Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra - National Disability insurance scheme; Syria






SUBJECT/S: National Disability insurance scheme; Syria


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it’s great for Jenny Macklin and I to be here at LEAD employment services meeting with the people who work here, the young people who use the services here and of course, their loving families.


It was truly heart-warming to hear the stories of effort and love from the families of young people with a profound and severe disabilities and to hear that the National Disability Insurance Scheme – the idea championed by Labor. It’s the idea that people should receive packages of support so they can take control of their own lives and that they are able to be treated more as consumers and customers not as charity. And underpinning the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a safety net for people with profound and severe disabilities, is Labor's absolute commitment to ageing parents, ageing carers awake at midnight anxious for who will love and care for their adult children with profound and severe impairment when they no longer can. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is about Australia making a promise to Australians that we will love your young people and your adults as much as you do. Therefore, Labor expects Mr Abbott and his Liberals to absolutely keep their word. To make sure that for the over 400,000 Australians living with profound and severe impairment and their families, that Mr Abbott keeps at least one election promise: to make sure that this scheme is rolled out on time and properly funded.


Now I'd like to ask our spokesperson on matters to do with disability, Jenny Macklin, to talk further about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and why it's so important to the lives of literally millions of Australians.


MACKLIN: Thanks very much, Bill. It's really great to be here at LEAD today with Bill Shorten. I want to think Keryl and all of her staff for having us here today and congratulate them for the outstanding work they do, helping people with disability get and keep their jobs. It is just a wonderful anything to see people with disability coming here and getting the support they need to get the work that they want and of course, that gives them so much pride in their lives every single day.


It's also been just terrific today to speak with parents and also people with disability who have already seen here in Canberra, how the National Disability Insurance Scheme is changing lives. One young man is living independently because of the support that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is now providing to him. His two sisters, who also have a disability, are now getting the support they need to make sure that they can participate in the community, which they were just not able to do before. Another young man, working, even though he has a profound disability, with the support of a small microbusiness and the support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and an extraordinary mother, I might say. So the wonderful stories from the National Disability Insurance Scheme continue as the National Disability Insurance Scheme is rolled out here in the ACT.


We want to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme delivered for all of the people who will be eligible for this scheme right across Australia. We don't want any delays and under Mr Abbott, all we're seeing right now is delay to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We know that New South Wales and Victoria are both ready to sign the full agreements for the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The only thing that is holding it up is Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott needs to get on with signing these agreements so that people with disability in communities in New South Wales and Victoria and other parts of Australia can get the sort of support that families here in the ACT, people with disability here in the ACT are now getting and it's changing their lives. So Mr Abbott, stop delaying. Make sure we get the National Disability Insurance Scheme signed up right across Australia as fast as possible.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Jenny. Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: You talk about problems with the delay, but couldn't the NDIS be equally compromised if there is not enough money to fund it and wouldn’t those people suffer as a result if it’s too rushed?


SHORTEN: First of all, there is an argument which seeps out from elements within Mr Abbott's Liberal Government, which says that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is just too expensive, it costs too much money. This is wrong. Because what we've got to understand is that disability could affect any Australian. It could affect any Australian. You know the stories. They could well be in your own families. Where a beautiful baby, at 12 months or six months or 18 months isn't developing in the way in which you hope. Then at two and three years old the parents try and get these diagnoses and support. It's a lifetime of challenge and it's a lifetime of struggle. So this argument that somehow it's a separate basket or a separate category of cost and that if we didn't pay for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, there would be no cost - it is a fiction. It can happen in the blink of an eye, with a micronap or a microsleep, a motor car goes off and all of sudden a young man or woman are quadriplegics for life.


Disability affects everyone. So the argument is really: what is the best way to support Australians and their families with disability? You can either do it efficiently, in an empowered fashion which gives families packages of money which allows them to make choices and control their life. Believe me, a family will always make scarce taxpayer dollars go further than a bureaucracy. So I think the National Disability Insurance Scheme is not a question of: is there enough money? It's a question of: why would we have the current alternative of an inefficient system which is led by crisis? Where parents are left to just make harder and harder choices. In the end in many cases, in some cases, faced with the worst choice a parent can make, can I still even afford to care for my child? So for me, the debate about the cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is that there's already a terribly inefficient scheme which leaves those ageing parents I referred to in my opening with that midnight anxiety. Or government uses the best brains possible; working with families, working with people with impairments and saying actually, we are smart enough to do this better. All we ask of Mr Abbott is just keep your election promise. Because really, if we don't, it's still going to cost the bottom line in effort, in family toil and struggle and cost to taxpayers, there is still a bill to pay anyway.


