FRIDAY, 17 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s positive plans for Tasmania; Labor's plans to tackle youth unemployment; Media access to debates; Murder of British Labour MP Jo Cox; Sheik Shady Alsuleiman; Marriage equality; Liberal plans to privatise Medicare; Parakeelia; Live exports
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. I want to talk about three things this morning. Our fantastic plan, our positive plan for Tasmania. I also want to talk about youth unemployment and before we take questions, I just want to mention briefly the terrible act of crime and murder in the UK of a British Labour MP. Turning to our positive plans for Tasmania first. Labor is offering a real choice to Tasmanians. We want to make sure that through a properly funded business case, not just a feasibility study, that we will make sure that a second interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland can be properly anchored and investigated and that we would provide financing through Labor's concrete bank up to half $1 billion to ensure that Tasmanians have reliable energy. In addition, we want to make sure there is a higher education future for Tasmanians, through properly funding campus es especially in the North of Tasmania to make sure that Tasmanian young people and adults get the opportunity to have better higher education. We want to protect Medicare. We want to make sure that Tasmanian hospitals are properly funded. We're very committed to a renewable energy future for Tasmania. We're also fundamentally motivated to see Tasmanian tourism improve. The rest of the world is discovering Tasmania. We want to make sure that Tasmania is a great place to visit and a great place to live. Tasmania's got a lot of good things going for it and my Labor team in Tasmania approach the future of Tasmania with a very positive view. That's why we want to make sure schools in Tasmania are properly funded. With additional funding the Liberals will cut, not increase. We want to make sure that Tasmania's hospitals get the support they need, not the cuts they will get under Mr Turnbull. When you look at the range of Labor' ;s positive plans that we're offering Tasmania, at the centre of all of them is the proposition that if we can create more jobs, better jobs, that that's actually what will drive Tasmania's future. From the list of projects and ideas and propositions and positive plans we put forward, Tasmania has a bright future on July 2nd if Labor gets elected nationally. On everything from tourism to renewable energy, to reliable energy, to protecting our environment, to a National Broadband Network which provides world-class technology to Tasmanians, right through to making sure that schools and hospitals and Medicare are well defended, underpinned by a plan for jobs. Labor's got the best possible propositions for Tasmanians in the remaining two weeks of the election. And I want to thank in particular, but not exclusively, Julie Collins who has been pulling together a lot of these ideas, which makes Labor at the national level, the party for Tasmania.
Now also, I'm pleased to say today that Labor is outlining our positive plans to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment. There can be nothing more important for a government than making sure our young people get the chance to engage in meaningful work. It's already a fact that Labor will ensure young people get a proper education and it's properly resourced. What we're doing today is taking it to the next level in terms of tackling youth unemployment. Labor is proposing a scheme, a practical scheme, a scheme based on talking to young people and employers, talking to their families about what they need. We are proposing that 20,000 young people between 15 and 24 get the opportunity to do six weeks of pre-work preparation. Just getting some of those essential skills together, the discipline to be able to hold down a job. Then we're proposing that they will get six months of paid work with an employer at award wages. And what we're also offering these young people is the opportunity to get a certificate three qualification in the particular discipline in which they're engaged. This is a practical plan to help young people get work. We think that if a government does nothing else, but can help reduce the rate of youth unemployment, can give young people a sense of possibility and opportunity and the skills to hold down meaningful work and working with employers to achieve that, that we can really tackle youth unemployment and make it a thing of the past as opposed to the dreadful reality which it is for so many young Australians, including young Tasmanians.
I also said I briefly wanted to talk about the dreadful murder overnight of a UK Labour politician. This was a Member of Parliament doing her work, talking to constituents, rubbing shoulders with her voters, making sure that she can improve their lives. I've read the comments that her husband has made which he posted on social media since the death of his beloved wife. He said that there were two things that united them, I am sure amongst many other things. One was the love of their children, and also their desire to make sure that hate and fear never dominate in the community. What makes this political crime so dreadful, is that in Australia, we take for granted our ability to get out and mix with people, to practice democracy in a safe way. This dreadful murder in the United Kingdom will not deter me or my Labor team from going about their daily duty. That is the very least we can do in the memory of this very distinguish ed UK Labour politician. Happy to take questions on this and other matters.
