Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne






SUBJECT/S: Russian sanctions; Abetz’s offensive comments; data retention laws; Joe Hockey.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks everyone for coming here this morning.


Overnight, we’ve seen the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, announce sanctions against a range of countries including Australia. On behalf of the Opposition, let me state my ongoing support for the Government’s handling of MH17, the tragedy that that it is. Our first and foremost priority should be the return of the remains of Australians and people living in Australia caught in this terrible atrocity. We also must do everything we can, as a first priority, to identify victims and help with that process.


Furthermore, it is important that our capable and professional Australian police and other Australian Government representatives are safe as we do this process. That’s the main first priority for Australia. Victim identification, the return of remains and the safety and wellbeing of our police and other personnel.


Having said that, we will talk to the Government and again, have a bipartisan response ideally for the announcement about sanctions by the Russians. As an Australian though, let me just put on the record, that I clearly, clearly reject the moral authority of the Russian Federation to start issuing sanctions against Australia.


We all know this terrible tragedy was not of Australia’s making or the people on that aeroplane. I am repelled by the proposition that another country would put sanctions on Australia without any moral authority or basis. I believe it is important that we have a strong response to this. Who does this President of Russia think he is to put sanctions on our country? But I will work with the Government because this time we need calm heads and cool responses no matter the very natural, emotional outrage at this action.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the sanctions may breach World Trade Organisation laws?


SHORTEN: I think these sanctions breach moral laws. I think that these sanctions are ill-founded, they go in exactly the opposite direction to what I think should be the course of events. They are wrong. I will work with Tony Abbott, we will have an Australian response to this, but I think the sanctions are repulsive. I know our farmers who will be affected by this. We will sell our world-class food somewhere else. If the Russians don’t want to buy it, so be it, we will sell this elsewhere. And in the meantime I think the rest of the world is equally outraged by this high-handed action.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government should be helping exporters and farmers?


SHORTEN: I think there is probably a job for Australia to do to help our exporters. I can’t believe the Russians are putting sanctions on us, not when I look at what has happened to 38 Australians, people living in Australia and indeed everyone on MH17. I think it leaves a sick feeling in everyone’s stomach that people think they can get away with these actions.


JOURNALIST: Are you calling for the Government to help farmers and exporters affected?


SHORTEN: I believe we should be helping the exporters but I will work with the Government. This is not an opportunity or a day for point scoring. Let me be really clear. Putin and the Russians are well out of line, doing this. I am sure like every other Australian, the Government and myself, we are very angry about this. Our first priority is victim identification, the safety of our people in this volatile and violent zone, that has to be the first reaction. But there will be not a single Australian who will feel at any course, in any way, put off by their course of action by this illegitimate set of sanctions by the Russians.


JOURNALIST: Senator Abetz has drawn a link between breast cancer and abortion. Do you agree that that link exists or do you think he should apologise for saying such a statement?


SHORTEN: I think it is a disgusting thing to say. I think it is repulsive, I think it is hurtful, I think it is ignorant. Views like that, whether or not they existed in the 1950s, have no place in modern Australian society. No one who claims to be a leader in Australian politics should associate with those remarks.


They’re disgusting, but it just caps off what, undoubtedly, has been a shocking, disaster week for the Government. We had Treasurer Joe Hockey, blaming everyone including the unemployed this week for his unfair Budget not making progress. We had George Brandis, hapless and accident-prone, do silly things in the last few days. Now we’ve had Eric Abetz make these comments which are truly repulsive. So you’ve had Hockey, Abetz, Brandis. This is the so-called grown up government of Australia – I think not.


JOURNALIST: Can you explain to us what mega data is? The Government struggled with it –


SHORTEN: Did you say ‘mega data’ then?




SHORTEN: Okay, well the term I’ve been concentrating on is meta data. With meta data, it isn’t everyone’s conversations, it is not every site people visit. It’s an understanding of the phone numbers that are called, the ISPs which are used as people look at information. The debate about meta data I understand, based on the proposition that you can search meta data to look at patterns of people’s behaviour to assist intelligence agencies determine if there are threats or not.


I think the way the Government has handled this whole debate on meta data and national security, we all know that they have rushed through these statements to cover up their backflip on finally giving up on watering down hate speech laws, and they’ve used national security at the same time to make their backflip, and what we’ve seen is a remarkable spectacle.


Malcolm Turnbull is not trusted enough to be told what is going on beforehand.  Now they’ve got to get him to mop up George Brandis and Tony Abbott’s mistakes. This is a Government that should stop rushing to make political points. Get it right, talk to the Opposition, talk to your own team, get these proposals right. National security should be above politics and Labor has said all along we are up for the principle of seeing what we need to do update our national security laws, but we will jealously guard the privacy of Australian citizens. And what I think is most concerning thing is that the people in charge of this country don’t even know what they are looking for.


JOURNALIST: Apparently Joe Hockey is in town to see Ricky Muir. Do you have any advice for Ricky as he talks to Joe about the Budget?


SHORTEN: Count your fingers after you’ve shaken hands. This is a Government who lied to the whole of Australia before the last election. Ricky Muir will stand up for Victorians, he will stand up for regional Victorians. I think the best thing that Ricky Muir could get out of Joe Hockey is for Joe Hockey to say he won’t cut the pension, he won’t cut schools, he won’t cut hospitals, he won’t increase the petrol tax and he won’t introduce a GP tax. If Ricky Muir can get that out of Joe Hockey, that’s a day well spent.


Thank you everyone, have a good day.