Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Mark Butler’s Advanced Australia; Syria






SUBJECT/S: Mark Butler’s Advanced Australia; Syria; Film Showing at Sydney School; Republic; Tony Abbott’s royal commission; Industrial relations; Speech to the National Reform Summit


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone.  It is a real privilege to be here today to launch my colleague Mark Butler’s book, Advanced Australia – The Politics of Ageing.


This is a really timely contribution to the debate better deal for older Australians. Mark has written a book which takes the strategic view and a positive view of ageing. Indeed, I think Mark Butler's book and the ideas contained in this are a marked contrast to the policy paralysis of Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government. We have seen under Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government, hundreds of thousands of pensioners have their pensions cut in part or in full. I believe that one of the key issues at the next election is about a better deal for older Australians and Mark Butler's book helps point where Labor is going in these matters. I might ask Mark to say a couple of words and happy to take questions on that or other matters.


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER: Thank you, Bill. Thank you Bill for taking the time to launch this book. I know there has been a few book launches this month. This was very important exercise after having the privilege of three years as the Minister for ageing under the Julia Gillard Government, a time where we did much I think to improve the position of older Australians. But what I found in that time talking particularly to thousands of older Australians themselves, is just how negative the mind set in the broader community, not just here in Australia, but across Western society is about the process of ageing. This is one of the seismic shifts that is happening in our community, particularly as the very large baby Boomer generation starts to retire. This book tries to deal with some of the very significant challenges that come with that retirement. But at the heart of it, our challenge should be to do everything that we can to make sure that those years of retirement for older Australians are good years, years in which they continue to feel financially secure, healthy, active and connected to a community that they did so much during their working lives to build. So I really want to thank Bill for taking the time to launch this book. I want to thank the thousands of older Australians who over the last few years have talked to me across regional Australia and in our capital cities about their hopes and fears. I think we in Canberra could do much more to respond to those calls.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Mark. Again might I just repeat, Mark has fulfilled the DNA of all gen-x people in our society, making sure he is providing a better deal for the baby boomers.


Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, What do you make of suggestions that Tony Abbott may have encouraged the US to make a request for Australia to launch air strikes in Syria?


SHORTEN: I think Mr Abbott and his Liberals need to clear this issue up - we are getting conflicting reports from within the Government and also from the United States. Let me also say at the outset, there is no issue more important than our national security. Labor has worked hard to achieve bipartisanship with the Liberals in terms of maintaining our national security. I've been briefed in recent times about the proposition of extending ADF role into the air over Syria. I'm consulting with my colleagues and we have requested further information and of course, the legal basis upon which an action could be contemplated. We take it very seriously. I would rather there wasn't this other issue about who said what, where. I would appreciate the Government helping clear that up publicly.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of Bob Carr, a former colleague, suggesting that Australia has a moral obligation to launch these air strikes?


SHORTEN: Mr Carr is entitled to his opinion as a citizen of Australia. For Labor, we will be looking at not only the moral issues but the legal issues and national security issues. What we are committed to is making sure Australians are safe. We are committed to defeating the scourge of terrorism and we are committed in ensuring Australian Defence personnel are not put in harm's way needlessly and we have the most prudential and thoughtout strategic approach about how we tackle this very, very important issue.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the legal implications or there could be legal breaches in this?


SHORTEN: We have asked the Government for further discussion about the legal basis for this request and international law and the basis upon this action. We will keep considering the evidence, we will keep talking to the Government. Australians expect their Parliamentarians to do this sort of consideration thoughtfully and I can promise Australians that is exactly what we are doing.


JOURNALIST: Bruce McDougall from the Telegraph. There has been concern about a Government school in Sydney planning to screen a film on gay parenting. The concerns seem to surround the worry that it is politicising kids and politicising schools. Do you have a view on that at all?


SHORTEN: It is a matter for the NSW Education Department and Minister for Education in NSW. I've seen some of the coverage of the matter. I’m going to leave it to our State colleagues to work through these issues.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you mentioned you would like further information following your briefing on Monday about the Syrian air strikes. When do you expect to receive this?


SHORTEN: I think the Government is working in good time to provide us this information in a timely fashion.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, were you approached to be the Labor face of the Republican campaign and what do you think about Joe Hockey's involvement in that campaign? Do you welcome it or do you think he should be focusing on the Budget?


SHORTEN: I haven't been approached at this stage and I don't know the background to your question. In terms of Australia becoming a Republic, I think in the next ten years, it is probably appropriate for us to have that national conversation. Right now, I'm focused on jobs, health and education and fairness in our community. But I do think that by 2020, it will be 250 years since Captain Cook came to Australia. I probably think now it's time for Australia to have an Australian Head of State so I do support the Republican debate but what I also recognise and wish to stress is right now unemployment is over 6 per cent, there is over 800,000 people unemployed. Right now there is over a million people who record they would like to do more work than they are. There is another 800,000 plus people on disability support who I think are being excluded from being able to meaningfully participate in our economy in many cases.


For me, jobs is my number one issue, I think that is the number one issue - building confidence, building growth, building productivity.


