Bill's Transcripts





SUBJECT/S: Griffith by-election; Alcohol-fuelled violence;
Abbott Government’s cuts to payments


PATRICK CONDREN: The Griffith by-election will be held on February the 8Th.  Bill Shorten, the Federal Opposition leader and ALP leader is in town, he’s allegedly helping the local candidate to campaign in that electorate. Bill, good morning, thanks for your time this morning.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, and congratulations on the new show, I hope it’s a success this year.


CONDREN: You’re very kind. Leave your money on the fridge as you go, all donations gratefully accepted. Can you win Griffith?


SHORTEN: Yes. Our candidate’s Terri Butler, she’s a working mum, a professional lawyer with a distinguished record. It’s a close election though, and for us the issues will be making sure that in Griffith people have a candidate who will stand up to the Abbott-style cuts to the healthcare system such as we’ve seen done by Campbell Newman to Queensland’s healthcare system.


CONDREN: But it’s a bit rich to claim the underdog status, when history shows us that incumbent governments never win by-elections?


SHORTEN: Well, I never take any group of voters for granted. That’s why I think it’s close. This election is about the future, it’s about how do we have a good quality healthcare system, how do we make sure that a local community gets strong representation which is not a rubber stamp for Tony Abbott.


CONDREN: Why is it important – I mean, obviously there is a degree of need for you to win this election. But why is it so important that you win this election, is it because it was Kevin Rudd’s old seat?


SHORTEN: Well, I think it’s important that the voters in Griffith have a clear choice, that they have someone who will stand up for them. Now the families in Griffith, there’s 47,000 households. These are people who in many cases get up and go to work every day, lot of double income families, mum and dad are both working, they’re trying to raise their kids the best way they can, they want to make sure they have a quality healthcare system, they want good schools. They also want to make sure there’s good meaningful jobs in the community, so it’s important to have representatives who are in touch with what goes on in the mainstream of people’s lives.


CONDREN: Will it come down to preferences?


SHORTEN: It could do, yes. I would expect that is a complete possibility.


CONDREN: So the Greens are preferencing, you know, Mr Ackroyd, who is a Kevin Rudd lookalike, I suppose.


SHORTEN: Ah, yeah. You know, by-elections bring out the weird and the wonderful. Our candidate Terri Butler is trying to get people’s first vote. Sure, there’ll be plenty of individual parties running, and that’s people’s democratic right. But Terri Butler, our candidate, is running to win. It’s the first time she’s run for politics but as I said, she has a distinguished career in the law standing up for people and she’s got two kids just below school age, so she understands – her and her working husband – that the real world is tough. You’ve got to make sure you can pay the bills, that you’ve got good healthcare and you’ve got good hospitals.


CONDREN: One issue that has been running red hot with us, certainly yesterday, and more broadly around the south-east in recent weeks is alcohol-fuelled violence. I know you called for Danny Green’s ‘One Punch’ ad to be taxpayer funded. What else can be done within, or from a political perspective to tackle this problem?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, you’ve got to recognise it’s a real issue. And I’m a dad, I’ve got a young boy who’s, you know, early teens. I worry dreadfully in 5 or 6 years if they’re going out that they too could be ambushed by a coward. So I think that part of the issue is indeed the availability of you know, late night, people being able to go and get a drink anywhere at any time.


CONDREN: Well Campbell Newman, obviously the LNP Premier here in Queensland, has rejected calls from the legal fraternity to cut back on the opening times or the closing times by 2 hours.


SHORTEN: That may be part of the answer. I also think though that we’ve got to make it clear that if you do this, you will pay a penalty. So I actually think some of the people who do this, and I’ve got friends who run pubs and have been around handling hoons and louts for a very long time, and I’ve said to these publicans – and people who run pubs, they want to make sure their customers are safe and that they run responsible venues, they don’t like this violence – I’ve said what do you think is the makeup of these people? And they’ve said to me that someone will do a king hit, someone who thinks that they’re some sort of street fighter martial arts star and they want to demonstrate on victims, you can’t deter them by just appealing to their better nature, you do need strong laws deterring them.


