INTERVIEW WITH ANNABEL CRABB
MONDAY, 14 OCTOBER 2013
SUBJECTS: ELECTION AS LABOR LEADER
ANNABEL CRABB: Bill Shorten, welcome to 7.30 and congratulations.
BILL SHORTEN: Good evening. Thanks very much, Annabel.
ANNABEL CRABB: You must feel personally very grateful to Kevin Rudd that thanks to his intervention it's almost impossible to blast you out of this job.
BILL SHORTEN: I feel very grateful to the members of the parliamentary Labor Party and the wider Labor Party for giving me the privilege to represent Labor at the leadership level. I thank the hundreds, and people in the thousands, who voted for me.
I also acknowledge that Anthony Albanese ran a great campaign and I think between the two of us, we've managed to come through a leadership contest without too much blood on the floor.
ANNABEL CRABB: Yes, it's just about the politest power struggle you've ever been involved in, I imagine.
BILL SHORTEN: You could almost hear the gnashing of media teeth because we were actually able to debate ideas. What is important here is that Labor lost the last election. We were only getting 34 in every 100 votes with a number one next to a Labor candidate. Labor's not guaranteed of a return. We have to earn the trust of Australians. This process was the first step to help us build the right policies which will help Australians believe that Labor is relevant to their future.
ANNABEL CRABB: Well what's the next step in terms of the party? I mean, the constituency and the rank and file seem to have taken with great enthusiasm to a taste of power. Do you propose to give them more?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I do think it's important that we encourage more people to belong to the Labor Party. This process has been a good incentive for people to join. I mean, the Coalition I don't think will ever give their people who join the Liberal Party or the National Party a say in their leadership. So at least when you join Labor, you do get consulted about who should be your leader. So making it easy to join the Labor Party is a big early priority for me. I also think it's also important we have the most diverse range of candidates. I do think it's important to encourage more people to have a say in our preselections.
ANNABEL CRABB: Talking to some of your colleagues today, I detected some support for direct election of Labor candidates for the Senate. Is that something you'd personally entertain?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I that hasn't crossed my mind at this stage. What I do recognise though is that we need to make sure that you don't need to just come from one set of backgrounds to be able to be a Labor Senate candidate. We’ve got very good Labor senators. In fact Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy have been elected the leaders of Labor in the Senate and Tanya Plibersek, my Deputy in the Reps. But we can always work hard to increase the opportunities.
ANNABEL CRABB: I had a look at the 26 senators that will be sitting for Labor in the Senate from next year, and of those 26, 18 of them are former Labor union officials. Do you personally think that that is reasonable?
BILL SHORTEN: Well I think, having been a trade union representative, standing up for the conditions of working Australians, is a good background. It helps prepare for Parliament, but it's not the only background.
ANNABEL CRABB: It's not especially diverse, though, is it: 18 out of 26?
BILL SHORTEN: I understand that there's some in the community who'd rather never see any people from a union background having a say in public policy but I do believe that we can make our party more diverse in representation. So I accept part of what you're saying. If you have a look at this process and who we've picked, if we want to have a diversity competition, we've got 11 Shadow Ministers who are women.
Once I announce the allocation of portfolios on Friday after consulting my colleagues and announce the new parliamentary secretaries, we'll have more women in the executive of the Labor Opposition than either side of politics has ever had in Australian history. And when you look at the fact that the Liberals could only find a spot for one woman in their top 20 positions in the Government of Australia, I can assure you that Labor's got a lot of talented women and there'll be plenty more than one in our line-up.
ANNABEL CRABB: When we first started talking tonight, and you said this yesterday as well, you said that Labor needs to rebuild trust. What was the tipping point, do you think, at which your party lost that trust in the Australian electorate?
BILL SHORTEN: Well we did get more votes than I think the Obama Democrats got in America as a percentage of the population, or British Labour.
ANNABEL CRABB: They have voluntary voting of course.
BILL SHORTEN: That's right, but it's not enough to form a government. So we have to win back votes from both sides, both the left and the right, but in particular in the centre ground of Australian politics. We will regain trust of people who used to vote for us or we'd like to vote for us now by having policies which are relevant to the future of Australians' lives. That's why I spoke in the leadership ballot about making Labor the party of science, research, innovation, higher education, for instance. You know, a smart nation is always going to do better than it otherwise would. We need to be a party who's brave. We need to speak up for the powerless and the voiceless. That's why I'm determined to make domestic violence a national political issue. It's not just a women's issue or a police issue, it's an issue we all need to address.
ANNABEL CRABB: Possibly the loss of trust over the course of the last government may have been occasioned by the chopping and changing on some policy areas and you've made it pretty clear in recent weeks that you're planning to stand by carbon pricing. You maintain support for the mining tax. I wanted to ask you about asylum seeker policy. Were you personally happy with the PNG solution and the policy package that Labor took to the last election?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes, immigration is a complex issue and dealing with refugees. I probably wasn't happy that our language about refugees was calling people illegal. I do believe that we're an immigration nation. Other than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, we're all boat people or plane people. We are the nation of the second chance and we have been since European settlement.
So I think that for Labor to help deal with the question about the demonisation of refugees, we need to unequivocally state that immigration's good for Australia. Once we do that, and once we establish that refugees are part of our immigration mix, I think you can then have a more sensible debate that we're not going to support the human traffickers and the people smugglers and the criminal syndicates in South-East Asia. Getting people to board unsafe ships, pay tens of thousands of dollars, preying on their vulnerability, that's not humane to not tackle that.
ANNABEL CRABB: Just finally, Bill Shorten, what about trust in your own judgment? You've been in Parliament for six years now and at the three-year mark you used your own considerable personal influence to remove a sitting prime minister. Do you think, hand on heart, looking back, that that was the right judgment?
BILL SHORTEN: I believe that at every stage what motivates me for the hard decisions is what do I think's in the best interests of the party, but more importantly than the Labor Party, the nation. I believe it's never a good idea for Labor to be uncompetitive to a point where the Coalition can bring their policies for Australia, which I don't support, and to have them in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives. So these are hard decisions.
What I recognise now, and what I recognise unequivocally, is that sometimes change can be too sudden, if decisions aren't explained, people resent them. I believe the Labor process that we've adopted where we have a transparent approach involving tens of thousands of people, have a campaign of ideas and policies and approaches. I actually think that this demonstrates that I and in fact all of my colleagues recognise that we've got to do politics a different way if we're to regain people's trust.
ANNABEL CRABB: Bill Shorten, we're right out of time, but thanks for joining us on 7.30. We look forward to seeing much more of you, and goodnight.
BILL SHORTEN: Thank you. Good evening.
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