WEDNESDAY, 13 JULY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Hindmarsh campaign; Steve Georganas; Secret Coalition agreement; South China Sea; Speaker of the 45th Parliament; Medicare; Coalition cuts to the ABC; Marriage equality
STEVE GEORGANAS, MEMBER-ELECT FOR HINDMARSH: Welcome everyone. I'm here to welcome Bill Shorten and to thank him for coming to the electorate of Hindmarsh today. Bill is here to thank the many hundreds of volunteers on the Hindmarsh campaign and the thousands of voters that put their trust in me once again to be their federal local member. It is a great honour and a privilege to be re-elected to represent the seat that I was born in, the seat that I've worked in all my life and the seat that I have represented previously. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. It's great to be in Adelaide today and it's great to be here congratulating Steve Georganas and the many, many volunteers who helped him win this electorate. Steve Georganas is a fighter. Character is not necessarily tested on the good days, it's tested on the hard days and it's your ability to get up and try again. Steve Georganas has seen success in this seat, and he's seen disappointment. Today he's enjoying some well-earned success. He's remarkable in that he will fight so hard for this community, he wants to represent this community. I tell you what, people like Steve Georganas make politics worthwhile because you see true character and true commitment to community. So I'm looking forward to, as indeed are all his caucus colleagues, to having this hero, the hero of Hindmarsh, back in Canberra with the Labor caucus.
I'd also like to make some brief remarks. I understand that Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce are meeting in secret to divide up the spoils of Government. It would appear that Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce have not learned the lesson from the most recent election. People do not want politics as usual. They want more transparency. They're not satisfied with the old ways and they want to see their members of Parliament, their Government, standing up for them. I have not heard a single sensible reason for keeping the Coalition deal a secret. This is not internal party business. It is national business and the nation deserves to know what deals are being done. How can the Australian people trust the Turnbull Government if the Turnbull Government doesn't trust the Australian people by revealing the details of a secret Coalition deal? Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce are getting off on the wrong foot by not trusting the Australian people. We call upon them to reveal their Coalition arrangement.
Happy to take questions on that and any other matters.
JOURNALIST: Do you back Stephen Conroy's remarks that China has been bullying its neighbours in the South China Sea?
SHORTEN: We're pleased, and let's just go through the detail of what's happened overnight because I haven't spoken about this yet. I'm very pleased that the permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has determined, made a decision and termed a final and binding decision in terms of the South China Sea and the various territorial claims. This claim started a number of years ago when the Philippines made its case and they've made this decision overnight. Labor believes, as I actually know the Liberal Party do too, in the international rule of law, in particular of course, the rights of sea and international law of the sea.
Now, this is a very difficult matter but now we have seen international law make a financial decision. What we seek is that all the parties respond to this in a diplomatic fashion, that they don't escalate tensions but use this as an opportunity to resolve the disagreements before us. I certainly believe, and Labor certainly believes, that there should be freedom of navigation and the Government should certainly authorise that in terms of our defence forces.
JOURNALIST: So we're not testing that appropriately at the moment? Do you think there should be more exercises?
SHORTEN: I think everyone appreciates how important this part of the world is. There's $5 trillion worth of trade, 60 per cent of Australia's exports traverse this region. I certainly, and Labor certainly adheres to the rule of international law. We think that this is a positive development, that there has been a decision out of the international tribunal. We call upon all parties to adhere to this ruling.
JOURNALIST: Should we be stepping up China's willingness to adhere to that ruling by conducting naval manoeuvres inside their claimed 12-mile exclusion zone?
SHORTEN: I believe that our naval forces and indeed our defence forces should be authorised to conduct freedom of navigation operations. Of course though, the operational detail of that should be left to our military.
JOURNALIST: But crucially should it be inside that 12-mile zone because that's the important point? They claiming it's party of the exclusion zone?
SHORTEN: I appreciate your point. What I'm saying is that Australia, and together both Mr Turnbull and myself, should present a united front to the world. We think that the international tribunal's decision should be the final ruling in the matter and therefore we should be authorising our defence forces to engage in freedom of navigation operations in international waters and that the ruling has made clear what international waters are. In terms of the operational detail, I'm not going to second guess our military on that. Labor makes it very clear that we do support freedom of navigation operations, and that should be authorised, but the operational detail I'll leave that to our defence forces.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will Labor support a Liberal Speaker in the next Parliament and do you think Tony Smith deserves to continue?
SHORTEN: I don't know who Tony Smith has been lobbying. He hasn't rung us for his support. Let's just wait and see what the final make up of the Parliament looks like. Labor will be cooperative in terms of making the 45th Parliament work but I think rather than just think about a particular position for a particular Liberal MP, I think the Government needs to show its bona fides by revealing the Coalition deal. Has anyone heard a serious sensible argument for keeping this secret other than it's never been done in the past? The fact of the matter is that Australians in 2016 have cast votes saying they want to see a better standard of politics. I think the other things which should be uppermost on the Coalition's proposals is what are they going to do about a banking Royal Commission? What are they going to do about fixing up the legitimate concerns about retrospectivity in superannuation? I'd like to see the Liberal Party focusing on these matters rather than necessarily just worrying about who gets what spoils of office.
