FRIDAY, 8 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $1.2 billion commitment for South Road; women in politics; Liberal disunity and chaos; climate change; Murray-Darling Basin Tony Abbott; Paris agreement
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much for coming. Can I welcome Bill again to Adelaide. It's wonderful for you to be here in South Australia. It's great, the announcement that you're making today for Adelaide. We're here with all of the South Australian Labor team, so Members, Senators and candidates because building South Australia, building the infrastructure here in South Australia, is a Labor priority, and it's part of our plan for a fair go for Australia, a fair go for South Australia.
As I said I'm here with all of our team. I do want to particularly mention Cressida O'Hanlon who's been announced today as our candidate for Sturt. And we look forward to her joining us in the Federal Parliament. I going to throw now to Nadia Clancy, she is our candidate for Boothby, and much of the announcement today falls in her electorate, and she's going to briefly tell us why it's such an important announcement and then you'll hear from Bill.
NADIA CLANCY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: Thanks Penny. This is a really exciting announcement for the people of Boothby who are spending far too much time sitting in their cars just going to and from work at the moment. And I think you can really tell when a road isn't working when it's busy at one o'clock on a Wednesday, it's busy all week round, and so I'm really, really excited that Labor's going to get this done.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks well Happy International Women's Day everybody, and it's great to be here doing this announcement with many members of our South Australian team, including our fabulous new candidate running in the seat of Sturt, Cressida O'Hanlon, and I'll say more about her in a moment. And I'd like to congratulate in particular Nadia Clancy, our candidate in Boothby who's been most diligent in advocating for what I'm about to say.
A Labor Government if elected, from our very first budget, will invest $1.2 billion in the next stage to upgrade the South Road. I understand from talking to family and friends that even this week the South Road has been - the travel up there, has been of great delay and frustration to commuters. For too long South Australia has missed out on its fair share of infrastructure funding. That will end if Labor gets elected at the next election. And what we're going to make sure of is that not only does the money get invested to help ease the commuter congestion experience, but what we also want to do is to make sure that we employ locals when the contracts get allocated. So when you line up our $1.2 billion commitment, what we'll also do is make sure that at least one in 10 of the people employed on the project are apprentices.
We will also make sure that we have a real priority on local procurement. We want to see local contractors and the local builders get the opportunity to do the work here. We know that building roads is not just good for productivity, not just good for efficiency in terms of fuel usage and costs, not just good to help commuters spend more time with their families rather than stuck in traffic, but these roads are jobs generators. So this is part of our plan for South Australia.
Before we take questions on this, I said I'd also talk a little bit about Cressida O'Hanlon. How lucky are we that we're running Cressida in the seat of Sturt. Traditionally Sturt's been perhaps put as just a bit too far for Labor to win, but with the current member leaving, forming a view perhaps about the prospects for the government, well then we think that Sturt's competitive and this can only be good news for the voters in Sturt. Our candidate Cressida O'Hanlon is a person who's very well credentialed to serve in public life. She's lived and worked on a farm for over a decade, of course experiencing terrible drought meant that they had to move off the land. She is a mother of four. Her husband served in the Australian military for 23 years. She is a small business woman, she is a dispute mediator - not bad skills to have in Canberra let me assure you. So she's a really tip top candidate, and whilst we're the underdog in Sturt, no one thinks other than that, we are determined to give people a real choice and that's what we're doing. And when you look at our fabulous candidate running in Boothby, Nadia Clancy and her skill at advocacy already demonstrable by this commitment on the next stage of the South Road, and the most important connector really in Adelaide, it just shows you that Labor not only is not taking Adelaide for granted or South Australia, we want to do good things for South Australia and today's announcement is part of that ongoing commitment.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the state Liberal Government seems underwhelmed by your generosity put for South Road, saying well A, it's not ready to get yet, it's not shovel ready so the money would essentially have to be put in a holding account, and B, you're too late to the table anyway.
