts; Commonwealth Bank; FoFA; Clive Palmer; Climate Change; RET.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is fantastic and a privilege to be at Hartley Lifecare today with Jenny Macklin, our Shadow Minister, and local Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary Gai Brodtmann.
Today the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a year old. This is a fantastic anniversary. When you get the privilege to meet people who have profound and severe impairment, and see how they and their families and their carers can have greater choices and a fairer go in life because of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that is really heartening about what this nation can do when we work together in the spirit consensus.
There are 5,500 people who are already benefitting from the National Disability Insurance Scheme, lives changed forever because of the generosity and compassion of Australians and a support for the fair go. Today we will see expanded services in the ACT, in the Northern Territory, and in Western Australia. So this is good news for people with profound and severe impairment in our nation and their families and the people who love them.
But today is also sad, because for the first time in a very long time, people with disability and their carers will be without a full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner. This Abbott Government has made the wrong choice when it has withdrawn funding from a passionate and strong voice for people with a disability. Anyone who has got a family member with a disability knows that it is not always easy to get a fair go for disabilities, and what happens is you can suffer discrimination, unthinking behaviour and unthinking prejudice.
At least people with disability have had a Disability Discrimination Commissioner to stand alongside people with disability, to make sure that the airlines give people with a disability a fair go, and that people get a fair go in the work place and other forms of discrimination are stepped on from a very high height by the Disability Discrimination Commissioner. The Abbott Government has taken away a voice for people with a disability today.
Before I hand over to Jenny Macklin, I would also just like to briefly comment and acknowledge the remarkable and difficult and painful work of the Royal Commission into child sex abuse. Labor hopes, we fundamentally hope that the work of the Royal Commission can continue and that the Government provides them with the resources they need so that the untold stories can be told. Labor does support an extension of time for the Royal Commission and the other matters which the Royal Commission's requested of the Government.
On that I might hand over colleague, Jenny Macklin.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISABILITY REFORM: Thanks very much Bill. It is really, really exciting to be here at Hartley Lifecare today and I want to say a huge thank you, especially to the people with disability who live here. This is their home. Thank you so much for opening your home today to allow us to be with you on this first birthday of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
I want to say a huge congratulations to all the people with disability, carers, family members, providers of disability services all around Australia who have National Disability Insurance Scheme real. This is your day for celebration and we are so glad to be part of it. It is life changing. This is a change that our generation is delivering to the people of Australia. We to hope it will be there forever to see the changes that people with disability really, really deserve. Our heartfelt congratulations.
I do want to add my remarks to those of Bill Shorten about the Disability Discrimination Commissioner. First of all, I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution made by Graham Innes who has been the Disability Discrimination Commissioner for some time now. Graham has been outspoken, he has been fearless, he has been a person who all of us know was always going to put the interests of people with disability first. We honour you Graham and we will miss you, but not as much as people with disability will miss you.
It is absolutely shameful that the Abbott Government is not replacing the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and we will continue to campaign to make sure that this position is appropriately filled.
Finally, I just want to add my own personal remarks about the Royal Commission into child sex abuse. This has been an extraordinarily difficult task, first and foremost for the people who have been abused who have come forward and told their stories, so that they can have their history known to our country. I do want to acknowledge the work done by the commissioners, it can't have been easy and it won't be important easy in the future.
It is so important that this Royal Commission continue and that it gets the funding support that both the Royal Commission needs, but also that people who are coming forward to tell their story, the support that they need because all of us can only really faintly imagine how hard it must be for those people to tell what happened to them.
SHORTEN: Thank you. We will be pleased to take any questions people might have.
REPORTER: The Prime Minister said in Parliament, I think it was last month, that he felt that the Royal Commission was well-funded. Are you expecting them to announce this extra $104 million that they need?
SHORTEN: I am sure this is not a matter of partisan politics. The Royal Commission has been doing difficult really important job in difficult circumstances and empowering a lot of people who haven't had a voice until now. If the Royal Commission said they want, or they need extra resources, if they believe they need extra time, I think that it is incumbent on the Parliament to support this.
REPORTER: So you would support the extra $100 million that they need as well?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, do you have any concerns Chinese Government money was allegedly used to pay for some of Mr Palmer's election campaign?
SHORTEN: I don't know anything about how Mr Palmer structures his finances or any relationship he has with the Chinese Government. I would be happy if before we get onto other questions about PUP or anyone else, stay on disability and the NDIS today and then I’m happy to talk about anything else. So if there are any other questions then?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, another anniversary today is of the carbon tax. Do you think it is right that the carbon tax should go up today when the Abbott Government won a mandate to get rid of it?
SHORTEN: What I do know is important is that if Mr Abbott is concerned about cost of living matters, he needs to rewrite his rotten Budget. A family earning between $50, 000 and $60, 000 is facing a loss over the next couple of years of up to $6,000 in support that they currently receive. This is a massive blow to cost of living.
In terms of climate change and carbon and how to tackle the problem of climate change, Labor firmly is the party which believes climate change is real. We know that climate sceptics have taken over the Liberal Party. I think when you look back at anniversaries, the rolling of Malcolm Turnbull by Tony Abbott showed the victory of the denialists over science. When we talk about climate change policy going forward apart from just cost of living, Labor is committed to a market-based system and we believe also, and I will be talking about this today later on in a speech I am giving, the importance in national political debate of consensus.
