Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Alice Springs - 30th anniversary of Uluru handover to Indigenous Australians; Constitutional Recognition





SUBJECT/S: 30th anniversary of Uluru handover to Indigenous Australians; Constitutional Recognition; Marriage equality vote; Iraq; Malcolm Turnbull's cuts to family payments; Multinationals fair share of tax; Climate change; Industrial relations 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon, it's fantastic to be in Alice Springs today on my way to Uluru to talk to about the 30th anniversary of the handing over of Uluru to Indigenous Australians. It's a 30 year anniversary and in that time I think we can all agree that it’s been a remarkable success. Now of course at the 30 year anniversary it's important that we move on to the next stage and hopefully that means that all of the local owners being able to get and benefit for the economic activity of the internationally renowned and much loved sight of Australia's heritage. And nationally it's important that before too long if we were to meet again we actually have constitutional recognition available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on the nation’s birth certificate. Now is the time to make sure that our actions match up with our words, to make sure that Indigenous Australians get the benefit of jobs, benefit of their cultural heritage in an economic sense, that communities have economic development and jobs. Also that we make sure that nationally we're committed to recognition of our first Australians in the constitution. And that constitutional recognition is backed up by real policies which help provide housing, education, health care and jobs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Happy to take any questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Tim Lester from Seven, how might Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull use the 30th anniversary to progress that constitutional recognition?


SHORTEN: Labor is prepared to work with Malcolm Turnbull to progress constitutional recognition as soon as possible. We just need to get agreement on what the question is. That is, what are the changes we want to make to the constitution? I want to make it very clear to those in the Liberal Party and the extreme right of Australian politics it's now many, many years since the constitution was formed it is long overdue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to be included in our constitution. Australia and Australians are lucky to be in the inheritors of a 40 000 years plus tradition of the oldest continuing link between people and their land and we should recognise that in our constitution.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, It's Shalailah here from the Guardian. Just following on from Tim's question, do you think that we'll be on track for a 2017 referendum date as has been proposed by both yourself and former Prime Minister Tong Abbott?


SHORTEN:  I think this is a matter of great importance. I see no reason why the matter should be delayed. Everyone knows the issues. We've just got agreement on what the question is. Referendums in this country succeed when both political parties support the change. Labor is prepared to support change. We want to make sure the change is not just symbolic. We don't need more flowery poetry in our constitution; we just need to be straight. Our constitution is a document which our children in Australia and visitors coming to Australia can read and understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are part of the nation’s birth certificate.


JOURNALIST: This morning we heard the suggestion Mr Shorten that the Government might tackle another reform that is same sex marriage. Might tackle the national vote, it's talking about in the first 100 days of a new Turnbull Government. What's your response to the suggestion that timeline might be in play?


SHORTEN:  Labor believes that that quickest way to have marriage equality is just to have the parliament vote on it. We are not convinced that it is necessary to spend $160 million of taxpayer money, some of the fund which will go towards, in my opinion, are hate campaigns against gay and lesbian Australians. We all know the reason why Malcolm Turnbull's having the plebiscite because has originally said he didn't see it as necessary. The only reason he's having it is because there was a deal done within the Liberal Party to keep Tony Abbott supporters happy. So, now we're trying to busily retrofit having a plebiscite and we're coming up with all sorts of complicated justifications for that, when we just know it was a deal to keep the extreme right of the Liberal Party happy. Labor's concern with a plebiscite is not about giving people a say. Our concern is very straight forward. One, why do we need to spend $160 million dollars to do what members of parliament are already paid to do and two, as part of the plebiscite Labor does not want to see taxpayer funds going towards funding nasty and negative ‘no’ campaigns against marriage equality. These are the plain issues and we're all contorting ourselves like a pretzel just so we can make sure that Tony Abbott's group are appeased by a promise Malcolm Turnbull made to them. In politics we don't have to over complicate things. The quickest and most direct way is most often the best way. We should have a vote in parliament, a conscious vote in parliament and that would be the quickest way to do it.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten many are reading the operation in which US commandos have participated with the Kurds and released 69 prisoners in Northern Iraq as a sign that the US has decided that it has to get more active, even aggressive in its approach in Northern Iraq and over Syria. Would that be a good thing, do you read it that way and would it be a good thing is America was it was to get a little more on the front foot in its fight in the Middle East?


SHORTEN: Labor's really pleased that there have been successful operations to free hostages of the dreadful terrorist group ISIL. We're very pleased the Iraqi military forces are about to do more to defeat ISIL and obviously we are pleased that the Kurds are able to defend their own area and be able to maintain their own and be able to maintain security for their people. Labor's policy for support for the intervention in Iraq is based upon it being effective, is based upon it being at the invitation of the Iraqi government. I believe Australia has been quite aggressive in terms of making sure that our air force are conducting their work professionally and I believe that what Australia is doing is very good and obviously we're pleased at the news that the American's and Kurds have secured a win over this dreadful terrorist organisation.