SHORTEN: Could they make up their mind what the criticism is? Are we too late or too early? Now listen, I understand that Premier Marshall's got himself into hot water by being a bit of a butler to the Federal Liberal Government with the very poor position they've taken on water from the Murray-Darling. But what I just say to Premier Marshall is we understand you've got to say your political things, but don't worry, if you want to get things done, we're just the ticket for South Australia. We understand the business case needs to be fully completed but you don't need to be a Rhodes Scholar to work out that this is the number one commuting infrastructure challenge for motorists in Adelaide. We've got the money, because we've made the difficult reform decisions. So we're ready. I hope the South Australian Government doesn't drag its feet coming the party on this, but we'll work with them. So I understand that he feels, you know, he's got to send up a little flare sign to help signal that he still sort of, likes the Liberals in Canberra, but I think he's like most South Australians, he knows the sooner we can get a Labor Government in Canberra, that means more jobs for South Australia.
JOURNALIST: Just on Sturt -
SHORTEN: He was next, and then I’m happy to come to you.
JOURNALIST: What's the point though in locking up money in a project the State Government says is not ready to go yet, when you could put money toward other projects in Adelaide?
SHORTEN: First of all, it's not the only project we're going to do in South Australia. But secondly, what's the point of a South Australian Liberal government not getting on with a major infrastructure challenge. The good news here is you don’t have to take my word for it being important, why don't you do a quick poll of all the motorists this week, the problem is there now. I'm not going to be one of those sort of politicians who go State/Federal arguing over everything. But I'd just say to the South Australian State Government if you're not ready to deal with a major infrastructure challenge, then maybe you need to look in the mirror as to what the problem is. We'll work with them - no matter who's in power in South Australia, we'll work with them. But again we're doing what the people are asking for. That's as simple as that.
JOURNALIST: Is this a bad sign you know, if you were to become Prime Minister you have to deal with a State Liberal Government that doesn't want to play ball. Are you worried about how that relationship will go?
SHORTEN: All I'm worried about is that motorists don't get stuck in traffic jams. All I'm worried about is the cost to motorists, the loss of productivity, the loss of potential jobs for South Australia. This is a good project and I just say the Premier Marshall - don't fall for the old politics of the current mob in Canberra, where whenever Labor has a good idea they just feel the need to get a stick out and scare people. This is a good idea. I just speak to the viewers at home tonight and the readers of South Australian media tomorrow morning - would you like to see improvements to the South Road? Would you like to see the next stage of the works be completed? If you would, vote Labor in the next election.
JOURNALIST: Surely you're viewing Sturt - or Labor winning Sturt as you know, it would be a bonus and almost your entire resources are going to go into Boothby. Is it fair to assume?
SHORTEN: No, we don't take any seat for granted, that's why it doesn't matter if it's Adelaide, or Hindmarsh, or Kingston, or Wakefield, or Macon, or Boothby or indeed Sturt. We want as many people as possible to vote for us all over South Australia and Australia. Boothby is a very hard ask, Labor hasn't traditionally been successful even though we've tried very hard in the past. But I think we've got all of the elements favouring us to be very competitive. First of all we've got a great candidate, very hard working. Secondly, unlike the Liberals in Canberra we know where South Australia is. We want the Murray to flow for example. We're not just a party of the northern irrigators, we're a party for South Australians.
But pick another example. We've had stability for the last five and a half years. I noticed that the second of the three Liberal Prime Ministers they had, has gone to England to have an attack on the current government. You know, poor old Mr Turnbull - no one in his party has explained to him why he's still not the Prime Minister. And what we see is from the overnight attack by Mr Turnbull, we see that it doesn't matter what day of the week it is, the Liberal Party still hate each other as much as ever.
So that's why we're competitive in Boothby, that's why we're going to try our best in Sturt with a fabulous candidate. Because the Australian people are sick and tired of political infighting, they just want some stability, and I'm sure there'll be perhaps dyed in the wool Liberal voters in Sturt and Boothby who mightn’t have traditionally thought about voting Labor, this time they're going to go well after 2,000 days of Liberal government, what have we got to show in South Australia? And they might say we're just sick of the instability. Why not vote for a party who's going to guarantee you one Prime Minister over the duration of the next three years.
JOURNALIST: Nominations for the Liberal Party preselection in Sturt close today. There have been a number of moderates in that party talking about wanting a woman to run for Sturt. Are we in a situation where the moderates are saying - the Liberal Party is saying we want a woman but we won't vote for one?
