THURSDAY, 14 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECT/S: International Women’s Day; One Nation; Medivac legislation; Government fear and slogans
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be here at the United Nations International Women's Day breakfast, talking about how we as a nation can ensure that Australian women receive equal treatment and women around the world, in particular in the Pacific, get a fair go.
I might also just take the liberty of saying it's Valentine's Day, so I just want to say Happy Valentine's Day to Chloe through my friends in the media.
Perhaps if there's any questions, happy to take some.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you make of the fight between Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston. Is this a bad look for parliament?
SHORTEN: Well violence is unacceptable. The footage which I've seen is really - it has no place in parliament. What we're seeing is that some of these small parties are just consumed by themselves. It would be comic except it's not, it's violence and unparliamentary conduct. Clearly the One Nation Party has descended back into chaos which it tends to do.
JOURNALIST: What did you make of Scott Morrison's press conference yesterday in response to the amendments in the Senate?
SHORTEN: Listen, I think this country in 2019 is not the same nation as 2001. I do not believe that Australians want a government which governs by slogans and fear. We can have strong borders in this country - and I'm grateful for the work of Australian Border Force, the ADF and our public service - but strong borders does not need to come at the price of humane treatment of people who've been in our care for half a decade or more.
I totally repudiate the attacks of the Government, seeking to whip up fear and hysteria, seeking to lure people smugglers to entice people onto boats to come to Australia.
Under a government I lead, we will turn back boats where it is safe to do so. People who seek to come to Australia by boat will go to Nauru and will be regionally processed to third-party nations.
But this nation has voted yesterday to say that for people who've been in our care for literally thousands of days, where their treating doctors say there is an issue or an illness requiring medical evacuation, we've been prepared to codify what the Government is already doing.
Never forget this government has bought 900 people from Manus and Nauru to Australia. Hundreds of sick people and members of their family. None of them have gone back. So I actually think that what we're fighting about or disagreeing about, the substance isn't as great as the Government says.
But in 2019, this is a government who's run out of offering Australians hope. They just want to rule by fear and by slogans. They should be ashamed of themselves for luring people to Australia by somehow implying that this Government hasn't got strong borders.
JOURNALIST: Christmas Island, the reopening of that, over I think five years, projected estimates is $1.2 billion. Seems like a very extravagant point for the Prime Minister to make by reopening it.
SHORTEN: Well again, I think Australians can see through desperate political tactics. This Government has now decided to spend a billion dollars to try and score a political point.
Let me make it very clear to people smugglers in Indonesia or elsewhere: you and your trade are not welcome. Any government I lead will deploy the full force of the ring of steel of the Australian defence forces and our border forces.
But I say to the Government: people smugglers are vicious criminals, they will twist the words of the current Government and say somehow, people should get on unsafe boats. The opening of Christmas Island, I believe, was a political gesture designed to fuel domestic political unrest but I'm worried that we'll have tragic consequences because this is a government addicted to slogans and fear. The Australian people are better than Mr Morrison appreciates. I believe that the vast majority of Australians understand you can have a strong border and still treat people humanely within our care. And I know the Government understands that anyone who chooses to arrive now will not be able to use this medi-vac legislation. This medi-vac legislation is purely and utterly for a few hundred people who've been in detention under Australia's care for years and years and years.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on Christmas Island - do you think that the Government is opened it because any one that's transferred to the island for medical attention, it's because the island is annexed and they can't access the legal system?
SHORTEN: Well listen, I know that this Government has had a system in place where by and large, if you're sick and the doctors say come to Australia, that is what's happened. The Parliament has codified what the Government is doing but now for domestic political reasons - because they have no agenda for Australians. I wish this Government - this Government loves to talk about boats but the problem is it never talks about the fact that everything's going up in Australia except the wages. They -
JOURNALIST: But -
SHORTEN: No, you asked a question. I am going to -
JOURNALIST: But many people who -
SHORTEN: Sorry, I am going to answer your question. I am going to answer your question and at the end of it, by all means, give me a follow up. But I am not going to let the Government off the hook here. I'm going to hold them to account.
They just want to talk about a few hundred sick refugees on Nauru. The Australian people want to talk about why is everything going up except their wages? Why after six long years are the energy prices of Australians out of control? Small businesses want to talk about the fact that retail confidence has gone down and down and down under this Government. There are many hundreds of thousands of Australians, millions of Australians, who want a government who'll take action on climate change.
I promise the Australian people - be it the circus antics in One Nation, be it the Government's policy of fear and slogans, we're not going to get distracted. In 2019, for the Labor Party, we think Australian politics should be about you and your families. Labor's got a better plan to give you a bigger tax refund for the people who go to work, we're going to make sure that we take real action on climate change and we are a united and stable Opposition.
Thanks everybody, see you.