Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Furlong Park - Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Abbott Government’s cuts to education;






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Abbott Government’s cuts to education; Putin and the G20; Asbestos; Climate change; National Security.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Welcome everyone to Furlong School for the Deaf. This is a great school providing remarkable opportunities for children who are hearing impaired. But it’s a school which battles to make ends meet. The parents here come from modest backgrounds across the western suburbs of Melbourne. You can see in the eyes of the children here a desperate, fantastic, positive desire to learn. The children here, regardless of hearing impairment, are motivated to learn, to have fun, and to discover the world. The children here of course though expect the adults in their world to be as brave and to be as optimistic and positive as they are. But we have a Budget, an unfair Budget, which is not brave, it's not optimistic and it's particularly unfair to millions of Australians including the families of these children here.


Research released recently by NATSEM shows that the electorate of Maribyrnong, the electorate that I'm proud to represent, is in the top 20 electorates missing out under this Budget with families being slugged over $500 each year as a result of the Budget. My electorate - unlike Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s, it's experiencing three times the cuts that Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey's electorate are experiencing. It is not fair in this country that we are not smart enough, that our Government is not smart enough, or just enough that they cannot spread the burden of budgetary change, they cannot spread it evenly.


Why should children for middle-class and working class backgrounds and their families be slugged more in a Budget than the people in Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey's electorate? Why should the schools in this electorate lose $250 million over the next 10 years, because this is an unfair Budget by a Government who is out of touch? This is a Government who said before the election there would be no cuts to health care and no cuts to education. Yet there’s $80 billion in the next 10 years coming out of Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott's rotten Budget which will see massive cuts to hospitals and schools in this electorate and throughout Australia. Government should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Why should Vladimir Putin not be allowed to go to the G20 in Brisbane?


SHORTEN: I think I’m like most Australians, that I've been appalled by what’s happened with the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines jet over Eastern Ukraine. There's plenty of evidence to indicate indirect if not direct Russian involvement in the shooting down of this aeroplane which saw hundreds of souls snatched away from their families, with no justification or rationale. It was an act of murder.


How is it that the President of the Russian Federation, Putin, can thumb his nose at the rest of the world, go wherever he wants without there being any repercussions or indeed any cooperation with the independent investigation as to how this happened? I believe Putin knows more about what happened with MH17 than he's let on. He comes here to Australia, it is an international conference, so let me state very clearly the Government is between a rock and a hard place.


It's an international conference, not a conference run by Australia so if Putin has the arrogance to turn up to visit a nation whose nationals died in this plane crash, he can. But I'm like most Australians, I wish that Putin would at least show enough conscience to be able to not come to Australia because he's rubbing our faces in it. Also what I happen to think is that when you deal with international bullies, the way you do it isn't by laying out the red carpet.


So no I don't think he's welcome, I don't think most Australians want him here. The Government was talking tough, they haven't proven to be able to do anything to stop him or discourage him coming. I for one certainly won't be seeking to meet with Vladimir Putin while he's here and I think that goes for most Australians.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister should seek bilateral talks with Putin?




JOURNALIST: About the crash?


SHORTEN: I think that the imagery of our Prime Minister talking with Putin, and unless Putin - if something was to come from the meeting that would be to the Prime Minister's credit, but Putin doesn't seem to think the same rules apply to him as apply to other people. So I wouldn't give him the time of day.


JOURNALIST: Isn’t it better to engage with Russia though, than to shut it out?


SHORTEN: We should engage with Russia, but by the same token how about we ask Putin and his Generals to tell us what really happened. That would be a respectful act to a nation you're visiting as a guest of.


JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on the 16 deaths related to the former asbestos factory in Sunshine North?


SHORTEN: Like everyone else, I was appalled by what I read in yesterday's Sunday Herald Sun. The place that we're talking about is literally hundreds of metres from where we stand, just over to my left on the other side of the road, off McIntyre Road. There was a former asbestos factory, now we're seeing reports of a cluster of asbestos-related deaths, mesothelioma. The State Government has to, as a matter of urgency, tell the residents what is going on, provide all the resources necessary to put people's minds at ease that their kids aren't exposed.


Can't undo the past but I tell you what, there should be proper and adequate compensation. If CSR or any related entities shouldn't take a legalistic log rolling approach make it hard for people who have got concerns - this shouldn't have happened, asbestos is a killer which is going to go on and kill thousands of people. Now it's affecting people in my area, and the electorate I represent. Nothing other than a complete truth is satisfactory and support for the residents. And this is very anxious time and they're even teaching staff at this school and the parents who are asking me questions about as we came here.


