SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for a banking Royal Commission; Malcolm Turnbull’s latest thought bubble on the GST; Racial Discrimination Act; Nauru; Gosford Anglican Church; Child care fraud allegations; Olympic Games
TERRI BUTLER, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH: Welcome to beautiful Davies Park here in the electorate of Griffith. It's absolutely wonderful to be here in the park today and welcoming Bill Shorten back to Griffith. Bill's out talking to people as he always does, we've just met with a small business owner in my electorate here in West End to talk about the issues facing that business at the moment and other small businesses in the area and here we are setting the pace for Opposition, really setting the pattern. What will we be doing? We will be out talking to people and listening to people about the issues that are effecting both your businesses and your lives. So it's really just an absolute pleasure to have Bill here and I'd like to welcome him. Thanks very much everyone.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi everybody and thanks very much Terri for that welcome to her electorate of Griffith. Today I have been talking with more small business owners and leaders. Small business, like many other people in Australia, are doing it hard at the moment, confidence isn't what it should be, the economy is wallowing in mediocrity. That is why the Reserve Bank made an unprecedented decision to lower interest rates even further to get the Australian economy going, to help get Australians spending a bit more money to stimulate the economy. The problem is that the big banks have snubbed their nose at Malcolm Turnbull and snubbed their nose at the Reserve Bank, and instead they have chosen to increase their profits rather than passing on the full benefit of the reduction of interest rates through to the Australian people. And this the real problem, Malcolm Turnbull wants to give a $7 billion tax cut to the big banks, we want to give big banks a Royal Commission. Malcolm Turnbull needs to actually stop trying to protect the banks, that's why I have written to him asking him to reconsider his position about a Royal Commission into the banks and I think it's about time that every Liberal and National MP started explaining to their constituents whether or not they will vote for a Royal Commission or vote with Malcolm Turnbull to keep protecting the big banks. The voters of Australia deserve to know if their Liberal and National MPs are going to pick a side. Are they going to pick the side of big banks or are they going to pick the side of the Australian people?
We need more than words from Mr Turnbull, we need action and indeed we saw Mr Turnbull's propensity, his addiction to thought bubbles with his comments in Perth over the weekend. Malcolm Turnbull declared to the Liberal Party faithful in Perth over the weekend, he said that he might look at changing the GST allocation and give more Federal GST money to the West Australians and take it away from other States. Now the problem is that Mr Turnbull, to put it charitably, is being extremely misleading. He just said what he might do after, would you believe, a state election in Western Australia where he is trying to get votes for his Liberal Party. We all know if Mr Turnbull was speaking straight he would spell out now the GST composition that he proposes because the problem Malcolm Turnbull, is that if he might do something after a state election and then when the state election comes and goes and nothing happens people know they have been misled. Malcolm Turnbull's last thought bubble on the GST was to increase it. His latest thought bubble again is not worth the paper it would be written on because he hasn't spelled out what he would do. Malcolm Turnbull needs to start governing and stop just talking. We're happy to take questions, thank you.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor support a floor on GST distribution?
SHORTEN: Malcolm Turnbull hasn't spelt out any serious option. We're not going to start wrestling with smoke here. Mr Turnbull's words are worth nothing unless he spells out his plan, then we would look at the plan that he spells out. All Malcolm Turnbull's done is try and rescue the state Liberal Party of Western Australia by saying he might do something about the arrangements for GST paymentas to Western Australia. He's given no detail.
As we know, Mr Turnbull's capable of saying one thing and back flipping and doing something altogether different. What people need from Mr Turnbull, especially the voters of Western Australia in the upcoming state election, is they need to see the detail of Mr Turnbull's propositions before the state election. He needs to be straight with people. If he's not going to be straight with people and tell them what he will do as opposed to what he might do, well then you can't take him seriously.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any position on it yourself, rather than what his position is?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, let's be clear here. Mr Turnbull's raised the GST allocation and said that he wants to - he may want to do something different. He has no detail. I'm not going to go down Mr Turnbull's thought bubbles and start taking them too seriously. Tell you what we'll do about GST: One, we'll never increase it, unlike Mr Turnbull and two, if he's got a serious proposal to change the allocation, let's see his detail. I'm just not going to entertain Mr Turnbull's thought bubbles, which are purely motivated by politics in the West Australian state election. The man has no detail and he's got no serious proposition, and I think Australians are getting fed up with Mr Turnbull's all-talk, no-action approach to government.
