THURSDAY, 26 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Nova Peris; Labor’s positive policies; Pension assets test; CSG; Barnaby Joyce; Relations with Indonesia
JOURNALIST: Things have been heating up for you on the campaign trail since the sudden departure of Senator Nova Peris. Nominations opened up overnight for the position, how will the process work?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: First of all let me say about Nova Peris, she's a distinguished Australian and she has my best wishes. She's been a champion on the track, off the track, she's broken the glass ceiling in a range of ways by being elected to the Senate and I wish her and her family very well. In terms of finding a candidate to run, can I assure people there are more candidates who want to run for the Labor Party to be the Senate representative in the Northern Territory than spots available. So in an election period, once the formal election has been called, what we do is we get our national body to pick the candidate but obviously there's a range of very talented candidates who have already emerged and probably others who are interested too.
JOURNALIST: Will Northern Territory Labor have a say in who becomes the candidate?
SHORTEN: It will be decided by the National Executive.
JOURNALIST: There was a lot of uproar last time, all respect to Nova Peris, but when Julia Gillard picked Nova Peris she made a meal of it and there was a lot of upset among Labor in the Territory.
SHORTEN: I'm conscious of that. When I ran for Party leader every Territorian got a say in the ballot. In this case, because it's within six weeks of the election itself, the precedent in the Labor Party, not just for the Territory but all over Australia, is that our national body will make that choice.
JOURNALIST: The timing was interesting. When did you find out that she was thinking of abandoning ship?
SHORTEN: At the same time as most people found out. But what I've got to say about Nova is that she's the first Aboriginal woman to be in the Senate and also the first from Labor. So quite frankly, if she doesn't want to continue on for three years better she says it before an election than after, because I think that can sometimes drive voters crazy. Not an easy decision. I mean being a Senator is hard work but it's also a very privileged position and so again I would rather Nova, and indeed any of my team, if they don't feel that they've got it in them to go on for the next three years, this is when I want to find out, not after an election.
JOURNALIST: And she didn't - you found out when everyone else found out. She didn't send you a text or give you a call or anything?
SHORTEN: When I say that, it was around the same time. I was aware before it broke in the media.
JOURNALIST: How far ahead?
SHORTEN: A matter of a day, no more. These aren't easy decisions. I made my opening remarks about Nova. She's my friend, I respect her. I'm pleased she's lent herself to the Labor Party and the Senate and the Territory for three years and I wish her well going forward. Politics is a hard grind, it's a great privilege, but it's a hard grind and so therefore if Nova feels she can make a contribution outside of the Parliament, and that's what she wants to do that's good. Sometimes in politics you see people hanging around term in, term out, term in, term out, and if they've lost that spark well then they should make way for others who want to do more and contribute more.
JOURNALIST: You said politics is a hard grind, Nova Peris had probably a harder grind than most. When she was in Parliament it was a couple of scandals, there was a couple of things that went wrong. Did the Labor Party stand behind her?
SHORTEN: I've always supported her heavily. I'm the leader, I've always supported her very heavily.
JOURNALIST: How did you support her through those scandals and those personal misfortunes?
SHORTEN: You use the word scandals, I think sometimes with Nova she got the raw end of the stick. Her family, you talk to someone, we've got Penny Wong and other colleagues in the Senate, are very collegiate. It's a great privilege to be an elected member of Parliament.
JOURNALIST: But what did you do to support her?
SHORTEN: You talk to people and work with them. A bit like I imagine in the ABC, if one of your people is doing it hard, you've got counselling, you've got support, you give people a bit of room if they've got to attend to family matters, that's what you do. I believe that it is a great privilege to serve in politics. It's a remarkable honour and it's one which very few Australians get to do. So the job is a fantastic job, you've got the chance to make a difference like we will in schools, in promoting jobs, in defending Medicare, but it comes at a toll and if someone doesn't want to be there any longer, I'm only going to wish them well.
JOURNALIST: Has she left you in the lurch by leaving at this time?
SHORTEN: No, as I said earlier on, there's always more people that want to be Labor candidates than spots.
JOURNALIST: Do you think she's flipping the bird at the Labor Party at the moment by leaving now when she's leaving?
SHORTEN: No, not at all.
JOURNALIST: Is she trying to damage the party at all?
SHORTEN: No, no at all. Some people stay in Parliament for 40 years, some people serve for one term. My view is that people should only be there if they want to make that contribution and serve others, not themselves. I think that Nova has made a view that she doesn't want to keep contributing and being a Senator and again, I'm not a sort of leader who is going to throw brick bats at my team. She served me loyally and I've only got good things to say about her, both on the radio show and in private conversation, and that's the way it should be.
JOURNALIST: Another loyal servant of the Labor Party was Trish Crossin, she was very disappointed. She'd served for 15 years, she'd go to the wall for you. Will there be an apology for Trish Crossin that something wrong was done to her?
