SATURDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Terror Attacks in Mali; Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Labor’s positive plan for Queensland; Government division; Foreign Investment; ASEAN summit; 3 Australians arrested in Boliva; Syrian refugees; Family Law.
LAURA FRASER HARDY: My name is Laura Fraser Hardy. I am the Labor candidate here in Bonner and I am really proud this morning to introduce Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank Laura. Good morning everyone, it's great to be in the electorate of Bonner with Labor's candidate, Laura Fraser Hardy. We will be talking about important issues to do with the GST and Labor's good plans for Queensland. But before I turn to that, I would just like on behalf of Labor, to express our sympathy and support for the people of Mali. Overnight we've heard that terrorists took 170 people hostage. Many of these people have now been rescued in the capital of Mali, in Bamako. Unfortunately it appears that at least 27 people have lost their lives to these terrorists. Even though this is in the middle of Africa, following a week after the atrocities in Paris, following upon the Russian aeroplane over Sinai, the murder of innocent Lebanese in Beirut - it just reminds Australians that terrorism can occur anywhere. What it also shows is that we are a very lucky country and we've got very good security agencies. I am very confident that our security agencies are doing absolutely everything they can and that Australians should be confident in their skill and professionalism.
I am pleased that my opposite number, Malcolm Turnbull will be going to the ASEAN conference and talking hopefully about regional security. If Australia and our neighbours to the north can do everything we can to stop the flow of foreign fighters to these killing fields in the Middle East and the terrible lessons they are learning about terrorism, then that helps make Australia safer.
Returning though to domestic issues, I've just had the opportunity to be in the Wynnum shops talking to residences, talking to small business. There is no support for Mr Turnbull's plan to introduce a GST, to increase the GST, which will increase the price of absolutely everything. Families, pensioners; they are battling to make ends meet now. Paying the bills that come in and the idea that the price of everything is going to go up has no support in the Australian community, certainly not in the Queensland shops that I've just been visiting. What it means is that every time you go to the supermarket and stand in the check-out queue, the price of everything is going up by 15 per cent. What it means is that when you take your kids to the doctor, the price of going to the doctor is going to go up 15 per cent. What it means is that when you buy the kids' schools uniforms, the books, it all goes up by 15 per cent. It means that when you perhaps hoping to enter the housing market or to buy a unit - something modest to start off with to get your foot on the sticky-paper of home ownership - then you've got this issue of the GST and the Liberal price increases. There's no good case for increasing the price on absolutely everything. Small business are particularly concerned. We know that since the mining boom has eased off, the economy's been very patchy. We know that confidence is down. What we also know, and small business people are very clear with me when they say this, is they say that a GST, putting 15 per cent on items which don't currently carry any GST, is going to kill demand. It's hard enough for shops to make a profit these days with the internet changing business models, but for small business to see the customers lose confidence, they'll close their wallets. Small business will have to lay off their part-time workers.
Labor will oppose the GST with every ounce of fight that we have in us. We've successfully seen off the Liberal plans for a GP tax. We've successfully defeated the attacks by the Liberals on cutting the pension, on $100,000 degrees so far. Labor will win this fight on the GST, because Australians don't want to pay 15 per cent on absolutely everything.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Talking of winning fights; given the latest Galaxy polls results, are you confident you can win the fight in Queensland?
SHORTEN: Absolutely. And one of the reasons why I am confident is because we've got Laura Fraser Hardy running in the seat of Bonner. She is a remarkable advocate. She has been a very successful lawyer, she's run for this seat before. She knows the issues. If you vote for Labor and Laura Fraser Hardy, you won't get a 15 per cent increase in the GST. If you vote for Ross Vasta and Malcolm Turnbull, everything is going to go up by 15 per cent. We will win this fight because we are on the side of right, we're on the side of making sure people don't have to pay 15 per cent more on absolutely everything.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe you can claim 10 seats in Queensland?
SHORTEN: I don't think you can claim a particular seat, because that would be arrogant to do that. What I do believe is if Labor talks about the issues that matter to people - jobs, a healthier Australia, a better health system, we talk about a better education, properly funding our schools. If we talk about stopping these $100,000 degrees. If we've got our 50 per cent plan for renewable energy by 2030 making us do something on climate change, and our staunch unflinching opposition to Malcolm Turnbull's plan to increase the price of everything by 15 per cent, we're very competitive, not just in Queensland, but right across this marvellous country of Australia.