CONDREN: Ok. Mervin’s rung in 13 13 32 if you’d like to join the conversation. Good morning Mervin.


MERVIN [CALLER]: Good morning Pat, good morning Mr Shorten. Thanks for having me on this morning. I live in the Griffith electorate and have voted for Kevin and the other team a few different times. I was listening to your opening comments Bill where you said that Terri Butler, who I believe is a fine candidate, but you said that she’d be able to stand up to and basically win against Tony Abbott’s health cuts or anything else that’s bad for us. But to be honest, she can’t do that, can she? How can she do that from opposition?


SHORTEN: Oh, never underestimate people power. I’ll give you an example: before the election, Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott said that they would be a unity ticket with Labor so that you’d see good funding for our schools. Then after the election Christopher Pyne said ‘no, actually that was then, this is now, bad luck, all bets are off’. The public outcry forced them back. So yeah, I do believe that strong representatives can create such a fuss that bad ideas and broken promises don’t happen. Yeah, I believe in the power of people to say no, stand up.


CONDREN: Mervin, thank you for your call. Can I put you a couple of questions, Mr Shorten, just on federal issues. Do you support any changes to welfare rules as flagged by Kevin Andrews?


SHORTEN: To be fair to the Government, the budget’s a challenge. We’ve got an economy in transition, and we’ve got concerns about the prospect of more unemployment, so it’s not easy. But what I don’t support is this discussion that age pensioners should be the answer to solving the problem of the Abbott Government. You know, you can’t stop growing old, it’s the best outcome, there’s no doubt. The age pension is not a ticket in TattsLotto, it’s not a Rolls Royce. It’s a modest fortnightly payment. Today the Abbott Government’s floated well, you know everything’s on the table, and maybe we shouldn’t increase the age pension by a regular amount that it has been in the past. So yeah, do I think that there’s a challenge in our economy to make sure that we can prepare it for the future? Yes. But I don’t think that people on the age pension should be the people that have to pay the price for the Abbott Government trying to work out how to run Australia.


CONDREN: Should job seekers be forced to take work even if it’s more than 90 minutes drive away?


SHORTEN: That’s hard, it depends on the personal circumstances of people. In my experience –


CONDREN: They might not earn enough to pay for the petrol to get to the 90 minutes away.


SHORTEN: Well, when I used to represent fruit pickers up in the bush, some of them would drive an hour each way but at a certain point it becomes uneconomical. You’re paying more to get to and from work than you are in the actual job. The other thing is some people say, ‘oh well, the unemployed should just get up and move to the other side of Australia’. You know, that’s a nice theory but it’s not as easy as it sounds. So do I think that we need to encourage unemployed people to work? Yes we do. But what I also know is that if there was a simple solution then someone would have already done it. Life’s more complex, so you’ve got to work out how do we ensure people get good education because then they can find their own jobs and they’ve got the right skills. How do we make sure that older people don’t get discriminated against? A group in the population who no one ever really talks about, people who might be 55 or 60, older people, men and women. Somehow we’ve got a bit of a bias, maybe its unconscious in our country that if you’ve got grey hair and you’re out of work, somehow then your experience and skills are worth less than some youngster just because they were born three decades after you.


CONDREN: But that’s the reality of working life these days. That is not a complaint that has gone away.


SHORTEN: Yeah but Australia can’t afford to waste the talent of older Australians.


CONDREN: Well I agree, but the reality is employers tend to be biased against them.


SHORTEN: Well our challenge then is to encourage employers to relook at older Australians. So, when we talk about – this discussion has come out of the question about unemployment and what can we do? The first thing we do is we don’t give up on Aussie jobs. So just giving up on the car industry and saying ‘oh, it costs too much’, well there’s tens of thousands of people who once that happens we’ll never see again. And what we need to do is stand up for Aussie jobs, and start promoting the benefits of older Australians.


CONDREN: One quick question finally, will you lead Labor to the next election?




CONDREN: Fair enough. Unequivocal?


SHORTEN: Yes, and that’s proof that I can give a quick answer.


CONDREN: Well I’m pleased, you don’t come across that often in modern politics. Bill Shorten, thanks for your time this morning. Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten in the studio.