Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Labor’s positive plan to drive startups; Michael Lawler





SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plan to drive startups; Michael Lawler; NAB lifting interest rates; Gun laws; Malcolm Turnbull’s royal commission; Eric Abetz; asylum seekers

Good morning everyone, it's great to be here in the centre of Melbourne at a dynamic facility which is supporting new startup businesses in technology. Today I got to see really bright young Australians backing themselves in with great ideas using digital technology to improve the quality of life of Australians to generate more jobs for Australians and to take Australian exports right across the world. Today I've seen devices and technology being combined to make it easier for parents take the temperature of their children to make conferencing and virtual reality not just something that you use in games but something that we would use in business or education or community building across our great big country.


There’s a lot of good ideas here and this is why Labor has policies to support Australia taking great advantage of the digital age. At the time of the last Liberal Budget, in my Reply I said that the government had got it wrong and what we needed to do was teach Australian children to code, to learn computational thinking, computer language. I also said at that time it’s important that we get 100,000 extra young people to do science and technology, engineering and mathematics. So only Labor's offering 100,000 HECS debt-free places over the next five years. We also said that we wanted to train and extra 25,000 teachers in science, technology and mathematics so that our young people could be taught by the best in Australia.


Since then we've said that we want to have a startup year so that a lot of the bright young people we've seen - while they're finishing their degrees - can get an extra year, not at university strictly, but an at accelerator or Startup centre where they combine academic knowledge and with real world business skills and mentoring. So the people who've been at uni for the last few years who've had an idea rather than just going to a salary job in a large organisation, can actually be the successful business leaders of the future. All in all Labor has got a great set of policies to help generate jobs, to make sure Australia is at the leading edge of the wave of technology innovation around the world. Labor will continue to debate the best way to have the best future for Australia and we're offering the best ideas so Australians can have a great future. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: If your leadership became a drag on the party's vote would you quit for the benefit of your party?

SHORTEN: Labor has a great chance at the next election because we've got policies which really matter to Australians. Labor will make sure that our hospitals and health care system are properly funded, that it’s your Medicare card which determines the level of your health care, not you credit card. Only Labor's going to have a policy to make sure our schools are well funded. Labor's committed to addressing inequality in our society by a strong safety net of workplace conditions and making sure that people with disabilities and other groups that miss out on jobs, get jobs. It's only Labor that's going who's going to take real action on climate change. The difference between Liberal and Labor at the next election is that the Liberals may be talking a bit more about change but Labor will actually deliver change which works not just for the top end of town but for all Australians.


JOURNALIST: But if the polls go down for you would you quit?


SHORTEN: I believe if you look after the policies the polls look after themselves.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten what have you made of Michael Lawler and Kathy Jackson’s media appearances this week and is it appropriate that Lawler’s still has this highly lucrative job at Fair Work Commission?


SHORTEN: Labor, for some months, has been calling for an investigation into the conduct of vice president Lawler. I think anyone who watched that television show on Monday night on Four Corners would have been staggered by the show and what it revealed. The Government has now - at the urging of Labor - set up an investigation into Vice President Lawler's conduct. We'll see where that goes. But what I really think here is that there is a case to answer and people want to get to the bottom of what's really been happening and that show on Monday I think helped expose some of the real problems.


JOURNALIST: Are banks putting shareholders’ interests ahead of others?


SHORTEN: I'm really disappointed in some of our big banks. The cost of money in Australia has never been lower: we've seen interest rates at historic long term lows. Yet, at this very point, the banks are seeking to gain profit for themselves when the case hasn't made out for the changes. I'm really concerned that banks are ripping off mortgage holders in Australians by jacking up prices when there is no case to do it. What I'm also concerned about is that the big banks have moved now that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are in charge. I'm concerned that the big banks see Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison as a soft touch. I think the challenge here is for leadership from the Government.  Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are hard on families, soft on banks.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten your view on the rate rise seems to be slightly at odds with your Treasury spokesperson Chris Bowen. He has in the past backed the call for banks to raise more capital and he used yesterday's announcement as an opportunity to claim credit for Labor making it easier to change banks. Do you stand by your comments that this is just the Government assisting banks to be greedy?


