Bill's Transcripts

ABC Capital Hill - Visit to China; Foreign investment






SUBJECT/S: Visit to China; Foreign investment; New South Wales election; Martin Ferguson.


GREG JENNETT: Well Bill Shorten you’ve been mixing in Chinese business and political circles are you satisfied that their investment intentions for Australia are altruistic and not a power grab?


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I believe that China is interested in working more closely with Australia in terms of investment. I think this is a good thing. There’s no doubt that China is undergoing massive change from investment, increases in consumption, providing more for its local citizens, I think its good news for Australia.


JENNETT: You’ve spoken to the head of the infrastructure bank which Australia is now progressing formally to back, subject to some qualifications, what did he tell you about his level of interest in projects for Australia?


SHORTEN: China has had remarkable growth in the last 30 years. They are now moving from investing in their economy to improving the quality of life for their citizens. There is a great deal of interest in making investments in infrastructure and opportunities for trade right around the world and China sees Australia as a reliable source of opportunity both for China but also for Australia.


JENNETT: But did you explore what the range of opportunities might be there?

SHORTEN: We didn’t get into a deal by deal breakdown but I’ve certainly got the clear impression after four days to of talking to China’s leaders, its business entrepreneurs and international experts that the opportunities for both China and Australia as we go into the 21st century are excellent for both nations and both peoples.


JENNETT: Were you comfortable if they were interested in investing in in roads or in ports, even in electrical poles and wires? Would a Labor government led by you be comfortable with their state capital, and that of other countries coming into Australia in that way?


SHORTEN: I’ve always been interested in the Australian national interest. We have a foreign investment review board which assess of all the big foreign investment proposals, it doesn’t matter if it’s from a Chinese state owned enterprise or the Duke of Westminster. What we’re interested in Australia is jobs, we’re interested in investment and we’ve got a robust national interest test applied by the Foreign Investment Review Board.


JENNETT: So was your state leader in New South Wales Luke Foley right to raise, in the midst of an election campaign, the spectre of Chinese communists owning that state’s or leasing that state’s electrical distribution network?


SHORTEN: Well first of all let me just say back to Australia there’s been no one, and I’ve done many, many meetings, has raised the New South Wales state election as a matter of importance between Australia and China and their relationships. Going to the specifics of your question, New South Wales Labor has a clear view against privatisation but that election has now been fought and had.


JENNETT: So the elections been run and won, around, largely, that privatisation question so are you suggesting then that Luke Foley and his team should move on to a post Opposition position on privatisation?


SHORTEN: I’m running the national Opposition, the Federal Labor Party, not New South Wales Labor. I recognise that the election was fought, both parties had clear policy differences in terms of the privatisation of electricity assets. How New South Wales Labor conducts itself is a matter for them –


JENNETT: So you have no policy position in relation to privatisation of those assets in relation from a national point of view or in potential Chinese investment in them?


SHORTEN: No I haven’t said that. In terms of New South Wales privatisation, that is a state matter. In terms of foreign investment in Australia, on balance I welcome foreign investment in Australia. We’ve got a robust national interests test, but Australia’s fortune rests, in my opinion, being an international focused country, not one where we pull up the draw bridge. The rise of China, the rise of Asia is unreservedly good news for Australia and its important in the 21st century that our national government and our national political debate focuses on the benefits on the rise of Asia for Australia and for those nations in Asia.


JENNETT: And would you be prepared to sit down with Luke Foley and explain that to him?


SHORTEN: Well Labor has always had an international view about engaging with the rest of the world. So when it comes to Asia, the party I lead has a proud record of engaging with Asia in the last 40 years.


JENNETT: Alright, well some of that New South Wales privatisation debate does lead in part to Canberra because there are moves afoot to expel a party luminary in Martin Ferguson. What’s your position that, because plenty of people are lining up now in support of Martin Ferguson, what attitude will you take when that one comes forward?


SHORTEN: Well what I’ve said before the election with regards to this issue was that Martin’s had fairly long held personal views which people have been aware of. I also said before the New South Wales election when asked the same question that Martin Ferguson holds no position of any authority in the Labor Party, he’s not a member of Caucus. I would expect in light of some of the debate that the Labor Party will investigate what’s gone on here, as they should.


JENNETT: So would you be comfortable with him being expelled if that was the will of the Party?


SHORTEN: I think you’re getting ahead of what the investigation may determine, I certainly won’t. I’m aware that there is great passion and frustration from people about the television ads which were run. What I also expect is that the Labor Party will calmly and sensibly investigate this matter, as they should and I certainly won’t pre-judge matters as the leader of the Labor Party.


JENNETT: But isn’t there a principle, before you even get to an investigation, isn’t there a principle involved about freedom of expression in going after former elders. Why stop, for instance, with Martin Ferguson? Why not go after Paul Keating, Bob Carr, Michael Egan, all had publically expressed views on that issue.


SHORTEN: Well first of all your question assumes that I’m going after someone, I’ve clearly said that’s –


JENNETT: Well the Party seems to be, I think it’s within the ability some might argue, for a Federal leader to call off the dogs as it were?


SHORTEN: Well, I understand completely the right of people, and not just senior luminaires as you call them, to have individual views. I don’t think that disagreement in and of itself is an issue which qualifies for a great controversy, but what I also understand is that there is a counterpoint view which says that people who consciously work with your opposing their political party, that’s a different issue. That’s up to the Labor Party, the administration of the Labor Party to work out where this matter stands. Is it the expression of long held views or is it working with another political party to undermine your own political party. That will be a matter for the administration of the Labor Party, it’s a serious matter and I expect that the Labor Party will investigate it.


JENNETT: And no doubt that will continue to be debated while you’re overseas, but Bill Shorten from Beijing, thanks for your time.


SHORTEN: Thanks.