Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Salvation Army Melbourne - Martin Place tragedy; Salvation Army;






SUBJECT/S: Martin Place tragedy; Salvation Army; National security; Taliban attack on Pakistan school; OECD report; Tony Abbott’s mini-Budget; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on multinational tax avoidance; industrial relations.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here with the Salvation Army in Bourke Street in Melbourne this morning, looking at the hard work of the dedicated staff and thousands of volunteers. Sometimes it’s easy for many of us at Christmas, as we look forward to catching up with our own families, to give presents, to catch up with the people we love, perhaps it’s sometimes a bit easy to forget that there’s a lot of Australians who live around us who are doing it a lot harder than we are. But as they say, thank goodness for the Salvos. Here we’ve got literally thousands of volunteers, hundreds of people working to raise money, to help get people back on their feet. Today I’ve seen evidence of homelessness projects solving the issue of a roof over people’s head through to helping people find work, dealing with scourges of ice and most importantly I think, allowing people who have fallen out of the system a chance to form meaningful relationships. Christmas can be a very lonely time for some people and that’s why work we see here is so really important. Today reminds me that what is very important in this country was making sure that it’s not only the well-off who are doing well but those who are less well-off, that they get a chance to share in the Australian dream at Christmas. So I’m very grateful for the work of the Salvation Army.

But talking of things which are uplifting, amidst the tragedy of Martin Place and that terrible 17 hour siege, yesterday I and my wife, along with thousands of other people, were privileged to visit Martin Place and lay some flowers. Australians have demonstrated their support for the families of the two innocent victims of this terrible siege. Their thoughts are with them and indeed the survivors, and indeed the police and the security agencies who did such a good job. I saw yesterday, in a national outpouring of sympathy for Sydney, the families of the victims and for all those who were caught up in these terrible events, when you look at that field of flowers in Martin Place, you realise that there are far more good and great and generous people in Australian than evil people who would cause us harm. And that the voices of tolerance and love are much louder than the voices of hate and indeed evil behaviour. So as we approach Christmas, I think about Martin Place yesterday and the outpouring of the Australian spirit, and I’m privileged to be here with the Salvation Army today, because the Salvation Army have always understood from when they were first founded, that the health of one is important to the health of all of us.


Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Will you be asking intelligence authorities why is Man Haron Monis was dropped off the watch list?


SHORTEN: I understand the very important needs that we all have to try and get questions answered about how could such a crazy, deranged act take place as it did on Monday and into the early hours of Tuesday. I’m confident that the police and the security agencies will investigate the very important questions you’re raising. Obviously people want to know how could someone so dangerous be on bail. People will have questions, how did he have firearms and if authorities knew who this person was how was he able to do what he did. But I also have confidence that we will get to the bottom of this, I understand the natural desire of people to try and get answers to all of these bad things that have happened. But I also think at this point we should let the authorities get to the bottom of the matter. And I don’t want to see a blame game, what I want to see is lessons learnt so no other families have to go through the grieving which two families are now going through in Australia and their many hundreds of friends.


JOURNALIST: Given that he was out on bail do you think the bail laws in New South Wales should be tightened or changed in some way?


SHORTEN: Cleary Australians will be saying if someone was this dangerous how did they get bail? But what I also have to say is that we need to let the police and the state authorities go through and answer these questions. They are important questions to answer. I think there is also a deeper question which people are asking themselves. Why is it that there are a few angry, violent men who show and demonstrate their criminal behaviour over time, and why does it take death sometimes for these people to be brought to justice?  This isn’t right, we are smarter than this.


JOURNALIST: Do you think this is maybe justification for stronger counter-terrorism measures?


SHORTEN: We’ll have to see what the reasons for this happen are. I think there is certainly a clear political flavour to what this person was doing and his citing of terrorist events in the Middle East. But I also think that this man was clearly deranged. I also recognised that he had had criminal behaviour already from writing to the families of deceased ADF personnel, he was charged with a range of very serious sexual offences and he was also caught up in a very serious matter involving accessory to the death of this ex-wife. So this is, what happened on Monday morning was not the first time this person has behaved on a criminal manner. So I do think people want answers, how does someone get through the system to be able to do this. But I have to say again, let’s give room for the authorities and the investigative agencies to get to the bottom of what happened. It’s only been two days since this terrible event took place, only just over 24 hours since hostages were freed, there are families dealing with grieving, unimaginable suffering which they never expected to deal with. So I’m very conscience in all this, there are families trying to get questions, how this could happen to them, and I think we also need to respect the process so we can give these families and the people caught up in this terrible hostage drama closure.


