27 JUNE 2013
SUBJECTS: Australian Labor Party
NEIL MITCHELL: Good morning Bill.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning.
NEIL MITCHELL: Ok well you played a key role in the removal of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, now you’ve played a role in the removal of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. Are you a traitor?
BILL SHORTEN: No. What’s guided my actions in the last 24 hours is a view that the Australian people want to see in our democracy, Labor be as competitive as possible. I don’t believe it’s in the nation’s interests for a landslide outcome and that’s what it was looking like – a landslide outcome to the Conservatives.
NEIL MITCHELL: But in both cases you showed no loyalty to the elected Prime Minister.
BILL SHORTEN: What guides me is my loyalty to what I think is in the best interests of the Australian people and the Labor Party. Politics is often drilled down to personalities. Last night was an incredibly difficult time. But I also know the cause which I serve, the Labor Party, the commitment I have to Australian democracy is more than just individuals.
And I know that there are some people who like me, that won’t like me now. And I know there are other people that don’t like Labor and won’t want to see Kevin Rudd as the leader or indeed Julia Gillard.
Julia Gillard, and only Julia Gillard, I believe could have led Labor through this minority government period. She and the Government got a lot done, including and not limited to a national disability insurance scheme.
NEIL MITCHELL: But does this mean that opinion polls really decide who is Prime Minister? That’s what you’re basing your decision on, isn’t it?
BILL SHORTEN: No. What I’m basing it on is what I think is important for Australia. It is in no one’s interest, it doesn’t matter if you are a diehard Liberal or diehard Labor. For one side of politics to have an overwhelming control of both houses of Parliament – it’s just not in the national interest.
NEIL MITCHELL: Could have Kevin Rudd have won without your support?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes probably.
NEIL MITCHELL: Why did you go public before the meeting?
BILL SHORTEN: Well I have a position in the Labor Party where a lot of people go what are you going to do, what are you going to do?
Some people said just say nothing, slip through the cracks, but I believe for all the hundreds of people who have been saying what do you think, what do you think? I thought it was more true to myself to say what I think before the ballot, than afterwards.
NEIL MITCHELL: When did you make up your mind?
BILL SHORTEN: I finally made up my mind after the challenge was announced and the spill, but certainly over the last couple of weeks I’ve been weighing it up.
There are countless, if not thousands, hundreds of people who have been saying do this, do that and I’ve been taking counsel from a lot of different people, many of them not in politics.
NEIL MITCHELL: Is your credibility damaged though? On Friday you were really telling me it was a media invention and that you were supporting the Prime Minister. Where is your credibility now?
BILL SHORTEN: I think that for some people they will say this is a terrible mistake of judgement. I get that.
NEIL MITCHELL: But what about misleading people? What about this media invention?
BILL SHORTEN: Neil at the end of the day you’ve got to be true to yourself.
NEIL MITCHELL: What about being true to the people who elected you?
BILL SHORTEN: Well that’s what I’m doing. I think the people who elected me want to see Labor governments. They want to see the Labor Party to be most competitive. This is not an easy decision, it’s a terrible decision.
But on balance, it’s not about the personality of the Prime Minister Rudd, or Prime Minister Gillard, or myself. It is about what you think is in the best interest of the country.
I do not believe and again there will be some people who just don’t agree with this, but I do not believe it is in the best interest of the nation for Tony Abbott’s Coalition to control the House of Representatives and the Senate after the next election.
NEIL MITCHELL: But why does there have to be the dishonesty as there was here last Friday? As recently as yesterday your office was saying you were supporting the Prime Minister – yesterday lunchtime. Why the dishonesty?
BILL SHORTEN: I’m not even buying that proposition that you’re putting.
Neil, as I was going through the process of working out what to do, do you think it’s my job to be like a public worrywart saying should I, shouldn’t I. That just destabilises the situation. If I’m going to have counsel from people, if I’m going to reflect, I’m not going to do so in such a way which destabilises the Government or the nation for two or three weeks.
NEIL MITCHELL: So that means you have to lie?
BILL SHORTEN: No, what it means is I made my final – no Neil you’re just wrong on that. Let me be really straight with you…
NEIL MITCHELL: You told me you were supporting the Prime Minister up until the next election.
