THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
MONDAY, 20 JANUARY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Griffith by-election; National Disability Insurance Scheme; LNP’s health cuts; Regional immigration; Nauru; Murray Darling, Jobs.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon. It’s great to be in Griffith again with Labor’s candidate Terri Butler. We’ve just had the privilege to meet mother Louise Kelly and her son Freddie. Freddie has a diagnosis of autism, and what we’re seeing is the impact of the Newman Government health cuts making the challenging life that the Kellys lead even more difficult. Freddie’s a marvellous little boy of 7 years old. He deserves – according to his mother, and I agree with her – nothing more and nothing less than every child in Australia deserves. And yet under Campbell Newman and the LNP, we are seeing cuts which mean that this little boy’s holidays got cancelled and greater pressure on the family. What we’re also seeing is real concern from Mrs Kelly that Labor’s signature accomplishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, she’s worried that under Tony Abbott the National Disability Insurance Scheme is at risk to the slashing cuts, the same that we’ve seen under the LNP in Queensland. And she knows, as I do, that in this electorate in Griffith, only Terri Butler will stand up to give her child and people with a disability the best chance in life. I might just ask Terri to say a few words.
TERRI BUTLER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GRIFFITH: It’s great to meet Louise and her little boy, he’s a beautiful little boy, and as Bill said he deserves the same opportunities in life as any other child. Louise is someone who is a local resident whose family is feeling the pinch of Campbell Newman’s cuts. She knows that I’m the only person in this race who will stand up to Campbell Newman, and that I’m the only one who will stand up to Tony Abbott. My Liberal National opponent, Bill Glasson, has not stood up to Campbell Newman and also will not stand up to Tony Abbott. This electorate deserves a strong voice on disability. Thanks very much.
SHORTEN: Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: The Queensland Government is speaking to the Federal Government about perhaps allowing immigrants to queue-jump if they settle in regional Queensland. Do you think there’s merit to that idea?
SHORTEN: Mate I’m not buying that ‘queue-jump’ language. What I do believe is that immigration’s been good for Australia. Labor will listen carefully to the propositions of the State and Federal Governments of encouraging immigrants to go to regional cities and centres such as Cairns and Townsville. Queensland has seen in its regional centres migrants come and make a really good contributions. We just want to see the detail about what’s been proposed.
JOURNALIST: Should Australia still be sending asylum seekers to Nauru with the justice system in such a disarray?
SHORTEN: It’s very concerning that eminent, respected judges are being barred from Nauru. What we need to see is – yet again, answers from the Federal Government. The Federal Government has gone into hiding about what their boat and immigration policies are. They should just come clean. Before the election they promised that they would explain to people every week what’s going on. Now we’ve got Nauru expelling judges, we’ve got relations with Indonesia very poor, and we’ve got the Abbott Government blaming the Navy for the Abbott Government policies. It’s just time the Federal Government was open and transparent, not breaking their elections promises. They promised to do it before the election, be open and transparent. Now’s the time for them to get rid of the secrecy and be upfront with the Australian people on all the issues.
JOURNALIST: Should we be seeking assurances before any more asylum seekers are sent to Nauru?
SHORTEN: First things first: we need to get the Abbott Government to own up to the fact that they’re not the Opposition, they’re now the Government and they need to own up to what’s really happening with their policies. Australians have got a right to know their border security and what’s happening with people coming by boats. Full stop.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Government is planning to sell back water entitlements to irrigators on the Murray Darling. Are there any environmental concerns?
SHORTEN: Water policy is incredibly important for Australia’s future. We believe in balancing the needs of farmers, the environment, and of course those down-river in the Riverland in South Australia and those up-river. What’s important here is that the process is independent and clear. What we would expect is that the Abbott Government would operate on the best independent advice, and also again be really clear on what’s happening and provide all the information to Australians. The best way for Australia’s future is for the Abbott Government to treat Australians like adults and be upfront with the facts and make sure there’s no funny business going on behind the scenes.
JOURNALIST: The Government’s selling 10 gigalitres in the wider basin, in northern New South Wales, is that a good idea?
SHORTEN: Again, what I would say on water policy, is that the Government needs to operate on the best advice from independent experts and scientists. That’s the standard that Labor sets and that’s the standard that we think Australians want. Policy decisions about the future of this country, the livelihood of our farmers, the sustainability of our environment, the future of South Australian water supplies and indeed the wider basin should be based on the best science available and no other motivations.
JOURNALIST: Do you support a Full Commission of Inquiry into the dredging debacle in Gladstone Harbour?
SHORTEN: Well, there’s no doubt in terms of the dredging issues in Gladstone that there have been concerns raised. Again, when you’ve got a problem, a development problem balanced against the sustainability of our environment, the best answer is not secrecy, but transparency. Australians make the best decisions, and Australians will support decisions where they feel they have been given all the facts. What we see with the Federal Government is an unhealthy fondness for secrecy and a lack of transparency.
JOURNALIST: Maurice Blackburn is acting for 10,000 intellectually disabled workers who were underpaid while working at sheltered workshops. Do you think the Government’s compensation scheme is adequate?
SHORTEN: People with impairments work at disability enterprises and that provides people with severe and profound impairment with the opportunity to work. But it’s always important for people working in these facilities are provided with fair remuneration. We’re happy to see the process worked through independently. What we know it’s a balance between people who couldn’t work in open employment with opportunities, balanced against their legitimate rights to get paid for their productive labour. So therefore we do support a process which sees it resolved such that people with a disability, and their families, are comfortable that they’re getting the proper deal.
One other issues of course which is unfurling is the ongoing concern in 2014 about jobs. I’m here in Griffith to talk about Australian jobs. I hope that Tony Abbott is talking about Australian jobs when he’s in Geneva at the same time.
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