THURSDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s $750,000 commitment towards the revitalisation of the Kinglake community; Black Saturday fires; Californian bushfires; Indonesian FTA; My Health records; Brexit; China.
ROB MITCHELL, MEMBER FOR MCEWEN: Well good morning everyone, welcome here to Kinglake. It's great to have Bill Shorten back here in the Kinglake Ranges as we head towards the 10th anniversary of Black Saturday. We've had a wonderful meeting with local communities representative to talk about the issues that we face, and I'll hand it over to Bill to talk further from that.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Rob and it's good to be back in the Kinglake Ranges to see how the community has rebuilt. Great to talk to a lot of the community leaders, also representatives from Flowerdale and Strathewen Primary and a whole range of the organisations making the Kinglake Ranges such a liveable community.
It's now almost 10 years since the dreadful, dreadful fires of Black Saturday. I was involved in Federal Government reconstruction at that time, and I for one, was interested to see how the community has rebuilt in the years that have passed, and the community and people here have got on with life. They've raised their families, they've held down their work and they're rebuilding this community. But what this visit has also made me realise is that in some ways, this 10 year anniversary is quite challenging. It's not that people haven't rebuilt, but what the message I got from the Kinglake Ranges is not that they feel forgotten, but rather they do not want to be left behind. There was a natural input of great support at the time, but now it's almost 10 years on - a lot of the people who worked so hard are just drawing for breath and they're thinking about all the difficult times they went through 10 years ago.
So I want to say to our fellow Australians, they should visit the Kinglake Ranges. It's quite remarkable all the things which have been accomplished. This is a superb tourism venue, lots of good things going on here and people should come and visit. From the twilight markets to the camp facilities to the mountain bike riding to the chance to stay here and have a look around such a beautiful part of Australia.
Kinglake Ranges aren't looking for a handout but they do want to make sure they don't fall behind. That's why I'm pleased to announce today that a Federal Labor Government, after consultation with the State Government and of course with Murrindindi Shire Council would contribute $750,000 to the revitalisation of the Kinglake town centre. What this will do, is this will give small business here a shot in the arm, it will improve the visitor experience here.
But I also picked up a very clear message talking to community representatives, that we need to do better as a nation of providing mental health support. This could go for many regions in Australia, but the Murrindindi Shire because it's on the border of Melbourne often falls between the cracks of service providers who might be further up into regional Victoria, and service providers in suburban Melbourne. So I'm very committed to coming back with proposals on how we can provide modest and reasonable support to ensure that 10 years on, the inevitable mental health memories and challenges don't get neglected. The young people here need to make sure they get support, the community here, they're not looking for a handout, they are looking to make sure though, that necessary resources are available in the next stage of the journey of the Kinglake Ranges.
I also can't help but think about the California bushfires which we've seen cause such massive upheaval in California, that we can never take our environment for granted. We should never forget the fires. The community here want to move forward but we should be here now just as we were in the days and weeks afterwards. And of course this summer we need to be vigilant not just in the Kinglake Ranges but right through Australia, to ensure that all the resources we need are available to help keep Australians safe. Happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Do you think more could be done this bushfire season to [INAUDIBALE]?
SHORTEN: Well I think that one of the lessons which we've seen from bushfires in the Australian summer and also what we've seen in California, is we've got to make sure the resources are available. But let's not kid ourselves, Black Saturday was of a magnitude of disaster which you know, it's incomprehensible almost and it still seems incomprehensible now. What we need to do in this community is - they have looked after their own recovery, they got a lot of support to begin with, we need to make sure that they are getting the support they require now. This is a community who is not asking for a lot. But we should make sure that we don't take mental health for granted. A lot of people kept themselves pretty busy in the weeks and months and years afterwards, but a 10th anniversary is challenging. Perhaps there's very strong people in our community for whom they've thought what does this mean and it brings back unwanted memories and experiences, they'll be kids who have grown to become adults. You know, what happened 10 years ago will be imprinted on people. We’ve just got to make sure there's help available and you don't have to wait forever to get a hand. And are there any questions on any other matters to do with national issues?
JOURNALIST: Yes. Do you suspect that Scott Morrison has told Indonesia that the embassy in Israel won't be moved and is now just buying time?
SHORTEN: Listen I think that Mr Morrison made a major mistake when he floated the kite before the Wentworth by-election, to say that we would move Australia's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which broke 70 years of bipartisanship and didn't do anything to accomplish peace in the Middle East. Mr Morrison made a mistake. Frankly he made himself look stupid and he made our country look stupid. If he has decided not to go ahead with moving the embassy for goodness sakes, just tell us so we can all get on with everything else. I don't see why this nation has to wait till Christmas so that Mr Morrison can climb off his high horse and admit that he made himself and Australia look stupid. Let's just get on with it. No shame in admitting you're wrong and let's just get on to the next issue including improving our trade opportunities in our region.
