Bill's Transcripts

PRESS CONFERENCE - CANBERRA - SATURDAY, 23 JULY 2016

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE
CANBERRA
SATURDAY, 23 JULY 2016

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s new shadow ministry; marriage equality. 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. I think it is important that before Tanya and I talk about our new Labor line-up, that I address the terrible and shocking news which has emerged from Munich. 

Australia utterly condemns this cold-blooded act of murder and hatred that has claimed the lives of innocent people. Our hearts go out to their loved ones, whose loss is beyond the reach of our words. To the people of Munich, to the people of Germany, we extend our sympathies and our friendship. Munich is a great global city. It has hosted tens and tens of thousands of Australian visitors over the years. It has also known more than its share of sorrow and fear. Not far from where the shots were fired on Friday, were the terrible events of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Munich came through that terrible event, it will come through this terrible event. It will come through stronger and united, with the world more united and on its side.   

Now, as I said, Tanya and I are here to announce and unveil the new Labor line-up for the 45th Parliament. Today we are adding great energy with a new team. We are building on the strong policy foundation of the past three years and we’re bringing fresh voices to the national conversation. I’m really pleased with my team and the enthusiasm with which they will present to the Australian people. This is a line-up which places renewed focus on great policies and putting Labor values first. This is a diverse line-up, I’m pleased to say, with eight MPs from outside our metropolitan centres and six MPs from Western Sydney in the Ministry. There are 13 women in our Ministry and eight in our Cabinet. 

The first and most significant change to announce today is that my remarkable Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek will be Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women. Andrew Giles will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Schools and Terri Butler for Universities. Terri will also take the title of Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality – with a focus on breaking down discrimination and disadvantage. 

Kate Ellis will expand her responsibilities as the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development to include TAFE and Vocational Education. In addition to being Shadow Cabinet Secretary, Jacinta Collins will also be assisting Kate with Early Childhood. As a staunch advocate for blue-collar jobs, Doug Cameron will be the Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships. And I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge the great work Sharon Bird did in the previous term of Opposition. 

Education from the early years to schools, university and of course TAFE and vocational education, is a first-order economic and social priority for Labor in the 45th parliament. Investing in education is the key to Australia’s future prosperity, and it is one of the sharpest contrasts between us and the Turnbull Government.  So I present to Australia, the education dream team: Tanya and Kate – supported by Doug, Jacinta, Terri and Andrew. This will be the education dream team. 

In terms of the Senate leadership, Penny Wong will continue as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and she will bring her considerable talents and intellect to the important post of Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson. Claire Moore will work alongside Penny as Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Stephen Conroy will remain Deputy Leader in the Senate and take on the new job of Shadow Special Minister of State, putting a new emphasis on scrutiny of government and the accountability of the executive. Stephen will also be the Shadow Minister for Sport – it’s great to have a Collingwood supporter in that role at last.

As I made clear during the campaign, Chris Bowen will continue to lead the economic debate as Shadow Treasurer. Andrew Leigh will serve as Shadow Assistant Treasurer, with additional responsibilities as Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity and Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits. Sam Dastyari will join the Shadow Ministry with the portfolio of Consumer Affairs. And Katy Gallagher will bring her wealth of experience to her new role as Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services. I’m combining these responsibilities to drive improved access to capital for small business and better accountability in our banking sector.  This is a Cabinet position, as it should be. It deserves a heavy hitter, as Katy is.  Julie Owens, representing the small business heartland of Parramatta, will be the Assistant Minister. Matt Thistlethwaite will be an Assistant Minister in the Treasury Portfolio. Jim Chalmers will enjoy a well-deserved promotion to join the Shadow Cabinet with responsibilities for Finance. 

Tony Burke will continue his tireless work as Manager of Opposition Business, a role which will be more important than ever when dealing with the new parliament and Mr Turnbull’s razor-thin margin. As someone passionate about Australia’s natural beauty, a champion of our arts community and a proud representative of a diverse electorate, he will take on three portfolios very close to his heart: Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water, Shadow Minister for the Arts and Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia. I’d also like to acknowledge the great work Mark Dreyfus did, in preparing a tip-top arts policy for the last election.  Jacinta Collins and Julie Owens will both hold the title of Shadow Assistant Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism, as members from Australia’s two largest multicultural cities.   

