SUNDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: One year of Tony Abbott’s broken promises; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Iraq; Manus Island; Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians; United Nations; Father’s Day.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Today marks one year since Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister of Australia, and in that time Australians have a right to feel both angry and bitterly disappointed because Tony Abbott lied his way into office. Australians didn't vote for increased taxes. Australians didn't vote for cuts to the pensions and cuts to family payments. Australians didn't vote for cuts to the funding to schools and hospitals. Australians certainly didn't vote to create $100,000 university degrees for their children. They didn't vote for the broken promises, the dirty deals, and indeed the incompetence. Ever since Australia voted last year Tony Abbott has broken his promises, he lied his way into office and Australians are paying the price. Australians won't be forgiving Tony Abbott any time soon. They certainly haven't forgotten his broken promises. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Looking back on the year since Labor's defeat, what's the biggest policy idea that you've developed since becoming leader?
SHORTEN: Well Labor has now absolutely taken a stand to defend the universal accessibility of Medicare. The policy idea that we are championing, amongst very important ideas, is that regardless of where you live in Australia, you should be able to access quality healthcare. We believe, and Labor stands for the idea that it should be your need for a doctor, your Medicare card, which determines the quality of healthcare you get in Australia, not your credit card.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop announced last night that Australia had agreed to provide military assistance for air strikes against Islamic State as soon as a formal request was made. But she's also said that there will be no troops on the ground. Do you support this course of action?
SHORTEN: We haven’t been – the Opposition hasn't been formally briefed about what requests there are for any further extension of support to oppose the IS organisation. Let me be clear, as Labor has been from the outset of the rise of IS, it's a barbaric organisation with an insatiable desire for power, which uses the trappings of religion to justify atrocities and violence and far worse. Labor has supported humanitarian relief to be provided in northern Iraq. Labor has supported the use of the RAAF, our professional men and women, to resupply Kurdish irregulars in terms of their fight against IS.
We haven't yet seen what is being requested in terms of the Air Force. Clearly Labor has put a no go of the use of formed up combat troops in Iraq, but the Government's also confirmed that is their position as well. We will listen to what the Government have to say and we will apply the same principles. Does the Iraqi Government seek support? Does it provide a better outcome for civilians in northern Iraq? Is it part of what would be appropriate to provide support for humanitarian relief?
JOURNALIST: You've spent a lot of time talking about broken promises from Tony Abbott but not yet committed to reversing all of them, why not?
SHORTEN: The election is not likely to be for another year and a half to two years, but what Labor is doing is we haven't given up on the idea that we can keep Tony Abbott honest now. He hasn't got through his higher education changes. We are going to make that an election issue. Tony Abbott's floundering in terms of his unfair Budget, in terms of healthcare cuts and we do not support the GP tax. We have not supported their proposals, and we'll fight the next election about not reducing the pension in the manner in which they say they're going to do.
So what Labor has been doing in a positive sense is standing up for the ordinary Australians, dare I say it, the forgotten Australians. I think we all remember on election night Tony Abbott said that he would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. Ever since then we've seen nasty surprises and pathetic excuses. I think there's a real sense of anxiety in the Australian community. What we've seen is taxes going up, pressure on cost of living, we see the extension of household debt, and we see people losing their jobs. And the latest we've seen, we've got unemployment rates which are the highest they've been for 12 years, and we've seen a massive attack on people's superannuation accounts.
I think there's a lot more anxiety out in the community and again to go back to the outset, I think Australians have a right to be bitterly disappointed. When Tony Abbott was elected, it was on the basis that things would get better. The one thing that Australians have learnt in the last 12 months about Tony Abbott is what they've always suspected – you can't trust Tony Abbott to keep his word.
JOURNALIST: Is the Government doing enough to ensure conditions on Manus Island are safe?
SHORTEN: Like all Australians, Labor is saddened by the death of a second person. We would expect the Government to give a full account of what's happened here.
JOURNALIST: In a spirit of birthday celebrations, what would you rate as the Abbott Government's best achievement?
SHORTEN: Well I think the Abbott Government, both their commitment to try to find MH370, because of course in the more recent tragedies we've seen, we shouldn't forget how shocking that was for people, and also MH17, I think the Government has absolutely tried to put its best foot forward there and we've been very supportive of what they're doing.
Of course though, their broken promises when it comes to the unfair Budget, the increased sense of threat that people feel about their job security, about their standard of living, these are real problems and it's a year on and nothing seems to be getting better, it just seems to be getting worse.
JOURNALIST: Just back on Manus Island, do you think that more needs to be done to ensure that it's safe for people?
SHORTEN: I do think that we have an obligation in Australia to ensure people under our control are safe. That is, I think, a bottom line standard in Australia. I think the first thing to be done here though is for the Government to explain what has happened and how has it come to be that another person has passed away.
JOURNALIST: On a slightly different matter, is there a danger of the referendum on Indigenous recognition being hijacked by people who want to turn it into a vote for a bill of rights?
SHORTEN: Well I wouldn't support us having a bill of rights, but I don't think we should be surrendering to the tyranny of low expectations either. What's important in the referendum is that Aboriginal people feel that the question that's going to be put is worth voting on, and what is also important is that it be bipartisan. I think Australia is smart and generous and clever enough to come up with a question that Liberal and Labor can agree on, and that Aboriginal people find to be satisfactory and will improve their lot. And that's the test we set, that it's real change, not just token change, but on the other hand it has to be bipartisan.
JOURNALIST: With so much happening internationally, do you think the Prime Minister should attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month?
SHORTEN: Well, that's a matter for the Prime Minister, whether or not he goes to the United Nations General Assembly. What I would like him to do this month is reconsider the GP Tax, I think he should dump that. I think he should reconsider doubling and tripling the costs of sending kids to university, making it harder for mature age people to change careers. And I think if he was going to do a trifecta of doing the right thing by Australian people, I think he absolutely needs to make it clear that he's not going to cut pensions which go to carers and older Australians.
No other questions? Thanks everyone, have a lovely Father's Day. Go Tigers for the Port Adelaide game, the Cinderella run may or may not come to an end, we’ll see. Thanks.
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