Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - G20; Sydney Institute speech

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW


FRIDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2014

CANBERRA

 

SUBJECT/S: G20; Sydney Institute speech; Prime Minister David Cameron; Multinational tax evasion; FIFA world cup bid; MH17

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Last night, I spoke about Labor's vision for the G20 and our international relations. We need to be a nation of vision and a nation of confidence. We need to be a nation which can show leadership to the world about the big issues facing our planet. I believe that this weekend Tony Abbott has a fantastic opportunity for Australia to show leadership at the G20 by talking about the following matters: real action on climate change, promoting inclusive growth, pushing greater global free trade, not just bilateral trade agreements and tackling the scourge of youth unemployment which is damaging the futures of so many of our citizens.

 

The G20 is a test of leadership for Tony Abbott. If Australia wants to walk on the international stage, we can't pick and choose when we want to be international and when we want to be isolationist. We can't just talk about free trade without talking about tackling youth unemployment. We can't talk about security alone in northern Iraq and then ignore the challenge of Ebola in West Africa. We most certainly need to address climate change as the Presidents of China and the United States have done so in such a dramatic fashion this week.

 

Make no mistake, when Tony Abbott says he only wants to concentrate on economic issues what we see is a stubborn isolationist who won't admit that climate change is an economic issue. Australia has a chance to show case ourselves to the world, or we can look that we're backward, isolationist and not dealing with the big issues that the world wants to talk about. I might ask my colleague Chris Bowen to talk further and indeed talk about the importance of multinational tax evasion as being a foremost issue for Australia to address at the G20.

 

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks very much Bill. Obviously Australia has a great opportunity as the chair of the G20 and that's why the Gillard Government worked so hard to ensure that Brisbane was an appropriate host for the G20. So, of course, as Bill said we support a robust agenda for this very important G20 meeting. We support obviously any efforts to promote economic growth in Australia and around the world. Unfortunately, what we see from the Government and the Treasurer in particular with his plans, so-called plans to promote economic growth, is a rehashing of his unfair and rejected budget.

 

Youth unemployment is a focus for this G20 meeting, appropriately. Youth unemployment is a scourge, a growing scourge around the world including here in Australia and yet one of the measures put forward by the Treasurer is to freeze out young people from Newstart, to deliberately create an underclass is one of his great plans to promote economic growth. So we would support in a bipartisan fashion sensible plans to support economic growth. We support and initiated, as Bill said, robust measures to deal with tax evasion and base erosion which Joe Hockey has walked away from.

 

If he's serious about his proposals before this G20 meeting he'll be announcing this weekend his reversal of the decision to scrap Labor's $1.1 billion crackdown on unfair tax evasion by multinational companies. This is a great opportunity for Australia, this is an important moment for Australia, it's important that the Government show the relevant leadership in promoting economic growth and a fair dinkum crackdown on multinational tax evasion.

 

SHORTEN: Are there any questions?

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask about the FIFA report that was released last night? Are you concerned about the findings that Australia effectively attempted to bribe members of the executive to, for its bid to be successful?

 

SHORTEN: I haven't seen the report yet. I'm not going to speculate about what's happened in it. All Australians, though, have a right to expect the utmost probity from Australian officials. Beyond that there's nothing I can add at this stage.

 

JOURNALIST: But given it suggests that taxpayer money has been inappropriately allocated to projects that otherwise would not be funded and that happened under the Labor Government - is that something that you will investigate internally?

 

SHORTEN: Well first of all, I'd just refer you to my answer I previously gave. I haven't seen the report so I'm not going to speculate on what the Government's response should be. But again though to go to the heart of your question, no public officials should ever be behaving in an illegal or criminal fashion. Australians have a right to expect the highest standards of financial accountability and honesty from their public officials. But beyond that we'll have to look at the report and see what the response of the government is.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, with ongoing discussions about Vladimir Putin and Russian war ships, do you think that Mr Abbott's confrontation of sorts with Vladimir Putin is still going to overshadow the G20 and discussions like climate change are just not going to impact?

 

SHORTEN: I think all Australians know that Tony Abbott overreached when he had his brain snap and said he would shirtfront Vladimir Putin. We just heard the Prime Minister of England make a joke of the use of the word shirtfront in his excellent address to the Parliament. What really matters here is getting answers for the families of the victims of MH17. My concern has been that Tony Abbott by making his diplomatic faux pas, his brain snap, his emotional reaction, is that somehow we've lost the initiative in holding the requirement of the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin to come clean and be straight about what they know or don't know about the shooting down of the plane in eastern Ukraine. So I am concerned that in the way of the world, Tony Abbott has overplayed his hand and, therefore, we've lost some of the initiative.

