Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Labor’s plan for more university graduates; Coalition reshuffle





SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for more university graduates; Coalition reshuffle; Royal Commission into family violence; Newspoll; South China Sea; GST; China Free Trade Agreement; Liberal divisions.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s fantastic to be at Victoria University’s Footscray campus. And seeing what great students and great teachers are doing about providing us with the skills that Australia needs in the future. I’m today accompanied by our assistant spokesperson on higher education, Amanda Rishworth. Today also I’ve been able to talk to students, and to staff, about Labor’s fantastic new propositions around higher education. Labor yesterday announced policies which will mean that the Liberal policy of $100,000 degrees for university students is a thing of the past if Labor gets elected at the next election. Labor doesn’t support the ruthless agenda of the Liberal Party in higher education, which would see prices go up for university fees, and the number of people that are able to study at university go down. By contrast, the Labor Party has made a values based decision that we want young people to think that they can pursue their life’s interests and academic interests and go to university. We want older Australians, who are thinking about reskilling and changing jobs, to feel that they can go to university without paying exorbitant university fees. Labor doesn’t share the Liberal view that the price of going to university should be going up and up and up. So Labor yesterday, and between now and everyday up to the election, is talking about a student funding guarantee. We will guarantee funding for each student to universities, so that the price of going to university can be kept down. At the same time, we’ll be stressing to universities and working cooperatively with people in higher education – universities, the states, parents and students – to make sure that there is proper access for people from modest backgrounds, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can get a  chance to go to university, that people from the regions of Australia can get the same chance as metropolitan Australians to go to university. We’ll also be sitting down and talking with the universities about how we improve the quality of the university experience. Taxpayers provide $14 billion dollars to universities so that hundreds of thousands of people get a chance to go to university. We want to make sure that that taxpayer money is being spent effectively, and that kids are finishing their university degrees and coming out job ready for the jobs of the future. Only Labor has a plan to make sure that people all around Australia get the chance to see their kids go to university, or if they want to change careers or jobs in the new world, they’re able to get the university qualifications they need so that every Australian can be better off. I’d like to ask Amanda Rishworth to talk further about the details of our offering on higher education.


AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION: Thanks Bill. It is really wonderful to be here at Victoria University. Last year I was here talking about the Liberals' plans for $100,000 degrees, a plan that is still on the table with Malcolm Turnbull. Today, I am pleased to be with Bill to talk about our positive plan for higher education, a plan that has a focus on access, a plan that has a focus on quality. Importantly a plan that has a focus on investment and a plan that has a focus on completion. To ensure that our young people complete a degree, that our mature aged students take away a degree that will help them in their job for the future. It is critically important that along with investment, does come the focus of ensuring a quality education, one that ensures our young people are job ready and they don't walk away with just a debt but they walk away with a degree as well.


JOURNALIST: How much will this policy affect the Budget?


SHORTEN: Labor has articulated how we would pay for this policy. We would see an increase in resources into higher education of about $3.9 billion over the next four years. We have also articulated how we would pay for this. The way we would do it is we would support some government savings which are currently in the Senate but furthermore we would change some of the lower priorities of the Government and put it behind higher education and in addition, we believe that our policies to tax multinationals to make sure they pay their fair share, this all goes to the bottom line. So we think at the end of the day, every dollar spent on higher education is a dollar well spent. Over the next 10 years we will see $26 back into the economy and it is a good bet to bet on our young people and people who want to change their jobs. What it means for parents in Australia is that your kids will be more likely to go to university without a big debt. Labor's plan, what it means for adults looking to reskill, is that you won't be crippled by the sort of debts which the Liberals will give you. We are putting downward pressure on university fees to make sure people have a better quality teaching and academic experience when they're at university.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of what Australia's first female defence minister has saying judge her on her performance rather than her gender?


