Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Labor’s plan to empower young Australians; Australia’s role in Iraq and Syria






SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to empower young Australians; Australia’s role in Iraq and Syria; Regional resettlement.


SAM DASTYARI, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECERTARY FOR YOUTH: It is fantastic to be here this morning at the meeting of the largest youth political organisation in the country; Young Labor and it was incredible to be here with the Federal Leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten.


Bill today outlined some big ideas and a big policy discussion for the Labor party and has intrusted me to go out there and carry on that conversation.


So without further ado, Bill Shorten.




Today, I have outlined a plan, a national conversation of engaging Australia’s young people more in politics. I think it is greatly concerning that between 2010 and 2013, 400,000 young people who turned 18 chose not to enrol.


There is a democracy deficit between young people who feel disengaged from the decisions of the Liberal Government and a sense that nothing can change. I believe it is important that we tackle the apathy and cynicism of young people towards politics. After all, young people, including 16 and 17 year olds, pay tax, they can drive cars, they can serve in the military at age 17 – they should be able to vote. And Labor is going to have this conversation because we believe in trusting young people to have their say on the future of climate change, the future on higher education, TAFE and schools funding.


My message to the Liberal party is, let’s trust our young people because they are the people that are going to have to deal with the decisions we are making right now.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten – critics will say this is an attempt by you to garner young people to lift your approval rating from 17 per cent. Is this an attempt by Labor to just win over more young lefties?


SHORTEN: Let’s look at the real issue here. Young people are disengaged from politics. We expect a lot from Australia’s young people. We expect them to pay more in their HECs. We expect them to wait longer to even get a house deposit together, we expect them to train and retrain for the jobs of the future and we ask them of course to pay taxes from the GST to what they pay at work. What is wrong with trusting our young people with a say in politics?


I say to the critics, you might not trust young people, they say back to you ‘we don't trust the current decisions of the Liberal Government on climate change, on higher education funding, on the equal treatment of women’. A lot of issues that young people are motivated about.


JOURNALIST: You cited 400,000 people in that younger bracket weren't actually enrolled to vote. How is lowering the voting age going to encourage those people actually to come into that call?


SHORTEN: Because what Labor's doing is we are saying to Australia's young people, 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds, we are saying we trust you - we want you engaged, we want it hear your opinion.


At the moment in the Parliament we are discussing the future of marriage equality. If more young people enrol to vote, they can fix up the problem of marriage equality. Because most young people don't know what the fuss is about. At the moment we are debating the future climate change. Young people are very concerned to make sure that we have a better environment, that we tackle carbon pollution. Young people don't want to see this problem put off because they understand that the more you delay real action on climate change, the more you just stick with the Liberal policies on climate change, the bigger the problem is going to be in the future.


JOURNALIST: Why are you going for that younger demographic? Why don't you appeal to the demographic that’s already in the voting pool?


SHORTEN: People from the age of 18 can already vote. What I want to do is extend that debate to people who are 17 and 16. They are the ones who have no voice in politics at the moment.


By the way, we have got very good policies for people over 18. We will properly fund your hospitals, we will properly fund schools, we will take real action on climate change. We don't see the need to spend $160 million to have an opinion poll on marriage equality, we will just get on and do it – that’s the day job for members of Parliament. We have excellent policies for people over 18.


I'm raising a debate which is happening all around the world. Decisions are being made every day which affect the livelihoods of 17-year-olds. Why shouldn't we invite them to have a say?


JOURNALIST: Would you expect it to boost Labor's numbers if 16 and 17-year-olds vote?


SHORTEN: I'm interested in a boost in the number of people enrolled to vote. How they vote is up to them. I don't think any of us can seriously argue that including more people in our elections is a bad idea. I'm sure when there was an argument to give women the right to vote, I am sure there were people who said that you can’t trust women to vote. I'm sure that when there was an argument for people who didn’t own £1000 in property that they shouldn’t have the vote; you can’t trust these people to vote. I am sure that when we had the arguments about lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, there were people who said you can't trust young people.


What I'm saying to the Liberal Party of Australia and to other Australians, is actually, we ask a lot of our young people, why not trust them to have a say.


JOURNALIST: These people can't drink, though. They aren’t legally allowed to drink. Should we consider if they are legally allowed to vote, should we consider changing other laws to make them younger?


SHORTEN: Ursula I'm a politician, I'm not a publican. I'm talking about getting people to vote. I think that is important. I don't compare the right to vote with some of the other consumer benefits people have in life. My view isn't just about people being able to do everything. My view though is young people are frustrated by politics, that’s true - they are disengaged – no one can argue with that. They are cynical when the nightly news comes on and they get sick of people just speaking in sound bites. What they actually want to see is that they can have an impact in their community, they want more transparent politics. I think it's a good idea to let younger people vote.


