MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s National Indigenous Caucus; One Nation preferences; State visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu; renewable energy; taxpayer funds to buy birthday cakes; Sugar tax.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Today Labor will be talking to leaders from across Australia about how we can make politics and involvement in politics more attractive to our first Australians.
For over a century, there has been an under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the parliaments and decision-making forums of this country. There can be no way that we can make good decisions, the best decisions for our first Australians unless first Australians are involved in the decision-making.
The rules should be that our first Australians get asked first about anything affecting them and what Labor is doing today is we're actually practising what we preach and we are saying to Aboriginal Australians that the politics and the process can work for you and we want you to become involved. And I've got great mentors here helping me show the way.
Happy to take questions on this or any other matters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can you comment that a senior member of your team was opposed to what you were doing with the Indigenous caucus because he was scared of driving votes to One Nation?
SHORTEN: No. I don't believe that and I haven't heard it. The Labor Party is the party for all Australians and for too long first Australians haven't had a sufficient voice in the political process. And I must acknowledge that periodically the Liberals have done some okay things here too and, most recently with Ken Wyatt, but my team are awesome. And I do think that if we ever want to close the gap, if we genuinely aspire to make sure that all Australians get an equal start in life, well then we need to ensure that first Australians are included in the political process. More people should be enrolled to vote. More people in local government and state government level as well as in national politics.
When you look at the sporting codes, they've really now left politics behind and we can do a lot better in our involvement of first Australians.
JOURNALIST: How are you going to achieve your goal of getting more Indigenous Australians enrolled to vote?
SHORTEN: Well that will be one of the matters which we are talking about today, and I might get Pat or Linda or Malarndirri to supplement the answer. But we have too many of our first Australians who are not even on the voters roll. All too often we don't have first Australians getting elected in council and in state politics and at the national level.
So I believe that we have got to have leadership development, we've got to mentor young people, we've got to encourage people to be involved in politics.
And I think that - I will get my colleagues to talk further about these ideas, but just going back to your other proposition that somehow some people are concerned about this and One Nation and what have you, let me be really clear, the Labor Party isn't going to be preferencing One Nation, but a vote for One Nation is now a vote nor the Liberal Party across Australia and a vote for the Liberal Party is now effectively a vote for One Nation.
One Nation is in danger of becoming a faction of the Liberal Party. We in Labor, we intend to govern for all Australians, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Just before you go, on that, would you encourage Annastacia Palaszczuk to use that as her message when the State election comes up in Queensland?
SHORTEN: I think Annastacia Palaszczuk has been leading from the front on this question already. The fact of the matter is, in Queensland, if people are unhappy with the LNP, if you vote One Nation, it is just a vote recycled back into the LNP vote bank.
If you vote One Nation in Queensland, your votes will head back to the LNP, and if you vote Liberal or Coalition, your votes will go to One Nation.
They are in an arrangement and we are seeing that played out in Western Australia. I've got no doubt that the Liberal machine around Australia is using Western Australia as an example, as a trial run, and I've got no doubt that the Liberal Party and One Nation are teaming up together and if you vote One Nation, you will be heading - formally, your vote back to the Liberal Party.
Do you guys want to talk about Indigenous involvement in politics?
SENATOR PATRICK DODSON, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS AND ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT: At the last election we had some marvellous Indigenous candidates that weren't successful. The fact is we need to get more Indigenous people on the rolls. And that really means us getting out in those electorates, talking to people, letting them understand what we stand for and what Labor stands for and encouraging them to put their trust I suppose, and their faith in the direction that Labor is trying to go, particularly in Indigenous affairs. We are trying to pick up the promise that Kevin Rudd enshrined in his apology about writing a new chapter and overcoming the old tried and failed ways. So there is some real new thinking going on within Labor. It's not easy. There are things that we may have got wrong in the past but I think there is an openness now that is attractive to Indigenous people about many of the substantive issues that we've found difficult in the past. But we've got to get out there, we've got to get people on the rolls and we've got to be able to sell our message in a plausible way.
LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES: The fantastic thing about the gathering that we are having in Brisbane in just a little while is that we will have leaders from the Labor Party right across Australia. We'll have Indigenous MPs, both at the state and federal and territory level, but we'll also have people from the machinery side of Labor. Putting all those together we’ll come up with new ways and new ideas about how to achieve more people on the roll, how to get more Aboriginal people into the parliaments and importantly, making Labor the party of choice for Aboriginal people.
There are some very practical things we could do. Look at the way in which membership operates. Look at the way in which paying for memberships operate and does that suit remote communities? Having a look at what's going on at local government, for example, there are a lot of very good Aboriginal people at local government. But also, most importantly, creating a permanent forum within the party for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal issues.
So we are saying very clearly that Labor is the party for Aboriginal people. Having Malarndirri, Patrick and myself in the caucus, I'm sure Bill would agree, is making a difference and having Aboriginal voices at the table will attract Aboriginal people to the party.
SHORTEN: Thanks. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: What will you say to Mr Netanyahu about Israeli settlements (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Labor has long supported a two-state solution. We support the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to live within secure borders. I will make it clear to Mr Netanyahu that where settlement building is an obstacle to the two-state solution, it should be stopped, full stop. I have said this in the past and I will continue to argue that the radical expansion of settlements is in many cases, a roadblock to the two-state solution.
JOURNALIST: The ALP conference passed a resolution saying that a Labor government would discuss joining like-minded nations who’ve already recognised Palestine if there is no progress in the two-state solution. Do you think that any progress for a two-state solution has been made?