Consensus is not forged by a Prime Minister simply demanding that everyone agree with him. Consensus is forged through the process of agreeing what the problem is, of using the best available evidence, of explaining to Australians the benefits and the need for change. So I believe that when we look at change and climate change and carbon, the Government hasn't got a proper policy to deal with climate change and it leaves us, in the future, unprepared to deal with one of the great environmental of challenges.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what did you make of the Commonwealth Banks actions as outlined in the Senate report last week and would you support a Royal Commission into that?
SHORTEN: Well first of all the Commonwealth Bank, their planners, have left thousands of people millions of dollars worse off. I’ve had the unfortunate privilege of meeting victims of the financial planning scams there. These are real people who put their trust into financial planners and were disappointed. I know there’s a lot of good financial planners out there but there are some clear scallywags and I do not believe, I do not believe that the end of this matter has been settled. We’ll see what the Commonwealth Bank's response is on Thursday. The Government’s considering the report. I don’t believe this matter can be swept under the carpet. We’re considering what we do in the light of what the Government says, if they’re fair dinkum or not. What the Commonwealth Bank does, but what worries me –
JOURNALIST: The Senate report was fairly comprehensive about saying there was a need for a Royal Commission so on that particular recommendation there’s been plenty of time to think about it. What’s Labor’s position?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, in the course of the same week as the Senate inquiry and indeed as recently as yesterday, we’ve seen the Abbott Government turn the clock back and repeal changes and knock off changes which would give better protection for consumers in financial planning. So we haven’t got a final view about where we take the Commonwealth Bank matter but I can assure you and through you to thousands of people who‘ve been harmed by these dreadful actions which have occurred within large corporate institutions, this matter is not settled. We will see what the Commonwealth Bank says. We will see what the Government says but the Abbott Government gives me no comfort at all that they're fair dinkum about protecting consumers in the financial system. We are not, Labor is not the Party who’s just going to protect the banks against victims, we are on the side of victims so we will have more to say about this in future days.
JOURNALIST: So will you be winding back the FOFA regulations which have come into force?
SHORTEN: Well, when we say the FOFA regulations that have come into force, it was Labor who led the changes to improve consumer protection, to professionalise the financial planning industry, to put confidence for consumers when they see financial planners. The Government is winding them back. Our test is on any of these regulation changes they’re making, are the rights of consumers stronger or weaker? We will always vote for stronger rights for consumers when dealing with financial institutions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask you again Mr Palmer was subpoenaed yesterday. Do you believe he has questions to answer over this alleged spending of money?
SHORTEN: Well, if he’s been subpoenaed he’ll have to deal with that matter through the court process. I’m not going to pre-empt any court process.
JOURNALIST: On the face of those reports, are you concerned? Do you think there are questions that Mr Palmer will have to answer?
SHORTEN: Well if Mr Palmer is going through a court process, I’m going to leave that to the court process to answer. I can't comment on ongoing court proceedings and I think people can understand that’s the case.
JOURNALIST: The claims are very serious though Mr Shorten, do you agree?
SHORTEN: Well that’s why we’re going to leave it to the courts to sort out.
JOURNALIST: Back on climate change, who’s responsible for the failure to sell the carbon tax?
SHORTEN: Well, I think if you look at one of the key fault lines in Australia, it started in 2009 when Tony Abbott and the sceptics and the denialists and the Internet trolls rolled Malcolm Turnbull and ever since that day we’ve seen a break down in consensus. I’ve got no doubt that Labor underestimated the impact that the anti-climate change brigade had. I’ve got no doubt that our scientific community, if they had their time again, would wish that they could have explained things differently as well. The point about taking this country to its future is that you’ve got to build consensus. Tony Abbott’s got a Downton Abbey style of consensus, where he sits in the manor, he sits in the dining room and he summons Australians like a servant class to agree with his consensus. That’s not the way the world works Tony Abbott. If you want people to get on board change with you, convince them of the merits of change and that lesson also is for Labor when it comes to climate change. We’ve got to re-litigate the case, and I don’t think Labor was expecting that we’d have to go back to first principles. We thought the science was in and we thought that most people out in the community were on board with that process. They were, but what we didn’t recognise was getting mud from the far right in Australian politics and we’ve got to refight the case for climate change and we will.
JOURNALIST: On the Renewable Energy Target, would you support making it operate at a real effect of 20 per cent rather than the 26/27 per cent it’s currently operating at?
SHORTEN: We do support having a Renewable Energy Target. What’s happened now though is that the Government’s got another review under Mr Warburton, we’ll see what they come back with. But Labor does fundamentally believe that renewable energy is good for Australia. Having a target has helped create a viable renewable energy industry. We’ve seen the number of jobs triple under Labor –
JOURNALIST: But what balance do you support Mr Shorten? If it’s driving up electricity prices, do you support bringing it down a bit?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, we are deeply suspicious that this Government is serious at all on any matter to do with the environment and climate. They’ve got this review, let’s see what they say. The Liberals are clearly divided. You’ve got the backbench taking on front bench over what to do. This Government’s a mess on climate change –
JOURNALIST: But the front bench has actually agreed to exempt aluminium smelters from the RET so is that a move you would support? They’re hardly divided are they?
SHORTEN: Well the news yesterday was that the backbench was lobbying the front bench and putting out public letters. That is unprecedented for new governments to have such a restless and nervous backbench. When it comes to renewable energy Labor believes we should have a target. Labor recognises that its generated jobs, Labor recognises that climate change is real and we don't trust the Abbott Government to be fair dinkum on any aspect of climate change and their track records tends to prove that we're right. Thanks everyone.
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