Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Hobart - Tasmanian Labor Conference; NDIS





SUBJECT/S: Tasmanian Labor Conference; NDIS; Canning by-election; GST.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It's fantastic for me to be able to be here at the start of the Tasmanian Labor Conference. I'm accompanied this morning by our formidable team led by Julie Collins of our House of Representatives members or candidates for the next election. We are united in Labor, unlike Mr Abbott's Liberals.

Today I'll be talking amongst various issues about two very important issues which affect the future of the Tasmanian quality of life and economy. The first issue of course is jobs. Jobs is central to the Labor Party's economic and social program which we'll be offering Tasmanians and Australians at the next election. Unfortunately unemployment in Tasmania is above the national average, it's around 7 per cent - that isn't good enough, Mr Abbott. Furthermore, youth unemployment, our future, our future workforce, the future of this country, in Tasmania is 9 per cent above the national average.

Mr Abbott has no plan for the jobs of young Tasmanians or Tasmanians, he only has a plan to try and save his own job.

And there's another very big important issue unfolding in Tasmania. It's the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Labor fundamentally believes that the midnight anxiety experienced by ageing parents of their adult children with profound and severe disabilities needs to be tackled. It is Labor and only Labor who is really committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Labor started the pilot programs by making sure that 1,000 young Tasmanians with severe and profound disabilities between 15 and 24 are getting the packages of support that they and their families require not to be treated as second-class Australians.

But now we see Mr Abbott and his Liberals breaking yet another promise. There's the anonymous denials, there's the leaks, there's the lack of commitment to properly rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So it doesn't matter if it’s jobs or the future of the lives of people with disability, Mr Abbott and his Liberals cannot be trusted to put the interests of Tasmanians first. I am happy to take questions and of course I've got all of my Tasmanian team here so we're happy to take questions on a range of issues.

JOURNALIST: So do you believe the Abbott Government's deliberately slowing down the roll out of the NDIS?

SHORTEN: I am sceptical the Abbott Government ever believed in the NDIS to begin with. It was a Labor idea championed by Labor. At the last minute the Liberal Party and Mr Abbott came on board because they felt before the last election they had to be bipartisan otherwise people wouldn't vote for them. I don't doubt the commitment of individual Liberals to the scheme by the way. What I doubt is Mr Abbott and his Cabinet's commitment to anything other than protecting their own jobs. We know that their first Budget was a terrible attack on the conditions of Australians, it did nothing for confidence, it cut hospital funding, it cut funding to schools in Tasmania amongst all parts of Australia. And then in 2015 we saw the same unfairness rebadged and repackaged and now we see the Government breaking promises and walking away from the NDIS. If you really care about the lives of people with disability in this country you wouldn't be trusting with Mr Abbott with your interests.

JOURNALIST: Talk us through the timeline, what benchmarks has the Government missed on rolling out the NDIS?

SHORTEN: It's clear in recent times and I'll be saying more about it in my actual speech, I don't want to give it all away now, but it's clear that Mr Abbott and his team are walking away and we have seen some very equivocal comments from the Government spokespeople about the future and how they roll out the NDIS. Australians are going to pay a little bit more on their Medicare to help fund the NDIS. What Mr Abbott and his Liberals keep saying is we can't afford NDIS. But the flaw in Mr Abbott and his Liberal team, and their failure to understand real issues, is it's the assumption that somehow paying some new money to the National Disability Insurance Scheme is actually new cost which otherwise wouldn't be borne by Australians. But the fact of the matter is, as we speak right now, it's Australian families, it's the state's funding, they're already paying for the cost of looking after people with disability. The secret of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, is it provides packages of support to individuals and their families. I believe that if you trust a family and an individual with the resources rather than filtering through bureaucracy and other agencies, it's the people at the coal face who are actually going to be able to get the best value of scarce resources. So when Mr Abbott and his team keep saying ‘we don't know if the money is there, we might need to delay it by years’, what they don't get is people are already paying for the system of disability which is inefficient and crisis driven right now.

JOURNALIST: There are reports the Liberal candidate for Canning was the officer in charge of a recruit being investigated for chopping off the hands of dead Taliban, what's your response to that?

SHORTEN: First of all, I respect the work of Australian Defence Forces and I respect the work that they've done overseas. Also I am not like Mr Abbott, I'm not going to go negative on individual candidates, that is just not what I am. The real issue isn't their local candidate, and we've got a great local candidate running in Canning too, the real issue here is Mr Abbott. We all know that the Canning by-election and his own team are setting this test up for him. If he doesn't do well in Canning, then chances are Mr Abbott's the person who will lose his job. Yet again, what we see here is that this Canning by-election is about Mr Abbott trying to save his own job.

I see something different for the Canning by-election. I believe it's a chance for this nation after two years of a failed right-wing experimental Government to get the conversation back to the sensible centre of Australian politics. This Canning by-election should be about who has the best plan for jobs, who has the best plan for education and health care, who really gets fairness in our communities and Matt Keogh is a local candidate, he is a strong candidate, so what we are saying is vote local, vote Labor, vote Matt Keogh.

JOURNALIST:  Does he and the Government need to explain though what role he played in this incident?

