Bill's Speeches

Doorstop: Casino - County Labor; Divisions in the Coalition






SUBJECT/S: County Labor; Divisions in the Coalition; China’s announcement of an ETS; Regional Australia; Syria.


JOEL FITZGIBBON, SPOKESPERSON FOR COUNTRY CAUCUS: Today in Casino, 200 rank and file members of the Labor party gathered to express their support for rural and regional Australia To plead a Labor commitment to those communities in rural and regional Australia. To hold the Nats and Libs holding rural seats to account for their complacency and their misguided policies which are having such an adverse impact on rural and regional communities.


More particularly, we heard from our federal leader, Bill Shorten who outlined a plan for regional and rural Australia. A better deal for regional and rural Australia. It was an inspiring speech. Well received here and we welcome him to Casino, into the national Country Labor Forum.


Thanks Bill.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Joel. It’s great to be in Casino on the North Coast of New South Wales at the Federal Country Labor Forum.


Today, Labor has made it very clear that Labor is a party for all Australians; cities and the regions. Whilst the Liberal party take the National party for granted and the National party takes their voters for granted, Labor is getting on with the job of offering a positive alternative for all Australians. Only Labor will stand up for schools in the regions, proper hospital funding in the regions, making sure that kids from the country can get to university and of course, that regional Australia gets a proper National Broadband Network; not the more expensive but slower version that the Liberals are giving them. So when it comes to Schools and Hospitals, access to universities and the NBN, Labor has got the interest of regional Australians at heart.


And today, we’ve seen the first public appearance or reporting of the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments on the change. Tony Abbott has said that the salesman has changed, but not the policies. Labor agrees with Tony Abbott that the salesman has changed but not the policies.


And it couldn’t be any clearer than the dramatic news overnight that the world's fastest-growing economy has decided to embrace an Emissions Trading Scheme to deal with the harmful effects of carbon pollution. Now what is the case that China, the world's largest economy by people, the United States, the world's largest economy by output, and indeed Labor, have all got similar policies to deal with climate change. Yet Malcolm Turnbull's turned his back on everything he said when he was previously the leader of the Liberal Party and he is the only person practically in the world who is backing in Tony Abbott's discredited policies on carbon pollution, which Reputex, a leading agency has said, will actually not see any reduction in carbon pollution. So for regional and rural Australians, Labor's here today in force committed to making sure that there are better schools, better hospitals, access to universities not $100,000 degrees, a better NBN and of course real action on climate change.


We are happy to take any questions people might have.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, choosing the beef capital of Australia; is that part of Labor's push back into National Party heartland?


SHORTEN: Well, the National Party is showing real signs of division. Whilst youth unemployment in regional Australia is above the average, whilst unemployment in regional Australia is unacceptably high, the only job which Barnaby Joyce seems focused on is Warren Truss's job. So it is good to be here in Casino, which is one of the beef capitals of Australia, and when I'm in Rockhampton I'll also recognise that they do a lot of beef up there too.


But very importantly, Labor's here because we don't take voters for granted. We don't accept that any political party has a monopoly; that it can treat voters like their personal property and that this is National, this is Liberal or this is Labor areas. The truth of the matter is that all Australians want to see better policies on jobs, better chance for their kids to go to university or TAFE, better chance to make sure their parents get proper aged care facilities in their later years. They want to see real action on climate change. Our farmers are the best environmentalists in Australia. That's why it's very important we treat the processes to protect our environment, including the developments in the Liverpool plains and the Shenhua mine, that we treat the processes with respect and don't right roughshod over country Australia.


JOURNALIST: What chance do you have of grabbing those seats?


SHORTEN: Well Janelle Saffin is our candidate in Page. She is the former member for Page and she will hopefully be the future member for Page.  Everywhere I travel on the north coast, be it in Justin Elliott's electorate or Janelle Saffin’s area she is running for, you see what Labor's done. It is Labor that’s put the funding back into local hospitals. It’s Labor who wants to make sure country kids get the same chance in life that city kids get. It’s Labor who is committed to ensuring that we can connect our regional communities, not only with our metropolitan cities, but the world. Labor wants to have a National Broadband Network which is amongst the best in the world. Australians deserve nothing less. And people like Justin Elliott and Janelle Saffin are very committed to real action on climate change. We don't have to keep the Tony Abbott supporters of the Liberal party happy. We don't have to get involved in the internal arguments of the National party. People like Justine and Janelle, they know what's going on in their communities and they’re committed to making sure the north coast, and indeed led by Joel in terms of regional Australia, that all Australians in regional Australia get treated equally and with the same consideration that voters do in the city.


