TUESDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Renewable energy; Justin Gleeson; Barnaby Joyce and Hansardgate; Newspoll; Bob Day
ANNE ALY, MEMBER FOR COWAN: Good morning everyone and thank you for coming out here to Solargain in the electorate of Cowan. And Solargain, I must say, has been delivering renewable energy options for people in Cowan and around Australia since 2007.
It's wonderful to be here this morning looking at - and talking up Labor's renewable energy plans and our support for renewable energy industries, particularly here in the West.
Solargain provides jobs and opportunities for people here in Cowan, and I'm very proud to be standing here today at Solargain with, of course, Bill Shorten the Leader of the Opposition.
The West Australian climate makes it a perfect place for the development of renewable energy solutions, and I find it quite bizarre that a government that talks about innovation, and a Prime Minister who talks about innovation, would blame the renewable energy sector for blackouts across South Australia.
Here in Western Australia we are leaders in renewable energy and I encourage, as does Labor and as does Bill Shorten, the renewable energy sector, and we completely support the renewable energy sector here in Western Australia.
Let it be said that being against renewable energy is being against Western Australia, and we certainly will always support the renewable energy sector here and places like Solargain.
But enough from me, I'd like to hand over now to Bill Shorten to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Anne.
Good morning everybody and it's great to be here at Solargain talking about renewable energy.
Renewable energy is a source of jobs in the future, it's the source of consumers being able to take control of their power prices. It's real action on climate change and what it's also going to do, I think, is give Western Australia a source of competitive advantage as its economy is looking for new developments and new jobs.
Labor will fight for renewable energy to be part of an ongoing reliable part of electricity and power supply in this country.
Climate change is taking a big toll. From the extreme weather events, through to drought, through to increasing insurance costs. Yet what Australians can do is back in renewable energy and not just deal with the downside of climate change, but they've got the opportunity to generate jobs.
There are 88 people who work at Solargain, there are panels going on roofs all over Western Australia and beyond. Factory technology means that the power captured by the solar panels can be stored so that families can use it across the 24 hours.
Labor is all the way with renewable energy as part of our energy mix, along with other forms of energy, and Labor will stand up to Mr Turnbull and his Liberals who seem determined to discourage the expansion of renewable energy and the investment and the jobs and the meaningful action on climate change. We're happy to take questions if there are any.
JOURNALIST: The West Australian Government doesn't have a renewable energy target. Would you be encouraging them to?
SHORTEN: Well there's an election coming up. I know that Mark McGowan is working on his climate policies. Certainly, both political parties at the state level have adopted renewable energy targets in other parts of Australia. In fact, and I'm not saying this should be the case for Western Australia, but at the ACT election, at the same time that Mr Turnbull and the national Liberals were trying to blame South Australia's power blackout on renewable energy as opposed to the dreadful superstorm they had, his own political party in the ACT, in the recent elections went with a very high target on renewable energy.
And talking about, of course, issues of renewable energy and the government and backflips by the government, think it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that in the last 24 hours at the national level we've seen unprecedented behaviour.
We've seen the Solicitor-General, the second law officer of the nation, tormented and bullied out of his position by bully Brandis. We've seen an honourable man lose his job for telling the truth and we've seen a dishonourable Attorney-General keep his job for telling lies.
This is the sign of the chaos in the Turnbull Government. Malcolm Turnbull is so weak, so devoid of any strength, that he's had to keep his bullying Attorney-General in the position and we've lost a first class legal mind, a first class source of legal advice. It's shameful, and the clock is now ticking for Mr Brandis to either resign or be moved on by Malcolm Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that Justin Gleeson's resignation has paved the way for, obviously, a new Solicitor-General and that people might look to apply for that job and say, "Well, I don't want to be sacked or be caught up in the same situation if I give advice contrary to what the Attorney-General says”. Do you think this could deter other applicants?
SHORTEN: Australia's lost a first class political mind, we've lost first class legal advice. The nation is the poorer for this honourable man's departure, but the Attorney-General has to answer for his conduct as a bully. Malcolm Turnbull has to answer for his willingness to reward the bully and punish the honest man.
