MONDAY, 11 JULY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor's positive policies; Secret Coalition deal; Greyhound racing; Budget repair that’s fair; Marriage equality
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: … I'm here because Labor will continue standing up for properly funding our schools right across Australia, as well as we'll keep standing up for protecting Medicare, and of course fighting strongly for Australian jobs. Now Mr Turnbull has the opportunity to form a Government. It's been an eight-week election, there's been now nine days of counting. I think it is incumbent upon Mr Turnbull to form his Government as quickly as he can, but it is important that the Government gets off on the right foot for its first actions. That is why we call upon the Government to have no secret deals. It is a precondition for Mr Turnbull forming a government that he concludes a Coalition agreement with the National Party, that the National Party ticks off on Mr Turnbull's Government. But it is important that these arrangements are not secret. Australians are entitled to know what deals are being done to constitute the Government of Australia. Not only should there not be a secret agreement, there just shouldn't be secret deals full stop. Australians are being asked to cooperate with this Government but how can you get the cooperation of the Parliament and Australian people if they're not even told what the deals are all about. It's not a good start for this Government if their first action is to have a secret deal. If you have a secret arrangement allocating power in this country after we've just invited all Australians to participate in an election, it is not a good first step for this Government. Australians are entitled to complete transparency on the political arrangements of this country. If the deal is secret, it automatically raises suspicions, doesn't it? If the first decision of the Turnbull Government is to take a secret deal then how can Australians be expected to trust the Turnbull Government? Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: You haven't been overplaying it a bit given they have managed to successfully negotiate these arrangements?
SHORTEN: I think the question is, why is it a secret? Why can't the Australian people know what's going on? We know that when Mr Turnbull rolled out Mr Abbott in the middle of the parliamentary - of the last Parliament, that there were deals done with the National Party to provide $160 million for a taxpayer-funded plebiscite on marriage equality when the Parliament can do that job at no extra cost. There was the proposal that the Nationals twisted Mr Turnbull's arm on to make sure there was a $1.2 billion baby bonus scheme. There's the defence that the National Party are giving to the flawed emissions reduction fund costing taxpayers $4 billion. The Australian people have a right to know what's going on. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are not getting off to the best first step if their first action is to have a secret deal. How can Australians be expected to trust the Turnbull Government if the Turnbull Government's first action is to strike a secret arrangement?
JOURNALIST: What is your view on greyhound racing specifically in New South Wales? Do you think it should be banned as the NSW Government has done?
SHORTEN: As you appreciate, greyhound racing is a state issue. There's no doubt there's been scandalous behaviour in New South Wales - scandalous behaviour - and the welfare of those animals is most important. But whether or not it's taken a sledgehammer to this issue, I just don't know. There's grave concerns within people who have done the right thing their whole life in greyhound racing, that they're being unfairly tarred with the same brush as the scallywags, scoundrels and criminals. The challenge for me and the challenge I think for Australians, if you want to make sure the animals' welfare is uppermost, but it is important also that we don't destroy people's livelihoods along the way. I would be concerned about the economic impact of this government action and I think that needs to be thought through before we take the sledgehammer to this industry.
JOURNALIST: Will the Opposition move to block the plebiscite?
SHORTEN: Well let's see if we can't have a conscience vote in the Parliament first off. Really, what is the case for $160 million to be spent on a taxpayer funded opinion poll which the hard right of the Liberal Party have said they're not going to be bound by anyway? We saw Mr Turnbull so unable to control his colleagues that he's given a leave pass to his Cabinet colleagues on this issue of not being bound by the plebiscite. I think that Mr Turnbull needs to pick up one of the lessons from this election, it is a lesson for all of us in politics; the more you stick to your own conscience, the more you stick to what you actually believe, the better this country will run. Australians can smell inauthenticity, insincerity and political games a mile away. I think Mr Turnbull would do himself a big favour if he stuck to his old views before he became Liberal leader.
JOURNALIST: You said you want a conscience vote in parliament, so will Labor push a private members' bill?