SHORTEN: I didn't make the decision about Trish Crossin and she did serve very well and I've kept in touch with her periodically since she left.
JOURNALIST: And will you have the final decision on the executive vote of who will be the new Northern Territory Senator?
SHORTEN: Our National Executive will pick the replacement. That's the tried and true process when you're close to an election and I'm very confident that we will emerge with an excellent candidate. One of the reasons why we will get an excellent candidate is we've got the best policies for Territorians. We are the ones who are leading the policy debate when it comes to Medicare, when it comes to keeping downward pressure on the price of medicine. When it comes to making sure the schools are working well or when it comes to promoting Australian jobs. That's who we are. We're committed to renewable energy and tackling climate change. We see a bright future for the Territory.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of schools there, Chris Bowen on the radio today confirmed you will not reinstate the School Kids Bonus if you win power. How about the Coalition's changes to pensions, will you roll back the changes if you win the election?
SHORTEN: We've said both on School Kids Bonus and pension asset test changes, that we think the Government was ill-conceived in making these changes and we still think they're not the best changes and that's why when the Greens and the Liberals voted together on pension changes we registered our disagreement.
JOURNALIST: So no to the kids bonus?
SHORTEN: I'm going to give your answer the detail it deserves. You're asking about pension assets test. We've opposed it in the past, but now we've had the most recent fiscal outlook, there is no doubt that this Government has surprised Australians, including us, they've tripled the deficit, they've also put at jeopardy, under Malcolm Turnbull's reign, the triple-A credit rating. We do not believe, looking at the latest set of books that the Government has just revealed last week, that we're in a position to restore the changes they've made or reverse the changes they've made to the pension assets test. What we will do is that we will review our pensions income system because we're not convinced that meddling with part pensioners is the best way to go for Australians, but this Government has really systematically got things wrong with the nation's finances, so we do not believe in all responsibility that w e can simply reverse the changes they're making.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of finances and labelled looking at the books, you've been labelled Billion Dollar Bill by the Government this week. They've accused you of spending willy-nilly, estimating you've created a $67 billion black hole, what do you say to that?
SHORTEN: Connor, you know the rest of what's been said this week, don't you? When Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann, who I've discovered is a fan of mine from his interviews yesterday, when they were standing up it would have to be the quickest collapse I've ever seen, other than perhaps a few poor performances in Australian test teams. They said it was a $67 billion black hole. Then in the course of one media interview we have half a dozen not very tough questions
from journalists, they conceded they were accusing Labor of policies we didn't have and spending we already said we weren't going to do. So this is a Government determined to run out a big lie during this election and you also said earlier on that Malcolm Turnbull's decided to call me, you know, nicknames and have a crack. I thought better of Turnbull, Morrison and Cormann. They were meant to be this economically responsible crew. One, they're making a big lie about Labor. They're saying that we're spending more than them. This is the simple equation. Malcolm Turnbull will spend $50 billion on giving corporations a tax cut. We would spend $49 billion in making sure that we have well-funded schools and that we save Medicare and bulk-billing.
JOURNALIST: That's still a massive black hole.
SHORTEN: No, it's not. I repudiate completely what the Government is saying. What they want to do is they no longer have any ideas of their own. They've literally run out of ideas. I predict for the remainder of this election, all we will see from the Government is scare campaigns and what they're doing is trying to scare people on things that aren't true. This is how we pay for our promises.
JOURNALIST: Can you confirm all your promises, all your ideas are fully costed and are bulletproof?
SHORTEN: They're fully costed, absolutely. Not only are they fully costed they're good for Australians. Let's be clear about what's happening in this election. When Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister everyone thought great, it's the end of the Tony Abbott era, we'll see a different sort of politics. Labor's stepped up to the plate. We've outlined fully funded policies with our priorities clearly outlined. The Government can only talk about us because they've got nothing positive to say about themselves and at the core of their lies about Labor is the argument that somehow we aren't fully funding our policies. Let me be really clear and very quick. One, they're proposing to spend $50 billion over the next 10 years on a corporate tax cut. We're not going to spend that $50 billion. Two, they're proposing to spend $17 billion over the next 10 years by decreasing the taxes paid by people on the hig hest income bracket. Three, they're proposing to defend negative gearing subsidies going to some people, subsidised by all Australians which costs $32 billion. That's $99 billion that this Government is making in promises. We're not going to spend that amount of money.
JOURNALIST: Let's just talk about Labor for now and not the Liberals.
SHORTEN: But when you say that, it is a comparison. This is not a one-horse race. All the Liberals want to do is talk about us. We're happy to talk about us but the Liberals, in the week before the Budget, before the election was called, made billions and billions of dollars of promises and they don't want any scrutiny on that.