SHORTEN: I agree. I am pleased, and I have said this ever since Malcolm Turnbull introduced his new Liberal frontbench, that it is long overdue that women are represented by both sides of politics on the frontbench. We will be saying more about how we can improve the representation of women on the frontbench, and I think Malcolm Turnbull should follow Labor, as we has with giving a promotion to more women. He should follow us and commit that by 2025, half the MPs from the Liberal Party will be women. That is Labor's promise. Mr Turnbull should match that. Furthermore I think it is long overdue for the Liberals to start recognising that it is a good step forward to have more women on the frontbench, but it is important that the Liberal Government appoints more women to positions in government or on government boards. The biggest thing we can do to help women in Australia is tackle the scourge of domestic violence. I believe now there is a great opportunity, and I have expended my support to Malcolm Turnbull to do this, that they should reverse some of their cuts in domestic violence so we can make sure that women who are the victims of family violence get the support they need to get through these terrible times.


JOURNALIST: Would you consider extending Victoria's Royal Commission federally if you won office on?


SHORTEN: I’ve thought about that, I don't have a final view. What Victoria is doing is a really good idea, a Royal Commission into family violence. All around Australia there has been some strong research done. I think there has been some pretty good ideas. The best contribution that the Federal Government could make in the short-term is have a summit. That is not just a talkfest, it’s not just talking to the Premiers of Australia. We need to get in the same room at the same time, the voices of survivors, the police, the community legal services, the people in legal aid who helped the victims of family violence. We need to get the researchers and politicians in the same place at the same time. Not to do more research or not to replicate the work of the Victorian Royal Commission, but my particular style of leadership is you get people from diverse points of view, the survivors, most importantly, get them in the same room as the politicians and say what is working, what isn't working? And we use a summit as a new day to provide the sort of funding and resources so that no woman goes through the legal system, in terms of family violence, and faces the postcode lottery of whether or not one judge understands what is going on and another doesn't. That every woman can go through the system and have the sort of legal support which helps make a terrible experience at least slightly easier to deal with after the event.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on the polls, do you think you can win the election now with Turnbull as leader?


SHORTEN: Absolutely. I am very pleased, I am pleased that Tony Abbott's gone. I do think he was taking Australia down the wrong path. What interests me is it took two years for Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop to work out what Australians had already worked out. But I’m not going to be negative about the change, because I think that Tony Abbott was taking us in the wrong direction. What is important is that we don't just have a change of face and a change of the Liberal line-up. What is important is we dump the Abbott Government policies. At the end of the day, Australians don't want to see personality politics, they want to see politics about ideas. Labor is up for the contest of ideas about the best way for Australia to make sure we have the best possible future. That is why yesterday, we have declared that we will fight the Liberal policies of wrecking higher education and we have a plan which is costed and which helps keep downward pressure on prices in terms of going to university and better quality experience. We have plenty of ideas from renewable energy and climate change, right through to talking about getting the nation on the same page about domestic violence. I will work with Malcolm Turnbull to achieve a better Australia but what Labor will never do is compromise our conviction that in order for Australia to have a bright future, we also need to have a fair future. And whilst the current Government, the Liberal Government, pursues Mr Abbott's policies on everything from climate change to pension cuts, to going after paid parental leave, whilst they are doing all these things, Labor will be the guardian for the Australian people just as we were against Mr Abbott's unfair policies.


JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull has conceded that politicians do look closely at polls. So how worried are you by the massive slump in your personal support in the Newspoll?


SHORTEN: Well you’ve been kind enough to do interviews with me for the last two years while we were ahead in the polls, and you never heard me crow, so I’m not going to start getting too upset. What I understand is what matters - ideas about the future of this country. I hope that the overdue departure of Mr Abbott is a breath of fresh air in Australia and we don't just try and fit everything into a two minute grab or a four minute interview. Australians want longer term planning and I can promise Australians, if you care about a Medicare system where it is your Medicare card, not your credit card which determines the level of health, then Labor’s got your back. I promise working mums, who have had their paid parental leave schemes cut by the Liberal Government that we have your back. I promise future generations of Australians who want real action on climate change, we won't just be supporting Mr Abbott's direct action policies as Malcolm Turnbull is. We’ve got a view that renewable energy should be 50 per cent of our energy mix in the future. We’ve got a view that our policies to reduce carbon emissions and decrease carbon pollution, we are on the right track and we will not, regardless of the salesmen from the Liberals, we aren’t going to change who we are or what we are.


