Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Parliament House - Gough Whitlam; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; ISIL






SUBJECT/S: Gough Whitlam; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; ISIL; Australia’s Iraq mission; National Security legislation; CPI data; ADF paycut; Ebola; Renewable Energy Target.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Yesterday and last night was a wonderful tribute to the late Gough Whitlam. Not only from the Labor Party and indeed his political opponents but I know his family and the Labor Party that I'm privileged to lead, has been touched by the outpouring of national grief and recognition that Gough Whitlam's legacies have most certainly stood the test of time. On behalf of the Labor Party we're grateful for the cards, the calls, the tributes. Touched by the number of people who were young people, young men who faced the prospect of conscription and the fighting the war in Vietnam who were grateful to Gough Whitlam and the hundreds of thousands of people who got a chance to go to university because of Gough Whitlam and Labor. His family are grateful and I think the nation is proud that we had such a talented, remarkable Australian in our midst for so long.


But today it's important that 40 years on we maintain the legacy of Whitlam and his pioneering Labor Government. They say that the more things change the more things stay the same. And yet again today we are fighting on the very same issues in this Parliament which Gough Whitlam and his pioneering Government fought so hard for 40 years ago. The Government, the Abbott Government, the Abbott Liberal Government has put on the notice paper today its intention to ram through the Parliament savage cuts of $11 billion which currently go to families in the forms of payments. These bills are an attack on Australian families, they are a fundamental rewriting of the social contract in Australia. They were certainly not spoken about before the last election in any of this shape or form and what we see is that 40 years on from the Whitlam era, once again Labor is in the trenches defending the vulnerable, the low paid and ordinary Australian families. We will fight these changes, they are unfair changes and we will, especially on the day after the death of Gough Whitlam, stand firm like the Labor Party of old on behalf of ordinary Australians. I'd like to ask my colleague, Jenny Macklin to say some further words about the particular attack of the Abbott Government.


JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill. What we see in the Parliament today in the House of Representatives is that the Abbott Government is going to force through three pieces of legislation that contain around $11 billion of cuts to families, to seniors and to the young unemployed. What these bills will do is see families with children over the age of six lose their Family Tax Benefit part B. Around 700,000 families will lose that support completely. One of the cruellest cuts in the Abbott Government's Budget, of course, was the decision to say to the young unemployed that if you're unemployed and you can't find a training place, then you will be on your own. You will be told that you will get no income support, nothing to live on, for 6 months and that's in this legislation which Tony Abbott is going to ram through the House of Representatives today. And the other significant measure in this legislation today is that the Government is going to abolish the Seniors Supplement. So around 300,000 seniors in Australia who receive the Seniors Supplement, will have that supplement axed completely. That is what is going to be rammed through the House of Representatives today. Now three weeks ago in the Senate, it was very clear to the Government that they did not have the numbers to get these measures through. It's time the Government listened to the people of Australia. These are un-Australian measures, they should not be proceeded with and they certainly shouldn't be rammed through the House of Representatives today. Labor will fight tooth and nail against these changes and we will oppose them today and oppose them in the Senate, oppose them in every electorate around Australia.


SHORTEN: We're happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Will you accept a one-month wait for the dole?


SHORTEN: The Government hasn't put that on the table. What we see is this Government, which has no mandate from the people of Australia, is going after the most vulnerable Australians. This is a government who has presided over rising unemployment, all they've got in the way of an employment strategy, is to vilify and attack the unemployed. That is not a jobs plan. As Shadow Minister Macklin said, we will oppose these cuts to families and the vulnerable and the low paid in our community today, tomorrow and forever. This is not the Australia that we want to see in the future where we divide people.


JOURNALIST: So you rule out any support for one-month waiting period?


