TUESDAY, 1 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Linda Burney; Turnbull Liberals in chaos; Senate reform; George Pell.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. I'm really pleased to be announcing that Linda Burney is going to take up the challenge to be the Labor candidate for Barton. I'm making this announcement with two of my leadership colleagues, Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese, who have been instrumental in helping persuade Linda to join our ranks to try her hand at federal politics. Let me talk briefly about Linda Burney, she is an outstanding advocate. When you think of Linda Burney, you think of words like, I don't mean to make you blush but, passion and integrity. She's seen the best and worst that life can offer, she's held the toughest portfolios, I believe, in a state government including community services and child protection. She's been a senior leader in organisations before she went to parliament, she's represented Australia at the United Nations and furthermore and in addition she I hope will make history by being the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman to join the House of Representatives. We think that Linda presents all of the best about progressive politics, we think that she will be a very competitive candidate in Barton if the Labor Party choose her which I've got every reason to believe they will. I think there's a great deal of support for Linda and I think she'll be an outstanding candidate and what I also just want to conclude on is that with Linda the fact that she's willing to step back from a career in state politics and the relative sort of security of that is because Linda believes, like my team here and all of the Federal Labor Party, that the next election Labor's very competitive, and we'll be competitive because we've got the best policies on education and health care, on renewable energy and the NBN, on Australian jobs and also importantly on taxation.
To this end, just before I hand over to Linda, I'd just like to make a couple of comments about Mr Turnbull's appearance at the Liberal Party room. What we saw this morning in the Liberal Party room is a Prime Minister in full panic mode. There's no doubt in my mind that Malcolm Turnbull is shrinking into the job. We need no clearer evidence than that he started peddling, desperately, Tony Abbott's tired old rhetoric about have a go. If Mr Turnbull wants to have a go, here's some advice, why doesn't Mr Turnbull have a go at revealing a tax plan to Australians? Why doesn't Mr Turnbull have a go at controlling the right wing of the Liberal Party? And whilst he's at it, why does he have another go to find a new treasurer for Australia?
Let's hear from Linda and then I'm happy to take questions on Linda's candidacy and any other matters.
LINDA BURNEY, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE NSW OPPOSITION: Thank you very much Bill and good morning everyone. I'd like to particularly thank, not only Bill, but Anthony and Tanya for joining me here today. It's important that these three people are with me this morning in announcing my candidature for the seat of Barton. I have very mixed emotions. I am very sad to be leaving the New South Wales Parliament where I have served faithfully as the Member for Canterbury for 13 years, five of those years as Deputy Opposition Leader in the toughest of times, four of those years as a senior cabinet minister. I understand what representing people means. I understand what it means for people who vote for you, put their faith in you and expect you to take their aspirations, their pain, their joy and their needs into a parliament. I have taken the step with a great deal of humbleness to contest for the next federal election for the very reasons that Bill Shorten just said, because I believe in Labor. Labor is the party that I've grown up with, it's the party that is for the people of Australia and Labor will take forward the issues around equity and decency and fairness and they are the things that I stand for and our party stands for. I have served as the National President of the Labor Party, I have worked at a federal, international, state and, most importantly, local level. I am not going to get ahead of myself. The first thing to do of course is to gain the respect of the people of Barton, that is the first thing. The second thing is then to turn my attention into making sure I can be the best representative possible representing this great party in this place, providing I win the seat.
Can I also say that it is important, not just for me and not just for the three people around me, but for my people and for the people of this country that I hope to be the first Aboriginal woman to sit in the House of Representatives. That is not my triumph, that is the triumph of people that have allowed me to rest on their shoulders and I want it to be very clear that I will not be defined by my Aboriginality, it is who I am, it is what I stand for, but I have a much broader view of the world and will not be shanghaied into that small, small box. It is also just in closing, just in closing, I think about the many Aboriginal people that have sent me messages today but also the many, many friends, families, colleagues and constituents and those messages have been one of support, those messages have been messages of congratulations and they have been messages that we will stand with you.
