WEDNESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s positive plans for jobs in renewable energy; Turnbull’s guns for votes; Turnbull’s attack on Medicare; ALP
ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FENNER: Thanks very much everyone for coming along today. My name's Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fenner, and delighted to be here at a solar farm in my electorate of Fenner which has just started producing electricity a month ago.
I want to thank Lane and Shingi and Greg for showing us around today, giving us an opportunity to learn more about this terrific solar farm. It's a project which employed around 40 people during the construction phase, which is powering hundreds of houses, and which over the course of the life of the project, will produce clean, green electricity, in a way that will ensure that we don't have the health impacts that we might have through traditional sources of energy.
Really pleased to be here today with Mark Butler and Bill Shorten, and I'll hand over now to Bill to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Andrew, and it's great to be here with Mark Butler as Labor continues its support for renewable energy.
This is an amazing project. This project here is going to return a 10 per cent return to investors, so that's good news for superannuants. It had 40 jobs at the peak of its construction, and the new project down the road has 100 construction jobs. And of course, this project here powers 600 homes in the local community.
Renewable energy is part of our energy security in the future. Labor will not be deterred by the baseless fear mongering of the Coalition.
This morning, importantly, the energy market operator has now reported conclusively that the super storm in South Australia on 28 September, the super storm was the cause of the power outage. It specifically rebuts the climate change scepticism of Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce and the rest of that gang, and it says wind power was not a material factor in the outage.
If Malcolm Turnbull is looking to put some substance behind his slogan of jobs and growth, he would be very well advised to come here and see the jobs, the growth, the energy, and of course tackling the environment that sensible market investment and renewable energy generates.
All the investors in renewable energy need, for a bright future for our kids, and for more jobs, and more investment, is they need a government in Canberra prepared to back the science, to back the jobs, to back the future, to back the investment with renewable energy policies beyond 2020.
I'd like Mark Butler now to talk a bit further about the importance of our visit here today.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thank you Bill. Thank you Andrew. Thank you to IIG for inviting us here to see this wonderful new project in the ACT, this solar farm here today.
Bill and I are here because we recognise that the renewable energy industry, in many ways, is at a crossroads because of Malcolm Turnbull's refusal to unhitch himself from Tony Abbott's attacks on this industry.
After Tony Abbott attacked this industry in 2014, it's worth remembering that investment in renewables collapsed by 88 per cent. We went from a position of being the fourth most attractive destination in the world for renewables investment, along with the US, China and Germany, we dropped out of the top 10 rapidly and we've not recovered our position.
Now this had real impacts, first of all in terms of pollution, brown coal generation increased its share of the market by 10 per cent, but we also saw thousands of jobs lost. Three thousand jobs were lost in this industry as a direct result of Tony Abbott's attacks, while the rest of the world saw renewable jobs soar by almost 50 per cent. Now, If we just kept pace with the share, the increase in jobs across the world, we would have ten thousand more jobs in renewables than we currently have, all as a result of Tony Abbott's attacks which Malcolm Turnbull has refused to reverse.
Now, the only shining light during that period of darkness in renewables investment was the ACT Renewable Energy Target of 100 per cent. The industry has made it clear that without that ballast given to investment by the ACT Government, the Gallagher Government and the Andrew Barr Government, renewables investment would have gone offshore entirely, and this project and the project being built currently down the road is an example of what state and territory schemes will allow by way of investment and jobs creation and bringing pollution down while Malcolm Turnbull continues to sit on his hands.
But this won't last forever. Malcolm Turnbull has to decide whether he has the imagination and the courage to put in place a policy that will support renewable energy investment beyond 2020, or whether he will hitch himself still to the Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce job-destroying attack on renewable energy investment.
He confirmed after questions from Bill and myself last week in Question Time that there is currently no Federal Government policy whatsoever to support any new renewable energy project beyond 2020.
We continue to call on Malcolm Turnbull to give the industry some certainty, some confidence, to give the community some confidence that our Federal Government has a vision for clean energy beyond the next few years.
SHORTEN: Thank you. Before we go to questions, I think it's important to address the fairly dramatic events yesterday, where it was revealed that Malcolm Turnbull was prepared to contemplate a weakening of gun laws in return for a vote in the Senate on unrelated legislation. Malcolm Turnbull is so weak that anyone can tweak his tail and make him change his mind.
The proposition that they would water down a ban on lever-action shotguns, more guns in Australia in return for a vote on industrial relations legislation, shows you just how weak Malcolm Turnbull has become.
And today, the National Party, they know a weak Liberal Prime Minister when they see one, and they're cracking the whip again. Today, you've got no less than three National MPs, including members of Malcolm Turnbull's own executive, who are demanding that Malcolm Turnbull change the classification of the shotgun so more can be brought into Australia.
