Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Brimbank - Australia Day awards; Australian Knighthood for Prince Philip







SUBJECT/S: Australia Day awards; Australian Knighthood for Prince Philip; Passing of Tom Uren; Australians travelling to Iraq and Syria; Republic debate; Royal Commission into Domestic Violence.


SHORTEN: It’s great to be here at one of the many citizenship ceremonies on Australia today. Nearly 20,000 people become Australian citizens, joining their story to the Australian story. Today here in Sunshine in Melbourne’s West, 219 new Australians received their certificates and they’re very excited. It’s a great day to remind us that this country we are Australians by birth or Australians by choice, we’re all grateful to be Australians.


Also I’ve just received the very sad news of the passing of Labor giant Tom Uren. Tom Uren was a giant of Australia, a giant of Labor. From his incredibly tough times as a prisoner of war, through to his remarkable career as a Labor representative, a leading conservationist, our thoughts are with his family, my thoughts are with my Labor colleagues who knew him really well. With Tom Uren we see a leviathan of the Labor movement passing. He comes from that generation of Australians who experienced the Second World War and built a better country afterwards. I think he will, though, be most remembered as a protector of the working class, as a champion of equality. They say that Balmain boys don’t cry, but I think all of those who love politics and progress in this country, all of those in the Labor Party, will be excused a tear today upon hearing the sad news of the passing of Tom Uren. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: You’ve been critical of the awarding of the Knighthood to Prince Philip, David Flint says he has essentially been a  volunteer for many decades , his debt had been paid and he deserves it.


SHORTEN: My beef is not with Prince Philip. He’s a distinguished member of the British royal family who has been contributing for many decades. My concern is that the Australian Government, the Abbott Government, couldn’t find an Australian to give one of these awards to. Labor doesn’t believe we should have gone back to Dames and Knights, but if we’re going to have the system, let’s give it to Australians. And I believe that this country has many volunteers and many distinguished people, so it’s a question not of Prince Philip, it’s a question of the priorities of this Government, and who they think makes a good Australian.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on Matthew Gardiner, who long have you know that he has gone overseas to fight IS?


SHORTEN: I found out yesterday afternoon concerning reports that an Australian citizen who had gone to fight against ISIL with the Kurds. I understand the deep repugnance and horror which is felt about ISIL, but Australians flocking to fight in these conflicts overseas as individual citizens will not assist anything. The Federal Police are investigating this matter and he should come home straight away and I’ll leave the rest of this matter to our Federal Police and security agencies to investigate. My thoughts though are with his family, trying to piece together what has happened here.


JOURNALIST: He has been absent for quite some time though, was there any inkling that he had disappeared?


SHORTEN: I found out yesterday about this, I think his family only found out in recent days. This is concerning, I’d like this person to come home I think for the sake of his family. Being involved in this foreign conflict no matter what the intentions won’t change or affect anything. He should come home, the Federal Police are investigating this matter, there’s nothing else I can talk about.


JOURNALIST: Yesterday you revived the Republic debate, today obviously Prince Philip has been named as Australia’s next Knight. Is this the most telling difference between the two major political parties in Australia?


SHORTEN: Well yesterday when I said this nation was ready in the 21st Century to have a mature debate about the Republic and an Australian Head of State I had no inkling that Tony Abbott was going to give a member of the British royal family our highest honour. Actually to be honest this morning when I heard it along with a lot of other people at a function we thought it was a hoax. It’s a matter of priorities isn’t it? I believe this nation shouldn’t be distracted from a debate about the Republic by this particular decision, but it probably does underline in the 21st Century, we are a modern nation, we’re proud of our identity. On Australia Day we understand we look at our history, warts and all, the triumphs and the failures, but I think we can also recognise that we don’t have to be prisoners of our past and that we are capable of debating with generations of Australians as our identity evolves, keeping what is best about our past, but also looking to the future with some ambition for being an independent and strong modern Australia.


JOURNALIST: What has changed in Australia since the unsuccessful 1999 Referendum that warrants this discussion?


