Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview- ABC AM - Iraq; Refugees;


SUBJECT/S: Iraq; Refugees; Offshore processing; Tony Abbott’s debt sentence for uni students; Youth unemployment; Renewable Energy Target.


CHRIS UHLMANN: Bill Shorten is the Opposition Leader and he’s touring Tasmanian at the moment, he joins me from Burnie. Welcome to AM.



UHLMANN: Bill Shorten is the Labor Party united in its support for the Abbott Government’s decision to send troops to Iraq?

SHORTEN: The Labor Party that I lead is united in promoting national security. I sympathise with the anxiety which Melissa Parke has expressed that matters are moving very quickly and again I express my horror too at the murder of aid workers who go to these countries to help people not to be harmed themselves. But I do believe the Labor Party recognises that this is not the same as the 2003 Gulf War and we have set clear parameters in terms of what we think Australia needs to be doing but there is an important point here. Some people would say that if we did nothing then these problems wouldn’t be a problem for Australia, I don’t accept that. The briefings, which I can’t go into detail about, have convinced me that what happens in northern Iraq and Syria has repercussions for our safety in Australia.

UHLMANN: But what happens in Syria has been happening for some time - 200,000 people have been killed there, Australians joined that fight a long time ago so why join this fight now?

SHORTEN: I think you make a good point that the Syrian tragedy has been carried out for quite a period of time. There’s a million refugees in Jordan, there’s a million refugees in Lebanon, but what seems to I think have attracted world attention is that the world is not automatically on the side of the Syrian Government, Assad, but when it comes to the undermining of the Iraqi national government I think the world takes a different view. The Iraqi national government has reached out and become less sectarian; it’s reached out the have a deputy prime minister whose Kurdish, a deputy prime minister whose Sunni and the Iraqi Government through the Americans have asked for our assistance, this is a material difference to 2003.


UHLMANN: It’s a legitimate concern though isn’t it that these things sometime start small and end up being quite a bit larger the experience going all the way back to Vietnam has shown that?


SHORTEN: I think you’re right; these matters have to be proceeded through very carefully step by step. Labor has made it clear that whilst we do support what has been done so far and that we’re all in this together when it comes to fighting terrorism, we’ve also made it clear that we don’t want Australian combat troops and formed up units directly engaged in combat with IS. We want the operations of our military to be confined to the territory of Iraq where that government has asked for our assistance. We think that the air offensive operations, and they haven’t actually formally started, there’s just been a pre-deployment request to the Middle-East, to the UAE, should only continue as long as is necessary to place the Iraqi Government and their forces in a position to be able ensure the security of their country.


UHLMANN: That’s a fine judgement thought isn’t, how would you know when that’s the case?


SHORTEN: Well first of all you’ve got to have principles by which guide your actions and what I’m annunciating is Labor’s principles. We also think that it is possible to work through objectives when you know when you should finish, and I think that is an important debate. And legitimately some of the commentators and some people who are expressing concern have a right to see what the objectives are and Labor is up for working that through with the government.


UHLMANN: Now some of the same people in the left are concerned about your border protection policies, is there any likelihood that you will abandon your commitment to offshore processing?



UHLMANN: That’s a firm rolled gold commitment; you’re not going to abandon it?




UHLMANN: Will it be changed in anyway?


SHORTEN: No, we support regional resettlement and we support the offshore processing. I think you raise an interesting question in terms of refugees. When we talk about humanitarian, if I can combine the two topics, we talk about humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria perhaps, and I’ll be having further discussions with my deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and others, perhaps it’s time to discuss do we take more refugees from these countries? I think that when we look at the fact that were having military, potentially military operations, humanitarian relief comes in many forms but not the least of which is support for refugees to come to Australia, especially if they can’t live in their old towns and villages.

UHLMANN: So you’d like to see an increase in the humanitarian intake again, up to 20,000 which is what it was under Labor before the change of government?

SHORTEN: I won’t give a final number until I’ve consulted my colleagues but that’s in the right direction.

UHLMANN: Now you’re touring Tasmania at the moment talking about jobs, how can you help?


SHORTEN: Well first of all people don’t understand how knocked around parts of Tasmania are. Youth unemployment in north-western Tasmania is nearly 20 per cent. That’s a lifetime of hopelessness and the Abbott Government really don’t have a plan so I think for instance we have to make sure that we’re not cutting back on university and TAFE funding. We visited the Cradle Coast Campus of the University of Tasmanian and they’ve got a lot of people there who are mature aged students. The increase in the HECS debt is discouraging people from doing studies, it’s got existing students worried. There’s a lot of women enrolled here, they worry about their ability to refinance university related debt. How on earth can we help people get out of the cycle of unemployment if we make the walls they’ve got to climb of education so costly, so high they can’t even think about it.

UHLMANN: But isn’t a 20 per cent unemployment rate in Burnie a legacy of 16 years of state Labor rule?

SHORTEN: No, is a consequence of changing economy. I’m visiting Queenstown today, the two mines there are closing, world metal prices are down and so the cost of extracting the metal from underneath the ground is now been deemed to be too expensive.  But in Queenstown to lose 350 jobs is massive. I mean, I will say that the Queenstown footy club won the local footy competition here, that’s a bit of good news but really it’s been some pretty bad news for Queenstown in recent weeks and months. Again, this is unemployment; the Abbott Government hasn’t got a plan for jobs in Australia or jobs in Tasmania. Tony Abbott famously said recently well for hundreds of years people have been moving for jobs, so his advice to Tasmania is leave Tasmania. I don’t know, that’s just not a recipe for anything.


UHLMANN: Look, one final brief question, are you prepared to negotiate with the Coalition over the future of the Renewable Energy Target?

SHORTEN: We believe renewable energy and the Renewable Energy Target should be bipartisan, but we’re not prepared to go with silly options such as was proposed in the Warburton report. It’s not a negotiation to either get rid of renewable energy targets or to make renewable energy targets so low as that they’re meaningless. We do believe in bipartisanship, I cannot believe this Government’s got away with undermining billions of dollars of investment and uncertainty over thousands of jobs, it’s just vandalism.


UHLMANN: Bill Shorten, we’ll have to leave it there, but thank you.

SHORTEN: Thank you.