In terms of going forward, this is a government who would rather shoot the proverbial messenger than hear the advice they don't like.
It's just come out in the last two days, that no less a person than the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, sacked his senior public servant in his department, and the senior public servant has accused the Deputy Prime Minister of a lack of integrity. This happened 18 months ago, but the Government spent nearly a million dollars covering up the truth from Australians. They paid the public servant a huge redundancy, which is a sure sign that in fact they felt he had something to say and therefore they couldn't just kick him out, and then they've spent literally tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars covering up the letter which the senior public servant wrote to the minister.
And then, of course, we've seen the Solicitor-General. I'm pretty sure it's unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth that the senior legal officer who's not a politician has had to resign after the conflict and turmoil with the Attorney-General.
This Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson, he's served different governments of political persuasion. There's no one in the legal community who thinks he doesn't have a first class mind and doesn't give first class advice. So how is it that the Turnbull Government has got a Deputy Prime Minister who's accused of a lack of integrity by his senior public servant, how is it that we've got a government where the Attorney-General is at war with the Solicitor-General, and the guy who's telling the truth has got to walk the plank? This is not good government.
JOURNALIST: Mr Gleeson fell on his own sword, but do you think he paid a price for briefing Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney-General, should he have done that?
SHORTEN: Well let's be clear here. Mr Gleeson has not breached any conventions at all stages. Despite the government smear squad, they haven't been able to prove that the Solicitor-General is anything other than a man of the highest integrity.
I think when you talk about who fell on whose sword, I think it's fair to say that Justin Gleeson was pushed and that he felt that he had no alternative but to resign his position.
But this is chaos in government. The Solicitor-General is a key position in any government – Liberal, Labor or whatever political persuasion.
The Solicitor-General's job is to provide the best quality advice to the government of the day, to make sure that the government acts on the interests of Australians with the best possible legal advice.
What we've had a case here of, is the Solicitor-General has provided the best possible advice, and that's not welcome in the Turnbull Government.
JOURNALIST: But does Labor bear any responsibility for inflaming the public spat between the two?
SHORTEN: I think the spat was there, let’s be brutality honest. This is a government that has disputes going everywhere. The Attorney-General misled the Parliament and the Solicitor-General realising that and realising the attacking he was getting from his political masters, he's realised that for the interest of the Commonwealth this conflict was debilitating. But why is it that it's the Solicitor-General who has got to pay the price when it's the Attorney-General who just didn’t like the advice the Solicitor-General was giving.
JOURNALIST: But would Gleeson have been forced to quit if Labor and the Greens didn’t drag it into the public arena?
SHORTEN: The question is this. Would Gleeson have been forced to quit if there was someone other than George Brandis as Attorney-General? Absolutely not. But for the presence of Attorney-General George Brandis, our Solicitor-General, a first class legal mind, would still be in his position providing first class legal advice. This, in my opinion, is a clear case of political bullying of an independent public service.
Australia has lost a first class political mind, first class political advice. It is a shameful and unprecedented situation. And just as we lost a first class secretary of the Agriculture Department because Barnaby Joyce didn’t like that advice. This is a government who is so ruthless, that when they get the advice they don’t want, they'll go after the messenger. This is a real worry.
JOURNALIST: Will the next Solicitor-General just be a puppet of the Attorney-General though?
SHORTEN: Well, they've got to go through a process, but the real question is: If we've lost the Solicitor-General, why don’t they get rid of the Attorney-General?
Everyone knows that this Attorney-General is an ongoing political accident waiting to happen. He's in charge of metadata but he didn’t know what that meant. He's been in charge of a whole range of measures which he can’t explain, and when he gets advice from the Solicitor-General, his top legal adviser, which he doesn’t like he then makes the workplace intolerable for the Solicitor-General.
JOURNALIST: Has Mr Gleeson in a sense let the public down, let the Parliament down, let the public service down by quitting?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to blame the victim of bullying for being a victim of bullying.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on resignations. Do you think Senator Bob Day should resign immediately or should he take his time?
