Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Tony Abbott jeopardising the roll-out of the NDIS; China Free Trade Agreement






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott jeopardising the roll-out of the NDIS; China Free Trade Agreement; Syrian Refugees; National security.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it's fantastic to be at the Furlong Park School for the Deaf with Jenny Macklin, seeing today how properly funded schools and support can give beautiful young children with an impairment the best chance in life. But just as these children are wrapping their Father's Day presents for their parents, there's been breaking news this morning that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is under threat from Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government. This morning we've discovered that the Abbott Government has, without warning, advertised the positions of all the board members of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme are the people who have been tasked with rolling out national disability insurance for hundreds of thousands of people living with severe and profound disabilities. This has been a great Board. What they've done – this is the leaders of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – is they've made sure that the new National Disability Insurance Scheme gets the best start in life and they've now been repaid for their hard work by a midnight ambush where their positions have been advertised. The people who have been setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme, so you've got these hard-working people, they've set up the National Disability Insurance Scheme and then they find out with no warning that Mr Abbott and his Liberals have decided to advertise all of their positions.

What worries me and what worries a lot of Australians is that Mr Abbott and his Liberals are not fair dinkum about the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This has been a tough week for people with disabilities because of Mr Abbott's treatment. Not only have the leaders of the National Disability Insurance Scheme had their jobs advertised with no warning, their positions, but this was the week that Mr Abbott was meant to announce the roll out agreements for the further expansion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme with all the States and Territories. It was due to be done by the end of August. Mr Abbott has not concluded any agreements with any states. So we have grave concerns about the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and therefore the best chance in life for people with disabilities because of Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government's lack of commitment to it. I'd like to ask my colleague, Jenny Macklin, who has been shadowing this matter and all the issues to do with disability and worked so incredibly hard to deliver the disability insurance scheme, to talk further about Mr Abbott's threat to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill, and first of all I'd like to thank Anne-Marie, the principal here at this wonderful school for the deaf, for having us here today and allowing us to sit with the children and the staff here at this great school, to really get a feel for the wonderful education that these children who are profoundly deaf get. It is because of schools like this that children with a disability are able to know that they can grow up and do anything they dream of and that's really what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is all about.

The reason that Bill Shorten and I established the National Disability Insurance Scheme is to make sure that people with disability get their dreams, that they have the chance to do whatever they want in their lives, and it is because of Mr Abbott and his Government that this National Disability Insurance Scheme is now under threat.

Now it takes a lot to make me angry, but I am angry. The idea that the Board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme would wake up this morning and see an advertisement for all of their positions on the Board of the National Disability Insurance Agency advertised with no warning whatsoever, is a direct threat to the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This Board has been responsible for the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for making sure that the first stage of this disability insurance scheme has been rolled out so successfully for around 17,000 Australians with disability. Those people now have a chance to get the care and support that they need to live active and productive lives in our community, and of course it's not just this attack on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This Government has at every turn attacked the lives of people with disability. Whether it was the abolition of the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, getting ready of Graeme Innes, one of the greatest advocates for people with disability, sacked by Tony Abbott and this Government. The cutting of funding to disability advocacy services, advocacy services for people who are blind, people who are deaf, down syndrome people, all of these groups over and over again attacked by the Abbott Government.

We see them in the media day in, day out demeaning the lives of people with disability, calling people with disability names and calling them lazy. That's the approach of the Abbott Government. Instead of getting in there and doing everything possible, working with people with disability so that they can meet their dreams in life. Well I can say to Mr Abbott, and to his Government, Bill Shorten and I will do everything to make sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a success, that it's rolled out on time and in full with no delay and I call on the Abbott Government to pull these ads and to make sure that the current board is able to get on with the job of delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme and that Mr Abbott should sign the agreements with the States and Territories for the full roll out of the disability insurance scheme as a matter of urgency. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Those board positions have a natural expiry date, but you were suggesting there's something improper, or that the Board is being rolled?

MACKLIN: Well, there's two things. One is that the Board in fact isn't due to change until the middle of next year, it's only September. We've got nine months to go in a very, very critical time for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is the period when the whole of the country is getting ready to roll out the disability insurance scheme in full. We need certainty and stability at the top of the scheme, not people being told in the dead of night, in the dead of night, that the positions were going to be advertised. No discussion, not even a phone call to the Chair of the Board who in fact is well known as the father of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bruce Bonyhady. So it is a threat to the future of the disability insurance scheme at this critical time in its growth. It's outrageously rude to treat the Chair of the Board and the members of the Board in the way they've been treated.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think that has happened?

