FRIDAY, 15 AUGUST 2014
SUBJECT/S: Domestic Violence Forum; Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; Joe Hockey Gaffe; Iraq; Jihadis Slipping Out Under the Immigration Minister’s Nose; MH17; ASADA, ABC Cuts
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I’m here today with Tim Watts, the hard working member for Gellibrand. We are very fortunate that we have with us, Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for groups dealing with this issue in Victoria. I might say some initial remarks about our forum and then invite Fiona to make further important comments.
Today we have been meeting with people who speak up as the voice for one of the urgent crises in Australian society: I talk about the crisis of family violence. This is an important national political issue and it is a crisis across Australia. It is a national disgrace that more than a woman every week is murdered by someone who claims to love them. The police can't simply arrest their way out of this crisis. It is not just an issue for women. It is not just an issue of homelessness, it is a national political issue, which needs a determined bipartisan national political response. Today Labor is starting the process of working our policies on how we would assist the fight the scourge of family violence and tackle the violence which is occurring in our suburbs regardless of postcode, regardless of ethnicity. This is a national political issue and Labor's determined to fight this issue.
I'd like to invite Fiona to say some further comments then we're happy to take questions.
FIONA MCCORMACK, CEO OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTORIA: This is an issue that is absolutely critical. We had 29 women and 8 children murdered in Victorian alone just last year, and that's not counting all the murders we've seen this year, the seven over Easter that we saw. This is one of the key drivers of homelessness in Australia. It costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion every year, so it's really important politicians across the spectrum, corporates, sporting clubs, everybody in the community is really willing to learn about this, because one of the reasons it is so rife is because the community's understanding about it is so limited. So it's really really important. Today's been a great event and we will meet with anybody across the political spectrum who wants to learn about this, because we need leadership on this issue right now. It's absolutely critical. We have a need for leadership at a range of different levels.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Fiona. We're happy to take questions on family violence first and other matters perhaps after that.
REPORTER: What is your plan? What is it you think you can do that isn't being done and why hasn't it been done?
SHORTEN: It's early days for Labor's policies for the next election, but what was very clear today is that there's a lot of good people who have spent a lot of effort already working on the challenges of preventing and responding to family violence. I include the police, I include the White Ribbon Foundation, I include Domestic Violence Victoria and all of the groups we met with today. But what is also clear to us, is that there's not one silver bullet solution. While we must have, of course, timely response, well-funded legal services and refuges to support the victims, it's clear that we need to have a greater focus on prevention. Our young people, in particular our young men, must learn what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable. We need the engagement with business and corporate Australia. We need the engagement with our sporting bodies such as the AFL, who already do good work. We need to make sure that we're helping explaining to the perpetrators why what they've done is so unacceptable in helping deal with them. We need to make sure that our migrant communities don't get forgotten, that people with disabilities - we understand that gender and violence are big issues confronting people with disabilities. I'm confident with goodwill and political effort across the spectrum, Australia can be a world leader in tackling family violence, but it does require national leadership, it means that the national political debate in Australia has to not just talk about old issues, but talk about this new urgent crisis which is existing in front of us everywhere.
REPORTER: With only one woman in the Federal Cabinet, is that possible?
SHORTEN: Well, I believe it is possible to help educate the Abbott Government - we need them to be partners with Labor to tackle family violence. I do note that Labor has a strong record of including and promoting women in our ranks and I do think that Australian politics and all of the issues which affect women will be further improved and enhanced by the inclusion of more women at senior parts of the political debate, including the Cabinet.
REPORTER: Daniel Andrews said if Labor's elected in Victoria there'll be a royal commission into this issue. Is there a need for a national approach?
SHORTEN: I admire what Daniel Andrews has said about a royal commission in Victoria, that's one idea for Labor to consider nationally. I do think that it is a legitimate question to raise about a national response on family violence. One thing's for sure, you have a rare opportunity when you're an elected representative in Parliament to raise issues which don't normally get to be discussed. Labor feels strongly the importance of tackling family violence in all its forms. We're up for making it a national political issue and we extend the hand of friendship to the Abbott Government to continue work already started and to do better than we already do.
REPORTER: The Prime Minister today in responding to Joe Hockey's comments has said he wouldn't have made those comments, but he is still standing by his Treasurer, what do you think of that?
SHORTEN: Just before I answer that and go to the other political issues, are there any other questions on family violence?
REPORTER: In terms of today's family violence forum, what did you find out about the problem with family violence in the west and how significant it is?
SHORTEN: Family violence is not the problem of a particular postcode, or a particular income group or a particular ethnic group. There is no doubt in my mind though, that we need to make sure that our legal services which represent women get the support they deserve. There's no doubt in my mind that the shocking murder, which occurred in April in Sunshine, has touched a chord with families and people across the western suburbs. We need to make sure that our police get the resources they need. We need to make sure that our court system provides the support to both victims and all those caught up in this cycle of violence, so I think there is more that can be done in the western suburbs and we do need the Abbott Government and the Napthine Government to allocate appropriate resources to make sure the western suburbs of Melbourne doesn't get neglected merely because it doesn't vote Liberal.
REPORTER: And now can you please response to my question regarding the Prime Minister on comments made by Joe Hockey?
SHORTEN: I note that Tony Abbott has criticised indirectly, Treasurer Joe Hockey, his Treasurer by saying he wouldn't have said what Joe Hockey said. It's clear to me that this friendless Budget, this unfair friendless Budget now has a friendless Treasurer championing the Budget. This is a friendless Budget with a friendless Treasurer. Today, Christopher Pyne, who's the leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, on no less than six occasions, wouldn't endorse what Joe Hockey had said. Today the Prime Minister's come back from overseas. He too has reprimanded his Treasurer. It seems to me that the Treasurer not only has an unfair Budget which no one in Australia likes, it now seems that no one in the Government likes the Treasurer's comments, the out of touch and insensitive comments he made about poor people not driving motor cars.
