FRIDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Liberal Party chaos, division and dysfunction; $100,000 degrees; Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; New South Wales state election; Bali Nine.
LUKE FOLEY, LEADER OF THE NEW SOUTH WALES OPPOSITION: Well friends, thanks for joining us. I’m pleased to welcome Federal Labor Leader Bill Shorten to the New South Wales campaign, and I’ll hand over Bill.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: Thanks Luke, and it’s great to be in Strathfield with my friend Jodi McKay. She really is a remarkable candidate and I think a demonstration that Luke Foley's assembling a great team to offer a real choice at the upcoming New South Wales elections. But of course one of the big issues this week, not only in Strathfield but throughout Australia, is we've seen the terrible division of the Liberal National Government in Canberra and on Monday this week, after a remarkable spill where 39 Liberals voted for an empty chair as opposed to their Prime Minister, we were promised "good government starts today". And since good government's starting today, the promise this week would be different to the previous 529 days of Liberal Government, we've seen the ongoing debacle of the botched submarines contract where it's becoming clearer every day that a $20 billion contract for submarines, fundamental to our national security appears to have been an item to try to track down some votes in a desperate minute-to-midnight effort to keep the Prime Minister in his job. And even equally terrible yesterday was the unemployment numbers. We've seen in this week that a desperate Liberal National Government, worrying about their own jobs, we've seen that unemployment has now risen to 6.4 per cent in Australia, or in real terms, human terms, we've seen there's over 100,000 extra people who've been added to the unemployment queues since the Liberals got elected a year and a half ago.
It isn't good enough that we have a government focused on their own issues and not the cost of living issues of ordinary Australians. Talking to voters even as we walk round here in Strathfield, there's real concern about cost of living. We've got remarkable young people who are working hard to get the best possible marks but they're quietly concerned and asking me, but Bill will I be able to afford to go to university under these higher education changes and $100,000 degrees? You also see people who are worried with the GP Tax, the on again, off again GP Tax. We had the crazy situation this week where the Prime Minister's own Parliamentary Secretary said that the GP Tax was off the table. Then we see the Treasurer's Parliamentary Secretary say in fact it's still on the table. And Australians are no clearer to knowing exactly why the Abbott Government is so keen to break an election promise and tax the sick when they go to the doctor.
So be it higher education, pension cuts, mooted debates about putting a GST on fresh food, or indeed the GP Tax, this is a Government who is at sea and Australians are suffering.
Happy to take questions on any of the matters of national politics and I should also say I am looking forward to coming and visiting throughout New South Wales in the lead-up to this State election. Luke Foley is a remarkable candidate and he's working and will present an alternative vision for New South Wales and when you see candidates of the calibre of Jodie McKay backing up Luke Foley, I can promise you that Labor is certainly going to be doing everything it can in the New South Wales election, and indeed I might ask Jodie to say a few words as the Labor flag bearer in Strathfield.
JODI MCKAY: Thank you, Bill. It's great to have Bill here. I have known Bill for a very long time, since 2006 actually, and it is amazing to have him, the day after Parliament rises in Canberra, to actually come here to Strathfield. I think it shows not only the significance of Strathfield in the New South Wales campaign, but what it shows is that Bill is committed to the New South Wales campaign, and certainly committed to seeing us form government. And I hope this is not just the first visit to the Strathfield area, but thank you so much for being here and supporting us.
LUKE FOLEY: Thanks, Jodi. It's wonderful to be back here in Strathfield. A suburb I lived in for 14 years. A suburb I still shop in every Saturday, and it's great to welcome Federal Labor Leader Bill Shorten to the New South Wales campaign. Bill Shorten will be welcome here every day and every week of the New South Wales election campaign. Because Bill and I stand for the same things in life. Tony Abbott and Mike Baird, they stand for the same things in life. Tony Abbott and Mike Baird, peas in a pod, both stand for selling off our essential assets and taking an axe to education and health. Bill and I both stand for creating jobs through all of the suburbs and all of our regions. We look at the unemployment figures yesterday. The top priority for our government state and federal has to be creating jobs, creating smart jobs in all of our suburbs and regions, close to where people live. Less time commuting. more time with their loved ones. That's my plan for the future of this growing city, a city that's growing from 4.5 million people today to 6 million over the next 15 years.
Mike Baird and the Liberals, Tony Abbott, Mike Baird's good mate, focused on taking an axe to education and health. $25 billion of cuts to the New South Wales public health and education systems over the next 10 years and Mike Baird says Tony Abbott's still his good mate? Mike Baird won't stand up to his good mate Tony Abbott. My friend Bill Shorten's standing up to Tony Abbott in the national Parliament each and every day and Bill is so welcome here with me today, his first appearance in the New South Wales campaign. I can assure you it won't be the last. Bill and I will be going forward with my candidates like Jodi over the next six weeks putting forward Labor's message and making clear that whilst Mike Baird might have a nicer smile, he's cut from the same cloth as Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman. They stand for the same things in life. Labor will be putting forward a policy agenda based on creating smart jobs in our suburbs, for our smart kids in a growing city, and investing in health and education as the great drivers of opportunity in our society. So Bill and I and Jodi will be happy to answer your questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Foley, in today's Daily Telegraph you're accused of being part of the dirty tricks scheme, where you’ve been engaged with the Climate Change Coalition in 2007 to help Verity Firth beat the Green’s candidate in Balmain. What's your response to that?
