TUESDAY, 6 JUNE 2017
SUBJECT/S: Melbourne terror attack; penalty rates; Four Corners; Labor’s proposal to ban foreign donations.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. First of all I just want to, on behalf of the Labor Opposition, extend our condolences to the family of the victim of this dreadful murder in Brighton yesterday.
It is horrific. I'm a Melbourne boy. I went to school in Brighton not very far away from where this terrible event took place. It is a terrible event, it's a terrible act, and as the police have said, an act of terror .
I want to make very clear that I congratulate the police involved. I understand that three officers have been injured, but one can only wonder what could have happened if the police hadn't acted in the way that they did when they did.
We are very fortunate in this country to have such brave and capable police. And what we need to make clear in this country as well, is that there are no corners for terrorists to hide in or those who, in the name of terror, would cause harm of the sort we've seen tragically in the last 24 hours.
Extremism in any face is unacceptable on our streets and it is unacceptable on the internet, which is being used as a means of distribution to spread evil, criminal and terror messages, causing some of the harm we have seen right around the world.
It is time for everyone to join the fight against terrorism. It is time for Twitter, Facebook and Google to join the fight against terrorism. We need to make it clear that everyone can do their part to keep our country and our people safe, and it's time for big internet to also join this fight. We need to make it clear that terrorists have nowhere to hide on our streets, in their countries and also on the internet, and that's why we need to see everything that can possibly be done to join this fight. It’s no good being in a 21st Century fight if you're using 20th Century weapons.
Before I move on to questions on that, I'm up here to talk about jobs and this is a fantastic TAFE. They're training literally hundreds and hundreds of young people and older workers to be able to gain a construction trade. We need to see more tradespeople in this country. Under the current Liberal Government, 130,000 apprenticeship and traineeship places have disappeared. These young people here are the workforce of the future, we need to get behind them.
Talking about getting behind people and jobs, yesterday there was a decision to phase in the penalty rates cuts from 1 July this year. Malcolm Turnbull surely should realise the absurdity of on one hand providing tax cuts of $16,500 from 1 July to people who earn a million dollars, yet we see people who work on a Sunday having their penalty rates cut successively over the next two years. This is exactly the wrong time for Australian workers to see their wages, their penalty wages being cut when corporate profits are at a 40 per cent very recent high.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten last night on Four Corners we heard about ASIO's serious concerns about Huang Xiangmo. We already know about Sam Dastyari and Eric Roozendaal's close relationships with him now it appears another NSW Labor Gen Sec Jamie Clements is connected to Huang. Are you concerned about just how deeply your NSW branch of the party is connected to this purported Chinese agent of influence?
SHORTEN: Well let’s go to the heart of the matter. I want direct and indirect foreign influence out of our elections. It's now overdue for Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal party to join with Labor to ban foreign donations.
JOURNALIST: But Mr Shorten what about this connection with Jamie Clements who is a very senior member of your party in NSW.
SHORTEN: I've made it very clear – he's no longer working for the NSW Labor Party as you'd be well aware.
JOUNRALIST: No but he's established this relationship.
SHORTEN: I'm going to answer your first and your second question. First of all, I do not want these two individuals who were named on Four Corners to be making donations to the Labor Party, and I have made it clear, before last night that I don't want our party accepting donations from these people.
But I'll also say, because it’s the answer I gave to your first question, fair is fair. How is it fair that if the Labor Party, and I've just said it again today, we don't want these individuals or their associates’ money, how is it far that the Liberal Party won't make the same commitment? If you follow the logic of your question, you're asserting these are agents of Chinese Government influence. I am sufficiently concerned that I don't believe my political party should be taking money from these two people or their associates. I want Malcolm Turnbull to make the same statement I just made. No more dealing with these people.
And more generally, let’s go to the heart of the matter, the concern is, are there people who are operating in the interests of foreign governments making donations to Australian political parties? I am concerned about this problem. That is why Labor, months and months ago, moved to have our foreign donations out of our political bloodstream. It needs to be stopped. I am up for doing it. That is why today I will be writing to Malcolm Turnbull to ask him to have the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security look at the role of direct and indirect foreign influence in our elections. I want Mr Turnbull, on this Parliamentary Committee, to consider whether or not we should introduce a version of the United States’ foreign agents recognition laws, which stops exactly the sort of influence which your question is concerned about.
