720 ABC PERTH INTERVIEW WITH GEOFF HUTCHISON
TUESDAY, 22 APRIL 2014
SUBJECT/S: Rebuilding Labor.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Now we have the first elected leader of the Australian Labor Party, and he’s promising the most significant shift in Labor’s structures for decades. He’s Bill Shorten, and in under three hours he’s going to use a landmark speech to propose sweeping changes to the party. My question to you is, will you listen? Will you care? Will you seek to join? They are the compelling questions, so have a listen to the Leader of the Opposition a then give me a call on 1300 222 720. Mr Shorten, good morning to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Geoff.
HUTCHISON: You say today is about facing up to some hard truths. What are they?
SHORTEN: The hard truth is that Labor needs to rebuild if we’re to be a strong competitive choice at the next federal election. The hard truth is that we need to be a member-based party, not a faction-based party. We need processes which will deliver us the best candidates, and we need to open up involvement in the Labor Party to a lot more people from a lot more walks of life.
HUTCHISON: You say you want to attract 100,000 members to this political party. Now I understand today you will outline that you are making that mechanism easier. What’s the plan?
SHORTEN: To begin with, it is an indictment of Australian politics that people are more interested in joining football clubs, be it the Dockers or the Eagles, than they would be in joining the mainstream political parties.
HUTCHISON: Yeah, they’re more entertaining.
SHORTEN: Well, the challenge for Labor is to demonstrate to people that you can make a difference by being involved in politics. There’s a lot of people, especially a lot of younger Australians, who think that there’s no point in getting involved in politics because it wouldn’t change anything. That’s why we want to give people a greater voice in their pre-selection for who gets to represent Labor. That’s why we want to give people a greater voice in terms of our ideas and the policies we take to the next election.
HUTCHISON: So today will you tell us that you no longer have to be a union member to join the Labor Party, and that you can join the Labor Party at the click of a button?
SHORTEN: Yes, today I will be announcing that I’ll ask our National Secretary and National Executive to make it clear in our rules that people don’t – it’s not compulsory for people to belong to a union to join the Labor Party. Unions have done lots of good things and they continue to do so. But it’s important that Labor makes it very clear for all Australians, that we seek to represent all views, not just the views of some.
HUTCHISON: If a person joins the Labor Party, will his or her voice be heard in the debate about which candidate is the best candidate?
SHORTEN: I think that it is an important role of membership to be able to have a say in who represents your team. It’s where the rubber hits the road in terms of exercising real member-based power. That is why I’m supportive of what Opposition Leader Mark McGowan has been saying in Western Australia and it is consistent with what I’ll be saying today, which is we need to ensure that we give a voice to local members, and when they take an interest in who should represent the Labor Party at an election, they’ve had a say in who that person is.
HUTCHISON: Yeah, let’s just be clear on that though. My guest is the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who today is outlining a significant structural change to the Australian Labor Party, and I’d like you to tell me what you think of it on 1300 222 720. But let’s use that specific example, will that individual be able to have a vote in deciding whether a Louise Pratt or a Joe Bullock heads the Senate ticket?
SHORTEN: I believe there has to be a member voice in who we pick for the Senate. So yes, I believe it is important that people – not just the Party Conference – but that the Party members can express their views about who represents Labor.
HUTCHISON: Of course the challenge is it’s one thing to express a view, and there’s another thing to listen to and act upon it. Will you promise those people who wish to be those members that you won’t just hear what they say, if they determine something very strongly or feel very keenly about it, that that will be a very, very important part of a decision?
SHORTEN: What I will promise – I don’t think existing party members, it’s those who are interested in being involved in Labor politics, and to those who either do vote Labor or are thinking about Labor, that the Labor Party will give people who join Labor a voice in who represents Labor. Now what I want to make clear here is that I’m not a dictator, I don’t want to preordain outcomes. What I do believe is that we need to engage young people, and indeed the not so young, people who think that the Labor Party is only open to some and not others. That believe Labor is fair dinkum about involving people. Politics in Australia depends upon the quality of participation. The Labor Party shouldn’t wait for the Liberal Party to change its ways. We need to rebuild, so we can be strong so we can pursue our values. Values likes creating Australian jobs, like good schools, like equality, Medicare and the health system.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept that the decision to put Joe Bullock at the top of that Senate ticket cost you a second WA senator?
SHORTEN: I think the reasons for the outcome in Western Australia are more than just down to one person. I do believe, yes, that the rancour in Western Australia and the disunity did not help Labor. I think of course we need to make sure that we campaign more; I also recognise that building up a war chest of campaign funding is important because frankly the Palmer Party and others outspent Labor. But yes, the rancour and disunity is something which people mark us down for and it has to stop.
JOURNALIST: You acknowledge in the speech that our work and our workforce are changing, so what is it about the new workplace that Labor might have to accept that where before it might not?
SHORTEN: We recognise that not everyone belongs to a trade union for instance, that people can work in offices, they can work in shops, they can work in factories, construction sites or the mining industry. We accept that some people go to work and are employees but others are contractors and small business people. Labor must have policies and processes which speak to the experiences of our farmers, our small businesses, the professional women working in high level executive jobs, to people working as labourers or factory workers.
JOURNALIST: You’re listening to the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, at seven minutes to nine, 1300 222 720. Well okay let’s talk about that because it’s one thing to say we seek to appeal to this group, we want them to come on board, but if we’re talking about the changing workplace, any discussion about the changing workplace has to include the future of penalty rates and what days constitute a working week in the modern workplace. Won’t that be one of your greatest tests whether you claim to hold the line on behalf of workers and unions or whether you accept that employers are saying they simply can’t afford to keep paying double time to work on a Sunday, or time and a half on Saturday, or that penalty rates should only be offered after someone has worked the full five days of a week. Will you be listening and be more attentive to that argument than you have been before?
SHORTEN: I believe that in terms of workplace relations policy it’s about getting the balance right, it’s about providing a strong safety net, but it’s also ensuring that we have profitable, productive enterprises. I recognise that for some people that, who are on salaries or other people who are working casual, that highly structured union enterprise agreements do not speak to their experience at work, and do not speak to their employers either.
What I recognise though is that a strong safety net remains important. One of the reasons why we don’t have the working poor that we see in the United States is because we have a strong safety net. One of the reasons why we have people able to drink coffee and shop is because their wages are enough to allow them to have an okay standard of living. But I recognise what you’re saying. What Labor has to do is not allow the taxation act to define who are Labor voters and who are Liberal voters. There are plenty of owner-operators, franchisees, small business contractors, who encounter issues to do with the way they get paid their bills, to encounter issues around having to fill in BAS forms every quarter, who encounter a complex tax act. There is a lot that Labor can do for small business and we need to be articulating that between now and the next federal election.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much for talking to me today.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much for your interest Geoff, and we are most keen to encourage people to be interested in politics.
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