JOURNALIST: But of course you need money to fund the packages. Where is your NDIS policy and how are you going to fund it in the forward estimates?


SHORTEN: I will ask Jenny to talk further about this.


MACKLIN: Thanks very much. First of all, the Productivity Commission inquiry that was done into the development the National Disability Insurance Scheme actually found that if we continued on the same path, the same broken path of disability care and support that we have now in the States and Territories, it would cost more in the future than the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So that's the first thing. Remember that the current system is totally broken. The experiences of individuals with disability and families is exactly as Bill Shorten has just outlined, but it would cost more than the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That's the first thing.


The second is that Labor made sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme was fully funded. Fully funded in the Budget. We announced and put through the Parliament, with the support of the then opposition, an increase in the Medicare Levy and we made other substantial savings in the Budget to make sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully funded. Because we want to say to people with disability and their families: this National Disability Insurance Scheme is here for the long haul. You can rely on it because it is fully funded. Now even the current Minister says now it is fully funded in the Budget. So let's just put this rubbish to one side. It is rubbish and it is frightening to people with disability to hear people say that there is some question about the funding. There is no question. The money is in the Budget.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Government looks set to announce a one-off intake of refugees of up to 13,000. Is this a move that you welcome?


SHORTEN: The community in recent days has, I think, really become even more focused on the tragedy in Syria and Iraq. We've seen the images of people drowned at sea. We've seen the massive queues of refugees trying to get into European countries and I think something’s changed in Australia about the debate about refugees and what our role could be as well. I have been really encouraged by the outpouring of community action and support. People across their political affiliations saying actually, there is more that this country can do. Then that's been supplemented by State Labor and Liberal Premiers and indeed, Federal Labor has on Monday said that we think you can do a one-off increase to the humanitarian intake of refugees, so on top of the 13,750 people we’re going to take, Labor said you could add another 10,000 people at least.


We've also said the Government should work it through with all of the players in our Australian community. We've also said there should be $100 million to help those neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey – who literally have millions of people camped in their countries who are refugees. So I would be really pleased if Mr Abbott and his Liberals join this community upsurge, join Labor and say yes, actually we can be more compassionate and decent in terms of the number of refugees we take. For me, it's not a matter of when Mr Abbott makes that decision, it's that he makes that decision.


So I would be really pleased if Mr Abbott hears the calls of the community, of people in his own ranks, of Labor, and together the nation says we will do more then we're currently doing.


I would though talk about one other aspect, I think it’s important that Mr Abbott rein in some of his rouge MPs on the far right who have been saying that somehow taking more refugees in this global tragedy will cost Australian jobs. We just need to stamp out that sort of ridiculous rubbish and call it for what it is.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think, though, that Tony Abbott has failed a leadership test? His language has slowly changed over days when he’s noticed that public support was growing for us to take more refugees but he didn't lead that way, he followed it. Do you think that's disappointing from the Prime Minister?


SHORTEN: For me, the issue of taking more refugees isn't when you worked it out ­– acknowledging the points you’re saying – it's that we get to the right answer. I think people want to see a different political debate in our nation and I'm not the same Opposition Leader that Mr Abbott was. I say to Mr Abbott if you take more refugees above and beyond what was already scheduled to be taken, if you take 10,000 or 13,000, if you give them the chance to have safety in this country, then you're doing what Australia should do and I'm happy if you do that.


JOURNALIST: The report says that it would be a one-off intake. Is that appropriate given we don't know how long the Syrian conflict will last and we're about to in all likelihood to go and join the US coalition there?


SHORTEN: Well I think that any proposition which takes 10,000 or 13,000 refugees, we have to recognise as you say, this conflict will go on for some period of time. So I'm not sure that simply saying it's just a short-term temporary measure and that everyone will just be sent home, I'm not sure that's realistic. So I think that we need to make sure that if we're going to do the job of taking in refugees, let's do it right. Let's do it right first time. Let's do it properly. Let's not be trying to be cut corners or play any games. I think that's what leadership requires.


