MONDAY, 30 JULY 2018
SUBJECT/S: By-elections; Labor’s priorities; Emma Husar; Turnbull’s corporate tax giveaway.
HOST: Now, as we mentioned this morning, Labor celebrated four wins in the Super Saturday by-elections retaining all of their seats. Bill Shorten says the victory is a signpost for the next federal election, whenever it is. And the Labor leader joins us now from Melbourne. Mr Shorten, good morning to you.
SHORTEN: Good morning, Michael.
HOST: The Prime Minister says well, you've really got nothing to boast about in two party preferred terms. He makes the point that the swing towards the Labor Party is basically in line with swings we've seen at previous by-elections. What do you say to that?
SHORTEN: Well I wasn't worried about what Malcolm Turnbull had to say on Friday, so I'm not going to start paying it much more attention today. The message I take from these by-elections is that people want better hospitals, not bigger banks. The message I take from this is that people in Australia, all over Australia are saying that they like what Labor is talking about, where we want to push better funding for schools, reverse the cuts to hospitals. And the most common sentiment I got in the last week of the election Michael, was that people are complaining that everything's going up except their wages. So they like our policy to lift wages too.
HOST: Did you see the by-election results, particularly the one in Longman, as a test of leadership versus you and Mr Turnbull?
SHORTEN: Well Mr Turnbull made it a referendum on his leadership and my leadership. But for me, it's about the people. The Australian people, and I'll say this to your viewers, Michael, they're sick of the Punch and Judy, cat and dog fight that goes on between Labor and Liberal. They want to know what we're going to do for them.
Travelling around Australia in the last nine weeks, and of course there were by-election in Western Australia which the Liberals didn't even turn up to, what people are saying to us is what really matters is our family and our health. And what we have got is policies which look after everyday Australians - not these ridiculous corporate tax cuts for companies of you know, $100 million and $500 million or $1 billion turnovers.
People want us to put their needs ahead of that of the big end of town. Labor is the party of everyday Australians. Mr Turnbull's Liberals are the party of big business.
HOST: If it was the test of leadership based on the results, you have clearly won, so therefore, do you reckon that should put an end to all this talk, and there has been talk and you as you well know, of you being rolled as Labor leader ahead of the next general election?
SHORTEN: Well, I didn't believe the talk before the by-elections, but it's certainly not going to be spoken about now. I'm confident that Labor is united. People talk about polls all the time, what really matters as the saying goes is the elections, well we had five elections on Saturday, Labor held all of the seats which we held beforehand and we did pretty well and that's full credit to our candidates and the rank and file Labor movement volunteers who helped.
The real issue now has to be who's got the better plan for Australia? Now I'll just say Malcolm Turnbull, some of the government members who really want corporate tax cuts for the big end of town, some of them are starting to panic and say: oh we better drop them before the election we can always bring them in later after an election if we get re-elected.
I'd just say, if Mr Turnbull drops his corporate tax cuts for the big end of town, he should go with them.
I thought that they were always a silly idea, but what he's made it - he's made it his signature economic policy.
The reason why he was Prime Minister, the last two Budgets. If he hasn't even got the intestinal fortitude to support his own economic values, what he really believes, well then he shouldn't hang around either. This nation needs leaders who genuinely stand up for their economic values. My view, my economic plan is very straightforward: it's all about jobs, health and education. If you're sick and can afford to see the doctor and get timely care, that's good for the economy. If your kids are getting a quality education, that's good for the economy and of course, if wages get moving as opposed to energy prices and everything else, well that means people have got more money to spend. That's good for the economy.
HOST: You say voters are sick of, as you say, the Punch and Judy show of federal politics, Bill Shorten, do you therefore read something into the fact that there was a lot of support for candidates outside the major political parties. Craig Garland in Braddon got a big vote, Rebekah Sharkie of course romped it in in Mayo. There was a big vote for One Nation in Longman. So are you concerned that voters, whether they’re Liberal or Labor, whether they're swinging voters, are absolutely sick and tired of politics as usual in Australia?
SHORTEN: Well I'm not going to take away from the Labor successes on Saturday. But you are right Michael, people are sick of politics as usual, so I do get that message.
My opposite number went around pointing the finger saying nothing to see here, no surprises here. Well I take a different view out of Saturday. Yes, I'm pleased that Labor did well but I want to reassure voters who voted for Labor and who didn't vote for Labor - I'm listening to you. I understand that what really annoys you is if you have long waiting lists for elective surgery. What really annoys you is if you have a child with a special learning need and are they're not getting support in school.
What really annoys you is if you're a storeman or you work in aged care and you haven't had a lift in your wages for years. What really annoys you is you think the Government is just acting for vested interests in big business. I'm hearing you loud and clear. My interests are your interests. I'm interested in how your family is going and how your health is going and what I can do to make life easier for you.
HOST: Does the election results on the weekend put an end to any speculation, in your mind at least, of the general election being held this side of Christmas?
SHORTEN: Well I'm afraid that we have a government in Canberra who just lives for politics. They'll call the election whenever they think they can win. Your guess is as good as mine and they'll have to have it by about April of next year.
What worries me though is that this nation, every day they're in, is taking another step down the American path of American health care, where how much money you have determines your health care. That we're taking another step down the American wages system, where you've got literally millions of people who don't know if they're going to have full time work, if they don't know their rosters or their shifts. You know, I want the next election to come as soon as possible because we've got to start getting this country back being governed in the interests of everyday Australians.
Not a meaningless government whose only plan is to put downward pressure on workers’ wages, cut penalty rates, cut schools and hospitals so there's more money that they can give to the big end of town. But I do again say this morning Michael, I'm seeing the same reports you are, that the Government is talking about dropping their corporate tax cuts.
Well I've always thought these corporate tax cuts for the big end of town were a bad idea. My concern is that we've got a government, where if they drop these propositions, then they stand for nothing, they have no economic plan. I also happen to think that they just view everything through the prism of politics. If they can get the problem off the table, they can keep their day jobs. That's not good enough. We are here to represent the people. They're not here just to pay our wages.
HOST: Okay we're just about out of time, Bill Shorten. You are awaiting the results of the investigation into serious allegations of bullying levelled at your colleague, Emma Husar in the Sydney seat of Lindsay. Does she have your full confidence?
SHORTEN: We'll wait and see what the report says. I've always found her to be a good person to deal with but you've got to take complaints seriously, there's an independent investigation process, as I've said previously I'll wait until we see what the results of that are.
HOST: Are you poised therefore to potentially fight another by-election this time in her seat.
SHORTEN: Well I think that we should just respect all of the participants in that process and I'm going to wait until the investigation has concluded and I might just say in closing I just want to thank the people of Braddon and Longman and Perth and Freemantle, we won't let you down. We know what we promised and we'll make sure that happens.
HOST: Labor Leader Bill Shorten in Melbourne, thank you very much for joining us on News Breakfast.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Michael.