THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
Member for Maribyrnong
Shadow Minister for Education and Workplace Relations
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
SUNDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2013
SUBJECT/S: ELECTION AS LABOR LEADER
BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon everyone. Today is a brand new day for the Australian Labor Party. But first of all, let me just congratulate clearly, unequivocally, and on the record, Anthony Albanese. And I’d also say that he has let no-one down through his campaign or through his continuous service to the Australian Labor Party and to the electors of Grayndler. He is a decent, determined, notable Labor warrior. He has the ferocious capacity to apply considerable intellect to holding the Coalition to account, both in government, and I have no doubt, going forward, in Opposition.
Indeed, somewhat remarkably during this most remarkable of leadership ballots, I think it's fair to say that unlike most political contests that we ever see, that we now get on better at the end than we even did at the start. This, I believe, indicates the possibility of Labor demonstrating to Australians, for the first time in a very long time, that the Labor Party can govern itself, and therefore, at the next election, can offer the opportunity to govern Australians- and Australians can be confident in our ability.
This ballot has been historic. This leadership ballot, I think, has been inspirational, and it has also been transparent and open. This ballot provides, for the first time in a very long time, not only a break from the some of the past disunity, but indeed a very solid platform for the leadership of Labor and for the Labor Parliamentary Party to be able to offer a united alternative to the Coalition.
This ballot also, I believe, provides an opportunity for all Australians to see Labor conduct its matters in a transparent, open fashion, welcoming of people in the Labor Party.
I also know that this ballot shows that there are still things for me to learn. I enjoyed the strong support of the parliamentary party and of course thousands of members of the Labor Party, but there are lessons here for me to learn going forward, and I certainly look forward to working with Anthony Albanese to understand some of those lessons.
Most importantly, I believe this ballot marks the start of the renewal of Labor as an alternative government for Australians. I have said during this leadership campaign that the challenge for all of us, not just for Anthony and myself, but the challenge for the Labor Party is to be able to demonstrate to Australians how we can be relevant to the future lives of Australia and the future of our nation. It was the opportunity to talk about ideas, how to make our Labor Party more diverse and reach out to new constituencies, including but not limited to small business, to people living on the land, to professional women.
This ballot is the opportunity to ensure that Labor stands for the idea of being a brave political party speaking up for those in our society who have no-one to speak for them. It is fundamentally the opportunity for Labor to talk about the Australian economy and the very important role that small business plays in our economy.
I believe it is possible, using this ballot as the start of the process of renewal, for Labor to develop the right policies which describe accurately, the future for Australians and Australia. This ballot is the start of the process of developing the right policies which are then explained with persistence. It is the opportunity for Labor to start again the process of renewing the trust of hundreds of thousands of Australians who moved their vote away from Labor in the last two elections.
Tomorrow, the Caucus meets to elect a Deputy Leader. It will elect a Shadow Ministry. Tomorrow- the Shadow Ministry, I have asked to be convened after the Caucus. On Friday, I will allocate the portfolios following extensive consultation with my colleagues. And Monday week, the Shadow Executive will meet to talk about the remainder of the year and our plans for next year.
Rebuilding the Labor Party is a hard task. I don't have to say I'm humbled- I am genuinely humbled at the significant honour and privilege that people in the Labor Party have displayed by choosing me to be their leader. No-one in my family has ever been in politics or public life before and I recognise that to be elected Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Australia's oldest political party, is a great honour.
I would like to recognise in this that none of this would have been possible without the support and the advice and the counsel of my most remarkable wife, Chloe, and of course the love and support of my children.
I know that the task will be hard. I know it will require a team effort. I'm confident that the Labor Party has the skills within its parliamentary ranks, and also beyond its parliamentary ranks, to be up to this task. I believe that the best days of Labor are yet to come and I look forward to being part of the Labor team and leading the Labor team in this rebuilding of Labor so we are relevant to the future of all Australians. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, congratulations on your leadership. One of the first tests that’s going to come your way from the Prime Minister is the carbon tax. I appreciate you haven't had a Caucus meeting yet or a front bench or so forth but, as leader, are you as resolved today as you were in the past few weeks about Labor's position on staying on a price on carbon?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes, I am. I’m not going to make it a big habit, of commenting on every policy every day, but on something as important as putting a price on carbon pollution, I've stated during the campaign that I believe it's important to maintain a price on carbon pollution. With our policies more generally, Phil, that will be a matter for discussions with the Caucus and with the Shadow Ministry as that gets elected.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the historic vote today has shown that almost 60 per cent of the rank and file in their first chance to vote for a Labor leader didn't select you. What's your response to that and how will you be reaching out to those members that wanted Anthony Albanese and not you?