Now more than ever the Napthine Government needs to forget its politicking and just get on explain to people their rights, what they can do and put their mind at ease about exposures and deal with any - there's a series of recommendations which are obvious. Governments have had to deal with asbestos exposure before, now is not the time to forming a committee, just get on and fix the problem.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on carbon, can you guarantee that any plan to tackle climate change with a carbon price won’t increase electricity prices?


SHORTEN: Let's talk about climate change. We've got the G20 coming up. Most nations in the world at the G20 are dealing with climate change. Yet we're the climate sceptics capital of the world. Labor does believe that we need to tackle carbon pollution, we need to tackle the pollution which is going on in our environment. But what I've said very clearly on a number of occasions beforehand is we won't be introducing a carbon tax.


JOURNAIST: And you say you’re going to release Labor’s policy before the next election. Are you going to use the Paris Conference next year to announce that, or to shape the policy?


SHORTEN: No. But in term of what happens in the world - and I appreciate your question - the rest of the world is moving towards taking real action on climate change, yet we've got a Government who's slammed the nation into reverse gear and retreating away from action. I think most of the rest of the world doesn't understand why we're climate sceptics and the rest of the world and the science is going in an opposite direction.


This nation needs a Government who is thinking about the future, not the next opinion poll, but what this country looks like in 2020 and 2030. The problems you put off til tomorrow, next week and next year will become harder to fix, not easier to fix. I just wish the Abbott Government would start recognising that climate change is a real problem.


JOURNALIST: Just back on the G20, should the Prime Minister seek some kind of bilateral agreement to ensure the safety of Australian personnel investigating the crash over there?


SHORTEN: The idea that the Russians would interfere with the safety of Australian personnel is shocking. Again I think there's a whole discussion which has to go on about the way that Putin regards the rule of international law. It is completely unsatisfactory, the attitude of the Russian Government, towards this disaster, towards this murder of innocent lives. So I think that the Russians have a lot of explaining to do. And again, I understand that the position the Government is in - it's an international conference - but it's extremely frustrating to see this Putin fellow come to Australia, when Australians are revolted by what happened to MH17.


JOURNALIST: Do you have any comments on changes to the national curriculum announced today?


SHORTEN: The Government wants to us focus on changes to national curriculum, what worries me is the massive unprecedented cuts to schools. You can have the best curriculum in the world but if the kids don't have the right equipment, they don’t have the right books, they don’t have the resources to be able to go to school, all the curriculum in the world doesn't help. So we need to make sure that our teachers are properly resourced, that our schools aren't falling down around our heads, that kids have got the best start in life. That’s going to involve a commitment of money, not just curriculum.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, were you aware that Anthony Albanese was going to make comments this morning characterising the anti-terror laws as draconian?


SHORTEN: Over the weekend, Anthony’s made some comments. I understand the concerns about press freedom. I am pleased to say that because of Labor's intervention we're able to strengthen the public interest test. I notice today’s Herald Sun is reporting on the very matters that people are worried about. What Labor will do on every occasion is get the balance right between the liberties and individuals, the important principle of press freedom but also national security. That is why the parliamentary committee researching the next legislation on foreign fighters is absolutely applying its mind to all of the issues which many people in our community are concerned about.


JOURNALIST: Do you agree with these comments?


SHORTEN: I think that national security is a first order issue. We have to be strong against terror in this country but we also have to get balance right. I am confident that Labor is getting that balance right. I am confident that we’re having the sort of debates which the nation expects of its parliament. There are two important principles here - one: national security, two: individual freedom, and we need to jealousy guard both. But it is not beyond the wit and wisdom of our parliament to get that balance right. That's what I and our Labor team, all of us are committed to.


JOURNALIST: This month is your first anniversary of Opposition Leader. How have you found the role?


SHORTEN: It's a privilege to be able to articulate the views of the Opposition in this country. There are millions of Australians who need a strong Labor Opposition, and need a strong united Labor Party. I can say to Australians - and indeed there are people who will never vote Labor but still believe in the importance of our parliamentary democracy, of having a strong Opposition - I can say that 12 months after becoming leader of the Labor Party, we are more united than we've ever been. And we have launched one of the strongest and fiercest attacks against one of the most unfair Budgets in living memory, and I think we see those results now the Government is having to go back to the drawing board. But it's a simple message to Tony Abbott, one year in from me becoming leader of the Labor Party: don't break your promises, don't lie to the people before an election, don't cut health, don’t cut education, don't touch pensions, focus on jobs and economic growth.


JOURNALIST: Would you endorse the Prime Minister trying to strike any kind of agreement with Putin over the safety of personnel working over there on the crash site, or ensuring this kind of thing never happens again?


SHORTEN: Yes I would. But what I'd also say is that I believe that the Russians know more than they've let on about how fthese missiles got fired and I won't be satisfied until there's justice for the families of those hundreds of people murdered in the air above the Eastern Ukraine. Thank you everyone, have a lovely day.