Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - Tony Abbott’s broken promise on submarines; Push to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act;

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
THURSDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 2014
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA


 

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promise on submarines; Push to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act; National Security; Cory Bernardi’s comments; Temporary Protection Visas; NAPLAN; Senate; George Christensen’s comments; George Brandis.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:
I’ve just had an opportunity to talk to Australia’s shipbuilding workers, their representatives. It is a disgrace that the Abbott Government is so cynical that they think they can get away with lying to the Australian people before the election about building ships and submarines in Australia. Then after the election just totally changing the whole deal and misleading Australians. We should be building our submarines in Australia in the future.

I also just want to make a couple of brief comments about the unhelpful intervention by number one Liberal Senate candidate and representative, Senator Cory Bernardi in South Australia. We know these are difficult and challenging times for Australians at the moment with national security and domestic terror, but Australia’s had challenging times before and we’ll have challenging times again. What the Australian people expect from their elected representatives is calmness, is wisdom, is sensible guidance for the future.

Senator Bernardi re-opening a proposition to water down protections against hate speech in Australia at this time is dramatically unhelpful to maintaining calm. We know that we can’t defeat terrorism by military action alone. That terrorism wins when hatred and tolerance spread their wings. We cannot at this time be talking about watering down protections against hate speech when what we're trying to do is defeat the hateful ideology that we see in domestic terrorism and the international events in northern Iraq and Syria.

So I call upon the Abbott Government to ask Senator Bernardi who's a Liberal, he’s not a member of the crossbench, he's not an individual independent senator, to withdraw their support for watering down laws which currently protect all Australians against hate speech. Happy to take any questions people have.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, would you back Cory Bernardi's other point that the Burqa should be banned from Parliament House?

 

SHORTEN: No, this is a red herring debate. We know and every reasonable Australian knows that there is a very few, a very few misguided Australians for reasons we can't fully understand, brought up in this marvellous country, who've been attracted to an extreme and fanatical ideology. There's no honour in crime and violence. There's no dignity in inflicting death here. But on the other hand, if we want to starve extremists of oxygen, we don’t, this country doesn't have time to play cheap, rabble-rousing games. What we need now from the mainstream political parties of Australia is moderation, not extremism, is tolerance, not intolerance, is compassion, not just trying to divide this community further.

 

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible question]

 

SHORTEN: Yes, the Prime Minister should pull Cory Bernardi into line, whether or not he does it privately or publicly, I really don't care. What I want them to do though is to disassociate, this is the Government of Australia. The Government of Australia needs to disassociate itself from the actions of a senior member of its Senate team. They need to disassociate themselves. Whether or not they ring up privately and say, you know, yank Cory off the stage and say you're not doing this mate, or whether or not they do it publicly, for me it's the result that counts. We need unity in Australia at the moment. We don't need people who should know better fuelling and fanning flames of intolerance.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister in New York has said that the air strikes that the US has done in tandem with Middle Eastern countries in Syria are justified by collective self-defence and he’s left the door open for us to consider our involvement. Do you still believe there should be no Australian involvement in air strikes in Syria? Or are you open to developing as the situation changes?

 

SHORTEN: Well first of all, in all my discussions with the Prime Minister, and I again put on record as he has done with me, I put on record my appreciation for his cooperation and forthright nature of our individual discussions and I think, I will come to your question but I think this point should be made anyway. Australians should be reassured that no matter what disagreements Tony Abbott and I have about the Budget or other matters in Australia, he and I have been working very well together about exchanging information and working towards the best interests of the nation. Going to your specific question about Syria, the Government have said to me that there is no case for military intervention in Syria, and they haven't told me anything to the contrary.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if the Government signs some kind of deal with Japan or Germany on submarines is there anything you could do if you won power? Would you unravel such a deal and go back to committing 12 subs in Adelaide?

 

SHORTEN: If I could just go to the basis of that question Tory to begin with: part of our concern is that the Government doesn't seem interested in letting the Germans tender or indeed our home-grown Australian Submarine Corporation tender. I think you raise a very relevant point at the outset of this whole discussion, which is why on earth is the Government not getting the people who currently build the submarines to submit costings? Why on earth, if the Germans have got a submarine which may be viable for our uses here, are they not asking them to submit propositions? Going to the further issue which is I think about contracts - this would be a 40-year commitment. The contracts would be in many different phases. Labor will respect any contracts which are signed, but let's not kid ourselves that there is no, this Government does not have a single-page contract for 12 submarines, for $30 billion and that's the end of the matter.

We'll of course honour any contracts that they enter into but I get the impression that a lot of homework hasn't been done about this whole Japanese sub proposition. And I mean I think the question has to be asked of the Federal Government: why did they stand up last year, I remember at least one date, May the 8th,  David Johnston the Defence Minister, then opposition minister who said they would build the submarines here. Tony Abbott has also said they’d build the submarines here. How on earth have we got to such a low level in this country that a Prime Minister of Australia can say and do anything in Opposition and then tries to pretend that he never said those things when he gets into Government. It's not good enough for jobs, it’s not good enough for our technology, it's not good enough for the future of our submarines in Australia.