Can I finish up by saying to Bill Shorten, to Tanya and Anthony and everyone else in this great party that we represent; I will do you proud. When I made my inaugural speech in the New South Wales Parliament, I finished it by saying two things - I said I will always work hard and I will always do my best and those things will continue to walk with me. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what's the process from here on? What's the timing of the preselection?
SHORTEN: The party will go through its processes but I'm making very clear that I am most keen to see Linda Burney, an excellent candidate, and you've just seen it right there really, I mean, I thought Linda was a bit modest there when she said she's, you know, going to do her best and make us proud. I have to say about Linda, she's already made us proud. This will be another chapter in her remarkable life. So the Party will go through its processes but I'm very confident, and indeed we all are, Tanya, Anthony and myself, Linda Burney will be the flag bearer for the Labor Party in Barton, and you again heard her priorities; electorate first, people first. That's why we want her, because she's so good.
JOURNALIST: If Linda Burney is successful in Barton, will she make a good frontbencher?
SHORTEN: She will make a great contribution. As Linda herself said, don't pigeonhole her; she can do a lot of great things. It’s a good chance by you raising that question, we've got a very good team, and I think the message out of Linda's candidacy is that people are looking at Federal Labor and they're saying, this is worth us having a go. And again, I just want to restate to the millions of people who put their trust in the Labor Party, we're in this election to win it, we may be the underdogs but we're in it to win it and when we've got people of the calibre such as those surrounding me at this press conference, I think there's reason for optimism.
JOURNALIST: When will we see what's happened in the Newcastle region in Hunter and Shortland and Charlton?
SHORTEN: Well very soon. The Party's going through its processes; we're at the skinny end of those processes. They will conclude and it's another opportunity for me to record officially in Canberra, as I did by release on Sunday, I acknowledge the service of Jill Hall. She's been a quiet achiever, she's been a diligent and staunch daughter of the Hunter region, she's stood up on issues of great equity and great decency and democracy in the Hunter and I really want to pay a bit of respect for her career.
JOURNALIST: In regard to Senate reform, if we end up with a new system, will Labor accept the result of the Senate election given that you don't accept the new system?
SHORTEN: Well we've always accepted the result of elections but your question presupposes that the reform is a done deal. We're on to what the Liberals are doing. I'm concerned that they've conned the Greens. If these reforms had been in place in 2013, Tony Abbott would still be Prime Minister, we would have the Medicare cuts, we'd have $100,000 university degrees, we'd have more misery meated out to working class and middle class Australians. That's why we're against these reforms because it can't come as a surprise to anyone that we'd rather see the full spectrum of people represented in our Senate rather than entrenching a majority of Liberals and Nats.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying this system unfairly favours the Coalition over Labor?
SHORTEN: I'm saying that we've got very good reasons why we're opposing it. And the best evidence I can give you is if this system had been in place in 2013, Tony Abbott would have got through his terrible changes to industrial relations. Don't tell me they wouldn't have had penalty rates on the chopping block by now. Can you imagine if Tony Abbott had been able to get all his rotten 2014 Budget measures through the Senate? Now I don't know what the Greens are thinking actually because what they're doing is they're playing into an agenda which will see the right wing of the Liberal Party have more power than ever. You know we're seeing this debate where in some ways poor old Malcolm Turnbull's leading Tony Abbott's party. We've seen foreign policy outsourced to Tony Abbott, we see social policy outsourced to George Christensen and Cory Bernardi and today I understand in the party room Tony Abbott's got up and said it's time to show leadership in taxation and the economy. I mean wasn't that the case that Malcolm Turnbull used to justify rolling Tony Abbott? Six months later, Tony Abbott is having a go back at Malcolm Turnbull, and in the meantime Australians are no clearer to knowing their plans on taxation and we should. Australians are starting to demand of Malcolm Turnbull what do you actually stand for, you know where have you gone, and why won't you rule out retrospectivity in taxation? George Brandis in the Senate yesterday said 'it's a principle of the Liberal Party they don't retrospective legislation'. We've asked on no less than 3 occasions of the Prime Minister 'will you rule out retrospectivity?'. Either the guy is too arrogant to admit he is wrong or he plans to introduce retrospective changes to negative gearing and he has diabolical ideas planned for the superannuation accounts of ordinary Australians. This is why we don't support Senate reform. Why would we give these people the opportunity to rip up the fabric of Australian decency.