SHORTEN: Again, this is a government who is making it up as it goes along. This is a government who, they make it up as they go along. One of the lessons of Whitlam in Opposition is that he prepared for Government painstakingly. We all know that the Abbott Opposition did no preparation for Government. This is one of the great untold stories of Australian politics. The Abbott Opposition relied on sheer negativity, they had no policies when they've come to government. They've confected a budget crisis, they did nothing for seven months and they brought down an unfair Budget and instead of stopping, reconsidering, they just want to keep beating up on ordinary Australians.


JOURNALIST: We've seen this 17 year old from western Sydney overseas, are you concerned that not enough is being done to stop these guys getting out of the country?


SHORTEN: The video's deeply concerning. There is no doubt in my mind that ISIL and other extreme organisations are preying on vulnerable teenagers and brainwashing them. There's no doubt in my mind that what we need to do is have a renewed effort in our own communities to reach out to disaffected young people, people who might have other sort of troubles in their lives, and just make sure they don't fall off the rails and get into the hands of these manipulative, exploitative terror organisations.


JOURNALIST: What's your response to the Greens slapping a Greens logo on an image of Gough Whitlam?


SHORTEN: I've left a message for Senator Milne, the leader of the Greens. I've made it clear that I think it's disrespectful. When Gough Whitlam was making these changes, the Greens didn't exist so they should not be passing themselves off as the Labor Party, especially a day after the great man has passed away. I think to try and commandeer and steal another party's legacy, to steal what Gough Whitlam did as a Labor Prime Minister, it's really poor form.


JOURNALIST: The Greens say making a political issue of this is grubby, what's your response to that?


SHORTEN: We didn't ask the Greens to stick their label over ours. The Greens shouldn't be passing themselves off. The Green political party didn't exist when Gough Whitlam was in power and Gough Whitlam was one of the great leaders of Australian politics - but from the Labor Party. We are the oldest continuous political party in Australia. We have our good years and we have our bad years. But how dare the Greens try and pretend to be what they are not.


JOURNALIST: Do you want an apology?


SHORTEN: I've spoken to Christine Milne. I want her to just take it down. It's just wrong.


JOURNALIST: Our special forces still aren't on the ground in Iraq. Do you have any concerns the fact that the Iraqi Government isn't stable enough and in fact we didn't have enough of a discussion about whether forces should be going in there before the decision was made to send them?


SHORTEN: Well I think the Government's sending mixed messages about whether or not a status of forces agreement has been resolved. The importance of this agreement is it creates the legal framework for our men and women to be able to operate in Iraq. It needs to be resolved before our men and women can do the job which we want them to do. We thought it had been resolved. Apparently now there's been evidence coming today, different government ministers saying different things. It's important we get it resolved because we can't ask our troops to do the job they're meant to do if we don't have that legal framework. It's a big red stop sign to any further action.


JOURNALIST: Back on the social security legislation, were you talking to PUP about blocking legislation number four?


SHORTEN: Labor sets its policies not based upon what other political parties are doing. We know that these proposals to take away the Seniors Supplement, to take away payments going to families of children older than 6 on modest incomes; we know these are bad proposals. We hope that other crossbench senators of conscience, vote in favour of the Australian people. There's a clear choice the crossbench can make; are they on Tony Abbott's side or the people of Australia? For us the choice is clear, it's the people of Australia.


JOURNALIST: What does the latest CPI data show us - sorry, tell us about the impact of scrapping the carbon tax?


SHORTEN: The latest data shows that CPI is going up 0.5 per cent. I think what it demonstrates, if you want to talk about a topical issue, is it talks that the offer that's being made to the ADF, it means that effectively our men and women in uniform are being offered a real wage cut by a Government who protests so much that they're their supporters. For me, the telling feature of the CPI in the last 12 months, including the recent quarter, is the Government needs to make a better pay offer to our men and women in uniform.


JOURNALIST: Falling electricity prices can be attributable to the dropping of the carbon tax?