BILL SHORTEN: This has been a brand new day for the Labor Party. Both Anthony and I had to negotiate new territory for Australian politics. The Australian Labor Party is the first mainstream political party to involve its members in the process of having a say.
What I would say to Australians who are interested in getting involved in politics is this process shows the Labor Party is genuinely interested in what you have to think. In terms of the vote, I'm pleased that so many of my parliamentary colleagues who know me best, did show their support for me.
I've also indicated in my statement that I look forward to talking to Anthony, how I can better reach out to our party members. What I know fundamentally is that the Labor Party is committed to being the party which helps navigate the future for all Australians, and I'm pleased that this process has shown enough confidence to elect me as its leader.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, that tally of 18,000 to 12,000 votes, it's pretty emphatic. Does it show that even with that support on the ground level, the right faction will still get its way with that 50/50 weighting?
BILL SHORTEN: I know I spoke at the Balmain Caucus meeting in favour of changing to this model when it was proposed by Kevin Rudd, because I do think it's important to involve people. I think it’s important that we listen to the parliamentary colleagues, they’re the ones who know you best. It’s important to involve to our membership.
Under this process it was very successful. It was a very close election. I don't mind saying that I did think about what I would do if I didn't come first but in fact came second.
The members have spoken. The Labor Party has spoken. This is a great honour. I'm certainly confident that this process going forward will continue to provide me with the best possible stability. Some of the leadership disunity in the past is now just that. It’s in the past. And party members have provided us with unequivocal support, and as Anthony had said, and if positions had been reversed, I know I will enjoy the 100 per cent of support of Caucus and the party membership and that's what I would have provided if I had been unsuccessful today.
JOURNALIST: But does it show that the right faction would be too strong even if the ground swell is of a different opinion?
BILL SHORTEN: I don't accept the premise that this was a factional vote. If it was, I probably wouldn't have gotten elected. There were people across the party, as the campaign went on, engaged with me and it was this vote, and I'm sure Anthony got support from moderates in the party, and I know I enjoyed support from across the quarters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you’ve said during this ballot, you’ve often talked about bringing new ideas to the party. You also said that you want to defend the legacy of the Rudd and Gillard governments. Now what approach will you take to reviewing Labor policies? Is there a need to review those policies and hammer out different positions on a couple of key issues?
And specifically on carbon, if Tony Abbott repeals the carbon tax, can you see any scenario where Labor could vote for Direct Action?
BILL SHORTEN: First of all, I just refer you to what I said earlier, David, that a detailed discussion of policies is not what I'm going to do today. I'm going to listen to my colleagues. We've got a lot of smart Labor MPs. We’ve got alot of smart people in the party.
Anyone who knows me from my days in working in industrial relations, anyone who knows me from working in the area of disability, knows that I fundamentally believe that there’s a lot of wisdom both within the ranks of the Parliamentary Party and in the broader community. So when it comes to discussions on broader policies, I am animated by the view that many people contributing to ideas will produce better ideas than just a few.
I have said though during the campaign and I stand by it that, whilst I believe there were mistakes made by the previous Labor administrations, I believe that the proposition that the National Broadband Network is an enabler for a modern economy in the 21st Century still holds true.
I believe that a national disability insurance scheme is long overdue. I certainly believe that you can’t pretend that climate change isn’t real and that failing to put a price on carbon pollution merely delays today’s problems for tomorrow's generation.
So I do believe that when you look at the state of the economy with the relatively low unemployment numbers which existed during the period of Labor's tenure, that our approach on employment was a good approach because there’s nothing more important in our community than jobs.
I certainly will defend our approach on education. The proposition that we fund schoolchildren according to their needs, to ensure they all get the best start in life, is a truth which doesn't change regardless of whether we're in government or in Opposition.
But you're quite right, when it comes to developing our policies going forward and reviewing other policies, that will be the province of the Labor Caucus in the first instance, and I will certainly spend more time listening to my Caucus than I will talking at them.
BILL SHORTEN: We're not the government now. We've said we’ll put a price on carbon pollution. We’re not going to start doing the government’s work for them. When they were in Opposition they should have done their homework. If they’ve got badly costed, expensive propositions which don't work, it's not up to us to rescue them.