FOLEY: I was clear to the journalist. I mean, these are totally discredited campaigns, allegations from this character. Everyone who was in the room says what he's saying just didn't occur.
JOURNALIST: You're also accused of asking John Harvey from the Climate Change Coalition to forward Upper House how-to-vote cards to Richard Torbay and Rob Oakeshott for distribution across the north of the state in the same year. What's your response to that?
FOLEY: It didn't happen.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just to make sure you weren’t verballed by Luke Foley there, is he saying you two, you know, you’ve got the same policy agendas. He’s running a campaign against $20 billion for infrastructure in New South Wales that Mike Baird would get if he leases the poles and wires. Do you also oppose that $20 billion in infrastructure?
SHORTEN: Let's go to the first part of your question and then I will come to the specifics about poles and wires. No, Luke Foley isn't verballing anyone. Luke Foley understands that when you've got Tony Abbott or some other Liberal salesman in Canberra with a ruthless agenda to cut education, to cut the funding to hospitals, to introduce a new GP Tax, to create $100,000 degrees, to make it harder for sick people to go to the doctor, a government which is not focused on the growing unemployment queues of Australia but rather on their own jobs, Luke and I absolutely agree.
What we need at the State level is not a friend of the Liberal National Government in Canberra, you just need someone who will tell them what's right and what's wrong. The fundamental test of political parties and of state leaders, regardless of who's in power in Canberra, is will the State leader pick their own political party in Canberra or will they pick the citizens of New South Wales? There is only one choice in New South Wales for standing up for New South Wales, and that is the man standing alongside me, and in terms of poles and wires - what we see is there's a lesson in Queensland. The public, the public, not you or I in our particular world, but the public take a very dim view of the assets which create wealth for all of the people being sold off and putting pressure on cost of living. So I certainly, I believe that New South Wales Labor has got a very clear policy and there is a clear choice at this election.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten a report by Price Waterhouse Coopers predicts debt to hit $1trillion by 2037 if the Budget isn’t returned to surplus. Unfair or not do you concede the Government needs to cut spending?
SHORTEN: Could you just go back, I just missed the beginning part of that question.
JOURNALIST: Yes, a report by Price Waterhouse Coopers predicts commonwealth debt could hit $1trillion by 2037. Do you think this Government needs to cut spending?
SHORTEN: First of all, I think that this Government needs to keep its promises. When we talk about the future, what we need to do is make sure Australians can trust the political process. Australians are rightly turned off by what they saw by the Government in Canberra this week. We need to rebuild the covenant of trust between Australians and the people they elect. There's been a fundamental breach of trust and the problem for the Government, but an even greater problem for Australians, is that no matter what Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey say now, no-one's going to believe them. They've learned nothing and nothing's changed; this Budget's unfair.
As a nation, and we talk about the future, going to the specifics of your question, we are smart enough in the next 20 years not to have to say that the only way that we can have a bright future is by picking on the vulnerable, by people on fixed incomes tackling and increasing their cost of living pressures, by attacking the minimum wage in this country. This country works best when we're united and the problem with this Budget and the underlying philosophy of the Liberal National Government in Canberra is it's based on broken promises and lies, it's based upon punishing those least able to look after themselves, and it's marginalising the middle class trying to make ends meet. So that's why I don't accept the proposition that this Budget of unfairness built upon lies is the path, is the map to the future. It's just a map to division, it's a map to a bleaker, worse future.
JOURNALIST: What is your alternative? Can you guarantee spending would fall under a Labor Government?
SHORTEN: First of all, I appreciate that the question that you'd like us to announce our election policies. When Mr Abbott calls the election we will certainly have our ideas arrayed to lay out. But in the meantime, this Opposition has supported $20 billion worth of changes and savings and we voted for the Government, so when the Government says that we don't cooperate with them, that's not really true. Secondly, when my predecessors were in power, we saw savings and changes and reductions of $180 billion, and thirdly, if you want to tackle the economic challenges of Australia, it's a lot harder to do when the unemployment queues are getting longer. There's 100,000 extra people unemployed than there were when the Abbott Government's there and furthermore you're not going to tackle the economic challenges, you're not going to help the households of Australia by the Government putting all the pressures on cost of living of households.
JOURNALIST: Some comments, some members of the legal community say the Prime Minister's comments in Parliament yesterday regarding the Sydney terrorism case have prejudiced the future trial. Do you think the Prime Minister was unwise to make those comments?
