Bill's Transcripts




SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promises; Jobs; Economy; Labor being a constructive Opposition.  


TOM ELLIOT:  The Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten joins us right now. Mr Shorten, good afternoon.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon Tom, happy new year.


ELLIOT: Same to you. Now, do you think that you will be the Prime Minister after the next federal election?


SHORTEN: I think it will be a very difficult thing for Labor to win the next election, but it’s not impossible. I was listening to your introduction and you’re quite right, it’s very hard for a first term government to lose an election, but not impossible.


ELLIOT: Not impossible. What do you put the drop in the polls that Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party have experienced, what do you put that down to over the last few months?


SHORTEN: Well, it’s less about us and more about the government. I think that the Government came in, they got a resounding vote, but they’re perceived to in my opinion not stood up enough for jobs. Victoria is the manufacturing heartland of Australia and their inaction on the auto industry, or the cloud over Alcoa, or SPC, or Qantas. I think jobs are a big issue in 2014 and they’re not happy that the Government’s fighting hard enough.


ELLIOT: No doubt.


SHORTEN: I also think that in education Christopher Pyne got himself into a real mess. Before the election they said there was a ‘unity ticket’, that meant we were all the same, you could vote Liberal or Labor and you’d get the same policy on education. And that was one of the topics that Labor was doing better on at the end of the last government, they then said ‘oh, well we’re not going to give funding’. Even Denis Napthine, from the same political party as Tony Abbott, came out and gave him a whack. So I think that that confusion upset people too. People don’t want the promises to be broken.


ELLIOT: That is Politics 101, isn’t it? If you say you’re going to do something or not do something, you stick to that both before and after the election, don’t you?


SHORTEN: You do. But I certainly live in the real world, going back to the first question you asked me. Can Labor win? Yes, but the bookmakers have got Tony Abbott as a favourite at this early point.


ELLIOT: Well let’s say at the moment it’s been about the government’s relative mishandling of the situation, not about what the Labor party’s been doing. I mean, over the next few years your job is going to have to be to convince the Australian public that you are the next Prime Minister. As I said, in opposition it’s easy to just say no to things, but eventually people want a constructive alternative. What new or different policies are you working on at the moment that the voting public can expect to learn about over the next, say, 12 to 18 months?


SHORTEN: Well I think once upon a time the political rule book said when you get into power just kick the record of the predecessors for a couple of terms and that will get you by. I think the world has speeded up. I think now that what people want to know is what is your positive view for the next 3 and 6 and 10 years’ time. It’s an old truism in politics, but you’re only as good as your next performance, aren’t you? So I think that what’s important in the next 3 years is to maintain our standards of living, maintain our health system, and to maintain our education and schools. But it’s also about jobs. If someone’s got a job, they’ve got a chance of putting down some roots, they’ve got a chance of getting a mortgage, of educating the kids, of getting married. I think maintaining good quality jobs in Australia is a primary task for any political party.


So for me, if you ask what does the future hold, it’s about creating new jobs and maintaining existing jobs is a big part of what political national debate should be. It’s also about having a good quality healthcare system, it’s about education, and it’s also I think, and I won’t bang on, it’s also about being a constructive opposition. When the Government breaks, well then we should jump on them. But not everything that happens in Australia is the fault of the government, the Liberal government or the Labor government. And there are issues which are very important, one of which is this whole dreadful debate about street violence and the coward’s punch. I think there’s probably some fertile ground there for me to work with the Prime Minister on, because our young people, and anyone in fact, should feel the ability to go out into the streets and be safe.


ELLIOT: I read today that you’ve offered a sort of bipartisan olive branch and said that you would like to work with the Government on that particular issue?


SHORTEN: Yeah, I think that that is important. I had the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan with the Prime Minister to see our armed forces. That was really positive, and I know the Prime Minister and I shared similar views about the value of what our troops do, and the good work they’ve done, and the importance of what they do being respected. So I don’t think that everything has to be negative. But what I also think is that, what I’d like to combat on and compete with in the next election is who has got better policies, rather than me just listing their mistakes.


ELLIOT: Ok, what about some of Labor’s recent past? The last 6-odd years were a bit blighted by the in-fighting of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Now they’ve both left the political scene, so that’s not something that you have to deal with. But do you think that the public has just forgotten about that, and is happy to move forward?


SHORTEN: Well maybe that explains why Labor’s primary vote isn’t as low as it once was. I think people expect all organisations, doesn’t matter if it’s political parties or football teams, they expect you to work together. People will mark you down if there’s a lot of internal discord. So that is a clear break from the past, and I think that for the first few months since the election we’ve seen an outbreak of unity at a federal level and I’m determined that we keep demonstrating to Australia that we’re interested in them, not just talking about ourselves.


ELLIOT: Finally Mr Shorten, there’s no doubt – without trying to ascribe blame to it – that there is a serious budgetary problem at the federal level at the moment. The economy is slowing down, the number of people losing their jobs has gone up, the number of people who will be claiming unemployment benefits is therefore also going up, the deficit is going to blow out, the debt ceiling is being increased. Like it or not, the budget that you could inherit at the next election if you’re successful in your quest to become Prime Minister would not be looking all that good. Will you have a plan for that?


SHORTEN: I think economic management and credibility is an important plank. It’s an issue in Australian politics that you can’t get elected unless you’ve got a plan for the economy and economic management. But I do note that the then opposition, now government, said that increasing debt doesn’t solve a problem, yet they’ve doubled their approach on debt. So the way that, I think, to go through to the long term is growth. I want to see the stock market up so that the superannuants are getting better returns. The way that we proceed to prosperity in Australia is with a skilled workforce, with good education and good healthcare, and most importantly jobs generated in the private sector.


So I think that it is possible to grow our way into the future, and we don’t want to be a nation who gives up competing with the rest of the world, or that the rest of the world is too hard. So I think that the more the politics can be in the middle ground of Australian life, not the extreme left or extreme right, the less we engage in the negative, and the more we have a debate about who’s got the better ideas for our future – that’s what Australians want. Now, that’s easier to say than to do, but certainly I don’t think that everything that’s happened is Abbott. I do think that Tony Abbott’s start is, he just needs to not fall in the trap of thinking that the electorate are going to forgive broken promises.


ELLIOT: We’ll leave it there. Bill Shorten, as always, good to talk to you. Thanks for your time.


SHORTEN: Thanks Tom, cheers.