Bill's Transcripts

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW SUNDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2013

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SUNDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2013
MELBOURNE

SUBJECT/S: Philippines; the Coalition’s broken promises on child care and Better Schools; Indonesia

Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten: It’s great to be here with representatives of the Australian Filipino community, clearly a lot of Australians and indeed Filipino Australians have been rocked by the terrible typhoon which has hit the Philippines in the last few weeks, and it’s great to see a gathering of the Filipino community supporting their families back home, but also education Australians about the fantastic contribution the Filipino community makes in Australia.

Onto national politics however, this morning we have seen Tony Abbott in the space of one morning break two election promises. Every Australian parent of a child in child care has now discovered that this government, despite increases in the cost of living, is not going to index child care payments. This is an effective cut in child care payments to every Australian family. The second promise which has been broken in the course of the morning has been the Coalition’s reneging on proper funding of schools in Victoria, in Tasmanian, indeed across the non-government Catholic system.

Before the election the Coalition Opposition said they were on a so-called ‘unity ticket’ about education funding in Australia. Labor wants to see children funded according to need across systems of education, it doesn’t matter what state you live in or if its government or catholic education, every child deserves to get a quality education. What’s happened today, is we’ve seen that not only have the Coalition taken the Abbott Axe to child care funding, but now they’re reneging and backsliding from properly funding thousands of schools and hundreds and thousands of school children in Australia today. Happy to take questions.

Journalist: Was Labor’s pre-election Gosnki deal announced prematurely?

Shorten: Not at all, I helped negotiate those arrangements. The Catholic schools and the National Catholic Education Commission clearly came out and endorsed the arrangements, as did many of the state Catholic Education Commissions. If the Catholic Education Commissions thought they were agreeing to a deal, if the Government thought they were agreeing to a deal, if parents thought a deal had been done, and indeed the Coalition rushed out before the election so as to say there was no daylight between the Labor and Coalition position on education, so if everyone thought there was a deal before the election, what’s changed Mr Abbott? The only thing that has changed is the Coalition’s got into power, they’re not fair dinkum about funding children’s education in Australia. Every school parent in Australia should be rightly frustrated that the Coalition, who said there would be no surprises and no excuses, are now nasty surprises and pathetic excuses.

Journalist: Was it deceptive though to say they were done deals when you hadn’t signed the agreements?

Shorten: Under the education legislation the money was going to the Catholic schools, everyone knows that. There were intense and strong negotiations over weeks, months and years which came to a culmination in July of this year. Everyone except the Liberal Party of Australia understood the deal that had been done, and the Coalition said before the election that, yes, if you vote for the Coalition this is the government you will be getting, we will be honouring those education deals. After the election, Australian school parents are waking up this Sunday morning and realising that the government they thought they were voting for is not turning out the be the government they have actually got.

Journalist: Have the Gonski education reforms been lost because Kevin Rudd failed to sign up the Catholic education sector?

Shorten: What a deceptive and misleading proposition from the Government. The Catholic Education Commission fully knew they were getting a deal, the negotiations involved getting the agreement of the Catholic Education Commission so there could be a clear and unequivocal statement of direction of working these issues out. I’ll tell you what really is the case here; if Labor was in power now there would be no confusion about what was done, there would be no confusion from the Catholic Education Commission, most importantly there would be no confusion for parents of children who go to Catholic schools. You know, everyone was signed up to this approach and what you’ve got is the Abbott Axe being taken to education funding. If you send your child to a Catholic school in Australia, you should be very frustrated that the Coalition Government’s playing politics with your children’s education. What I would say to the Coalition is, you said you would honour the deal before the election, now you have been elected, don’t make the first people who feel the consequences of broken Coalition promises being children at childcare centres and children at school. The children are the future and this Coalition government needs to get behind the kids and their parents, and stop playing weasel words and games with the livelihoods and education of Australian school children.

Journalist: Should Labor take some of the blame for the Coalition [inaudible] because you didn’t lock in those commitments?

Shorten: I love this Coalition - on one hand they say we’re the Government, on the other the hand, anything that happens they say blame the other team. The Coalition are collecting pay cheques every week to be the Government of Australia and as soon as the going gets hard, they go missing. It is not hard to honour a deal, it is not hard. The Catholic Education Commissions and indeed all of those involved in negations before the election know exactly what was agreed. For the Coalition now to say one thing before the election, and remember they invented the term in regard to education policy, they said there is a ‘unity ticket’ in education funding. And what happened to this so-called ‘unity ticket’ after the election? It’s not worth the paper it’s written on when you’re a Coalition government. The Coalition Government should come clean, its hand up and say to the parents of children in Victoria, the parents of children in Catholic schools, the parents of children in Tasmanian, do you know what, we are actually going to keep promises, no surprises, no excuses. This Coalition government is not treating Australian school children and their parents fairly or appropriately.

