3AW WITH BRETT MCLEOD
TUESDAY, 22 APRIL 2014
SUBJECT/S: Rebuilding Labor, Royal Commission into unions, Barry O’Farrell’s resignation
BRETT MCLEOD: First today, on one of the most significant days – in fact, perhaps the most significant day since you took over as Opposition Leader, we’re joined by Bill Shorten. Good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Brett.
MCLEOD: You’ve got a major shakeup of the Labor Party today. It’s I think to try and get the attention of what is a very jaundiced electorate, from looking at what happened in Western Australia. What are you going to be doing?
SHORTEN: I’ll be announcing a major campaign to rebuild the Australian Labor Party, to renew our sense of purpose. People want to see Labor change, so what I’ll be seeking – what I’ll be doing today is announcing that we want to put more power back in the hands of membership, not factions. We want a process to deliver the best candidates at the next election. I want to open up our Labor Party to more people from all walks of life, especially but not just limited to young people. We want to be able to say to young people, you should get involved in politics because your involvement is valuable and it can make a difference to our community and our world.
MCLEOD: You’re also taking away the rule that means to be a member of the Labor Party, you have to be a union member.
SHORTEN: That’s right, I think that rule has outlived its day. I’m a member of a trade union, I think that’s a good thing. But I get that a lot of people aren’t, and I also believe that the Labor Party needs to be explaining to all Australians that we want you. It’s not what part of the economy you work in, it’s not whether or not you work in an office or wear a set of overalls. The Labor Party is interested in representing and involving as many people as possible, we want to see Victoria and Australia be a better place to live and raise a family.
MCLEOD: Is placing unions more at arms’ length from the ALP, is that because of the taint of corruption with unions now?
SHORTEN: No, it’s a question of modernising and rebuilding the Labor Party. The Labor Party needs to rebuild so that we can be strong, so we can deliver more jobs in this state and this country, that we can have the best possible healthcare system in Medicare, we can have a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Labor needs to rebuild and modernise so we can appeal to as many people as possible, so we can be strong and competitive for the policies we think are important: jobs, education and health.
MCLEOD: But do you think having former union leaders sent to jail, having unions such as the CFMEU fined millions of dollars, do you think that that hurts the Labor Party?
SHORTEN: There’s no doubt in my mind, it is important we broaden our image beyond unions. Unions have done lots of good things though over the past. It is incredibly important though I believe to appeal to the widest range of people, that we’re seen not just to be representing one group of people.
MCLEOD: Has the Labor Party lost its mojo, for want of a better word? Have you lost the link with ordinary working people, I guess, was what it was built on. Have you lost that link?
SHORTEN: No, we haven’t lost our mojo – but we did lose the last election which does mean that Labor needs to rebuild. It would be wrong of me to just present at the next election and say to Australians, well we haven’t changed and people should just vote for the same thing.
Our values haven’t changed though. Labor’s idea is that young people leaving school should be able to get an education or a job. That old people who need to go to the doctor on a regular basis shouldn’t be slugged extra taxes and payments. We want to make sure that people who want to see their kids grow up and be able to afford a house, put a deposit on a house, have the prosperity to do that. And that our young people have the skills for the 21st century.
Our values are solid, but it’s more than just an image issue. We need to rebuild the way the Labor Party works, we need to be member-based not faction-based. We need to be encouraging people from regional towns from the suburbs of Australia to think that they can be involved in politics and maybe even one day run for politics, because politics changes lives. It fixes and remedies problems in our social community.
MCLEOD: Do you think people care about joining parties anymore? I mean, membership is at the lowest level ever for both major parties. We saw in the Western Australian Senate election re-run that both parties’ votes were down significantly. People have just given up on both major parties.
SHORTEN: I think that that’s a really good question Brett. There is an attitude of cynicism out there, which people say why be involved in politics because it can’t change the issues that I think are important and my individual involvement doesn’t seem to have an impact in the way that our society or community are organised and the way that decisions are made. That is why want to say to people who want to join the Labor Party you’ll have a greater say in who our candidates are. That’s a really fair dinkum way of saying to people – we should make it easier to join, you should be able to join online. Why is it easier to join a football club than a political party?
