Bill's Transcripts

AM with Frank Kelly - Malcolm Turnbull selling out his beliefs on climate change and marriage equality; Polls;






SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull selling out his beliefs on climate change and marriage equality; Polls; CHFTA.

FRAN KELLY: Bill Shorten joins me in the Parliament House studios, Bill Shorten welcome to RN Breakfast.


KELLY: Your job’s just got a lot harder hasn't it?

SHORTEN: Leading the Opposition is always a hard job because our challenge is to start outlining an alternative vision for the future of Australia. In terms of the events of the last few days and the change of leadership, I think a lot of Australians are still sort of bewildered at what's happened.

KELLY: I don't want to get too bogged down in the polls, there was always going to be a bounce for a change of leader that's no doubt about it, but I'm just - I want to point out one figure, the Morgan Poll, snap poll, shows that even amongst ALP supporters Malcolm Turnbull led you 50 per cent to 40 per cent. If your own supporters prefer the other guy what hope do you have?

SHORTEN: Well I think if Cory Bernadi had replaced Tony Abbott they would have got a bounce in the polls.

KELLY: And Labor voters would have preferred him?

SHORTEN: Let's be really straight here, Malcolm Turnbull got to replace Tony Abbott first before we did, but I think that actually reflects that for the last two years, despite some of the things which have been written about Labor, we've kept the pressure on Tony Abbott. There is one reason why Malcolm Turnbull got 53 of his colleagues to vote for him: it's they were worried for their own jobs and they knew that Labor was doing well.

KELLY: Your job now is to try and close this gap. You start off trying to paint Malcolm Turnbull as a sell out on climate change and on same-sex marriage. He makes the point, of course, he supported all the Government's policies, he was a member of the Cabinet, that's how Cabinet Government works, if you were leader you'd expect the same wouldn't you? I mean this is a bit of a silly line of attack isn't it?

SHORTEN: Not at all Fran, no way. Malcolm Turnbull from when he got deposed by Tony Abbott in the party room coup has tried to paint himself as a man of conviction. Remember in 2009 one of the things which brought him down against the right wing of his party was his support for effective action on climate change and market based solutions. He said he wouldn't lead a party which didn't have that approach. Now he's done a deal with the devil, the right wing of the Liberal Party, and now he's just basically signed up to Tony Abbott's direct action plan, Tony Abbott's $160 million taxpayer funded opinion poll on marriage equality. I think there's going to be quite a few questions - can Malcolm Turnbull move his right wing Liberal Party to the centre or has Malcolm Turnbull had to compromise his own views in order to achieve his personal ambition to be prime minister.

KELLY: Well I guess it all depends what happens in the months ahead. You're right he has signed on to direct action, he was critical of that before. He's also signed on to the Government's post 2020 targets of 26-28 per cent by 2030. Labor hasn't committed yet to anything higher than that, so what exactly is your beef because as Malcolm Turnbull says it's the ends not the means that count. If he can get to those targets with Direct Action - job done isn't it?

SHORTEN: Well Mr Turnbull's now supporting Mr Abbott's direct action plan and just on marriage equality before I go back to climate change, why on earth are we spending $160 million to have a taxpayer funded opinion poll when we could vote for free in Parliament and have a free vote. Mr Turnbull is making Australia go along with $160 million of taxpayer expenditure on an idea which he repudiated as recently as last month.

KELLY: Just on that and we will come back to climate change, just on that though do you think in a sense, that horse has bolted in that the population is now a bit interested in the idea of having their say on it? That there is some merit in a people's vote, in a plebiscite, that that idea has taken hold?

SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull opposed the idea of a plebiscite after his party had made the decision to have it. Now the point I'm making is he opposed that afterwards - he knows it's a waste of money. Fran you know and I know that this plebiscite idea to spend $160 million is purely a way to appease the right wing of his party. Australians can have a say on marriage equality by picking the MPs who support it or don't support it. Why on earth do we need to spend an additional $160 million?

You and I know that it's a delaying tactic of Mr Abbott and to my surprise, Malcolm Turnbull has just simply signed up to the Abbott plan on marriage equality, to the Abbott plan on direct action as we said we'd come back to climate change. You know the truth of the matter is, that Mr Turnbull knows that having market based forces sort out the issues on carbon and pricing is a far better way than giving literally hundreds of millions of dollars to polluters to keep putting out carbon emissions.

KELLY: There is more than one way to skin a cat though, and you can bring in market mechanism into the direct action plan essentially turn it into something close to a base line and credit scheme if you have the penalty regime in place to do that. If Malcolm Turnbull keeps direct action and toughens up a penalty regime for instance will you back him on that or will you block it?

SHORTEN: Well Fran there's a lot of ‘ifs’. If Malcolm Turnbull keeps with his original views -

KELLY: Well there are a lot of ‘ifs’ because he's a new Prime Minister.

SHORTEN: Well that's right and what I'm saying though is for a number of years he held himself out to be one thing and now he's in government, and now he's in charge. We've seen this deal with the National Party, now has Mr Turnbull done a deal with the Nationals to introduce an effects test which will upset his friends, Mr Turnbull's friends in big business or has he - 

Do you support the effects test?

SHORTEN: We think it will, the way it's currently structured cause more problems than its solving. Mr Turnbull, he's been part of this Cabinet for the last two years. Fran isn't the interesting question - and I see an opportunity by the way – I'm not all down or merely mouthed about Mr Abbott being deposed by his party room on Monday. I think there's a chance for politics to lift and we get on to policies not personalities. But there is an issue here isn't it, we're seeing the instability currently which minister is going to get which job in the Government, you see the unedifying spectacle of Kevin Andrews practically pleading on television to keep his role in defence. We're seeing Joe Hockey being hung out to dry, I think he's not a very good treasurer, unemployment's up, growths down, and I think we’ve wasted two years.