And I also want to say very clearly, that we don't want these people to be making donations to either side of politics. But I think it is fair that if the Labor Party, we are happy to not wait until there is a law telling us what to do, we are happy to step ahead and actually do something without waiting for the law. I want Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party to today also agree that they're not going to take any more money from these two characters and I think that's only fair.
JOURNALIST: Why should Senator Dastyari continue to serve in Parliament when it now appears he was willing to repudiate your party’s policy and Australia’s national interest because he was worried a major donor was going to pull a $400,000 donation?
SHORTEN: I don't accept the assumption of your question. What I do know is at the heart of this matter –
JOURNALIST: Well he gave a press conference where he went against your party’s policy in support of a Chinese donor.
SHORTEN: To back to answer your previous question. The heart of this matter is the perception, real or otherwise that somehow there are some people in this country making donations to political parties of all political stripes who are seeking to act as agents of foreign governments. Enough is enough. One, let’s just ban foreign donations. Two, let’s get one of our strongest Parliamentary committees to investigate other measure to protect Australian democracy from –
JOURNALIST: But Mr Shorten, I'm asking about your party –
SHORTEN: Listen mate, if you want to hear the answers, you can ask as many questions -
JOURNALIST: But we've gone over this ground, what about Senator Dastyari, does he have your support?
SHORTEN: You've asked six questions, I'm answering them. You're raising serious issues, I'm going to treat that question as seriously as you think it should be taken. We need to now ban foreign donations. Only Labor has a bill in the Parliament to ban foreign donations. The Liberals can bring it on and deal with it.
Secondly, I say today to Malcolm Turnbull, I am willing to lead by example and stop these two or their associates, stop having any donations they give to our political party. The ball is now in the Liberal Party's court as of the last five minutes. We are happy to do it, we will do it, but you've got to ask, what is fair? We will not take donations from these people and I think that’s the right course of action. But why would the Liberal Party keep taking the money from these people?
In terms of Senator Dastyari, do you know what I reckon is red hot? You had a Trade Minster, a trade envoy, who signed an $880,000 contract with one of these companies, even the day before he had left Parliament. This is red hot and this sort of conduct where you move seamlessly from a senior position in government to working for some of the people who you are actually making policy for the day before, I don't think that is appropriate.
In terms of Senator Dastyari, he has been penalised for his indiscretion in the past, but I know that he will vote to ban foreign donations, and I want to see Mr Turnbull show the same leadership we are showing.
JOURNALIST: So was it –
SHORTEN: You've had six questions –
JOURNALIST: So was it –
SHORTEN: You've had six questions.
JOURNALIST: Going to the Melbourne attack, would you describe it as an act of Islamic terror or Islamist terror?
SHORTEN: I'll rely on what the police tell me. The police have called it an act of terror. And listen, let’s not pussyfoot around this. There are some people of Islamic faith who are committing criminal acts of terror and we've got to call it for what it is. But in dealing with it we've also got to work out how we prevent it. Extremism on the streets, extremism on the internet is completely unacceptable.
Brighton – I'm a Melbourne boy, Brighton hasn't seen scenes like that before, but nor has most of Australia. I can just imagine what was going through the minds of the parents at school pickup time, their kids are at the local swimming pool doing their swimming lessons, people on the way home in the twilight just getting their shopping, and all of a sudden shots ring out. This is not the Australia that 99 per cent of us know. That is why we have to be prepared to reconsider the way we fight these matters and that is why I am saying it’s time for everyone to join the fight to keep our communities safe. That's why it's time for Facebook and Google and Twitter to do their bit too, to keep our community safe.
As a parent, as a citizen, as a legislator, I no longer accept the argument that some problems are just too hard to deal with. You can't win a 21st Century fight using 20th Century weapons.
JOURNALIST: Do you think parole laws need to be tightened up because this terrorist was on parole?
SHORTEN: I guess I've got to give a perfectly – my reaction when I heard that is, how on earth can someone be on parole and do these crimes? If we know the person is a criminal, what are they doing out on the streets? Now I'm sure there will be a back story, and the state government’s going to work through all of those issues.
I called, after the Bourke Street driving massacre, where that terrible man went down, mowed people down in Bourke Street, to review the bail laws, parole laws are different. But I think many of us, most people, in fact all of us, probably everyone here at this presser, everyone says, how can they be out on parole and then they do this terrible thing? So I'm sure the Victorian Government is going to answer it.
JOURNALIST: Will you be raising that with the Victorian Government?
