Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sandy Bay - Abbott Government’s unfair cuts to higher education; Wayne Goss; China FTA;




SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s unfair cuts to higher education; Wayne Goss; China FTA; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on Petrol Tax; G20; Ebola crisis; Kate Warner; Abbott Government’s broken promise on NBN.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at the University of Tasmania with Brian Mitchell, Labor’s candidate for Lyons and of course Julie Collins, Tasmanians Labor Shadow Ministry in Federal Parliament. Higher education is a fundamentally important debate for the future of Tasmania.  Tasmania will be uniquely hit by the Abbott Government unfair changes and broken promises to higher education. The University of Tasmania is the only university in Tasmania, so along with doing great research, being ranked ninth in Australia's universities, it also has a social compact where it provides university, educational opportunities for regional Tasmania. Tony Abbott doesn't understand that only 40 per cent of Tasmania lives in Hobart and that many other people who seek to attend university rely upon the University of Tasmania to provide them campuses in Burnie and Launceston. And the problem with the complete deregulation, as the university's identified, is that the University of Tasmania will be tens of millions of dollars out of pocket as soon as these deregulation higher university fee changes go through.


Tasmania's changing at a rapid pace. We need mature age students to re-enter the educational system and they will be discouraged by paying higher fees. We also need to make sure that students from parts of Tasmania who don't have job opportunities in the sort of numbers you see in big mainland cities are encouraged to retrain and these changes go directly against that. So if Tasmania is to have a bright future in terms of educational opportunity, we need to defeat these higher education changes. In Australia, what should determine you going to university should be your hard work and your good marks, not your credit card or your parents' wealth and in Tasmania in particular if we have a bright, positive future we need to be encouraging more students to go to university not discouraging them through complete deregulation and doubling and tripling university fees.


Before I take questions, I'd also just like to briefly comment about the sad news of the passing of Premier Wayne Goss. Wayne Goss was a great Australian and he was truly a great Labor man. He was a servant of the people of Queensland and he was a servant of the Labor Party. There is no doubt that Wayne Goss modernised Queensland. His loss is a great loss for his family and for the Labor Party and on behalf of the Federal Labor Party I wish to put my thanks on record for the service of Wayne Goss to Queensland and Australia. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Will you congratulate the Government if it secures a free trade deal with China?


SHORTEN: If the free trade deal with China is a good deal, absolutely. Labor has got a proud record of supporting free trade, but what I also say is not every deal is automatically a good deal. We want to make sure that the deal captures a range of important issues to promote trade and jobs for Australia. It could well be the removal of tariffs in coal which we'd like to see from China. It is important that we make sure our agriculture and services sector get greater assistance. It's also important to make sure we can facilitate investment by China in Australia and we need to make sure that our labour mobility agreements are in the interests of both China and Australia.


JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical to demand the Government reveal the details before its signed when Labor didn't do that in government?


SHORTEN: Well I think we've all seen the Government deliberately drip feeding bits and pieces of the deal. I think it's hypocritical of the Government to squeal in outrage when their tactic of selective leaks gets called out by the Australian people. What I say to Tony Abbott and Andrew Robb is just trust the Australian people. Be straight with the Australian people; tell us the detail and let Australians judge if it's a good deal or not. And if it's a good deal they'll have no stronger supporter than Labor, if it's a bad deal they'll have no stronger critic than Labor.


JOURNALIST: Now you mentioned the tariff on coal, you’ve talked about China slapping tariffs on iron ore, there aren't any tariffs on iron ore?


SHORTEN: Yes, I misspoke and that's again why I referred to the tariffs on coal just before.


JOURNALIST: On fuel tax, will anyone actually notice the increase in the fuel excise today?


SHORTEN: Well, I tell you what, over the next four years as this tariff goes up, as this fuel excise goes up every six months the motoring associations, not the Labor Party, the motoring associations that model the costs to ordinary families, this will cost ordinary families hundreds of dollars. So it's not just the impact on day one, it will be the impact of the Government breaking a promise they said before the last election; no changes to taxes, no increases to taxes. This is such a sneaky, underhanded, duplicitous government. They're not even putting the increase of the fuel tax to the Parliament of Australia, they didn’t have the courage to put it to the people of Australia, they're doing it by administrative regulation. Over the next few years motorists' cost of living is going to go up and up and that is a real shame for Australia's motorists and all of us who rely upon the road transport industry for our cost of living issues.


JOURNALIST: Would you have supported it if it had been an election promise?


SHORTEN: Well first of all it wasn't an election promise, so the rest of your question doesn't flow. What Tony Abbott should do is that he should actually put it to the people of Australia and he should put it to the Parliament of Australia. Instead what he's done is he's taken the Australian motorist hostage and said that if Labor doesn’t vote for this rotten increase in fuel taxes which was never promised to the Australian people, then what will happen is in 12 months’ time if his law doesn't pass the Parliament, the money that he raises has to go to the fuel companies. This is crazy thinking from a government who's desperately trying to patch up its unfair Budget. I mean when we talk about taxes and elections, Tony Abbott is trying to blackmail the States into, by cutting hospital funding and schools funding, into supporting a GST. Yet everyone including the besieged government in Victoria is dead against what he's doing. So everyone in Australia knows that when it comes to keeping election promises about taxes, you can't trust Tony Abbott.


JOURNALIST: On the Prime Minister and Putin it's unclear yet as to whether or not they'll meet. If they do meet should it take place behind closed doors and also should it take place before the G20 summit?