The nation, I believe, or the vast majority of Australians have said okay, there's 11.5 million people in Syria who’ve had to leave, that would be half the population of Australia - had to leave their homes. You see the queues all over the world. You see the suffering all over the world. Leadership requires that we act. Frankly if Mr Abbott acts today, I welcome it. I will work with him.


What I'd also say though leadership does require reining in some of those irresponsible right-wing fringe dwellers. Some of the comments I’ve seen a couple of Mr Abbott's Liberal MPs make, they're not made by internet trolls anonymously. This is elected Members of Parliament feeding the most base, the most ignorant, the most racist parts of Australian political life and Mr Abbott has to stand up and defend these refugees. It's no point in bringing refugees here if we're not going to defend them when they're here from some of the stupidity which a few of Mr Abbott's Liberal colleagues are doing.


JOURNALIST: Aside from the humanitarian response, obviously the military response is important too. It's understood Cabinet has signed off on Australia joining the air strikes in eastern Syria. Is this something Labor will go ahead and support?


SHORTEN: Mr Abbott has indicated to me that when his Cabinet has made a final decision, he will inform me and he will brief and they will brief us on their logic. I’ll reserve our judgment until my Caucus meet, until I’ve got all the facts from Mr Abbott. What I do say those is several principles which Labor's always had. One, when it comes to fighting terrorism, we're all in this together. Secondly, we do support the right of the people of Iraq to be safe and it is imperative that whatever decision Mr Abbott’s made, it's imperative that it accords with international law. Furthermore, it's important that whatever he’s decided is actually effective. That it's not just a gesture but it's effective in terms of defeating this terrorist organisation.


But let me also make very clear, I do believe that ISIL or IS or Daesh are a threat to people in Iraq, they are a threat to people in Syria, they are a genocidal organisation, they are evil, and they are also a threat to Australians, in Australia. I do not underestimate the threat that they are to Australians as well.


JOURNALIST: Do you think Australia could get itself into trouble on international law, given we don't have an invitation from Assad to launch those air strikes?


SHORTEN: Well I’ve seen some legal opinions which go in the way which you're saying but I’ve also seen other legal opinions which talk about the notion of collective self-defence and that is the proposition, as I understand it, put simply, that a nation is entitled to defend itself and where there’s incursions from across the border and there's nothing being done in that country to stop those incursions, that it is an established legal principle that you can cross that border in the immediate effort to defeat those people seeking to come into your country and cause the death and violence which they're doing.


Two more questions thanks.


JOURNALIST: On free trade, in 2000, it was reported that you told an economic forum rally that free trade is bullshit, they, the workers know there's no such thing as free trade. Is that your belief still?


SHORTEN: First of all, you're going back to a union meeting 15 years ago, I think. I believe that free trade, and I've said this at the national Labor Party conference, I've said this at forums across Australia - that free trade adds to the advantages for the Australian economy. That with the advancement of free trade and trade liberalisation, we see benefits for Australia and that's been the case, I think, throughout our economic history. It is important, of course, that we make sure that our free trade agreements genuinely deliver the promise that they should hold. So we do believe in a Chinese/Australian Free Trade Agreement Plus, CHAFTA Plus.


So we do believe that not only should we have a Free Trade Agreement, it should be plus job security for Australians, so we proposed – and we've proposed this on a number of occasions and we won't give up merely because Mr Abbott and his Liberals initially say no – we want to make sure that jobs and major construction projects the first offer goes to Australians. We want to make sure that the skills of people coming into Australia are up to Australian standards. For instance, are not limited to electricians and plumbers and we also want to make sure that there's no undercutting of Australian wages. Our position is entirely reasonable. It's entirely sensible and no amount of shouting from the Government, they should just negotiate. You know, this idea that Mr Abbott just says that it's his way and that the Parliament simply has to surrender to Mr Abbott's will - imagine what an Australia we would've had in the last two years, if every time Mr Abbott had an idea and we just said sure, no worries. This place will be going terrible.


Last question, thank you, last question.


JOURNALIST: The bombing of Syria, the things you said there, it must be effective, you know, Labor wants X, Y and Z, those aren't conditions, are they? They're just things that you would like to see. They're not things that are an impediment to Labor's support?


SHORTEN: Well I think that if there was no legal bases for the extension, if you were to say to me that this intervention would be ineffective and illegal, yes, that would be an impediment.


Thanks everyone.