SHORTEN: I'm going to get Penny to talk more about what's happening in South Australia, I can't - I'm not going to be a commentator on the Liberal Party's civil war. Who they pick - it doesn't fuss us who they pick, because we've already got a better candidate. But I do think that today we've seen major fault lines emerge yet again in the Morrison Government. You've got the former Prime Minister Turnbull going on television overnight, basically complaining that he still doesn't know why they got rid of him. You know, this latest outbreak of division highlights that the Liberal Party still essentially hate each other and can't stop talking about themselves.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull may have been speaking the truth though, it might be dead right that the right in the Party fear that he could sneak over the line in the next election and with the greatest respect be stuck with him for three years.
SHORTEN: Well, as I said in another context about Julie Bishop last week, we'll never know. We'll never know if Malcolm Turnbull could have won the last election. He still doesn't know why he is not the Prime Minister now. It is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs at the heart of this government, that they just won't explain why they got rid of Malcolm Turnbull. I mean, I think the message to the people of Australia from Mr Turnbull's contribution overnight, is that the Liberal Party still hate each other as much as ever.
And meanwhile everything is going up in Australia except people's wages.
WONG: Sorry, sorry I just wanted to make one comment about the discussion inside the Liberal Party about female representation and deciding that they might want a candidate for Sturt. As Bill said first we don't mind who we face, we're going to fight as hard as we can for that seat. But more importantly, you know there's an election coming when the Liberal Party suddenly start talking about women's representation again. So we’re all supposed to forget the last five and a half years, in fact the last 20 years and the way in which women in that party out of their own mouths, have not been supported or have been bullied, demonstrably have not been supported into Parliament, demonstrably have not been supported in leadership. But we're all supposed to forget that on the eve of an election and somehow think that they actually do care about equal representation of women.
So it doesn't matter who they preselect, we'll fight them as hard as we can, we're going to take this seat seriously. But it also doesn't matter if they do preselect a woman or not, because we all know what they really think, and what they really think we've seen over the last half decade. It's a bit like climate change, you can always tell there's an election coming when the Liberal Party starts to talk about climate change again because they want to pretend they care about it.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten just on talking about former Prime Ministers, what do you make of Tony Abbott's backflip this morning about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?
SHORTEN: I think Penny sort of telepathically read your mind about that question. Does anyone seriously believe that Tony Abbott believes in climate change? He's under pressure in his own seat so now all of a sudden he's a born again lefty on climate change - spare me. I noticed that Mr Turnbull is tweeting against Mr Abbott today. Mr Abbott said this morning apparently that he's changed his mind, he's had another conversion, he's had plenty of conversions in different directions on this issue, and then Mr Turnbull's tweeted his criticism of Mr Abbott's point of view. The Liberal Party, they just can't get their act together. If you want to see real action on climate change then you vote Labor. If you want to get lower energy prices because of greater investment in renewable energy, then you just vote Labor. If Tony Abbott says he believes in climate change you know I've got a - it's rubbish.
JOURNALIST: The government says that your figures on the North-South corridor are a little bit off and it'll cost about $5 billion. What do you say to that, do you have the figures right?
SHORTEN: Yes we have. There's been previous investment. We understand that more work will have to be done even beyond what we're proposing. But right now today, I just want to speak to all the commuters who use that road. We have got a costed proposition with money set aside in the budget to pay to upgrade this road. At the end of the day voters are entitled to say when they look at both political parties, what's in it for us, what's in it for the people, why should we vote for you. We have got the ability in the budget and we're making our pledge well before an election. We're saying we're putting aside $1.2 billion, we want to get going. We want to make sure that we can help ease the congestion on the most important north-south arterial in Adelaide. This is long overdue, we're prepared to do it.
JOURNALIST: Will that leave the job half done?
SHORTEN: Well each road always has upgraded stages. When the road was first done, then you needed to do the next stage and then the next stage. We will absolutely work with the State Government. Of course we want to see their business case and their propositions, but what I'm doing is I want to be a leader for all Australia and that includes South Australia. I don't think South Australia has had its fair share of road and public transport investment in the last six years. What I'm saying here today, because of the advocacy of Nadia Clancy, Labor's candidate in Boothby, because of the work of the South Australian Labor team led by Senator Penny Wong, we are in a position to make a costed promise to be able to deliver $1.2 billion which is absolutely going to mean that people won't get stuck in the sort of traffic jams that they're seeing right now.