Mark Butler, who delivered and developed an excellent policy on climate change, has agreed to my request to continue to be Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, in recognition of the frontline responsibility and the importance of this portfolio, and it deserves a dedicated minister of his calibre.  Pat Conroy will assist Mark in the Climate Change portfolio. 

Jenny Macklin – who has literally written the book on social policy – at my request is remaining as our leading spokesperson for Families and Social Services. Doug Cameron will be the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. On her first day in the federal parliament, Linda Burney will be on the frontbench as Shadow Minister for Human Services. After an outstanding Tasmanian campaign, Carol Brown, will be promoted to the role of Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers. Louise Pratt returns to the parliament as the Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities. 

After three very important years in the Immigration portfolio, Richard Marles will be our new Shadow Minister for Defence. Amanda Rishworth will be the Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and for Defence Personnel, and I thank David Feeney for the work he did in the portfolio. Warren Snowdon will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC. Gai Brodtmann will serve as Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence Personnel. And, on a well-deserved return to parliament, Mike Kelly will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence Industry and Support. 

In Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese has agreed to stay in the portfolio he has made his own, as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport – focusing on the liveability and productivity of our cities, suburbs and regions. Albo will also continue to serve as Shadow Minister for Tourism – a key industry that deserves a dedicated Shadow Cabinet portfolio position. As a proud representative of the Illawarra, Stephen Jones will be the Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government. Pat Conroy will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure. And Warren Snowdon – whose electorate includes Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for External Territories. 

In employment, Brendan O’Connor will continue to work with business and unions as the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Ed Husic joins the Ministry with responsibility for Employment Services and Workplace participation. Lisa Chesters will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Workplace relations.

Mark Dreyfus QC will continue his outstanding work as Shadow Attorney General and will expand his title as the new Shadow Minister for National Security. This is an issue which my party and I accord the highest respect. Clare O’Neil joins the Shadow Ministry as the new Shadow Minister for Justice. 

Kim Carr will be the Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Nick Champion will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Science and Tim Hammond will assist in the Innovation portfolio. 

In communications, Michelle Rowland will continue to champion a first-rate, fibre NBN as the Shadow Minister for Communications and Stephen Jones will continue his good work alongside her as the Shadow Minister for Regional Communications. 

Joel Fitzgibbon will continue to be a strong voice for our farmers and our regions as the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as well as Rural and Regional Australia.  

Jason Clare will be the new Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and the new Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment. Andrew Leigh will work alongside him in the new portfolio of Shadow Minister for Trade in Services. The new member for Perth, Tim Hammond, will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Resources and Western Australia. And the very experienced Warren Snowdon will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Northern Australia. 

After a campaign where healthcare was a front and centre issue for so many Australians, I’m pleased that Catherine King has agreed to my request to continue her great work as the Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare. And Tony Zappia will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Medicare. Tasmania’s Julie Collins will be the new Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health. And Helen Polley will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing. 

Shayne Neumann will be the new Shadow Minister in the very important portfolio of Immigration.

As Leader, I will also take on the role of Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. And I’m honoured to say that the father of Reconciliation, Patrick Dodson, will be my Shadow Assistant Minister. In my time as Opposition Leader, I’ve learned a lot about Indigenous policy in cities and in remote communities – its successes and its failures. Patrick has been a great mentor and a friend and adviser to me in this area, and I look forward to working closely with him, and will rely greatly upon his wisdom. I will work closely with all the first Australians as we seek to progress the causes of reconciliation, recognition and closing the gap.  

And Terri Butler will be my Shadow Assistant Minister for Family Violence and Child Safety – this portfolio remains a personal priority for me as Leader. Tim Hammond will be my Shadow Assistant Minister for the Digital Economy and Startups. And to give me a direct link to Labor’s strong presence in Tasmania, Helen Polley will be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Tasmania.

 

I am truly delighted with the depth of talent and the amount of passion and the breadth of ideas my team present. I’m confident this group won’t just be a strong opposition – we will be a positive, bold, alternative government, ready to govern. 

