Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: University of Melbourne





SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s unfair higher education changes; National security; Iraq; G20; Russian sanctions  


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at one of Australia’s leading universities talking to the next generation of leaders, taxpayers, of publically and privately educated Australians. There is great concern, not only at the University of Melbourne, but across Australian in hundreds of campuses, city and country, that the Abbott Government is making the dream of a university degree into a debt sentence. Today Labor is starting a campaign which will not stop until we’ve successfully defeated the unfair Abbott/Hockey budget measures which will make it harder for you children and students to go to university in the future. There is a choice that Australian can make. Do we go down the low road of doubling and tripling degrees, of forcing young people to choose between a mortgage or going to university, to choose to defer families because you’ve got to pay debt, to discourage working-class and middle-class kids, people form regional Australia from going to university or do we take the high road where good marks and hard work are your ticket to a good future. So today, are launching a campaign which will fight for the ability of ordinary Australians to have the great good dream of going to university and I’d now like to ask my shadow colleague Kim Carr, the shadow minster for higher education to talk further about this important fight for the future of Australians education system.

SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION: Thank you Bill. This Government is cutting $230 million from the operating budget of this university, cuts to teaching of $185 million, cuts to research of $30 million and cuts to indexation of $15 million. Across the eight universities in the state of Victoria this government is taking over a billion dollars’ worth of public support from the future of Australia and were asking students who are immediately affected by these changes to talk to people around this country about the consequences of undermining our education system. Consequences for the future of our economy, consequences for the future of our society, consequences for fairness and really it is about fairness in the end. People have a right to expect that their kids can do better than they have done and education opens doors and this government is in the business of closing the door to ordinary Australians their opportunity to get a decent life in this country. We will do all we can in the Senate, all we can to stop these measures. We say to the Government go back to the drawing board. If you’re serious about dealing with issues in education talk to people properly, don’t just announce this after telling a pack of lies in the election that you won’t cut, that you won’t change and then guttering some of the most radical changes this country has ever seen. This is a government that should talk to people first, talk to the experts first, not try to come up with excuses after the damage has been done.

SHORTEN: Thanks everyone, any questions?

JOURNALIST: Has there been any, is there any sense that Christopher Pyne may amend the changes to the interest rates applied to higher education debt, ongoing liabilities and that that could be a bargaining chip on the table to get other budget measures through?

SHORTEN: This whole unfair budget should be scrapped in the bin and the government should start again. This is an unfair budget with no friends. The pensioners don’t like it; the kids going to higher education don’t like it, families who’ve got to pay more fuel tax and a GP tax don’t like it. Peter Costello thinks they should go back to the drawing board. When it comes to education and higher education, this budget is to Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott are to education what burning books is to literacy, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what sport of alternative are you proposing? Universities themselves are complaining about the lack of new funding for their funding has fallen over time and they really need a major funding injection to keep up quality in the university sector. The Labor government at the end of its term was cutting funding to universities, the alternative that My Pyne has put forward  it make students pay a bit more to make up for that, what’s Labor’s alternative?

SHORTEN: I’ll be able to get my colleague to answer it in detail but I’ll make these opening remarks. First of all, the previous government increased university funding north of 70 per cent while it was in office. No one could have dreamed or expected that the Abbott Government would commit this full on attack upon the institutions of higher education in Australia. Before the last election on September the 1st, before the election, Tony Abbott in a desperate bid to lie his way into office said there would be no cuts to education. Well that was a lie, this budget is built upon broken promises and a lie. I might ask my colleague to talk further about Labor’s ideas for valuing education, not trashing it in Australia.

CARR: We’ll first of all I should remind you that under Labor there was 190,000 extra places provided for students across this country. I remind you of what the Leader of the Labor Party has said, Bill Shorten, that we increased funding substantially, increased it sustainably on a per student basis in real terms 10 per cent increase across the board, 10 per cent. And if you include the research program as well the teaching program 100 per cent increase in funding from the time we came to office from the point we were left with the Howard Government to when we left office.  What we have said is that there are always ways you can improve the university system always. I’ve never known a perfect administrative system, I’ve never known the governments to get it absolutely 100 per cent beyond any possibility of change. If you’re interested in change, talk to us, we’re in the business of ensuring that we’re able to have a quality education system, and that we’re able to provide people with real opportunities so that our economy and our society can make the progress it needs, but you won’t do it by increasing the burden on students, you won’t do it by cutting the research program, you won’t do it by undermining opportunities. So we believe there’s a range of measures we can take. We announced a series of measures in the last election, they still stand good. Questions around the sub degree program, questions around the post degree program, questions however that fundamentally go to the issue of what is the Government’s responsibility to fund higher education and research properly. To fund it properly so that we can afford the options that we need to ensure the prosperity of this nation.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, would Australia support any military involvement in Iraq? The defence minister David Johnston said this morning that Australia would assist in any way in Iraq.


