TUESDAY, 18 JULY 2017
SUBJECTS: Energy policy, climate change, national security, Liberal Party division.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. Today I've issued an olive branch to Mr Turnbull for once and for all, for the main political parties to end the climate change wars. At the start of July, Australians have seen soaring energy prices, soaring electricity and gas bills. Industry is really battling the high prices of energy. And the number one cause of out of control electricity and gas prices is a lack of national policy certainty. Labor is willing to compromise on some of our views, we're willing to work with Mr Turnbull and the Government to develop a clean energy target.
Now today I've made it clear that we're not issuing a blank cheque - that we've got to have fair dinkum outcomes – and what I've said to Mr Turnbull is I know he's working very hard to try and satisfy the right wing of his party, but there's Labor and the rest of Australia and we need to strike a compromise. We're willing to change some of our views, we've said that we'd move away from an emissions intensity scheme, to a clean energy target, but I've asked today, Mr Turnbull, for Josh Fryndenburg, the Liberal Minister, and Labor’s spokesman Mark Butler, to work together to design legislation and a clean energy target which sets Australia up for the future, which guarantees more jobs, downward pressure on electricity and gas prices, and of course takes real action on climate change.
Happy to take any questions on this or any other matters.
JOURNALIST: Yes, would you support a home office style security unit (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: I'm troubled that this proposal for a homeland security office is more about resolving Liberal Party civil wars than actually developing a national anti-terrorism strategy. Labor is committed to bi-partisanship - that's been my attitude from the outset, and I'm not seeking to change that view - but what we will do is listen to the experts not the politicians here. We are concerned that we haven't heard the experts say this is a good idea. We'll believe this is a good idea when the experts tell Labor it's a good idea. We will back expert opinion over political opinion and the nation's security requires nothing less of us.
JOURNALIST: So would you undo it if you came to office?
SHORTEN: Well first of all we haven't seen what their proposal is. I think it is hugely concerning that the proposed national security changes, of a dramatic nature, are being leaked to the media before we've actually had the discussion in the Government or indeed with the Opposition. It's hugely concerning that national security, critical national security decisions, are being leaked because of Liberal Government infighting rather than for the purposes of national security.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Peter Dutton's ability to run a portfolio of that size?
SHORTEN: Well I don't think this is a captain's call, I think it's Peter Dutton's call. Everybody knows that Malcolm Turnbull has to keep Peter Dutton onside so that Malcolm Turnbull can keep his own job. I'm very concerned that these proposals aren't being pushed by our security agencies, they're being pushed by Peter Dutton as the price of him continuing to support Malcolm Turnbull in his job.
To put it simply: this seems to be about Malcolm Turnbull's job security not national security.
JOURNALIST: Just back on electricity prices if I could, the issue of gas and the undersupply in the market has been pushing up the price recently, those very big price rises, will we actually ever see that come back off now? Is that just done and dusted and we have to live with that?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull's guaranteed that gas prices would halve, the only problem, is that every time Mr Turnbull sticks his head up to tell us that energy prices are under control, people get bills in the mail that show they're going up and up and up. The fact of the matter is that this government has been in power for four years and they have only just discovered that there's a gas crisis.
Today I am saying that we are willing to compromise some of our views in the national interest we call upon Mr Turnbull, to work with us. It is not a compromise in the national interest if he pursues the lowest common denominator with the right wing of his political party. The rest of Australia wants long term policy certainty, you can only get long term policy certainty with a fair dinkum clean energy target but we are up for the discussion, it's not a blank cheque but Australians just want us all in Parliament to get on with it.
The most common sentence I get from when I travel around Australia from the farms, to the city, from small business, to big business, from workers and families is: just get on with it.
For ten years climate change has been a political football, people are over that. We are happy to give the Government some room try and come up with the compromise and we're happy to be a part of that process of being constructive, that's how we'll resolve it.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Malcolm Turnbull giving Australia's highest honour to John Key?
SHORTEN: That's a matter for Mr Turnbull to propose that.
JOURNALIST: In relation to sorry, the Dutton portfolio - our big spy agencies being put under this umbrella with the other agencies, is that wise in your mind?
SHORTEN: We will believe that this is a good idea when the people who work in national security every day tell us it's a good idea. In the meantime I am hugely worried that we are seeing national security decisions being made to serve Mr Turnbull's internal party job security as opposed to the national interest.
Ever since I've been Labor leader I have taken a bipartisan approach to anti-terrorism strategies, as I should, I'm certainly not seeking to change that. But I want to hear from the experts, the people on the frontline, the people who keep us safe not Mr Turnbull trying to patch up a deal with Peter Dutton to make sure Mr Turnbull's still the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Julie Bishop, George Brandis and Keenan are going to be unhappy today?
SHORTEN: It is up to the Liberal Party to explain their infighting but I for one am alarmed that we are seeing strategic decisions about national security and the fight against terrorism being leaked by different factions of the Government to pursue their own internal arguments. This isn't the way a government or a country should be run; national security should be above politics.
We have worked with the Government on whatever ideas they've had, we've made reforms and improvements when we thought they were necessary but Australians expect their parliamentarians and the Government of the day to focus on keeping Australians safe. So far this just seems to be about keeping Malcolm Turnbull safe.
JOURNALIST: What evidence do you have that politics is behind it and why don't you take it at face value that it is designed to keep Australians safe?
SHORTEN: You don't believe that this is not about internal politics, no one does. I mean it's not me who is leaking to the newspaper is it? This is Liberal Government ministers, Liberal Government staffers, backgrounding against each other to try and prove who has got the better idea on national security. I talk directly to the security agencies, Labor wants to hear from the people who keep us safe whether or not this is a good idea. I'll believe this is a good idea when the people who keep us safe every day tell us it is a good idea.
This idea has been kicked around before in different forms over many years and many different western nations have had some of these same debates; quite often these sort of reforms end in tears. My concern is even before we get to the substance or the merit of the idea this seems to be about a power grab by one Minister, Mr Dutton, in the Government at the expense of other Ministers. They don't appear to be very happy with it but the point about it is why are we even having this argument in the public gaze? The Government needs to focus on fighting terrorism – not fighting each other.
Thank you everybody.