SHORTEN: Well, if those people in the legal community - and I’ve have seen a range of experts with conflicting views - but if those legal experts who said that the Prime Minister went too far yesterday are right, of course it would be terribly concerning if we've compromised a national security trial because the Prime Minister's just gone too far. But I understand there's debate and conjecture in the legal community about whether or not he went too far. And for Labor's view, we will keep doing as we've done since I became leader, a calm and methodical approach of making sure that we all work together to oppose terrorism but also making sure that we don't throw away the quality of life in our country by rushing and hasty comments.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten is it true that Labor will oppose the Government proposals to crack down on foreign purchases of agricultural land?
SHORTEN: Well first of all we’ve seen the Government toss this policy up in the last couple of days. We understand that foreign investment is a bit of a hot button issue but I’m not going to be part of the cheer squad which simply says it’s a bad idea. Australians invest overseas and we certainly don’t want to be met with restrictions on our ability to invest overseas and also, we’ve always had foreign investment in Australia since 1788, so I think that it’s a matter of making sure we get the balance right and we’ve certainly said that Australia needs as a nation not to be afraid of the rest of the world. Immigration has been good for this country and you’ve just got to look at a marvellous multicultural community like Strathfield and we’ve got to keep making sure that we engage with the rise of Asia to the North of Australia. We should be outwardly focused, it’s a matter of getting the balance right.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] policy to get rid of the debt?
SHORTEN: Well on the terms of the debt issues lets be really clear, it is the current government who doubled the deficit since they’ve got elected, it is the current government who are making it harder for households to make ends meet with their cost of living pressures and I tell you what, if you ever want to tackle debt it’s much better if you’ve got a job than if you haven’t got a job and the problem is this current government are focused on their own jobs and not the unemployment queues of Australia and certainly as I said in answer to an earlier question from a journalist, we have supported some savings and changes and of course we’re always up for sensible measures but I don’t think anyone fundamentally believes that the way to save Australia’s future is make it harder for pensioners and fixed income earners.
JOURNALIST: A question for Mr Foley, Mr Foley when you were elected you said we’d hear your infrastructure plan after Australia Day, we’re past that now. When are we going to find out what is your plan for infrastructure in this state?
SHORTEN: Yeah Will as I said on day one, I will release Labor’s costed and funded infrastructure policy early in the New South Wales state campaign. That remains my commitment. We’re six weeks out from the election and I will release Labor’s infrastructure policy which will be costed and funded early in the official state campaign.
JOURNALIST: So according to the Premier’s office the official campaign starts early March. Is that what, is that the sort of dates you’re talking about?
SHORTEN: It will be early in the campaign. I am hopeful that I’ll release it this month.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Bali Nine the Foreign Minister says Australians will vote with their feet and abandon Bali if Indonesia does indeed execute Chan and Sukumaran, do you agree?
SHORTEN: I think that both the Government and, not I think, I know the Government and the Opposition are unanimous in terms of seeking clemency for these two young men. I’ve been in touch with the families lawyers, I know the Government and the Opposition have made joint appeals to the Indonesian Government. I believe, like most Australians, when confronted with this potential of this terrible execution that the death penalty demeans all of us, everywhere when it occurs and I don’t want to contemplate what happens if the execution takes place and I understand the legitimate question you’re asking, but our focus is on demonstrating to Indonesia the universal opinion in Australia to seek clemency for these two young men. All of the accounts show that these two young men have repented, have fundamentally changed their understandings and this execution if it occurs solves nothing and I think and I support what the Government’s saying. Our feelings are with the family, they must be going through a dreadful time so questions about what happens in the event the execution takes place for me are premature. I don’t want to contemplate that set of circumstances yet, but I appreciate your question.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about the Federal Labor Government’s positon on the asset recycling legislation, because this state campaign is really a referendum on poles and wires leasing and then the infrastructure they build with it, that turns on asset recycling legislation. Will you respect the New South Wales people’s vote if they vote in the Baird Government if they can pass it through the Upper House will Federal Labor allow asset recycling [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: It’s Will isn’t it? Yeah, I think you’re professional enough journalist so I’m not going to engage in a hypothetical which doesn’t see Luke Foley doing as well as he can in this election. Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let us talk in this election about the case for state Labor, Jodie McKay in Strathfield, Luke Foley across the State. What I know in this election is that if you want someone to stand up to Tony Abbott or any other Liberal National leader in Canberra, there’s only one choice, its Luke Foley. Thanks everyone, have a lovely day.
JOURNALIST: Mr Foley, just one last quick one. What are your views on the plans to implement train barriers across the state?
FOLEY: We’ve seen this morning an announcement from the Transport Minister that they’ll erect much higher barriers on railway stations. This is a result of the Liberals cutting several hundred security staff across the rail network and my concern is that fare evasions up and that safety is diminished because of the Liberals cuts to several hundred security staff on our railways. Sky high barriers are no substitute for an adequate number of security staff protecting the public and ensuring that fare evasion is cracked down on. Thanks very much guys, thanks for coming.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053