Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Townsville






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s cuts to child care;  Cost of living pressures; Data retention laws; Bali 9.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is great to be here at Kirwan Child Care Centre with long-standing Labor Senator and Shadow Minister, Jan McLucas and of course one of the new members for Townsville, Scott Stewart. What I was also going to say here about this centre and indeed, all the child care centres in Northern Queensland is that we have a great, committed staff doing wonderful things but the pressure on parents is immense in terms of the cost of living and the child care fees. This is absolutely one of the big political issues of 2015 and 2016; accessibility, quality and affordability of child care. The Liberal National Government in Canberra is taking a $1 billion from child care funding across Australia which just puts more and more pressure on families. It isn’t right that working parents, in particular working women, have to literally work out after they have paid their childcare, is what they are getting paid in their job enough worthwhile enough to go to work. This country is smarter and more generous. We should be having a much better proposition than the current Liberal-National plan of cutting child care. We want to make sure our most precious little people are getting the quality and emotional care they need and that families don’t have to choose between child care or going to work.


So we see in Townsville the pressure on families and of course, we’ve also got to remember we’ve got high unemployment in Townsville and the surrounding region. 7.8 per cent is the unemployment rate which is higher than the national average which isn’t good enough and we’ve got to ask what on earth are the Liberal National Government in Canberra are doing about employment? And in particular, when we look at all the pressures, we see the youth unemployment is at 16.5 per cent. This is a dreadful waste of young people in the Townsville community.  So today, we see hard-working staff, committed parents and wonderful children doing their absolute best, but they need a Liberal National Government in Canberra who is as focused on what they’re doing as the parents and teachers are themselves.


Happy to take any questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, did you write to the PM in terms of the data-retention laws?


SHORTEN: Labor stands foursquare with the Government in terms of fighting terrorism. What we have to do is make sure we get the balance right. National security is absolutely a first-order priority for government, and Labor has supported the Government on its proposals. We’ve also got to make sure we get these measures right. We still have to make sure we maintain free press. We’ve got to make sure that we understand with eyes open what we are committing ourselves and getting ourselves into. Certainly, in a constructive fashion, we have indicated to the Government, following a letter Tony Abbott wrote to us and then it appeared in the newspaper, we’ve written back saying the principle of national security is one in which we all share and both he and I have a good record on working together. But what we want to see is not the politicisation of this issue, but rather an effective resolution of these issues.


JOURNALIST: On the issue of the Bali two, from your perspective, is there much hope for them at the moment?


SHORTEN: Where there is life there is hope. This dreadful prospect of the execution of two young men, who by all accounts have really rehabilitated themselves and set themselves on a different path than the events that lead them to be in jail, means they should be accorded mercy. The death penalty solves nothing. Wherever the death penalty occurs, we are all demeaned as human beings. Now this is one issue where the Government is trying to do absolutely everything they can and they do so with our support. I know that the families and their legal teams are absolutely trying everything they can. Australia citizens, the public, the media are all united in seeking mercy. So where there is life there is hope. I believe that all Australians, regardless of their political persuasion, believe that clemency will be the right course of action in this case.


JOURNALIST: Just on the data-retention bill, how do you think it has been politicised?


SHORTEN: We want to make sure the issue isn’t politicised. What we want to make sure is that what Australians get from their parliament is sensible debate, is the right decisions being made. The Government has proposed so far two different sets of updates of laws to do with national security. Labor has made sensible amendments. The Government has acknowledged that, amended the propositions and we’ve been able to work together to deliver a better level of security than previously existed. When it comes to the complex issue of data-retention, absolutely we want to give the best set of tools to our security agencies to do their job and keep Australians safe. But of course, when you put these propositions up and you ask for people to make submissions, you get to hear all the fine details of various organisations, including media outlets who have said ‘be careful of unintended consequences, be careful that you’re not creating more problems than you are actually trying to solve’.


So I appreciate the hundreds of submissions which have gone to the parliamentary inquiry. I know that Labor and Liberal MPs on this committee are sifting through it, working together coming up with the best outcome for Australians. But again, let me re-state Labor’s core driving principle. When it comes to fighting terror, Labor and the Liberal-Nationals are in this together. The record indicates how we have worked together.  But what we also want to make sure is that we don’t rush it and get, through haste and carelessness, create unintended situations which cause problems rather than solves problems.


JOURNALIST: What specifically are your concerns with that bill?


SHORTEN: Well we’ve seen a range of submissions and now our people are working with the Liberal representatives on the committee to work through, making sure that we understand the cost of what we’re signing up for, to make sure that we understand the impact upon our press and the reporting of the press. There’s a range of matters, I’m confident though that given the track record and the commitment of the people on this parliamentary committee who are oversighting the draft legislation, that we should be able to work these issues through. But it is important in a democracy that we get the balance right, that we provide security and the Prime Minister and I completely agree on that. We’ve also got to make sure that all the voices get heard and make sure there are no unintended consequences which create further problems down the track.


JOURNALIST: So if the Government pushes ahead with the bill in its current form does that mean you won’t support it?


SHORTEN: Well that’s a hypothetical question. So far the Government’s shown a track record of listening to Labor and listening to the community at large and we’ll just keep working through these issues. Rome wasn’t built in a day but I know that where people of goodwill come together, we’ll make sure our national security is maintained. But where you get good advice and seasoned observation from various individuals and organisations including media outlets about the impact on the media, you’ve just got to walk these things through rather than rush, trip up and cause problems. 


JOURNALIST: What will you do to ease child care costs?


SHORTEN: Well first of all the Government’s been sitting on a Productivity Commission report for over 100 days. It’s appropriate that we have the Productivity Commission report be considered and the Government explain what it is that they want to do. Labor, when we were in Government, increased opportunities and support for families to be able afford child care. Now it’s been over 540 days since the Liberal Nationals were elected in Canberra to run the country. We’d now like to see what proposals they have, but Labor’s got a good track record of increasing support for families.


One thing I would suggest to the Government is if they want to help ease costs, perhaps they should reconsider their unfair Budget. We see as we speak proposals from the Government to cut the rate of increase of the pension. When you’re on a fixed income, these are dreadfully expensive and in dreadfully expensive times, cutting the pensions is not only a broken promise but it’s the wrong direction for Australia. Also family payments have been cut and some families are facing cuts of up to $6,000. This is a bad idea and certainly the Government I think needs to reconsider its whole approach on the Budget. We’ve seen the nation convulsed by the internal arguments and bickering of the Liberal National Party. What we need them to do is to forget about the arguments over who the best salesperson is, and instead get back to the business of looking after the jobs and cost of living of Australians.


Any other questions? Thanks very much.