JOURNALIST: Could I just tie you down on Stephen Conroy. He said that China had been bullying its neighbours in the South China Sea. You've called for people to respond diplomatically and with calm. Does he add to that? Does his remarks make that any easier or less easy to achieve?
SHORTEN: I certainly understand the point which Stephen was making. Labor has a very clear position that we don't want to see unilateral actions, we don't want to see escalation. What we want to see is diplomatic solutions but which have the international rule of law at the centre of what we do. And again, I want to make it very clear that Australia, and Australian Defence Forces are entitled to operate anywhere in the world in accordance with the norms and international laws and certainly, I believe that our defence forces should be authorised to be able to conduct freedom of navigation exercises, but of course I would leave the operational detail on such matters to the military. Again, this is an opportunity for both Mr Turnbull and myself to demonstrate a unity of purpose. I respect the fact that he has 76 or 77 in this Parliament, that we have 68 or 69. On matters such as the rule of law, international rule of law, the UN conventions and law of the sea, let this nation speak with one voice. We don't want to escalate and ratchet up tensions. We don't want to see unilateral actions either. I think that Australia sets itself up well for the future when its domestic politicians have a common position on such an important foreign affairs matter and also that we stand by our commitment, long earned, for respect for international laws.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Barnaby Joyce's comment so calling you a liar over Medicare.
SHORTEN: I think Mr Joyce is trying to divert attention from the Medicare cuts that they're making. I think the real issue here in the Medicare debate is will Mr Turnbull unfreeze the GP rebate? Will he cancel the cuts to bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imagining, X-Rays, for blood tests? Will Mr Turnbull still go ahead with increasing the price of prescription medicine? Will he still go ahead with under-funding our hospitals? If the Coalition wants to be taken seriously on Medicare there are four simple tests that I've outlined. In terms of Mr Joyce's name-calling, I think he would do the nation a better favour, rather than lauding it over Mr Turnbull, putting secret terms and secret arrangements, rather than demanding necessarily more spoils of office, I think that both the Nationals and the Liberals need to come clean with the Australian people. If the Turnbull Government wants the Australian people to trust the Turnbull Government, the Turnbull Government needs to trust the Australian people with the details of this secret Coalition deal.
Final question, thank you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Karen Andrews says the election has given the Coalition a mandate on their proposed super changes, what is your response to that?
SHORTEN: Goodness me, talk about not reading the writing on the wall. I don't even think they've got a mandate from their own party room on the superannuation changes. We know Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull both rode roughshod over the concerns from the industry, concerns from self-funded retirees, concerns from respected third parties such as CPA and they put forward changes which according to many experts are simply unworkable. According to many other experts, are clearly retrospective. What we've said is there should be an independent expert review. I think the Government needs to come clean on these changes. I think they are causing more confusion now after the election and in addition to the confusion they caused beforehand. I think the Turnbull Government needs to work out are they changing the rules retrospectively or are they not? And I think they need to come clean with their plans and as for people saying they've got a mandate to rip up the superannuation system, I don't think they do.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a question on same-sex marriage?
SHORTEN: I did say last question but you know what? Why don't we do one more and then I'll go.
JOURNALIST: I'll make it double barrel, OK.
SHORTEN: Oh, the ABC, we're not cutting your funding - why so hard on us?
JOURNALIST: We have to be as efficient as you.
SHORTEN: Yes, you do because of those Turnbull Government cuts.
JOURNALIST: Firstly, with how the Senate is likely to compose itself, will you use your numbers and others there to block a plebiscite on same-sex marriage?
SHORTEN: Let's cross that bridge when we get to it. The fact of the matter is I think that the easiest way to help resolve marriage equality would be to have a vote in the Parliament. Mr Turnbull and the others talk about the Irish experience positively but the fact of the matter is we don't need a referendum to change our marriage act, that's done by Parliament. And all he's proposing is something which was created by the anti-marriage equality advocates, a non-binding opinion poll. We see Eric Abetz and the other conservatives of the Liberal Party sticking their heads up with greater confidence in the light of a relatively poor showing of Mr Turnbull. I think that we don't need a divisive debate in Australia at this time. The MPs have all formed a view according to their conscience. I think the simplest and most effective way would be to have a vote in Parliament and that's what we're certainly pushing for in the first instance.
JOURNALIST: And the second barrel of my question is given that, do you think you can use the numbers in the lower house to force Parliament to vote on it rather than a plebiscite?
SHORTEN: I want the 45th Parliament to be successful. I acknowledge that Mr Turnbull will have enough seats to form a government, albeit by a slender margin. We want to be constructive and I think that we need to ensure, in terms of being constructive, that all parties, you know, have a look at their views and I think Mr Turnbull in his heart of hearts knows that what I am proposing about a vote in Parliament is the optimal outcome. I know that he's been sort of having his arm twisted by the conservatives in his party to do something which is sub-optimal. I would just ask Mr Turnbull if you know what is the right thing to do in your heart, follow your heart and your conscience, Mr Turnbull.