SHORTEN: Well my jobs not to be a commentator about what went wrong in the 1999 Referendum but I do notice that some of the defenders of the current system have said that Australians are not interested in a debate about a republic, and whether or not we should govern Australia as Head Of State. I’m very wary of people who say that we shouldn’t have a debate about our identity. At one level we’re a very new country, 227 years since the British settled in Sydney. But we’ve got 40,000 years of history beyond that of our first Australians. This is a nation where we shouldn’t have political leaders declaring history as over and saying that we’re no longer interested in our future and our democracy. We are a young and bold nation, we should be ambitious for our future, for what we can achieve for our children and their children. Having an Australian Head of State is not an irrelevancy, and I think today’s awarding of a Knighthood to a member of the British royal family I think just shows we need to consider what sort of nation we want to present to the world in the 21st Century- forward looking, or backward looking.


JOURNALIST: If Labor wins the next election would you revoke the Dames and Knighthoods and would you try and call back Prince Philip’s Knighthood?


SHORTEN: No we wouldn’t- rewards which are given under the current laws, we wouldn’t retrospectively change them, but Labor since 1918 hasn’t supported imperial awards and honours, we said at the time that Tony Abbott wanted to reinstitute Knights and Dames that this was not a priority for the nation and we thought that it was the wrong area to out the nation’s attention to. We would in the future if Labor was to form government not support Knights and Dames.


JOURNALIST: Rosie Batty has been named Australian of the year, what role do you think that the Federal Government has in combating domestic violence?


SHORTEN: That’s a great question, thank you and l should also just say in talking about Rosie Batty’s remarkable accomplishment in the most extraordinary of circumstances, we shouldn’t let this debate about Prince Philip and his Knighthood from Tony Abbott overshadow Rosie Batty’s achievements as Australian of the Year. Roise Batty, I am sure, would rather turn the clock back and never be in the position where she had a set of circumstances which triggered her becoming Australian of the Year, but we know that can’t happen. I applaud the decision acknowledging her to be Australian of the Year. There is a great Australian silence about family violence in this country. We can’t arrest our way out the problem, expect our police to do all of that. It really comes from the whole nation addressing its question about the unfair treatment of women in particular in our society from domestic violence, from the crimes which are committed against people by people who say they love them. I believe, and I’ve said since I became leader of the Labor Party that domestic violence, family violence should be a national political priority, not in the manner of passing a particular law or a particular measure- although that’s worth considering, I think we should use the year ahead, where Rosie Batty has been made Australian of the Year, to make it a national political issue. It is unacceptable that women in Australia in many cases are less safe in their own home than they might be on the high street. Violence against women in a relationship is completely unacceptable, and Rosie Batty gives us a chance even now to think of the tens of thousands of women who have had to flee abusive relationships, who are staying in the refuges across Australia, who are piecing together their lives. We’ve got children who will be forever scarred because of family violence, we need to start working with all of the means we have to tackle the issue of family violence in Australia. And Rosie Batty’s award is not just for her, I think it’s on behalf of all of those victims of family violence which have never been able to speak up. Last question.


JOURNALIST: So should the Victorian Royal Commission into family violence be expanded into a national Commission?


SHORTEN: I think there is merit in that. Let’s see. Daniel Andrews in Victoria should be congratulated for the leadership he is showing on this, as should Ken Lay and so many activists. There’s work going on in Queensland to look at the same issue. But I certainly would be prepared to consider it that because it’s not obviously about having more inquiries but domestic violence is a national issue, our police, our refuges, our welfare people do marvellous work supporting the victims and the children, but I do think nationally this is an appropriate matter for the national Parliament to address, not just leave it to others.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten the Governor-General is in Saudi Arabia to mark the death of the King, should he have missed Australia Day to go? Or should he have gone at all?


SHORTEN: I think our Governor-General does a great job, I’m not going to get into the business of criticising our Governor-General, never have never will. But thanks everyone, it’s a great Australia Day. Cheers.