BILL SHORTEN: Up until the spill, which happened at 4.30, up to the challenge, yes I was going to support the Prime Minister.
But I am saying to you that for the last couple of weeks, which has been very personally difficult and complex. You’ve got a lot of people saying the Government is going nowhere in a hurry. You’ve got some people saying stay where you are.
NEIL MITCHELL: Well when did you first speak to Kevin Rudd about it?
BILL SHORTEN: About the leadership? This week.
NEIL MITCHELL: When?
BILL SHORTEN: I’m not going to go into every private conversation.
NEIL MITCHELL: I don’t want to know what happened, but when?
BILL SHORTEN: This week and what I’d also say to you Neil is this – this is an incredibly difficult decision. And if you say that every Member of Parliament should always be debating every issue aloud in the media. Well I’m not going to…
NEIL MITCHELL: No but I’d like to think we could get some sort of directness. You and I sat here and played this word game, we both knew we were playing a word game. We both knew there wasn’t honesty coming out. You were saying “it’s your invention – I’m over it, I’m over it.” But you knew something was on.
BILL SHORTEN: Neil, plenty of people were saying change your position, change your position…
NEIL MITCHELL: You said no one has spoken to you about that.
BILL SHORTEN: No, no hang on a second. You asked me if one person had spoken to me. Neil you were speaking to me about it, everyone has been speaking about how the Government has been going.
Neil it is very plain for me and it is very hard. What is plain to me is, what matters to me is a robust democracy.
Labor may or may not win the next election. I think our chances are improved to do better, but it is in no one’s interest for either Labor to have lots and lots of power and the Conservatives to have no say at all. And the opposite is also true – for the Conservatives to have all power and Labor to become potentially irrelevant.
Democracy functions best with strong governments and strong oppositions.
NEIL MITCHELL: How has Kevin Rudd changed since the Kevin Rudd you engineered to remove 3 years and 3 days ago?
BILL SHORTEN: Well he has said himself that he has reflected upon what’s happened; he’s learnt lessons about consultation, about listening, about learning lessons from the way he would’ve done things differently from when he was in power the first time.
NEIL MITCHELL: Are you confident that’s right?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes, on balance, I am.
NEIL MITCHELL: Why?
BILL SHORTEN: Well the bloke I’ve spoken to in very recent times seems to have changed his view about what he needs to do, the way he needs to consult with other members of the Government. I think we will see more of some of the ideas he has to unveil in the very near future.
NEIL MITCHELL: Did you ask him for guarantees that he will operate in a different way?
BILL SHORTEN: I, like others in the Caucus, and this was a decision of 102 people, have watched and listened to what he has had to say in very recent times.
The Government is now unified. It is now clear that we’ve settled on the leadership question for the next election.
What matters to me is not myself and I accept I’ll pay some personal cost because other people will say what you are saying. But what matters to me is if I really believe in the Labor cause, which I really do, if I really think that kids with disabilities deserve to get better care, if I really believe that the kids at Essendon Keilor College need to have more resources, if I think people need to retire with more income, more super than they otherwise would.
I’m not going to give up opposing the conservatives and Tony Abbott who will trash those issues.
NEIL MITCHELL: But that wasn’t the question, the question was whether you asked Kevin Rudd for any guarantees on the way he operates?
BILL SHORTEN: I believe he will operate in a more consultative open style.
NEIL MITCHELL: You haven’t answered the question still. Did you ask him for any guarantees?
BILL SHORTEN: Oh Neil, I’m answering your question, I am answering your question.
NEIL MITCHELL: Did you ask him for any guarantees?
BILL SHORTEN: Neil what’s happened last night doesn’t necessarily suit the to and fro of talkback radio. What I am saying to you is this – yes I believe he has changed.
Yes I believe that the legacy of the minority government, accomplished by Prime Minister Gillard is worth defending and yes I believe that the Coalition are not going to offer a better deal for all the schools.
NEIL MITCHELL: And I’m asking you if you asked for any guarantees on the way he operates.
BILL SHORTEN: I’ve asked for no guarantees. I believe that he has changed.
NEIL MITCHELL: Why do you say you will pay a personal cost? How will you pay a personal cost?
BILL SHORTEN: Look at what you are saying. You just sought of banter around saying you are dishonest. Others say we don’t like Shorten, he decided to switch.