JOURNALIST: But what does that costing look like, is it a widening, bridges, tunnels, what exactly?
SHORTEN: It will be a range - well the issue of tunnels still has to be worked on. We're waiting to see what the view of the State Government is on that. We've said that our first priority and we're suggesting this to the South Australian Government, should be from the Glenelg Tram Overpass to Tonsley, we think that's an important part of which should be prioritised early on.
JOURNALIST: The state is talking about one option being tunnelled, the whole thing at once, in one gigantic project rather than breaking it into bits, and it has been held back.
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the South Australian Government's welcome to put up its bids, but what I think about when I talk about this project is the people who are in the traffic this week. You know, you can have whatever pie in the sky that the government, the Liberals may be talking about, we want to get on and do it. We've got a whole raft of road proposals all around Australia and not only in the cities in regional Australia. We're also committed to improving public transport options. We're here saying that we respect Adelaide. People talk in South Australia, are they losing political influence in Canberra? You might be under the Liberals with the departure of senior Liberal Christopher Pyne, but with Penny Wong being in the leadership of the Labor Party and Don Farrell, her deputy in the leadership of the Labor Party. When it comes to decisions in Canberra, South Australian Labor punches above its weight. And I'm here today to say that the election may or may not be decided by seats in South Australia, but that isn't what influences us. We want to make sure that people have got proper ways of getting to work, more efficient, more effective and more importantly getting home from work.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned local procurement being a goal for this project, do you have a minimum percentage of locals working on it?
SHORTEN: Listen on our procurement policy, we haven't put a percentage number, but what we're going to ask is for participation plans from people who've bid for Commonwealth contracts. And what we want these participation plans to do, is to demonstrate what is the local content. We have put a number on our apprentices. What we say is if you've got a project which is attracting Commonwealth taxpayer support, we want to see one in 10 of the people employed being apprentices.
JOURNALIST: But Penny Wong, you want a minimum percentage on the subs project, shouldn't that apply here as well?
WONG: Hang on, hang on, hang on. And can I just say about your questions about funding, you could ask the Premier, Mr Marshall why it's a fine for the Liberals to talk about this in the never-never but not good for Labor to promise it up - earlier during the forward estimates period. I mean surely he'd want funding for the South Australians ahead of time. We have been really clear and Bill, under Bill's leadership in particular, really clear about minimum percentages on apprenticeships and about maximising Australian participation, but the subs is a very clear broken promise. You were told, all of you were told, before the last election after South Australians had made sure the subs would be built here after Tony Abbott wanted to send them to Japan. You were told 90 per cent minimum local build, then you were told 60 per cent and now there is no minimum. So I think that is a very clear breach of promise to South Australia.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I just ask Labor's announcement this week to tie hospital funding to the provision of abortion services, was that discussed or signed off by your leadership group?
SHORTEN: Without going into all our processes this decision is supported by our party full stop, absolutely. And let's just talk about this issue very briefly, I mean it's been covered off. I think that women have, and it's a very - I'm going to make this point because it's International Women's Day. Women have the right to control their own health decisions, and that's what we're doing, we're reflecting that. They shouldn't have to pay thousands of dollars, run the gauntlet in some of the private clinics to some of the abuse they receive. We're not going to make religious institutions or faithful - particular people of faith carry out procedures that are contrary to their faith. But women in Australia have the right to control their own health decisions.
And on International Women's Day I also want to say that we don't, we are not going to be the country we should be unless women in Australia are treated equally to men. Labor's got policies from political representation and quotas right through to board representation, right through to tackling domestic violence - which is the most extreme form of the lack of control of women have in their lives and inequality they receive, right through to lifting wages.