 

JOURNALIST: On temporary protection visas and the announcement today, do you think that the proposal will see many people get permanent residency?

 

SHORTEN: I'd be interested to know what Scott Morrison said in answer to that question. As he, I think he said no-one will get permanent residency. What worries me is that the government's just come up with keeping 30,000 people in limbo, just prolonging the uncertainty of what happens to them. Labor in principle doesn't support keeping tens of thousands of refugees in limbo, and that's what these TPVs do. We're always interested in what is the pathway to citizenship; now I don't know if Morrison's conned Palmer or if Palmer has conned Morrison or there's a meeting of the minds. I don't know. We'll wait and see the detail. But for us, Labor's got a principled position, how on earth can this country have 30,000-plus people stuck in limbo and that's what Morrison's telling us this deal will continue to do.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, a new report has showed moving NAPLAN on-line is feasible and beneficial for students. Does the Opposition support that?

 

SHORTEN: We'll have to see the detail of that report. In terms of NAPLAN, we do believe that NAPLAN was a good idea. We're pleased that the Government seems to be moving away from its traditional opposition to it. But we'll consider this matter in this report in due time.

 

JOURNALIST: You have got an AFP officer 30 metres behind you carrying an assault rifle, do you think that’s going to be a permanent feature of security at Parliament House now?

 

SHORTEN: First of all, it’s a good opportunity – and I thank you for your question – to talk about the AFP. The AFP don’t always get some of the attention and credit that their state police colleagues get. But there are thousands of AFP officers both here and overseas who do a remarkable job in difficult circumstances. So I am a big supporter of the AFP. I had the privilege of talking to the wounded officer’s family yesterday. They’ve been, well the AFP have certainly been supporting their wounded officer, just as VicPol has been supporting their Victorian police officer. In terms of the security arrangements of Parliament, we will just go on the best advice of the experts, and that’s as it should be.

 

JOURNALIST: Your Senator Joe Bullock, who is incidentally just over there on the phone, has said that he plans to support legislation banning Medicare-funded abortions based on gender selection. Are you comfortable with that?

 

SHORTEN: It’s a conscience vote, we know that, and I think it’s important that MPs get a chance, all the Senators gets a chance, to have their say in the Senate –

 

JOURNALIST: You expect there will be a vote?

 

SHORTEN: I might ask my colleague, Senator Conroy, who is our Deputy Leader in the Senate, to update people on this more.

 

SENATOR STEPHEN CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Look, there’s a debate around a number of issues that are very relevant there, but it’s a conscience vote, it’s always been a conscience vote and so we have people who have very strong views on both sides of this argument. So this is normal, it happens all the time in the Senate on issues involving life, so there’s no angst between Senators even in the same parties. Everyone respects –

 

JOURNALIST: Do you expect there’ll be a vote?

 

CONROY: I’m not sure, I haven’t seen the speakers list. I would anticipate that there’ll be a lot of interest and a lot of people wanting to speak on this issue, but how long they speak for, how many are speaking, that’s just a matter for the Senate and the Senators’ consciences.

 

JOURNALIST: Is this a debate that’s warranted in the 21st century?

CONROY: Well people have strong views on this and what the Labor Party have done and I think the Liberals have the same position is that we respect the conscience vote on these issues that the fundamental issues that the ALP’s National Executive has ruled on and so people are entitled to raise this. There are people in the community who have strong views on this and people in the Parliament who represent those views and that’s as it should be.

JOURNALIST: How will you vote Senator Conroy, if there’s one?

CONROY: I haven’t had a chance to consider the issue yet. I’ve always supported the right for there to be abortions on Medicare, so I myself wouldn’t be supporting any attempt to ban that. But I respect the right of my colleagues and good friends who have a different position on this.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, George Christensen has likened [inaudible] Far North Queensland to terrorists that are trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef, what do you think about his comments?

SHORTEN: I think the Government’s used the term ‘Team Australia’ a lot. I’m worried about emergence of ‘Team Idiot’. Bernardi, Christensen, people who are just, I don’t know what book they’re reading from but it’s not any book that I’d want to pick up. I’ve got no time for high handed extreme green tactics, but let’s face it, this week our focus has been on national security and terrorism,  I think they’re very unwise words from this chap. I don’t know if he’s just a headline hunter but I just caution that Australia’s got serious issues to deal with in this Parliament and we don’t need an outbreak of ‘Team Idiot’.

JOURNALIST: On that point, George Brands said yesterday that Australia’s facing a more immediate threat than possibly during the Cold War, do you think that’s, that’s true or helpful that comment?

SHORTEN: I’m not sure that the Cold War immediately is an easy comparison to make to the current conflict based on extreme sectarianism. What I would just say in closing is what people expect from their Parliamentarians is that we help guide them sensibly through complex times. Intolerance is not defeated by being more intolerant. Hatred is not defeated by being more hateful. I would just encourage, it doesn’t matter if you’re Liberal, Labor, Green, whatever, crossbencher; just if your comments not value adding about where this community needs to go perhaps you should go into a room on your own and say it to the mirror and spare the rest of us your thought bubbles. Thanks.

 

ENDS

 

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