JOURNALIST: When your colleagues look at those polls in the paper and they might see them on television tonight, are you encouraging them to ignore those figures?


SHORTEN: Well I know a lot of my colleagues were happy with the discussion of ideas last night on the ABC.


JOURNALIST: This is about the polls though. Are you encouraging them to ignore the figures in the polls?


SHORTEN: I can promise Australians that the Labor Party's interested in who offers the best ideas for the future of the country at the next election. For two years, when Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison were voting for everything that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were doing, we were opposing them. We will keep opposing unfair policies and broken promises. What Australians want, is they want to make sure that our economy is growing, which it hasn't been doing well under the Liberals. They also want to make sure that we have good quality economic growth and they want to make sure that we have fairness in the way this nation is run. Tony Abbott's gone in large part because the Labor Party wouldn't compromise on fairness in Australia and the fair go just because Mr Abbott and his team wanted to yell at us and shout at us.


JOURNALIST: On foreign policy, another important area, Malcolm Turnbull has said that China is pushing the envelope with the South China Sea build-up. Do you agree with that, or are you concerned his comments might be taken unconstructively by China?


SHORTEN: Well I think it is Mr Turnbull's first outing on foreign policy as leader. I don’t know if those remarks were intemperate or not, but in terms of the South China Sea, Labor has a clear view which we had when Mr Abbott was in charge and again while Mr Turnbull is in charge, it’s this. The passage of the sea and the air is an important international right. We strongly believe, especially in an area like the South China Sea, where a third of the world's trade passes through - it is worth $5.3 trillion - that we need a de-escalation of some of the hostilities and rhetoric that we are seeing. We strongly encourage China to pursue an ASEAN process in terms of de-escalating the crisis. That’s our view.


JOURNALIST: Given the major reshuffle of the Government benches are you considering a shake-up of your team when you do your reshuffle?


SHORTEN: While whilst the excitement was in the Liberal camp last week about deposing their Prime Minister and getting a new leader, two of our long serving distinguished colleagues of Amanda and I stepped down, Bernie Ripoll and Jan McLucas. So we were scheduled to do a modest reshuffle. I think I have a very good team and they have certainly proven their resilience in the last two years. We will certainly be looking to inject new blood into the line-up as well.


JOURNALIST: Just on the plan to increase the GST and dish out the money as tax breaks, revealed by Chris Bowen this morning – what’s the difference in theory between that and the carbon tax?


SHORTEN: There is a world of difference. First of all we’re not going to do a carbon tax and indeed Malcolm Turnbull finally said what the Liberals couldn't say for the last two years, that our emissions trading scheme is not a carbon tax. So the carbon tax issue is just not a live issue. In terms of the GST, Chris Bowen has given a really good speech today about our concerns about the GST. But I’ll articulate some of the points on why we are opposed to increasing and extending the GST. First of all, when the GST was introduced in 1998, everyone said that was the end of the matter and it wouldn't be changed or extended. Low and behold, here they come again, the Liberal Party saying we might have said that then but now we want to do more now. So how do we know that this will be the end of it? Secondly, look at countries where there is a high GST, not all are economic success stories. Some of the European countries like Greece have higher GST than Australia. That hasn't been a guarantee of success. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, why is it that the Liberal Party are always asking real Australians, ordinary Australians to pay more? We are here at a university where we are fighting off the attempts of the Liberal Party to ask young people to pay more. Now what is their idea for tax reform? It’s to increase taxes on goods and services. Yet again, it’s the Liberal economic formula – go and ask most Australians to pay more. I don't know why Mr Turnbull will not go after multinationals who aren't paying their fair share. I do not understand why Malcolm Turnbull is so reluctant to shut down some of the superannuation tax loopholes that multimillionaires enjoy. Why is it that whenever there is a choice for the Liberal Party – increase the taxes for the vast bulk of working Australians, or go after some of the loopholes in the system, they would rather back in the big end of town and ordinary Australians well they just pay more under the Liberals.


