SATURDAY, 12 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Africulture Festival; Chaos in the Turnbull Liberal Government; Election timing; Queensland Nickel workers; Badgery’s Creek Airport rail link.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone, it's fantastic to be here with Luke Foley celebrating the contribution that African immigrants and families are making to Australian life. And it goes to reinforce again the vibrant nature of Australia's multiculturalism and why we should be very determined to keep defending it against anyone who would detract from the contribution of multiculturalism.
I think it's also important today just to make some remarks about the ongoing division and dysfunction at the heart of the Turnbull Government.
All Mr Turnbull wants to do is talk about having an early election and in doing so he's seeking to distract Australians from the lack of an economic plan by the Turnbull Government. Mr Turnbull knows that the longer his Government goes on the more trouble his Government gets into.
Mr Turnbull also knows that it's been the Labor Party talking about negative gearing, superannuation reform, talking about tax reform. Mr Turnbull knows he should be talking about these matters, but now it is the Labor Party who's doing the job which Mr Turnbull should be doing.
The Labor Party will keep making economic management, economic competence, a core issue of the upcoming election, whenever Mr Turnbull calls it. But in the meantime he should just settle on the Budget and bring down the Budget, that's what he's paid to do, economic reform, and he now needs to get on with his day job. Before we take questions obviously my colleague Luke Foley, Leader of the NSW Opposition will say a few words as well.
LUKE FOLEY, NSW OPPOSITION LEADER: Well thanks Bill, I just want to welcome you to Lidcombe, to Auburn, to my electorate, to the largest African festival in Australia, and of course here, you're in the multicultural heart of Sydney, not only the geographic heart of Sydney, the multicultural heart. And our African communities are very positive about your plans for Australia, so in a few minutes time we'll be joining our African communities at the Africulture Festival and Bill you're so welcome.
SHORTEN: Great to be here Luke, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Is internal Labor polling suggesting a potential bloodbath for the Government in Sydney as suggested in today's reports?
SHORTEN: Australians want to see economic leadership. It was Mr Turnbull who set that very test to justify replacing Tony Abbott six months ago. Six weeks ago Mr Turnbull was the loudest voice for economic reform in the nation. Six weeks later Mr Turnbull's lost his voice. Now Mr Turnbull is turning his attention to union bashing because he doesn't want to deal with the real issues of economic reform in this country. Mr Turnbull wasn't traditionally known as a union basher, but that's the only issue which the right wing of the Liberal Party will let him talk about.
Mr Turnbull is no longer interested in governing, for him it's all about when to hold the election. Mr Turnbull has been muzzled by his own party on everything from negative gearing reform and housing affordability, through to tackling the overly generous superannuation tax concessions at the very top end.
JOURNALIST: Is your internal polling showing that he will lose out in Sydney though?
SHORTEN: I make it a rule not to talk about internal party matters. But you don't need polling to tell you this; Australians want to see positive plans for the future. Six months ago Mr Turnbull had a marvellous opportunity replacing Tony Abbott to show real leadership. But in the last six months, as even Jeff Kennett has said, not a traditional friend of Labor, Mr Turnbull is not doing any of the leadership that he promised to do.
By contrast my Labor team in NSW and Sydney tell me that Labor's message of being for Australian jobs, fair taxation, properly funded schools, a properly funded health care system and making sure there's real action on climate change through promoting renewable energy, our messages and positive plans are being well received by people very disappointed with Mr Turnbull's lack of leadership.
JOURNALIST: What does it say about the Government's priorities that it's pressing ahead with the Senate voting reform instead of the ABCC legislation this week?
SHORTEN: Well it just goes to show Mr Turnbull is amping up his rhetoric on union bashing, but that shows that he just doesn't want to deal with the real economic reform issues. He keeps saying that he wants to tackle these issues in terms of the ABCC legislation, but his own party hasn't even bothered putting it on the Notice Paper so it can't be dealt with this week. If you're serious about something you back it in, actions speak louder than words, the problem with Malcolm Turnbull is that he's all talk and no action.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Mr Palmer about the Nickel Refinery today?