I might just ask Tanya to talk a bit further about today's announcements.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Bill. The first thing I want to say Bill is thank you to you for showing such great leadership during our election campaign and for bringing together a team that I think will really serve us well over the coming years and serve us well when we win government next time round.

I was delighted to be the Shadow Foreign Minister, it was a real honour to have that role and I'm very grateful to the former prime ministers, former foreign ministers, both current and former diplomats, academics and our strong multicultural Australian community who all gave me so much time, so much advice and so much help in that role. But I am delighted to take on this new challenge of education as well.

Education is an area which has such a strong role both in the life of the individual and the life of our nation. It's really important social policy and it is really important economic policy. We know that no matter who you are, where you grow up, who your parents are, what your background is, a great education can be the ticket to anything you want to achieve in life. It is the golden ticket. That is why for every Australian child, in every Australian school, what we want is a great education. But it is not just important for those individual kids, it is important for our future as a nation. If we want a strong economy, if we want a fairer society, we need to invest in education. We can't be an innovation nation unless we are an education nation. So I am delighted to be working in these areas of schools and universities, areas that I have been interested in for many years, and I must say, I'm also delighted to be working with Kate Ellis, who did such a fine job in schools during the last campaign. I think taking on the vocational education role for her and the whole education team will be a very successful group working well to promote this very important policy for the Labor Party over the coming years.

I also just want to say how wonderful it is to have the women's portfolio back in my immediate area of responsibility, I was obviously Minister for Women once in the past and it is an area I have never lost interest in. Australia is a wonderful country and women here have so many opportunities that our mothers and grandmothers didn't have and many other countries still don't have, but there are stubborn areas of inequality still and I think it is a great opportunity to make sure that at the Cabinet table, in every decision that we take as an alternative government, and as a government, we have the perspectives of the whole of the Australian community at the centre of our decision making, not just half. Thank you very much.    

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, in extending your frontbench to 32, is this insurance against any of your colleagues that may be coming to get you down the track?

SHORTEN: Thanks for the question. The challenge for Labor is that we've got more talented people than places to put them. It is the direct opposite of challenge which Malcolm Turnbull faces. I should have also mentioned, talking about my expanded, my new look team, Lisa Chesters will also be Assistant Minister for Regional and Rural Affairs, helping Joel Fitzgibbon.

In terms of the heart of the matter, Malcolm Turnbull's problem is that he's increased the size of his Cabinet, he's got the largest Cabinet since Whitlam, but he's got the smallest agenda since McMahon. My challenge is that as our caucus expanded, it went from 80 to 96 - possibly 97 - I notice that Cathy O'Toole seems to have gone up in votes in the most recent counting – we've done what is routine for oppositions. I had a good look at what Beazley did, what Rudd did, what Abbott did and what Turnbull did in opposition, and the average size of the opposition was 32. So I thought fair enough, when you go up 16 or 17 members in caucus net it is probably an opportunity to lift the size of your frontbench. And I've been very fortunate, I should also just say about my people on the backbench and those in the Shadow Assistant Minister positions, there are plenty of great people who could serve on the frontbench of the Labor Party. It is a good problem for the party. It meant that perhaps I had to make some personally difficult decisions, but for the party it's a good challenge and there's plenty of good people. Obviously I wouldn't be silly enough to name all the people who I think could serve on the frontbench, but there are a lot of people in the wings waiting and will serve in whatever positions they have in the parliamentary party.

JOURNALIST: Nonetheless, Andrew Leigh takes on additional responsibilities you've announced today but he cops a pay cut. Can you explain how that works?

SHORTEN: I don't think any of our people are motivated by the pay and I don't think Andrew Leigh deserves to be characterised in terms of that's what motivates him.

JOURNALIST: Why's he the chosen [inaudible]

SHORTEN: He's a very good fellow and let's be clear here, we've got 32 front benchers out of 96. The rules say that 30 of the frontbenchers get paid a little bit more and two don't., we can't pay them beyond the first 30. The fact of the matter is I've got great confidence in him. I was determined to make sure that Andrew Leigh served on the frontbench and we’re able to do that. I asked the parliamentary party to back my call for both him and Sam Dastyari, they're both I think high performers, and the parliamentary party in a mature fashion unanimously endorsed my request and endorsed these two people.

