Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: Melbourne

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE

THURSDAY, 21 AUGUST 2014

MELBOURNE

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Addressing claims; GP Tax; Iraq.  


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:
It has been 100 days since Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey delivered the most unfair Budget in living memory. It’s 100 days since Australians have been told they'll be slugged with a new GP tax and petrol tax increases. It’s 100 days since families learned that $80 billion would be taken from hospitals and schools. It’s 100 days since pensioners have learned that they will face cuts to their pension and that university students have learned that the cost of their degrees will double and triple. It’s 100 days of blunders and broken promises out of this unfair Budget of broken promises. This out of touch government with its Treasurer Joe Hockey lurching from mistake to blunder over the last 100 days. Despite all of this the unfair Budget is still here and it's as rotten as ever. It doesn’t matter how old this Budget is, 100 days or 1,000 days, it's still an unfair Budget from an out of touch government. While the Government desperately tries to spin its message, to reboot its spin, the problem for the Government is that Australians know how unfair it is. Furthermore, Labor's position has not and will not change. We will not support Tony Abbott's unfair GP tax. Whatever Tony Abbott wants to call it, whatever way he tries to cut it, Labor will not support the GP tax in any form. We won't support his pension cuts, we won't support his cuts to schools and hospitals, we won't support his petrol tax increases. They can try all the backflips, all the back downs, all the broken promises in the world, Labor will stand firm, we will not change our view of this unfair Budget. We will continue to lead the fight against this unfair Budget, that's what Australians care about, and it's what we will do.

Before I take questions, I wanted to address another matter. Late last year I learned that a claim had been made about me, going back to when I was 19. It was made on social media when I was elected Opposition Leader. I will not go into the details, except to say that the allegation was untrue and abhorrent. The allegation was made by someone that I knew briefly at that time. There is absolutely no basis to the claim. The claim has now been thoroughly and vigorously investigated by the police, as is entirely proper. I fully cooperated to clear my name and that is what I've done. I freely answered all the questions that the police asked of me. Now the police investigation is concluded, I can make this statement. The easy option would be to say nothing, but that is not who I am. I want to address this myself, directly. This has been deeply distressing for my family. I'm thankful for the love and support of Chloe, and the support of my staff and parliamentary colleagues. Others who are aware of the investigation have acted with the utmost integrity by leaving the police to do their job. The police have now concluded the investigation. The decision speaks for itself. It is over. I have no intention of making any further comment. I'm happy to take questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Doesn't that leave it open to conjecture and speculation on social media to run amok with the allegations that you've chosen to raise? Haven't you just exposed yourself to further questioning?

 

SHORTEN: Well first of all, the police have finished their work. I think in all fairness, I am entitled to draw a line on this. I don't have any intention of saying anything further.

 

JOURNALIST: Why are you identifying yourself now as the subject of this complaint?

 

SHORTEN: I said in my statement that the investigation's concluded. I don't take the easy option, but also in making this statement as I've said, I have no intention of making any further comment.

 

JOURNALIST: Has this been a distraction though to you over the last year or so?

 

SHORTEN: As I've said in my statement, I don't intend to talk about this any further, I intend to get on with my job.

 

JOURNALIST: So Mr Shorten, you’re saying that here and now is the last time you’re going to be talking about this is that what you mean?

 

SHORTEN: The decision speaks for itself, I have no intention after this statement of talking about it any further.

 

JOURNALIST: But it doesn’t seem to make much sense though, why didn't you just let it go, given there's virtually very little mainstream reporting, why would you bother to address the issue when what you're doing is actually doing is going to fuel speculation about what it's about?

 

SHORTEN: Well, the police have conducted an investigation I referred to in my statement. They have vigorously and thoroughly investigated it. The matter is now closed. What I do is I would not take the easy option and by doing this, what I have now done is indicated that I intend to say no more about this matter.

 

JOURNALIST: Can you confirm what the allegations were about?

 

SHORTEN: I'd refer you to my statement and again John I'd say that, I mean what I say. I shall not be talking about this matter again.

 

JOURNALIST: Why have you decided to out yourself now? Are you trying to get ahead of the story?

 

SHORTEN: The investigation has finished. As I say in my statement, the people had to conduct the investigation. That's happened, it’s now concluded. I'm pleased about that. The claim was untrue and I do not intend to talk further about this matter.

 

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us how many times the police interviewed you?

 

SHORTEN: I'm not going to go into the matter other than to refer you to my statement. I think in all fairness - the Victorian police have concluded the matter, they've finished it. I think in all fairness I'm entitled to draw a line under that matter and that's what I shall do.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to the complainant in the intervening years?

 

SHORTEN: I've spoken, I've given my statement. The police, the people best qualified to investigate this, have done so and they have said that the matter is concluded.

 

JOURNALIST: Why do you think the claim was made after you were elected?

