MONDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Peter Greste; Tony Abbott’s lies and broken promises to Australian families; Cost of living; Tony Abbott’s leadership; Prince Philip’s Knighthood
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: First of all, let me join with everyone across Australia in expressing our relief that journalist Peter Greste is coming home. Having seen the courage which he's displayed and also might I add the strength and resilience of his remarkable family, the media journalist industry in Australia standing by Peter Greste and indeed all Australians, Government and Opposition, it is just great news that he will be returned home to Australia to the people he loves.
But from that, let me move to the Prime Minister's current problems. Today we heard a desperate speech from a politically drowning man aimed at pleasing his MPs but with nothing for Australian families, Australian taxpayers. What we saw is a Prime Minister who wouldn't concede that he'd broken promises, who wouldn't concede that his unfair Budget was the source of his problems. This Prime Minister showed today, as he has on a number of occasions, that he's simply not up to the job of being Prime Minister of Australia.
Today, Tony Abbott had an opportunity to say to Australians, "I get it. I hear you. I understand that perhaps for the last year and a half we've been out of touch, that we don't have the right priorities. But today we'll talk about Medicare”, not a word. "Today we'll talk about the GP tax”, not a word. "Today we'll talk about pensioners”, not a word. This is a Prime Minister who is only interested in hanging on to his own job. Today the Prime Minister revealed irrevocably that he is not up to the job of taking Australia to the future.
I might just ask my Shadow Minister for Families to talk a bit further about particular issues in this speech.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill. Well three years ago, Tony Abbott said to the Australian people that as far as he was concerned “it's an absolute signature policy”. This is the way that Tony Abbott described his policy on Paid Parental Leave, and he went on to say that his Paid Parental Leave policy “would be the defining mark of his Prime Ministership”. He also said that it would be delivered in his first term of Government. Tony Abbott today has broken that promise to Australian families.
There are Australian families, women who are pregnant right now, expecting this paid parental leave scheme to be introduced on 1 July. It won't be because Tony Abbott has broken his promise to all those families. Tony Abbott has broken his signature paid parental leave policy to all these families for one reason only - to save his political skin. That what this is all about. Tony Abbott wanting to save his own political hide.
The thing that Tony Abbott didn't talk about today was getting rid of the 1.5 per cent tax that he wants to impose on 3,000 of Australia's biggest businesses, which would mean that every time every family goes to the supermarket they will pay more. So Tony Abbott is going to get rid of his signature paid parental leave scheme and at the same time say to families "You'll pay more every time you go to the supermarket."
The other thing we heard nothing about from Tony Abbott today was the $5.5 billion that he is taking out of the pockets of families in this year's Budget. That's in the Parliament right now. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want to take $5.5 billion out of the pockets of families. For an average family, that's around $6,000 a year. $6,000 a year Tony Abbott wants to take out of the pockets of families, and he thinks he can come to the National Press Club today and act like he cares about families. Well, he doesn't care at all about families and that's demonstrated by his Budget which would take so much money out of the pockets of every single family in this country.
JOURNALIST: What do you think that the new families package?
MACKLIN: Well I think I've demonstrated that Tony Abbott today has shown that his families package is completely worthless. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in this year's Budget want to take around $6,000 a year out of the pockets of families. Today he refused to get rid of those cuts. Tony Abbott today broke the biggest promise of all, his signature policy, his paid parental leave policy is now dead because he made that decision today.
JOURNALIST: He is going to put the money into child care he says. Do you support that?
MACKLIN: We don't know what he's going to do. There was absolutely nothing announced today about child care, just a few words. Nothing at all that any family can rely on. What families do know is that Tony Abbott has broken the promise to introduce a paid parental leave scheme that he said was his signature policy and Tony Abbott has refused to reverse the huge cuts to families that were in his first Budget.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you have been against paid parental leave for years but now you're saying he's letting down pregnant women. Do you think he should have kept it?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear about Tony Abbott, he broke all his election promises but this is the one thing he said you could trust him on. He said you could trust Tony Abbott to back in this paid parental leave scheme. Tony Abbott hasn't changed his mind, he's just desperate to keep his job. If you can't trust Tony Abbott to even keep this promise I think Australians have proof beyond all reasonable doubt now that you can't trust anything Tony Abbott says. His priorities are not the priorities for the future of Australia, his priorities are to say and do whatever he can to keep his job.
JOURNALIST: Abbott said there will be no changes to the GST without Labor’s support. Would you support changes to the GST?
SHORTEN: Tony Abbott knows that Labor doesn't support changing the GST to put a cost-of-living pressure on Australian families. Cost of living was another phrase which Tony Abbott doesn't talk about and didn't talk about in his speech. The reason why he didn't go to Queensland, the reason why he doesn't talk about cost of living is Tony Abbott has the wrong priorities for Australians. All he is doing now is a last-ditch desperate effort to try and save his job and now he's ditched the policy which he said you could trust him on most, he's ditched his signature policy which he said defined him. If Tony Abbott's prepared to give up this policy, what is it that anyone can trust Tony Abbott on other than the fact that Tony Abbott wants to keep his job.
JOURNALIST: If you were Tony Abbott would you stay on in the job?
SHORTEN: Sorry I didn’t hear that.
JOURNALIST: If you were Tony Abbott, would you stay on or would you step aside?
SHORTEN: I think Tony Abbott has demonstrated that he's unsuitable to be the Prime Minister of Australia, to take us forward in the future. Look at the last week of the trifecta of horrors. We've seen today's speech where he doesn't talk about his policies and promises which are taking Australia in the wrong direction, which are upsetting and outraging Australians, he ignores the Queensland election in his speech.
