Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Brisbane - Queensland Election; Visit to the Middle East






SUBJECT/S: Queensland Election; Visit to the Middle East; Tony Abbott hiding from Queensland; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the GST; Liberal infighting; Tony Abbott’s Leadership; Bali 9; Seniors Supplement; Tony Abbott’s staff.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here in the great state of Queensland. I was privileged to visit our troops in the Middle East over the last couple of days, both throughout the Middle East and in Baghdad and it is humbling to see the professionalism and skill of our soldiers, our airmen and our sailors.


But of course, I am back in Queensland where there is a fierce state election reaching its conclusion. This is my 11th day in Queensland during this State election. I recognise that this is a State election; there are many State issues at stake in this election. But I am here supporting Grace Grace to become the next member for Brisbane Central because I recognise, like all Queenslanders, and indeed like all Australians that whilst we have different levels of Government, what really interests people are the issues. The issues of jobs, the issues of health care and hospitals, the issue of schools and teachers and education and TAFE. And of course every level of government works with each other to make sure that they try and do the best they can in these very important matters of jobs, education and health care. What we have seen in the Queensland election though, are two distinctly different choices. You have Campbell Newman who won't fight with Tony Abbott, he may try and hide Tony Abbott but he won't disagree with Tony Abbott or stand up. And then you've got Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Labor team who are determined to make sure that Queensland's unemployment level goes down, not up, as it has under Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott. Who are committed to seeing more teachers, more nurses, a better deal for our sick and our ill, a better deal for our kids going to school, for people trying to pursue a trades training in TAFE.


The election is a hard election; Labor's got a steep mountain to climb. But throughout this election one of the issues and Tony Abbott not coming here doesn't hide the fact and doesn't disguise this issue, Tony Abbott and indeed the Liberal policies nationally are relevant to the choices people make in Queensland. Because if you care about jobs, if you care about healthcare and if you care about education and you are alarmed at the terrible decisions the Liberal Government are making nationally, then you need to have a champion in your corner at the state level. Queensland has always had a tradition of having strong premiers who stand up for Queensland, but when it comes to that basic test of leadership, Tony Abbott has failed it; he won't turn up to Queensland. But him not being here doesn't change the fact that he once called Campbell Newman his inspiration. He was at Newman’s last election launch, Newman was at Abbott's last launch, but now they are keeping a million miles away from each other; they failed the test of leadership. Whereas I am here to help Annastacia Palaszczuk and Annastacia Palaszczuk will stand up for Queensland.


It is great to be here with Grace Grace. Jobs, health care and education are issues which affect every person and every family and that is why people should vote Labor this Saturday in Queensland. I might ask my friend and colleague Grace Grace to say a few words about the issues.


GRACE GRACE, QUEENSLAND LABOR’S CANDIDATE FOR BRISBANE CENTRAL: Thank you, Bill, it's always great to have Bill in the electorate of Brisbane Central and we are fighting for the next couple of days to make sure that we bring Brisbane Central back into Labor's hands. As Bill has said, this election is all about the issues and what Labor has made clear during this campaign is that we will not sell your assets, we will create jobs, we will restore the front-line services that have been devastated by this Government. We will have more nurses, more teachers and we will deliver quality patient care, for the first time legislating patient to nurse ratios. We will save the Barrier Reef, we have a comprehensive plan to do. That it is one of our jewels in the crown of Queensland, we would be crazy not to ensure that we maintain the Reef in the pristine condition that people from all over the world come to enjoy. We will do that on behalf of all Queenslanders and we will govern for all of Queenslanders. We are not just going to govern only if you vote for us. We are a Government that can deliver, we have a plan and we look forward for the people of Queensland to have their say on Saturday, and that we come through very strongly and make sure that we represent everyone in this State. Thank you.


SHORTEN: Thanks, are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you were just mentioning just before that you haven’t heard the LNP speaking about GST, but this morning Annastacia Palaszczuk when she was asked what the GST rate was she said she didn’t know. Are you embarrassed by her comments?


SHORTEN: In a campaign it's always possible to make slip-ups. I think the issue though with the GST which deserves the attention is the question that the Abbott Liberals in Canberra set out in early January an orchestrated campaign to open the question of putting a tax on fresh food, a GST on fresh food and other items which are not currently taxed. The people who have got the hard answers to the questions on GST, the ones which they need to answer, is of course the Abbott Liberals in Canberra. Why don't they just rule out a GST on fresh food and other items not currently attracting GST? Tony Abbott wouldn't know what is happening to ordinary Queenslanders because he won't go into the shopping centres. The only time you ever see the current Federal Government is in controlled opportunities where there is no chance of ever running in or brushing up against real people. Real people, Queenslanders, do not want a GST extended to items not currently attracting it and I wish that the LNP in Queensland would stand up against a GST from their colleagues in Canberra.


JOURNALIST: Should Peta Credlin resign, and how much, sort of responsibility should ministerial staffers bear in these sorts of situations?