JOURNALIST: Tonight's debate will be closed to journalists outside of News Limited, we're told. Are you on board with that? Is it contrary to the spirit of an open and democratic campaign and if not, why don't you boycott it?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I would like see more journalists available. I would also like to see more debates with Mr Turnbull. Mr Turnbull would probably like me to boycott this debate. He has been the Scarlet Pimpernel of this election, I’ve sought him here, I've sought him there, and just pinning him down for a debate has proven far harder than I thought it would be. I will debate Mr Turnbull any place, any time. It has been, as you know and I think everyone knows, it's been very difficult to get him to commit to debates. I would have thought in an eight week election, he would have been most keen to polish his credentials and his policies up against mine. The truth of the matter is that this election has been marked, even though it is the longest election in half a century, this Prime Minister has been the most evasive in half a century for debates. And what's mo re is when you look at whenever they do a press conference, not that they are inclined to take too many questions or answer too many issues, they are much more comfortable talking about us. It is becoming a clear pattern in this election that Mr Turnbull hopes to scrape back into office by being a small target, offering no vision for Australians, no vision for Tasmanians, instead what he wants to do is simply say he's not Labor, and therefore that should be good enough for him to get another three years. Well it's not good enough. I could have taken the approach of leading a small target opposition, and hope that the clear disunity in this Government would be a sufficient case to throw this mob out. But I've got more respect, not just for the intelligence of Australians, but for their dreams and desires to have a better political debate in this country. I'm here answering your questions. We're here talking about a plan for Tasmanians: more jobs, better infrastructure, better education, defending Medicare against their ruthless cuts. It is a clear choice in this election. Mr Turnbull's third economic plan he's offered since he became leader, remember the first was the 15 per cent GST, then he dropped that for the time being because he didn't have the numbers. Then he wanted to allow state governments to levy a second income tax on everyone who goes to work. That went down like a lead balloon. And now he is proposing a support the top end of town strategy in the hope that that benefit of giving $50 billion to large companies will somehow miraculously benefit the daily lives of working and middle-class Australians. It doesn't work, it doesn't generate the jobs, it's just going to see the banks get more profits to their bottom line, more taxpayer money going overseas at the expense of cuts. Cuts to our healthcare system and cuts to our school system, cuts to the fabric of our way of life. So David, I will turn up at this debate, because he's been a very hard fellow to pin down on the detail. But what I would also say here, I am happy to debate him one-on-one. He can ask me questions, I'm happy to answer them, he just doesn't seem happy to answer questions himself.
JOURNALIST: Overnight we have seen an incident with two MPs [inaudible] move towards the police. There are reports this morning there are increased threats on other MPs, in particular Cory Bernardi. In light of what we've seen overnight is it time there's a review of security of all MPs and is this something you think needs to change?
SHORTEN: Sometimes you get asked in this job, “do you ever have someone confront you or is it safe to do it?” I have got to say that if we give up on being out there with the public, then we should give up our job. I'm confident in the arrangements of our police forces. I'm actually confident even more in the goodwill of Australian citizens. Sure, if you do your street walks you might get a bit of free advice as to what you are doing wrong, but we’ve got a robust democracy. I've spent my adult life mixing with other people in the real world. I'm proud that I was a union rep standing up for the needs of everyday people in workplaces. I've learnt a lot about the Australian character as I have travelled around Australia's workplaces and more recently as a Member of Parliament. I've got to say, you know, there is obviously the odd person out there who is either dis turbed or has got fringe views, which are not healthy for the Australian political debate, but I trust the Australian people, always have, always will.
JOURNALIST: Just in terms of events last night, the Prime Minister has denounced a sheikh who was at Kirribilli House. Do you believe this could just be a stuff up as it was described this morning and how would you have handled that as Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: I have no plans to meet the particular sheikh you're referring to. And if I do so in the future, being aware of his views now, I will tell him that his views are out of line with mainstream Australian thinking full stop. I don't know what Mr Turnbull said to him last night, I hope that Mr Turnbull said the same as I intend to.
JOURNALIST: You say that your plan, you will pay these young people more than the Coalition's plan, also that there will be more jobs at the end of the day. How can you do that without it costing more to taxpayers?
SHORTEN: I couldn't pay these young people less than the Coalition if I tried. They've got a 7/11 style youth unemployment program, pay people low wages and expect miracles and also that'll lead, I'm concerned, to seeing other people, with current jobs, pushed out. We all know this Government hasn't had a plan for youth unemployment, otherwise why would we see the numbers for young unemployed people we see. The truth of the matter is this Government, they would have sat around the Cabinet table in May or March or April and said, well, we better tick the box of having a youth unemployment scheme and someone else came up with this great idea to pay them very low wages and possibly replace existing people in workplaces. Labor's policy is tried and tested. Our policy reflects the experience of talking to vocational education counsellors, talking to parents, talking to kid s, talking to employers. We recognise that the best employment policy you can have for young people is to give them the best education possible. But some people fall between the cracks, so what we recognise for these kids is give them the discipline and the training to see how they hold down a job. The discipline of getting up in the morning, being able to have the core soft skills, which means you are employment ready. What we have to do is a basic principle in Australia is pay people the basic award wage.