MACKLIN: Because the Abbott Government is not committed to the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Every single action that they take demonstrates that they are not committed to making sure that this is a success.

SHORTEN: Are there any other questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes, Mr Shorten, what's your response to that terrible photo of the dead two year-old that we've seen everywhere this week, from the beach in Turkey?

SHORTEN: I'm a father. When I saw that photo, I felt sick. It is a heartbreaking image. I cannot imagine the set of circumstances which has led to that tragedy or how the family of that child must be feeling right now. That is why I believe that Labor's policy in terms of dealing with refugees is the best path for the future. We've got to deter the people smugglers. We've got to deter the criminals who would exploit vulnerable people desperately seeking refuge in another country and we need to stop the drownings at sea. By the same token, that's why Labor also believes that over time we should take more refugees. We are seeing more people displaced by conflict around the world than at any time since the Second World War. These are hard issues, but that little child reminds us that we need to be as politicians, as a Parliament, and as a nation, smarter, cleverer and more compassionate to avoid the circumstances where we see that drowning and that terrible loss of life.

JOURNALIST: Should Australia then consider taking more Syrian refugees than it does now?

SHORTEN: Well, there is refugees from plenty of countries, unfortunately, not just the conflict in Syria, which is truly dreadful. Labor has a policy where we will deter and defeat the people smugglers, where we will turn back boats where it is safe to do so - we will do that because we don't want people making hazardous deadly journeys on unsafe vessels. But having said that, Labor has also said that we should provide more support to the United Nations to deal with the unfolding humanitarian crisis right across the world. See the problem is if we just wait until issues are on our shores and our borders, then that's not going to help everywhere else. So I do believe that Labor's policy of taking more refugees, but through the front door, not through the criminal smugglers' approach, and also the supporting the United Nations, that can help try to avert future tragedies like that terrible image that you referred to in your first question.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, The New York Times is calling the Abbott Government's refugee and asylum seeker policy inhumane, they've got some vicious attacks out in the papers today, are you comfortable still taking on that same policy if elected?

SHORTEN: I do believe in defeating the people smugglers, and stopping the drownings. Australia is a different case to countries with land borders, and that for the people smugglers their proposition involves exploiting vulnerable people, charging them thousands and thousands of dollars, putting them on unsafe boats and then as we've seen in many cases people drowning at sea, so I do believe that it's incumbent upon Labor as well as Liberal to help defeat the people smugglers, and we will. But by the same token, it is important that for the people in our care directly or indirectly, are not subjected to some of the things that we've seen reports of at Nauru, and some of the dreadful abuses which we're hearing reports of, and that some of the staff who work there are endeavouring to tell the Australian people about, we have no time for the mistreatment of people within our care. That is why Labor has a compassionate but strong policy which I think deals with a lot of the issues which people are so upset about.

JOURNALIST: You're undecided on Australian military action in Syria, are you still awaiting more information on that?

SHORTEN: Well, I believe that when you commit Australian military forces, when you put our Defence personnel into harm's way, when you take the big step of launching our military defence forces to defeat terrorists which we should, I want to make sure that we've got all the facts and that it's based in the right legal basis and also the right moral arguments. I have requested further information from the Prime Minister, for my colleagues. I am optimistic that he will provide that information and we will make a final decision. But let me re-state Labor's principles: we do believe that IS, Islamic State and Daesh, a terrible evil terrorist organisation, and there is complete bipartisanship, as there should be between Liberal and Labor about fighting the scourge of terror. But of course when the Parliament is being asked to make decisions and look at these very serious matters, it is important that we do so with all of the information available.

JOURNALIST: Just on that, are you comfortable that there are enough checks and balances in place in terms of stripping citizenship from dual nationals that are involved in terror offences?

SHORTEN: Thanks for the question. We know that there'll be a report released later this morning and my Shadow Ministers Mark Dreyfus and Richard Marles will be responding once they've seen the final report. But what I can say, is that there is bipartisanship in terms of defeating terrorism, that if there are dual Australian citizens overseas who are committing acts of terror, that is completely, totally illegal and unacceptable and Labor is always up for sensible effective propositions and no doubt we'll comment further in the day as we see the final report.

JOURNALIST: Do you support making that retrospective if those people are deserving of having their Australian citizenship revoked?