JOURNALIST: Senator Leyonhjelm (inaudible)
SHORTEN: I'm not going to get into some of the personality issues of how Senator Leyonhjelm's feeling. That's for him to pursue his concerns. But I do want to spell out Labor's views. We are not interested in watering-down provisions in law which protect people from hate speech. I think it's pretty interesting - the real driver here, I think, in this debate about protections against hate speech is that Senator Hanson hasn't even got elected to Parliament, and you've got every other conservative trying to deal with that issue and demonstrate how tough they are on it. Labor won't be horse-trading its principles. With Labor, what you see is what you get, and we will stand up for protection for people against hate speech.
JOURNALIST: On the issue of Nauru, how much responsibility do you take for 50,000 people who arrived by boat under Labor's Government?
SHORTEN: I attribute the people-smugglers to be primarily responsible for trying to persuade and manipulate vulnerable people seeking to come to this country. Labor made the decision in the course of the last term of Opposition to support boat turn-backs and regional resettlement. When it comes to fighting the bad people and the people-smugglers, we are absolutely up for that fight. But what's really happened, and what I think underlies the issue which you're raising, is that we're seeing more and more disturbing reports coming out from Nauru. When you read some of these reports, we can't - like Mr Turnbull - just simply dismiss them all as being incorrect. Just because people are in detention doesn't mean that they have to be mistreated and it doesn't mean that they should be kept in indefinite detention. That's why Labor is leading the push to have a Senate inquiry. I believe in transparency. You'll find me on a whole range of matters talking about the need to be transparent, to get to the bottom of it - what are the real facts? If there really are no problems, then a Senate inquiry can discover that. But if there are problems, then we shouldn't be ignoring them. So I would certainly ask the Government to embrace our proposal for a Senate inquiry, because I think the Australian people deserve to know the facts, full stop.
JOURNALIST: But Labor re-opened Nauru and Manus Island, so in some respects didn't Labor help create this problem?
SHORTEN: We haven't been in government for three and a half years so at some point the current Government, they're now in their second term, when do they ever take responsibility for anything? What I thought was significant is that Tony Abbott came out and confirmed that he wished he had voted for our solution to have a proper arrangement on regional resettlement, including involving and working with Malaysia. It was the current Liberal Government, when in Opposition, that opposed our plan, which I believe in large part has led to the failure so far in terms of some of the conditions that we keep hearing about. Mr Turnbull just needs to work with Labor.
We are completely committed to stopping the people smugglers. We don't want people being manipulated, abused, drowned at sea. We don't support having policies which will incentivise people smugglers. But what we also don't support is that on one hand you can have a policy which punishes the bad people, but there's lot of people in Nauru who are being in what would seem to be now almost semi-indefinite detention. There are too many reports coming out of Nauru for anyone to any longer ignore the issues.
So, I would just ask the Government, let's not make these 2 or 3,000 people political footballs trying to prove how tough you are against people smugglers. Let's agree that both Labor and Liberal are determined to stop the people smugglers. That cannot be an excuse to mistreat people in Australia's direct or indirect care. Let's have a Senate inquiry to get to the bottom of it. We can over complicate politics, let's just examine - the Parliament of Australia, that's what we're elected to do - let's satisfy ourselves what's really going on there. You know, I'm over this culture of secrecy. If the Government doesn’t have anything to be worried about, then why are they worried about the Senate looking at what's happening there?
JOURNALIST: Those that are genuinely refugees, is it time just to resettle them here and draw a line in the sand rather than keep going?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that regional resettlement offers the best prospect for these particular people and I do believe when we've got the people smugglers - they're unscrupulous, they're criminal in many cases, the organisers, the brains behind them - they need to hear loud and clear from both sides of Australian politics their business model's not coming back into action. But by the same token, I don't believe it's an either or situation that we either stop the people smugglers or we ensure that people directly or indirectly in our care in Nauru are treated properly. There are just too many reports to simply brush it under the carpet. I do believe a Senate inquiry can help us get to the bottom of it. I trust the capacity of the Australian people when presented with the facts to make the judgments about what the right way to go is. I think we do need to get to the bottom of all the facts here. If the Government's got nothing to hide then they've got nothing to be worried about.
JOURNALIST: People who are genuine refugees have been there long enough, have they not?