JOURNALIST: How much did unions chip into your campaign coffers?
BILL SHORTEN: All of the election campaign money is run through the National Secretariat. So the vast bulk of the support will have come from the ALP.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, one of the criticisms of you if you like, not criticism, but during the ballot process, was your relative inexperience of Mr Albanese and Tony Abbott. You've had six years in Federal politics. You’ve never been in Opposition. You’ve only been in the Ministry for three years. Do you see that as a factor? Does it worry you? Are you confident you can overcome that?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, in those three or four questions, Phil-
JOURNALIST: I'm just asking you to address that generally.
BILL SHORTEN: What I said during the campaign was that during the Howard years there were a lot of us in Opposition. Some people are in Parliament. Standing up for workers during WorkChoices wasn't an easy road for the people who lost conditions under the Howard Government's IR. So I do believe that Australians in the Labor movement contribute in a variety of ways, not just through Parliament.
I also respect that in our parliamentary team, we have got a lot of good operators and a lot of good legislators. I was very pleased in my time in Parliament to be able to help drive, along with a whole lot of other people, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Lifting superannuation from 9 to 12per cent, which I sincerely hope the Coalition don't delay, damaging the retirement incomes of older Australians. I was able to work on a range of issues.
So the party has spoken and what I undertake to do is to learn, is to listen, but also to help the process of rebuilding Labor with good policies, which win the trust of the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: If we judge Opposition Leaders on being able to unite troubled Oppositions and lead them back into Government, Tony Abbott was an outstanding Opposition Leader; particularly aggressive. Do you intend to adopt that aggression and attack? And what of his traits do you think you will adopt or you will deliberately avoid?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I note that when he became Leader of the Opposition he won by one vote. He still managed to go on and unite the party and indeed convince the majority of Australians to vote for him.
BILL SHORTEN: Indeed, that’s why I was drawing the analogy. What I would say about Mr Abbott's style is I don't believe, as Opposition Leader, that I would be as relentlessly negative as him.
I believe it is important to hold the Coalition to account. I believe it is important that they govern well. But what I also believe is that the Labor Party needs to be able to explain to people what it stands for, and I think we can.
I am sufficiently ambitious for Labor and for Australia that at the next election, people will seek the Labor how to vote card because we do have the best policies on science, research, innovation and higher education, because people do see our policies as speaking up for those who don't have a voice in our society, and I spoke about the victims of domestic violence in that regard.
I want people to come up and vote for Labor because they know that we’ve got good ideas about rehabilitating people with disabilities. I want people to come up to us at election day in 2016, because they know that we understand they know that we understand the needs of small business. We understand the centrality of small business in the Australian economy. We understand the regions and we are committed to a vision of Australia which is more than just the big cities of Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
So I believe that Australian Labor needs to have a positive frame of ideas, and we will assess the Abbott Government by our positive frame of ideas as well as hold them to account for their policies and ideas, which do not assist develop Australia's future.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will you be encouraging Tanya Plibersek to run as your Deputy, and Stephen Conroy to run for one of the Senate leadership positions? And, on a separate question, what do you say to the view that you can't command loyalty from MPs because you've been accused of not showing it to previous Labor leaders? How do you address that question?
BILL SHORTEN: I'll deal with the second question first, and then come to the first part. I know that for the time I've been in Parliament, the decisions I have made are based on what I view to be the best interests of Australia and the best interests of the Labor Party.
No-one who serves for a long period in politics, and seeks to demonstrate the qualities of leadership, can avoid answering hard questions. There is no doubt that Labor's been through some difficult times while it was in Government. But what people have with me is someone who will always try and work out what is the best interests of the nation first, and then the best interests of Labor, and that's how I approach my decisions. On that basis, I do reasonably expect the support of others, and that's why I was so heartened with such a strong degree of support from my parliamentary colleagues who have watched me over the last six years.
In terms of what happens in the leadership positions, I did indicate during the campaign, where we travelled across the length and breadth of Australia talking to Labor Party members, that I believe that if she were to nominate, Tanya Plibersek would make an outstanding Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
In terms of the other positions, and indeed what happens with the Deputy Leadership, that will be a matter for the Caucus tomorrow. I certainly also wish to add that I have indicated to Anthony Albanese that he is most welcome to serve in senior positions within our parliamentary team because he does have quite remarkable skills. Thanks very much, everyone. Cheers.
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