CAIRNS WEST PRIMARY SCHOOL
MONDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Queensland Labor Government; FNQ unemployment; LNP cuts to school funding; LNP attack on the pension; national security; Bali Nine; Liberal chaos, confusion and division.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: It’s great to be here at Cairns West Primary School, seeing the remarkable efforts of Michael Hanson and his dedicated teachers. Cairns West Primary School has perhaps the largest Indigenous or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of primary school students anywhere in Australia.
I’m here today visiting Cairns with Jan McLucas, our Shadow Spokesperson, and of course, two new Labor MPs – Billy Gordon and Rob Pyne – who are part of a new wave of making sure that Cairns and Far North Queensland get the attention that they’ve been not receiving from the LNP Government in Brisbane. So congratulations today to Annastacia Palaszczuk and her new Cabinet, and of course that includes local boy Curtis Pitt as Treasurer.
But seeing these trusting, optimistic little children reminds us of what’s important in the political debate about the future of this country. Cairns has unacceptably high unemployment – it’s 8.2 per cent. And even worse for our young people, it’s north of 21 per cent unemployment. That’s why it’s so important that Federal Government and State Government work together to make sure that our children get the best start in life. These children expect the adults in their world to be as brave and as optimistic as they are. When you look at the LNP’s cuts in Canberra to school funding and education across Australia, including in Cairns, they are being sorely let down. We’re seeing in Queensland alone, the Federal Government cutting back $6.3 billion worth of funding, and indeed in North Queensland, it’s something like $468 million being cut in funding.
We saw here this morning the great little computers that the kids are using, the value of having extra teachers to make sure that every child gets the support they need in their learning. It’s important that these children don’t have their future short-changed by an LNP Government in Canberra who’s out of touch with how families in Cairns are organising their lives.
I might also say before I ask my colleagues to say a few words, today we’ve seen the Federal Government, the LNP Government in Canberra, seeking to give themselves a medal for doing, for compensating pensioners for the impact of lower interest rates across Australia. This LNP Government in Canberra have done little for pensioners, they’re cutting the rate of increase of pensions, and today they announce this sort of business as usual decision and try and pump themselves up as though they’re doing pensioners some giant favour, when in fact this is a decision that should’ve been made some time ago. It is important, therefore, that whilst all the attention has been on the leadership struggles within the Liberal Party in Canberra, where you see people arguing about who should be the chief salesman, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop or Tony Abbott, the truth of the matter is that there is no Liberal in Canberra willing to stand up for the schools and stand up for the pensioners.
I might just ask Jan McLucas, our Far North Queensland Senator, to say a few words and then perhaps Rob or Billy if they’d like to give their perspective on what we’re seeing.
SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS, JAN McLUCAS: Well, it’s terrific to have you back here in the North, Bill, and to be standing with two great local Members who are going to be able to represent our community in Brisbane, and hopefully to support you in our quest in the next 18 months.
But it is time to get back to work for the North. We do, as you have rightly identified, we do have issues to do with unemployment that need to be dealt with, and whilst we have unemployment at over 20 per cent for our young people, it means we have to get on with the job of reinvigorating our economy to ensure that those children get the best, those young people get the best employment opportunities that they possibly can. So welcome, Bill.
SHORTEN: Great to be here. Rob, Billy, did you want to say a few words?
QUEENSLAND LABOR MEMBER FOR CAIRNS, ROB PYNE: Look, I’m just happy to have you here today Bill, and Jan, and Billy. You know, I’m all about increasing opportunities for people in West Cairns, and opportunity is so strongly linked with education, so nowhere more appropriate than Cairns West State School to meet with you today Bill, and it’s all about standing up to the Federal LNP which wants to make education unaffordable for ordinary Australians, and I’m very proud to be here with my Federal colleagues today.
QUEENSLAND LABOR MEMBER FOR COOK, BILLY GORDON: Oh look, I reiterate that it’s great to have Bill here back in Far North Queensland, particularly on the back of, you know I guess a Labor Government, an incoming Labor Government that has put jobs and education front and centre. Education equality is something, particularly in Far North Queensland, is something that I’m passionate about, and it will be front and centre when I’m representing the great people of the great electorate of Cook in Brisbane. We can make no better investment in the future than in education, in education equality opportunities for our families and our children.
22 per cent unemployment rate in the region for young people is totally unacceptable. I look forward over the next three years working hand in hand with our federal colleagues to start, you know, addressing some of the, I think, injustices and inequities there are at the moment when it comes to education for our young people, particularly around funding cuts in Far North Queensland.
SHORTEN: Thanks Billy. Alright, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Just from Canberra, in regard to the anti-terror measures that Prime Minister announced, or, that were leaked this morning, do you support those?
SHORTEN: We heard the Prime Minister give a really big statement yesterday saying that we shouldn't go soft on terrorists. Well Labor and Australians agree with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister needs to articulate where he thinks people have been going soft on terrorists. Labor is not aware of that. Our record is that whilst I’ve been leader we've worked with the Government to improve national security.
