WEDNESDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; GP Tax; Hate preachers travelling to Australia; Iraq; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission into Trade Unions; Rebuilding Labor; OECD votes Canberra the world’s most liveable city.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I am here at the Braybrook Maidstone Community House talking to real people about their concerns about the unfair Budget of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey. Today, we’ve seen released, figures out of New South Wales which confirms a GP Tax is bad for the health of Australians. New South Wales has researched that they are worried the GP Tax will increase demand on the emergency departments of hospitals. There is no doubt that people believe and people know, that the GP Tax is bad for the health of Australians. There are a lot of anxious pensioners, people on lower incomes who are very concerned about how they are going to make ends meet. Medicare should be universal. In Australia, it should be your Medicare card which determines the quality of health care you get, not your credit card. So today, yet again, we see more pressure on this unfair Budget. Just as the Abbott Government has been forced into backing away from stupid ideas in recent days to do with some of their measures to tackle unemployment with 40 job applications a month, it is now time for the Abbott Government to back away from the stupid idea of their Budget and start again, reach out to Labor, but let's not punish the sick and the vulnerable. Let's not punish the pensioners. Let's not punish kids from modest backgrounds or mature age adults who want to go to university with paying twice and three times as much for their university degrees. It's time for the Abbott Government to rethink their whole approach on the Budget and the harm it's doing Australia.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten, the Prime Minister has said that Labor created the Shorten sinkhole of debt and now that we are in the second year of this electoral cycle, that Labor should be nominating the Budget savings, isn't it time for Labor to take a constructive approach on this?
SHORTEN: Why doesn't Tony Abbott call an election and let Labor and Liberal present their ideas to Australians? There's no doubt that 12 months in, the Abbott Government has got to stop trying to blaming everyone in the past for what’s happened and take responsibility. Tony Abbott's the Prime Minister of Australia, Joe Hockey's the Treasurer, they're not in Opposition now. Everyone knows that before the election they made promises which were lies, everyone knows now they've got an unfair Budget which many Australians really dislike. Everyone knows now that this is an incompetent Government who constantly overreaches, overpromises, under delivers and ordinary Australians are the losers. If Tony Abbott wants advice on how to run Australia, perhaps he should go to the Australian people and get a mandate for his broken promises rather than trying to punish the sick, hurt the vulnerable and divide Australia into two societies.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on Glencore, which is a black box locating a tax haven, possibly overtaking Rio Tinto, one of our biggest exporters?
SHORTEN: I understand that the Rio Tinto board rejected the Glencore proposition or overtures. What companies do as mergers is up to them. But it does raise the issue of why is it that in Australia some large multinationals are paying little or no tax yet ordinary Australians have to pay their full tax. It is not right in Australia that large corporations who are able to shift profits overseas, who are able to afford the best accountants in the world, do not pay their fair share of tax and the rest of us do? This is not fair and it's not right. The Abbott Government has made wrong choices in the Budget even when it comes to getting people to pay their fair share of tax. They have scrapped measures which would see multinationals have to pay more taxes and yet they're trying to make the sick and the vulnerable pay more taxes. This is a government who believes in picking on those who don't have the wherewithal to be able to fight off the Government but when it's a large multinational this Government puts it in the too hard box.
JOURNALIST: Would you support Tony Abbott's plans to ‘red-card’, to ban hate preachers coming to Australia?
SHORTEN: I heard about this proposal this morning and I wanted to check, and I will just quote what the current system is. But clearly people who wish to come to this country preaching violence are not welcome. That goes without saying. In terms of the current ability to ban people who would seek to bring twisted hate speeches and twisted philosophies which advocate violence, the Foreign Minister or the Minister for Immigration currently have the capacity to refuse a visa applicant entry. This country doesn't need more hate, it needs more tolerance. This country doesn't need people who are promulgating twisted notions of violence and preying on our vulnerable and our young, that’s not the path of Australia. Anyone who comes to this country needs to leave their conflicts of their old country behind, adhere to one set of laws in Australia, at the same time though we need to be able to recognise that modern Australia is from 100 different nations and we all come in different shapes and sizes.
JOURNALIST: So you don't think we need more terror laws or more laws to handle this sort of thing or do you think it can be done under current laws?