SHORTEN: I haven't spoken to Mr Palmer today about the Queensland Nickel Refinery, but I did speak to him in the last couple of days. I was in Townsville and I visited the refinery where 550 workers had their last day of work yesterday. It's a real shame to see a major industrial facility in regional Australia like a ghost town. 550 people, through no fault of their own, have finished up yesterday and they haven't even got their entitlements. They haven't been paid their long service leave or their annual leave, they haven't been paid any of their accrued sick leave. Now I think that Mr Palmer needs to do better, and I know he won't like me saying this, but when I spoke to him I couldn't see a clear plan about what he was going to do - and I hope he does have a plan for these people, but this is a major economic catastrophe for Townsville. If you take out 800 direct jobs, 1600 indirect jobs, you can imagine the impact on any regional community.
In the meantime, it's time for Mr Turnbull to show that he really cares. He's got a test; he could encourage the Minister to exercise discretion and provide the workers some of the entitlements which they're owed and then Mr Turnbull could chase Mr Palmer to reimburse the Australian taxpayer for these entitlements. It's now an opportunity for Mr Turnbull to show that he really cares and at the moment there's 800 people who through no fault of their own have no money, no pay, the families will be under pressure, the mortgages have got to be paid, the school fees have still got to paid, the medical costs, and these people have been finished up. We now need to see some leadership, in particular from Mr Palmer, but in the interim from Mr Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor block any attempt by the Government to extend Parliament sitting so that it can hand down an early Budget?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull should just do his day job. Why is he so obsessed about having a Budget on May 3, or May 10? Why is he so obsessed about having some sort of double dissolution election? What he should do is focus on the jobs of Australians; he should have a plan for Queensland Nickel, and all the jobs which have been lost in the mining boom. He should have a plan to make sure that young people don't have to pay $100,000 degrees. He should repudiate the terrible cuts to Medicare which are going to put up upfront payments for women seeking mammograms and pap smears. He should reassure Australia's pensioners who are very anxious over Government plans that he won't hurt pensioners anymore.
Mr Turnbull needs to think about every other Australian rather than his own job and he should just bring down the Budget when he says and stop distracting Australians with every other issue. The main task in the year for a Commonwealth government is to bring down the Budget, and bring down the Budget in the interests of all Australians. It seems to me that Mr Turnbull is interested in talking about everything but the Budget.
JOURNALIST: You flagged climate change as a topic for your Press Club speech next week. Will that be dangerous ground for you?
SHORTEN: What's dangerous for Australia is if we don't act on climate change. We do future generations of Australians no favours by pretending that we don't have to take real action on climate change. The challenge of climate change isn't just rising sea levels in the Pacific, it's much closer to home, it isn't just drought in Papua New Guinea devastating as that is. It's the damage to the Great Barrier Reef; it is more extreme weather events in Australia, it's rising sea levels in Australia, it's the great insurance costs. And climate change doesn't just have to be a problem. If you get proper leadership which a Labor government's offering to do, we can make sure that we get some of the $2.5 trillion of investment scheduled for Asia Pacific in the next two and three decades.
Australia should be leading on responses to climate change and Australia can have an advanced manufacturing industry with blue collar jobs if we take real economic action on climate change. Is there one or two more questions?
JOURNALIST: Is July 2 now a forgone conclusion as the Election Day?
SHORTEN: Sorry could you repeat that?
JOURNALIST: Is July 2 now a forgone conclusion as the Election Day?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull seems to think it's clever of him to keep everyone waiting on an election date, but the truth of the matter is this Government's stopped governing. They've given up on tax reform; they're not interested in dealing with housing affordability. They won't do anything about superannuation tax concessions, and they're a soft touch when it comes to multinationals.
It doesn't really matter when Mr Turnbull calls the election because the truth of the matter is that's the only thing he's thinking about. He should be thinking about the Budget, he should be thinking about governing and in many ways just watching Mr Turnbull this week run around Australia, it's clear that he already considers himself in an election campaign, the real shame is he should be acting like a leader of Australia, not just trying to score political points over the timing of an election. Last question thank you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten what do you think about Mr Turnbull's announced rail connection for Badgery's Creek?
SHORTEN: Well from day one Labor has said, both my colleagues at the state level and myself, have said that we need to have at Badgery's airport, you need to have a rail link. But I noticed yesterday that the Prime Minister, he's saying that he wants to have a train line but the only thing is he couldn’t tell us the route of the train line, he can't tell us how much it will cost, he doesn't even know how he's going to pay for it, he certainly hasn't spoken to the State Government about the train line. The fact of the matter is Mr Turnbull's not promising a ghost train, he's promising a phantom railway with no detail at all. Thanks everyone.