Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Abbott Government holding science funding hostage; $100,000 degrees






SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government holding science funding hostage; $100,000 degrees; Tony Abbott’s cuts to pension indexation; East West Link; Liberal Leadership Chaos


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be at the Croatian Cultural Festival. Croatian immigration to Australia has been a successful story of multiculturalism, and you can just tell by the atmosphere here that it makes Australia a better place to live. I also think it’s important at the outset just to acknowledge that Cyclone Pam has hit Vanuatu very, very hard. Obviously there’s more information to come from the outlying islands, but Australia appropriately should do what it can as a large citizen in our region to help those less fortunate than us who are affected by this cyclone, and Labor will work with the Government and this is a matter of course which is above day to day politics, and our thoughts are with the victims of this cyclone. Happy to take any questions people might have.


JOURNALIST: The Education Minister says he’s contemplating victory on higher education reform, are you concerned that some crossbenchers will cross the floor and side with the Government?


SHORTEN: The Liberal Government in Canberra has reached a new low by kidnapping science funding and taking it hostage, that unless the Senate and the Opposition agree to the unfair broken promises of the higher education changes that the Abbott Government’s pushing, that $150 million annually will be taken out of science funding in Australia. This is a new low for the Liberal Government in Canberra, they are taking hostage 1700 jobs, they are threatening the future of science in Australia if we don’t vote for unfair changes which will lead to $100,000 degrees and fewer young people and mature age people being able to go to university. This is a desperate government who will stoop to any new depth and holding a $150 million of science funding annually, 1700 of our best scientific researchers jobs on the line, and indeed the future of Australian research being held to hostage by this ignorant government is a new low even for this mob.


JOURNALIST: Will you hold some responsibility for any of the job losses though if you block those reforms?


SHORTEN: Well I don’t think it is, it’s beyond bounds, it’s beyond the rules of politics for the Abbott Government threatening to make scientists jobs redundant, cutting $150 million per year from our collaborative scientific research. The Abbott Government is an anti-science government, they’re and anti-future government in terms of anyone knows that by punishing Australians for not voting for their higher education changes, with $150 million worth of cuts, 1700 scientific jobs.


I mean Australia can be a great scientific nation, we’ve got the history, from Wi-Fi to the cochlear ear implant. Why on earth are Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott jeopardising Australia’s science future and indeed our nation’s future by taking hostage $150 million of science research in the biggest dummy spit in Australian politics if they don’t get their way on higher education. It’s deplorable tactics and it doesn’t intimidate anyone.


JOURNALIST: How does the Government’s stance correspond with your policy of putting a cap on student numbers?


SHORTEN: No. Labor believes that higher education does need further growth, we believe there should be an emphasis on quality in our higher education system. The Abbott Government is desperate for everyone to look at anything but their own rotten proposals. The so-called higher education reforms which will see kids from modest backgrounds have to find up to $100,000 to pay to go to university, should be put in the dust bin of history and the Abbott Government and Christopher Pyne show you their true character when they threaten 1700 science research jobs if they don’t get their way on these higher education reforms. It is not the job of a government interested in the future of this country to take scientific research hostage and threaten that if you don’t do what they say on their unfair changes to higher education, it’s appalling.


JOURNALIST: On pensions, do you concede that you have to find a way to make them less expensive?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, let me be clear, I don’t blame Australia’s pensioners for having to solve all the budget problems. Australia’s pensioners have paid taxes their whole life, they shouldn’t be some sort of bargaining chip by an unimaginative government whose got no ideas about the future of this country. It is not appropriate that at the last Budget, they reduced, that they proposed reducing the indexation rate of pensions. The first thing the government wants to do if it wants to have a sensible conversation about the future of pensions, is take cutting real pensions of the table.


JOURNALIST: Given your electorate is in the west, would you like to see the western half of the East West Link project delivered by the Andrews Government?


SHORTEN: Well I think the Andrews Government’s focused on all of Victoria and I think they’ve got a good public transport and roads policy. What I believe is that the Abbott Government should stop holding, again it’s another example of taking projects hostage or funding hostage if you don’t agree with their extreme agenda. Everyone knows that there’s been very little work done on the East West Link tunnel and I, it just doesn’t pass the common sense test that these tenderers want up to a billion dollars for doing basically nothing. So I do support the way the Andrews Government is handling this matter, obviously you’d like to see more transport resources in the west and I think that the Andrews Government are best placed to do this, not Tony Abbott.