SHORTEN: In terms of this current debate, if the talk is on Friday, I'm informed the existing laws are able to deal with hate speech. In terms of a more general assumption to your question, Parliament will consider a request for further laws but again, as I've said many times in the past, when it comes to fighting terrorism, Labor and Liberal are in this together. We've been bipartisan on our approach to the conflict in northern Iraq. The Parliament needs to appropriately check the propositions, the Parliament was able to make amendments to the first round of government laws which everyone agrees and approved, and we listened very carefully to the security agencies and what they can tell us too.
JOURNALIST: Hizb-ut-Tahrir says it doesn't have any international speakers at the event this Friday. Is Tony Abbott jumping at shadows when he calls for action against international hate preachers coming to Australia?
SHORTEN: I don't know. Tony Abbott's right about being against international hate preachers, I think we're all against that. In terms of particular facts on Friday, we can leave that to the proper authorities to deal with.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that Hizb-ut-Tahrir should be declared a terrorist organisation?
SHORTEN: I wait for the advice of security agencies. This matter has been debated before. I have trust in our security agencies to provide the evidence if necessary to make the right decisions for the protection of Australians.
JOURNALIST: And on the question of a ground campaign in Iraq and sending Australian soldiers in, the PM has said that the Government will have to judge down the track once special forces soldiers are in are in on whether to send in ground troops. What do you make of that comment?
SHORTEN: Labor has not seen the case made out for sending ground combat units to Iraq and in my discussions with the Government they haven't sought to raise that as an issue. I understand, and I think most Australians understand, that the sectarian violence and terror in northern Iraq does appropriately warrant an international response at the request of the Iraqi government and Iraqi people. Again, I commend our RAAF and defence forces, who are helping stand up for the vulnerable and defenceless in northern Iraq. In terms of the long-term solution, I and Labor do not believe that military action be it aeroplanes or on the ground combat units can solve or drain the swamp of terrorism. What we're going to need to see is the Iraqi people well governed, with stable and secure borders and the regional nations standing up. The best long-term solution for conflict in that part of the world, is for the people in that part of the world to be empowered to take control of the circumstances.
JOURNALIST: But if the current mission doesn't succeed, would you support sending in ground troops?
SHORTEN: We haven't seen the case made out for that.
JOURNALIST: The Union Royal Commission has been extended for 12 months, do you think that was necessary?
SHORTEN: Well there's been some conjecture about what the Royal Commission has actually asked for. I've made it the practice since Tony Abbott announced his Royal Commission into unions not to provide a running commentary. There is conjecture whether or not the Royal Commission actually asked for a year extension or not. I think that the Government needs to be very careful that it's not playing politics here but as I said, in terms of the actual Royal Commission I won't be providing a running commentary.
JOURNALIST: Is it time to wrap it up though, do you think? It's been going for a while now.
SHORTEN: Well again, in the light of my last answer, all I can do is continue to give you the same answer, which I will; I'm not going to provide a running commentary on Tony Abbott's Royal Commission into Trade Unions. There has been a request which the Attorney-General has said means that he has to extend it by a year. I'm not sure that the facts bear that out, but that's up to the Government, they are spending a lot of money on this. My interest is making sure that we focus on what's in the best interests of Australia. I'm not going to provide a running commentary about the Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Veteran Labor figure John Faulkner is calling for Labor's Party rules to be reformed again. Are factions and cronies still entrenched in the Party?
SHORTEN: Well I appreciate John's contribution last night. Back in April people might recall that I said that we need to be a membership-based party, not a faction-based party. We need to have the best possible candidates from the broadest walks of life. We need to make sure that we have a party which is as modern, as open as the society which we seek to present ourselves to, to vote for us at the next election. I'm pleased at some of the progress that has been made. Since I spoke back in April, nearly 10,000 extra people have joined the Labor Party but the process of reform is never done and I expect that Party members will continue to talk about how we can rebuild Labor to make us a strong alternative at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, what do you think of Canberra being voted most liveable city by the OECD?
SHORTEN: Well, I like Melbourne, I think there's a lot of great places in Australia. But I think Melbourne's got its pretty fine points to recommend it too. Thanks, everyone.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053