SHORTEN: Well first of all, I think every Australian was shocked to their core at that dreadful image of the former Australian citizen Khaled Sharrouf and his son, and that dreadful image on the front page of the Australian newspaper. As a parent, I have no idea how you could ever let your child be in that situation. I think that’s shocking. As an Australian also, I’m pretty angry that this person was able to get through our passport system under the current governments watch and go to where he has gone, this is dreadful. In terms of the unfolding tragedy which is occurring in Iraq, Labor is 100 per cent for supporting humanitarian relief to innocent civilians caught up in this crazed fighting by this very deadly group of fanatics in Western Iraq. But beyond that there has been no discussion about committing troops, there has been no discussion at all. The Government has not  spoken to Labor about that at all. But when it comes to humanitarian relief, Labor is signed up for that, but there has been no discussion beyond that point.


JOURNALIST: The Government says that [inaudible] shows how necessary it is to have these new terror laws [inaudible] are you persuaded by that?


SHORTEN: Well I would be careful about using that shocking image, that shocking evil image, and trying to use if for purposes which it shouldn’t be used for. I think what’s happened here is we need an explanation how on earth this fellow got out of Australia by using his brothers passport, I think we do need a full explanation on that. In terms of national security, let me state Labor’s principles again for the record. We do believe in strong national security, we are up for a debate and a discussion, how we adapt our security laws to the latest best technology in terms of the digital age, we’re up for that discussion, and we will be constructive, in fact we’re disappointed that Attorney General Brandis sat on a report of a Joint Parliamentary Committee for so many months as he pursued his now failed watering down of hate laws, hate speech laws, but in terms of each issue, we will need to be consulted by the Government, Labor is supportive of national security but we’ve also sounded the appropriate concern on behalf of all Australians. We want to make sure that this Government knows what they’re doing with security technology, we’ve seen the complete mess they got into last week about a discussion about what meta data is, and would websites that ordinary Australian’s visit be covered? So we will walk before we run, we will work with the Government on national security, but we will be vigilant for the rights of ordinary citizens


JOURNALIST: Do you think that there could be a scenario where Australia has to put boots back on the ground in Iraq?


SHORTEN: There’s nothing that the Government’s told us which would lead us to that conclusion.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said he’s considering tougher sanctions on Russia, what do you think Australia should do?


SHORTEN: Well our first priority is the safety of our personnel in Ukraine, our other first priority is the return of the remains of the Australian’s on flight MH17, they’re our first priorities. Labor has ever since this tragedy occurred given the Government absolute support, not an inch of political daylight in terms of the priority of returning people and the identification of victims remains. In terms of the Russians, I’ve made it clear as soon as we heard about their sanctions, who do they think they are to put sanctions on us as if in some fashion they’re the aggrieved party, they have no moral authority for that, and I think all Australian’s are rightly condemning that. In terms of what the Government does next and what Labor will support, we’re up for a discussion with the Government about what the Russian’s are doing, Labor like all good Australian’s thinks that what the Russian’s are doing was certainly gone too far, but we’ll work with the Government, this will be a time not for angry emotions and hot tempers, but cool and calm collected attitude, but we will work with the Government and we are open to further action if that’s what they seek.


JOURNALIST: Should President Putin be blocked from the G20?


SHORTEN: Well the Prime Minister’s asked for some time to consider that, I respect that. You know, personally, I don’t think that Putin is welcome here, but let’s just see, and there’s other people with other knowledge and information which we’ll need to work through. But I think like every other Australian we are deeply disappointed with what the Russians have done.


JOURNALIST: Just on higher education, Mr Pyne’s confident that  he can get some of his reforms through the Senate and get support of the cross benchers. I take it your talking to the cross benchers as well, what are they telling you about the reforms?


SHORTEN: Well Christopher Pyne wanted 100 per cent of his changes on budget night, we’re now seeing him back pedal very fast away from that, now Christopher Pyne seems in the mood to get any change through so he doesn’t have egg on his face. This is not about Christopher Pyne, or his ego or his bad ideas, I’m interested in what gives Australia’s young people best future. I don’t want them to be having their interest rate on their fees retrospectively changed so people who’ve gone to university on one contract are now having their interest rates doubled because this is a government who told lies at the last election. I don’t want to see university fees double and triple, I think that what Christopher Pyne needs to do is realise it’s not all about him or Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey. It’s about the future of this country and these are bad changes.

JOURNALIST:  Can we talk about the Medicare co-payment, Joe Hockey, the Treasurer, said he’s not going to take Peter Costello’s advice and he’s going to push ahead with it. What advice would you give him?

SHORTEN:  Well who does Joe Hockey listen to other than the person in the mirror? I mean, the pensioners don’t want the changes, the Australian Medical Association don’t want his changes, families don’t want his changes, no one wants his changes, not even Peter Costello. Joe Hockey, you have a problem when even Peter Costello is disowning your budget, if he thinks you’ve gone too far, chances are you have gone too far Joe Hockey. Time to admit you got it wrong, do a new budget or give the Australian people the chance to determine what they think of your budget.


Last question? Great, thanks, see you.