Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: St Albans - Liberal Government dysfunction and division on Medicare; $100,000 degrees






SUBJECT/S: Liberal Government dysfunction and division on Medicare; $100,000 degrees; Death penalty; Abbott Government locked out from LNP campaign launch; Manus Island.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone and welcome to Saint Albans as we celebrate Vietnamese New Year. However, Australians aren’t celebrating when they read in this morning’s newspapers that the dysfunction and division of the Liberal Government in 2014 is now continuing into 2015. It is not good enough to find out that Treasurer Hockey is fighting with Prime Minister Abbott but the healthcare of Australians is being ignored. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge of the Liberal Government, they’re policies are all about how do they make sick people pay more to go to the doctor and Australians want to see Medicare improved not attacked by the Liberal Government.


Also, I might just make a couple of brief comments on the higher education reports this morning as well that the Liberal Government in Canberra is showing a new interest in primary school teachers studying maths and science. It is remarkable and it is arrogant of the Abbott Government to start telling primary school teachers what subjects they should be teaching in schools when in fact they’re making it much more expensive for young men and women to become teachers in Australia. The Abbott Government is proposing to double and triple the cost of going to university to study teaching and many other higher education courses.


So on one hand the Abbott Government wants more teachers teaching maths and science, but on the other hand the Abbott Government is tripling and doubling the cost of going to university. Put in plain English, a young woman who’d be contemplating studying teaching now under the Abbott Government changes, if they go through the parliament, would have to pay back their university fees for nearly 19 years at about $96,500. The Abbott Government should stop messing around with higher education. In Australia, Labor believes that it should be your hard work and your marks which get you to university, no how much money your parents have.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: What’s your stance on the six people who were executed [inaudible]?


SHORTEN: It’s dreadful news. I and Labor do not support the death penalty. Labor does not support the death penalty. We and the Government stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue. It is greatly concerning with the news overnight of the execution of six people, some of whom who were foreign citizens. Again, we will work with the Government to make sure that clemency is extended to Australians who are facing this most dreadful prospect in coming days and weeks.


JOURNALIST: On one hand Abbott says that he doesn’t want to interfere with Indonesian affairs, on the other hand he says he doesn’t support the death penalty. Is he showing a strong enough stance towards Indonesia?


SHORTEN: On this the Government and Labor are of one mind. We would seek clemency from Indonesia to save the lives of these young Australians. No one’s saying they haven’t done anything wrong and no one’s saying they haven’t broken laws, but the death penalty is something which Australia outlawed in 1984 and Labor is seeking along with the Government clemency for these Australians.


JOURNALIST: Are you doing that strongly enough though?


SHORTEN: I believe the families and their lawyers supported by Government are doing what they can and at a time like this I think it has to be unanimous voice from Australia that we would like clemency extended to these young Australians in Indonesian jails.


JOURNALIST: This does signal that Indonesia will press ahead with executions even despite international protest, is that a bad sign for Australia?


SHORTEN: Well, when things are so delicately in the balance one doesn’t want to say anything to inflame it but again I repeat that I believe that Australians no matter what their political views want to see clemency extended to these young Australians facing this dreadful prospect of the death penalty.


JOURNALIST: It’s roughly the halfway point of the Queensland election, what’s your verdict on how the major parties have performed so far with their campaign?


SHORTEN: Well the Queensland election is a state election and there are many state issues. It will be up for Queenslanders to decide on issues such as jobs, on education, on healthcare. But one verdicts already in, the Abbott Government policies of increasing higher education fees, the infighting of 2014 flowing into 2015, the dysfunction and the division shows that the Liberal/National Government in Canberra cannot be trusted with the healthcare of Australians and I’m sure Queenslanders are weighing that up very carefully because the current Government in Queensland are the ideological blood brothers of the Abbott/Hockey Government in Canberra.


JOURNALIST: There’s reports that food hasn’t been delivered to Manus Island since Friday, they’re running out of water, if that’s true how concerning is that?


SHORTEN: I think most Australians are sick and tired of the culture of secrecy surrounding Manus Island. We’ve got to have the right policies in terms of deterring people smugglers but the people who come into the care of Australia must be treated properly. It is long overdue that the Liberal Government in Canberra, to make it very clear just what exactly is happening on Manus Island.


JOURNALIST: Should an independent inspector be appointed there?


