Bill's Transcripts

DOORSTOP - MELBOURNE - SATURDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2019

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP
MELBOURNE
SATURDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2019
 
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s calls for a Royal Commission into violence and abuse against people with a disability; domestic violence; asylum seekers; Medivac legislation; Government fear and slogans; Clive Palmer; AWU raids case.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well good morning everybody and welcome. It's great to be here with Linda Burney, but also with advocates who have been pushing for a Royal Commission into the neglect and abuse of people living with disability. Some of the people will speak of their personal experiences - they're parents, they're advocates, they understand what happens. 

There is no doubt in my mind that the case for a Royal Commission into preventing abuse and neglect and violence against Australians living with disability, is tremendously overdue. Labor called for this Royal Commission on May 26th 2017. Now this country has made some progress on issues of disability. We now have a National Disability Insurance Scheme for example. But there is unfinished business to ensure that people with disability and their families and carers get an equal go in this country.
 
But there is no more unexamined corner of the life of Australia, than the abuse and violence experienced by people with disability. This country has had report after report after report. We know that there are people living with disabilities who are forcibly restrained, as we speak right now. We sadly can predict, without any fear of contradiction that there will be people with disability who have been abused and neglected, the victims of violence even in the last 24 hours, even from when the government rejected a Royal Commission on Thursday, through to this Saturday morning.
 
Linda is going to speak briefly after me, and then we'll hear, if people are willing to talk about some of their stories. But you measure the worth of a society not just by how rich it is, or how many gold medals it can win at the Olympics. You measure the worth of our society by the circumstances in which our least advantaged live.
 
A person, an Australian living with a disability shouldn't be defined by their disability. A disability is just another fact of life, it's part of who you are as a human being. It's the way that everyone else responds to that disability is what defines us. There is abuse and neglect and violence going on against people with disability. I sincerely hope that the government reverses it's position that it's held for the best part of two years, against a Royal Commission. I want them to support it. I hope that the government realises the mistake they made on Thursday by voting against a Royal Commission in the Senate. And then I hope the Prime Minister has enough self-reflection to realise he called it wrong on Thursday, when instead of having a vote as to whether or not the Parliament of Australia thinks the people of Australia support a Royal Commission into the lives of people with disability, suffering violence and neglect. Instead of voting for that measure - which is well overdue, he ran down the clock because he was more worried about appearing that he didn't control the parliament than doing the right thing.

Now I am optimistic that this government realising the public pressure which has materialised, which we were going to do after the election if successful. We now have an opportunity to do this now. So I hope that by Monday - if not before Monday, but by Monday when this matter comes to a vote, the government votes to support a Royal Commission to prevent abuse and neglect against Australians living with disability. 

I think we can do that even in the dying days of the 45th Parliament. We don't need to wait for an election to say enough is enough, that we don't support the abuse and neglect of our own and I think a Royal Commission is the best way, it's the king of all enquiries. We can do that and we can say to people with disability, here's another gap between inequality and the equality, and we're going to bridge it. 

I now would like to ask Linda Burney, our Shadow spokesperson to speak and then some of the lovely, fantastic people here who have never given up on their families and would just like parliament to show a little bit of that love that they show every day, to the people they love.

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES:  Good morning and thank you Bill for those words. An enormous thank you and debt of gratitude to the people that have joined us this morning to speak to you about their personal experiences, to talk to you about their children, and to also hear from advocates who have been working in the space for a very long time.
 
People with a disability have waited long enough. They have waited long enough and the time has come for a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect and of course, the violence perpetrated against people with disability. For the people that joined Bill and I this morning, this is not academic, this is their reality every single day. The policy arguments for a Royal Commission are overwhelming, the time has come. We want a broad-based Royal Commission into disability and the terms of reference Labor has committed to for the last two years, should be worked out in consultation with the people that understand this issue and the families that live this daily life. 
 
This Royal Commission cannot be tacked on to the Aged Care Royal Commission that is taking place at moment. It must be a stand-alone Royal Commission. And as I've said, the terms of reference will be worked out in consultation with the people we have with us this morning. The treatment of people with disability is a national shame in this country, and all of us know someone whether in our family, within our workspace, within our friends, that would be saying this morning to the government, and particularly to the Prime Minister, the time for this Royal Commission has come. 
 
We must give people a powerful voice and as Bill has said, a Royal Commission is the king of inquiries, and it will give people that join us today and many thousands of people across this country, that voice. I am going to invite people to share with you, some of their personal experiences and I ask you to take the time to listen to them.
 