JOURNALIST: We saw Labor to return to Bonner, or Bonner return to Labor under the popularity of Kevin Rudd. Given your current popularity in the polls, will you be consulting Kevin Rudd perhaps on a strategy forward here in Queensland?
SHORTEN: We talk to lots of people and what I'm doing today, talking about consultation, is we're pursuing a Townhall strategy. We're not going to do politics through the tired old mechanism of just grabs and canned press releases. I'm a person from the people of Australia. I understand how people earn their living. That's why I'm a staunch defender of penalty rates for instance. That's why I'm a staunch guardian against increasing everything by 15 per cent. We're talking to people today. We've telephoned into the electorate. We've letterboxed. I'm here to take questions and just like your questions, we haven't planned any questions. If political parties and politicians want to claim the trust of people, you've got to go out and talk to them. That's why I'm here on a Saturday at Wynnum because I understand that Australia doesn't all reside in Canberra. It's in the people who go to work every day, it's in the pensioners who've worked hard their whole adult life and don't want to see a GST. It's people who want to send their kids to university not based upon how much money they have but how their kids perform at school. It's about having a proper Medicare system where it's your Medicare card and not your credit card which determines the quality of your health.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Andrew Robb's comments about the blocking of the S Kidman and Co was a political decision?
SHORTEN: Well there is division and dysfunction at the heart of the Liberal Party. I think Malcolm Turnbull promised that when he got rid of Tony Abbott that the division would stop, but it clearly hasn't. You've got the Treasurer of Australia saying one thing about foreign investment and you've got the Trade Minister saying something different, contradicting and indeed attacking the Treasurer. This is a very unhealthy message to send foreign investors. What it says is there's division, and let's face it, the division isn't just between Andrew Robb and Scott Morrison. We see Malcolm Turnbull at odds over the port of Darwin sale and what are the security implications. You've got Tony Abbott providing advice which Malcolm Turnbull doesn't like about national security. There is more division here than Australians want to see in their government.
JOURNALIST: On the topic of National Security though, do you support the Prime Minister's negotiations with other leaders regarding counter-terrorism in South East Asia and how we need to build a new international effort?
SHORTEN: The Australian people expect their politicians to be united on national security and we are. Just as I had a very good working relationship with Tony Abbott on national security, I have an equally positive understanding with Malcolm Turnbull. I promise the Australian people that if it's Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, or indeed Labor, that the first priority is our national security and the interests of the Australian people. When it comes to Mr Turnbull's talks with ASEAN, as I briefly said in my opening, we think it is appropriate for Australian foreign policy and security policy, and the best interests of the security of Australians both at home and abroad, that we're talking to our near neighbours about maintaining regional security. We need to stop the flow of foreign fighters to these killing fields in the Middle East, where people learn the worst sort of lessons and then they would seek to come back and practice harm in Australia or in near neighbours to the north.
JOURNALIST: Just back on S Kidman and Co, Did the Government push through the lease in Darwin or the port, and then they blocked the sale of S Kidman and Co - does that seem a bit hypocritical?
SHORTEN: The Government is behaving in a hypocritical fashion. They're saying that they couldn't agree with the land sale because farmland coincided with the Woomera defence facilities. But I don't know what Malcolm Turnbull thinks happens in the port of Darwin, but there's defence facilities there, too. What I also think is hypocritical about this Government is that they've been in a rush to not sell this land, but when it came to bringing in workers on 457 visas and other temporary guest worker visas, not just from China, but from all over the place, this Government has opened the floodgates in terms of allowing people with temporary work-rights into Australia. This Government is having a big argument in itself, between each other about the farmland, but when it comes to Aussie jobs they're all on the same page. They're just not fighting for them at all - that's hypocritical.
JOURNALIST: Given how reliant Australia is on agriculture, do you think this could potentially scare off investors?