JOURNALIST: If a decision isn't made by the end of the year do you think it will become an issue in the federal election?
SHORTEN: I sincerely hope not. I'd just say to Mr Morrison, it was an ad man stunt. You know, he thought he'd win some votes from the Jewish community in Wentworth, so he said maybe I'll play with this idea, put it out there. What he's got to realise is he's running Australia not an advertising campaign. And so therefore, he should just admit he's wrong and get on with it. There's no shame in politics if you've come up with a bad idea and you've made a mistake, just own it and move on. I mean there's too much at stake here.
JOURNALIST: On health, would Labor review the My Health records in government?
SHORTEN: Well Labor is very pleased that we were successful in delaying - getting the government to delay the roll out in the My Health records. It's a good idea to put our medical records in digital format. It's a good idea to make sure that we can speed up the ability of different treating medical specialists to be able to help us in our treatment and our recovery when we're ill. But this government has ignored all of the experts, tried to rush out a roll out of this record. We've got over a million Australians who've now opted out. The reality is that the My Health website just went into meltdown as people were trying to work out how they opt out of the scheme. One job this government's got with health records - to roll out a digital scheme and they seem incapable of doing it. If you want to build up trust in the electorate, take your time, get it right, respect the privacy concerns. The fact that they have to be talked about at the last minute - about making sure that employers couldn't use your health records against you for the purposes of litigation, or that the privacy of medical records of kids could be used for ex-spouses to try and find out where their former spouse is living. Like, these are all things which are eminently predictable and so we should work it through. I say to the Government, do it right the first time, take the time to do it right otherwise you're going to undermine the whole scheme. So Labor will keep defending the proper roll out of this scheme, which means respecting the privacy concerns of ordinary Australians. Let's get it right the first time so it doesn't become the botched train wreck which this Government is overseeing at the moment.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that Australia's diplomatic relationship with China has turned a corner? Are you encouraged by what appears to be a thawing of the relationship?
SHORTEN: Our relationship with China is very important. This Government's been a bit of an absentee landlord in terms of the administration of our relationship with China. I've made it very clear, that a future Labor Government will not view China through the prism of worst case scenarios. China and North Asia is crucial to our export markets, a lot of our economic success is built by the rising middle-class of China. At the same though, we've got to respect our traditional, historic, alliance with the United States. What we have to do is practice foreign policy with an Australian accent. We need to be a better neighbour to the countries to the north, we need to work better in our neighbourhood, that's a good way of guaranteeing security. We should always speak up for Australian values. If China is doing something which we don't agree with, well we need to say that. But we also need to see the opportunity that the rise of Asian economies are for our own people, our own jobs, and for people in Australia and our own businesses.
JOURNALIST: Just on the UK, what's your reaction on the draft Brexit deal. Is it good news for Australia?
SHORTEN: The British have made a decision to cut some of their ties with Europe in terms of trade and legal relationships. Obviously that's a matter for them. I want to see Australia advance our trade agenda with Europe and with Britain, again we've just got to judge these things in what's in Australia's interests. I want to see Australian businesses do well in Europe, England, and of course Asia and the near north.
JOURNALIST: Just on the announcement today as well, it's just a few months until the anniversary and there's no election between now and then, so what's the point of making the funding announcement unless you're in government?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the Kinglake Ranges shouldn't have to wait until an election to get some of the attention it deserves. Also I think it's perhaps inappropriate just to turn up on the day of an anniversary making some announceable statement or promise. People on the anniversary want to focus on their stories, their experiences, not have a cavalcade of visiting politicians turn up on the day. Also there are mental health challenges in the Kinglake Ranges, like other parts of Australia. I hope that by us announcing that we want to work on the revitalisation of the town centre, our support for small business, for tourism, that this prompts the Morrison Government to match what we're saying.
I think it is appropriate that Labor keeps rolling out its policies well in advance of the next election. People don't want to hear from a political party just at an election with its grab bag of promises. They want to know that you're working on ideas for the betterment of Australia and communities like the Kinglake Ranges. That's why I'm pleased to be here when there's not the anniversary celebrations or events or commemorations, and that's why I think it's important we keep standing up for the community now, rather than just on the commemoration of Black Saturday.
Alright everybody, thanks very much.
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