JOURNALIST: If you're paying them more, how does it not cost more?
SHORTEN: Because what we do is we'll reprofile existing failed policies of this Government. Let's face it, this Government is spending money on training programs for training's sake and Australians are sick of that. Australians are sick of that, and what Australians want is they want to see practical programs. Labor lives in the real world. We understand that for most kids the trick is to keep them at school or give them an apprenticeship. We've got an apprenticeship policy, the Liberals have a policy to get rid of apprenticeships. Sorry, this is important and it's a worthwhile issue to discuss. So therefore, what we recognise is that there's some kids though who drop out of the system, it's a fact of life. It's not necessarily their fault, you don't know their family circumstances, whatever's going on. What we've got to do is make sure these kids aren't put in the too hard basket and fobbed off with some 7/11 wage system, ill-thought out and rushed out by a government that is not interested in the underprivileged. What we are proposing are six weeks of pre-employment ready work. Training them up. Six months of work where they're paid an award wage and a certificate III. The beauty of what we are saying is with a certificate III, you could do that at a well-funded TAFE because you will have a federal Labor government. That's what's so good about Labor's economic story: education, apprenticeships, well-funded TAFE and making sure that you have got a special safety net for the kids who drop between the cracks. That's the Labor way.
JOURNALIST: Beyond the six months, what is the incentive for these employers to keep these young people on if you are not paying their wages any more and there is no financial incentive for the businesses?
SHORTEN: Well the difference will be that these kids will have six months of work on their CV. If you want to go to some of the really hard luck places and see some of the people who are doing it really hard, six months of work doesn't exist. Six months doesn't exist in their work experience. I happen to believe, that the hardest day of work for most young people is their first and second days of work. Once they get into the stream of getting up in the morning, going to work, doing a shift, it creates a sense of pride and self-respect, which is life-changing. I agree, Olivia, that it's important what happens to you in the second six months. The problem is for most of the long-term unemployed they haven't even got the first six months under their belt.
JOURNALIST: Back to the cleric last night, do you agree with comments from Michael Danby, who has linked it to the Orlando shooting, saying that these words directly lead to Orlando style crimes?
SHORTEN: No I don't. But what I do think is that homophobia has to be called out wherever we see it. There's no, in my opinion, religious justification for homophobia. What I've also good to see here is that for me, this is not a faith-based issue. Orlando or any other matter, these terrible acts. You have got evil people in the name of any religion, and history shows us this, who will do bad things. In terms of last night, Mr Turnbull no doubt, I hope he said and explains to the Sheikh the error of his ways, how it's not the mainstream opinion. If I meet this person I will certainly make clear that it is not mainstream thinking in this country. Full stop.
JOURNALIST: On the Griffith University Centre, the Government has done a survey which said 70 per cent of Australians think they should have a direct say on gay marriage and don't agree with your policy to have politicians decide. Among Labor voters it's 72.7 per cent, why won't you give people what they want and give them a plebiscite?
SHORTEN: Well I could ask these same people do you think there should be marriage equality in this country and even more would say "yes". My answer to you is why won't Malcolm Turnbull just let the Parliament legislate it? Does this nation have the time, does it have the tax payer funded dollars to go down this particular debate? I do not want this plebiscite unleashing some of the homophobic attitudes which I think poison the debate about marriage equality full stop. I am prepared to present to the Australian people at this election and say that if you vote Labor, we will legislate for marriage equality in the first 100 days. We all know this plebiscite is a tawdry, second-best option. Malcolm Turnbull never supported a plebiscite until he had to sell his political soul to the right wing of the Liberal Party, to have this plebiscite. You and I both know, that this plebiscite was not designed by the pr oponents of marriage equality, it was designed by the opponents of marriage equality. I am prepared to lead, I am prepared to say this is a matter for the Parliament. I'm prepared to say to people, listen, I actually think having a plebiscite where you see ugly views, given some sort of public sanction, some sort of moral relativity, the case for and against, and some of the ugly views which will be masqueraded as the "no" case for marriage equality, I'm prepared to say I don't want to see our community and society rend asunder. Mr Turnbull says it's just about democracy. Of course I understand democracy, Mr Turnbull, that's why we have elections. But what I also understand is that the leaders of this nation have to unite sometimes on points of principle. And the principle to me which is most important to me, is that I think we should legislate for marriage equality in the Parliament, and I will do within my first 100 days.