MCLEOD: You’ve also got, I would imagine though, very strong financial supporters of the ALP in the form of unions, who give millions of dollars still to the party. How are they going to respond to the fact that they’re going to have less power?
SHORTEN: Well, I imagine some people won’t like the changes I’m proposing. But I hope that over time they recognise that I as the leader of the Labor Party am determined to rebuild the Labor Party to make it a strong, serious alternative for Australians to vote for, because Australians can’t see the point of getting involved in politics. So I hope people aren’t discomforted, but my job is to lead and my very clear principled position is that for the Labor Party to be strong at the next election on the issues that matter, like Medicare or disability or jobs. The Labor Party needs to be attracting new people to its ranks and engaging with a new sense of idealism amongst people and getting involved in politics can make a difference to our community.
MCLEOD: Have you had any feedback from unions yet?
SHORTEN: I think some people are waiting to hear the speech, some people are saying ‘well that probably makes sense, what you’re saying, the world has changed.’ And there are some who don’t like what I’m saying.
MCLEOD: 96 900 693, I’m curious to know what you think about Bill Shorten’s idea to rebuild Labor. What do you think Labor, or in fact the Liberal Party, needs to do to attract more support, particularly from younger voters. You’ve been away from the spotlight for a couple of weeks because of a recent bereavement – condolences over that. I’m wondering too, it might have been a time for you to reflect on politics, on life, on that sort of thing. Has it been that time for you?
SHORTEN: Thank you for your condolences on Mum’s passing. Different people probably react differently to the passing of a parent, but I’m sure that most people – it will affect them pretty significantly. For myself, I will miss not being able to talk to my Mum. She was a great source of advice and common sense. But I’m also even more grateful for the life that she lived. So it is a time for thinking about your family, what are your priorities, are you ringing the people you love and telling them that. You can’t press the rewind button when something like this happens, but I’m very grateful for the life that my Mum lived and the effort that she put into her family.
MCLEOD: Now because we haven’t had the chance to hear from you for a couple of weeks, can I give another few quick fire questions?
SHORTEN: Of course.
MCLEOD: Barry O’Farrell resigning as New South Wales Premier over forgetting about a bottle of Grange. Did he do the right thing?
SHORTEN: Well I don’t know all the circumstances, I saw that he felt that he needed to resign. In terms of the ICAC and some of the political culture in New South Wales, clearly there’s been some pretty toxic decision making going on over a number of days, weeks, months - that have been revealed - indeed years.
MCLEOD: Bob Carr. Have you read his book? Will you read his book?
SHORTEN: I haven’t had a chance to read Bob Carr’s book -
MCLEOD: You would have read about it though.
SHORTEN: I’ve read about it a bit. Hopefully I’ll get around to reading it.
MCLEOD: Has he done politicians, has he done the ALP a disservice? He sounds like a dilettante.
SHORTEN: I think that everyone, once they’re retired from politics, if they want to – especially someone who’s been a Premier of a state – if he wants to write his view of the world, he’s entitled to do that. For me, I think what the Labor Party, what people want from the Labor Party, is are they fair dinkum about the next election, are they fair dinkum about the issues that matter to people.
My head is firmly faced towards the future. Bob’s a respected senior politician, I’ll pay him that respect. But for me, my day job is are we getting the right healthcare in this country, have we got policies which create jobs, are we looking after our social justice systems like a National Disability Insurance deal for carers and people with disabilities.
MCLEOD: And heading into the future, the Royal Commission into unions – if you’re called, will you appear?
SHORTEN: Of course I’ll cooperate, if subpoenaed or called, yes.
MCLEOD: Do you expect to be?
SHORTEN: I don’t know where it’s all going, this Royal Commission, the Abbott Royal Commission into unions. Labor will cooperate. What I’ll be saying today in my talk about rebuilding the Labor Party is that Labor has no time, no time whatsoever, for criminal conduct or corruption. If there’s anyone within the ranks of Labor who are conducting themselves in this way, they’re not welcome, they should get out straight away.
MCLEOD: Alright Bill Shorten, thanks for your time today.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much Brett, have a nice day.
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