THURSDAY, 6 APRIL 2017
SUBJECT/S: Supporting the cattle industry; China; Morrison’s budget chaos.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi everyone. It's great to be here in the Emerald Stockyards on the Thursday when the cattle are being sold. It just goes to show that the Australian beef industry is an outstanding, globally-competitive industry. It's great to see beef prices are up. It has been a long time coming and the last couple of years have been good for our beef industry. The Australian beef industry is innovative, it's value-adding and it employs lots of people. There are 37,000 families who farm beef and provide it not only to the tables of Australia, but the world.
Australia can be the best in the world and it's important that we provide the support for the cattle industry to be the best in the world. That's why it's absolutely disgraceful that the Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund, after four years, has only paid massive salaries to a few people and not delivered a single dollar to help build the infrastructure.
Now more than ever our farming sector needs good roads, it needs good infrastructure, it needs to be able to get the produce to the market in the most efficient way possible. Labor backs our agricultural industries. And it is time the Government didn't just sit back and take all the bouquets of flowers for commodity prices going up, but actually rolls up its sleeves and starts providing the infrastructure that Australia's farmers and cattle industry deserve and expect from the Government in Canberra.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, today the Treasurer has urged big business to get behind him and to pour energy and money into selling the tax cuts that the Government is still pursuing for large business. Do you feel that the Government has been a bit isolated on this measure and do you anticipate, now, a new assault potentially from big business on this front?
SHORTEN: There is nothing sadder than watching the Treasurer of Australia beg big business to help the Treasurer do the Treasurer's day job. Everyone knows this nation can't afford to give away $50 billion in corporate handouts and tax cuts to big business. Right now, we've got to get the debt and deficit down, which has tripled under this Government. Right now, we've got to make sure that people can afford to see the doctor, that kids are getting the best possible education in schools. Right now, we've got to be backing working and middle class families, not begging big business to do the Treasurer's job for him which is give away $50 billion in taxpayer handouts this nation cannot afford.
This Coalition Turnbull Government has got all the wrong priorities. Whilst people can't afford to buy their first home, whilst the penalty rates of battling workers are being cut, all this government can do is beg big business to help this beleaguered Treasurer do his day job.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that Budget repair remains the singularly most important task of the Budget coming up in May?
SHORTEN: We believe in Budget repair that is fair. But you have a Budget in order to make sure this country can go ahead. The function of the Budget is not an end in itself. The purpose of government is to make sure that we are getting the debt down, which is important, but also making sure that our Medicare system is well-funded, that people can afford to see the doctor, that it is your Medicare card, not your credit card which determines your access to health.
What we need a Budget for is to make sure that the kids in the country, as well as the city, are getting a quality education that every child deserves. What we've got to make sure in this Budget is that we are looking after families on fifty and sixty and seventy thousand dollars a year, rather than giving Australian millionaires a $16,000 tax cut, which is exactly what's going to happen on 1 July because of this government’s wrong priorities of backing the big end of town against battling Australian families.
JOURNALIST: Just briefly, the ABC has been told that a Parliamentary delegation of MPs from both sides of Parliament was due to leave yesterday but China had the visit pulled abruptly because Australia joined with several other nations in urging China to investigate reports that human rights lawyers were tortured. Is this, it’s not an unusual development, but is it a disturbing sign of the way the Chinese Communist Party tends to treat this agreement?
SHORTEN: Well, I wouldn't want to leap to conclusions without seeing all the facts. Our relationship with China is a positive relationship, it’s a growing relationship. And it’s in the national interest of both countries from trade, from people and of course from the wellbeing and the rise of Asia. But I also want to make very clear here, that the relationship with China is fundamentally important, but I wouldn't expect any country, no matter who they are, to be putting undue pressure on the Australian Parliament to pass laws through pressure from other countries. The Australian Parliament is sovereign to people of Australia first and only.
I'm not going to leap to any conclusions about why a parliamentary delegation was cancelled, but I just want to make it very clear that the Labor Party places the sovereignty of the Australian Parliament in hands of the Australian people and no other nation. And no other actions by any other nation should ever change that priority. It’s the number one thing about being Australian.
JOURNALIST: I mean all countries engage in advocacy, and taking a carrot and stick approach, but do you believe that some of the tactics which are being used in China, leaving aside this specific example, could it some way impinge conceivably on that sovereignty?
SHORTEN: No I'm confident that the Australian Parliament is sovereign and accountable to the Australian people only, and I'm sure both sides of politics agree with that. The Labor Party wants a great relationship with everyone, from the United States to China, but one thing is for sure, our bosses are the people of Australia, no other country.
JOURNALIST: Alright, given our technological limitations we might leave it at that. Thank you.
SHORTEN: No that's alright, we're also, just to finish off, I'm here with Zac Beers, who was Labor's candidate in Flynn in the last election. We're here with a range of senior Labor members of parliament because we take Emerald and the rest of the electorate of Flynn seriously. We don't treat it, as the Nationals do, as some sort of safe seat. We want to hear the issues so we can make sure that families and industry and farmers in Emerald and surrounding districts get the best possible quality representation. And that’s what I know Zac Beers, for example, is very committed to delivering.