This Royal Commission must be broad-ranging, it must cover institutional care, and what happens in the daily lives of people. It is critically important that it happen immediately. And as our leader has indicated, we want the government to come on board to see the need, and vote for a Royal Commission on Monday. 
 
I am going to now invite some of our friends with us to have their say, I don't know what order we are going to go in but who would like to try first? Mark? Are you alright? Go for it. 
 
MARK MODRA, PARENT: Kevin Stone from Valid asked me to come along today and tell a little bit of our story, my family's story. Most of my son's story is already in the public domain for people to read. My son's name is Luke and I am his father - sorry, that's a joke.

Well, like Anakin I too have acted with great passion and fervour for the people that I love, and that's caused me to make mistakes in the past, created some enemies. I would also like to say that now fortunately for my son we're in a stage of rebuilding his life, creating a new life for him where he's well supported. A great team of people, the NDIS has provided an adequate level of money to pay for that support, and my other children are now returning to what they considered was a normal life. It's only two years ago they started to say that, my son is 30 so that's a long time that my other children suffered. 
 
My son has severe autism and a long and very sad history of traumatic events and challenging behaviours. He's - yeah, from a very, very early age we believe that he was abused, right through his young childhood years by various people, and some of whom started out meaning well, but ended up being trapped in a system that didn't let them care the way they wanted to. 
 
With my son reacting to events that had happened to him prior, and I suppose I've said a little bit more than wanted to say, but the main thing, the main reason I'm in support of a Royal Commission is we need to make the truth plain for people to see, so that we can work with it. And the main point from my perspective is my son's got great support. He lives really well today, but every other day he will have a memory, and being autistic he doesn't just remember those traumatic events where people abused him. He suffers the same emotions, his brain reacts, it recreates those emotions, and he actually tries to replay those events, on himself and on other people. Even today and that is the consequence of abuse of a child at a young age can live through a person's life until they die. 
 
KEVIN STONE, EXECUTIVE OFFICER, VALID:  Describe, describe what happened with that piece of wood.
 
MARK: Oh come on
 
STONE: You need to go there.
 
MARK: Look, I wish you were the Prime Minister because I'd need your permission anyway.
 
STONE: If you can't go there, don't.
 
MARK: No, I will and I'm going to take longer than perhaps you want us to, but I have to apologise to this lady here, I've forgotten your name.
 
SHORTEN: Deb.
 
MARK: Deborah, because she told the story about her son who's at school, a young child at school. I had to go and apologise to her because we had the chance to take a stand and seek justice for my son, to uncover all the abuse that happened to him. But after all of the hearings that we went through, we ended up in the High Court of Australia, we decided to forgive those who'd abused my son. A very difficult thing for a father to do, to forgive on behalf of his son. Only to find that he still lives with his memories and we’re still have to deal with the consequences of that. And families are still suffering in exactly the same way. I now wish that we'd actually pursued it through to completion, and I hope that the commission will do that instead without causing all the trouble for us to say so. 
 
SHORTEN: Don't be too hard on yourself.
 
MARK: Anyway I probably said too much.
 
BURNEY: No, you've been fabulous.
 
STEPHANIE GOTLIB, CEO - CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY AUSTRALIA: Hi everyone, I'm Stephanie Gotlib from Children and Young People with Disability Australia. I just wanted to follow on from Mark's comments and also Deborah I think, who will speak shortly, is what I see commonly or its commonplace for children and young people to experience abuse and violence throughout their childhood that can't go on. I hear daily of incidents of real concern you know, from kids being pinned to the ground, from kids being in restraint and seclusion at school, to kids being bullied. We've got around 60 percent of kids being bullied at the moment. You know that's at school, that is just not okay. And when I say bullying I don't mean name calling I mean serious physical assaults, rocks thrown at them, food thrown at them, we have to stop it. This can't be the typical experience for children and young people with disability in Australia. We've heard today very strongly that, that has lifelong consequences and it's got to stop and the sooner we have a Royal Commission the better. Thank you. 

BURNEY: Would anyone else like to say something?
 
ADVOCATE: Relatively speaking I got very lucky. It was my experiences as a child, as a boy. Although I did it have a moment of - in my second - in my first high school of being called names, punched in the guts and then one case of sexual harassment. I even told the principal of that first high school that I did not feel safe but yet it took four year of abuse for something to happen that was to my satisfaction, that required me going to another school.  And hearing these stories again and again just thinking, it's just heart crushing to hear all these tales of abuse and I just want to know why this keeps happening. Why people think they're allowed to get away with it. This is why we need a Royal Commission to put a stop to all this. 
 