NEIL MITCHELL: Bill the knife they are calling you here.
BILL SHORTEN: Call me whatever you want Neil, whatever names you’ve got. I think that Australian politics is more than just personalities. I’ve said that to you in the past. There are people who like the Labor Party, who want the Labor Party to be competitive, who I believe had switched off for fair or unfair reasons – that’s for individuals to decide.
But Neil what I believe is the Gonski reforms, which are about providing more resources in schools. The Libs are just saying we are going to do nothing on government schools or private schools for two years and we are going to keep the status quo. I want the kids in my electorate, in primary school and secondary school, to get more resources.
The Libs are proposing to put a new 15 per cent tax on their superannuation contributions for people earning less than $37,000 a year.
NEIL MITCHELL: The personal cost you think you will pay, does that mean in the future if you ever had any hope or ambition to be opposition leader or prime minister - that's finished now?
BILL SHORTEN: I’m prepared with what I’ve done to pay whatever price is necessary because what I believe I’ve done is give Labor the best chance.
NEIL MITCHELL: Is that the sought of price you think you could pay, that your popularity will plummet to such that you couldn’t be leader?
BILL SHORTEN: That is possible, yes. What I also know is that sometimes in politics if you want everyone to like you, you probably shouldn’t be in politics. But what I want people to realise is that Members of Parliament are capable of making difficult decisions. Whether or not people like them or they don’t, what they need to know is that people will actually not just look at personalities, friendships, subgroupings, but rather what do they think is the best way to promote the team, the cause and therefore the nation.
NEIL MITCHELL: You might just want to hear this, Kevin Rudd is about to be sworn in.
NEIL MITCHELL: Well he is Prime Minister now. Bill Shorten how do you feel?
BILL SHORTEN: I feel that the events of the last 24 hours have been, politically, the most difficult in a work sense I’ve done. But I actually believe now Labor has a chance to provide a more competitive choice for Australians at the next election.
NEIL MITCHELL: How does Australia look internationally changing leaders like this?
BILL SHORTEN: I think that Australia has a lot of good things going for it. And I think a lot of people when they look at Australia, they look at a country that has relatively low unemployment, we’ve grown 13 per cent in our economy since the GFC. I think most people think Australia is a lucky country.
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you know what portfolio you will have now?
BILL SHORTEN: I assume it would be the same.
NEIL MITCHELL: Ok, have you discussed that with Kevin Rudd?
BILL SHORTEN: I have indicated that I would like to stay where I am.
NEIL MITCHELL: What are the priorities for Kevin Rudd?
BILL SHORTEN: He will articulate his priorities in the coming days. It’s not for me to announce what he is going to do. But I know in my portfolio areas we want to make sure superannuation goes up from 9 to 12 per cent. We want to make sure that people earning less than $37,000 don’t have a great big new tax put on by the Liberals.
We want to make sure workplaces are fair and there is a fair go all round. These are some of the priorities. The national disability insurance scheme, making sure the people who have come up with the idea are in office to make sure the idea actually happens.
NEIL MITCHELL: Mr Shorten when you see what’s happened over the last few weeks, in fact the past few years and what’s happened overnight can you understand why people in Australia are extremely cynical and mistrusting of their politicians?
BILL SHORTEN: I can understand that sudden and un-expected change is disconcerting to people. But I also know that this is not a new thing in politics. I think people will recall not too many months ago that Premier Ted Bailliue just suddenly stepped down and all of a sudden we had Premier Napthine. These things do happen.
What I think is important is that the Labor Government reminds people that they are interested in what happens to the nation and people and not just themselves.
What we need now is unity. What we need now is healing. I’ve been a consistent, long-time supporter of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Yesterday was incredibly difficult to arrive at that decision.
But what I also know is that even if you are a true blue liberal no one can really be happy if you’ve got one side of politics looking like they are going to be trounced by the other-side.
NEIL MITCHELL: How did Julia Gillard take the news when you told her you weren’t going to support her?
BILL SHORTEN: She was very, very professional and very, very graceful.
NEIL MITCHELL: Was she angry?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Surprised?
BILL SHORTEN: I’m not going to go into what was said, but what I do know is that she was classy.
NEIL MITCHELL: Thank you very much for your time.
BILL SHORTEN: Thank you.