SHORTEN: Peta Credlin is not the issue. Peta Credlin is not the person who should be carrying the blame for the mistakes of the Abbott Government. The buck stops with the elected representatives. This is not some episode of 'The West Wing' where you attribute everything to the staffers. This is a question of accountability. Tony Abbott's mistakes are Tony Abbott's mistakes and furthermore Peta Credlin shouldn't be the one held responsible for the attack on the minimum wage which the Liberal Government want to do. I don't blame an individual staffer for floating the idea of having a GST on items not currently attracting GST. It is the Abbott Government and all the front benchers of that Government who I hold responsible for Medicare changes, the new taxes they want to put on sick people going to see a doctor. I don't blame staffers in the Liberal Government for making it hard for young people to go to university from any background, I blame the Ministers in the Abbott Government. The Ministers in the Abbott Government and Tony Abbott should stop hiding behind their staff and be accountable. The real problem with this Government isn’t even some of the personalities; it is their own policies and their view of the world.


JOURNALIST: Should the PM stand down then, should the PM stand down if Peta Credlin shouldn’t?


SHORTEN: Well what the Prime Minister does is a matter for him and his team. Clearly though one of the reasons that Tony Abbott hasn't been able to get up to Queensland to talk to real people is he has been busy on the phone shoring up his own support. One of the reasons other Federal Ministers haven’t been up to Queensland is they've been on the phone trying to get support away from Tony Abbott. A party which cannot govern itself cannot govern Australia. I think even the most conservative commentators recognises that at the moment in Canberra we have a Liberal Government who can't govern themselves and in the meantime we are not getting the Government in Australia that Australians deserve.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you mentioned vested interests before, have you ever consulted Rupert Murdoch about your Chief of Staff, about your communications team or strategy?


SHORTEN: No I haven't. And again –


JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s extraordinary that Tony Abbott’s doing that?


SHORTEN: Well, I think that what we see is that Tony Abbott and his Government have got a very narrow and extreme view of Australia. Their problem isn’t their spin, it isn't the identities of their Chief of Communications or their Chief of Staff. The problem is that we've got a Government who is out of touch with Australia. I honestly believe that Tony Abbott's world view is outside in many cases, the mainstream of Australian thinking. Creating knighthoods in the first place was a mistake, giving one to Prince Phillip was ill-conceived. And announcing it on Australia Day when in fact there's literally hundreds of Australians who never sought knighthoods or honours, but receive recognition as is their due because of their remarkable service, I am frustrated that they got over shadowed and we have spent the last four days discussing the wisdom of whether or not a British Royal should get another gong. And I think going back to the basis of your question, this is a Government who is out of touch. They broke promises before the election, now they're in government, they shouldn't be, to improve Australia, cutting pensions. The case for making it harder, it is not reform to increase the price of going to university and decrease the number of kids who will get the opportunity to go to university. The idea that there's a Medicare crisis, therefore you get rid of bulk-billing and you tax sick people at the door of the GP surgery is terrible policy. This is not about the personalities. This is a Government whose world view is not good for Australia.


JOURNALIST: Just back to the GST issue – it has to be pretty embarrassing given it’s the day Anastasia Palaszczuk is releasing her economic plan, that she didn’t know the GST rate, I mean it hasn’t changed in ten years?


SHORTEN: I think I have answered that question. But I will again say what is embarrassing is that the Prime Minister of Australia is more likely to visit Greenland than Queensland. What's embarrassing is that Campbell Newman who used to be his best friend has been replaced by Prince Phillip. But what is even more embarrassing is we know they have a plan for the GST. But they're not honest enough to tell Queensland voters before the State election what it is.


JOURNALIST: And how can Queensland voters trust the economic competence of Miss Palaszczuk if she can’t name the rate of the GST? It’s a fairly significant slip-up.


SHORTEN: Ladies and gentlemen of the media, let me just say this about what's important; unemployment is important, the fact that there are more Queenslanders now unemployed than there were when Tony Abbott got elected or indeed or when Campbell Newman got elected – that’s important to me. The numbers which count to me and to Labor and what we believe in is getting people jobs. Some people see knighthoods as a monument. I see a monument as a young person getting a training or getting a job. I see as what's important, the numbers which count, is that small business in the high street of the regions of Queensland have got customers with confidence not worried about having their pensions cut. These are the things that matter and I know that when it comes to standing up for Queensland against a divided dysfunctional chaotic Abbott Government, my money is on Annastacia Palaszczuk.


JOURNALIST: Just a comment for the Bali Nine. What can you say today, is there anything that you are able to do?


SHORTEN: We've been in constant communication with the Government. First of all, like many Australian, regardless of the events which have led to these young men to be in jail, and they have done the wrong thing. For many Australians I think most Australians are absolutely committed to seeing them have clemency displayed to them. The death penalty and Labor believes this with every fibre of its being; the death penalty solves nothing. And wherever it occurs, whenever it occurs in whatever circumstances demeans us all as humans. So Labor will support the Government completely on their efforts and they're doing the best job they can.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned a change of leadership could turn things around for the Government federally for the Government?