PETER: Yes, hello my name is Peter Curotte. I'm the father of Alexander Curotte, and this is Alexander's mum and my wife Paula Curotte.
 
PAULA: Hello.
 
PETER: Alexander is 33 years old and he has been in care since he was eleven because he has had pretty intense behavioural difficulties. But he sustained no injuries of any note with us right, while he was living with us, with a family of three younger children. But there were substantial issues that forced us to seek respite care for him. 
 
Twenty-two years later he was still in state care, in a concrete house. We've advocated very hard for him all the way through. His body bears witness to his life, he has scars all over his body. He cannot walk, he has hemiplegia. He's been suffocated under a blanket. We have medical scans that indicate that he has a hypoxic brain injury. He's also had a general hematoma from endlessly beating his own head on the floor of an unpadded house. He’s been sexually abused, that's case number 38 at the Royal Commission heard before Justice (inaudible) on the 22nd of March 2016. He's been disrespected in so many ways. He's no longer there. 
 
On the 25th of October which was a Thursday at lunchtime last year, we drove to Alexander's house which was a disability accommodation services unit and residential services and we, as his guardians, parents and administrators, we removed him put him in our old car and we drove him home. 
 
The reason we did that is that on the 16th of October he'd sustained injuries, and these injuries were photographed three days later in a dental hospital, where he had a planned procedure which we had medically cleared, so it still happened. And you will see that he's under the effect of anaesthetic so we could get a good photo, so that bruise was extensive and there was also significant tissue damage and a distal fracture of the left clavicle.

He returned after the surgery to the unit, I worked in there for a while. I'm trained in those areas, unpaid I worked, because I had authority to give him the medication that he required. Then I melted away and just kept regular contact on the Thursday morning of the 25th. These happened on the 16th of October sorry - on the Thursday morning we heard that he was bleeding from his right eye. That's after he was cleaned up.

We went straight to the house put him in the car and my wife and I tried to keep him calm, a young man who was working with him under our employ dabbed the blood was running down his right cheek. He's now 115 days away from that situation. He's living in an apartment hotel in your electorate I think Bill, and he needs a home. He'll never return to where he was. He's actually asked me to talk to Bill Shorten, I think I've done that now. Alexander is a lovely person but he can't walk. He couldn't walk from here to that cameraman without falling over. When he was with us he could run like the wind. So many things have happened. We almost can't believe this has happened to him but we now realise this happens to lots of people.

So we just say again, to the people of Australia and their elected representatives, let's go right for it. Let's get a Royal Commission - a separate Royal Commission into violence and abuse and neglect of people with disability in Australia. They live under the same sun, they breathe the same air. They are Australians and I thank you.

ADVOCATE: Hi, I am the very proud parent of a child with a disability, and recently my son it became evident that he was abused at his special school, and this began at the age of four where he was put in a tent in a cupboard. Then recently, he was restrained - forcefully restrained, tied down with rope and put in a confined space. He has countless times been pulled around by his limbs and also been to - he's been isolated from other students on a daily basis. So this is basically assaulted, imprisoned falsely, and dehumanised, dumbed down with little to no education. This is a child who is teachable, a child who is manageable with the right professional supports, and a child who is celebrated by his family and treated as an equal. So this should not be happening. I fear that this is a lot bigger than the school environment. It's systemic in the community, and the longer that there's a hold on this Royal Commission, everyday another child or adult is abused with a disability. So this is just - enough is enough, basically. These people in the community deserve to be treated as equals. Thank you.

BURNEY: Is there anyone else that would like to step up, come on now.
 
HEATHER FORSYTH: I am Heather Forsyth. I am a person with an intellectual disability and I’m 46 years of age. I was abused by a family member, and I'm still to this day finding it very hard to talk about that. With the support of my colleagues at work, we are doing a (inaudible) safe project where we are telling people out there it's not okay. It's okay to complain.

BRONWYN MORKHAM, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, YOUNG PEOPLE IN NURSING HOMES NATIONAL ALLIANCE: Hello I'm Bronwyn Morkham I am the Young People in Nursing Homes Alliance National Director. The only thing I'd like to add to what's already been said is that we need a separate Royal Commission. We do not want to see a Royal Commission tacked on to the existing Aged Care Royal Commission. Young people enter nursing homes, but they have disabilities before they go into nursing homes and we need to be looking at what happens to people with a disability broadly. Thank you. 
 
