WEDNESDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s commitment to sign Australia’s first Military Covenant; increase to naval maintenance capacity at Port of Townsville; North Queensland Senator; pension age backflip; banking Royal Commission; live export; Great Barrier Reef Foundation; drought levy on milk
CATHY O'TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It's really great to have Bill Shorten here, the Leader of the Opposition, and our spokesperson for military personnel and veterans Amanda Rishworth here in Townsville today to make a very special and critically important announcement about a Military Covenant.
I just want to say thank you to all of the veterans who have also come along today to celebrate this momentous occasion, and I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, and nice to be here. I want to thank Cathy O'Toole for all the advocacy she's doing for veterans. We've got Amanda Rishworth here, our spokesperson on veterans' matters and defence personnel. We've also got our candidates for Dawson and Kennedy here too.
Labor is determined to stand up for North Queensland. Listen, we've heard us go through the announcement of what we are proposing there, so I won't go at great length. Suffice to say, Australia believes that our defence personnel deserve an Australian Military Covenant.
This would be a binding principles document, given the force of legislation, between the Chief of Defence Force and the Prime Minister of the day.
Our defence personnel make a unique contribution to Australia. I think it's long overdue that we recognise this and that the Parliament ensures that our promises to our veterans are actually kept.
I've also announced today that we want to increase the naval maintenance capacity of the Port of Townsville, specifically we want to see one of our two LHDs, our very big warships, on permanent rotation to the Port of Townsville. Townsville Port is a remarkable port, 200 days ago we said we should widen the channel and today we are saying let's move some of our naval maintenance contracting to the Port of Townsville, that'll generate jobs.
I'm happy to take questions on this and other matters as people see fit.
JOURNALIST: Would that shipbuilding, ship maintenance, would that be moving jobs from Sydney to Townsville? Or new jobs?
SHORTEN: Garden Island, Fleet Base East, is at capacity now, I think this would be additional. I think it is important that we build up our capacities in ship repair and maintenance, and the Port of Townsville is I think a logical candidate where we can increase our capacity. These would be civilian contractor jobs.
JOURNALIST: At this stage you haven't announced any capital investment in the port to support this, is that something you'd consider?
SHORTEN: Yes, berth ten is capable of taking the LHD but if we need to, if the port and Townsville Enterprise and defence experts believe we need to do further work, well then we will be up to that too.
I should just give a shout out to Townsville Enterprise, to Cathy O'Toole and the local business community and the Port, they've certainly been very persuasive in saying let's get some naval, additional, supplementary, complementary naval maintenance capacity here in the Port of Townsville in the North, just as we already have the services existing at Fleet Base East.
JOURNALIST: On Labor's commitment to North Queensland, can you promise that there will be a Labor Senator in the north by the next election?
SHORTEN: The Queensland conference passed a resolution to have a Senator here in the north after the next election, but can I also say when we talk about Labor's presence in the north, two words: Cathy O'Toole. We've got presence here.
But of course, we can always add to it in Dawson, we can add to it in Kennedy and we can add to it in Leichardt. If people want a Labor presence in the north, vote for us, that will deliver you great presence. I mean, I have to say when you look at our strategy on the beef roads, when you look at our commitment to the Bruce, when you look at our commitment to properly fund the hospitals and schools, when you look at our commitment for tourism infrastructure, you look at our commitment of course in naval maintenance, and you look at our commitment to the veterans, you look at our commitment on water security - Labor is the party of North Queensland, we don't take it for granted.
I think this is my 18th visit here in the last three years. That doesn't make me a local but I certainly know my way around here.
JOURNALIST: But Mr Shorten, we're not talking about geographically bound electorates, the people in North Queensland do vote for your Senators, none of them live further north than Strathpine which is in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. Is that acceptable?
SHORTEN: Well as I said, the Queensland conference has resolved that we should have senators here after the next election. I would prefer to see that myself, but what I have to say is that from 1993 to the last federal election, we didn't have a House of Reps Member. Townsville is one of the capitals of Northern Australia and and now we have Labor presence.
But I understand your impatience to see more Labor representation - I share that.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison announced a backflip on the policy to raise the pension age to 70 on breakfast TV this morning. What do you make of that?
SHORTEN: Well, who is the real Scott Morrison and do you really trust him? In the last three Budgets, Scott Morrison was the Treasurer.
Scott Morrison wrote the last three Budgets.
In every one of those last three Budgets he wanted to increase the retirement age to the age of 70. Labor opposed increasing the retirement age to 70 from the very first time it was suggested a number of years ago by the LNP. It's just a dumb idea.
So Scott Morrison wrote it, backed it in for the last three years; Labor opposed it for the last three years. Now Mr Morrison's temporarily borrowing Labor policy, that is good.
But the real issue is if he was three years as Treasurer and believed that we should increase the retirement age to 70, and in the last 13 days he's been Prime Minister and now he doesn't believe it - what does Scott Morrison really believe?
Is he the man who was the Treasurer for the last three years and all the things he believed then, or is he someone different now?
I mean, Scott Morrison needs to explain what Scott Morrison really believes and it's not at all clear. And I think most Australians know that if Scott Morrison wins the next election, if he gets control of the Senate, then the world's oldest retirement age - LNP dream - is back on the table.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister was yesterday critical of your ability to stand up to unions if you were to be made Prime Minister. What's your response to that?