Just what is it that Malcolm Turnbull won't sell out in order to keep his job? We will always be suspicious now that Malcolm Turnbull's prepared to water down gun laws in return for a vote.
Australians know they can't trust Malcolm Turnbull with proper strong gun laws, and what's worse is that we now know that Malcolm Turnbull is so weak that if anyone stands up to him for long enough, they can tweak his tail and make him change what he previously said. It isn't good enough. It isn't good enough that gun laws were being traded off in return for votes.
Malcolm Turnbull, at best, was contemplating a deal, at worst he had done a deal. He should have ruled this matter out when the first question from the first journalist, he didn't, and now the National Party sense blood in the water. Now they're coming at him to free up and remove the ban on this lever-action shotgun. It is not good enough. This is not the way policy and laws should be made in this country.
Malcolm Turnbull has to stand up for what he believes in, but instead what we have got is a weak Prime Minister, wounded in his authority and doing anything he can to stay in the job. Even Tony Abbott called him out on this.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's been an arms race on tough gun control. Will you support the new measures the Government's proposing to crackdown on illegal firearms smuggling, including mandatory sentencing?
SHORTEN: First of all, you know why our friend Malcolm Turnbull has gone to this issue, because he knows he's been caught out watering down gun laws.
What Malcolm Turnbull is trying to do is distract everyone from the fact that he got caught out horse-trading strong gun laws for weak gun laws in return for a grubby vote on his Tony Abbott-like agenda to attack unions and to attack the conditions of workers.
In terms of mandatory sentencing, his own department, the Attorney-General's Department has guidelines where it says that mandatory sentencing should be avoided.
The other point here to make is that Malcolm Turnbull's entitled to his views on a range of matters. Labor's got clear policy against mandatory sentencing. In principle we think it's a bad idea, but the point about it is, we're not horse-trading our principles for a vote in the Senate. We're not horse trading our principles because some National Party MP is demanding the importation of hundreds of lever-action shotguns.
The difference between the party I lead and Malcolm Turnbull, is Malcolm Turnbull will cross any line, everything's on the table in Malcolm Turnbull world, everything's a deal and a transaction and what we will do is stick by our principles and by the evidence.
JOURNALIST: How would you explain the technical differences between this controversial shotgun and other shotguns on the market that fire more than seven shots?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I'm not going to get into a debate about every brand of shotgun on the market, what I'm not going to do though, is stand by when we catch Malcolm Turnbull trading gun laws for votes on other pieces of legislation. The issue here is not only that Mr Turnbull is willing to contemplate not having a ban on these lever-action shotguns but that he's willing to trade this off because he's so weak for votes on other matters in the Senate. It is not the way this country should be run.
Guns should not be allowed to be imported merely because Malcolm Turnbull wants a vote on another matter, merely because the National Party click their fingers and Malcolm Turnbull says "Where are we going?".
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on a health policy, the Government today is announcing that it will cut the cost of some implants and prosthetics in the hope that private health insurers then pass that on in premium price cuts. Is it enough to hope that they pass that on or would you like a guarantee before they accept the price cut?
SHORTEN: I'll go to the issue of guarantee, but first of all, on behalf of Australian consumers, Labor welcomes anything which can help slow down the rate of growth of health insurance premiums. But when we look for guarantees from Malcolm Turnbull, the guarantee I want him to keep is the guarantee that he promised Australians in return for their votes. That his six-year freeze on GP rebates would not lead to the increase in the cost of going to the doctor. Now, what we've seen is the GPs are saying it is going to increase the cost of going to see the doctor.
This is Malcolm Turnbull's moment, just like Tony Abbott did before the 2013 election where Tony Abbott said no cuts to pensions and health care and education. We know that was a lie. Now Mr Turnbull's been caught out lying to the Australian people before the last election where he guaranteed, I think it was to Samantha Armytage on Sunrise, when she pressed him, he guaranteed absolutely that his six-year freeze on the rebates which go to GPs will not increase the cost of going to the doctor.
The fact of the matter is the GPs have called him out and Australians know a lie when they see one, because they see the notices on GP surgeries. They've received the notifications in the mail. Malcolm Turnbull is increasing the cost of medicine, of health care in this country, and today I understand in estimates, or late last night, it's been revealed that the people in charge of Medicare have said that Mr Turnbull has not reversed any of the cuts. I think we all famously remember the tantrum he threw in the early Sunday hours after the election, where he said that everything that Labor had said on Medicare was wrong, and then he said a couple of days later they'd learned their lesson. Well he hasn't learned his lesson. The cuts are still in place, and what's worse, is everyday Australians are paying more to see the doctor.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on that freeze. The AMA is encouraging GPs to charge patients $2 more from next month. Is that a cash grab? What's changing between October and November that costs are going up?