STONE: My name's Kevin Stone I'm chair of Inclusion Australia. How can you not vote for a Royal Commission. How can you say you are not interested in finding the truth. I can't believe it. We issued the call seven years ago for a stand alone Royal Commission into abuse and neglect. This stuff continues to happen. The NDIS is welcome, in a sense that it is improving the service system and the response to people with disabilities. But you actually don't heal unless you expose, unless you rip that band-aid off and let the air in. And for many people with disability and their families, these atrocities are a daily occurrence across the country. 
 
People are abused sexually, physically, financially - they're ripped off in all sorts of ways they're bullied. Every day my organisation, Valid in Victoria deals with new incidents, new complaints of abuse. One currently for instance, where a staff member has reportedly held a person down and burnt them with an iron - a hot iron. Another case, where a person with disability was basically kicked to the ground and dragged along the carpet. These things happen every day in this country, and until we actually get to the truth and expose that truth we're not going to improve this system at all. The NDIS will never make a difference in the lives of people with disability unless we expose these truths. So we support and reiterate our strong call for an independent standalone Royal Commission and we commend Bill, the Labor Party on standing with us. Thank you.

ROSS JOYCE, CEO, AUSTRALIAN FEDERATION OF DISABILITY ORGANISATIONS: Ross Joyce, I’m the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. We're a national peak body, we have members right across the country, and we stand firmly behind an independent Royal Commission, and us and all of our colleagues across the advocacy sector are really keen to see this get ahead and be started. 

We're very tired of the wait and I think today you've got what I would consider just a tip of the iceberg of the things that are going on out there, from real people standing here telling you what's happened in their situation. And I think it's appalling that it continues to be dragged on, but I also want to congratulate Bill, Linda and the ALP for their strong commitment. We were here in 2017. Bill made a commitment to us that there is going to be a Royal Commission. I know he's been fighting hard along with his team to get that through. And I'd also like to mention also the Greens and Senator Jordan Steele-John doing a fantastic job of also working on that and pushing that through. And that's because they understand the issues that are out there, the issues that are happening every day. We're tired of it, Prime Minister we want you to just do it. You've got a chance to do it, do it now please.

SHORTEN: Thanks. Alright I thank everyone and I appreciate the journalists here letting people tell their story. You can sense that for a long time people have had stories to tell but there's not enough people listening. So over to you.
 
JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns that a Royal Commission may take too long to give its findings and what could be done now to assist?
 
SHORTEN: Well whatever should - where there are complaints and there's violence that should be reported now, but we've tried everything else. There might be some Australians who say oh, we had a Royal Commission into the banks, we need a Royal Commission into age care, might be a bit of Royal Commission fatigue. We had one into institutional responses to the abuse of children within the care of institutions.
 
But what people should understand, if they can take a moment to pause, is that people who live with disabilities and their families have fallen between the cracks. If you were abused in a church run orphanage or a government orphanage we've heard about that - that's dreadful. Hopefully we will hear about the way old people are getting treated in aged care and the failings in that system and of course, people who were ripped off by banks. There's a whole sector of our community, and they don't have a voice. If you are a carer of someone who's got a high degree of autism, you don't really have time to get on you know, Sky News or get a column in a newspaper - you don't have time. You're too busy just making ends meet and loving your child, or loving your adult child.
 
We also know that everything else hasn't worked. By that I mean that we've had inquiries. When the advocates called for it seven years ago there was a Senate Inquiry in 2015 - and I do want to give Senator Jordan from the Greens a shout out for his stand in the Senate. But the point about it is that the Senate did an investigation and there's been plenty of state investigations. The Queensland Human Rights Commission investigated the use of forcible restraints on people with disabilities, for example. The problem is a lot of these reports get announced, they get done, and then they're put on the shelf and you're really dependent upon the amount of energy a particular government, or a particular political party might put into a particular part of the system.
 
It's just time for a Royal Commission, so I say to Australians who are weighing up, oh another Royal Commission, the reality is there has never been another proper Royal Commission into violence against people with disabilities. This is the time, everything else has been tried and failed. Labor called for it two years ago. We weren't expecting the government - to be honest we weren't expecting them to get rid of Turnbull and for the wheels to fall off the cart and the division in the government. But really, that's not our problem here today.
 
Our opportunity is that we have a case where the Parliament of Australia could finally speak up for a group of people who don't have the physical or financial resources to speak up for themselves. If you know that the abuse is likely to be repeated, if you know that the neglect and the violence is likely to be recurring, what is the argument against a Royal Commission and a Royal Commission right now. 
 
JOURNALIST: Looks like the government will support your motion next week. What do you make of that and is that them trying to save face or, what's your take on it?.
 