SHORTEN: I've got a very clear view here that I don't believe the banks have made the case. The cash rate is very low; we're at historic low levels in terms of the official interest rates. I don't believe the banks have made the case to be increasing the rates they charge consumers. At the end of the day, the banks depend upon customers and I don't appreciate the fact that they're taking some sort of advantage of changes in government regulation, to use it just to increase their own profits at the expense of Australians. The banks are doing pretty well at the moment. I mean how much profit does some of these large multi-billion dollar operations have to make before they say enough is enough. But I’m also concerned that we now see the banks moving when there's a new Prime Minister and a new Treasurer. Either they think that they're a soft touch or they're just doing it and they don't care who's in charge. The real issue here is that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison; they're tough on families, but just soft on banks.


JOURNALIST: Gun laws are back in the spotlight. How would you like to see them tightened?

SHORTEN: I think that one of John Howard's lasting achievements was the swift action he took after the Port Arthur tragedy. I think most Australians will remember where they were when they heard the news of that dreadful, dreadful shooting and murders. The nation at that time was appalled and John Howard, supported by Labor, embarked on a tough debate to say that we didn't want to go down the path of other parts of the world like America. Now we see 19 years on, calls to soften this stand. You know, I’d say to the Liberal Party - hold your nerve. Australians don't want to see the sort of gun culture that we see elsewhere, and bringing in these weapons which can be modified and can do the sort of harm that people are concerned about.  There is no case that has been made to weaken our gun laws.

Mr Shorten, are you glad you won't be called back to the trade union royal commission?

SHORTEN: I think the royal commission has been a waste of time - it’s been a political smear and the truth of the matter is that it's costing nearly a million dollars a week in terms of some of the costs that they've run up. You know, really we've got to see what is it solving. The royal commission I think has been set up in part to smear its political rivals and I’m not surprised they're not recalling me.

JOURNALIST: Does Cesar Melham have your full support after his appearance before the commission and as his predecessor at the AWU are you confident he did an honourable job?

SHORTEN: Well Cesar can speak for Cesar. But I go back to my earlier answer on the royal commission. It’s been somewhere between $60 and $80 million worth of taxpayers’ money to investigate unions. The truth of the matter is that's it’s been a political smear, and if we needed any more evidence than the royal commissioner accepting an invitations to Liberal Party fundraisers, just look at the debacle that happened in the royal commission yesterday. On Thursday, sorry on Wednesday, the royal commission wrote to the Labor Party and demanded the names of over 9000 ALP members. This is McCarthyism. Now I wouldn't have thought in Australia we would see an institution of a Liberal Government demanding to know the financial details, the bank records, the membership of the Labor Party of literally thousands of Australians. The Liberal Party and the royal commission do not have a right to invade people's privacy in a harsh and oppressive way to identify their political affiliations. It was classically royal commission over the top, without a case argued and as soon as they got caught they retreated in the spotlight of public gaze.

JOURNALIST: What did you make of Eric Abetz referring to US Judge Clarence Thomas as a negro in his argument against gay marriage?

SHORTEN: Eric Abetz is a dinosaur; he holds the views of a dinosaur. The ethnic or cultural background of a Judge of the American Supreme Court is irrelevant to the gentleman's judgements. Again, I think Malcolm Turnbull needs to show some leadership and call Eric Abetz into line. Clearly Eric Abetz is off the reservation about marriage equality and he's accusing his leader of ambushing them. We see these…I think 1960s views permeating political debate 50 years on. The rest of us have moved on and I absolutely think that Eric Abetz needs to be pulled into line. What is that Eric Abetz doesn't get about the 21st century?


JOURNALIST: What do you think about PNG's announcement it will begin resettling refugees from the Manus centre?

SHORTEN: Well Labor does believe in regional resettlement. We'll get more details during the course of today so I’ll take that bit on notice. But we do believe in regional resettlement and if there could be a better life offered for these asylum seekers in PNG we'll obviously be pleased about that news. Thanks everyone.