 

What I know from talking to families first-hand, what they really want is skip the grandstanding and the big words, but they do want the Russians, the Russian Government, Russian officials, Vladimir Putin, to provide all the information that they have at their disposal and I also think Australians believe that the Russian Government or elements in the Russian Government who are close to the separatists would know more than has been revealed. And so again I just reiterate what I know Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop tried to do and I understand, you know, their frustration at one level. We just want the Russian Federation to behave as a good international citizen and to provide the information to the Dutch inquiry so that people can have some closure on what was a terrible atrocity.

 

JOURNALIST: But the Prime Minister at least talked to the Russian President about it, your proposal a couple of days ago was to not to say anything at all?

 

SHORTEN: If you want to go on bended knee and just sort of repeat your questions to the Russian President, most Australians already know the questions that have got to be asked. What we want to know is the answers. What we want is the, the Russians know what they've got to do, the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, they know and I think that what we've got to do is move away from, is Tony Abbott going to shirtfront Putin, is he going to have a meeting with him? Are there sort of angry eyes at each other? Is it going to be, you know, what is the nature of the altercation? We need to get this back on track. The Russian Federation knows what information they have at their disposal, I don't think Australia should have to beg the Russians to do the right thing on this. I don't think Tony Abbott should have to plead with Vladimir Putin to behave properly. Vladimir Putin knows what he's got to do and he should just tell Australians and tell our Government the truth.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you make of the fact that the Prime Minister didn't hold a press conference after he had his meeting with Vladimir Putin, is he trying to run away from the issue?

 

SHORTEN: It probably suits Putin for us to have an argument about what was the nature and the extent of Tony Abbott's stuff up. You know, I just say to the Australian media, we all know Tony Abbott got it wrong, Australian people know that, but it suits Putin for us to keep talking about Tony Abbott. What I want is I want Vladimir Putin to cooperate with the inquiry being conducted by the Netherlands to tell us what they do and don't know and by the way, even a crocodile wouldn't swallow that Vladimir Putin and Russian Government don't know what's gone on here. They do.

 

JOURNALIST: Jacqui Lambie, who is a fan of Vladimir Putin to an extent has created a bit of a storm within the Palmer United Party and Clive Palmer. How long do you think it will before she'll become an independent, and what are your thoughts about the changes in the Senate if that happens?

 

SHORTEN: Ructions in minor parties are not something which Labor is going to comment on. The real issue is how the Senate votes on the unfair Budget measures of this Government. What I want to see is the Senate act on behalf of the will of the Australian people. The will of the Australian people is not to double and triple university degrees, it’s not to have a Petrol Tax snuck through the back door, it’s not to tax sick people for going to the doctor, it’s not to make young people under 30 go with no income for six months. So I'm focussed on what the Government is doing to make Australia more unfair and what I just say to the Government about their unfair Budget is they complain and moan because the Senate and Labor are standing up to them, all I say to the Government is just if you think these policies are so good why didn't you tell Australians before the last election? And if you still believe in them that much why don't you take them to an election before you ask Australian Members of Parliament to sell out the best qualities of Australian life?

 

JOURNALIST: Would you consider supporting Jacqui Lambie's bill to tie ADF pay to parliamentarian pay?

 

SHORTEN: Defence remuneration should be set in an independent process. I just think that the Government has completely pulled the wrong reins when it comes to the treatment of our Defence Forces. I know there's a lot of Government backbenchers who are seething, they know that offering the Defence Forces effectively a real pay cut is a disaster for the morale of our Defence Forces and their families. I deplore the politics that has entered the argument about Defence Force wages. The Defence Forces don't want to be on the front pages of your newspapers debating their money, but they also I think expect that the Parliament of Australia will sustain that unwritten contract we have with our Defence Forces – you go out and keep our families safe and we'll make sure you don't fall behind the cost of living, that’s what Labor thinks. Before we talk about the tactics of minor parties the people who can change this is Tony Abbott and his Government. They allocated more money in their Budget than they've offered the troops so they're skimming their own Budget and denying the troops the resources they should have in terms of pay and remuneration. We shouldn't be making our Defence Forces the meat in this sandwich. The Government should be just simply come up with a new offer which at least sees our troops keep pace with the cost of living.