SHORTEN: Yes, and I'm sure the Victorian Government don't need me to raise it to work out that they want to see what happened.
JOURNALIST: In the past you've steered clear of using phrases like Islamic terror or Islamist terror –
SHORTEN: No I haven't.
JOURNALIST: You haven't steered clear?
SHORTEN: No, that's not right.
JOURNALIST: You have used those terms before?
SHORTEN: I'm happy to look at what I've said before, sure, but anyway what's your question?
JOURNALIST: Do you have any problem with those terms? Islamist terror?
SHORTEN: No, I don't. In fact I think I used it earlier in an answer to a question.
JOURNALIST: The Adani coal mine has been given the go ahead, are you keen to see it happen or is this just another PR stunt with this announcement today?
SHORTEN: Well it would appear that the project is happening, and it would appear that there is going to be jobs and I'm happy when I see jobs created in Central Queensland or anywhere else. But when it comes to using taxpayer money at the national level, if the business deal is a good deal, it doesn't need taxpayer money, does it? I mean, what other Australian business gets a $1 billion loan subsidised by the taxpayer?
Welcome the jobs, but like all viable jobs, the business should stand on its own without the Commonwealth taxpayer taking the risk.
JOURNALIST: The Fair Work Commission today delivered their minimum wage decision, a rise of $22 an hour. Do you think it was enough and does it mitigate from the loss of low paid workers for losing Sunday in penalty rates?
SHORTEN: Yeah, I don't think it's $22 an hour.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, $22 a week.
SHORTEN: I appreciate your point, the issue with the Fair Work Commission is that there's been regular minimum wage increases every year, and that's as it should be and that's good. But what I can't accept is that somehow people cutting their Sunday pay is a good thing for this country.
Wages in the last 12 months have gone up, by one index, 0.9 per cent. Profits have gone up by 40 per cent. Surely Malcolm Turnbull will realise how absurd it is to give a $65 billion tax cut to large corporations at the same time as penalty rates are being cut. What this country doesn’t need is wages going down, and wages growth being as anaemic and stagnant as it is.
So we would ask the Turnbull Government, in light of yesterday's decision, to yet again, reconsider their support for cutting the penalty rates in awards which cover 700,000 people.
Do you want to have a go?
JOURNALIST: Yeah, that would be great. Was it proper for Senator Dastyari and his office to repeatedly, directly contact immigration to press for Mr Huang's citizenship?
SHORTEN: I've seen Malcolm Turnbull raise this issue. I would like Malcolm Turnbull, if Malcolm Turnbull is serious, for him to report how many MPs take up immigration matters and citizenship matters on behalf of their constituents. I think you will find that for every MP in Australia, Liberal, Labor and every other type, that they do regularly raise immigration and citizenship matters.
JOURNALIST: That's obviously the case but no concerns about Senator Dastyari here?
SHORTEN: I think Senator Dastyari has raised constituency matters with immigration for people from for example Brazil, Thailand -
JOURNALIST: Sure but we're talking about this one specific case.
SHORTEN: Well I expect all my MPs to be raising matters to do with immigration and constituents without fear or favour.
The real point about all of this is about resolving foreign donations. We need to take foreign influence out of the Australian democratic system. Today I make very clear to Mr Turnbull, support our ban on foreign donations, agree with my suggestion that a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security review direct and indirect foreign influence, and take up and follow Labor's lead that the two individuals who were named last night, and their associates, there should be a general consensus not to accept their political donations. I say to Malcolm, don't wait for the law to catch up with what needs to be done, let's for once lead not follow.
And I just want to go to your point. I condemn terrorism whoever does it. I condemn Islamic terrorism, I condemn extremism. I have in the past, I do now, and I will in the future. I am shocked by the scenes I saw in Brighton. I'm shocked by what I saw at Manchester, but what also I am shocked about is an Islamic 12 year old girl who comes from my hometown, Thomastown, the northern part of the suburbs of Melbourne. She was 12, she was the daughter of refugees, she went to Baghdad with her family to visit her sick grandfather.
Terrorists don't distinguish between Christians and Muslims. What we need in this community is for everyone to join the fight against extremism. That means that we get more police out on the street. That means that we also challenge the terrorism message through the internet. What we do at times like this is, we stick together and we don't divide the community. And I also repeat my call that we need to get to Facebook, Google, Twitter, big internet, to play their role in the fight against terrorism. Nothing is more important.
Thank you everybody.