Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Flemington



FRIDAY, 13 JUNE 2014


SUBJECT/S: The Abbott Government’s unfair budget; cuts to early childhood education; Tony Abbott’s meeting with President Obama; climate change; international trade.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everyone. It's lovely to be here at Goodstart's Flemington operations where many children are receiving quality care, indeed at a centre which is exceeding the national quality standards.


I'm here today to talk to the staff at Goodstart with Kate Ellis, our Shadow Spokesperson for childcare. Visiting this centre today again highlights how unfair this budget is on families in Australia. It isn't right that the parents of these wonderful children are going to have to pay more tax to take their  children to the doctor when they're sick. It isn't fair that these parents have got to pay more for petrol as they drive their children to childcare. It isn't fair that we are going to see greater pressure on families, on their cost of living. And it certainly isn't fair that in the future these children, when they go to school, will see their schools under-funded because of this budget.

Joe Hockey is sounding a trifle guilty when he says that this is a fair budget. He is protesting too much. This budget is horribly unfair and no amount of saying otherwise is going to change the minds of the Australian people. The Prime Minister has appropriately been overseas representing Australia's national interests as he should do. But once he comes back from his overseas trip, the music stops and he has to clean up this budget mess.


Whilst the Prime Minister's been away it has become very clear that many Australians have given the thumbs down to this unfair budget of broken promises based upon lies before the last election. Our children deserve the best start in life. This unfair budget denies our children of Australia the best start in life.


I might just ask my colleague, Kate Ellis, to talk a bit further about the implications for childcare and early learning.


KATE ELLIS, SHADOW EDUCATION MINISTER: Thank you very much, Bill. And it's fantastic to be here to congratulate Lindsay and all of the staff at Goodstart Flemington for exceeding the national quality standards, making sure that here at this centre up to 180 children are getting absolutely the best start in life and in early childhood education.


It is not right that the children at this centre should be left to pay the price for Tony Abbott's wrong priorities. Yet children at this centre and centres right across Australia will suffer from his budget cuts to childcare. Hundreds of millions of dollars ripped out  of our childcare system, and they will continue to suffer throughout their schooling education.


What this budget has done is ripped $80 billion out of schools and hospitals. We know that that will impact on the education that every child in Australia receives. We know that every school around Australia will be, on average, over $3 million worse off over the next 10 years, affecting the education of these children and children just like them all around Australia for years and years to come.


But what we also know is that Tony Abbott doesn’t seem to have a clue what’s in his devastating budget cuts. At the same time that he is cutting early childhood education and school funding, the Prime Minister, now in New York, says he thinks it’s a great idea if we have schools and industry teaming up. Well Prime Minister, you may think it’s a great idea in New York, but unfortunately you are cutting the same programs back here in Australia. This budget has cut the National Partnership Broker Program which has been working to team up school students with employers, to make sure that they have access to work experience, to on-the-job training. And this is a program which has benefitted thousands of young Australians, but it is another victim of the budget cuts.


So we say to the Prime Minister, now that you’re looking to head back home, it is time to reflect on your Budget and reflect on your wrong priorities, and the impact that this budget with have on children like those at Goodstart Flemington for years and years to come.


SHORTEN: Just before we take questions, there’s a very important international competition starting, the World Cup. And Australia enters the World Cup as the underdog. The Australian team, the Socceroos are a very strong and determined team. Coach Ange Postecoglou and Mile Jedinak, our new captain, are determined to make sure that we do our best. I, like millions of Australians, am looking forward to getting up relatively early on a Saturday morning, watch us ideally defeat Chile. But to all the Socceroos, please understand that there are millions of Australians who will be cheering you on and want you to do your best as we know you can.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you support the Defence Force Posture agreed between President Obama and Prime Minister Abbott overnight?


SHORTEN: We haven’t seen the final details of that, as you said it was overnight. We are very supportive in Labor in terms of strong defence ties and making sure that both Australian national interests and our military are in the best shape possible. If this agreement enhances that, well then it’s obviously a good thing.


JOURNALIST: Would you support Australia sending any sort of military action to assist with any US effort in Iraq?


SHORTEN: Well we’ve also seen an increase in the work of militant groups like ISIS in Iraq, which is very concerning. We’ll be asking for a briefing from the Federal Government about these matters. But what I would say about Australian troops being send to Iraq is that we need to consider this – and I think it’s a hypothetical at this stage, because I don’t think a formal request has been made – but Australia always needs to weigh up the use of our highly professional and dedicated soldiers, is to whether or not it is in the Australian national interest. And that is the test which Labor would apply – is this is the Australian national interest. Furthermore, historically Labor did oppose sending troops to Iraq to help President Bush in his search for weapons of mass destruction.