 

JOURNALIST: On the China FTA discussions, news today that Gina Rinehart is backing the dairy industry with half a billion dollar investment in a Queensland operation to get baby infant formula into China. What is your view of that move in terms of the FTA that's due to be concluded?

 

SHORTEN: I might ask Chris to answer that particular matter.

 

BOWEN: I think the investment should be seen as a standalone matter. Obviously any investment which grows jobs and provides opportunities in rural and regional Australia is very welcome. New Zealand has shown substantial inroads into the Chinese market when it comes to dairy and we would welcome and support any moves to see Australia doing likewise.

 

JOURNALIST: You would be prepared to put a tax on that in the same way you did with the mining tax?

 

BOWEN: That's a pretty silly question, with all due respect. The Minerals Resource Rent Tax was based on the belief and the accepted belief that the minerals under the ground belonged to all Australians. Any suggestion that that applies to the dairy industry is not well founded at all with all due respect.

 

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask on a separate matter, with regards to Rupert Murdoch's comments that Kim Williams’ departure from News had nothing to do with the launch of your book, what's your response to that?

 

BOWEN: My response to that is that Kim Williams is a great Australian who has contributed a lot to corporate Australia and we all wish him well in the future. Obviously matters between Mr Williams and Murdoch are for them but I regard Kim Williams as a very fine Australian indeed.

 

JOURNALIST: You’ve both called for the Treasurer to have a mini-Budget next month rather than a mid-year review. He said he's not going to make any more cuts for fear of upsetting the economy. Can we have six months of doing nothing, if you're going to object to his proposals and he's not going to bring forward any others?

 

SHORTEN: I might make an initial statement, but it's fortuitous I'm doing this conference with my Shadow Treasurer, he can respond in more length. Joe Hockey has to stop blaming everyone else for the mess he's got us into. They didn't do any work for the Budget, they have had the longest start to - between a Government getting elected, a first term Government and bringing down a Budget, yet they've kept none of their election promises. They told us lies before the election and then in their unfair Budget they're cutting the hospital funding and the schools funding in all the States, we see them introducing a GP Tax, they didn't talk about increasing people's taxation, or increasing petrol taxes, restricting the growth of people's pensions. This is a very unfair Budget and Joe Hockey needs to buy a mirror to find out who's fault that his Budget is not going anywhere. But I might ask Chris to go into more detail about the mid-year Budget.

 

BOWEN: Let me just add a few things. Firstly, of course whenever the previous Government had to write down revenue projections announced that revenue was going to be less than predicted Joe Hockey would go into full huff-and-puff chest-beating mode, right up and down the country alleging the scandal, alleging that the Budget wasn't worth the paper it was written on. Now he's in the real world he should be held to the same test that he tried to hold the previous Government to account for. Secondly, this is just underlining the fact that this Government was elected on the basis of lies. They talked about budget emergencies, now he's going to by all reports, which he hasn't denied, outline a very much increased budget deficit and going to do absolutely nothing about it and he says everything is fine. Third point, he says ‘I don't want to do anything to damage confidence’, he says, well congratulations on caring about confidence, consumer confidence is 14 per cent lower than it was at the time of the last election. It's been low since before his Budget, since he started talking down the Australian economy and talking tough on Australia's weakest. That's when consumer confidence has been hit as a direct result of his rhetoric and his actions. Now he says he cares about consumer confidence. He should have cared about consumer confidence when he brought down his unfair Budget which has been bad for the economy. The best thing he could do for consumer confidence is drop the measures in his Budget which have been rejected by the Australian people and the Australian Parliament and as we've been calling for, since May, go back to the drawing board and start again because he's got his Budget completely and totally wrong.

 

JOURNALIST: Wouldn't that make the debt and deficit situation worse? I know you're frustrating the Government's attempts to do something about the debt and deficit?

 

BOWEN: Every budget is about priorities and choices and this Government has made them. They've decided they want to cut the Budget deficit which tackling Australian pensioners, by creating an underclass when it comes to Australia's young unemployed people, by $80 billion of cuts to health and education in the states - that's their priorities. We have a completely different set of priorities. If the Government wants to come up with a fair dinkum way of Budget repair then we will look at it in good faith, but we're not going to stand by and support unfair measures which attack Australians who can least afford it.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

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