RADIO NATIONAL WITH ALISON CARABINE
FRIDAY, 11 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government in chaos; Senate; Climate Change; Tony Abbott’s Broken Promises; Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; Clive Palmer.
ALISON CARABINE: Bill Shorten, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Alison.
CARABINE: Clive Palmer is being described this morning as a parliamentary anarchist and a political wrecking ball, do you have any sympathy at all for the position the Government is now in?
SHORTEN: I think that this is a government who promised that they would be strong and stable and they are showing that they're too arrogant to be able to negotiate with other Senators who don't immediately agree with what Tony Abbott wants. This week's farce I put squarely at the fault - at the feet of the Government because they're too arrogant to be able to ever admit that they need to negotiate or work out something which is not just a hundred per cent what Tony Abbott wants.
CARABINE: But doesn't Clive Palmer share some of the blame? It was just this week you were describing Palmer United as extremist and anti-establishment populists who are outside the serious mainstream. Is Clive Palmer acting in the national interest or is he simply a wrecker who wants to cause as much mayhem for the Government and the Parliament as possible?
SHORTEN: I believe I'm like most Australians who've watched what's been happening in the Senate. I'm over the labels and the name-calling. I just want to see that the Government keeps its promises. I also want to see that if they have to deal with the crossbench which they do, because that's was the outcome we got in the Australian election from the Australian people, I want this Government to try and actually negotiate and not be so arrogant as to say it's all their way or they'll just lose their temper and storm off.
CARABINE: But the Government has negotiated with Clive Palmer. It's accepted his amendment which goes to price guarantees, the legislation will be reintroduced and rammed through the lower house on Monday. It will then go back to the Senate. We've got business crying out for certainty. Isn't it now imperative that this be dealt with once and for all without any further delay or confusion? Wouldn't that be in the national interest?
SHORTEN: Well, when we say that business is crying out for certainty, they're getting no certainty from the Abbott Government. Three different sets of amendments proposed to be voted on in the space of hours. The last set of amendments caused an uproar in business where we saw a proposition being advanced that every company, every trust, every individual could be liable to 250 per cent penalties if the particular amendment which the Government cobbled together with the Palmer Party had voted on yesterday. This is government by rushing, by desperation, by half-baked discussions. This was a government who wanted to guillotine debate on the propositions yesterday and then when they found out that they needed more time, they actually guillotined their own arguments.
This is a chaotic government. If they want to have serious action on climate change which is remember what this is all about, the Labor Party said that we would repeal the carbon tax so long as it was replaced by something effective. And we have got a proposition which is sensible, which has been worked on by experts, which would genuinely tackle climate change, which would see an improved level of consistency and certainty for Australian business. We could move to a floating emissions trading scheme by 1 October, instead you've got the Government locked in the past, having arguments and name-calling with the Palmer United Party.
There is an easy and straightforward way through to deal with climate change effectively. This is a government who's so sceptical about climate change, they will do anything but sit down and talk the sensible direction for our future.
CARABINE: Well, Bill Shorten, we might get back to your ETS proposal a bit later. But if we could take a closer look at the amendment which caused all the confusion yesterday, it does appear to suggest though this is disputed, that all companies, not just energy suppliers, that fail to cut prices would be penalised. What's your reading of this amendment? Is it workable? Or will it lead to unacceptable compliance cost?
SHORTEN: Well, it's literally a multi-billion dollar question - the one you've just raised.
CARABINE: And you'll have to vote on it next week. So, have you had a look at it?
SHORTEN: We have. I've had discussions with my Senate colleagues about the amendment and I've had discussions with industry overnight. The concern that industry has expressed directly to me, is they've said that on the one hand they want the carbon tax repealed but on the other hand they're concerned. The amendment and their interpretation of it, would have massive consequences for all of Australian industry. Specifically in the amendment, it lists seven or eight categories of entities who would be liable for 250 per cent penalties if they didn't hand back every aspect of the carbon price back to their customers.
What industry said to me is, this means that on one interpretation, any part of any company or individual who uses synthetic greenhouse gases as part of their supply chain, would be caught up in this penalty network that is proposed by the amendment. Does anyone seriously think that the Abbott Government gave this more than a cursory glance when they were so desperate to announce a win yesterday. They were agreeing to anything Clive Palmer said yesterday. It was one of those sort of desperate Dutch auctions where we saw the pathetic side of the Minister for Environment last night saying yeah, we would have done anything that Clive Palmer asked yesterday. And it still didn't sort it out so I think industry's got a lot of real questions here.