JOURNALIST: How will Labor be targeting those seats during the election campaign?


SHORTEN: Well, I'm going to get Joel to supplement this answer but what I would say is people in the country want to make sure that their schools have the same resources as schools in the city. I think it's fair enough that if you need emergency help at your hospital, that your regional hospital has facilities which will look after you in the same way which you could hope for in an emergency ward in the city. It is reasonable if you live outside the three big cities of the east coast, that you get access to comparable National Broadband Network capacities, it's really important that we have an environmental policy around renewable energy which actually go towards providing jobs in the bush. One of the things which the conservatives in the Liberal and National parties forget is that renewable energy policies create manufacturing jobs in regional Australia that they give new options for new industries in regional Australia. Labor understands how real people live their lives. We are not out of touch. We understand how people need, the importance of a good industrial safety net and minimum wages and penalty rates. We get that farmers want to be able to export overseas. We have got to deep downward pressure in terms of the costs that they face.


JOURNALIST: Speaking of candidates, have you got a candidate ready for the North Sydney by-election which will happen after Joe Hockey leaves Parliament?


SHORTEN: I wasn't aware that they'd announced that Joe Hockey was going to be given the consolation prize of our senior diplomatic representative in America. But what we do know is that I think Australians aren't happy if they just think that their MPs will hop in and out of Parliament when it suits themselves. We believe that it's important that MPs try and do their terms. So at this stage we don't know if there will be a by-election in North Sydney, but when there is, Labor will certainly weigh up what is in the best interests of the voters in North Sydney. I know one thing, if you are a voter in North Sydney or if you are a voter on the North Coast, you want to make sure your kids get a good education, you want to make sure it’s your Medicare card not your credit card that gives you good quality health, you want to make sure that the public TAFE system in this country  isn't being trashed by a rush to privatisation, you want to make sure pensioners don't get promises broken at elections and we see pensioners who have worked hard their whole life being stranded with unfair pension cuts. Doesn't matter where you are in Australia, you want good leadership focused on jobs, schools, education and fairness.


JOURNALIST: What about the seat of Warringah, Tony Abbott says he'll decide his future after Christmas?


SHORTEN: I'm still dealing with Tony Abbott's comments today where he confirmed what Labor has been saying. Tony Abbott has let the cat out of the bag which I don't think Malcolm Turnbull and some of the other new sales people wanted out. It's the same Government with the same policies. They have just got different people selling it.


JOURNALIST: Do you think he's white-anting in the wake of the leadership spill?


SHORTEN: I think the fact that several of the senior Liberals didn't even tell Mr Abbott what was going on, on the day before the challenge, I think he's probably feeling a bit bruised but that really is a matter for the Liberal Party. I think it seems that the next challenge that's going on; Barnaby Joyce is desperate for Warren Truss's job. I just say this again to Australians, we understand that the Liberals take the Nationals for granted, we understand that the Nationals take the bush for granted. But Labor is here, and we don't take any voter for granted. We want people to consider us seriously on the basis we'll make sure your kids get the best education at school base according to need, that your kids get the chance to go to TAFE or university, that we don't have $100,000 degrees. For all those mature age students who are thinking about changing their jobs, Labor has a plan which means that you have downward pressure on fees for going to university. We are also very committed to making sure that we win the race of jobs to the future. That's why today be - sorry, on Thursday, we announced new policies to help small business and start-up enterprises, be able to compete with the rest of the world and win.


JOURNALIST: What about a new Cabinet? Because the Liberal Government; Coalition Government has shown a little bit of generational change and recognising the need for that. Why won’t you move out some of the old hands and factional warriors from your side?


SHORTEN: First of all, I don’t accept the assumption of your question. What the Liberal party has done is discover that there are women in politics other than Julie Bishop. They make a big play of putting more women into the Cabinet. We already have more women members in our Cabinet. When we talk about generational change, we are already a younger Opposition than the Government. And I don't think that's particularly changed. So I do applaud Malcolm Turnbull for recognising that women are in the workforce and they deserve to be in positions of power. I do like the idea that we can have a debate in the future about policies, not personalities. But I also have to say that the Liberals are now engaging in two years of catch-up and just when they think they are drawing level pegging with us, watch this space, because Labor's committed to making sure that women are half our members of Parliament by 2025, we are committed to improving the diversity of our MPs, but we have some good things to announce too coming up.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) In terms of leadership and stability in the past under Labor, given that you led the way in terms of leadership and stability in this country?