SHORTEN: Well, in terms of the CPI, what we look at is we're always pleased if numbers are lower rather than higher but I live in the real world and I talk to real Australians. Real Australians are concerned that their cost of living is going up, not down. We all know that we've got a looming problem with gas prices. We know that these cuts to family payments, if you're one of 700,000 families who are losing payments, these CPI figures aren't your main issue. The main issue you've got is this Government who didn't say it before the election, who lied before the election, are now taking money out of your pocket. There's a whole world of hurt going on out there in main street Australia, suburban Australia and this Government is making life worst for cost of living, not better. I just might ask Jenny to add to that.


MACKLIN: Can I just give you an indication of what this means in real dollars. For a family on around $60,000 a year with two children at school, that family is going to be $6,000 worse off because of this Government, $6,000. Around 10 per cent of their income. That's the reality of what this Government is doing to thousands and thousands of families. That's the reality of the cuts to families in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, could I ask you, the Chief Medical Officer has told Senate estimates that Australian medical teams don't have the training needed to properly deal with Ebola and aren't getting it, at least at this stage. What's your response to that, one. And two, what does that say about Labor's suggestion that the Government needs to be sending Australian help to West Africa?


SHORTEN: Well I think there's a couple of issues in what you raise, Tim. The first issue is this; Peter Dutton, the Health Minister, or the so-called Health Minister, has been saying that everything's fine, that we can manage everything. Now you've got the Chief Medical Officer contradicting the Minister for Health. I think that is a health problem. Who's right? Is it the Minister for Health, who we know isn't greatly interested in health except cutting it, or the Chief Medical Officer? So the Government needs to tell Australians, what is really going on? If your best expert says that we're not ready and your minister, who clearly is not across his brief, says we are. This is a very damaging rupture, it's a very damaging division and the Government need to tell us the truth. In terms of the second issue about Labor believing that we should go and do more about Ebola in West Africa, yes, we do. It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar or indeed the Minister for Health, to tell us you either deal with an outbreak closer to the source. If you wait until it comes to our shores you wouldn't be asking about questions about what we should do in West Africa, the question is why didn't we do more before?


JOURNALIST: Andrew Wilkie sent a letter to the ICC claiming crimes against asylum seekers. How much responsibility should Labor take given offshore settlement in Papua New Guinea started under Labor?


SHORTEN: Well I haven't seen Mr Wilkie's letter. But you're quite right. The challenge in terms of regional processing was tackled under Labor and that's where it started.


JOURNALIST: Jacqui Lambie claiming there could be the prospect of Ebola-infected suicide bombers and calling on Defence to examine the risks on that. Is that helpful comment given the debate we're seeing about Ebola?


SHORTEN: I don't think we need to go around scaring Australians. I haven't heard that's high on the security risk matrix in any of the briefings I’ve had. I’m not sure that I want to give a whole lot of oxygen to something which I think I can even tell by the tone of your question that you're quite sceptical yourself about.


JOURNALIST: Have you made any progress on negotiations with the Government on the Renewable Energy Target?


SHORTEN: The Renewable Energy Target is a very important issue. There's $18 billion of investment which has been jeopardised by this Government. Labor strongly believes we should have a bipartisan approach on a renewable energy target but it can't be at the expense of a renewable energy target. Labor has made it clear that we will engage in discussions but we've got no-go zones. The Government say they want a real 20 per cent, I call it a fraud 20 per cent, a fake 20 per cent. The truth of the matter is that renewable energy is part of our energy mix. It's had a great benefit for a whole lot of consumers. We've seen 1.2 million households have gone to having some part of their energy from solar power.


We've seen thousands of jobs created, thousands of jobs created and we've seen billions of dollars of investment. The real damage that this Government's doing in renewable energy cannot be overstated. Before Tony Abbott and his crew of climate sceptics took over, we were ranked 4th in the world as a destination for renewable energy investment, now we've slipped to 10th. We've got billions of dollars of projects on hold, uncertain. This Government is a sovereign risk when it comes to tackling renewable energy in Australia and they need to actually get out of the way and let the industry do what it's got to do and Labor will keep supporting renewable energy targets.


Thanks, everyone.