MONDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor backing in apprentices and TAFE; banking royal commission; marriage equality; renewable energy.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. It's great to be here with Brendan O'Connor with Vicki Ward and Anthony Carbines - state members, visiting Melbourne Polytechnic.
I am here today because Labor is the party of apprenticeships. Polytechnic is doing a great job for the northern suburbs of Melbourne and I want to repledge Labor this morning, to being the party of apprenticeships and we will do that. If we are elected nationally we will make sure that at least two in every three taxpayer dollars spent in vocational education goes to the mighty TAFE powerhouse. Labor has had enough of the rampant privatisation of our vocational education system where we have seen some of the shocking examples of waste and rorts.
We are also here because we want to make it very, very clear, that we want our young people to consider a career in the trades - both young men and young women. TAFE and this Polytechnic today are doing a great job. The young people here will be the builders of the future. They are getting a quality education, they are learning skills which will carry them throughout their adult lives. The young people here are the future, they're doing the hard work and they deserve to have a government in Canberra who's not out of touch, who doesn't prioritise the needs of multinationals but instead will make sure that we have a future generation of tradies to do the work that Australia needs.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Have you been speaking to Barry O'Sullivan or George Christensen about the potential for a royal commission into the banks?
SHORTEN: I haven't had any personal dialogue with these gentlemen. But let's be very clear, the Labor Party is absolutely committed to a banking royal commission to make sure that we improve the standard of ethics, the standard of treatment of consumers in Australia by the big powerful banks.
When parliament resumes in a week's time Australians will have a very clear choice; they can support Malcolm Turnbull who wants to give big banks a tax cut and protect them from a royal commission. Or they can support Labor; Labor the party of the people who support a banking royal commission and we certainly won't be giving the big banks a tax cut they don't deserve, nor require.
JOURNALIST: Why do you want a royal commission? What powers would they have that say an inquiry or a Senate committee wouldn't have?
SHORTEN: A royal commission is the king of all inquiries. It has the power to look behind the corporate veil, to get behind the high priced lawyers that the banks rely upon. A royal commission has the ability to subpoena evidence, to get to the bottom of all of the financial problems we see. Every time there is a financial scandal in Australia, every time thousands of people get ripped off, we hear from the banks it was just a one-off incident, we're very sorry it'll never happen again. And then the next time you open the pages of Australia's financial press, yet again we discover another scandal and another problem.
There is a pathology in our banking industry. Whilst our banking industry is profitable, I do not believe that the only way the banking industry can be profitable is by ripping off ordinary consumers - enough is enough. Turnbull's got to stop running a protection racket for the banks, he's got to come out of his ivory tower and listen to the real people, listen to the needs of everyday people. Every day Australians want a banking royal commission and only Labor can be trusted to deliver that.
JOURNALIST: Are you actively talking to or lobbying Coalition members on the royal commission?
SHORTEN: I think that everyday Australians are actively lobbying Coalition members. I have no doubt that there are some Coalition members who are frustrated to their back teeth with Mr Turnbull's lofty, out of touch, elitist defence of the banks. I know that there are people of good will across the parliament who want to see a banking royal commission, but when it comes down to a choice between Mr Turnbull and myself I am the only one who can be trusted to get a royal commission up for the banks and I will never, never, never give up pursuing a royal commission for the banks until we get one. Australians deserve nothing less.
JOURNALIST: But have you approached any Coalition members?
SHORTEN: I have got no doubt that there are Coalition members itching to vote for a banking royal commission. Because of the citizenship chaos in the Government, because of the constitutional crisis that Mr Turnbull and his Government have inflicted upon the parliament there is a window of opportunity for Labor and like-minded people who want a banking royal commission to finally do what Australians want.
I actually think most Australians wonder why on earth Mr Turnbull keeps trying to stop having a banking royal commission. People are sick of the rip offs and the rorts, they want to see Australia's big banks accountable to everyday Australians, the customers.
JOURNALIST: There are reports there are members of the Senate trying to scuttle any kind of debate on the same sex marriage legislation, trying to delay any potential vote until after Christmas. Do you think that's a real risk?
SHORTEN: Woe betide any of Mr Turnbull's Government if they try and delay marriage equality. The survey was very clear; millions of Australians have said just get on with it, let's have marriage equality. I think Australia want to move beyond the marriage equality debate. They want the parliament focused on lower energy prices, fixing penalty rates, not giving a tax cut to large corporations, multinationals and they certainly want to see a banking royal commission.
So in the meantime, if Mr Turnbull's Government splits and if some of those MPs run a delaying strategy I think Australians will just absolutely riot about this. I think let's get on and do it, we've had the survey, the survey told us what we already knew. I think the most common feeling across Australia now from Yes and No voters is just get on with it will you, just get on with it. And that's what Labor is up for, we will just get on with it so we can get to everything else.
JOURNALIST: There are still four million Australians that voted against it and a lot of those would be concerned about these religious protections. Don't you think they deserve the right to have their concerns accounted for?
SHORTEN: We do not have a religious freedom crisis in Australia. Now I respect the fact that people are entitled to say Yes or No in terms of wanting to change the law on marriage equality. I respect that and I'm certainly open to next year having a discussion to make sure that people who practice - people of faith feel that they're respected in our society, that is not unreasonable. But for goodness sakes, Australians are ready just to get this marriage equality debate out of the way. There's no question in my mind that supporting marriage equality does not mean that you cannot have religious freedom in our country. The two issues do not require resolution at the same time and I say to Mr Turnbull if you're having trouble with some members of your Government, Labor will be there. We will be there to support marriage equality and if we want to have a process in the next year to look at if there are any genuine concerns about religious expression in this country and freedom, then certainly we can have that discussion but there should be no excuses, no delays and no watering down of the current anti-discrimination laws on marriage equality.
JOURNALIST: A new report from the Chief Scientist says we can reach 50 per cent renewables on our current storage. Do you take that as an endorsement on Labor's policy?
SHORTEN: Well yet again more scientific and economic evidence that Labor's policies to encourage the use and take up of renewable energy is the right path. Australians are sick and tired of getting large gas bills and large electricity bills. The greatest driver of increased prices in energy for households and for business is a lack of policy certainty. Mr Turnbull wants to try and pretend that we don't have to change and that we can just keep reinvesting and reinvesting in coal-fired power stations.
Labor is the party of cheaper energy, more reliable energy and genuine action on climate change, and of course more jobs that come through investing in renewable energy.
The Chief Scientist of Australia has just confirmed yet again, that Labor's policies to encourage greater take up of renewable energy is good science, it's good business, it's good economics and it's good for the cost of living pressures of everyday Australian households.