SATURDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: CareFlight; 75th Anniversary of the bombing of Darwin; Mr Turnbull’s defence of the big banks; US-Australian alliance
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody.
It's great to be here with Luke Gosling, Member for Solomon and of course, the Northern Territory Minister for Health.
I am here visiting to have a good look at the emergency services which support the whole Territory. CareFlight has a superb reputation and I am looking forward to hearing what further issues and concerns they have to make sure they can continue to maintain the highest possible quality health services around the Territory. So, we will be doing that this afternoon.
I am here also obviously, for the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. This was a cathartic event 75 years ago where Australians realised they were not invulnerable to the conflict sweeping the rest of the world. Hundreds of Australians died, and Darwin people don't realise that as many bombs dropped on them in the first two air raids as Pearl Harbor did, in fact more than Pearl Harbor. This is a very important event in Australian history.
I am also looking for to getting in some footy this afternoon - I am going to see the Wanderers play Palmerston. As Luke Gosling said, may the best team win.
Sorry - just one another point I want to make. Its not a Territory specific matter but currently there are terrible bushfires on the outskirts of Canberra. 15 homes have been lost and I just want to extend Labor's support for the residents and the people who have been adversely affected. And of course, the firefighters who have been putting themselves into harm's way to protect life and property.
Happy to take questions briefly.
JOURNALIST: Do you think we should do some military commitment in the Middle East?
SHORTEN: We will wait and see what the request is. I think our ADF are doing a top job as we speak. I had the privileged not only farewelling the latest rotation of Taskforce Taji but I have now visited the troops just before last Christmas. A lot of these men and women are based in the barracks here and they're doing a superb job. I think we should look at how we are going rather than necessarily just assume we need to escalate our commitment.
JOURNALIST: But if Trump asked for it, would Labor support giving troops -
SHORTEN: I am not about to start hypothecating about what President Trump may ask. What I do say of course, is that when it comes to fighting terrorism, ISIS, both abroad and domestically, Labor and Liberal are in this together and we will always put national security of Australians first and that's where it stands.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has confirmed that the big four banks won't be exempt from the company tax cuts. How do you think people would take that?
SHORTEN: Australians want to know why this Prime Minister fights so hard to defend the banks from a royal commission but yet, will cut family payments. Australians want to know why is it that Mr Turnbull wants to pass a massive corporate tax giveaway, $7.4 billion to big banks but he wants to slug pensioners and lots of other Australians. Mr Turnbull needs to explain why does he fight so hard for banks but he won't fight hard for pensioners and families, people with a disabilities, people who doing it tough in Australian society. He has the wrong priorities.
JOURNALIST: Are you surprised that the banks have appointed Labor's Anna Bligh as their chief lobbyist?
SHORTEN: It doesn't matter to me who the banks put up to be front for the banks, nothing less than a royal commission will satisfy me or the Labor Party. The Government has got to stop running a protection racket for the big banks. Why is it that on one hand Mr Turnbull doesn't want to have a royal commission into the banks, yet on the other hand wants to give them billions of dollars in tax giveaways. He has got the wrong priorities. He shouldn't just be defending the banks and representing the banks. He should be representing ordinary everyday Australians. Labor will never, never, never give up pushing for a banking royal commission and Mr Turnbull should just read the writing on the wall and go with the wishes of the people rather than defending the top end of town.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull has dismissed suggestions to (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Because I think Mr Turnbull has the wrong priorities. He has a view of the Australian economy that if you look after the very rich and if you look after the big banks and big corporations, that somehow that will stimulate economic growth in Australia. It won't. It's been estimated by Goldman Sachs, Mr Turnbull's old investment bank, that something 60 per cent, or $30 billion of this corporate tax cut will go straight overseas. The big banks don't need a corporate tax giveaway, they need a royal commission. And only Labor can be trusted to be unswerving in our commitment to stand up to all those victims of banking and go for a banking royal commission.
JOURNALIST: But if Anna Bligh is lobbying within your party against a royal commission, how much harder does it make your argument for one?
SHORTEN: Oh, I think it is inevitable that there will be a banking royal commission. Let me reassure Australians that the Labor Party will accept nothing less than a royal commission into our banks. We are sick and tired, Australians are sick and tired of financial scandal after financial scandal; from farmers and small business, to developers, to individuals getting ripped off in terms of what they were promised from banks, unconscionable lending practices. Nothing less than a banking royal commission should satisfy the Australian people. That's what the Australian people want, so that's what I want.
Perhaps I might take one more question if there is one?
JOURNALIST: I have just got to go back to the CareFlight but if Anna Bligh is against a banking royal commission - she carries quite a substantial political clout -
SHORTEN: I run the Labor Party not Anna Bligh. There will -
JOURNALIST: How do you -
SHORTEN: - Sorry, I am going to answer that. I run the Labor Party, there will be a banking royal commission if and when we get elected. And I think Mr Turnbull should get over his love of the big banks and corporate tax cuts for big banks and he should just get on with it. The fact that there is division in the Liberal Party shows that Liberal MPs are beginning to panic. They know what the Australian people want. Why does Mr Turnbull fight so hard against having a royal commission into the banks. I wish he would fight as hard to make sure pensioners don't lose $14 a fortnight in energy supplement. I wish Mr Turnbull would fight harder to make sure families on $60,000 a year don't lose $750 in payments. I wish Mr Turnbull would fight harder for Medicare and health care. But none of that seems to fire him up. There is only two things that Mr Turnbull fights for in this world; his own job and big banks - and that's not good enough.
JOURNALIST: Can you specify exactly what concerns CareFlight has which is why you are up here today?
SHORTEN: What I will do is I will talk to CareFlight, then I am happy to talk to you later. But I am fully aware that CareFlight, and Luke Gosling and Natasha recommended that if I was up here, CareFlight was worth the visit. CareFlight does remarkable services and in many angles of the air in the Northern Territory. They provide care for people living in remote communities, tourist who get into trouble, I think they have even done contract work for military. So they're very, very good and what we want to do is see how that service is working. It's very good of the new Minister for Health in the Northern Territory to come out and help brief me with about how the system all works.
I am pretty keen to talk to the highly skilled staff, so unless there is one more question, I might just then just go and catch up with the people who do such a marvellous job here.
SHORTEN: The bombing of Darwin was in many ways a turning point in the way Australia viewed the world. It was at the start of 1942, for the first time ever, World War II was going to the shores of Australia. Prime Minister John Curtin at that time in that year, said that we had to stop looking towards Great Britain and have another sort of, review of who our allies and people we can count on and that of course, was the United States. So your question is right, in many ways the practical Australian-American alliance was forged in that horror year of 1942. Australians and Americans have fought alongside each other in the defence of Australia, in Papua New Guinea, in air over New Guinea and of course, the Coral Sea and numerous naval encounters against the Japanese.
I had two great uncles who were Catalina pilots who served in northern Australia during the second World War. For many Australians, the second World War affected every family. So when we commemorate what happened in Darwin 75 years ago, we commemorate it not just for the heroism and sacrifice, not just for the work of the Americans and the Australians together because in many ways, it was the war coming to Australian shores; something which up until then had been unthinkable. We should never forget that went into the air over Darwin, to help defend Darwin, and it was American naval personnel who died in the USS Perry and elsewhere.