SUNDAY, 27 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: Victorian Labor Conference; by-elections; ALP National Conference; Barnaby Joyce.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I've outlined to Victorian Labor that there is a clear choice both in the by-elections on July 28 and in a general election. You can either choose to properly fund Medicare, our hospitals and our schools, reverse the sneaky cuts to school funding and hospitals that the government are implementing, or you can vote to give big tax cuts to large banks and mega corporations. The choice is clear; Labor chooses hospitals and schools, Mr Turnbull and the government choose looking after big corporations and big banks.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: When were you advised of the date for the super Saturday by-elections? Did you find out on the Thursday?
SHORTEN: I've had discussions with the Speaker, but the Speaker made his final decision on the day that he advised Parliament.
JOURNALIST: What does this mean for ALP National Conference? Would you be adverse to suspending it?
SHORTEN: Well the conference will happen, it just won't be able to happen I suspect, on that date. That will be a matter for the party. Listen, I also dealt with that issue in my speech. Yes we do think it's pretty coincidental and sneaky politics, but on the other hand I’ve said to the Labor Party don't get hung up about it, let's just move forward and our business is by-elections and the chance to send Mr Turnbull a message that we don’t want his corporate tax cuts, we don’t want him just looking after the big end of town, and we don't want his cuts to schools and hospitals.
JOURNALIST: So is that a guarantee that there will be a National Conference before the next election?
SHORTEN: Well I don’t know when the next election is going to be, but there will definitely be a National Conference. It will be a matter for the party and unlike other political parties we have a robust process and the fact that we have conferences is evidenced by the fact that John you’re here.
JOURNALIST: There’s quite a few people walking around today though saying that they really hope that National Conference won’t occur before the next election, this super Saturday even works in Labor's favour. Would you identify as one of those people who’d like to have National Conference after the election?
SHORTEN: No listen, we – a lot of planning went into our National Conference. It was publicly advertised, the media had been advised of it, plenty of people had bought tickets and made bookings. It is greatly inconvenient but I don't kid myself, it's not about us. Yes I think it is a bit too coincidental that we have to wait 79 days between the resignation of MPs, and miraculously the date falls on the same day as the National Conference. But as I said in my speech to the Victorian Labor Party conference, our business is the by-elections. It is to put forward a clear message, it’s to send a clear message to Mr Turnbull that we don’t want his corporate tax cuts for the big banks, we don't want his cuts to hospitals and we don’t want his cuts to schools.
JOURNALIST: You had an opportunity to walk past John Setka on the way in, you did a sharp right and went up a different aisle. Was that deliberate?
SHORTEN: I didn’t see him.
JOURNALIST: You weren't aware that he was sitting there in the congregation?
SHORTEN: I literally didn't see him. As you would see there were 600 or 700 people there. I say this politely, I didn't even see you as I came in. So you know, you go in and you do your thing and I have to say that our message is a message which resonates with not just the party supporters, but I think every day Australians. Labor’s got a winning trifecta which we've announced at Moonee Valley Racecourse. Better income tax cuts for 10 million working Australians, reversing the cuts to hospitals and schools, and of course making sure we can pay down the national debt which has blown out under the Liberal Government. Last question perhaps.
JOURNALIST: I’ll go to Labor’s border protection policies up for debate. Will you allow any change to the existing policy?
SHORTEN: That’s decided at National Conference and let me also be very clear; a Labor Government will stop the boats. The current government would like to say that there'll be another policy; there won't be, and I'm very committed to making sure the boats don't start again. We also just happen to think that we shouldn’t be leaving people in semi-indefinite detention for five years just to achieve this.
JOURNALIST: Just on Australia Day which is also being discussed today, what do you think of the May 9 date proposed?
SHORTEN: I don't support changing Australia Day. What I made clear in my presentation to conference is that I think the big issues are to close the gap between First Australians and other Australians in terms of education, life expectancy, housing and to make sure that they have a voice in the Constitution. I don't support moving Australia Day.
JOURNALIST: A question on Barnaby Joyce. Barnaby Joyce is reportedly being paid $150,000 for an interview with Channel 7. What do you make of this, does it set a precedent and is it okay if that money goes into a trust for his son.
SHORTEN: Oh this is a personal matter for Barnaby Joyce. I don't have a view, I wish him and his boy and his new relationship all the very best. I'm not getting involved with this and certainly the Labor Party is not interested in these personal matters of Mr Joyce full stop. And perhaps on that note, I'll catch you all later. See you guys.