Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Brisbane - Abbott Government NDIS deadline; Peter Greste






SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government NDIS deadline; Peter Greste; China FTA; Family tax benefit; Joe Hockey’s thought bubbles on income tax cuts; Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton’s Australian Border Farce; Queensland election; Bart Cummings.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s great to be at Queensland Labor’s first state conference since Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor winning the state election earlier this year. But there is one big issue which is motivating this conference amongst many and that is the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout in Queensland. Today I’ve added my voice to that of tens of thousands of Queenslanders and Premier Palaszczuk calling upon Mr Abbott to keep his election promise and announce the launch sites to be rolled out in Queensland. There are 96,000 Queenslanders with profound and severe disabilities at least, so for them and their families they want to see Queensland have access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Mr Abbott promised that by tomorrow, end of this month they would conclude agreements with states and territories. I call upon Mr Abbott, on behalf of tens of thousands of people with profound and severe disabilities in Queensland, no more delays, no more cuts, please just do what you promised so we can improve the lives of people with disabilities in Queensland.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on Peter Greste and the latest sentencing for three years?


SHORTEN: It is outrageous, the decision of the Egyptian court overnight. Journalism is not a crime. For journalists carrying out their work, reporting and informing, to be jailed for three years is outrageous and it’s wrong.  I totally support what Peter Greste’s been saying overnight and my thoughts are not only with him and his family but with his two journalistic colleagues in Egypt.


JOURNALIST: The China free trade agreement, are you asking the federal government to renegotiate? What exactly are you asking for?


SHORTEN: Very straight forward, we’re asking the government to make sure that Australian jobs don’t get done over in this rush to do this deal. Labor believes you can have a good trade agreement with China and we welcome that but what we also want to do is make sure that Australians get first access to jobs in Australia and we are not satisfied with the Government’s provisions to project Australian jobs. Now, we are prepared to negotiate with the government. As usual, Mr Abbott and his Liberals whenever asked to change or compromise or see someone else’s point of view stamp their foot and they yell slogans at us. I and Labor will not be deterred. We do believe in trade agreements with China, we just want them to be good deals and we want to make sure that Australians across the board get access to work.


JOURNALIST: On Peter Greste what more should the Australian Government be doing?


SHORTEN: Well, we’ll get a briefing from the Foreign Minister about this matter. I think the Australian Government and indeed all of us have been quite active in our lobbying. But I think there is a job here, not just for the government, but for the international media and governments elsewhere as well. Journalism is not a crime, you should not be put in jail in some countries for merely reporting the news and carrying out your work as a journalist.


JOURNALIST: In its current form will Labor block the free trade agreement?


SHORTEN: Well, let’s see whether the Government’s prepared to negotiate. We’re going to put up sensible amendments. Labor’s proposition here is very straight forward, we supported the Japan trade agreement, we supported the Korean trade agreement, we’re up for supporting the China trade agreement. We want so make sure that Australians are not going to lose work when they’re available to do work in infrastructure. We want to make sure that people with appropriate skills are carrying out work in Australia for consumer safety and also to make sure that people are appropriately trained. So this is not the hardest issue on the Government’s to do list but Labor is not a rubber stamp for Mr Abbott and his Liberals. We would not be doing our job in all good conscience if we simply said to Mr Abbott thanks for inviting us to parliament; we’ll do whatever you say. That’s just not the way parliament happens. We’re going to stand up for Australian jobs. I’ve been in plenty of negotiations before, this is not one where I think it’s impossible to overcome the difficulties but certainly we will be guardians of Australian jobs.


JOURNALIST: Joe Hockey’s idea for mothers to return to work, do you support using part of the family tax benefit to do that?


SHORTEN: Mr Hockey is just treating Australian women as fools. I think most Australian women wish that Mr Hockey would go back to work and start doing his job as treasurer. Let’s look at what Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott and his Liberals have done for working women in this country since they got elected two years ago; they’ve cost women who return to work childcare benefits, they’ve cut the Low Income Superannuation Contribution which will see 2 million, 2 million Australian women losing tax credits on their superannuation. This is a government whose now forced 80,000 working mums who’ve negotiated paid parental leave in their companies and their businesses to have to miss out on paid parental leave. Mr Hockey has done everything he can to make it hard for working women in this country and now he seeks to give them a lecture? I think working women in Australia have got a message for Mr Hockey, will you please go back to work and do your job as treasurer and stop giving the rest of us gratuitous lectures.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will you take a policy of income tax cuts to the next election?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, this debate’s been trigged by Mr Hockey last, was it last Monday, I forget which day of the week this chap has a thought bubble but he has a lot of them. He proposed income tax cuts and then when people in the media said ‘how are you going to pay for it?’ we got radio silence from Mr Hockey. We all know that Mr Hockey doesn’t have the confidence of his colleagues but before we start having a big debate about income tax cuts, Mr Hockey needs to explain how he will even pay for them. His only idea on taxation is to increase it. For a bloke who doesn’t want to have a GST he seems irresistibly addicted to talking about GST all the time. Mr Hockey hasn’t got a plan to reduce Australians taxes, he’s just got a plan to extend the GST to fresh food, to school fees, to health care costs and he wants to increase it. That’s not a plan for reform.