SHORTEN: Well again I think any measures which go towards improving transparency. I’d just say to the Abbott Government and to the new immigration minister as well is this, Australians will normally give support to their Governments on tough matters if people are told the truth. But it doesn't seem to be that this is something the Government can do easily. It doesn't matter if it’s immigration or the culture of secrecy on Manus Island or the internal dysfunction and division of the Liberals in 2014 which is now flowing into 2015 when it comes to Medicare. The Australian people just want a government who’s interested in them and telling them the truth, not keeping secrets or fighting amongst themselves.


JOURNALIST: You’ve endorsed the Governments view that it shouldn’t change policy in response to the hunger strikes?


SHORTEN: Well first of all we need to find out what’s going on there. Asking the rest of us to second guess what Government policy is when we can’t even find out what’s happening on Manus Island, there’s an actual order in this sequence in these matters and the Liberal Government in Canberra just needs to tell Australians what’s going on.


JOURNALIST: Given the Gillard Government though reopened that centre and that Rudd in 2013 said that no one would be resettled in Australia, does Labor have to take some responsibility for the current situation on Manus?


SHORTEN: The Abbott Government’s now been in power from 2013, it’s now 2015. I don't think it’s good enough for the Abbott Government to keep blaming everyone else in the past for everything that’s happening now. The matter’s simple, the Abbott Government just have to take the Australian people into their confidence and tell us what’s happening.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of Julie Bishop and other senior Liberals not turning up at the Liberal campaign launch in Brisbane today?


SHORTEN: Well the Liberal Government in Canberra may say they’re on holiday or unavailable for the state election but their policies aren’t on holiday in Queensland. In Queensland where I’ve been for a week and where I’ll be visiting again, are healthcare and schools and jobs are big issues. It is a state election not a federal election but the truth of the matter is that there’s a lot of issues which converge. You’ve got a Government in Brisbane with the same philosophical views as the government in Canberra, a Liberal/National government in both cases. They cut funding to schools, they cut funding to hospitals, they cut jobs, they don’t stand up for people. Now we see the health debacle in Queensland.


The only reason the Abbott government has changed any tactics on Medicare is because of the impact of the federal policies on the state election. So I’ve got no doubt that the federal Liberals have been told please stay and away and don’t remind Queenslanders that were from the same party. But this morning we’ve seen division and dysfunction revealed, the division and dysfunction of 2014 in the Liberal Government in Canberra has now flowed over into 2015 and what we see is Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott spending more time fighting each other than fighting for Medicare and this isn’t good enough for the health of all Australians. Last question.


JOURNALIST: Campbell Newman’s releasing some policies today [inaudible] taxpayer funded teaching degrees for high performing students. Are you in support of this policy?


SHORTEN: I actually just missed the last bit of your question, sorry.


JOURNALIST: Campbell Newman’s releasing policy today including 500 taxpayer funded teaching degrees, education university degrees for high achieving students. Are you in favour and supportive of this policy?


SHORTEN: No amount of last minute scholarships from Liberal Governments state or federal can compensate for the bad Abbott Government policies on higher education. They’re hundreds and thousands of students who go to university now who are facing much higher degrees because of Abbott Government policy. A few hundred scholarships isn’t going to make a big enough difference. What Campbell Newman should do is he should stand up to Tony Abbott on higher education. Young Queenslanders, it doesn’t matter if they live in the regions or in south-east Queensland, it doesn’t matter if their parents are rich or not so well off should all have the equal access to go to university and not rely on a few hundred scholarships. The Abbott Government should stop messing around with higher education. Labor believes that it should be your hard work and your merit which gets you to university or indeed TAFE opportunities, not how much money your parents have in the bank.


JOURNALIST: Don’t you believe this would increase the standard of teaching though because you’re attracting potentially high performing students to pursue a degree in education?


SHORTEN: I worry greatly that the Abbott Government and now it appears Campbell Newman as well who’s taking a leaf out of the Abbott Government’s higher education book, are basically making it harder for working class kids, the kids from country towns throughout Queensland to go to university, for kids whose parents don’t have a lot of money from going to university.


Do not underestimate how discouraging it is as we speak now for kids who are 15 and 16 contemplating year 11 and year 12 choices and their parents and they see the Abbott Government running around, and now Campbell Newman, saying that we’ll have a few scholarships but fundamentally we’re going to increase the price of going to university. It is not reform to put prices up and to have fewer people going to university. That is not reform. Reform is when you lower prices and more people get an opportunity to go to university. Thanks everyone.