JOURNALIST: How is National Security different from Defence?

SHORTEN: Well I think that defence is very important, but we need also a focus on national security beyond the strict areas of responsibility of defence. Mark Dreyfus has done an outstanding effort for the previous three years. Remember the Government put forward four or five sets of pretty complex legislation, some of it at pretty short notice. Mark Dreyfus has managed to get the balance right between keeping Australians safe and preserving the Australian way of life which is the reason why we don't want to compromise in keeping Australia safe. So he's got excellent judgement on national security. Labor knows there are more challenges on national security coming up. As an aside, I might mention that I brought in two former military officers now, Luke Gosling and Mike Kelly's back. We've got Peter Khalil and then of course there's Anne Aly too. I'm very confident that Labor's national security credentials, which are already pretty good, have been strengthened as a result of the addition of all these four people. Of course Mark Dreyfus I think will exert a very good coordinating role in terms of national security. We're sending a message loud and clear to Australian people, that national security is of primary importance to the Labor Party. We're also working in a bipartisan fashion with the Government. I want my best minds on it, and Mark Dreyfus is certainly one of the best minds of the Federal Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've made yourself the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs. Do you intend to spend week-long stints in remote communities like Tony Abbott did as Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, to get a grassroots view of what the reality is on the ground?

SHORTEN: Let me just say about Tony Abbott and Indigenous affairs, I didn't always agree with everything that he said but no one could doubt his interest in the matter. I think that's a point worth making. In terms of myself, what I said in the last parliamentary term is to have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the Parliament. I'm tickled pink, and by the way I think this is the first time I've spoken to you since the election. I want to acknowledge again Nova Peris’s contribution, but I'm tickled pink that we've got Malarndirri McCarthy, Senator out of the Northern Territory, and I'm wrapped that Linda Burney is coming into the Ministry, and of course we've got the father of reconciliation, Patrick Dodson. I took some real pride in the first caucus meeting we had after the election when I had all of those three remarkable champions standing in the Labor caucus room with me. 

So the first thing which I want to do is give a voice to Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders. My attitude to policies to do with Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders is not one of paternalism. My view is the Minister is not the person who knows best. It is my job as the Leader of the Labor Party to give voice to the diverse experiences, the successes and the failures. I signal here that I see Indigenous recognition, I see reconciliation, I see issues around closing the gap as fundamental to a successful Parliament and a successful nation. So I will be out visiting lots of remote communities. I haven't formed a view about what is the best way to do it. I'm respectful of what Tony did. Whether or not I think that's the best use of my time, one thing is for sure, and I think you even saw a bit of it during the campaign, I'm a people person, I'll be bottom-up in terms of talking to people, getting out there at the grassroots. In the cities, because there's huge, big Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in our cities, as well as our regions. And I am very lucky because I have Patrick Dodson at my right hand making sure that I get his wisdom and through him a whole lot of other people. For me, it's about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people first.

JOURNALIST: Tanya, you don't often see people give up the foreign affairs portfolio. While obviously the Party believes it can use your talents elsewhere at the moment, will you commit to the education portfolio should you take government, or would you like to reinstate yourself in perhaps the more glamorous foreign affairs role?

PLIBERSEK: No, I very much enjoyed the foreign affairs portfolio and I'm very excited that I can take on these new responsibilities. Being able to see Penny Wong, a very extraordinarily accomplished person take on the foreign affairs portfolio makes it easier to say goodbye to a portfolio, but education has always been a passion of mine. I'm really excited by the opportunities of implementing our fantastic policies in government. As I said earlier, it's one of those areas that makes an incredible difference to the individual’s life, but it really is the key to economic prosperity in the future. It's the key to increases in productivity in Australia, it is the key to being able to invent, discover and commercialise the things that will mean we’re a nation that can continue to make things in the future. All of those things make this a portfolio that I'm delighted to have in opposition, but even more excited about the prospect of being the minister in government.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, briefly on defence. Why did you strip Senator Conroy of the portfolio and was it because he was being in your mind excessively hawkish on the South China Sea?

