Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbounre - Abbott Government’s cuts to healthcare; immigration






SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s cuts to healthcare; immigration; political donations; Australian Labor Party; de-radicalisation programs

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be here at the Monee Ponds Paramedic Centre, talking to hard working paramedics to help keep us safe. The reason why I'm visiting, talking to paramedics is because they're at the front line on the health service and there is great concern that Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey with their $57 billion worth of cuts to the health system, $57 billion worth of cuts to hospitals, will put greater pressure on our front line health services. On one hand, while state governments administer the health system and it's great to be here with Danny Pearson, the State Member for Essendon, the truth is that the Commonwealth Government are the people who help fund healthcare in Australia. If you take $57 billion out of the system and indeed if the Government goes ahead with their recently exposed plans in the Federation Green Paper to not fund public hospitals at all, it's going to create an intolerable strain on our paramedics, on our emergency departments, on our waiting lists, on elective surgery. It's going to lead to a real decrease in the health of Australians. That's why Labor will keep opposing the ruthless cuts of Mr Abbott to the health system and hospitals of Australia. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what would you propose to do with health funding?

SHORTEN: There's no doubt in my mind the Commonwealth does play a big role in the health of Australians. We will announce our policies closer to the election but we will keep opposing the Government's GP tax by stealth. We will keep opposing some of the measures in their current Budget which are going to see a cut to the provision of healthcare to Australians. Labor will always, always, always better fund healthcare and hospitals in Australia. We will always, always be the champions of Medicare because we are determined, we recognise in Australia that the health of any one of us affects all of us and that healthcare in this country shouldn't be decided in that American style by your credit card, instead by your Medicare card.

JOURNALIST: By opposing these cuts should you not also be proposing an alternative?

SHORTEN: And we will. The point about it is this Government has broken a lot of promises from the last election. People remember famously that Mr Abbott on several occasions, including the last night before the election to get everyone's vote, said that there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to the pension and indeed no cuts even to the ABC or SBS. He's broken all these promises. What we want to do is make Mr Abbott keep his promises. The health of Australians is too important to be just cut up by Mr Abbott and we want to make sure that our paramedics' job isn't made harder by the Commonwealth Government.

JOURNALIST: Will you wait for Labor's National Conference to decide your position on boat turn backs?

SHORTEN: Well Labor's got a strong position already in terms of defeating the people smugglers. Our policy, which we will take to the next election, will be constructive for asylum seekers and compassionate for refugees. With are determined to maintain regional processing. We want to defeat the people smugglers who say that if they can take people to Australia then once you get here then you can stay here. The dilemma with that is that it created the most dangerous seaway in the world between Java and Christmas Island. We do not want people drowning on their way to Australia. We don't want people smugglers to be able to put people into unsafe boats and then run the risk of drowning. For me it's all about safety and it's about the humane treatment of genuine refugees. Labor will get this balance right and we'll have more to say at National Conference and beyond.

JOURNALIST: Given the revelations about the mafia and political donations, do we need to have another look at political donations?

SHORTEN: Yes, we do. I think all of us are concerned by the revelations of the mafia trying to infiltrate and influence decisions. Labor has supported greater transparency for political parties. I believe the time is again where the political parties of Australia need to look at how we can further improve transparency. There are questions for the Liberals to answer, I'm sure they will over time. But what we all know is that we need to learn lessons, we need to make sure that we have the most transparent form of funding. Labor is up for reform of political donation laws. We ask Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party to join with us to further improve confidence in our democratic system.

JOURNALIST: Just back to the asylum seekers matter, will the turn back policy - sorry will Labor's policy be locked in at the National Conference ?

SHORTEN: Well, Labor's policy is by and large well set already. We supported the Government recently in amendments to the Migration Act, but in speaking on that matter I reminded Australians that it was Labor who proposed regional resettlement so we could stop people smugglers seeking $10,000 a pop to put people in unsafe boats and potentially and in some cases actually drowning, and what we want to do is destroy the people smugglers' model. We also want to make sure that we are a generous nation and we do our thing when it comes to helping genuine refugees around the world.

JOURNALIST: Is it true that rules that would protect you from being removed as Labor leader before an election haven't been incorporated into the party's national constitution?

SHORTEN: The assumption of that question goes to: has the Labor Party learnt its lesson from the disunity of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd period, and the answer is yes we have learnt our lesson. My colleagues and I are determined to be united and for the last two years we've been very united and we will continue in that vein. I think the real challenge here is back in February Mr Abbott nearly lost to an empty chair. In other words, 39 of his party voted to spill the position without even having a candidate. The disunity of Labor's past is now the current problem of Mr Abbott and his Government.

JOURNALIST: But has that been incorporated into the constitution as it had been decided on?

SHORTEN: I have to say when it comes to the Labor Party and its rules that's a matter for the Labor Party. But what I can assure Australians is that the Labor Party's learnt its lesson about disunity. We regard the disunity of the past as a matter of history and I think the record's clear that since I was elected leader, the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party has been more united than at any time in decades.

JOURNALIST: So does that mean you're not aware whether it has been incorporated or not?

SHORTEN: What it means is I'm not worried about the issue and the party's united and I'm very grateful for the support I get from my Federal Parliamentary party. What Australians want to see is they want to see a political party that is united because if you're not united yourself how can you help govern the nation? We are united, we passed that first test. I don't think anyone seriously thinks that Mr Abbott's party is fully behind Mr Abbott.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, just a simple question whether it has been incorporated or not?

SHORTEN: You'd have to ask the Federal Labor Party for that. But what I would say is that in terms of the assumption underpinning it is there unity in the party, yes, there is.

JOURNALIST: Strategic policy Institute is reporting to young radicals says only 42 per cent are dual nationals so do you accept that more needs to be done about those that are sole Australian citizens such as suspending certain Australian rights, that sort of thing?

SHORTEN: Well there's a fair bit in your question so if I might go to the various parts of it. There is a great importance in making sure that we don't have disaffected young people – a very, very small minority I hasten to add – who could be radicalised by some of these predators on the internet or other people trying to pervert and poison the minds of young Australians to convince them to engage in terrorist activities in the Middle East. De-radicalisation is as an important a part of making sure that we protect and keep Australians safe as any other military contribution we send to the Middle East. So there is appropriate discussion about what's the best form of de-radicalisation. There are different programs, what I say though, is the best frontline we have to help make sure the disaffected youth are not being radicalised by a few predators and evil people is to work with the Australian Muslim community not to demonise it. I've had many great meetings with Australian Muslim leaders and many members of the Australian Muslim community. They love our country as much as all other Australians. I think what is really necessary is that we say to all Australians, Muslim, Christian or of any faith, you are a welcome member of our society and that we work with you to make sure if there's a few youth in any of the communities, that we're looking after them. In terms of the specific measures you're asking me, we haven't seen a proposal from Mr Abbott. As ever, Labor's approach on terrorism is to work with the Government in a constructive fashion, not an uncritical fashion but a constructive fashion. Terrorists need to understand that they will not divide Australian society and they will not divide Australian politics. Thanks, everyone.