FRIDAY, 31 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT/S: Chaos in the Senate; Government waste; Racial Discrimination Act
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This mob is bloody hopeless. They're keeping Australian taxpayers’, spending their money as this Government tries to do its day job. This is a massive waste of time of taxpayer money. The Government should be getting on with its day job looking after Australians, instead they are making incompetence a fine art and this Government is truly incompetent.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how much is this costing taxpayers having everyone here for another day?
SHORTEN: I think the Government should explain that. I suspect it’s well north of a million dollars. This Government said at the last Budget last year, almost 12 months ago, that business tax cuts were the centrepiece of their economic strategy.
Malcolm Turnbull took us through an eight week election just to be able to push these business tax cuts, and yet today we're still arguing about these matters. All that is likely to happen out of today's deals - if there are any between the crossbench and the Government - is they're going to lift the deficit and most of their centrepiece of economic planning for Australia isn't going to happen.
They should just get on with business. Stop wasting the nation's time and that's what they're doing today.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, two questions on the Racial Discrimination Act. First of all, your response to the passage of process changes today and the defeat of the 18C amendments? Secondly, there has been some debate about whether Labor might change laws on hate speech to cover hate speech against religion, do you think that is justified?
SHORTEN: Second point: complete rubbish. First point, this Government said there is a crisis in free speech. No there is not a crisis in free speech in this country. There's a gas crisis, there's an underemployment problem, there's the attack on penalty rates, there's a housing affordability crisis, there is not a free speech crisis in this country.
The Government have been defeated today because they couldn't explain what exactly it is they want people to be able to say that they can't say now. Labor will, all the way to the next election, oppose changes and watering down of race hate laws. Mr Turnbull has to rule out today, following a defeat in the Parliament, he has to now officially drop the policy to water down race hate laws, otherwise I think a lot of people in the community will keep campaigning on this question until he grows a backbone on this matter.
JOURNALIST: Can you expand on that point about-
SHORTEN: I did two questions with you-
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] just on that point, are you intending to extend them to anything else [inaudible]
SHORTEN: No we're not.
JOURNALIST: What does this say about what is happening in the Senate, because the longer the crossbench holds out, the more power they get? What does that say about democracy and how it's playing out at the moment?
SHORTEN: This is Malcolm Turnbull's Senate. Remember he boldly announced that he had reformed the Senate. He gave us an eight week election. What happens now is that every Government proposal is now creating a logjam in the Senate created by Mr Turnbull himself.
The real issue here is that if you want to get laws passed in the Senate, put up laws which actually help Australians. The Senate did pass a law protecting penalty rates, and that's what Mr Turnbull should listen to. Instead, you've got Mr Turnbull pursuing folly like watering down race hate speech laws and a very micro-sized version of big business tax cuts.
He should drop these policies and just get on with the business of standing up for jobs and energy.
I'll take one last question, if you don't mind I'll give someone else a crack if there is another question.
JOURNALIST: What's your message to Nick Xenophon this afternoon [inaudible]
SHORTEN: Nick, do not a pig in a poke, don't settle light. Every other time you've done a deal with the Government, the Government has pulled one over you. These business tax cuts cannot be afforded by the nation at this stage, stick to your guns and stand up for jobs and people in South Australia - that's what I think you should do.