CARABINE: So, the Labor Party will not be supporting this amendment when it's put to the House and the Senate next week?
SHORTEN: No, we need to actually understand does it affect just gas and electricity providers or does it affect everyone. That's one test. Other questions which we want to see the Government answer is, what will the cost of compliance for business be to implement this amendment. There are questions here which the Government just - this is just part of the day job of governance of Australia. Let's forget Labor and Liberal politics for a moment. If you're going to propose a new penalty system, who's affected by it and what's the cost of compliance and that's what the Government has to answer.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, it's also the day job of the Government to get its budget through the Senate but the Senate is shredding the Government's budget measures. It is very early days but are we getting close to the Senate being unworkable?
SHORTEN: Well, the Prime Minister, the now Prime Minister, the former Opposition Leader, famously said on any number of occasions, that he doesn't do deals. This is a guy who staked more than just about any politician in the modern era his reputation on being what you see is what you get. We know that he didn't mean it when it came to increasing taxes, he's done that. We know he didn't mean it when it came to cutting pensions, because he's doing that. But he said I don't do deals. He said that specifically from 2012 onwards. He attacked the last minority government.
CARABINE: But Bill Shorten, the Government has a mandate to govern, and it's being obstructed seemingly at every turn by the Senate. Clive Palmer would love a double dissolution, is that Labor's end game as well?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I can't accept the assumption that only a government has a mandate. I lead the Labor Party, I lead the Opposition. We've got a mandate to hold this government to account. The Senate has been, in its form since Federation, a house of review. How arrogant is our Prime Minister that merely because Senators don't do what he wants, he thinks that we should scrap the Constitution, the Senate should just become a rubber stamp. The reality is, in a modern democracy, it's give and take. The reality is this is a Prime Minister who doesn't have the skills to negotiate with people who don't agree with him.
CARABINE: Well, the Prime Minister gave an interview to Fairfax late yesterday. He says there's much shouting from the sidelines about the Budget. He expects that the Senate will end up supporting most of the Budget measures. What's your take on that?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, isn't it telling that we have a Prime Minister who, when the Opposition disagrees with him or when Senators question him, he calls it shouting from the sidelines. The clear implication is he thinks he's the only team on the football field, he doesn't understand why those in the grandstand should even allowed to have a go or disagree with him. He doesn't understand how Australia works. The Opposition, the Senate, we are on the same field as him. People voted for us too. Now, when Labor had a minority government, we got through nearly 600 separate laws. We never lost a vote. So perhaps what we have here is a Prime Minister unskilled in governing who doesn't know how to compromise or respect diverse views.
CARABINE: And Clive Palmer appears to be doing to Tony Abbott writ large what Tony Abbott did to Julia Gillard and, before her, Kevin Rudd. Are you just ever so quietly enjoying the karma of this moment?
SHORTEN: No, it's not about how I feel about it. What does disturb me is that our Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of all Australia, is so intolerant of people who disagree with him, he will call them shouting from the sideline, he'll call them wreckers. I think the Prime Minister needs to - Tony Abbott needs to recognise - if everyone in the Parliament doesn't like his Budget, maybe it's not everyone else who's wrong, maybe he's just got a rotten, unfair Budget. He drop the attacks on pensioners, he should drop the attacks on working class kids going to university, he should drop his GP tax. If everyone doesn't like his Budget, maybe it's the case that not everyone else is wrong, maybe he is not skilled at his day job.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, we're going to have to leave it soon, but we know Clive Palmer wants to be Prime Minister. In the meantime, he seems to have seized your mantle as the Leader of the Opposition, at least in an unofficial sense. Is Clive Palmer the great usurper of Australian politics?
SHORTEN: No, Clive Palmer was elected to represent his voters in Fairfax, Labor strongly rejects this Budget. We will be consistent. We have said from the outset we don't support a tax on our healthcare system, undermining the opportunity of kids to go to uni, we'll stand up for the pensioners. What we've seen this week though is you've got a Prime Minister who doesn't believe in climate change, you've seen him vulnerable and will do anything he can to try and get his rotten measures through, and what is happening is he's coming up against a whole lot of people who just say no, Tony Abbott, you're going to have to sit down and negotiate, you just can't be arrogant and say everyone's got to fit in with your fairly extreme view of the world. It's not the way Australia works.
CARABINE: Bill Shorten, thanks so much for joining RN Breakfast.
SHORTEN: Thanks, very much.
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