Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Monash University - Higher education; remote Indigenous communities






SUBJECT/S: Higher education; remote Indigenous communities; Australian Labor Party


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be at my old university, Monash University, talking about the importance of higher education for the next generation of Australia’s leaders. Australian university students are concerned that the Abbott Liberal Government wants to introduce $100,000 degrees and increase their debt and we’re seeing an impact in terms of the aspirations of children and adults from modest backgrounds and their desire to go to university.


Today Labor articulated some of our principles for a sustainable and optimistic higher education future. A university for young people and adults where it is their marks which get them into university not their parent’s credit card. What we’ve said today is that our focus should be on ensuring that all Australians can get the opportunity to go to university but also that we make sure that they complete university. Not much good pushing in young people through the front door if then they don’t make it through and what happens is that we’re seeing parents, students, employers and taxpayers frustrated that somewhere along the line our higher education system is not delivering quality as we expect it to.


So today young people are talking to me, can we stop the Liberal National Government in Canberra from wrecking higher education? Yes we can.  Can we make sure that we put quality front and centre for higher education? And Labor says yes we can. And also what was really heartening to see is the amount of interest from Australia’s young people in politics, their commitment to real action on climate change, and their commitment to make sure that we have fairness at the centre of what this nation does for the future. Happy to take any questions.


JOURNALIST: Should the Prime Minister apologise for his comments regarding lifestyle choices of Indigenous Australians living in remote communities?


SHORTEN: Yes I think the Prime Minister should apologise. Tony Abbott is a Prime Minister stuck in the 1950s. He says he’s the Prime Minister for Indigenous Australians but he just wants to move them off their land. What is it that Tony Abbott doesn’t get about the well documented connection that Australia’s first citizens have between them and the land? Tony Abbott is stuck in the 1950s, yet again he’s insulted a group of people, what is it that he doesn’t understand about the connection between Indigenous Australians and the land?


JOURNALIST: Now what is Labor’s policy on these communities, these remote communities?


SHORTEN: No doubt there’s a balance involved here, we’ve got to make sure that they’re sustainable, but by the same token you don’t do it by the Prime Minister leaving Canberra, flying in, giving everyone a lecture and flying out. There’s no doubt the state government’s got to get the balance right in terms of costs but a policy which just simply says that people – it’s unsustainable and they can’t maintain their connection with the land, that’s just backward looking and it’s not the way that we need to go.


JOURNALIST: But are some of these just too small to be viable, financially viable?


SHORTEN: Well I think that Tony Abbott’s got more important priorities than worrying about where people live. I’d like him if we want to talk about viability, drop his pension cuts, I think he needs to un-freeze superannuation increases. He talks about growing old but he’s got no policy for growing old in this country except being poorer. The Prime Minister should stop worrying about some small communities and start focusing on some of the other issues which are here, including not cutting the pension, keeping his election promises, not wrecking Medicare, not wrecking higher education. I think Tony Abbott just needs to focus on what the nation expects him to do, which is keep his promises.


JOURNALIST: Just one more thing on that, Closing the Gap is bipartisan, do you think you’re jeopardising Indigenous education if children stay in communities without schools?


SHORTEN: Obviously we believe and all Australians believe in making sure that where ever you live in Australia you get access to quality education, but I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to simply say that Tony Abbott says people have got to up and move and that therefore he’s doing that all in the name purely of education. If we believe in needs based education which is what your question goes to, then the Federal Government and Tony Abbott should stop cutting the funding to state schools and private schools across Australia. What we’re seeing is the Abbott Government and their unfair Budget has cut tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years from the budgets of schools. If Tony Abbott really cares about education, yet again he would start focusing on the decisions that his Government’s making, rather than other matters.


JOURNALIST: Kevin Rudd’s made some comments regarding the Labor Party, he said that it needs to be more democratisation of the party and there needs to - beware of union thuggery, what do you say to that?


SHORTEN: I firmly believe that we can improve the way the Labor Party operates. I have the privilege of being the first [directly] elected Leader of the Labor Party and the Labor party certainly embraced reforms which were in part championed by Kevin Rudd and which I very actively supported. We’re a broad church, I welcome views, one thing is for sure though, when it comes to the Labor Party we will have our debates and we will encourage people to join and get involved and have their say. Thanks everyone.