Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Interview - Big Issue magazine; Abbott Government’s unfair Budget






SUBJECT/S:  Big Issue magazine; Abbott Government’s unfair Budget; Coalition chaos; National security; death penalty; Peter Greste.



BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be here in the middle of bustling Melbourne in Big Issue Week, where they get the amateur vendors to go and help the professionals sell their fantastic magazine. The Big Issue is important and I encourage Australians to buy it when they see a Big Issue vendor because it's all about empowering Australians who are down on their luck. We live in a fantastic society, but many Australians, too many Australians are doing it tough. Many are living below the poverty line. Many through no fault of their own are struggling to make ends meet. It really does remind us of what's important when it comes to politics in Australia.


Australians are doing it hard with cost of living, not just the people who sell The Big Issue but in fact a lot of Australians. Australians are having to pay more for child care, they’re facing the prospect of paying more to go to the doctor. We’ve got business confidence at an all-time low and we have got attacks on the minimum wage and real wage growth is very slow. So there is a cost of living challenge in Australia and the Abbott Government, the Liberal Government in Canberra, are doing nothing about it. The Liberal Government are absorbed with fighting over their own jobs and they have forgotten about Australia in the process. The last two weeks has been shambolic and chaotic and in the meantime real Australia is doing it hard. It's long overdue that the Liberal Government in Canberra stop worrying about who is going to sell their unfair message, they go back to keeping their promises they made before the last election, the basis upon which they hold power in Australia, and they need to remember that cost of living is far more important than whether or not it's Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull or Tony Abbott as chief salesman for this Liberal Government. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: In your experience with leadership issues within a government, do you think the only way for Tony Abbott to put this to bed is to actually hold a vote?


SHORTEN: What matters is for Tony Abbott or any of his people who are circling him looking for his job, is they say clearly to Australia we will keep our promises we made before the last election. Just dumping the salesman of the broken promises doesn't change the truth of the broken promises.


JOURNALIST: Will you back the Government's data retention changes or do you need more detail?


SHORTEN: Well Labor has got a fantastic record of working in the national interest on national security. When it comes to fighting the dreadful scourge of terrorism, we’re all in this together. But we do no services or favours to the Australian people and their national security by rushing laws through the Parliament. What Australians expect of their Parliamentarians is that on the one hand we prioritise national security and the safety of Australia, and balance it with ensuring that in the process of making Australia safe, we still retain the individual liberties which make Australia such a fantastic place to live. Rush and haste will not help improve Australia's security.


JOURNALIST: Just on the issue of homelessness, the Federal Government hasn't committed to the National Partnership Homelessness beyond June, the partnership with the states. Would a Labor Government continue that funding if you were in power?


SHORTEN: There is no election at this point and so what we need to do is look at what the current Government would do. I think all the contenders for the Liberal prime ministership of Australia all need to commit to what they would do on homelessness. This isn't just about the top end of town arguing about an increase in the tax rate at the top income level earners. What we need to see is the Liberal Government in Australia standing up for people who are doing it hard. Australia works best when not only we have economic growth but when we have a strong and robust safety net. It's unacceptable that so many Australians have insecure accommodation every night in what is one of the richest countries in the world and we can do better.


JOURNALIST: Is Tony Abbott using the metadata announcement today for political purpose?


SHORTEN:  The metadata issue is important. One thing I can assure Australians, as the circus which is the Liberal Government in Canberra argue about who gets what job, Labor will make sure that we have the right laws to keep Australia safe and to keep Australia free. I can assure Australians that while the Liberal Party engage in an unseemly circular firing squad, Labor is doing its day job making sure we have good laws properly scrutinised.


JOURNALIST: But do you think they are trying to I guess take some heat off the talk over leadership by I guess discussing these metadata issues today?


SHORTEN: I don't want to politicise the issue of national security, it's too important for that. Clearly the Liberal Government are not focused on anything other than themselves. We are seeing the Government of Australia consumed with knocking off their elected Prime Minister, they are not focusing on their day jobs, they are talking each other down and what we need to do, be it on national security laws or homelessness or indeed importantly cost of living, is have a Government that is focused on the interests of Australians, not just on themselves.


JOURNALIST:  In saying that you don't want to rush into these things on metadata, what are your concerns if we do rush into it?


