Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Marriage Equality; Tony Abbott’s royal commission






SUBJECT/S: Marriage Equality; Tony Abbott’s royal commission; Abbott paying people smugglers


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be here this afternoon with my Leader in the Senate, Penny Wong and our Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus talking up the cause of marriage equality in Australia.


Today I offered something new in the marriage equality debate. Tony Abbott has said that the preconditions for the Liberal Party to have a debate in his party room about a free vote would be there had to be a bill in the Parliament, well there is. The law isn't complicated.


But secondly, he said that it can't be a partisan matter. So today, on behalf of all the Australians who want to see marriage equality and not have partisanship, I've offered that the Liberal Party can move the bill. They should sit down and talk to us but they can move the marriage equality bill.


For Labor, it's about marriage equality and equality more generally. It's not about who's name is on a piece of paper. So I hope that today's offer from the Labor Party at this stirring Melbourne rally in support of marriage equality, I hope now that Tony Abbott will finally front up and the Liberal Party will give their members a free vote on an issue which should be above politics.


Thank you, any questions?


JOURNALIST: On the royal commission, why have you ruled out answers any questions between now and September should you have nothing to hide?

SHORTEN: First of all, I've made it very clear I'm happy to attend the royal commission and to cooperate fully. I've said this for some time and I certainly was pleased to be able to make that very clear yesterday. As I'm going to the royal commission I've made it clear I won't be dealing or answering questions on specific matters which will be considered by the royal commission. But I state as a principle again, Labor has zero tolerance for criminality and illegality in the workplace. It doesn't matter if its employee, employer or Union rep.

JOURNALIST: Jeff Kennett's called on you to resign from Parliament, what's your response?

SHORTEN: I think Jeff Kennett famously called upon the coach of Hawthorn to resign after the first game of a particular football season. The football team then went on - not to listen to Jeff Kennett - and went onto win the grand final.

JOURNALIST: Are you nervous about facing the royal commission?

SHORTEN: No, I'm very proud of the fact that my whole adult life has been spent representing workers, that's what I've done as a union rep and it's what I do in Parliament every day. I look forward to cooperating with the royal commission and I also know fundamentally that I've always served workers' interests first.

JOURNALIST: You will be the third Labor leader to face a royal commission under this government, is that a reflection on Labor or the Government?

SHORTEN: I think it's fair to say when you talk to Australians, they're not happy to find out that Tony Abbott is spending $80 million on Tony Abbott's royal commission into trade unions to smear his political opponents. But it is what it is and I'm happy to cooperate, as should everyone be.

JOURNALIST: How long are you expected to be in front of the commission?

SHORTEN: I have no idea.

JOURNALIST: Since it's a few months away, to you expect this to become a distraction in the interim?

SHORTEN: Well in fact we've said to the royal commission we're happy to make it at whatever mutually convenient time they can do. It doesn't have to be a few months, that's in the hands of the royal commission. But when we talk about the issues, you're right. What matters here is not Tony Abbott's royal commission into trade unions - happy to cooperate with that, proud of my record. What matters is the issues to do with the Australian economy. The constant battle to keep jobs and keep downward pressure on unemployment. What matters to Australians is housing affordability and the cost of living. These issues remain the most important issues for the Labor Party as we approach the rest of this year.

JOURNALIST: Former Winslow workers say the union always agreed with the company after the fishy deal. Ben Davis says employers paid union fees profoundly weakens union power. Wasn't this to boost AWU's numbers?

SHORTEN: Again, what I would say is that as I've agreed to go to the royal commission, I make it clear that I'm happy to answer all questions at the royal commission. More generally, I know that every day I've got up, I've served the interests of workers, put interests of workers first both as a union rep and now again in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Just generally, is it OK for employers to pay their workers' union fees?

SHORTEN: Well again, you're going to matters in the royal commission, which I'm happy to answer and I'm answering them at the royal commission. What I would also say is Labor's principle is that we believe in promoting the interests of workers, putting them first, and that's what we're doing, not only through the Labor movement but in Parliament. That is why we are most keen to see the Government put forward its measures of its budget and we'll debate those so we can try the process of rebuilding confidence in the Australian economy which workers need.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe your leadership's in jeopardy at all?


JOURNALIST: Does the Government still have the Labor Party's in principle support for stripping the citizenship of people suspected of terrorism?

SHORTEN: We do believe we've got to do everything we can to fight terror and Labor's in this together with the Liberals. But I think it is of great frustration to the people of Australia that the Government talks about this legislation, they've clearly got their own divisions as we’ve seen from those dreadful Cabinet leaks. Labor has asked to be briefed on the proposed laws. Tony Abbott and the Liberals have said they won't brief Labor until they come into Parliament but they still haven't brought the laws into Parliament. Over the weekend we've now seen concerning reports that the experts upon whom advice the Government justifies the new legislation, are disagreeing with what Government ministers are saying. I think it's important for the Government to make sure that they've got a competent set of laws to deal with terrorism and they're not fluffing things up.

JOURNALIST: If the Government has been paying people smugglers to turn boats back should they be investigated by the AFP?

SHORTEN: I think the reports are jaw dropping. To hear reports that we're paying wads of cash to people smugglers not to bring people to Australia is most alarming. We shouldn't be turning the Australian Defence Forces into a floating ATM for people smugglers. The place for people smugglers is in prison, it's not to be paid with Australian taxpayer money. What we see here though is that the Prime Minister just won't tell us what is happening here, have people smugglers been paid? He says it's an operational matter. But then he said his own senior ministers come out and deny it. So they can't have it both ways. If they say it's an operational matter why are these ministers talking about operational matters or alternatively have the people smugglers been paid with Australian taxpayer money?

Last question.

JOURNALIST: If these allegations are proven to be true does that mean Australia itself would be in the business of people smuggling?

SHORTEN: You've got to draw the conclusion what on earth is the Abbott Government thinking when they're paying people smugglers not to bring people to Australia? Because logically the message that sends to people smugglers is the Australian Government will pay you to carry out your crimes. That is a terrible precedent. I think the Abbott Government just needs to tell us what is going on, they need to do it as a matter of urgency.

Thanks everyone.