SHORTEN: Well, Tony Abbott's got himself into a real situation here where he overreached and said that he would ‘shirt-front’ the Russian President and clearly he's not going to shirt front him. I don't even think Tony Abbott knew the AFL term of what shirt fronting meant. The problem now is that there's legitimate questions for the Russian Government to answer. For me what matters is why did the plane get shot down and who is responsible and how can we make any sense of this senseless murder of nearly 300 citizens? So what I would like to see is Tony Abbott get answers out of the Russian Government. Unfortunately I don't think the Russian Government will be forth coming even though they're the people who know most about the separatists in Eastern Ukraine who may well have shot down this plane.


JOURNALIST: After Susan Rice's call for Australia to do more on Ebola, should Australia increase its commitment, and specifically, how?


SHORTEN: Yes, I think Australia needs to increase its commitment in dealing with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. I think it is hugely embarrassing for Australia that you’ve got our allies pressuring the Government to be dragged kicking and screaming to tackle this killer disease in West Africa. We should not be waiting until we deal with the disease when it reaches Australian shores. The real need in West Africa is trained health professionals. The EU, the English, the Americans have all known this. The not-for-profit organisations, the charities on the front-line have known this, Labor has known this and the AMA and the nurses association have known this.

Why has it taken the American Government to embarrass the Abbott Government for us to be having a discussion from the Government about providing volunteer health professionals? This is a low point in terms of the Government's record. There’s no question Labor's offered bipartisan support for our humanitarian intervention in Northern Iraq, we just wish the Government would offer Labor bipartisan support in dealing with this dreadful killer disease in West Africa.


JOURNALIST: Australian war hero Ben Roberts-Smith has defended the controversial ADF pay deal that only increases soldier’s salaries by 1.5 per cent a year even though Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie is voting down all government legislation. What's your response to Robert-Smiths claims there, and do you think he’s qualified to speak on such matters?


SHORTEN: He's a respected Australian, I've had the privilege of meeting him, so I think he's a remarkable Australian and a war hero. In terms of the substantive issue about the pay rise, offering the Australian Defence Force's 55,000 men and women in uniform a pay rise which is lower than inflation is the wrong offer. I've written to the Prime Minister and said he has 28 days from the decision to put a new position to review the initial low cheap offer that he made the Australian Defence Forces. You can't be part of ‘Team Australia’ and invoking ‘Team Australia’ and then put our front-line players and give them a pay cut. I feel sorry that the military are caught in this see-saw between the Government's meanness and its rationalising its unfair budget. What the poor pay offer to the ADF tells me yet again is the Abbott Government doesn't know the meaning of the word fair.


JOURNALIST: On a local note, Kate Warner's been announced as our next Governor, although Labor weren't consulted on the appointment. Is that something that's a bit disappointing?


SHORTEN: Well I think the appointment is fantastic. I will ask my colleague Julie to add a few words. She's a very distinguished Tasmanian; I'm very pleased for her. Labor warmly welcomes her appointment on a day like today, it is not the case for me to be splitting hairs about process. She will make an excellent Governor and I think that it's a richly deserved appointment and I think it helps increase the lustre of Tasmania within the federation that they've picked such a distinguished person to be their Governor. I might ask Julie to add a few words on behalf of Tasmanian Labor.


JULIE COLLINS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT & LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT SERVICES: Thanks Bill. Professor Kate Warner will be a wonderful Governor for Tasmania. She has a great history and career behind her. She's done a lot for Tasmania. She's done a lot of work in particular for sexual assault victims with her law reform. She is a wonderful Tasmanian and I think she'll represent Tasmania extremely well as our next Governor and I warmly welcome her to her new role and I'm sure that she will do it with great, great aplomb.


JOURNALIST: And is it disappointing that Labor was not consulted?


COLLINS: Look, I don't know the details about whether or not State Labor was consulted or not, but she's a wonderful appointment and I think she'll make a great governor.


SHORTEN: Any other questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, America looks like it's going to increase its presence in Iraq, will it be bipartisan if Australia does the same thing?


SHORTEN: That's a hypothetical. The best briefings that we've had from the Government is that there is no such proposition being considered about sending ground combat troops to Iraq. There has been sensible bipartisanship on this matter and Labor's taken a principled approach thus far, but we have no information to suggest anything's changed and I note the Government's comments over the weekend would reinforce what I've just said.


JOURNALIST: Just got a couple on the NBN if that’s okay. Malcolm Turnbull’s facing the Devonport community at the moment about the NBN, what questions do you think Mr Turnbull needs to answer in regards to the NBN?


SHORTEN: I'll ask my Tasmanian colleagues to also join in the answer to this question but I've got a basic question to Malcolm Turnbull or Tony Abbott; why did you lie to the Australian people? Why did you break your promise and why are you leaving Tasmania stranded and why do you think so little of the future of Tasmania that you want to give them a second-class outcome when it comes to the NBN? I might ask Julie and perhaps Brian to say a few words.


COLLINS: Tasmanians were promised before the last federal election that we'd get the same under Labor as we’d get under Liberals. We now know that's not true. Malcolm Turnbull needs to deliver on his election promise to Tasmanians and deliver fibre to the home to the 200,000 premises here in Tasmania. We've now got whole suburbs and towns that are not going to get the NBN, not going to get fibre to the home that they were promised. They're only going to get fibre-to-the-node and in some cases not fibre at all.

Malcolm Turnbull made a clear commitment to Tasmanians and he needs to live up to it and I hope that the people in Devonport actually put him on the spot and say to him why did you lie to Tasmanians before the last Federal election? The State of Tasmania needed this NBN roll-out. We need it to be competitive. We were told we would be connected first. Now the roll-out rate is extremely slow. It's one of the slowest in the country and it's about time that Malcolm Turnbull did his job and delivered what he promised to Tasmania.


SHORTEN: Thanks, there are no other questions? Have a lovely day.