Bill's Transcripts

ABC 7:30 - Labor’s announcement on Australia’s Future Submarines; Leadership; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Labor policies



ABC 730



SUBJECT/S: Labor’s announcement on Australia’s Future Submarines; Leadership; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Labor policies.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I'm joined now by the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten, welcome to the 7.30 Report.




TRIOLI: Well, today you announced a policy on building submarines in Australia that, if accepted, would've cost the budget billions more than if the subs were built overseas. Given the state of the budget deficit, how was that ever going to be paid for?


SHORTEN: Virginia, I have to just correct the proposition that building submarines in Australia in the long term is much more expensive than building them overseas. And remember, before the last election, both parties, both Liberal and Labor, said we'd build these submarines in Australia. What we announced today is that we've offered the government a way through the mess they've found themselves in, in the last 18 months with their broken promises and we've said straight up: let's build, maintain and sustain the submarines in Australia. Let's have a transparent bidding process which would see the four best submarine building nations in the world for our needs, Japan, Germany, Sweden and France, bid. And what we said to the Government is, let's do this together, this can be done in a relatively short period of time and both the Government and ourselves recognise that this is the most significant procurement decision which will be made in a generation for our national security and our advanced manufacturing.


TRIOLI: But all the best analysis seems to suggest that around about $25 billion to get these subs done, if they were done overseas, between $50 to $80 billion here in Australia and further, Mark Binskin says, the Chief of the Defence Force, that where you actually get your return on your investment if you like, and your investment in people here in Australia, is maintaining them here over the 30-year life cycle. That's surely enough, that's actually the better spend of the money, isn't it, when you have a budget deficit the way that it is?


SHORTEN: Well, again, just to give you a different set of numbers than the ones you were quoting, we think there's been a lot of myth-making about the cost of building submarines in Australia. Two of the nations who are interested in building our submarines have indicated they could do it for about $20 billion in Australia. Now, at one level, a very human level for viewers listening to this, they might think, these numbers are so big. This is about 12 submarines over a 20 to 30-year life cycle, building the submarines. We think it can be done in Australia and the other thing is, some of the best submarine experts in Australia have said that it's in our national security interests to build them here. They've also said it's important for our advanced manufacturing and thousands of jobs, and remember, before the last election, Tony Abbott's team said you could vote Liberal and we'll build them in Australia, and we said the same thing. What we've done today and one of our key policy announcements is we've said that we stand for building, maintaining and sustaining these submarines in Australia and I don't accept the cost blow-out argument which hasn't been proven by other people.


TRIOLI: Well the costs are definitely and the figures are the ones that have been referred to again and again as it being more in Australia. To move on quickly from this, because we have a lot to get to today, you can guarantee that if they were built in Australia, they would come in at the same price as what was quoted overseas?


SHORTEN: I believe that we are capable in this country of providing, we’ve put three tests, the short answer is yes.


TRIOLI: Let’s just go to that specific question, the cost. The cost is the issue here and let's just talk about that. It'd be the same, would it? It'd be just as cheap?


SHORTEN: We believe based on the information that's been put forward in the public domain by other nations who build submarines that we can build these submarines for a very reasonable cost in Australia, we don't buy the myth and the propaganda job which has been done on the Australian submarine building proposition by those who might want to rush a deal through for other reasons other than the ones we've stated.


TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, let's talk a little bit tonight about management and about leadership. There's been a lot of very fine words spoken recently about leadership, particularly with the deaths of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. You said last November that 2015 would be defined by the power of Labor's ideas. It's almost April. We're entering a new budget cycle. Where are those ideas?


SHORTEN: Well, we've already started to articulate our ideas. Three or four weeks ago, Labor put forward a comprehensive costed policy for instance, to crack down on multinationals using legal loopholes, not to pay their fair share of tax in Australia. This is a down-payment on our approach. We think that people should pay their fair share of taxation. We also -


TRIOLI: I just want to move you on again because our time really is tight this evening. I don't think anyone's going to argue with the multinational one, but the idea of leadership, the big ideas -


SHORTEN: Well, the Federal Government, sorry, the Liberal Party are.


TRIOLI: The idea of the leadership that you were discussing was taking big and tough ideas out to the electorate and prosecuting those ideas. That one maybe not so much. Where are the bigger ideas when it comes to dealing with an economy where the model is just not working anymore?


SHORTEN: Well, we have been stating ideas. We've made it clear that on a range of difficult issues from family violence through to where we spend billions of dollars on our submarines, through to multinational taxation, which is a big issue, which is something which the Government hasn't agreed with our initial proposition, we're putting those ideas. To go to the longer-term bigger picture, which you're asking for, the Labor Party that I lead has made it clear where we stand on a range of key policy issues. We've made it clear, for instance, that we support the constitutional recognition of our first Australians. We've made it clear that we support becoming a republic. We've made it clear that when it comes to standing up to outlaw hate speech, we didn't support any watering-down of 18C. We've also got a view that to have a growing economy which is fundamental to our future, we've got to make sure that we don't leave people behind. So when we talk about key issues like science and innovation, jobs, let's look at the Renewable Energy Target. We've been standing firm to stop the Abbott Government, the Liberal National Government in Canberra from trashing renewable energy. These are big issues. On superannuation, the Government loves to talk about the crisis of growing old and the aged pension. Yet we're the only mainstream political party who says that we shouldn't freeze superannuation increases, that we should in fact, rather than cut pension increases, we should encourage Australians to save for themselves for the future. These are big ideas. These are big issues and we're fighting hard.


TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, the issue of tax revenue is continuing to decline in this country though is the biggest one that faces any government. This one or you as an incoming one if you were lucky enough. What exactly is the fix for that?


SHORTEN: I don't quite accept that the budget proposition that you're saying is quite the crisis which the Government -


TRIOLI: I didn't use the word crisis, Bill Shorten.


SHORTEN: No, I certainly did. What's happened is we've had Tony Abbott since the last Budget justify the unfairness of the last Budget by saying that there was a crisis. We don't accept that. The challenge for Australia's economic growth, the challenge for the issues that you raise about taxation revenue, has to be supporting and encouraging growth, and has to be doing so through encouraging small business, through making sure that we have productive infrastructure, through making sure that our health care system is working at the primary care level, which is efficient for people being able to go to work. It's about productivity and growth. It's not about this government sort of flip-flopping about how hard they want to go to cut the incomes of the less well-off.


TRIOLI: It's interesting to reflect on this idea of vision and leadership. I want to quote something to you that you said at the time of Gough Whitlam's death. You said “it's always time for courage in leadership and to create and seize opportunity.” Given that, why have you been take making yourself such a small target of late?


SHORTEN: I don't accept that we have and I don't accept that I have. When you're in Opposition, people aren't always rushing to your every view but you want to look at some of tough issues we've seen in the last 12 months, I touched upon them very briefly before. We're not a small target when it comes to the recognition of first Australians in our constitution. I have stood up at the Australian Christian Lobby and supported marriage equality. On January 25th, the day before Australia Day, which Tony Abbott then famously took off kilter with his knighthood of Sir Phillip, I said it's about time we have a debate about the Republic. None of these are easy issues. When we talk about courage, we've stood up alongside migrant groups and said that we shouldn't be watering down 18C. When it came to metadata and national security which we think is very important, Labor put a peg in the ground and said we've got to have the ability of journalists to be able to protect their sources.


TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, on metadata, it's clearly an issue where to quote the crossbenchers today you have vacated the field because there may be protection there for journalists but what about protection for ordinary citizens? This is where there's been a complete about-face that one might be enormously critical of?


SHORTEN: That's not a fair description of what's happened since last October.


TRIOLI: It's certainly the way the crossbenchers see and they're presenting themselves as the real opposition on this one?


SHORTEN: Far be it from me to interfere with the crossbenchers promoting themselves -


TRIOLI: They may be the people you have to deal with if you're lucky enough to secure government?


SHORTEN: We deal with them reasonably well. I think our record compares favourability compared to the Government’s, doesn’t it? But going to the heart of the matter which you're saying, what's Labor's role in terms of protecting individual liberties? Labor is gravely conscious that we have to balance national security and also the personal liberties of Australians. It is Labor who's made sure that the Commonwealth Ombudsman has the ability to investigate breaches of metadata requests if they were to occur in a way which hasn't been able to be done before. Which goes to the heart of what you've said and also whilst I know that you personally are very committed to press freedom, I would just remind viewers that but for Labor standing up, the Government would've got through its changes without any of the scrutiny that we've put forward. We've changed three sets of national security laws, Mark Dreyfus, Jason Clare and my colleagues have been excellent on this. I believe that the laws we've got strike a better balance than they would've if we hadn't stood up.


TRIOLI: We do have very short time available through, but I did just want to ask you - this Government has had so many troubles that an effective Opposition Leader surely could've scored very big political hits on him by now. It was clear that Tony Abbott certainly gave Julia Gillard a whole lot of grief. Why haven't you been able to?


SHORTEN: I don't think Tony Abbott's going that well, actually, Virginia. I think if we talk to the people in the street, people are unhappy with his broken promises. I think it is not simply the case that Labor said no at the last Budget. It's because we've won the argument in the community. And we are determined when Parliament rises this week to prosecute the case that pension indexation should not be cut in the manner in which the Liberal National Government is doing in Canberra. It was Labor who said no to the GP Tax, it was in my Budget reply speech. We've had a long fight but eventually we've won that argument. Labor has defeated on more than one occasion Christopher Pyne's ideas about deregulating higher education and creating $100,000 degrees. Labor has been, I believe, quite strong and indeed, eminent journalist Paul Kelly has even criticised us for being the fiercest opposition since 1975. The real issue though isn't how popular Tony Abbott is or whether or not people are happy with a particular statement or media interview that the Opposition do. The real issue is the future of this country.


TRIOLI: And also the issue about whether they look at you and they see a viable alternative. Are you starting to fear that maybe you've played this all wrong?


SHORTEN: Virginia, for me it's not about me or even Tony Abbott. It's about what does this country look like in the next 10, 20 years? Today we announced we want to make an intergenerational decision on our major national security deterrent. We've said to the Abbott Government, build it here, maintain it here, sustain it here and do transparently. Yesterday, Jenny Macklin and I said we will fight against these pension cuts the Government is proposing. We've stood at the political barricades so to speak, in Parliament and stopped Christopher Pyne's ruthless deregulation of higher education which would see cuts. Labor will as we approach the election, we'll outline our ideas, I have done a bit of that tonight, but we'll also do it with discipline of listening to people. I'm not like Tony Abbott; I don't have a thought bubble then turn it into policy then if there is a vote for a spill on leadership, I might go a different way. I'm not capable, in the time which Tony Abbott's done of dreaming up Knighthoods and Dames, the Labor Party I lead is out there listening and talking it to people and we'll do it well and we'll talk to the experts and we'll talk to the people in the street.


TRIOLI: We'll leave it there, thanks so much.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Virginia.