JOURNALIST: On that, some questions from our Canberra bureau. What reform were you alluding in IR were you eluding to today in relation to work sites and are you considering supporting any of the Government's existing legislation?

SHORTEN: First of all the Government has a very ideological approach to industrial relations, they just divide it into a sphere of conflict between government, unions and employers. Australia in 2015 can't afford these old fashion views be they from the far left or indeed from the current extreme ideology of Mr Abbott and his Liberals.  Australian workplaces work best when there's harmony and cooperation. In my experience over 20 years, Australian workers want to come to work and like their job. In my experience Australian managers are happy to pay people well so long as they're getting good work out of their employees I think there's a lot more room in the centre of Australian political debate for improving the tone and the policies of industrial relations in terms of emphasising cooperation. Cooperation can take a number of forms; better safety, better training of apprentices, better provision of adult apprenticeship, greater focus on best practise in workplace relations, and certainly when it comes to construction I’d like to see more women encouraged to take up careers in construction.

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised that Dyson Heydon hasn't made up his mind on whether or not he'll continue serving as head of the Royal Commission?

SHORTEN: Tony Abbott's Royal Commission into his political enemies was always set up with a view in part, if not in whole, of smearing his political enemies. I think the Royal Commission is becoming more and more shambolic. Labor has zero tolerance for breaches of the criminal law, but what we also view is that a lot of this Royal Commission is just a political smear on their opponents.

JOURNALIST: Should've he already said by now whether or not he's going to stay or go?

SHORTEN: That's a matter for Tony Abbott's captain's pick. What I do believe is that Mr Abbott's put his captain's pick in an invidious position, I think Mr Abbott should've acted before now.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, this morning's union commissioned poll on the Canning by-election showed basically a 50-50 result, which would subsequently be a massive swing towards Labor, what do you think?

SHORTEN: I think the issues in the by-election in Western Australia are all about what sort of country do we want to have and what sort of direction is Mr Abbott taking this country in? I hear pretty reliable reports that the Liberals have built an ‘Abbott Proof Fence’ around Canning. They don't want the current Prime Minister to be anywhere near this Canning by-election, they've got him in witness protection. So I think that shows that the real issues here are jobs, education, healthcare and fairness and what we see in Western Australia is a debate about is Mr Abbott and his Government taking Australia in the right direction?

In Western Australia after a long boom, they're now experiencing downturns. We see 30,000 extra people in Western Australia unemployed than before Mr Abbott was elected Prime Minister. We see massive state debt run up by the Liberal Government in Western Australia, we see Mr Abbott floating propositions about increasing the GST on everything from health and school fees. No I think this by-election - I can't say who's going to win, it's going to be a tough fight for Labor. There hasn't been a swing against, a change of seat from a political party due to the passing of serving MP in 50 years. It's a hard fight for Labor, but there's no doubt there are important issues and the people of Canning are going to be able pass a verdict on what they think about Mr Abbott and the direction his Liberals are taking Australia. Last question thank you.

JOURNALIST: Just to go back to this morning's reform summit, you described the economy as wallowing in mediocrity. If it's that dire you're going to need to do substantially more that the changes to superannuation that you've already outlined, what else?

SHORTEN: Well Labor believes that if we're to improve this country's economic performance, it's all about making sure that we've got a strategy for growth. Growth in job numbers, growth in income, growth and opportunities for small business. This morning I articulated several of the leavers which government could do, a Labor Government could do if we were elected within the next 12 months.

One is more infrastructure - I want to unclog our cities and our regions. People are wasting too much time stuck in traffic jams or with insufficient or inadequate public transport travelling to and from work. We need to make sure we have a proper National Broadband Network not this second hand reject outfit which we've seen the costs double on since the Liberals came into Government.

We also need to make sure that our universities are productive - you don't improve the performance of this nation by increasing the price that we charge students to go to university, instead it's got to be about an emphasis on quality and making sure that children from any postcode in Australia can get the chance to fulfil their capacities and go to university based on their merit.

Also there's no doubt that our education cuts under the current Liberal team led by Mr Abbott are no good for Australian schools. We've seen the constant attack on healthcare, with the GP tax and other measures making it harder for sick people to go to the doctor, there's nothing which is going to generate economic growth if it costs people more to go to the doctor by having to wait till they end up in hospital, and furthermore there's no doubt in my mind that innovation and technology working with small business are the paths we need to take for the future. This nation needs to be smarter not poorer and you can't have any debate about the future and improving our economic growth and the jobs that should come with it, unless we have real policies on climate change.

There is no doubt that Mr Abbott's stuck in the past stubborn refusal to support a 50 per cent goal of renewable energy by 2030 means that as long as Mr Abbott and his Liberal team are running Canberra, Australia's going to miss the tide of new jobs and the necessary billions of dollars of extra benefit which will flow to this country if we embrace policies which deal with climate change. So Australia does have a choice and this morning in the talk I outlined my view and Labor's views, some of our views about how we improve this country and one thing's for sure - putting a GST on everything and increasing the GST is not a package for a better life for Australians. You don't increase the GST and pretend that that's making a tax change for the better, it's a dreadful idea and Labor stands firmly against it.

Thanks everyone.