SHORTEN: Let's see what we do when we get back to Parliament, but I remain completely committed to the view that the quickest and easiest way to deal with this debate on marriage equality is to have a parliamentary vote. Our triple-A credit rating is under threat, we've got to get the Budget back, the debt under control. We've got bigger issues that this Parliament needs to be working on than spending the next six months on a debate about whether or not we have a plebiscite and the form of the plebiscite. I think that the nation - the people of Australia made it clear - they want the Parliament to work. I think it would be a lot more practical and common sense to have a vote in the Parliament and be done with the issue and then we can get on with the other big issues which are out there too.
JOURNALIST: How committed are you to a bipartisan approach to Budget reform, you did say the government had a mandate yesterday?
SHORTEN: We are very committed to Budget reform that is fair and we've offered up costed savings across billions of dollars in terms of reducing spending, in terms of revenue reforms. We've got a very good set of plans we hope the Government picks up. The Government is sending very mixed edges about their Budget. Mr Turnbull before the election said his changes to superannuation were ironclad yet you've seen a conga line of Conservative Ministers and his backbenchers come out and say they're going to revisit the superannuation changes. I think if Mr Turnbull needs an agenda for work he's welcome to pick up our agenda which doesn't seem to attract the same degree of internal instability his own Budget is causing, especially on superannuation.
SHORTEN: Labor's very committed to doing Budget repair that's fair and I want to make the 45th Parliament work. We're heartened by the support we got but also recognise that Mr Turnbull's got the ability and privilege of forming a Government. I want to make this Parliament work. Labor's set out clearly over 200 policies. They're the policies we took to the Australian people. Some of them involved making tough decisions to improve the bottom line of the Budget, but we also think we're able to improve the Budget position without damaging household budgets, without underfunding our schools and hospitals and of course Medicare.
JOURNALIST: Would you consider changing your position on any other measures that have stalled?
SHORTEN: No, we've outlined our policies clearly before the election. I think if we're going to talk about people changing their mind, I think it is important that Mr Turnbull addresses this question of retrospectivity in his changes in superannuation. There's lot of people gravely concerned - me included. Mr Turnbull made it perfectly clear that he believes in every fibre and sinew of who he is that the change he's proposing are not retrospective. I think it's probably appropriate to get an independent expert review to examine whether or not the changes are retrospective because clearly if this review says some of the changes are retrospective, Mr Turnbull says he doesn't support retrospective changes, we can allay concerns of hundreds of thousands of superannuants and indeed everyone in the superannuation system, we're not seeing capricious changes undermining the integrity of the system.
JOURNALIST: Will there be any changes in your shadow Cabinet?
SHORTEN: I'll consult with my colleagues in coming weeks. I am very pleased with my shadow cabinet and shadow ministry. We've got lots of new talented people. I have a good problem, a happy problem. I've got a lot of talent and we're going to put in the best possible line-up.
JOURNALIST: Is David Feeney going to retain his position in the shadow cabinet?
SHORTEN: He is not in the shadow cabinet now. Final question.
JOURNALIST: Will you rule out blocking the plebiscite?
SHORTEN: I said we'll have a look at this matter. I wish Mr Turnbull would reconsider his position. Do we really need in Australia to have a damaging plebiscite? It's not about whether or not one doesn't respect the ability of people to have a say but I've looked at the Irish experience and it showed harmful arguments were brought out, destructive arguments, homophobic arguments. Why should kids walk in to school and have to put up with a barrage of anti-marriage equality advertising funded by taxpayers? I think that the lessons of the Irish referendum are important and instructive, and of course the Irish had to change their marriage laws, they had no other way than a referendum. Their Parliament couldn't do what we have the power to do. If you speak to all of the people involved in the Irish referendum, they would rather have a system where the Parliament votes. Somehow though, when we've got a better system Mr Turnbull is taking us down a suboptimal outcome. We will do our best to persuade people of the validity of our views and stand up for all people. Thanks everybody.