SHORTEN: Oh, there's no doubt in my mind that the Government's sending mixed messages. They've humiliated the potential purchasers and investors. The Government does have a right to make decisions in the national interest, I certainly agree with that, but what sort of message are we sending foreign investors when they just open the newspaper and find out what's happening? Then you've got the Trade Minister contradicting the Treasurer. This is not healthy for the Liberal Government where you've got the Trade Minister going down one path and you've got the Treasurer going in the opposite direction. Then you've got the Nationals, who knows where they are? They want to be at this party too and they want to be at the bun fight. When you've got the Trade Minister Andrew Robb clearly sniping at the Treasurer Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull has a problem with Liberal unity.
JOURNALIST: What decision would Labor have made? Wayne Swan in 2009, he knocked back a sale that involved part of that Woomera protected area?
SHORTEN: I tell you what Labor has learnt from the past; not to be disunited. What we also know is that you've got to be clear and consistent in your policies. We don't have all the facts in front of us that the Government's had. But remember when Tony Abbott got elected he said the adults were back in charge? Then two years later the Liberals carted him out, because they didn't think he was sufficiently good. And now you've got within eight weeks of Malcolm Turnbull taking over, you've got a clear disagreement. You've got Andrew Robb saying it's a political decision, the implication is that he's saying it's not an economically sensible decision. You've got Scott Morrison with his training wheels on as Treasurer, citing national defence and you've got the port of Darwin where you've got State Liberal Governments selling assets in a fire sale, getting rid of Government assets, not talking properly to the Federal Government. I do think that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Government need to have a clear policy. And also for that reason you said earlier - foreign investment is a part of Australia. We need capital from overseas. This is a very chaotic set of messages coming from the Government and it isn't good enough. At the same time, they're engaging in chaos over who can buy what, when and where and who said what and bagging each other. We've got the GST, where the Liberals are having this 'conversation' about the benefits of putting everything up, the price of everything up by 15per cent. This is a government which doesn't have a clear plan I believe on jobs. They certainly haven't reversed any of Tony Abbott's cuts in terms of health care, or higher education. They've said nothing about properly funding our schools, but in the meantime they're arguing with each other.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you make of the Australians in Bolivia who tried to board a flight with explosives?
SHORTEN: We need to get all the facts. We don't know what's happened there. I hope that they are receiving consular support. Young people travel overseas, we don't know the facts and I don't want to leap to judgment, but I do hope for their family's sake that if you're caught up in the legal system of another country in South America, my starting point is not to judge, but make sure people are getting consular assistance.
JOURNALIST: In regard to the East Asia Summit, what outcomes would you like to see?
SHORTEN: There's a range of issues. We'd like to see better trade. We want to see greater engagement between Australia and East Asia and South East Asia. Of course, regional security has to be top of the list. When Australia works closely with our near neighbours everyone is safer and everyone benefits.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that religious minorities should be given priority for the 12,000 Syrian refugees we're going to take in?
SHORTEN: I think in terms of refugees, we've got to give priority to people most in danger. Clearly that could involve religious minorities including Christians. But it's an important principle that Australia has run by for a long time, that we don't discriminate on the basis of religion and we shouldn't discriminate on the basis of religion. But it is appropriate that refugees most likely in fear of persecution should be at the top of our list for Australian charity and that may well include a sizable proportion of Christian refugees.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's a Brisbane mother, Sally Faulkner, she has lodged an appeal to Julie Bishop to have her two children that were abducted by their father and taken to Lebanon returned in time for Christmas. (inaudible) gathered 10,000 signatures. Should the Foreign Minister be doing more to support this woman's plight to have her kids returned to her and what do you think about the criminalisation of the abduction of children?
SHORTEN: There's plenty in your question. Family law and the difficulties which occur when parents split and there's children involved, are never easy. In terms, though of one parent taking children overseas, I can't imagine of a more distressing set of circumstances for the remaining parent who's in Australia. I can't judge all of the facts. There's always I have to say, two sides to every story if not more, but I believe that the Australian Government needs to address this question of one parent taking children and the other parent just with no chance of seeing their kids. As a default position, I think we need to have as much certainty and line of sight about the welfare of the children and the rights not of one parent alone, but of both parents.
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