JOURNALIST: If you win next year’s election will you commit to fund the metro rail tunnel which I think will cost about $11 billion in total?


SHORTEN: Bit early for us to be announcing our infrastructure policies, we don’t even have a date of the election, but what I do say about Labor’s principle’s is that we don’t have a bias against public transport in our big cities. You can’t solve congestion on roads if you’ve only got a strategy for roads and not for public transport. I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole life, I understand that if we want to get less congestion in the roads you’ve got to provide more capacity in the rail, and that’s what I think is an important part of the infrastructure debate missing from Tony Abbott and his Liberal team at the moment, but they don’t seem to have any regard for people in Melbourne who catch the train. But in terms of the detail of our policy, there’s a fair way to go before the election and we’ll talk about more of these issues in more detail as we go along.


JOURNALIST: Pat Dodson wants a meeting of Indigenous, political and industry leaders to set a new course on what he says is Indigenous based policy to stop the pre-Mabo thinking as he’s called it. Have you spoken to the Prime Minister about that at all?


SHORTEN: I think Pat Dodson, who in many ways even though he’s a modest man and probably wouldn’t want this title himself, is one of the fathers of reconciliation in Australia. I think what Tony Abbott needs to do is look at what he said last week and realise that’s caused much more harm than good.


Pat Dodson suggested a way forward, I’ve written to the Prime Minister in the same terms, what we need to do, Tony Abbott and myself, is sit down with a range of Indigenous leaders in Australia and not only tell them what we think is important, listen to them about what they think’s important. You know he is right that we want to see more children going to school, we’ve got to make sure there are safe communities, we want to make sure people have work. We also want to do something about the unacceptably high rates of incarceration and the poor health outcomes that are still afflicting Indigenous Australians. We cannot work through all these issues as well as constitutional recognition in isolation of Indigenous Australians. So I do support Pat Dodson’s call for Tony Abbott and I to together, move Indigenous politics, Indigenous affairs policy from the day to day political scrum and simple thought bubbles and one liners, which we saw last week, but sit down with the fair dinkum leadership of Aboriginal Australia, and lets not only just lecture them, lets listen to them.


JOURNALIST: Do you think its jeopardised the chances of getting Indigenous recognition in the Constitution?


SHORTEN: Well everyone knows that if you want to change the Constitution you need both Liberal and Labor, I’m not sure Tony Abbott can deliver the Liberal Party to recognition of Indigenous Australians, I hope he can, I’ve certainly said on the record and to him that I’m prepared to work with him to achieve that. It is appropriate if in our Constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians. If you like our constitution’s the national birth certificate, I think it is important that we recognise Indigenous Australians on the national birth certificate.


JOURNALIST: Reports are saying today that Liberal Party insiders say that the Prime Minister’s safe until the budget (inaudible).


SHORTEN: For me, this soap opera which is the Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop saga is not the most important issue in Australia. This week isn’t about whether or not it’s Tony Abbott, has the captains cap or Julie Bishop or Malcolm Turnbull. What matters this week is that there’s higher education changes that will be debated in the Parliament, which if the Liberal Party get their way on one hand, if they get them voted up, will make it harder for kids from modest backgrounds to be able to go to university and get a start in life. Or on the other hand if their changes are defeated, we’ve got Christopher Pyne kidnapping science funding in this Australia, holding it hostage and threatening 1700 jobs and the scientific future of Australia. The Liberal party needs to not be an anti-science party, they need to be a pro-science party. They need to stop playing games about who’s in charge and worrying about their own job and worry about the future of this country.


JOURNALIST: Given that the budget’s not that far away and the Treasurer is fighting a court case, is the Government distracted, has it got its eye on the ball?


SHORTEN: I don’t think anyone in Australia thinks that the Government’s prepared for the next Budget, they haven’t even sorted out their last Budget. The Abbott Government is wasting the time of this nation, they’ve already wasted 18, 19 months of this nation's time which we’ll never get back. They need to junk their pension cuts, they need to junk their higher education cuts, they need to focus on a budget which is about uniting the nation not dividing the nation, they need to stop playing infrastructure games with Victoria or playing one line games about Indigenous politics around Australia. What we need is the Government to focus on looking after all people and working with us all, rather than just trying to divide this nation which is their only formula. Thanks everyone, enjoy the festival.