Journalist: If I can ask you about Indonesia, what are your thoughts on the Prime Minister being depicted as a peeping tom in a cartoon?

Shorten: Well you know the cartoon is just ridiculous. What I would say though is in terms of Indonesia and our relationship there, there is an urgent need for us to get things back on track sooner rather than later. We have our fingers crossed that the Coalition government is able to fix up this problem. Labor’s approach is to be supportive of restoring relations in the most timely manner possible, and now is a time for cool heads and careful words. We cannot disguise the fact that our Indonesian friends have been offended so we have got to recognise that, and what we’ve got to recognise is we need to in a steady and certain manner get things back where they should be which is a positive relationship.

Journalist: Do you think Australians should be able to see the contents of Tony Abbott’s letter to the President?

Shorten: Well first things first, let’s see how this letter goes with the President of Indonesia. I think everyone is interested but what I will do is respect the fact this is not a Liberal or Labor issue. There is a clear problem. Our sentences need to be careful, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the people we are negotiating with and recognise they have taken some legitimate offence, and we need to deal with that and that needs to be done in a professional, non-political manner, cooly and calmly, and I think that all Australians are disturbed by what has happened in the last few weeks about the relationship, and we want to see things get back on track. That’s what people expect their Members of Parliament to do, that when you have got these difficult situations you see some mature experience not some simple political point scoring.

Journalist: Does this cartoon show the relationship is at a new low with Indonesia?

Shorten: One thing we can’t afford to do is let these negotiations be distracted by cartoons. What I believe is that now is the time recognise this is an incredibly serious matter; it’s not just another day at the office in foreign relations. Indonesia is an important partner for a lot Australia’s aspirations, from national security to people smuggling right through to trade and tourism. We want to see things back on track, Labor wants to see the Government succeed. What we need to do is make sure that there are careful and moderate comments coming from Australia and we don’t just go off the handle and overreact. This is now a time for sensible leadership.

Journalist: Does the temporary halt in cooperation between the police in the two countries give the chance for terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiah to grow?

Shorten: I’m not going to start speculating about national security. The best thing we can do to any questions about our relationship with Indonesia, is get them back on track. It is not in Australia’s interest to see this collapse in the relationship. Now is the time for timely, and that means sooner rather than later, quicker rather than slower, restoration of relationships. Because I think in the long term as your question indicates there is far more at stake. I don’t believe we have an alternative to working this out with Indonesia.

Journalist: Do you think Mr Abbott should get on a plane and go to Indonesia and sort this out?

Shorten: I don’t want to start giving Mr Abbott advice through the media. I do think this requires direct discussion and negotiation, we have seen that through letter to letter, that’s a start. We just want the Government to get this right. We want our relationship with Indonesia to be back where it was prior to the last few weeks. None of this is easy, the Opposition does not think this is an easy matter for the Government, but what we need here is sensible comments, not extreme comments. What we need is action in a timely fashion, not just letting things drag and out, and we need the most sensible approach and we need to understand that, leave aside everything that everyone thinks about what is flying around, that Indonesia’s leadership does feel offended and that we need to recognise that we also need to put the hand out to them, not simply wait for them to come to us.

Journalist: Do you believe the Coalition can continue their stop the boats policy without Indonesia cooperation?

Shorten: Listen, their buy back the boats policy is, the Coalition hasn’t been going well in terms of what they’re doing on boats in terms of implementation. The fact they hide behind the military, the fact they say that boats issues are matters which happen on water, as if you have boats issues that happen on land. The Coalition needs to straighten out its boats policy but let’s not confuse the two issues. This issue of restoring the relationship with Indonesia, this is a time for leadership, it’s a time for wise words, careful words and cool heads. It’s not a time for cheap point scoring. But we do need to recognise, and the Opposition certainly does, this is a very serious issue and the Opposition will seek to work with the Government because we want, regardless of who is in power, we want the Government of Australia to be able to conduct sensible, productive relationships in a cooperative fashion with our nearest neighbour.

Journalist: We’ve got reports Australia is changing its stance on several [inaudible] West Bank, so that rather than opposing that, we will abstain from any UN vote. What would your stance be on that issue?

Shorten: You’re probably a little bit ahead of me in terms of understanding the latest voting debate.

Journalist: One of my colleagues has had reports that settlements in the West Bank, Australia has changed its position and so that rather than opposing settlements in the West Bank we will abstain from any UN vote on that matter. Just wondering if you want to comment on that issue?

Shorten: I’m not sure of the latest voting issues by the Government at the UN. I have to say that Indonesia for me is the number one issue for the Federal Government to get on top of in the coming hours and days. That’s where for me the major issue is. I’m happy to take that other question on notice and get someone to get back in touch with you, I appreciate that. Thanks everyone. Have a lovely day.

ENDS

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