SUNDAY, 10 JULY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Election result; Budget measures; Electronic voting
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. It has been the longest election in 50 years. It was a long 8 week election campaign, and indeed, it seems like the 8 days since the election have been very long as well. But whilst counting has not concluded in a number of very close seats, it is clear that Mr Turnbull and his Coalition will form a government - whether or not it is a minority government or a majority government of one or two seats, it is clear they will form a government. I have spoken to Mr Turnbull early this afternoon to congratulate him and Lucy and to wish them my very best.
One thing which unites Mr Turnbull and I is our love of Australia and our huge respect for our democracy. Therefore, I want to thank the Australian people. When we look at the world around us, it is fantastic that the Australian people can settle their political disagreements in thousands of school halls over sausage sizzles, voting in ballot boxes. It is the way that it should be and Australians, again, have vindicated our system of democracy. I hope for our nation's sake that the Coalition does a good job. I hope they run a good government. Australians expect nothing less of the 45th parliament. They have made it clear with the representatives that they have selected that they expect to work together. I pledge, and I have indicated to Mr Turnbull that where there is common ground, we will work very hard to accomplish it. I understand that we have an opportunity here, the Australian people expect all sides of politics to work in the national interest, in the interest of the people, not just themselves. I understand that we need to make this parliament function and we will be up for that.
Now, before I take some questions, I want again to thank my family. They have been marvellous and supportive. And I want again to thank the tens of thousands of volunteers who have worked so hard on the Labor campaign. Tens of thousands of party members and members of the broader labour movement who have worked hard to take the case for Labor values to the Australian people. I am proud that Labor is back. I am proud that Labor is united. I'm proud that Labor has found its voice in this election. And I thank all of those who have worked so hard to make this a reality.
I also wish to acknowledge all of the people who have voted Labor at this election - many of whom voted Labor for the first time. I want to reassure them that despite Labor not winning enough seats this time, that the Labor Party will stick true to its core values and promises and beliefs. People expect nothing less from us. We will always stand for Labor values: saving Medicare, better schools, Australian jobs.
Labor will always put people first. Thank you. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Now that you have conceded defeat, do you believe the Government has a mandate?
SHORTEN: I believe that the Government has won the election, absolutely. In terms of mandates, they have got their policies and they have the numbers to put them through. I expect them to do nothing less than keep their promises they made to the Australian people. And, as I have said, I wish Malcolm Turnbull well with what the future holds. But we also have a mandate to stand up for Medicare, to make sure schools are properly funded and to make sure that we prioritise Australians jobs, amongst a platform of the fair go all round, putting people first. We will try and find the common ground that exists. It has been a long 8 weeks and it has been a long 8 days of counting. I understand now that what Mr Turnbull probably has to do is go to the National Party and sort out the Coalition agreement. I think that is a prerequisite before he can go to the Governor-General. And I don't envy the job Mr Turnbull has got ahead of him trying to corral all of the various diverse forces in his Party.
JOURNALIST: Arthur Sinodinos says the Coalition should stick with the Budget as well as super changes. Do you agree with him?
SHORTEN: The Coalition went to the election on the basis of their Budget. I wouldn't expect them to not be pushing their point of view but I do recognise that there is great disquiet. Their Medicare cuts shouldn't be persisted with. I think Australians have made that very clear. I don't know if the Liberals have quite worked out what happened in this election but Medicare was a key issue, and the cuts are a key issue. I know that there is disharmony within the Coalition about the superannuation changes and perhaps the Government should reconsider the concerns about retrospectivity in superannuation. But this is for Mr Turnbull to do and as I said, I wished him well today.
JOURNALIST: You've already been said by some commentators that you may have an Abbott-style wrecker in this next Parliament. What is your response to that?
SHORTEN: I think that's very harsh indeed. We did what no Opposition has done in a generation. We put our policies out there before an election. We trusted the Australian people with all our views - no surprises, no secrets in terms of what we would do. We put forward I think, 213 policies. And in terms of any negativity, I have made it clear to Mr Turnbull that we will search for common ground. I think Australians would like to see Liberal and Labor working out what they agree on, and much legislation which passes through the Parliament is often done in that fashion. We are not deterred for turning in terms of our defence of Medicare, making sure working class and middle class kids can get a quality education or an apprenticeship, standing up for Australian jobs. We will stick to our guns on those measures and I am optimistic I can persuade Mr Turnbull to look at some of our positive policies.
JOURNALIST: What lessons are there in Labor with this election result?
SHORTEN: Listen, I couldn't be any more proud of the Labor team. The lessons for me is the value of unity. The lessons for me is never give up. The lessons for me is trust the Australian people with positive policies and you will be rewarded for it. The lesson for me is to be a strong opposition with positive policies for the future. I look at where Labor was at the end of the 2013 election and people were writing then newspaper editorials, writing them with great confidence there would be a three-term Abbott Government; his own party in the middle of the night, tore him down. I think Labor has much to be pleased with. We didn't win enough seats and I recognise that but I want to reassure the people who voted for us that we will stick to our guns. But again, I wish Mr Turnbull well. After the longest election in 50 years, we have seen the counting go on and on and on - I think it is good in our democracy that I can ring up the Prime Minister and congratulate him.
JOURNALIST: Here we are 8 days after an election, you've conceded defeat - are you happy with the voting system as it currently stands? Votes are still being counted, do you think there is need for reform?
SHORTEN: Yes, votes are still being counted. I want to put something on the table today. Today is about Labor recognising that we can't form a Government - but in a non-partisan spirit, I will be writing to Mr Turnbull and saying really, we are a grown up democracy - it shouldn't be taking 8 days to find out who has won and who has lost. I actually think that it is long overdue to look at electronic voting in this country. I think that we should, in a bipartisan fashion set the ground work for electronic voting. We can't afford to have our nation drift for 8 days after an election. Australians participated in the process, I take nothing away from the professionalism of the Australian Electoral Commission, but it is the 21st century, we are a leading democracy, I think we should be able to find out who won and who lost in a quicker time than we have seen. Perhaps I might take one more question.
JOURNALIST: Is the Government's mandate extended to its Budget measures and what Budget measures are you willing to support?
SHORTEN: We indicated through our costed policies what things we were prepared to support and what we're not. Today is not the day for relitigating political arguments, so I simply won't. What I want to assure Australians is I respect that our democracy has spoken. I respect that Mr Turnbull has won the election - whether it be in a minority government or majority of one or two, and I have rang him up and conveyed my congratulations. I thank all of the Australian people for the choices and decisions they have made. And I want to assure that the people who voted Labor, we will stick to our guns, we will back in our policies and we will be true to Labor values.
Thank you everybody.