Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Western Sydney - Passing of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser; NSW election






SUBJECT/S: Passing of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser; NSW election; Liberal’s unfair budget; Tony Abbott’s broken promises; GP Tax; $100,000 degrees.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be here in Penrith with Labor's great candidates for Londonderry, Prue Carr and also for Penrith, Emma Husar.


Before I talk about electoral and political matters, I would like to express on behalf of the Labor Party our condolences to the family of Malcolm Fraser. I have spoken to Tamie Fraser this morning and expressed my condolences directly. Malcolm Fraser had six decades of public life. There is no doubt that whatever disagreements there were between Labor and Liberal, he was an international representative, an international statesman for Australia in the fight against apartheid. His leadership, in terms of the acceptance of Vietnamese refugees, reflects very well and will stand the test of time. He certainly has spoken up forthrightly about human rights. His passing is indeed a loss to the nation.


And today, as I said, we've been walking through Penrith, talking to voters, shoppers, parents. There is no doubt that whilst this is a State election being fought on State issues, there is great anxiety of the Liberal National Government in Canberra's unfair Budget. There is real distrust with Tony Abbott's broken promises. And a sense that in Western Sydney, and in Penrith, that the Liberal National Government in Canberra just doesn't get the cost of living pressures caused by the GP Tax, cuts to pension and changes to higher education.


Happy to take any questions as are my colleagues.


JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about Mr Fraser [inaudible] and even supporting Sarah Hanson-Young in her campaign?


SHORTEN: When significant person of historical and national passes, regardless of their political affiliation, it is appropriate that the nation mourns their loss. Malcolm Fraser certainly had plenty of disagreements with Labor and they're very well documented. But all fair-minded people from the Labor side would have to acknowledge that his contribution in terms of speaking up on human rights, standing up to welcome Vietnamese boat people to Australia and we've seen the marvellous success story of the Vietnamese Australian contribution since then. His stand against apartheid, he was a significant and international figure, and as I've expressed to his family directly, Labor mourns his passing.


JOURNALIST: Did you have a personal relationship with Mr Fraser?


SHORTEN: In his later years he would periodically offer advice and of course, once someone, regardless of their politics, has been on the national and international stage, it's always wise to listen to people.


JOURNALIST: You mention Mr Abbott’s unfair Budget. The second Budget is being handed down in May and with failing commodity prices, it is a pretty tough time for a Government [inaudible]?


SHORTEN: Fair's fair. It takes a special kind of incompetence to increase the debt and deficit that Tony Abbott's done. The front page of The Financial Review predicting $80 billion worse, our budget position, under Tony Abbott and the Liberals, it takes a special kind of incompetence to wreck the Budget so quickly.


JOURNALIST: You're not blaming the falling commodity prices on the Abbott Government, are you?


SHORTEN: No, I don't blame the fall in commodity prices on the Abbott Government although sometimes I see the accident-prone Agriculture Minister claim a rise in commodity prices for food as some gift of the Government. And I think, Tony Abbott was taking credit for falling petrol prices yesterday in his unfortunate outing in Parliament. So no, of course there's world pressures and everyone understands we're transitioning from mining to a non-mining activity base. But the shock which Tony Abbott has conducted upon the Budget does take, I think, some really deep examination. Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and rest of his team have wrecked confidence. They're making lower income earners bear the burden of any budgetary change. They have no plan. Their own Treasury officials have thrown their hands up in the air and said that less than two months from the next budget, the Government is adrift. We're still arguing over the last budget. There is no adoptable budgetary or economic plan under the Abbott Liberal-National Government.


JOURNALIST: But Labor is blocking billions of dollars’ worth of savings. When is Labor going to present an alternative to some of the savings? Surely you agree that cut-backs need to be made.


SHORTEN: Let's unpack your question. When you talk about the things Labor has blocked, you should also acknowledge that Labor has supported in excess of $20 billion of proposed government changes but you have to draw a line somewhere. Why should Labor vote for a GP Tax when the Abbott Government before the last election said there'd be no changes to health care? Why should we vote for $100,000 university degrees when the Abbott Government before the last election said there would be no negative changes to higher education. Let's not forget the cut to pension indexation, let’s not forget the cut to family payments. This Government hasn't kept its word and it's not Labor's responsibility to help Liberals break their own promises and hurt people.


JOURNALIST: Were you personally offended by the comments from Mr Abbott in Parliament yesterday?