But the issue is, is it all Mr Hockey's fault or Mr Andrew's fault? Was Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and of course the very interesting Scott Morrison, where were they for the last two years in this Abbott Cabinet? Were they leading discussions, were they complaining about everything?

KELLY: Pot calling the kettle black isn’t it? I mean Labor went through all of this for years and around and around again the same thing.

SHORTEN: And we've learned. That's why we changed the rules for our leadership selection to get a balance between members and MPs, so what we saw on Monday night - I mean Fran isn't it staggering that on Monday at question time Tony Abbott was prime minister and on Tuesday we have Malcolm Turnbull.

KELLY: No, because that's exactly what happened in your government.

SHORTEN: That's right and we've learnt our lesson, we know that this sort of disunity is death. The motivation for the change of Mr Abbott, I'm not going to have history totally rewritten and say that Joe Hockey and Kevin Andrews and poor old Eric Abetz – I don't know if he has his job – are they solely the villains in this piece and we've got Malcolm Turnbull and his team galloping to the rescue. Are they just going to just change the personalities, the salespeople or are they going to change the substance?

For me, it is about marriage equality, it is about confidence and the creation of jobs. It's about having an economy of the future, it's having proper skills, it's not about having $100,000 degrees.

KELLY: In the interest of not just talking about personalities and getting back on to policy, can I come back to that question about direct action. If Malcolm Turnbull does move to toughen up the penalty regime within that, to give it some real teeth, will you back him or will you block him?

SHORTEN: Well I don't believe Mr Turnbull is going to do it, I think that's a complete hypothetical. I think Mr Turnbull's had to compromise his own views such as they are, to keep the right wing of his party and the Nationals happy. For me the real test about this change is not the change of the salesman, it's what is the product that they are selling. Will they turn their back on the cuts to hospitals and the cuts to schools? Will they restore funding to the ABC? Are they going to be fair dinkum of climate change and what on earth is going to happen in terms of their line up when it comes to defence and submarines?

There's a lot of big issues here, it's the substance which matters to me, but of course Fran as I say, there is an opportunity if Mr Turnbull and I and our respective parties take this opportunity to debate who has the best policy for the future of Australia at the next election, well that's where I would like to see politics go, a debate about the future.

KELLY: It's 16 to 8 on Breakfast, talking about being fair dinkum and a big policy debate, what about the China Free Trade Agreement? You've written to Malcolm Turnbull asking him to sit down to discuss the changes you say need to happen to preserve jobs. What exactly do you want him to agree to?

SHORTEN: Well I want to meet with him and talk about this. I believe that the China Free Trade Agreement is a good idea, but there is detail in the surrounding legislation not the actually treaty, I accept that cannot be changed. But I think it is important there a three things that we would like to talk to the Government about. The first is, for projects over $150 million, that there is labour market testing. What labour market testing means in essence is making sure that if there's going to be jobs on the construction of a new hotel in Sydney or Melbourne, for instance, that Australian people, Australian construction workers get first chance to work on the job. We also want to make sure and be satisfied that Australian skills and standards are maintained, and thirdly we want to make sure that there is legislation to ensure that Australian wages are not undercut. None of these are deal breakers Fran. What we saw, and hopefully this will change now that there's been a change in government - a change in -

KELLY: Leadership.

SHORTEN:  - Mr Abbott and you're right, well we don't know if there has been a change in government policy, but change in salesman, the issue here is we want to negotiate. The role of opposition and government should be to work together in the best interest of the nation. We will facilitate passage of this legislation so long as there's a fair dinkum examination of the issues not just Liberal Minister's shouting at the Labor Party.

KELLY: Well Trade Minister Andrew Robb says the comfort you give to the CFMEU campaign with this sort of talk you just had then against the FTA, makes you quote "inexplicably linked to the thugs of the CFMEU, the most reprehensible union in the country". Do you risk looking like and leaving yourself on the wrong side of history on this, looking xenophobic?

SHORTEN: Not at all, and Mr Robb lets himself down when he strings all of that together and just starts insulting Labor. There is a job for the Opposition in this country and it's to hold the Government to account. It’s to ensure that we get the best outcomes possible for the nation. Now Mr Robb should not be so defensive, I understand that CHAFTA is the baby of the Government and they're very proud of it, and we want to see it mature. But the issue is there are propositions in this agreement which have not existed in previous trade agreements, and we want to make sure that Australian jobs are safeguarded. I wouldn't be doing my job and no amount of bullying from the Government will deter me from standing up for Australian jobs. But I will do it pragmatically, moderately and effectively.

KELLY: Bill Shorten, just finally, we may as well get this on the record, it's early days of course, but if Malcolm Turnbull's ascendency over you and Labor in the polls continues, Labor's rules make it almost impossible for their party to change leaders, to dump a leader. Will you consider standing down and handing over if that happens?

SHORTEN: Fran, what matters at the next election is who's got the best policies. Labor is ready for the election, whenever Mr Turnbull calls it, and I can promise you this Fran: we will make sure this election is fought on policies for the future economy, for jobs, for education, healthcare and fairness. That's what Labor stands for.

You see the good news is I and my party are in lock step. I don't need to take my party to the centre; we want to make sure we have debate about the future. The challenge for Mr Turnbull is will he just be a change in salesman or will it be a change in substance, and if it's not a change in substance, well then I think Australia's still got a lot of challenges about its future.

KELLY: Bill Shorten thank you very much for joining us.

SHORTEN: Thank you.