SHORTEN: That's an issue for Mr Abbott; I'm certainly not going to start denigrating the Liberal candidate, not at all. If people want me to start bagging out the local Liberal candidate I am not going to do that.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister's strongly indicated that Australia will extend it's roll to bomb IS in Syria. Is this appropriate only days after a formal request and without consulting the Opposition?

SHORTEN: I spoke to Mr Abbott yesterday by telephone. I will get a briefing and my team will get a briefing next week. Let me just put down some markers in terms of the Labor Party. One, during my leadership of the Labor Party there's been a high degree of bipartisanship when it comes to national security, as there should be. When it comes to fighting terror we are all in this together - Labor, Liberal, we're all Australians first. But what we also want to make sure is that we get the right information and I have certainly asked Mr Abbott to explain to us the legal basis of what's proposed and the case behind it because these are not matters which should be just rushed into.

JOURNALIST: What is Labor's position on activities within the Tasmanian World Heritage area and do you support the logging of special species?

SHORTEN: First of all Labor's got a great record of getting the balance right between the environment and jobs in Tasmania. Our focus is very much to make sure that we are promoting jobs but what I might do is ask our remarkable Julie Collins who is leading the Tasmanian Taskforce for Labor about more of the detail on that matter. I might also just say about Julie Collins if you don't mind me saying this, she is making a big contribution nationally. She is the only Federal Labor MP in the House of Representatives; she is doing more to stand up for Tasmanian jobs and the Tasmanian environment than the whole of Mr Abbott's Liberal gang in Tasmania. Julie, over to you.

JULIE COLLINS, MEMBER FOR FRANKLIN: Thanks, Bill. Federal Labor has always said that we are committed to the outcomes of the Forestry Agreement. We have always said that, and that includes supporting where appropriate developments in national parks but they do need to be within the environmental guidelines as they stand.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Tony Abbott has told senior frontbenchers a plebiscite will be held on gay marriage, is that a better approach than a referendum?

SHORTEN: I haven't caught up with Mr Abbott's talking points today. In terms of the plebiscite, we all know about Tony Abbott when it comes to marriage equality. He doesn't want it, he doesn't support it and he will do anything he can to stop it. We all know that the Liberal Party under Mr Abbott has swung very much to the extreme right. I personally do not understand how Mr Abbott's Liberal Party can spend six hours angsting over how to stop marriage equality and allowing a free vote of Liberal MPs, yet he doesn't spend six hours worrying about youth unemployment in Tasmania, about the future of Medicare, what we're going to do in terms of properly funding our schools, what's our plan to attract the jobs pf the future to Australia. Mr Abbott's priorities are all wrong. Quite simply we know that when Mr Abbott talks about having a plebiscite, what it is code for is, one, we already know what Australians think about it but he wants to spend $150 million getting another opinion poll. And, two, when Mr Abbott starts talking about marriage equality, you know it's code for delay, trickiness and so what we would simply say is that if people care about marriage equality, the next election will be an opportunity for people to vote for a team who will introduce it within 100 days. I might just take two more questions.

JOURNALIST: It seems that the GST is going to remain on tampons. Is that a good decision after the Treasurer's meeting?

SHORTEN: No not at all. Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey and his Liberal team all they've done since they've come into power is increase taxes. You would have thought that if they're going to make some changes to the GST online for online shopping they could have at least done something to remove the discrimination against women's sanitary products including tampons.

JOURNALIST: So the State Labor Treasurers who were at that meeting, what feedback have you had from them? Were they able to put the case for it to be removed?

SHORTEN: Let's be really clear. If you want to stop the GST being increased you vote Labor at the next election. Victoria and Queensland Treasurers have made their views very clear. We know that what Mr Abbott's trying to do is blackmail Will Hodgman and everyone else to supporting a 50 per cent increase on the cost of living in terms of what you buy in the shops and extending the GST to fresh food and school fees and a whole lot of other costs you currently don't have to pay a GST on. Mr Abbott is doing it because he is too weak to actually say to Australians he wants to increase the GST. He keeps using that classically tricky Tony Abbott formula, ‘well, I won't increase the GST unless all the States do’. We know that's code Mr Abbott wants to. So what he has done is he is cutting the funding to Tasmanian schools, cutting the funding to Tasmanian hospitals and then he leaves a financial crisis for State Governments to have to fix which then leads to a debate about the GST. Mr Abbott doesn't get it. The real strategy for going forward with this country, for going forward in Tasmania is to have a strategy to create confidence, create jobs, to create growth. Mr Abbott has no plan for that. Last question, thank you.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) some Labor people about what's happening with Lisa Singh, have you got anything to propose there?

SHORTEN: The Labor Party has gone through the process of preselecting its Members of Parliament. Labor is fortunate that we always have more talented people seeking to represent Labor than the scarce positions that are available. It is inevitable in any engagement that not everyone is successful in being able to get the spots they want to do to be able to represent Labor. Lisa Singh has served Labor well in the Senate and our new Senate team will also do the same thing. Labor's had its processes, the rank and file have spoken. It is always a difficult matter but the rank and file have spoken, according to the rules of the Tasmanian branch, and what I would say is if we want to have a discussion about unity, maybe Mr Abbott could stop getting his Cabinet Ministers to leak on Mr Abbott because a party which can't govern itself can't govern Australia. Labor's learnt that lesson, Mr Abbott's team haven't. Thanks everyone, see you at the conference.