SHORTEN: I'll stand up to illegality whether it's unions or banks. Mr Morrison conveniently forgets that on 26 occasions, 26 times, Scott Morrison voted against the Royal Commission into banks. So yes, I'll stand up to illegality in unions, I'll stand up to it in business and I'll stand up to wherever it is.
Mr Morison's just desperate. He knows that if he can have a debate about unions, he can get away from the fact that on eight occasions he voted in favour of cutting penalty rates. He's done nothing to look after everyday workers and he just wants to have a distraction.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you'll see the PM get rid of the unpopular policies like the retirement age?
SHORTEN: What was that last one, sorry?
JOURNALIST: Do you think that you'll see the PM get rid of the unpopular policies like the retirement age?
SHORTEN: Well, again it all comes down to do you believe Scott Morrison and do you trust him?
For years, he has said he wanted to give corporate tax cuts to the big end of town, now he thinks that's unpopular, he's going to drop it for the time being until he hopes he can get re-elected. Mr. Morrison for years has wanted Australians to work to the age of 70. As recently as July of this year, he said that was his commitment. Now he wants to drop it because he's worried about losing his day job.
The problem with the Liberals is you can't trust them. When they're on the back foot, they'll say whatever you want to hear but if they're in power, retirement age goes back up to 70 and what they want to do also is give tax cuts to the big end of town.
Labor is winning the battle but if you want to actually make sure that we don't give corporate tax cuts to big banks, if you want to make sure that people don't have to work to 70, if you don't cuts to schools and hospitals, vote Labor at the next election.
The current show is just so divided and you've got to admit, these days you can't open a newspaper without some anonymous Liberal leaking on some other Liberal. I mean, they are a complete shambles aren't they?
Sorry, you were next and then you.
JOURNALIST: What will you do if the Great Barrier Reef Foundation spends all of the money that the Federal Government has given it?
SHORTEN: Listen, isn't that a scandal? When was the last time you went to a meeting with a Liberal Prime Minister and half an hour later, you got $444 million. That's just grotesque. It turns politics into a joke.
No, I think the Foundation would be well advised not to shovel that money out the door. I think that they need to go back to Government and just say, alright - listen, we think this is too big for us to eat, too big a matter to bite off and we need to go back and start again.
I don't want to see care of the Reef privatised. Isn't it an absurd situation where Australia's leading scientists at the CSIRO now have to go to a charity run by ex-mining executives to be able to get money from the Government? It is just double-handling and triple-handling of money.
No, I think the Reef is too important for just handing over half a billion dollars to a small charity fund within a half hour meeting. And don't forget, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation didn't even ask for the money.
JOURNALIST: So, will Labor take the money back?
SHORTEN: Yes, we don't think they should spend the money. We think that should come back and it should be reallocated much more professionally.
JOURNALIST: All the money if they don't spend it?
SHORTEN: Well let's hope they don't spend it all.
JOURNALIST: And is there a clause in that agreement that you can rely on to get that back?
SHORTEN: Does anyone in Australia really believe handing a half billion dollars to a charity who didn't even ask for their money in a half hour meeting is the best use of taxpayer money? I think the National Audit Office needs to examine that whole process.
I mean, if that's the way the Liberals are making decisions about half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, what else aren't they telling us? What else are they hiding?
And talking of what they're hiding, Mr Morrison needs to come clean on what's happening with the bullying of Liberal women politicians by Liberal men politicians. This problem can't and won't go away until the Liberal Party address the problems, and if Mr Morrison thinks that hiding from the issue and not dealing with the issue of the bullying of Liberal women by Liberal men, well then he severely underestimates the Australian people. He needs to explain to the Australian people what happened, what behaviour is the Liberal Party changing and what is he going to do about it directly.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think there's still scope to include the Commonwealth's super fund in the banking inquiry or is it just too late for the veterans that want to see it there?
SHORTEN: I think veterans have got genuine concerns. I don't know if it is going to be too late but I can understand where the veterans are coming from. I've asked that the Royal Commission be extended. I think the Royal Commission is doing a very good job and they've uncovered scandals of malfeasance which is quite staggering. But I think they've had 8,000 direct submissions - only 23 victims have had their say.
So the Commission is doing what it can within the requirements the Government gave them but I think the Morrison Government should, rather than cover up for the banks, allow this Royal Commission to hear more of the victim stories and to hear from issues around Defence pensions and the administration of that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, child care workers are walking off the job today around the state and indeed, around the nation, I believe. What needs to happen for them?
SHORTEN: We need to properly value the education of our young children. The early years of a child's life are very formative and very instructional. We can no longer treat child care as just a child minding service so that mum and dad can go to work. What we need to do is treat it as education, and if we're going to treat it as education, we need to pay the workforce better.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor ban all live exports and (inaudible) backed by Queensland Labor convention last week?
SHORTEN: No, we will not. The live sheep export trade, we've said is on its last legs. But when it comes to the live cattle trade, that's a different matter altogether. We will not be banning that.
JOURNALIST: David Littleproud has announced he is willing to facilitate a 10 cent drought levy on milk. What does Labor think of that idea?
SHORTEN: We're open to that but I've got to say that maybe they could take some of that money from the private charity in the Barrier Reef and go and help the drought with that. I mean Australians are being asked to pay yet again. If I was the Government, I wouldn't waste some of the money I'm wasting on the private charities that they are and use some of that money to look after our farmers. Farmers are custodians of the land too and frankly, drought relief is a more useful proposition to me than giving a charity in a half hour meeting, half a billion dollars.
No other questions. Thanks everybody. Lovely to see you again.