I'll just finish on this. Senator Cormann made I thought, a very ill advised comment if somewhat honest, where he said today that when asked about low wages, he said that the low wages outcome is part of a carefully designed architecture of government economic policy. Well isn't that amazing. To every Australian who hasn't had a wage rise in the last five years, to every Australian who's working in labour hire, casual contract work, subbies not getting paid, people who don't have certainty of whether or not they've got a shift of work the next day. To all those hundreds of thousands of Australians who’d like more hours of work than they're getting, be happy because this is all part of the Government's plan. They think the only way they can run an economy is making sure that millions of people don't get a wage rise, don't have secure employment, don't get a fair go at work. This is the Liberal economic plan for Australia. Look after the top end of town and the rest of you, well just be happy that you've got a job.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, once upon a time being Opposition Leader in this country was considered one of the hardest jobs.
SHORTEN: It still is.
JOURNALIST: Right now in the political climate, is this one of the easiest?
SHORTEN: No I mean, I am very lucky that I have such a great team behind me and I've got a very talented frontbench, I've got a very talented backbench. And I'm grateful to the contribution that South Australian Labor makes by providing me such outstanding Members of Parliament and candidates. So that always improves the you know, the ability to do the job. Also, I just should acknowledge that it's been about 2000 days, not quite but just a few days short that I've been Leader of the Opposition. That makes me other than John Howard, the longest serving leader of a political party in the 21st century. But that stability is through the unity of the whole of the Labor Party, and the union movement, and I appreciate their support. So I've got the talented people, I've got a united team and we've been doing the policy work. But what makes me particularly privileged to do this job is within about eight or ten weeks I'll be able to present Labor's plan to all Australians.
Our plan is a fair go action plan. We want to make sure that the economy is managed in the interests of working and middle class families. We want to prioritise health and hospitals. I want to prioritise education, from childcare, early years schools right through and TAFE and universities. I want to prioritise action on climate change. I want to prioritise getting the energy bills down. I want to make sure that we get wages moving again in this country. And on International Women's Day I want to prioritise and say that for me every day is about achieving the equal treatment of women. So whether or not I'm lucky or not, I'm grateful for the support I receive. I'm grateful for the opportunity to put our case to the people.
In terms of the government's internal matters - they just don't get it do they? Even today half of the Nationals don't want Barnaby Joyce, the other half do want him, none of them seem to want the government's energy policy. Mr Turnbull's having difficulty letting go and no one's explained to him what's happened, they're divided. So to that extent, I'm fortunate that I've got such a great team and I look forward to the next election and putting forward a plan for the betterment of this country.
JOURNALIST: Just briefly on climate change -
SHORTEN: Sorry - so just on climate change?
JOURNALIST: Just very quickly. Sarah Hanson-Young is going to be out this afternoon, she's going to say that if Labor is serious about climate change they would come out and say that exploration in the Bight should be banned. What would you say to that?
SHORTEN: I don't mind Sarah chasing a headline. But what I do think is that we'll be guided by - and what I know is that we're always guided by the science. We're guided by the science. You know, we're not a develop at all costs party, but we're not a party who's going to just react to a headline. We want - the science and evidence is what's going to guide us. And I understand the debate about the Bight. I think at the moment, the even more pressing issue is the future of the Murray-Darling Basin. And I would just encourage people who are concerned about the environment of Australia, by all means make sure that we’re - I mean, Labor created more marine parks than any other government in the history of Federation. And I say to people, if you want to protect the environment vote for a party who can form a government not a party of protest like the Greens.
But I must come back to the Murray-Darling Basin. As you know this government has basically swept under the carpet the massive fish kills at the Menindee Lakes. What more will it take to wake up the Liberals around the country that they need to save our biggest river system, than the death of literally millions of fish, some of the largest fish kills ever. So Sarah, she's entitled to take a point of view, but for me it's about getting things done, and I think the Murray-Darling Basin is one of the stains on the environmental record of the current Coalition Government.
Sorry someone had a question for Cressida?
JOURNALIST: I just wanted to ask Cressida, do you -
SHORTEN: She's over here.
JOURNALIST: Oh sorry.
SHORTEN: So many women!
JOURNALIST: Do you think you can win Sturt or (inaudible)?
CRESSIDA O'HANLAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR STURT: Well I'm certainly going to give it a good try. I'm going to get out there and meet as many people as I can, and work hard with the volunteer team that I've got. And the reason I'm running is because I want to see solid action on climate change, on job instability, on funding for health, hospitals, aged care - all the sorts policies that I've been speaking to in the community of Sturt. And I'm finding that members of the community of Sturt want action on those sorts of policies too.