JOURNALIST: So you’re ruling that out as a policy change?


SHORTEN: Well I don’t even think that the issue’s got to first base yet, has it? When we see Mr Hockey talking about income tax bubbles you can’t just help but wonder did he read this, did he get halfway through a Reader’s Digest article on income tax cuts on an aeroplane trip somewhere and thought that sounds like something I might talk about to the national media.


JOURNALIST: Is it something you have to consider though, if you wanted to return the budget to surplus?


SHORTEN: Income tax cuts, return the budget to surplus? I think that the first step is, the Treasurer’s put the challenge of income tax cuts on the table, I think he needs to explain to Australians how he’d pay for them. I think Mr Abbott on his sojourn up in the Torres Strait said that he wanted to have ‘have a go’ income tax cuts. This is a government who’s got, if Australian’s had a gold coin for every time this government come up with a slogan we’d all be millionaires.


JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister has described your reaction to the Operation Fortitude as completely and utterly over the top. Was it and does that operation have too much power?


SHORTEN: The Foreign Minister is now commenting on Peter Dutton’s portfolio, that speaks volumes doesn’t it. The real issue here is that Operation Fortitude has become a farce. It’s not whether or not Labor’s reaction is right or wrong, who in the government dreamed up the idea of getting a sort of paramilitary sort of style immigration department people out on the streets of Melbourne underneath the famous clocks of Flinders Street to start asking people to show their papers? Labor couldn’t have dreamed up this scheme to attack the Government. If we had dreamed it up and said Tony Abbott has an idea to have his immigration department in uniforms demanding people show their papers you would have accused Labor of wild exaggeration. Yet that’s what we saw on Friday and now what we see is this Abbott Government is so cowardly when it comes to owning their own bad ideas, that now they’re going to throw some middle level, bureaucrat in a uniform under the bus and say it’s their fault. We all know that when it comes to national security and dealing with threats to that bipartisanship should be the order of the day and we’re prepared for that. But when we see these sort of press release driven stunts, you know, Australians get cynical. So if the Foreign Minister wants to criticise Labor I think she needs to look a little closer to home to where the real source of these problems are.


JOURNALIST: How important is Queensland to you becomong Prime Minster?


SHORTEN: My wife comes from Queensland so Queensland is very important to me regardless of the election. More generally, Labor needs to convince more people across Australia of the strength of our views and our vision for the future. But I think it’s important for Queensland that there’s a real contest at the next election. One in three unemployed Queenslanders are between 15 and 24. You’ve got unemployment rates up the coast in Queensland well above 14 per cent and in the case of Townsville and Cairns something like 19 and 22 per cent respectively. We cannot afford another three years of Mr Abbott and his Liberals if they’re anything like the two years that we’ve had. It’s too important for Queensland. When we see the cuts to hospitals here, when we see the cuts to schools in Queensland, when we see the economy wallowing in mediocracy this country can’t afford this right wing experimental government to give them a second term considering the mess they’ve made in the first term.


JOURNALIST: How much heart do you take out of Queensland’s state Labor’s victory in January when it comes to the next federal election?


SHORTEN: Well I think that Annastacia Palaszczuk had a strategy where despite the commentators saying that you can’t have change in one term, what she did is she captured the mood of dissatisfaction with an extreme government who broke their promises and took Queensland in the wrong direction. I think that description could be applied to Mr Abbott and what he’s done for Queensland.


JOURNALIST: The Immigration Minister is saying the nature of Operation Fortitude was the same as the activity conducted under Labor but with the support of the unions and you’re being called a hypocrite over it, what’s your response to that? Are you being hypnotical?


SHORTEN: I don’t think any of us are hyperventilating over the Government tyring to criticise Labor for a Government mistake. But on one had we just had a question earlier on Ms Bishop says we’re exaggerating, on the other hand Pete Dutton say’s it was all Labor’s idea. They’re going to need to compare notes when they want to criticise Labor. But the real problem they face is we’re not the government. We didn’t dream up this exercise, we haven’t dreamed up the press release stunts. This is a government who will blame anyone but themselves when you have these problems. We know that when there’s an announcement on border security which the government are happy with they stand right alongside it and now they’ve abandoned these poor old public servants and want to blame everyone else. So I don’t accept Mr Dutton’s characterisation in the slightest.


Thanks everyone, see you.


JOURNALIST: Do you want to say anything on Bart Cummings before you go? Very sad news overnight.


SHORTEN: Very sad news overnight, one of Australia’s legendary trainers Bart Cummings has passed away.  Previously I’ve worked in the horse racing industry. Bart Cummings was a gentleman of the track. He was highly respected. He had a string of remarkable victories. He trained some of the best horses in Australian history. There won't be another Bart Cummings and my condolences go to his family and all his friends and indeed all racegoers for whom Bart Cummings has provided such pleasure over the decades.