SHORTEN: First of all, we have changed the rules of our party. What you saw done with the Liberals or previously in Labor just can't happen. That's a concrete fact. But I would also offer to you and through you to your readers and to Australians, for the last two years the Labor Party has been very united. I'm very fortunate with the team that I've got. And we'll keep obviously improving our team and working on new blood. But Labor has been united for the last two years. We understand that a party that can't govern itself can't govern Australia. We would perhaps invite our conservative competitors to have a good look at what's going on at the moment in the National Party. And you have to conclude, when regional unemployment is so high, when infrastructure resources are diminishing in the bush, when the schools and hospitals are crying out for continuity and consistency of funding, the last thing regional Australia needs is an unedifying fight within the Nats. Indeed, if we want to talk about change, I might just ask Mark Butler to again explain how when we are talking about the Liberals catching up on people, or personalities or policies or on what we have learnt, I am just going to get Mark to further talk briefly about climate change being an example of how Labor is leading the way and we are in step with the rest of the world.


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER: Thank you, Bill. Well, Labor's been making the case now for years of the importance of putting a cap on carbon pollution that reduces over time and then letting business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate. That is an Emissions Trading Scheme. You see this model working among our oldest trading partners, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, many places in North America, but as Bill outlined, we are starting to see it emerge in our own region. Our third largest export partner, South Korea, started an emissions trading scheme this year and we have seen spectacular news overnight that China will be joining so many countries around the world, working on this market mechanism. A mechanism that the Australian Labor Party has been arguing for, for years now in this country. Now, we see a leader in the Liberal Party who in years gone past argued the merits of an Emissions Trading Scheme but has now swallowed Tony Abbott's Direct Action policy hook, line and sinker. We know this is a policy that will not work. We know from modelling done by independent agencies, and the Government's own agencies, that carbon pollution will rise by as much as 10 per cent between now and 2020. It will rise by 20 per cent between now and 2030, without that Emissions Trading Scheme in place. We recognise that there were many Australians who held out a hope that if Malcolm Turnbull returned to the leadership, that he would drag his party back to the sensible centre on climate change. Over the last couple of weeks, all of those Australians have had their hearts broken. They have seen that Malcolm Turnbull has done a deal with the hard right of the Liberal Party and National Party to keep in place holus-bolus, to keep in place Tony Abbott's reckless Direct Action policies and his opposition to the expansion of renewable energy. Only Labor is going to get with the rest of the world. Join this momentum that's building towards the conference in Paris and put in place a mechanism that will actually deliver meaningful reductions in carbon pollution in Australia in the most effective and cheapest possible way.


SHORTEN: Are there any final questions?


JOURNALIST: Does Labor agree that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is part of that solution in the Syrian war, or do you believe that he must go?


SHORTEN: I don't think it's as simple as a yes or no. Labor has no time for the administration or the government of Assad. It has been a terrible government and it's done terrible things to its population. So that's one thing we really do believe that Assad and his government have been dreadful. We also understand that we are combatting ISIL and the terrorist organisations which are occupying parts of Iraq and Syria. We have supported the principle of collective self-defence in Iraq to see the Australian Air Force as part of a Coalition effort to go after the ISIL terrorists across the border, such as it is, into north Syria. I think this argument which we have seen advance, I have seen advanced for the first time not from the Government to myself, but through the newspapers, saying that there might be some greater support for Assad. We are going to be very careful before we go down that path. We want to hear what the security experts' logic is in this. I do not believe Australia should be picking sides in Syria. As far as I can tell, between ISIL and Assad there's not a great deal to separate them. What I also get is that the refugee crisis that's been caused in Syria is a combination of a whole lot of bad operators and factions in that country. So we’re pretty cautious about this latest development in the doctrine which we are seeing and we will expect the Government to explain to us how this helps Australia's long-term security.


Very last question.


JOURNALIST: There's talk that he needs to be part of a political solution there, that's the development today. Is Labor open to having that conversation about that?


SHORTEN: We'll hear what the Government has to say to repeat my previous answer. But I want to put very clearly that Australia needs to be pretty careful about trying to inject ourselves into understanding Syrian's civil war, Syrian politics. But it is a matter of record that Assad has been a dreadful dictator. There are a whole lot of people in that part of the world, ISIL and the other terrorist groups, which are genocidal, ethno fascists for want of another word - they are dreadful people. I'm very wary about Australia trying to pick winners. What we'll do is hear what the logic is, hear what the intelligence is from European and American allies, but we are very cautious about trying to engage in some sort of moral debate about the benefits of any particular side here. I think a lot of them are very poor.


Thanks everyone. Cheers.