SHORTEN: Let's see what the final report says. But again, Australians should be reassured that whilst there's plenty of our politics where there's a lot of disagreement, when it comes to fighting terrorism, Labor and Liberal are equally committed to this and that is what we've done for the last two years and we will continue to do that in the most effective way to secure the safety of Australians.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what's your response to the Prime Minister's comments that you are channelling the most militant union in the country when you speak against the China Free Trade Agreement?

SHORTEN: I think Mr Abbott is feeling very defensive because he knows that the trade agreement he’s asking the Parliament to rubber-stamp, doesn't do enough to safeguard Australian jobs. See, for me the issue for me isn't what Mr Abbott says, his focus is on keeping his own job. For me, I'm obsessed about saving Australian jobs and maintaining Australian jobs. So I put myself in the shoes of Australian citizens and they say, well what's in this trade agreement? Now there are some good things, which is excellent, but what I'm concerned about, is that this opens the way for projects over $150 million – so say they were going to build a new, construct a new hotel in Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane or wherever – and if that project was $150 million-plus, there is no requirement for the prospective employer of this project to test the local labour market and to give Aussies first access to the jobs. I just don't think that's good enough.

I'm also concerned that there seems to be insufficient safeguards, if we are going to have guest workers come in here, plumbers and electricians, for instance, carpenters and mechanics, it is important that their skills and accreditation – because it does go to the safety of consumers – that their skills and safety standards are up to Australian standards. The last thing we want to do is bring in people and then somehow compromise the safety standards and opportunities for our own tradespeople.

These are not deal-killing issues. If Mr Abbott and Mr Robb and his other fairly loud Liberals who keep warning and saying that somehow we're doing the wrong thing standing up for Australian jobs, if they could just take a pause, draw a breath, rather than do politics as usual Mr Abbott style of conflict and fighting, let's just work through the issues about safeguarding Australian jobs. There is a win-win here but Mr Abbott has to perhaps come out of his corner and work with Labor for the best interests of Australian jobs. It's only sensible.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government going to negotiate with Labor on that enabling legislation?

SHORTEN: I think the Government would be very arrogant to dismiss the concerns, not just of Labor, but of Australians who want to make sure that Aussies get first access to jobs. The benefit of a free trade agreement is to create and maintain jobs, that's only sensible, so if there are legitimate concerns which have been raised to say that the safeguards for prioritising Australians getting work in Australia are not as good as they say they are, and if the Government say there's nothing to worry about, well why doesn't the Government sit down and put in black and white with Labor how we're going to protect Australian jobs? That's all, it's pretty straightforward.

JOURNALIST: Have there been any negotiations on that legislation yet?

SHORTEN: We haven't actually seen the final proposed legislation so the Government's certainly throwing lots of rocks at us and saying we should just give in and agree with Mr Abbott. Imagine if Labor had just gave in with Mr Abbott on his first Budget - we'd have massive pension cuts, and even more cuts to schools and hospitals. Imagine if each time Mr Abbott proposed some of his legislation on national security, that Labor hadn't fine-tuned and improved it, we could have all sorts of unfortunate consequences including some of the laws not even being constitutional. Mr Abbott sometimes is like a bull in a china shop and he needs to work with Labor on the big issues: the job security of Australians and other matters that's what we will do.

Again though, I would just ask Mr Abbott and his Liberals to reconsider blanket opening up all of the Board positions at this stage for the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I frankly think it is mean and heartless and just a little bit stupid, too, of Mr Abbott to jeopardise the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This Board has been doing a good job. Everyone thinks they have, and what the National Disability Insurance Scheme means is that for about 420,000 or 450,000 Australians living with a profound or severe disability, they will get packages of support which will give them greater control over their lives, it'll end the midnight anxiety of ageing carers, parents, who are in their 80s wondering who's going to love their adult child as much as they do. I do not understand why Mr Abbott and his Liberals have advertised the positions of a hard-working Board, nine months before the end of their term, when in fact we need the states to sign up and Mr Abbott hasn't even concluded those arrangements. Mr Abbott and his Liberals have cast a real question mark over the stability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme by their arrogant tactics. Last question, thank you.

JOURNALIST: Any response to Rupert Murdoch who has tweeted that Labor is captured by violent unions, violent and corrupt unions?

SHORTEN: Well, other than it being rubbish, there has been a comment said in recent days and I might paraphrase it: I don't pay a lot of attention to the Twitterati of the east coast of America. Thanks, everyone.