JOURNALIST: How concerned are you with the Taliban attack on the Pakistan school?


SHORTEN: Thank you for mentioning that. What’s happened in Martin Place has punctured our sense of security and we’ve had a violent, angry, dangerous man commit terrible crimes in Australia. But when you hear the reports from Pakistan where there’s I think over 140 people being killed, these dreadful matters of safety and security are not an Australian issue, they’re a worldwide challenge. So my thoughts go out to the Pakistani authorities and the parents and the people caught up in that disaster.


JOURNALIST: The OECD has called for the GST to be raised. Do you think that should at least be considered?


SHORTEN: Well the OECD report’s pretty interesting I think. It comes out and gives the conclusive thumbs down to the Government’s unfair Budget strategy. Really as we approach Christmas 2014 we’ve lost a year and a half of the nation’s time which we’re not going to get back in terms of the management and future direction of this country with the Budget. The OECD said it’s a bad idea to implement the sort of higher education changes which they’re making, $100,000 degrees. They’re coming out against punishing unemployed people, young unemployed people with six months of no income whatsoever. They’ve come against some of the measures which we’ve seen the Government champion as supposedly good for Australia. The Government has missed an opportunity in its mini-Budget to get this country back on track.

The Abbot Government’s only changing their tactics; they haven’t changed their mind about their unfair measures. What particularly concerns me today when we look at the OECD’s analysis, are reports that the Abbott Government, Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott, have dropped their tax avoidance measures which they were going to chase large multi-nationals who would be engaged in profit and debt shifting. Large, giant companies who are not paying their fair share of Australian tax. The Abbott Government said a year ago they would chase them, after they got rid of Labor’s measures, but they would chase them in a different way. Then we see in the mini-Budget, amazingly the Abbott Government has put in the too hard basket getting large, powerful companies to pay their tax. The Abbott Government is strong on the weak but weak on the strong, and at Christmas this year we need better from our government.

JOURNALIST: Late today about 600 dock workers are marching through Melbourne in a pay dispute, they’re calling on Tony Abbott to protect Aussie jobs and penalty rates. They say it’s going to be the biggest protest since 1998, do you support them in their dispute?


SHORTEN: What I think is that if you have a wages negotiation and employment negotiation, there are laws which govern how it’s done. I think in my experience what is required is for all the parties, the employees represented by the union, the employers and their lawyers to get back around the bargaining table and work these matters out. Common sense is always the best solution for disputes in the workplace.


JOURNALIST: Sorry, just going back to the GST, we have one of the lowest rates in the world, isn’t it reasonable to look at increasing it, particularly when an organisation like the OECD brings it up as a possibility?


SHORTEN: If Tony Abbott wants to increase the GST he should take it to an election. He shouldn’t do it by the backdoor and blackmailing and starving states of funds by cutting $80 billion from hospitals and schools. If Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were fair dinkum about people getting to pay their fair share of tax, stop taxing the poor, stop cutting homeless services, stop cutting the pension. The Abbott Government 12 months ago said they knew better than Labor. They would find a new way to track down multinationals to pay their fair share of tax in Australia. Now 12 months on in the mini-Budget, the Government’s just given up, they’ve said it’s too hard to collect money off rich, powerful companies. This is Christmas 2014, the Abbott Government is asking Australians to tighten their belt, for pensioners to have cuts. The Abbott Government is too scared, too lazy or indeed just doesn’t want to penalise some of the large donors to the Liberal Party in terms of taxing them. This Abbott Government is strong on the weak but it’s weak on the strong, that’s not good enough.


JOURNALIST: Thanks everyone. Have a nice Christmas if I don’t get to see you before.