JOURNALIST: Can I ask you on the issue of refugees - Kyrgyzstan is the latest country considered by Australia to take our refugees. Is this policy acceptable to Labor?


SHORTEN: Like you, we have just seen the reports. In order to make regional processing work, Labor is committed to that. I think that the Liberals would be well advised to work with Labor and the Australian people.


We all know that we have had this failed experiment with giving Cambodia $40 million for four people. That's not a good idea. We hear there’s discussions going on with the Philippines. We are interested in that.


I really regret that when the Liberals were in Opposition they didn't support Labor's plan to work out an arrangement to send asylum seekers and refugees to Malaysia.


If there’s serious talks going on by this Government and other nations around the world, I think the Liberals should just come clean, tell the Australian people what's going on. It's not dissimilar to the debate, in one way, of giving young people the vote. What the Liberals need to do is trust people. They vote for you, they pay your wages, I think it's important that the Government starts to trust Australians and not keep them in the dark.


JOURNALIST: In the Middle East, in Syria, the US have now said they are sending in special ground troops. Should Australia be doing that or considering that?


SHORTEN: At this stage, no. There have been no discussions with the Labor Party about it. Labor has a principled position. We think that supporting the defence of Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Government is legitimate and we are doing a training function with our troops, where our Air Force is also interdicting and going after the terrorist groups.


We have accepted that there is no real practical border between parts of Syria and Iraq so the Air Force has got a role along with other Coalition nations in Iraq to stop these terrorists coming into Iraq.


When it comes to the broader issues of Syria more generally, Labor has no time for the current leader of Syria - he is a dictator and has been associated with the mass murder of his own citizens. Of course the terrorists are equally bad and equally murderous but I'm deeply sceptical that when Western nations try and significantly intervene in a country like Syria where there is no unified government, where there’s lots of atrocities being done by a range of nations, we need to hasten slowly. I don't believe the case has been made for extending Australia's involvement in Syria.


JOURNALIST: Military experts and even the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott admitted ground troops are necessary to win in Syria. Are Australia's politicians getting us into a war we know we can't win without troops on the ground?


SHORTEN: Well, I’d  put the question in reverse, Ursula. I would say that ‘would us adding troops on the ground mean we would win a war? Who are we winning the war against?’ We are against terrorist organisations who are using genocide, murder, rape to carry out their twisted view of the world. Labor is supporting the government of Iraq in its efforts to secure strong borders and a peaceful life for its citizens.


International experts freely acknowledge the situation in Syria is messy, it's incredibly unclear. The idea that we can sort of bomb our way to peace across Syria and resolve all the conflicts - what we need is greater support for the refugees. There are millions of people who have had to leave their home and living in border countries. Labor did lead the way and say we should bring 10,000 refugees to Australia. This argument about extending Australian military involvement into a very confusing, very difficult, very hard to see the end game conflict is one which Labor is not prepared to go to at this point. The case hasn't been made.


JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about - on the processing, the regional processing, Labor supports regional processing of asylum seekers but would you actually seriously consider a situation where we are sending refugees to countries that are politically unstable or in unstable areas of the world?


SHORTEN: There is a fair bit of hypothetical in that. I think the best answer I can give you is: ask the people in charge, the Liberal Government, just to explain what's going on. Sometimes I think the Liberals and indeed Labor periodically can overcomplicate politics. I think the more direct we are with the Australian people, the more we say this is the problem, this is why we are trying to solve and this is the way we are going to solve it is the way to go. All I would ask the Government is if you are engaging in discussions with other nations, why not sit down and talk about it with the Opposition as well. It is a very vexed issue. A lot of people are concerned to make sure people indirectly in our care on Manus Island and Nauru are being treated properly. There is a lot of consternation in the community.


Labor does support regional resettlement. We don't want to re-open the seaway between Java and Christmas Island where so many people drowned. Part of having that policy is that the Government needs to make all efforts possible to sit down with nations capable of absorbing refugees through discussions they have with Australia and I just wish the Liberal Government would remove the, sort of, blanket of secrecy. Let's not make it a domestic political point scoring game - people's lives are involved, it's too important.


Labor will work with the Government to ensure a humane outcome for these refugees. But this culture of secrecy, this suspicion that the Liberals have of the media of what’s going on, of the Opposition and indeed, the Australian people, I don't think leads to an effective, lasting consensus. I would ask the Liberals - just talk to us and let's work through this together.


We won't take the same negative view that the Liberals took in Opposition.


Great, thanks.