JOURNALIST: Just to his point in the party room today that your plan to half the Capital Gains Tax discount is a disincentive to invest?
SHORTEN: Oh, Malcolm Turnbull - the problem with him running a scare campaign is he is meant to be smarter than that. He knows as well as I do, that investment is not going to dry up in Australia. That's just ridiculous. And to be honest deep down, most of you interviewing me now know that investment is not going to go in that direction. No one seriously believes his scare campaign that housing prices are going to fall. Malcolm Turnbull was once better than this. What's happened to the Malcolm Turnbull who supported the Republic? What's happened to the Malcolm Turnbull who supported a free vote on marriage equality? What's happened to the Malcolm Turnbull who staked his reputation on climate change? Now what we see is he’s outsourced a lot of his policy to the right wing. In many ways, Malcolm Turnbull is simply disappearing in the job.
JOURNALIST: Just back on the Senate reform, doesn't it follow that if the system is rorted, as you think it is, doesn't that mean the result is going to be rorted?
SHORTEN: They're your words not mine. The Liberal Party can try and put up whatever legislation they want. The Greens can rubber-stamp the party of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen if they want. We just ask them to think twice before doing it. Again, I point to the example - a lot of those Independent Senators worked with Labor to stymie some of the worst effects of Tony Abbott's legislation and remember what was going to happen in 2014 and again in 2015 - $100,000 degrees, that was a fait accompli, it was a done deed until the Labor Senators, with some of the Independents, stood up against it. Why on earth would we give the right wing of the Liberal Party a chance to rip up the safety net of Australia?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, George Pell has given evidence, he's said that in the past in relation to allegations of wrongdoing against priests his inclination was to believe the priests. What's your response to that statement from George Pell?
SHORTEN: Labor's made it clear that we think that the recommendations that have come down so far of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses on Child Abuse should be implemented in full. I think there is a lot of disappointment. All our electorate offices are getting calls from people who are frustrated that the Government’s not going the full way of the journey with the victims and survivors. In terms of some of the specific matters which have been asked of Cardinal Pell, it's very personal because one of the terrible cases was a story from Sacred Heart in Oakleigh Church in Melbourne. Now that used to be my parish. The priest who went to jail who did terrible things which has caused such tragedy in the lives of some of those families, was my parish priest and through the actions of my mum and others, I think I avoided a monster.
So I think that the church does need to respond fully. This is now not a time to sort of, disseminate and dissemble. Nothing less than full redress matters and if Labor is elected, we will do our part at the national level, working with the institutions, working with the victims and survivors. You know, it's gone on too long and this is really a matter of overdue injustice being rectified.
JOURNALIST: Just on the ABCC, are there any procedural options available to Labor to delay a vote on that beyond the period at which it could be used as a trigger for a Double-D?
SHORTEN: This is the Government, they're much more interested in politics than they are in substance. We believe in law and order in the construction industry, we just don't believe you need a separate regulator to do it. Why should construction workers be governed by a different set of rules to all other workers in the Australian workforce? Labor on industrial relations can be trusted far more than the Liberals. We get that what people want to do every day when they go to work is have safe work, be well paid with a degree of security around their work, we want them to be in productive work places, want to see companies making money and profit, want see cooperative relationships between employees and employers. The Liberal Party's agenda is about unions and getting rid of unions because if they can get rid of unions it diminishes the capacity of unions to represent workers, they can come after penalty rates.
For Labor, we understand how people make their living. Real wages increases are at their lowest in 18 years, inequality is a 75-year high, unemployment is 6 per cent, the best way for Australia to grow is for us to work together. The problem with Mr Turnbull and his Liberals is they're really the same as Mr Abbott and the same Liberals. They believe in conflict, we believe in cooperation. And today, I'll conclude my press conference by saying I really look forward, Linda, to you up joining us in Canberra. It will be fantastic.
BURNEY: I look forward to it as well and thank you all for the opportunity. It means so much. Thank you.