SHORTEN: No, my concern is that it’s not the person they put in the leadership which matters, it's their policies. When you make it harder for children to go to university if they don’t come from a rich background, that’s a problem. Where you’ve got pensioners worrying about how they’re going to through their cycle of their pension payment to the next pension because the Abbott Government is cutting the rate of indexation of pensions, that’s what worries me. What worries me is the Defence Force's pay is not even keeping pace with inflation. What worries me is that you have a Government in charge of a health care system who want to discourage sick people from going to see a doctor, which will only multiply the cost of the health system as invariably people end up in emergency wards. And what worries me is we have a government who are more busy fighting for their own jobs than they are fighting for the jobs of ordinary Australians.


JOURNALIST: You mentioned you’ve been here a lot, 11 days I think you said, is that because you’re concerned about Annastacia’s ability to, you know, lead the party to win or Saturday or do you just like Queensland summers a lot?


SHORTEN: I tell you what, I like Queensland, my wife’s a Queenslander. But for me turning up in this election, no-one could predict at the start of this election whose going to win or lose and no-one can now I think. Everyone I think reasonably recognises that Labor has a steep mountain to climb but I’m here regardless because I believe the true leaders turn up when the result is not certain, when the arguments still have to be made, when there are people still to be convinced. True leaders turn up when they actually want to have the fight and have the arguments and stand up. The other type of leader, well they just don't show up at all, do they?


JOURNALIST: [inaudible] you say the GST has been a major issue and are you concerned that some of the voters who don’t want to see the GST rise might be concerned that Annastacia’s not right across the subject?


SHORTEN: Annastacia Palaszczuk doesn't want to see a GST go on to items which aren’t currently taxed. The Liberal Government in Canberra, they’ve got a plan to increase the GST on these items. If you’re concerned about the GST then you’d vote Labor at this election because we’ve seen Campbell Newman time after time fail the test of Premiers and not stand up for Queensland against cuts to hospitals, cuts to schools and the other extreme decisions of the Federal Government.


JOURNALIST: A question for Grace, given that Bill Shorten says that the unemployment rate is what matters or employment is what matters to voters, are you able to name the national employment rate?


GRACE: The national employment rate at the moment is less than the Queensland rate and I think it’s just around the mid 6 per cent. The Queensland rate was 6.9 per cent it's gone down to 6.6 per cent. And I think we are the leaders when it comes to unemployment. This is a Government that [inaudible] promised 4 per cent and we now have national unemployment rates which are leading all of the country.


JOURNALIST: I think that was a quiz test.


GRACE: Was it?


JOURNALIST: Do you know the rate of the GST?


GRACE: Yes I do.


SHORTEN: And I think, I’ll take the last question but I’ll just say in light of Grace’s answer, I think the logical thing to do there is call bingo, she got the number. Are there any other questions?


JOURNALIST: ACOSS has suggested scrapping the senior’s supplement what’s your view?


SHORTEN: Sorry, I missed that.


JOURNALIST: Sorry, ACOSS has suggested scrapping the Seniors Supplement, what’s your view on that? What’s Labor’s view?


SHORTEN: Well we’ve got a challenge as Australia grows older, although I don’t accept the argument that Joe Hockey advanced during this campaign memorably that the reason to justify cuts to the pension now that a baby born somewhere in the world will live to be 150. But we are growing older which means that what we have to do is to have policies in place which support older Australians and here’s three which Labor are working on. One is you’ve got to have adequate superannuation. You all know that as you approach your longer years in working life it’s important that you accumulate some savings for your retirement. The Abbott Liberal Government’s policy supported by all of their front bench to freeze superannuation at nine and a half per cent is a disastrous decision for older Australians. A second leg of the trifecta in terms of aging which the Abbott Government won’t do which Labor clearly has a view –


JOURNALIST: Sorry, just on the Seniors Supplement though -


SHORTEN: I’m coming to that but you can’t talk about the Seniors Supplement without looking at the whole challenge of an aging Australia. The second thing is the Abbott Government is cutting the pension indexation rate. Now on the one hand you’ve got Joe Hockey sort of opining about growing old on the other hand they’re cutting the pension, on the other hand they’re freezing superannuation. I think another challenge though in terms of people having a dignified retirement and financial security is tackling the scourge of discrimination against older Australians in the work place. So when it comes to the senior’s supplement we’ll take a look at that based on the context of having a whole policy on aged care in this country, but we’ll obviously look very carefully at what ACOSS says. Unlike the LNP and Campbell Newman in Queensland we don’t mind people having views and even different views to our own and we’ll talk to people. Thanks very much and I’ll keep talking to people throughout Queensland today.