REPORTER: This is the second Minister he's had to admonish if you like, or distance himself from in a week with Eric Abetz last week and Joe Hockey. What do you think Tony Abbott needs to do with his Cabinet currently?
SHORTEN: First of all, we saw the spectacle this week of while Tony Abbott was away, Liberal Cabinet ministers going and seeing Clive Palmer to find out what they should do with running Australia. Now Tony Abbott's back he's clearly got a big problem on his hands. The Treasurer's got an unfair Budget that no-one in Australia likes. Labor will not support an unfair Budget so there's no prospect of us running up the white flag. I think it’s probably now time that the Prime Minister considers if the Treasurer can't sell the Budget, you either dump the unfair Budget or dump the Treasurer.
REPORTER: What do you make of the fact that a jihadist was able to get out of Australia on his brother's passport? What concerns does that raise about border security?
SHORTEN: Labor is astounded that Minister Scott Morrison, since February, can't provide an adequate explanation of how this jihadist left Australia and has gone to fight in this terrible, terrible conflict in Iraq and Syria. Yet again now we're finding reports that other jihadists have eluded the Government. The Government promised in February that it would urgently tell us how this Khaleed Sharrouf was able to leave Australia and commit the havoc he's now committing and we haven't heard anything from the Government since then to explain how it's the case. Now we're getting other disturbing reports jihadists are escaping under the noses of our authorities. I think it's about time the Immigration Minister provided a full account to the Australian people just what is happening with border security.
REPORTER: Has Tony Abbott been clear enough about what role Australia might play in Iraq? He says he doesn't envisage troops on the ground, but is he being clear enough?
SHORTEN: It's been a little bit of a confusing week with the Government about intentions in Iraq. As Leader of the Opposition, I've had communication with the Government. The Government's been very clear to me at least, there'll be no combat troops being dealt sent to Iraq. That doesn't preclude humanitarian operations and I want to put on record the Opposition's gratitude to the RAAF and the humanitarian missions that they’re flying in hazardous circumstances to help innocent civilians survive this conflict. But as the Government has said to me unequivocally, even if the Defence Minister couldn't say it, there are not going to be combat troops engaged in military operations in Iraq.
REPORTER: What can you say about Prime Minister Al Maliki’s announcement that he will step down without a fight paving a way for a new Government. Are you supportive of this?
SHORTEN: Yes, I think this is a very positive development. The challenge to peace and stability in Iraq can only be sustained through Iraqi decisions. Part of the issue is that Iraq needs to include its Sunni minority, along with the Shia majority, the two different sects, in the same government and other groups need to be heard including the Kurds. I think there has been a lot of significant American diplomacy and Iraqi national political debate, which will see hopefully a coalition government formed, including all of the views in Iraq. This hopefully will starve the terrorists, the fundamentalists and the extremists of oxygen to wreak their particular form of havoc in Iraq.
REPORTER: What do you say about the identification of the first Australian victims of MH-17?
SHORTEN: I've just heard this distressing news before I came to do this press conference. My heart goes out to the families of the people on MH-17. It is a step forward for at least two families if they've been able to have the remains identified of their loved ones, but it's a bittersweet form of closure. I don't think families, obviously, will be able to get over this grief for a very long while. I am pleased, however, that due to the efforts of the federal police and the Dutch and others, that at least two families are a further step along the grieving process, but it just reminds me how devastating it must be for these families to never hear the voices of the people they love again, to not be able to finish the conversations, the things that are left unsaid and not being make those too late statements of love to people snatched from them so cruelly.
REPORTER: Over the past week, we have heard the revelations that the former Sports Minister, Kate Lundy perhaps even predecessor Julia Gillard, brought pressure to bear on the anti-doping agency, ASADA, in regards to the Essendon doping scandal last year, what do you say to that, given Ms Lundy is still within your ranks?
SHORTEN: I have no knowledge of that and I certainly will not be commenting on matters which are before the court at this stage. I think there's been enough commentary from enough politicians and other people. The best and smartest thing I think people can do is let this court process conclude as quickly as possible.
REPORTER: But the court process is not to do anything to do with the political pressure. It's very legal technicalities. There are still allegations about somebody who is within your ranks putting pressure on what's supposed to be an independent body?
SHORTEN: I'm certainly not going to provide a running commentary on evidence which has been given in the court case. I think the most prudential thing people can do is let the court case conclude.
REPORTER: As we speak, members of the Australian network and radio Australia are being farewelled by their colleagues at the ABC in Southbank. Mark Scott the chairman is talking about more cuts to the ABC. What is your position on where funding should be at for the ABC?
SHORTEN: First of all, my thoughts are with people losing their jobs. That is an incredibly tough time, especially through no fault of their own. I, like millions of Australians, depend upon the ABC in good times and bad to give us the news, to provide us with a whole lot of information which, but for the ABC just simply wouldn't be out there. I understand the work the ABC does in regional Australia. I understand how important it is for all of its various means to keep Australians and citizens in other parts of the world in contact with what's going on. I think that the ABC should not be a budget political football for this Federal Government. Tony Abbott before the last election said ‘no cuts to the ABC or SBS’. He lied about that and now what we're seeing is skills being lost which will have to be rebuilt at some point in the future.
REPORTER: Are you able to use Labor's power and perhaps teaming up with smaller parties to do anything about it?
SHORTEN: Labor has got an excellent record of being pro the ABC. In this modern age, in this life of rapid change that all Australians are going through, it's good to have a few constant things in life, and I like most Australians, regard the anthem of the ABC as part of what makes this a very special country. We will do what we can.
Thanks everyone, have a lovely afternoon.
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