Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Monash University - Tony Abbott’s $100,000 degrees; Pyne’s threat to cut research funding






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s $100,000 degrees; Pyne’s threat to cut research funding; Tony Abbott’s inaction on climate change; Euthanasia; Aging.  


QUESTION: So my question is on my phone so you’ll have to be a little bit patient with me, it’s a little bit long. So it’s looking more and more like deregulation of university fees won’t get through which is obviously a win for students because it’s an accessibility issue. But what happens after that? We already know that the current system of funding is unsustainable and if we want to ensure the quality of education for this country. Pyne has already said that if deregulation fails the next target is research funding which is obviously crictical for a university like Monash. Basically my question is can the Labor Party commit to higher education funding and how will they restore that funding given that its dwindled over the last two decades?


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Sinead. Few propositions, the current governments attempt, they’re summoning up for one last go to storm the opposition in the Senate, try to put through a model of deregulation which essentially says you’ll pay more and they’ll be fewer people accessing the system. That is not what deregulation’s meant to achieve, it’s not meant to decrease competition and increase prices. But Labor will keep doing what we’ve been doing since they first raised this issue after the election. Because remember before the election they said they wouldn’t do these things. We will keep working with the Senate and we will keep trying to persuade people that making $100,000 degrees and increasing student debt is not a prescription to encourage people to better themselves. You then go to in your question to sustainability. What I’ve done today is outline that we need to always have access and equity at the forefront, that’s fundamental, that’s one of the reasons why I think Labor was brought in to being, all its time ago and it still remains a core value. But we also need to make sure that people are completing so I think that that’s where we will need to fund growth, we need to make sure that our target of equity is being met, we also need to make sure that we’re working with universities so that people don’t slip between the cracks.


In terms of Christopher Pyne taking our research budget’s hostage and saying that they’ll get it if we don’t agree to their unfair plans, well we’ll see that off too. I think there’s a great opportunity at the next election, and some people in science sort of flinch when I say this but they shouldn’t when they think about it, of making science a political issue. When I say that I don’t mean that research should be contaminated, I’m not a climate change sceptic, what I believe is that we need to make as one of the criteria that voters go to the polls on: which political party has the best science policies and research policies. We’ve seen the Government go down the track of saying that sick and vulnerable people should pay more to go to the doctor to pay for a research fund. I don’t accept the simple binary that you either do one bad think to sick people or you don’t properly fund research. So we will, as we go along, talk more about our policies around research and innovation because of that core belief which I enunciated during my talk which is the thing which governments can control is the amount of investment we make in people. Because I actually think people have the capacity, because I’m an optimist about people, and I fundamentally believe that everybody is somebody, that the more that we invest in their TAFE, in their education, in their schools funding and their higher education funding the greater proportional return. So I think that we can win the argument against the Government in the short term and I think that we’ve got a marvellous opportunity at the next election for Labor to state the case for greater funding of science and research and then encourage voters to demand competition between the political parties for positive policies or innovation, not this current, well education’s a private benefit so we should pay more for it, full stop.


QUESTION: Bill, how can we bring climate change back on to the agenda seriously?


SHORTEN: I don’t think climate change has been off people’s agenda or Labor’s agenda, it’s just of the Government’s agenda. I think that, well I more than think, I looked at the Intergenerational Report - that’s just a report which comes out every five years - which has a look at some of the demographic changes in our population and then looks at potential policies and consequences of policies to make judgements about what the future should look like, not just tomorrow, next week, but in coming decades.


This current Intergenerational Report I thought was quite a political document by the current Government. What they said is that climate change can have some negative effects and it can have some positive effects. I think they were running the argument that when a storm dumps more rain that’s good. It’s that sort of primitive quackery which we’re dealing with with the Government. They’re currently engaged in vandalising renewable energy, Labor’s up for working through a Renewable Energy Target with the Government, there is one in parliament, there is one in legislation. The Government’s saying that we don’t really believe in it so we just want to unwind it. Solar power and other forms of renewable energy generate billions of dollars of investment in Australia, thousands and thousands of jobs and of course many Australians have opted to have solar panels on their roof to help give them greater control over their power prices. So be it renewable energy or the Intergenerational Report this Government isn’t taking climate change seriously.


But I don’t believe that that reflects where Australians are up too.


At the next election Labor will have a very clear view that a market based system for setting a price in terms of climate change and making sure that we’ve got a sensible, engagement with the rest of the world, emerging economies, existing economies. I believe we will win the agreement on climate change. The last time around we certainly got mugged by an argument of a high fixed price and a sort of toxic politics of a minority government but I don’t believe that Australians have given up on climate change so I believe that Labor should and will have a very sensible set of policies which go towards having a more sustainable economy.


During the G20 a lot of world leaders were here and one of the topics I’d speak to each of them about - the Prime Minister of Spain or the ruler of China or Germany for instance or the UK - they’re all moving on climate change, they’re all moving.


Australia is not out of step when we take real action on climate change, we’re out of step when we don’t.


In a lot of other parts of the world look at the current Government and say what are you doing? Are you ignoring the science?


I mean, I saw a great meme on social media, not the meme you’re thinking of, but it showed a rickety bridge across a steep creek and it said if 97 out of 100 engineers said this bridge was unsafe you wouldn’t cross it. We have more than that of climate scientists saying we’ve got to take action and this Government seems determined to ignore it. So it’s a real issue and people who are committed to it shouldn’t give up, on the contrary, keep talking to people. The Government is out of step with the future, not you.


QUESTION: Mr Shorten, today you’ve spoken about [inaudible] and with dignity into our old age, and these are both values that I think are exceptionally important but I wonder if you continue that despite advances in medicine that when we are simply fading if you will support things like legalising euthanasia in Australia so that we really can live up to these values that we hold?


SHORTEN: That’s a really important issue, it’s a conscience issue in the Labor Party. I’m not sure that legislating it is the answer, in fact I don’t think that is the answer. I think we’ve got to trust our doctors in terms of the pain treatment they give individuals, in terms of how they’re going in their lives at that point. I’m not sure that putting in a set of legislation will improve the situation.


This is a conversation I had with my mother when she passed away last year but I remember talking to her about these issues, and she’s a smart lady my mum, and she said she wanted to be the person who made that decision. Now I know there’s a lot more complexity in regulation, what I do trust is the ability of our medical profession to work through the issues with their patients and I think that’s where we should leave the matter at the moment. I don’t support legislating sets of circumstances but of course it’s an ongoing debate, I can respect both sides of the opinion.


What I also get though is, there is a lot we can about growing old and making sure that we properly fund the research into dementias, that we properly fund medical research, that we make sure that older Australians are properly cared for in their last years of life in terms of home and community care funding. I know that’s not strictly your question on euthanasia but we’ve got to look at growing old as not as a crisis but as a responsibility to ensure that we empower people to have that last quarter centre of life. I did weigh up talking to you about the last quarter century of life, for many of you’ve just working out the first quarter century but, you know, the decisions governments make now are going to be fundamental to that future for a lot of people. So thanks very much.