SHORTEN: I think progress has been too slow but I think that when we give up the idea that nations can live in peace with each other, then we should give up the game of politics altogether.
So yes, I think progress has been too slow. I do think settlement expansion has come up against Israeli law and I think has been, in many cases, an obstacle to the two-state solution. But I haven't written off the prospect of progress. I think there are a lot of people of goodwill from both the Palestinian and Israeli side and I think that where there is goodwill, well then we have got to keep pushing the hope.
JOURNALIST: Is the ALP on an inevitable path to the recognition of Palestine?
SHORTEN: I think the only thing which we can guarantee is that we need to do everything we can to support a two-state solution - full stop. Until we have got peace in that region, and until all people of all goodwill keep promoting that, then I think any other path is just a source of - It's the wrong way to go.
JOURNALIST: Graham Richardson says your renewable energy target is an election losing policy. Is it?
SHORTEN: No. The reality is that we shouldn't still be arguing about climate changes 10 years on. We've got to end the sort of, culture wars over renewable verses coal. The fact of the matter is that Labor has a policy which wants to encourage the development of renewable energy. But we also have a policy which recognises the ongoing role of coal in our energy mix. By 2030, we want to see an energy mix in Australia in the best possible circumstances, of 50 per cent renewable and 50 per cent fossil fuel.
The real problem in the short term is that Malcolm Turnbull has completely turned his back on everything he ever believed. He has now come up with an idea which he knows in his heart of hearts is absolutely crazy. He has got this crazy idea that we can spend billions and billions and billions of taxpayer dollars to invest in new coal-fired power generation. The problem with his crazy idea is that almost everybody in industry once he said it a couple of weeks ago, has run from him at a million miles an hour. Industry does not want to invest in these new expensive coal-fired power generators. I've got a pretty simple test, if industry doesn't want to invest its money, why should taxpayers waste their money? If it's not good enough for industry to invest in these coal-fired power generators, why does Mr Turnbull want to waste taxpayer money? That's the problem with his policy. He's got a crazy idea which the private sector and industry don't want to invest in, so he's just doubled down and wants to waste taxpayer money and we're not up for that at all.
JOURNALIST: What about the Government’s plan to lift the ban on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding carbon capture and storage or funding coal-fired power stations?
SHORTEN: Well, again, Mr Turnbull's got a crazy idea because his party is in climate change denial. The reason why he is proposing investing in expensive - exorbitantly expensive, clean coal powered generation technology is because he knows that his party won't let him do anything else. The problem is though, industry has said they don't want to invest in this path that Mr Turnbull has outlined.
If it was such a good idea to build all these fantastic, you know, whizz bang, new coal-fired power generators, why isn't it happening now? Why has Mr Turnbull discovered an idea which no one wants to invest in, in the private sector? So what Mr Turnbull's plan is this; have a crazy idea to play politics against Labor, and in turn an idea which industry won't back in and they're not putting the money in, so now he's doubled down on a dumb idea and he's proposing to waste taxpayer money. If it's not good enough for big power companies to spend their own money, why does he want to waste taxpayer money? Why should taxpayers of Australia subsidise the profits of large coal power generating companies instead of leaving it to the market?
Mr Turnbull, his problem here is that he doesn't want to take real action on climate change and instead he turns everything into politics. Mr Turnbull's idea of a good day at the office is to have a fight with Labor, but I think Australian's are sick of this approach of just us versus them politics. What we want is people to put the national interest first. It is not in the national interest to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money on a deal which industry has driven right past and doesn't want to put their own money into.
JOURNALIST: What about spending taxpayer money on cakes as revealed in this morning’s media?
SHORTEN: I was a bit surprised by that story, I mean, if Mr Turnbull can find nearly $2 million to spend on the Liberal Party, you think he could have had a whip around to pay for some cakes. I just suggest to the Liberal Cabinet maybe they want to have a little staff fund if they want to have birthday cakes like every other workplace. Don't spend taxpayer money on this sort of stuff, it just turns people off politics.
Perhaps one more question, then we might have to go.
JOURNALIST: Annastacia Palaszczuk said this morning that she'd rather be in a position than in a minority government with One Nation, is this a wise move? Can you confirm (inaudible).
SHORTEN: Can you repeat the question sorry. I'm just trying to gather what she said. I'm happy to talk about One Nation and the Liberal's though.
JOURNALIST: Just while we wait – do you support a -
SHORTEN: That's a sneaky second question -
JOURNALIST: A sugar tax or a ban on junk food?
SHORTEN: No, we don't have any plan for a sugar tax. I'll tell you what we do need to look at though. We've got to review the ability of junk food to be advertised at times on television when the kids are watching. I'm a parent, I know the daily battle parents have to make sure your children eat healthy as opposed to eating junk food. I want our kids out playing more sport, I want them to spend less time on the screens, they're positively addicted to screens.
But one of the problems is, as we know, that whilst we get our kids to play more sport, we know that whilst they're watching the screens, it is wrong to have all the junk food ads just pumped through all forms of media of communication. So I do think the standards need to toughen, for me this is all about kids in the future and their health. I mean if you have a healthy childhood, you're much more likely to have a better adult life and we know that parents are at their wits end and it’s hard for parents to be able to police everything the kids see on television at key times. So I do think there is a role here, the experts have said it - I'm going to back the parents, I'm going to back the experts, I probably do think it’s time to toughen up advertising restrictions around junk food at peak periods when the little eyeballs are on the TV and getting all the wrong messages about food and healthy eating.
Thanks everybody, cheers.