SHORTEN: Mr Abbott's comments were wrong. I don't know if they were deliberate or if they were just him just shooting from the hip. I think when Australians look at that sort of parliamentary debate, the real issue here isn't Tony Abbott losing his cool. He has done that before. But this is the office of the Prime Minister of Australia. Australians expect their Prime Minister to be able to control their emotions. Not to engage in the sideshow alley of politics. And I think that is what Australians noted out of Mr Abbott's un-prime ministerial performance yesterday.


JOURNALIST: Why are you in Western Sydney today? Does Labor need a bit of a boost in the campaign here this close to this election?


SHORTEN: I will be the only federal leader that Western Sydney will see in this election. I'm here because Pure Car and Emma Husar are excellent candidates. I think the voters in Londonderry and the voters in Penrith realise with these two remarkable women, what they will get is excellent representatives. What Western Sydney needs is people grounded in the local community, who will stand up for proper hospital funding and Labor's offering a hospital funding in the western part of Sydney is far superior to those of the Liberals and I will ask my colleagues to talk about that in a moment – the hospital problem. They also want MPs who will stand up for schools. Both these candidates are hard-working parents. They understand the importance of good schools. So these two candidates represent the best tradition of Labor. Like Luke Foley, they represent a new direction and a better future for New South Wales. And they stand for jobs, hospitals and schools and that's what western Sydney wants. Plus people who will stand up against the cost of living pressures put on by Tony Abbott and his team in Canberra. But maybe they might talk a bit about the hospital policies of Labor in the west.


PRUE CAR, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LONDONDERRY: So Labor has committed in this state election campaign to dramatically increase hospital funding in the booming area of Western Sydney, particularly through a $341 million upgrade of Nepean Hospital where we're surrounded by growing areas in the region of Penrith. We've also committed to smaller nurse-to-patient ratios so we can see people in Emergency Departments quicker and more paramedics to make it easier for the pressure on the emergency departments and the hospitals in the greater west of Sydney.


SHORTEN: I might just also add without seeking to embarrass Emma too much, not only is she a remarkable candidate but she’s passionate about disabilities, about the rights of people with disabilities and indeed carers and parents. So I think I might just ask Emma to briefly just state, you know, some of her commitments in disability which I think stands her in very good stead in this community where disabilities is an important, sometimes, collective issue.


EMMA HUSAR, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PENRITH: Thanks Bill, Bill’s right, we have one of the highest rates of people living in Penrith, in Western Sydney, who do have a disability. Labor has committed a five point plan to supporting those people which includes employment and for the first time a disability inclusion minister. We’re changing the language, we’re changing the way we treat these people which is extremely important to me as the mother of a child who has a disability and I am immensely proud to stand up for those people and stand up for my community and be a strong voice.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, tell us what do you think of the senior Labor figures both state and federal who are now coming out backing the Baird Government’s plan to privatise electricity in New South Wales?


SHORTEN: Well some individuals have got long held views about these matters but it is not the policy of the Labor Party and indeed whilst there’s been some discussion about Liberal TV ads, and I’d certainly be asking the Labor Party to look into this matter, it is clear what Labor’s policy is. It does not support the privatisation proposals of Mike Baird, the Liberals in either Sydney or in Canberra.


JOURNALIST: But is this hurting the campaign? These are senior Labor figures, a lot of people recognise their faces and their names. Is this going to hurt the campaign?


SHORTEN: Labor’s policy’s crystal clear and if you want to vote against privatisation you’ll vote for Luke Foley and the Labor team.


JOURNALIST: But aren’t these people in a unique position? They’ve held high office, Bob Carr tried it, Morris Iemma says it’s a good idea, Michael Costa says it’s a good idea, Martin Ferguson says it’s a good idea, so does Paul Keating. Is Luke Foley out on his own here?


SHORTEN: New South Wales Labor’s got a clear and defined policy. In politics, you know, we can overcomplicate the issues. What Labor has said, that Labor won’t privatise the electricity system in New South Wales and that’s a very clear stated policy and people know what they’re getting when they vote for Luke Foley.


But if you want to talk about division, I don’t think we can go past the divisions in Canberra, Tony Abbott and his front bench. They’re not united, they are dividend and indeed the only thing which unites the Abbott Liberal Government in Canberra isn’t their like for each other, it’s that fact that none of them spoke up against the unfair budget last year and the real disunity that we see in the Liberal Party in Australia, be it Mike Baird, be it Malcom Turnbull, Julie Bishop or Tony Abbott is they might disagree about the who the salesperson should be, but none of them disagree on what they’re selling and that’s what they don’t understand. They’re talking Australia in the wrong budgetary and economic direction and it’s bad for everyone.


Thanks everyone.