 

SHORTEN: Again, what I'd say is that in all fairness the police have investigated this matter. They've finished their work. I'm entitled to draw a line under it. I don't have any intention of saying anything further on the matter.

 

JOURNALIST: On the GP tax, pensioners, low income earners, children, aged care and home visits would exempt. But the AMA claim that those who can pay for it do? Why wouldn’t Labor support it at all?

 

JOURNALIST: The Abbott Government never told Australians before the election that they were going to introduce a GP tax. They specifically said there'd be no cuts to health. They specifically said there’d be no new taxes or increases to tax. The Government's clearly lied. Labor will not reward the election lies of Tony Abbott.

We will not support the undermining of universally accessible Medicare. There are many people in Australian society who hold down jobs, but they have chronic conditions, from diabetes to asthma. This GP tax is an ill-conceived idea, it’s ill-thought out. The Government needs to go back to the drawing board.

 

JOURNALIST: Have you considered or at least looked at the AMA plan or spoken to the AMA about their plan and considered it in Labor’s policy?

 

JOURNALIST: We meet with the AMA on a regular basis, as does my colleague Catherine King. But when it comes to this GP tax, we made it clear in my Budget Reply speech, that Labor stands for a universally accessible Medicare. Australians have already paid for Medicare in their taxes. We don't support a new tax on going to the GP. It's an ill-conceived idea and Labor won’t change its views merely because the Government has begun to back down. What the Government should do, 100 days on from its unfair Budget, if they're going to back down part of the way, get the pain out of the way and scrap the rotten idea.

 

JOURNALIST: The AMA says there should be a price signal for health care costs though, do you agree?

SHORTEN: There are prices in the health care system already. I think it’s - on behalf of patients and sick people, they're highly and acutely aware of the cost of the medical system. But there is a greater cost if people are discouraged from going to the doctor in the first place. When you are sick, but you make a choice not to go to the doctor because you can't afford to, you don't get better, you just get sicker.

 

So we think that there should always be debate about health reform. We believe in talking to the clinicians and the front-line practitioners, but this Government has not convinced Labor of the merits of a new tax on the sick.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the man who murdered James Foley appears to be British, what's your reaction to that?

 

SHORTEN: I was revolted by the barbarous images. I could not believe in 2014 that we saw what we saw. I completely agree with the comments of Tony Abbott. I think all Australians regardless of creed, regardless of where they were born, were horrified. My thoughts are with his family. It was sickening.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think an issue like this is something that could drive a wedge into the Australian community, and if so, what could political leaders do to address that?

 

SHORTEN: I think that an issue like that unites the Australian community. The images of the barbarous behaviour of these monsters unites everyone in shock and revulsion. In terms of uniting the community, we're a multicultural country. We should be proud of the fact that we're either Australians by choice or birth. For those who are Australians by choice, as I've said before, we understand and expect that people leave perhaps grievances from their old world behind when they come to Australia. But I am very confident that in dynamic modern Australia, that we are united on these issues not divided and it's not about driving a wedge between different groups in the Australian community.

 

JOURNALIST: Is Tony Abbott bodging his talks with the Islamic community on this issue?

 

SHORTEN: No, I believe the Prime Minister Tony Abbott is trying to alert people to some of the increasing concerns about people overseas who are inculcated with evil ways coming to Australia and bringing that here. These issues always require subtlety. I'm very proud of the fact we have so many Australians of the Islamic faith. For me we are Australians first, and I believe that we need to make sure that we keep practicing tolerance, diversity in the leadership and in our language as well as every other citizen.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you support the use of the term ‘Team Australia’?

 

SHORTEN: I've used it myself on an occasion. I think if it's a reference to us working together, that's true. For me it's not the language, for me it's all about the idea that Australians, we are a lucky country. Traditionally we've been a long way away from some of the evil and some of the tragedy in the rest of the world, but we can't take our safety for granted. And so long as we promote our national security, but also maintain our civil liberties and our respect for multiculturalism, our future is bright even in the hazardous world with which we live. If there are no more questions, I might finish.

 

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you one more question, going back to the health issue, how else do you think money should be raised for the health system if not through the [inaudible]?

 

SHORTEN: First of all, the Government needs to drop the GP tax. They didn't tell anyone about it at the last election. How on earth can Labor vote to gut the universally accessible Medicare system? The Government should stop trying to bully Labor into voting for its rotten ideas and go back to the drawing board.

 

What I would say, and Labor's approach on these matters, as we did when we were in Government, is you sit down with clinicians, you sit down with the people at the front-line and the coal face, you sit down with pharmaceutical companies and you look at all costs in the system and you look at how you reduce them. What you don't do is put a tax at the door of the health system acting as some sort of bouncer to discourage everyone from going into the medical system. Thanks everyone, good afternoon.
ENDS

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