SHORTEN: We’ve got a committee who’s reviewing it. The great thing about our Parliament which has served Australia’s interests well for over a century, a federation, is that you have parliamentary committees which examine draft legislation for all the pros and cons. That process is underway. The Government know this. The Government have got members on the committee. The Government agreed to this committee process. Just because the Government is having its internal political upheavals and focused on themselves, is not a reason to throw our Parliamentary system overboard.


JOURNALIST: Is Labor working to change anything behind the scenes on that metadata proposal in the committee you are talking about?


SHORTEN: I don't want to pre-empt the work of the committee, but what I can submit to you is what Labor has done on previous legislation. It’s the Labor Party who has made 38 changes, 37 or 38 changes to previous national security legislation which has seen us get better laws, which get the balance right between protecting Australians and protecting the liberty of Australians.


JOURNALIST: If the committee is still working on the metadata issue, I guess why do you think it is being discussed today, as you are saying it’s something the committee needs to finish its work before that takes place?


SHORTEN: Well that's exactly right. I think every Australian knows that the Liberal Government, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey are all consumed with who is going to get what job. The only jobs that the Liberal Government are fighting for is their own jobs, and when it comes to matters like important issues of national security, or a good social justice safety net in this country, or cost of living, or a range of other important issues about the future of this country, we have a Government who is out of touch, self-absorbed, and they’re not doing their day job.


JOURNALIST: The Abbott Government has said that it’s done all it can, has left no stone unturned trying to save the Australians on death row in Indonesia. Is there anything else at this last minute that they can do? Would you call on the Prime Minister to do anything at this stage?


SHORTEN: I've been working with the Prime Minister and with the Government collectively in terms of the dreadful prospect of the execution of these two young men. Labor believes that the death penalty anywhere in any circumstances demeans us all as human beings. We’ve never supported it and we never will. On such an important matter, Labor and Liberal are working together but the prospects are indeed grim. But I know that the lawyers for the families and the Australian foreign affairs representatives in Indonesia are doing everything they can.


JOURNALIST: Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors after their citizens were put to death. Would you like to see Australia do the same thing if worse comes to worse?


SHORTEN: I don't want to contemplate a set of circumstances that assumes the execution of these two young men. Where there is life, there is hope. Their families expect everyone involved to do everything they can and that’s what everyone is doing.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, are you ready to be Prime Minister?


SHORTEN: Labor believes fundamentally that this Government has lost its way. They’ve lost their way by putting on a GP tax which will see sick people bear the burden of going to the doctor. They want to cut pensions. They want to make it harder for kids from modest backgrounds to go to universities and pay $100,000 degrees. They’ve effectively cut the pay of our Defence Forces and yet at the same time they want to give knighthoods to Sir Philip, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. This is a Government with the wrong priorities. Changing the salesman will not change what they are selling. We see no signs in this current self-absorbed, egotistical exercise of who gets to be in what position, any discussion about the direction of this nation. That's what disturbs me.


JOURNALIST: Has this been an enjoyable week for you politically, seeing the Liberals kind of fall apart, the way that Labor did in Government?


SHORTEN: I take no pleasure in seeing a Government absorbed by itself and not doing its day job. I take no pleasure in the fact that we’re seeing that the, one of the lead contenders turn his back on everything he’s ever said on climate change. I take no pleasure in the fact that none of the contenders can say they voted against a GP tax. I take no pleasure in the fact that none of the contenders for chief Liberal salesperson have said that they would vote against cutting the pension or Defence Force pay.


This is a Government who doesn't understand where the future of this country is. They only believe in breaking their promises, cutting the safety net and putting greater pressure on the cost of living of families. This is not a good Government. The Prime Minister’s unsuitable, but none of the contenders appear to be any different in substance.


JOURNALIST: Just quickly on Peter Greste, it must be good, your thoughts on the government finally paving the way for him to come home this morning?


SHORTEN: The return of Peter Greste to his family and to Australia is fantastic news, has been a little overshadowed by some of the goings on in Canberra, but it is unreservedly good news. Labor, like the Government, like the media community in Australia, like ordinary Australians, like the remarkably strong Greste family, never gave up on seeing Peter Greste come home. It is fantastic news and it shows that where people work together, unite behind a cause, we can do marvellous things. Thanks everyone.