SHORTEN: The GPs are the frontline of our healthcare. A GP, the family doctor is more than just the prescriber of medicine. They're the person who you go to to talk to, they're the person who gives you that advice to maintain your healthcare.
JOURNALIST: But what's changing in the next month? Why should it cost more next month?
SHORTEN: Well the point is, I think our GPs are being squeezed to breaking point. It's not so much what has changed between this month and next month. What's happened is that we have seen this government, for three years, putting pressure on the cost of healthcare.
The GPs have tried to hold the line, but they're finding it too hard. In my conversations with GPs all around the country, in Rockhampton, in Cairns, in Nowra, if you go up to the North Coast of New South Wales or the outer suburbs of Melbourne, the GPs are saying "Bill we don't want to charge our patients more but Malcolm Turnbull's giving us no choice".
It's funny, Malcolm Turnbull talks about being the party of small business. Many GPs are small businesses. This is a Government who is anti-GPs in their policies.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Anthony Albanese is reported to have declined to endorse the selection of Kimberley Kitching to replace Stephen Conroy. The background to that obviously, as you know, is there is some unease across the party. Do you think her choice was worth it given the angst that it has raised?
SHORTEN: I think she'll make a positive contribution in the Senate. Furthermore, I'm really pleased that Labor's picked another woman. It hasn't been much remarked upon but Labor's representation in the Parliament, that of women, is now north of 45 per cent. I think that compares very favourably to the dinosaurs of the Liberal Party who only have 19 per cent. In terms of the party processes, I understand the Victorian branch went through its processes.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese also suggested that those processes should be reformed to give the rank and file a greater say. Do you think that would be something that you would consider?
SHORTEN: Well, I think you'd probably be aware, Tony, of my Wheeler Centre speech in April 2014. It's riveting reading.
JOURNALIST: No, I'm not, I'm sorry.
SHORTEN: That's alright, I'll send you a copy. Anyway, back in 2014, I certainly argued as a freshly-minted leader of the Labor Party, that we need to constantly be updating our rules, especially to involve people in decision making. I'm very pleased that in my time as party leader, I've helped lead the debate to set a target of 50 per cent women in Parliament. Now we're at 45 per cent. I'm really pleased in my time as Leader, that we've got more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders serving in the Labor Party in the Parliament than we've had before. But the process of change is ongoing. So I certainly agree we could certainly look at improving opportunities for people to participate more in the Labor Party.
I mean, it's interesting, when you look at the disunity in the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. I mean, the Labor Party is so far ahead in terms of involving its membership than the Liberal Party. I look at some of the arguments the Liberals are having about women's participation, about the role of paid lobbyists, about the role that Tony Abbott's playing vis-à-vis Malcolm Turnbull, but certainly Labor is not complacent, and we will keep improving.
JOURNALIST: Have you counselled Gavin Marshall over his comments threatening to challenge the pre-selection for a number of key frontbenchers, including Catherine King?
SHORTEN: I don't want to hurt the feelings of the media but I try to encourage all of my members of Parliament, including but not limited to Senator Marshall, not to either on the record or indeed off the record disparage colleagues. But I have to say on balance, I'm happy with the team that I've got in the Parliament, including some of the people you just mentioned. I expect my MPs, and I said this in Caucus, to be focused on fighting with the Liberals, not amongst ourselves. I have to say though that when you look at the track record of our party since 2007, I can't really, apart from the odd outbreak, totally complain. I think on balance my team's been more focused and united than Malcolm Turnbull's team, and I guess all of you know the number of times Liberal MPs are on the phone complaining about their leader, don't you?
JOURNALIST: Since 2007, including the Rudd and Gillard years?
SHORTEN: Well, I think we are much better than then, don't you? Perhaps one or two more questions.
JOURNALIST: Back to the Adler, what's the difference Bill, why does a seven-shot Adler weapon - why is that more dangerous than the five shots that they currently market? Why is it more dangerous, just two extra shots?
SHORTEN: I tell you what's dangerous - it's when a Prime Minister of this country is willing to negotiate on gun laws in return for votes on industrial relations legislation. I tell you what's dangerous - having a weak and wounded Prime Minister with no agenda and no authority. I tell you what’s dangerous - when you've got National Party MPs actually pushing to re-categorise particular weapons so they can be imported in much bigger numbers, imported to this country. I tell you what's dangerous - when our gun laws become a bargaining chip like they do in the United States. I'll tell you what's dangerous - a Prime Minister who can't stand up to bullies.
Thank you everybody. See you in Parliament.