SHORTEN: Well clearly the Government is desperate to hang on to Senator Day’s vote. But again, just as we saw with guns being traded for votes last week, now we see insolvency and bankruptcy issues being traded off for votes. I mean we've got a case that Senator Day will continue to receive thousands of dollars of taxpayer money but yet at the same time, this is a government taking thousands of dollars of taxpayer money off working mums.
This Government’s priorities are all wrong. On one hand, they don’t do enough to help the victims of banking but they'll give the banks tax cuts. On another hand, they won’t do enough to look after working mums with paid parental leave yet they're willing to try and hang on to Bob Day at all costs. What we are seeing is a government who is more concerned about fighting for Malcolm Turnbull’s job than they are fighting for the jobs of anyone else.
This is my second day in Western Australia talking about renewable energy. I am here among the people – talking about their jobs, talking about how consumers can keep lower household electricity prices. Mr Turnbull is just caught up in defending his own job and anyone who gets in his way gets pushed out the way. The Human Rights Commissioner, she's under threat. We had the secretary of the Agriculture Department, he got pushed out. You’ve got the Solicitor-General, pushed out and forced out. You’ve got Senator Bob Day, because he's useful to the Coalition, they're hanging on to him. We’ve seen the Adler shotgun, well that’s prepared to be imported by this Government in return for votes on unrelated legislation.
This is a Government who is lost, they're out-of-touch and they're not focusing on the things that matter. And Senator Sinodinos said as much last night on the ABC’s Q & A show – he is the chief minder, the praetorian guard of Malcolm Turnbull, and when asked to guarantee if Tony Abbott wasn’t coming back, even Malcolm Turnbull’s chief minder couldn’t guarantee that.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, can I ask you about Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity which is now less than Tony Abbott’s but so is yours, why don’t voters like either of you?
SHORTEN: Well, you know I don’t comment on polls. You’re a veteran of these interviews and I don’t comment on polls.
JOURNALIST: We still ask.
SHORTEN: You do, and what I do say is that you don’t need an opinion poll to know that Australians think Malcolm Turnbull is out of touch. You don’t need an opinion poll to know that Australians think that Malcolm Turnbull’s policies are out of touch. And you don’t need an opinion poll to talk about Malcolm Turnbull – just ask Senator Sinodinos – when Malcolm Turnbull’s chief bodyguard can’t guarantee the political safety of his boss, well you don’t need an opinion poll to know Malcolm Turnbull has got problems.
One last question.
JOURNALIST: Just on Senator Bob Day, are you alleging that the Government has asked Bob Day to delay his resignation just so they can secure the numbers in the Senate? Because he's not a Liberal Senator, he's obviously a Family First Party Senator.
SHORTEN: First of all, I don’t know what they are doing and these are questions the Government needs to answer. You’re quite right, he's in a separate party but let’s face it, that political party votes with the Liberals more reliably than Tony Abbott does some days. The fact of the matter here is we don’t know. But this Government has got form. For them, what matters is winning the vote, not necessarily the long term interest of Australians.
Just to finish this press conference where we started. Anne and I are here in Western Australia talking about renewable energy because we want to see renewable energy jobs. But Mr Turnbull, because he's afraid of the right wing of his party, he's now blaming renewable energy for storms and power outages.
Mr Turnbull was found to have his people negotiating the relaxation of importation of bans on guns in return for a vote. And now, surprise surprise, the Government needs a vote of an allied party Senator who has got his own particular troubles and all of a sudden, the Government's not chasing this fellow down, are they? But if Bob Day had been Solicitor-General or if it had been another person like Justin Gleeson, the Government would be pushing him out the way.
This is a Government who has one reason in life – protect Malcolm Turnbull. We think that Australia deserves better.
JOURNALIST: Just one very quick one, Mr Shorten. Kimberley Kitching is going to be endorsed later today to replace Stephen Conroy in the Senate. Do you continue to support her as an appropriate –
SHORTEN: Yeah, she will make a positive contribution, absolutely.