When it comes to fighting terror, Labor and Liberal are in this together. If the Prime Minister’s got any concerns, he should take the nation through them and he should talk to the Opposition. We're certainly willing to work constructively in the best interests of our nation's security.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Australia needs tighter national security laws?
SHORTEN: We always need to be modernising and updating our laws. Clearly the latest outrages that we've seen in Denmark and Paris and of course what we saw in Martin Place mean that we should always be constantly vigilant.
We need to make sure that our laws are doing what we expect of them, that's keeping Australians safe. We've voted with the Government on their two previous sets of legislation. We’re currently as a parliament working through the latest set of propositions and we want to make sure that our security agencies have the tools they need to keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there are gaps and if so where are they?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that’s up to the security agencies to inform us, and the Prime Minister. Our record is that we've worked with the Government and we will continue to do so. But if there are gaps I think the Prime Minister needs to spell them out and I think the security agencies come forward with their views but whenever there has been a requirement of work to be done, this is not a party political issue. We’re all in this together.
JOURNALIST: How do you think the anti-terror measures could work? Do you think maybe changing the onus on benefit of the doubt?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, needs to articulate what it is they want done. I think it is important in this sort of very intense time of interest and commitment to work out what needs to be done, that Tony Abbott articulates what he actually thinks is the problem and what he actually thinks needs to be done.
He said that there is softness in the system. Well, that's alarming. And I think Tony Abbott needs to come clean about where he thinks the softness is and then what we will do is work with him to make sure Australians are safe. That's our record.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Mr Abbott's comments in regards to Indonesia and potential backlash?
SHORTEN: First of all, let me just say that the death penalty doesn't solve any problems whatsoever. I feel incredibly for these two young men and their families and what they're going through.
Let's focus on everything that we can do to help try and save these two men's lives. I'm not going to get into the blame game in the event that the executions occur. Let's just work on trying to prevent the executions and I do believe that the Government, foreign affairs department, the families, their lawyers, the Opposition, everyone in the community is doing what they can to put pressure on Indonesia not to execute these two young men.
The death penalty solves nothing. And wherever the death penalty occurs, I believe it demeans us all as human beings.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried the Prime Minister’s using national security as a measure to, I guess, secure his own job?
SHORTEN: Well clearly the whole Government has been having a fight about how to keep their jobs last week. I don't want to tarnish the national security debate with partisan point scoring. It was a terrible week in national politics last week. We saw the unedifying spectacle of people debating and shadow boxing about who would be in charge of the current Liberal National Government.
I just say to the Liberal National Government, it doesn't matter who you pick, be it Malcolm Turnbull, be it Tony Abbott, Australians want you to get back to the day job of focussing on Australians’ jobs. I’m here in Cairns, where there’s youth unemployment of nearly 22 per cent. Where unemployment is 8.2 per cent. Where you’ve got schools wondering if they'll get properly funded according to need in the future. That's what really matters.
Today we see the Federal Government, the Liberal National Government patting themselves on the back for their desperate actions in terms of pensions. We all know that pensioners have term deposits, they might be getting dividends, these are people who get part pensions. The deeming rate moves depending on what is happening with interest rates, as interest rates come down, then the deeming rate should come down.
Today the Liberal National Government, you know, they try and pretend that what is old is new and they say to us "oh, we're going to reduce the deeming rate." Well, that’s what you’re meant to do, Government, and they shouldn't be giving themselves a medal for some dodgy desperate deal, when in fact this is their day job.
I just want the Liberal National Government to get on with their day job, stop giving themselves medals and putting out congratulatory press releases about doing the basics, and in fact just get on with making sure that the kids in this school, the children throughout North Queensland have got some prospects without having to leave this area and move south to be able to ever get ahead.
JOURNALIST: Have you had discussions with the Government about further measures on national security?
SHORTEN: We’ve asked the Government for meetings from last Wednesday, clearly they were distracted last week, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But I make it very clear, we've asked the Government in light of some of the latest reporting, for meetings. They've got to make themselves available. I get that they were busy last week with all the internal fighting. You know that happens, I get that they were busy, but now is the time for them, if they want bipartisanship, to talk to us, and that has happened in the past I might add, but that's what we need to do.
What Australians want is Government doing business as usual. Not putting out press releases congratulating themselves for getting out of bed each morning. Just do your basics, and do them properly – then we can have an argument about the future, and our ideas versus their ideas.
But at the moment, this is a Government who in my opinion is just trying to score points against each other or against the Opposition and neglecting what really matters – education, pensioners – the things that really count.
JOURNALIST: Given the Government's leadership spill and Tony Abbott's attempt to reset, are we now seeing the real Tony?
SHORTEN: The real Tony Abbott unfortunately is the same as the real Julie Bishop and the real Malcolm Turnbull. They voted for an unfair Budget, they voted to cut family payments by $6,000, they’re voting for $100,000 university degrees, they’re voting to cut the effective real increases of pensions.
This Government, regardless of who they have selling us their product, doesn’t realise that it’s not the salesperson – it’s what they’re selling us. I am really concerned that we have a Government, a Liberal National Government, who are so right wing that they're out of touch with mainstream Australia with their unfair views.
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