JOURNALIST: So and let's move onto talk about Labor is and the Northern Territory, which is in a downturn at the moment. People are leaving town, the Inpex project will wind down soon, what are your plans to boost the of Northern Territory economy?
SHORTEN: First of all we go to my core view about the Territory. What the Territory needs is population, it’s people. And I think most business leaders agree with that.
JOURNALIST: How will you get them here?
SHORTEN: What we will do is make sure we have a well-funded healthcare system in the Territory. We want to make sure we've got a good school system. See the thing about living in a city, and it doesn't matter where you are in the world, you need the job but you also need to have support for the family who comes and lives here. Well-funded schools, well-funded Medicare and when it comes to infrastructure, one of the propositions we're looking at is when there are national contracts, say in defence, we want to see greater local content for local businesses. By that what I mean is say you've got a garrison support contract, obviously the people who win those contracts are national companies. But what we want to see is a greater proportion of the subcontracts and the consequent work that flows from the national contract in garrison support in the Territory to go to Territory businesses.
JOURNALIST: Locally the government here is proposing fracking will be the next big industry and NT Labor is proposing a moratorium on fracking. Would you support that moratorium?
SHORTEN: I believe when it comes to the environment and the economy science should win out and I believe the Northern Territory Labor's position is based upon the best science available. See, it's not just a matter of dealing with the problems right now. You've got to look in the next 10 and 15 and 20 years and we've got to make sure that we preserve and improve our environment. I don't believe there's an argument that you either have jobs or you have a good environment. I think what you've got to do is use science to build a bridge between protecting a good environment, tackling climate change and promoting jobs.
JOURNALIST: Even though the Northern Territory Government is saying the thousands of jobs are at risk because of this moratorium that Labor's proposing?
SHORTEN: We all know the Northern Territory Government is a very arrogant outfit. We know they've seen the Inpex project coming towards an end and let's face it, they've done nothing. They've done nothing.
JOURNALIST: Former Labor resources Minister Martin Ferguson said a moratorium would dent traditional owners millions of dollars in revenue and drive up electricity prices, you wouldn't want to see that, would you?
SHORTEN: Martin Ferguson has a new career working in resources and his priority is to promote the resources industry. So when he speaks he's speaking from the perspective of the resources industry. I'm running for Prime Minister of
Australia, my job is to balance all the issues. It's to balance the environment, Traditional Owners, jobs in Palmerston and Darwin and that's why I think science is a very good guide. Let's take the politics out of it, let's go long term, let's go science and that's the way to do decision making in this country under a government I would lead.
JOURNALIST: Last night Barnaby Joyce, he made some comments, the Deputy PM suggested the influx of asylum seeker boats under the previous Labor Government coincided with its decision to halt live cattle exports, what do you make of that comment?
SHORTEN: I just think the guy's talking rubbish.
JOURNALIST: There's no correlation?
JOURNALIST: Would comments like that -
SHORTEN: I've just got to say, this goes to show this Government can no longer talk about their own policies. Remember I said they were telling a big lie about government spending and I can outline our funded policies. They don't want any
attention on their $50 billion they're spending on corporate tax cuts. This is another example of the Government not having anything to say about their own policies and talking about us. At no stage until last night has anyone,
even our worst critics, tried to link the two issues. So they've got their talking points from the Government which says talk about asylum seekers and people smugglers and what they want to do is make some implication that Labor's not committed to defeating the criminal syndicates in South-East Asia. We absolutely are.
JOURNALIST: Will comments like that make relations a bit prickly with Indonesia?
SHORTEN: I think it's a really, really ignorant remark. You know, it's one thing if he wants to have a fight with Johnny Depp about, you know, his wife's dogs Boo and Pistol, that sort of just makes us a figure of fun. But when he starts weighing
into foreign policy, I think he should best leave that to the grown-ups in the room.
JOURNALIST: There was an ill-feeling between Australia and Indonesia at the time of the live export trade. It took a long time to heal those cattle wounds and if you talk to any cattle people out there in the Territory, they will tell you they're still recovering from that.
SHORTEN: I understand that.
JOURNALIST: And they probably haven't forgiven Labor for that.
SHORTEN: I understand the difficulty. I've commented on that subsequently. But what I'm not going to do is let the Government sort of clown brigade, roll into the circus and say that somehow the live animal export issue is tied up to asylum seekers, and this is the first time it's been raised. You know, you've got to ask yourself why are they raising this and is it anything to do with the coincidence of the timing of the election? Who benefits from what Barnaby Joyce is saying other than Barnaby Joyce? This is about politics. It's not about good, sensible policy, relations with Indonesia, the live export trade or tackling people smugglers.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten, I've just been told that the Darwin Council parking inspectors are snooping around your car outside and I gather you have to go. Thanks for your time this morning.
SHORTEN: No worries. Thanks Connor, you're right on the issues there.