FRIDAY, 7 FEBURARY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Rio Tinto refinery closure; Asylum seekers; Griffith by-election; Schapelle Corby; Muckaty Station.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: [broadcast cuts in] Gove has received a body blow by the double decision of the CLP Government not to provide gas to Rio Tinto’s alumina refinery, and then the decision of Rio Tinto to pull out of refining in Gove. There are literally thousands of jobs set to go in a very quick period of time. I have come up here at the request of the local representatives to see what should be done to assist a great community and a really important region of Australia, in east Arnhem Land, north-east Arnhem Land, to make sure that both traditional owners and towns residents don’t get forgotten. I am appalled that literally thousands of Australians have been abandoned by the Abbott Government. There is no talk of any regional assistance package, no talk of helping hard working Australians in the Gove peninsula and Arnhem Land be able to adjust to some of the toughest economic news. The residents in this part of Australia have experienced an economic cyclone, and economic flood of some proportions, and there is no Commonwealth Government help to assist people. It is long overdue for both Rio Tinto and the Government to start taking the high road to start supporting hard working Australians make adjustments to the equivalent of an economic tsunami. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what should the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government be offering?
SHORTEN: Well, there’s plenty of precedent, jobs do go in Australia. But what is unprecedented is the lack of Commonwealth Government support. This is an amazing community, be it the rich cultural traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, through to tourism, through to services for a vibrant region in Australia. The Abbott Government should stop giving up on regional Australia. The Abbott Government should start fighting for jobs. There are big opportunities here for a vibrant services sector, for tourism, for defence. The Abbott Government needs to realise that there is more to Australia than Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
JOURNALIST: Is it surprising that the Prime Minister and more of his senior government ministers have [inaudible] since the announcement was made in December?
SHORTEN: The Abbott Government hasn’t gone to see the Holden workers, the Abbott Government, or senior ministers, haven’t seen car workers at Holden or Ford, they haven’t gone to the SPC canneries in Shepparton. So it doesn’t surprise me that they can’t find this part of the world when there’s bad news. When there’s good news and picture opportunities, you can’t get between an Abbott Government minister and a camera. When there are bad news and jobs going, you never get stuck in a traffic jam behind an Abbott Government minister coming to the scene of the problem.
JOURNALIST: What would Labor do if you were in power federally to help here in Arnhem Land?
SHORTEN: We would do what we’ve always done. We understand that you can’t keep any job, but you fight for jobs. We would look at how you can help support the company to make further investments in the region. We would also look at how you promote a positive plan for the region that would include, but not limited to, tourism, education, defence. There are great opportunities in Arnhem Land, North-east Arnhem Land, the Gove peninsular and Nhulunbuy. There is the infrastructure of a well-established town with thousands of people supporting a region of nearly 20,000 people. What you get with Labor if we’re in Government is we would fight for the jobs, we would fight for new jobs and we would make sure that people don’t get forgotten merely because there not living in Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, how confident are you that Terri Butler will win Griffith tomorrow?
SHORTEN: I think it’s a tight contest, Terri Butler is an outstanding candidate she will, I think, if elected go on to have a distinguished career in public life. She will certainly stand up for the issues in that electorate. Everyone knows that if you’re a Liberal candidate in an LNP/Abbott Government, you will get trodden on if the Abbott Government doesn’t agree with what you think. Poor old Sharman Stone, who represents the area around Shepparton has said the Government, her own Government’s lying about the reasons why the Government won’t back jobs in the Goulburn Valley, so what chance does an LNP member have in Brisbane of ever changing Tony Abbott’s mind? The only person who can stand up locally would be Terri Butler. The other point is of course this Governments got a ruthless agenda of cuts, they didn’t tell anyone, they said before the election health and education wouldn’t be touched now they’ve got a commission of audit which has said that everything is on the table. You need members of parliament who will make sure that whatever Australians future is, it isn’t achieved by increasing hospital waiting lists, by cutting resources in schools.
JOURNALIST: Just how important will voter turnout be tomorrow in Griffith?
SHORTEN: Voters shouldn’t take our democracy for granted. Regardless of who, and this probably doesn’t even suit my own political side, regardless of who people are going to vote for in the Griffith by-election tomorrow, please vote. This Australia of ours is a lucky country, we have a great democracy, doesn’t matter who you vote for but we would encourage everyone to turn out and vote otherwise, if Australians don’t participate in their democracy then democracy’s damaged. People should vote tomorrow and, by the way, they’ve got a great Labor candidate with Terri Butler to vote for tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: There’s been some more detailed allegations against the naval officers did force asylum seekers to burn their hands, is it time now for an official response from the Navy about these allegations?
SHORTEN: Well first of all what the Government needs to do is not have picture opportunities, that’s not a policy on immigration, they need to just be open with the Australian people. The Navy do a tough job, but their job is made even tougher when you’ve got a federal government hiding behind the uniforms, not standing up for them. What we need here is to forget the secrecy. The Australian people will give a fair bit of slack to Governments provided you’re upfront with the Australian people. It’s time to end the secrecy and it’s time to stop leaving our Navy out on their own and what I would say about our military forces is that their asked to do a tough job and I just want to families of our service people who are doing this tough job to know that the Labor Party respects the contribution that your loved ones are making for us. We’re certainly not leaping to any conclusions.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] reportedly dragging boats back into Indonesia territorial waters, [inaudible] do you still think they accidentally breached those lines?
SHORTEN: Well what stuns me is that Minister for Immigration is happy to add to his scrapbook collection with cute photo opportunities of him on a boat, and yet at the same time the Navy’s got to undergo allegations, rumour and innuendo. What would help our military forces is for our elected representatives, the Abbott Government, to stop hiding behind operational secrecy, just be straight with the Australian people and that’s, I think, the best solution rather than, you know, letting the Navy get embroiled in the issues because the Abbott Government isn’t strong enough to stand up and be transparent on their policies.
JOURNALIST: Just on those specific allegations, of turning the lights off, do you think that holds any weight?
SHORTEN: I’m not going to start responding to allegations. What’s frustrating, I think, for Australians, the people trying to report the news to Australians, the people who are concerned about our good name, and also for those who love and support our military forces, is that you can find out more about what Australia’s doing in the Indonesian newspapers. It is not good enough for the Abbott Government to only come into sight when they’ve got a photo opportunity and then disappear like a submarine on every other issue. I think it’s time for the Abbott Government to stop hiding behind the uniforms, tell us what’s going on. And I think that is the best solution to help deal with all the issues and rumours and innuendo that’s circulating around, it’s not fair on all our military.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there’s any need for an inquiry where people actually give evidence under oath?
SHORTEN: First things first: Scott Morrison, instead of taking happy snaps for your post-parliamentary career collection of highlights, why don’t you instead just tell people what’s going on and stop leaving our Navy at sea to have to deal with allegations on shore. It is crazy you can find out more about what’s happening with our immigration and boarder protection policies, the use of taxpayer funds, from Indonesian newspapers and it sets our military up to fail when the elected representatives don’t do their day job properly as we expect our professional military to do.
JOURNALIST: Should Schapelle Corby be let out of [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: Well what happens to Schapelle Corby will be a matter for the Indonesia justice system, but she’s done nearly ten years in an Indonesian jail, that’s been very difficult. At a very personal level I hope she gets the opportunity to return home as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: While you’re in the Northern Territory have you had a chance to look into [inaudible] nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: What we see is an argument going on in the High Court; let’s see what transpires in the High Court because I think that will settle matters I think significantly. I think that we should let the judicial and legal process now have its day and I think that’s where matters are at, at this point. Thanks, cheers everyone.
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