JOURNALIST: So would you be considering to support any troops on the ground?


SHORTEN: It’s a hypothetical question at this stage. Labor obviously is concerned with any increases in violence, in communal violence or any other form of violence in Iraq. What we would also say though is we need to be briefed by the Government. We’re not a blank cheque, and the test which Labor would apply on behalf of the Australian people would be, would sending troops to Iraq be in the Australian national interest. That’s the test that matters, and historically Labor didn’t support sending troops to search for weapons of mass destruction.


JOURNALIST: What about potential US drones strikes in Iraq? Would you support that?


SHORTEN: Well again, this is a hypothetical matter, we haven’t been asked to support it. But what governs Labor’s actions is what is in the national interest of Australia? America is a long-time ally of Australia, but what we always say is, is the actions that we take as a government, and especially when we put our highly dedicated and professional soldiers in harm’s way, is this decision in the national interest? And we’re certainly going to need more information before we can form that view.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has drawn a lot of criticism for his performance on the international stage lately. How do you think he’s acquitted himself in his meetings with President Barack Obama?


SHORTEN: First of all, I did say in my opening remarks when I was talking about domestic matters and this unfair budget, I did acknowledge that it is important that Australia’s prime ministers, no matter what their political affiliations, do work internationally, so it’s an important trip. For me, in terms of the reports of the meeting with President Obama, I haven’t seen all the detail, I think it would be premature of me to comment too much.


But what I do say to Tony Abbott is you’re 11 days overseas is important, but there’s a big budget mess to fix up in Australia. The music stops when you come back. There are terrible propositions – a new tax on sick people going to the doctor which we’ve looked at this week, cost of living pressures on parents trying to make ends meet which Labor has been talking about this week. The cutting of the pensions, the attacks on education – there’s a lot of problems to fix back in Australia when Mr Abbott lands back in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Do you think farmers should be concerned about Senator George Brandis’ comments – or refusal to acknowledge that East Jerusalem is occupied?


SHORTEN: Sorry I didn’t hear the first part of that, I thought you said farmers?


JOURNALIST: Yes, in Western Australia.


SHORTEN: I think Attorney-General Brandis should practice the policy of thinking first and then speaking. Foreign affairs and diplomatic relations require cool heads and sensible comments, not just changing protocols or making sudden announcements, so that’s my concern.


JOURNALIST: On that issue, Barnaby Joyce has said he’ll leave foreign affairs to people smarter than he. Are you worried that our trading relationship might be at risk because of the decision to drop ‘occupied’ in relation to Israeli occupation in Jerusalem?


SHORTEN: I hadn’t heard that Senator Barnaby Joyce had said he’d leave foreign affairs to people smarter than him. If that’s what Senator Joyce believes, then perhaps that is good advice for himself. I don’t know beyond that what he said and why he said it, or the context of what he said.


What I do know is that perhaps if this government is recognising that there are issue which require more thought, they should rethink their budget. While Senator Joyce may be talking about what’s happening in Jerusalem, what I would say to Senator Joyce is look what’s happening in your own backyard of Australia. Farming people do not need a new tax on petrol. There’s are a lot of pensioners in the bush on fixed incomes who are doing it hard, they do not need this government breaking their promises and lying to them, and cutting the real increase in pensions. Families in the bush are doing it tough. So I hope that Senator Joyce is spending more time concentrating on looking after rural and regional Australians rather than other matters.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that dropping of that word is going to potentially cause problems for our trading relationships?


SHORTEN: What I wish is this government would think first and talk second.  Whereas what they seem to have a habit of doing in diplomatic relations is talking first and thinking second.


JOURNALIST: And just back to Mr Abbott's meeting with President Obama and the issue of climate change as well, but obviously would have been discussed, do you agree that fuel excise is acting like a carbon price signal as Mr Abbott has suggested to President Obama?


SHORTEN: I've seen some reports that Mr Abbott has indicated that his new petrol tax is a carbon price signal. I think it's honest of Prime Minister Abbott to declare that his new tax on petrol is in fact aimed at climate change, if that's what he's doing. But I don't think he's ever said that in Australia. I just say to Prime Minister Abbott, yet again, what you talk about overseas is what you should talk about in Australia.


Labor does not support increasing the cost of living on millions of families who rely on their motorcars to take their kids to remarkable childcare centres like this, as they drive to work. Mr Abbott needs to come clean about what he has said. Does he think that he's putting this tax on petrol as some sort of carbon price or carbon tax? I think Mr Abbott needs to clarify his remarks pretty quickly. Thanks everyone. Have a lovely day.