SHORTEN: No, first of all let us go to the policy issues, they're important. Nothing changes in terms of our policies in the South China Sea. In terms of support for the United Nations' Law of the Sea Conventions, that's absolute policy of the Labor Party. When it comes to supporting freedom of navigation operations, yes we do support that. So there's no change in policy whatsoever. I'm really pleased you asked that because it is good to deal with that early on in the matter. 

In terms of Stephen, Stephen was in my opinion doing a great job in Defence. I've asked him if he could do some work about keeping the Government under as closer scrutiny as Special Minister of State. As we all know he can be quite forensic and tough in terms of estimates performances, keeping the Government to account. Stephen Conroy moving into Special Minister of State is not good news for slack and lazy Government ministers or for Government ministers try to cover up ineptitude or worse. This is not good news for the Government that Stephen Conroy is in SMOS. As for Sport, well he twisted my arm on that one.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a policy question on the gay marriage plebiscite, what's going to be your approach for Labor on this? Is it going to be a caucus decision as to whether you're supportive or not and what's your inclination at the moment?

SHORTEN: There's a lot of water to go under the bridge until we get to that. Certainly I'll talk to my leadership about an approach in the coming weeks and months. Labor absolutely believes that wasting $160 million on a plebiscite when we can have a vote in Parliament, it's a no-brainer. Mr Turnbull we know, agrees with me, but he's had his hands tied by the right-wing of his party. Certainly I will not only talk to my own colleagues but we will talk in coming weeks and months to Mr Turnbull about what his plans are. One thing is for sure, we do not want to see hateful, divisive debates, ignorant arguments used to run out and vilify people in loving relationships. We do not want to see the kids of same-sex couples having to put up with this sort of nonsense which we see in other countries. But anyway, it is one of these interesting matters, important matters. It is one of the shames of Labor not winning the election, we could’ve just legislated for it, but that is what it is. We'll sit down and talk intelligently with Mr Turnbull. We'll obviously talk amongst ourselves and we'll do the best interests of the nation.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, some associates of yours were arrested in Melbourne over some vandalism at some Melbourne Port polling booths, can I ask you if you've spoken to the men and outside the police investigation do you think there will be repercussions for them within Labor if they're found guild of wrongdoing?

SHORTEN: I think anyone in an election who is conducting vandalism deserves to have the book thrown at them. In terms of that investigation, I haven't followed it, I have no knowledge of the particular events. Again, just as I think a Liberal MP got up in the caucus room of the Liberal Party and said that she had knowledge of stolen corflutes or whatever, I just say to everyone, Australian democracy does not need these sorts of antics full stop. I have no time for it. Liberal, Labor, Green, National, whoever they are.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just briefly on Senator Carr. Why did you want to keep him in the frontbench when he had lost the confidence of almost all, not all, but almost of all his left wing colleagues?

SHORTEN: I felt he had more to contribute in Industry, Innovation, Science and Research, and indeed, I can assure you that there were quite a range of people who came to me and said they still did think he had something to contribute. Now there was a lot of passion in the argument, I get that, but we had the Caucus meeting. I want to congratulate my colleagues, we had the argument, we had the discussion, in the end we came up with the unanimous position and I'm looking forward to the contribution he can make in Industry, Innovation, Science and Research.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, it is reported that you weren't that keen to see him stay in the Cabinet, is that true?

PLIBERSEK: Bill has answered the question.

JOURNALIST: But how about you?

PLIBERSEK: I think it is fine. I am very happy with the line-up we have.

SHORTEN: Which is more than we can say for Mr Turnbull, I notice he's got an LNP revolt in Queensland, I notice that he has got a great deal of unhappiness. What I am really pleased about, in closing this press conference, I want to thank all of my colleagues. Those who are successful with positions serving in the Executive in the Labor Opposition and indeed all of those who serve on the backbench. I can assure you that my 96, possibly 97, team members are focussed on putting people first and making sure that we are not only a very strong Opposition but we're a very good alternative Government and I want to thank all of my colleagues for this process.    

ENDS


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