We've got the remarkable set of circumstances where an elected Prime Minister of Australia can't visit the third-largest state of Australia because he knows that it will cost his party votes and it all started this week, started 8 days ago, when he knighted the Duke of Edinburgh. This shows you that this man has got the wrong policies for Australia in the 21st century. He's more focused on Buckingham Palace than Beijing. Labor thinks that Tony Abbott is politically inept but that's not even our major objection to the Prime Minister. He's unsuitable to run Australia because he hasn't got the policies for the future and today when he had an opportunity to spell out to Australians that he's in touch with what matters to them, we hear nothing.
SHORTEN: The thing about this is it was a dud of a policy but Tony Abbott at least used to be regarded as someone who might stick to a couple of his promises. We've seen in the last 510 days approximately since he was elected, he said there would be no new taxes; taxes have gone up. He said there would be no cuts to pensions; pensions have been cut. He said there’d no cuts to hospitals and schools; there are cuts to hospitals and schools. He even said he wouldn't cut the ABC or the SBS and he's done that. But he's said all along, whatever happens, whatever happens "I'm Tony Abbott and I won't change my paid parental leave scheme," now he's ditched that.
The point about it is not that he's ditched it, it's that you can't trust Tony Abbott to keep his word on anything.
JOURNALIST: This morning the Minister Scott Morrison said you were getting cocky. Do you think you have a right to be getting cocky?
SHORTEN: I listened to the Government Ministers sort of rallying around, I assumed they're the ones who don't want to see a change in leadership. The real issue here is that we all know there's chaos and dysfunction at the heart of the Abbott Liberal Government. But what we also know is that regardless of who the Liberals desperately put into be their chief salesperson, the problem is not necessarily the sales person, it's what they're trying to sell us. They have the wrong policies and priorities for the future of Australia. They want to undercut Medicare, they want to undercut the minimum wage, they want to undercut funding to hospitals and schools. They want to go after the pensioners, they've got no strategy for the future and of course now we’ve seen today a Prime Minister making a job application to his own colleagues and ignoring Australians.
JOURNALIST: Does it make your job harder if there is a change of leader?
SHORTEN: What really matters in this country is not the question of who leads the Liberal party, it’s the question of what sort of future do we want to have in the 21st Century. Even monarchists were shocked when Tony Abbott decided to knight the Duke of Edinburgh, because what Australians know is our future isn’t just in the last century of Buckingham Palace, it’s in the future growth of Asia. We’ve got a Prime Minister who can’t get his priorities right. And when we come to domestic policies, he doesn’t get that cutting hospitals and cutting schools doesn’t make Australia a richer, smarter, better country, it just makes us a meaner, more unfair destination.
JOURNALIST: He did also flag new laws to crack down on home-grown terror supporters, would Labor support such a move?
SHORTEN: I saw the Prime Minister try and rally round the terror issue - he knows and we know that when it comes to national security and fighting terror, Labor and Liberal are in this together, and the record shows that that has been a matter of bipartisanship during the time I’ve been Opposition Leader. So we’ll look at the proposals the Government makes seriously but I’m not sure it should be part of his job application to keep his current job. We work on those matters together; it should be separate from politics.
SHORTEN: What I worry about here is in fact exactly not the focus on leadership; it’s the focus on the policies for Australia’s future. What we want in this country is a strong safety net underpinning growth and productivity. What we want is to increase national savings for lifting superannuation. What we want to do is stimulate growth by making sure the pensioners who shop in the high street don’t have their pensions cut. What we want to make sure is that we have good policies which ensure the children, whatever postcode they live in Australia, city or country, rich or poor get the same opportunity to get good quality schooling and the opportunity to do TAFE or higher education.
What matters here is not whether or not it is Tony Abbott or Scott Morrison or Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop or any other person, because they all vote for the same things. Underneath, scratch the surface of any of them, they all believe in this unfair budget. They all have the wrong priorities. What we need in this country is a future focussed on growth, education, a strong safety net, productivity.
JOURNALIST: You’ve talked about trust, when will you provide a policy so that Australians can know if they can trust you?
SHORTEN: Australians can trust Labor in the following ways: we believe in Medicare and a strong universal healthcare system. We believe that a child should be able to go to university not based on their parents’ postcode but based on how hard they work and the marks they get. We believe the pensioners who have worked hard their whole life and paid their taxes shouldn’t be facing unfair pension cuts. We believe our Defence Force shouldn’t have their pay slipping behind inflation. We also believe fundamentally that this is a Government who has got plans to increase the GST, and we don’t think this country can tax its way to greatness, but nor do we believe that it can cut its safety net and then hope that we still have the same fairness. Fairness and growth go together in Australia, and that’s what Labor believes, and when it comes to the detail of our policy, we’ll roll them out in good time before the next election.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has said that all awards – so this includes Knights and Damehoods - will be entirely a matter for the Order of Australia Council, do you welcome this announcement?
SHORTEN: I think this whole discussion triggered by the Prime Minister’s wrong priorities of prioritising giving a Knighthood to Prince Philip shows how out of touch he is. I don’t know why the Prime Minister just simply didn’t get up today and say “I got this one wrong” full stop. Instead he wants to talk about he’s going to finesse the mechanics of Knighthoods and Dames.
We would scrap the system of Knighthoods and Dames, and I think that the very fact that we have a Prime Minister in Australia, who believed on Australia day, our national day, when hundreds indeed thousands of Australians are getting just recognition for what they have done, that we’ve got a Prime Minister whose simple priority is to play last century politics, prioritising and thinking that Buckingham Palace is more relevant than Beijing, shows you that this is a Prime Minister – both in foreign matters and domestic – he’s unsuited to lead our country into the future.
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