JOURNALIST: Do you think your chances in Sturt are enhanced if they stand a man, if the Liberals preselect a man?
O'HANLAN: We don't know who they're preselected yet.
JOURNALIST: It's looking in all likelihood that James Stephens given the moderates controlling that branch, that he'll stand. Do you feel as are your chances to win are enhanced by coming up against a man?
O'HANLAN: Well look, I'm just going to work as hard as I can to try and meet as many people in the community of Sturt as I can, and let them know what our message is and what our plans are to combat things like climate change and job instability, low wages and those sorts of things.
JOURNALIST: In terms of climate change, that's obviously a big national issue, I mean what are the people in the eastern suburbs saying about climate change?
O'HANLAN: Well, the people I'm speaking to are seriously worried about climate change. We've all got, you know the people I've spoken to have got, children or grandchildren and they're noticing that like you said in the Advertiser the other day, in the last 10 years alone days above 40 degrees have more than doubled. So that affects us being able to take our children to the beach, it affects us being able to let our children go outside and play in the garden and it affects us being able to meet friends in parks to have picnics. So it's already affecting our lives.
SHORTEN: You saw it from your farming time.
O'HANLAN: Yeah, well when we were on the farm, we went through the millennium drought and I can remember right back in those days that the Coalition was sort of denying that climate change was even an issue. So it's been an issue for a long time and it's well past time for it to be addressed.
JOURNALIST: And just to confirm you live within the electorate as well?
O’HANLAN: I live just on the boundary, but we are renting at the moment so we've been looking for a house.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, very last question on Malcolm Turnbull, well two actually.
JOURNALIST: Do you think he would have beaten you?
SHORTEN: Listen, Julie Bishop said that too, but we'll never know because in the case of Julie Bishop the blokes didn't want to give the loyal woman deputy a crack after she loyally served four Liberal leaders. We'll never know if Malcolm Turnbull could have won the next election. We still don't even know why they got rid of Malcolm Turnbull. The one thing we do know, today's intervention from Malcolm Turnbull sends a very clear message to the Australian people - that Liberal Party, they still hate each other and they're not getting better.
JOURNALIST: And I've still got the second question. Given his supposed I guess, disloyalty you might say, towards the party overnight, he might be angling for a diplomatic post under a Shorten Government. Would you consider that?
SHORTEN: Listen, the Liberal Party said to Australians three years ago, vote Liberal because Malcolm Turnbull was our leader. Now the Liberal Party say they don't even like Malcolm Turnbull. How can you trust anything the Liberal Party says in an election when last time they said vote for Malcolm Turnbull and then they got rid of him. So you know, I think if some of the Liberals want to attack Mr Turnbull, I think the first thing they need to do is explain why they got rid of him.
In terms of Mr Turnbull's future service. I have a view and it's not just about Mr Turnbull or Julie Bishop or about Julia Gillard or about previous you know, senior leaders. I think sometimes Australian political life is so toxic that somehow because you've played for one team or the other that therefore that rules you out from serving further roles in public life. I don't share that view. Whilst I'm not sure that everything that happens in American politics I would want to see imitated here, what they are quite respectful of is the Office of the President and so I am quite respectful of anyone who's served as Prime Minister of Australia or at the very senior ranks. Now, does that mean we will appoint them? No, I'm not saying that. But I think in Australia we need to see an end to the hyper-partisanship which I think really started with Mr Abbott, but it hasn't really dropped off. After the next election, if Labor's successful, what I intend to do is to sit down, if we win, with the then Opposition and say listen you might not agree on some of the things we're doing but what can we agree on and what can we get done? And if it comes to the South Road, or if it comes to action about the Murray-Darling Basin, or if it comes to getting wages moving, or the equal treatment of women, refunding and properly repairing the cuts to hospitals, if the Liberals want to work with me, well then I will work with them. But what I won't do is let the right wing of the Liberal Party hold this nation back. They've taken up six years of this nation's story that's long enough. Time's up.
Thank you everybody.