Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Two years of Tony Abbott; Syrian refugee crisis






SUBJECT/S: Two years of Tony Abbott; Syrian refugee crisis; Tony Abbott’s royal commission; ChAFTA; Julie Bishop telling Tony Abbott to dump Joe Hockey


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone and happy Fathers’ Day.


Today is the two year anniversary of that famous interview Mr Abbott gave SBS on election night eve. He promised there would be “no cuts to education, no cuts to health”. Mr Abbott promised there would be “no cuts to pensions, no change to taxes”. All of these are broken promises. In fact, we’d even have a successful tax on GPs if Labor hadn’t been so strong against it and we’d have all pensioners receiving cuts except for, in the last two years, Labor has been strong in preventing Mr Abbott from breaking even more promises.


As we approach the second anniversary of the Abbott Government’s election, all Australians know at the next election, when Mr Abbott makes promises to the Australian people, we will all know not to trust Mr Abbott’s promises.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you think should be done immediately about Australia’s refugee intake?


SHORTEN: I think all Australians who have seen those terrible images, especially of the little girl who drowned. We need to do something that is a lot more humane. Labor believes in taking more refugees - we agree with the Liberal Premiers of New South Wales and Tasmania, and indeed, some of Mr Abbott’s backbenchers. It is now time for Australia to do its bit to help prevent the disasters that we are seeing in Syria at the moment.


JOURNALIST: What is our bit?


SHORTEN: Labor believes we can take more refugees in Australia, we should also be providing more resources to the United Nation’s high commission for refugees. It is a matter of wanting to see people being treated humanely and that’s what we are about.


JOURNALIST: The Greens say that Australia should resettle more than 20,000 Syrian refugees – do you have a number in mind?


SHORTEN: We think we could increase the number of refugees. We don’t have a final number in mind, we have proposed doubling refugees over the next seven to eight years. The real issue here is that we are living in a time of unprecedented due to war and conflict. The largest number we have seen since the Second World War. It is not enough to simply say it is not our problem. I am really heartened by the fact that you have got Liberal Premiers and Liberal backbenchers – I think Australians want us all working together – I think it is something we can all agree on. Labor will support moves by the Government if we increase the number of refugees. I think everyone now wants the Prime Minister to act in a more humane fashion and do something here and do our bit together. This is a chance for all politicians, and the nation to work together. We should grab it in the interest of humanity.


JOURNALIST: Was it your intention to pursue the Dyson Heydon matter in Parliament?


SHORTEN: There is no doubt that millions of Australians don’t take this royal commission seriously. Labor will certainly be pursuing its concerns in the Senate.


JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]


SHORTEN: I think governments should be capable of doing more than one thing at once. We have plenty of tough issues on the domestic front right now. Jobs, making sure that we have a proper school system that’s well funded, a proper healthcare system. But I think sometimes in life events come and they just collide. Watching the footage, that terrible gripping footage of that policeman, or that security forces person grabbing the body of that poor lost drowned little girl, I think it shows there is a big problem going on in Syria, a massive problem. And I, like many in Mr Abbott’s own party, believe Australia should be doing more than what we are doing at the moment and I think we should in the interest of humanity.


JOURNALIST: Have you had a personal briefing from the Government on the free trade deal with China?


SHORTEN: We had briefings some months ago. Labor’s concern about the free trade agreement isn’t that we shouldn’t have a free trade agreement – we should. But I think Mr. Abbott needs to stand up for Australian jobs. There is no doubt as more evidence comes to light that the Government needs to do more secure preference for Australians to get jobs in Australia. Now this isn’t a deal killer. It doesn’t involve changing the treaty but if the Government say there hasn’t been any secret deals done then I think they should come to the negotiating table. Labor believes in Australian jobs. We have unemployment now – it’s gone up from 5.7 per cent from when Mr. Abbott was elected to 6.3 per cent – that is the highest level of unemployment in Australia in 13 years. We have got 800,000 of our fellow Australians unemployed. That is the highest absolute number we have had in 20 years. The deficit has doubled in the last two years, growth is below trend, and consumer confidence is down. I think it is important as we pursue trade opportunities with China and the rest of Asia, that we that we also prioritise Australians getting jobs in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Have you felt undermined that Mr Hawke and some of the Labor premiers have come out in support?


SHORTEN: Not at all. Labor has a great tradition of engaging with Asia all the time back from Gough Whitlam but I wouldn’t be doing my job as the Leader of the Opposition if I was simply a rubber stamp to Tony Abbott. Imagine in the last two years if I had simply folded up my tents and given up every time Mr Abbott came up with a new idea. Remember his GP Tax? Remember his cuts to pensions? Look at the fact the car industry has gone on Mr. Abbott’s watch. No, we think you can have a trade agreement with China and we think that is a good thing but I think it is my job as a guardian of Australian jobs that we need to make sure that for a couple of simple changes we can secure jobs for Australians and have no risk of that being undermined.


JOURNALIST: Do you think back to the Labor years with all the leaking in this Government?


SHORTEN: It is quite remarkable the events that have emerged between the disagreement between Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Tony Abbott. I think when I was watching Julie Bishop avoiding answering the question today, you could tell she wasn’t comfortable because she didn’t want to directly come out a say that Mr Abbott wasn’t being truthful. But I think it’s important that the Government of Australia, some of its most senior people are able to tell the truth about each other; that’s the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. I think it is important that Julie Bishop just simply gives a yes or no answer to the following question – Was Mr Abbott being truthful when he said that none of his ministerial colleagues had  raised the performance of Joe Hockey with him? If that’s true and none of the Ministers ever have, than Ms Bishop should say ‘yes, that’s true’. But if that is not true and the Prime Minister is verballing his own colleagues, than I think that Ms. Bishop owes it to the Australian people to tell the truth about what Mr Abbott has really said and done.


JOURNALIST: Will you ask her that in Question time this week?


SHORTEN: I suspect some of you in the media might even ask her before then.


JOURNALIST: Isn Dyson Heydon biased against you and Labor?


SHORTEN: I don’t take the royal commission very seriously anymore I have to say – sorry, I am answering his question – I don’t take the royal commission as seriously anymore. I don’t think it was the right thing to accept invitations to Liberal events when you are doing such a political inquiry.


JOURNALIST: Is he biased?


SHORTEN: I think Australians have already formed a view about this royal commission. He has got a job to do and we think that this royal commission is a political exercise to smear Mr. Abbott’s opponents. Full stop.


JOURNALIST: Do you think he is biased?


SHORTEN: I think that the royal commission is set up under a flawed assumption of attacking for attacking its political rivals. The royal commissioner has said he is not biased. Other people will form their own views on that matter.


Thanks everyone – I should just also say that I think I said before that it was a little girl – it was a little boy who drowned.