JOURNALIST: Andrew Robb today let slip that an election might be a few months away. How prepared are you for an election either side of Christmas?


SHORTEN: We are prepared for an election. But what I am interested in, and what really matters here, is not when the election is, it is who has the best ideas at the next election. I can promise Australians now that we will build the infrastructure of the future with a combination of public and private investment in public transport. I can promise Australians that we have fair dinkum policies to tackle climate change, not just reheating Tony Abbott's climate change scepticism. I can promise Australians if you want to send your children to school, they will be funded according to need and no other criteria. If you want to send your young people to safe or university, they won’t be racking up bigger debts, they will be getting a better chance for a quality education. I can promise older Australians when it comes to making sure that the ruthless attacks on the aged pension that we have seen from the Liberals, Labor will keep opposing the unfair changes. So it is up to the Liberals when they have an election, but what I promise Australians is that we have a positive view of Australia, not just for the next opinion poll but for the next decade.


JOURNALIST: Premier Daniel Andrews is in China the at the moment. Have you spoken to him at all about his position on the China Free Trade Agreement?


SHORTEN: I have spoken to him, and we have a very similar position in terms of our concerns about protecting the rights of Australian workers. The Chinese Australian Free Trade Agreement is a good idea. I appreciate your question because it allows me to clear up misrepresentations about Labor's position. Labor supports having a China Free Trade Agreement. What we are reasonably doing is asserting that we need to make sure Australian jobs are protected. By that what I mean is if there is $150 million construction project, a hotel to be built in Footscray in Melbourne or in Western Sydney, if it is $150 million, that a Chinese investor should at least test the Australian local job market before bringing in a work force sourced entirely from elsewhere. Now the China Free Trade Agreement is different in terms of some of the protections for Australian workers than previous trade agreements have been. But the Government just bellows and carries on and calls us names merely because we want to stand up for Australian jobs. The propositions we are advancing, and the legislation was only presented last week, they are sensible, moderate, and if the Liberal Government really haven't done a dud deal or sold out Australian workers' conditions, then we can easily fix our concerns. It is just up to the Government not to be arrogant and out of touch and sit down and talk with Labor to hear the concerns of real Australians.


JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott said he wouldn't be undermining anyone post being rolled as leader, do you think that’s broken, given what has been said in the Daily Telegraph this morning about Scott Morrison?


SHORTEN: It is getting very ugly, the recriminations in the Liberal Party over the sacking of Tony Abbott. Scott Morrison last week said he had been entirely up-front with Tony Abbott. Now we find out Tony Abbott is saying Scott Morrison was not entirely up-front. These two gentlemen, they both can't be right. I think it is time for the new Treasurer of Australia to come clean and say is Mr Abbott wrong or is he wrong? Because they both want be right. It shows the division in the ranks of the Liberal Government.


JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton has been retained as Immigration Minister, but he is not in the National Security Committee of cabinet. Do you find that odd?


SHORTEN: It is bewildering that on one hand Peter Dutton – who had a checked career as Immigration Minister - I don't think any Victorian will ever forget that he wanted to have border force, uniformed people checking the paperwork of people under the clocks on Flinders Street. What is bewildering is that Peter Dutton is the minister for border security and immigration, and he doesn't have a permanent place on the National Security Committee of cabinet. You would have your representative in border security sitting regularly, permanently on the National Security Committee of cabinet. It seems to me that Malcolm Turnbull's punishing Peter Dutton for Peter Dutton voting for Tony Abbott and not Malcolm Turnbull. I am concerned at these signs of disunity and of course what we don't need when we have matter as important as national security, is vendettas and revenge between Liberal ministers. That is not good for national security.


Thanks everyone. Cheers.