JOURNALIST: Do you think there should be more raids of that type Mr Shorten if the circumstances come up, perhaps that Australian commanders might participate?


SHORTEN: Well first of all Australia's got a pretty good plan of intervention. I'm not going to start second guessing our military experts from Alice Springs. I'm pleased where ISIL gets defeated. Australia is making a significant contribution. I don't see that case has been made to change that level of contribution.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten we saw this morning news that the Treasurer is willing to sort of bend or offering an olive branch to Labor to potential get the entire package of family benefits through with protections of the grandparents. Are you satisfied with these protections and given that they effect such a small number of people do you think it's really going to change your opposition to the overall family tax system?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott may be gone but what we now see is Malcolm Turnbull's cuts to family payments. We've done some of the analysis on the proposed changes. Over a million families stand to lose hundreds of dollars. Money which they really need to make sure they can pay the bills, raise their children, make ends meet. That the Government have dropped some of its more absurd propositions - such as punishing single parents or making grandparent carers go back to work automatically - we don't give the Government a medal for dropping stupid ideas. We are just surprised they raised them to begin with. The Government needs to make the case better than it has. Again, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison soft on banks tough on families.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten another area I would like to ask a question about is Labor's attacks on Malcolm Turnbull regarding money he has in the Cayman Islands. We heard this morning from Jason Clare that's done and dusted that line argument, that Labor's satisfied with what the Prime Minister said in Parliament. Looking back on it do you concede that this line of questioning was ill-considered and has potentially has even backfired?


SHORTEN: The Liberal Party of Australia led by Malcolm Turnbull need to explain why they are not requiring multinationals to pay their fair share of taxation in Australia. Yesterday in Adelaide I said that our tax system is like a leaky bucket. That the people who are able to avoid paying tax or have income which is tax privileged tend to be the people of the highest income tax bracket. I am not satisfied that we have a fair taxation system in Australia. When I say I don't think it’s fair, it’s like this really - why is it that three per cent of tax payers who are in the top tax payer income bracket are able to avail themselves of literally millions of dollars of tax concessions and yet the rest of Australia can't avail themselves of anything and just have to pay their tax. Did you know that in 2012-13, there were 55 Australians who earned over a million dollars who were able to pay no tax at all, no tax at all. This system is an unfair system, it’s leaky. Some people are able to use the tax system and claim all the concessions and millions of Australians who go to work and work hard, well they don't get anything like the fairness in the system which the lucky few get. And we won't give up in terms on pursuing the issues of multinationals in Australia paying their fair share of taxation. Anything less than that is a slap in the face for all the Australian businesses who pay taxes in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about climate change, particularly about Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to attend to UN climate change conference, does that take the gloss of a little bit the Pacific Islands tour that you are doing Mr Shorten?


SHORTEN: Climate change is a real problem. Whether or not Malcolm Turnbull goes Paris or not is not going to stop global warming. The issue is what are the policies that you adopt which help defeat climate change. The truth of the matter is that the Australian Government is selling Australian sort with their low targets and low aspirations, their knee high ambitions for tackling climate change in Australia. I am pleased Malcolm Turnbull is going to Paris, I just wish he was taking policies other than Tony Abbott’s discredited Direct Action policy. RepuTex is an organisation who monitor and measure the effeteness of programs, government programs, they've made it clear that no large carbon polluter in Australia is going to have to pay any sort of penalty and instead what we've got under Malcolm Turnbull who has adopted Tony Abbott's climate change scepticism policies is we're going to be paying big polluters to keep omitting carbon pollution into the atmosphere. So it's not a question of what places you visit or what selfies you take when you visit places it’s a question of your actions. Unfortunately, Australia is not leading we're following many parts of the rest of the world.


JOURNALIST: Yesterday Malcolm Turnbull laid down the gantlet to you for a fight on industrial relations. What does it actually mean, what does it extend to?


SHORTEN: Malcolm Turnbull just reheated Tony Abbott's union bashing. There has always been in Australia a strand of invested interests and conservative politicians who thinks that if they can diminish and discredit trade unions that next time round they can go after the conditions of workers. When the Liberals were last in government they went directly after workers conditions and WorkChoices and that was rejected by the Australian people. Now the Liberals are being cunning they're coming through the back door by attacking trade unions  who represent workers and maintain conditions. If Malcolm Turnbull was fair dinkum about industrial relations he'd make sure that we did more to reduce the serious injury and fatality rate in Australian workplaces, he'd stop the leaky borders where we have asbestos material coming into Australia risking the health and safety of Australians workers and consumers. We'd do more about sham contracting and insecure work and Malcolm Turnbull would stop his liberal attack dogs from barking about reducing penalty rates in Australia. Thank you.