JOURNALIST: On Medicare, the Prime Minister this morning on radio said it was a disgraceful lie to say that they would privatise Medicare. What actual evidence can you point at that they will do this, beyond the back office, in the absence of that evidence, isn't the Prime Minister right?
SHORTEN: Your own question answered, the second part of your question answered why Mr Turnbull is wrong. If you privatise the payment system, which you dismiss as the back office, the payment system of Medicare is the heart of the Medicare system. One payer. And Mr Turnbull has set up a $5 million task force in the Department of Health to investigate the privatisation of the payment system. If you take the payment system out of the hands of the public purse and give it to a private, profit-making entity, you are compromising the basics of Medicare. Now Mr Turnbull is a man under pressure. Today he says, there are no plans at all. Well, one - why do you have a $5 million task force to take one of the most vital elements of the system out of public hands? And two - why did you get up in Parliament and say this is all a worthy idea of consideration? Either he misled the Parliament or he's not telling the truth on radio today. Either way, we just have to look at the story of Medibank, and the revelations which you've been diligently reporting today. Medibank was promised by the Government that they could privatise that and it would all be sweet, that the sun would come up and you'd have the same system with benefits no-one would lose out. Well from 1974, Medibank was set up to be run in the interests of the people, now it is run in the interests of the bottom line and corporate bonuses. Medibank shows the future of Medicare if this Government get re-elected. This Government's got form, in the last three years they say they are for the future of manufacturing, but we've lost the car industry. They say they're for the future of science, but we have seen CSIRO scientists by the truckloads being sacked. When they say they are for the future of Medicare, I just point to Medibank. The Medibank debacle shows that the initial sort of honeyed words of efficiency and innovation an d agility and you know a modern system. What it means is that patients get dudded, policy holders get dudded and if Mr Turnbull is saying who do you trust on Medicare and making that the issue in the election, game on Mr Turnbull. Labor will fight to defend Medicare and the payment system. And we will shut down your rotten $5 million task force which no one asked for, no one wants and for goodness sake if you don’t have bad designs on the future of Medicare, why do you still have it?
JOURNALIST: On Parakeelia, we have learned that Malcolm Turnbull was due to take over from Ron Walker on the board of the firm.
SHORTEN: 2002 wasn’t it?
JOURNALIST: Yeah, what does that say about Mr Turnbull's direct involvement and how concerned would you be about that?
SHORTEN: Day nine, still no word from Mr Turnbull. No less a figure than respected Australian businessman and Liberal patron Ron Walker, has said he stepped down as the Treasurer in 2002, and he was the 98 per cent shareholder on behalf of the Liberal Party of Parakeelia. Now Mr Turnbull became the Treasurer of the Liberal Party. It is inconceivable that when you are the national Treasurer of the Liberal Party that somehow you don’t know anything about this, as far back as 2002? It is inconceivable. How on earth can the Treasurer of the Liberal Party be banking profits from a company that the Liberal Party owns, I mean how many companies do the Liberal Party own? You are banking the profits from that company and you don’t know what is going on? It sounds like Prime Minister Turnbull is using Senator Sinodinos' defence: I may have been the Treasurer, I just didn’t know what was going on.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with the suspension of live exports to the abattoirs in Vietnam over animal cruelty and do you think more should be done?
SHORTEN: Yes I do agree with the suspension. Those images are shocking. And before Barnaby Joyce and the rest of the brigade say this means, you know, this means criticising live export is somehow an attack on the whole industry. The truth is, we keep getting promised the images we saw won't happen again. This Government cannot be trusted with the supply chain in live exports, I think that we need to have an Independent Office of Animal Welfare which oversights the supply chain system of live exports. Otherwise many Australian will question the viability of the industry. And let me be clear, Labor supports having a live export trade, but these images are not good enough to simply say business as usual. And we need a new system of regulation which will ensure integrity in the system, because those images are sick making. Last question thanks.
JOURNALIST: Has your security been stepped up in light of what happened in Britain last night?
SHORTEN: No. No. And again I just want to perhaps that's an appropriate point to end this discussion on. The Australian people deserve to have their MPs out amongst them, I have no doubt Australian MPs will continue out amongst the people. It is the single best part of the job. And I've got complete trust in the Australian people, they mightn't always like what we have to say, but you know, we've got a great democracy. And I believe it will continue, even with that shocking incident in England. Thank you very much, see you on the trail.