SHORTEN: I can only invite you to look at my last three answers I've given on that. We don't support the people smugglers getting back into business. We don't support people coming via that flawed and criminal model to come to Australia but that's why I think this Government should, if we want to sort out people in care in Nauru, this Government needs to turbo charge its regional resettlement negotiations with other countries. It's been 50 days since the last election, what has this Government been doing on this and matters?
JOURNALIST: What is your opinion on anti-Islam group Party for Freedom having that protest at Gosford Anglican Church?
SHORTEN: It seems to me that some of these people don't seem to like any religion. Imagine gate-crashing a Christian service to make a point about other political points of view. I don't agree with what they did there. This country needs to be tolerant of people's religious practices and I think this group were way out of line staging a protest in a Christian church. They're doing exactly what they criticise other people for doing.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, police are investigating up to $27 million of defrauded Australian child care benefits. Do you think there should be further investigation into this?
SHORTEN: Yes, it's a very serious matter. The idea that people could be defrauding our Commonwealth money and using it to send to terror groups is abhorrent and the Government just need to deal with this very quickly and we would support them in whatever means they take to get to the bottom of it.
JOURNALIST: What do you think they would be able to do?
SHORTEN: I think they've got investigators and compliance officers. There's clearly money being received and not being used for the purposes it is being paid for. I'm not going to second guess our investigators and our auditing bodies but I'm sure they're going to be all over this and I've got great confidence in them now that they're aware of it, to stop it.
JOURNALIST: Has Labor been making approaches to cross-bench Senators or even Coalition MPs to try and get support for a Royal Commission into banking?
SHORTEN: I think the case for a banking Royal Commission is very well made. It has powers which no other inquiry has. The best support we've had in recent times for a banking Royal Commission comes from none other than Malcolm Turnbull. See, before the election he said there was no need to hold any additional inquiries or investigations because the regulator was up to the job. We said a regulator didn't have the power or scope to find out how widespread the problems are across the banking sector, to really get to the bottom of the culture of the banking sector that sees scandal after scandal. But what was, I thought, a pretty dramatic development, is Mr Turnbull, after the election, said, actually, maybe we do need further investigation. So he conceded the first half of our argument that there's a more widespread, genuine problem because why otherwise would he propose new hearings in Parliament for the House of Representatives? The problem is having diagnosed the problem, he's come up with the wrong solution. Because he said that on one hand, ASIC's sufficient and you don't need a Royal Commission. Yet on the other hand, he said well, there is a problem, but he's come up with a weaker solution than even ASIC. So I just think Mr Turnbull should stop running the protection racket for NAB, for CommBank, for ANZ and for Westpac and he should just do what the Australian people want him to do. I have to say to every Liberal and National MP and their constituents in their seats - the constituents in those seats, the voters, the citizens, the taxpayers, deserve to know if their Liberal or National MP is going to vote for a Royal Commission to improve the standards of banking, a widespread inquiry with all the proper powers such an inquiry deserves, or will they vote to simply protect Malcolm Turnbull and to protect the big banks? Liberal and National MPs have to decide which side they're on, are they on the side of the people or are they on the side of the big banks and Malcolm Turnbull, because you can't be on both.
JOURNALIST: Just briefly sorry on the child care benefits again. What would it take to clean up that industry?
SHORTEN: First of all, we need to see what's gone wrong and the Government's got access to more information than we do. I think it's important on any matter to do with national security, to stress again that Labor and Liberal share the same bi-partisan goals. There is no more important task than to make sure Australians are safe. The idea that somehow money is being funnelled or laundered to go into these nefarious and criminal purposes is disgusting and outrageous and we'll certainly work with the Government on these matters and we look forward to further information from the Government as they choose to release it.
JOURNALIST: A recent Galaxy poll found 62 per cent of people support an Olympic Games in south-east Queensland by 2028. Would a Shorten Government commit to helping fund and support a Brisbane or south-east Queensland Olympic Games in 2028?
SHORTEN: Well, it is a very interesting idea and we'll certainly look at it. I will be advised by Queensland super-patriots like Terri Butler. So we'll look at it. I think everyone knows that Queensland contributes more than its fair share of top athletes to our Olympic team and I want to give a shout out to all the Queensland contributors to the Olympic team and in fact, because I'm national Opposition Leader, to all our athletes in Rio. I think you have been representing Australia incredibly well and you make all Australians even more proud to be Australian.
Thank you very much.