SHORTEN: So I don't mind the motivation for them reversing the position. On Thursday, government Senators supported by Senator Pauline Hanson voted to block a Royal Commission. We asked them Thursday afternoon to reconsider their position, instead they ran down the clock. You know the old footy trick, they kick the ball down the one end, the AFL aficionados, and they just basically wanted to try and run the clock down, so the siren would go and they wouldn't have to deal with the issue last Thursday. Well that happened. So they had a win, well done. Well, we're back to it on Monday. What I say to the government though is that if you vote for the Royal Commission, then implement it. We'll work with you on the terms of reference. Please don't fob this off and say to us we don't have a set of terms of reference, we can work that out. Please don't fob this off by saying there's been other inquiries - there haven't of this nature. And please don't fob this off and just vote for it and then go back to talking about whatever else you want to talk about and just hope that people forget - we won't.

This is a chance to do some good. You know, one of the big complaints I've heard across summer about the Parliament of Australia is when will you talk about us, the people, rather than about yourselves. This is a great chance to talk about a bunch of people who no one is talking about enough, and we could do that together on Monday and at least produce some good news out of an otherwise pretty chaotic and divided situation.
 
JOURNALIST: On another matter does the Opposition support the Government’s domestic violence technology trials?
 
SHORTEN: Sorry can you say that again, I just couldn’t hear you.
 
JOURNALIST: Does the Opposition support the Government’s domestic violence technology trials that have just been announced?
 
SHORTEN: Do you want to answer Linda?
 
BURNEY: We see domestic violence as being a nonpartisan issue and the forward action plan which is what you're referring to is something that Labor will support, absolutely. We're also looking at very much making sure that we get services to the front line in domestic violence, but yes we will be supporting the government’s initiatives in terms of domestic violence.
 
JOURNALIST: Could the money be better spent perhaps with prevention methods instead of these technology trials as a way of (inaudible)?
 
SHORTEN: Yes listen I just - I think it was former Prime Minister Turnbull, he you know, because of his investment banking background was quite interested in technology apps and I think he was onto something. You know, I've got teenage kids, teenage daughters. I see the value of technology apps in terms of how you can help monitor safety and the same would go in the domestic violence situation. But it's no good just having an app if the woman who's receiving the abuse doesn't have a house to go to. So you were interested in prevention but we're interested in front line. It's no good having an app if you can't get legal aid. It's no good having an app if you can't get time off work with paid domestic violence leave. So yes, technology helps us keep people safer, but I also think it's not a substitute for funding of the frontline services. The refuges and the accommodation after the refuges, the paid domestic violence leave, and of course making sure that the legal system doesn't punish you a second time, having been punished already. 
 
JOURNALIST: Just back on the Disability Royal Commission. You've accused the government of playing politics to avoid the vote. How much responsibility do you take for that on Thursday given you withdrew the Matter of Public Importance.
 
SHORTEN:  The only way that we could have a vote on the Royal Commission was to stop the Matter of Public Importance. What's the government's excuse? We wanted to speed up the debate so we could have a vote on a Disability Royal Commission. Frankly I was surprised that the Government's Senators voted against it Thursday morning. To be honest aren't you all a bit surprised that a government made up of functioning adults, who you know, are committed to keeping people safe. They've got a lot to say about safety but I was surprised when they voted against it, to be honest. We had a Senate Inquiry in 2015. That didn't beat any land speed records, it was important work though. In 2017, in May with some of the very people you see here, we said we would support a Royal Commission, the government then said no. 
 
So I make no apology for fighting to have a Royal Commission into the treatment of people disabilities and violence. I mean, the Government's got a little bit of form though hasn't it. It's been 633 days since we called for a Royal Commission into disability. We couldn't have predicted 630 days ago that the government would you know, get rid of Malcolm Turnbull, they would nearly give us Peter Dutton, you know just have the sort of chaos that they're in. 

But that's not our issue, our issue is the people, our issue is a Disability Royal Commission. So you know, if the government doesn't want to have a vote that's up to them, but they voted against it. All I say to the government is just reverse your position and I think it just shows you - I mean what I really think happened is that the current Prime Minister is desperate because he's lost control of the parliament. His own government was meant to bring forward energy legislation to help lower prices on energy and they're divided and can't do that. So rather than show that he can't control the parliament they've stopped governing and are running down the clock. I mean if they don’t want to govern, if they don't want the parliament to vote on matters, then he should just go to an election. 
 
JOURNALIST: You mentioned terms of reference before. Ideally what terms of reference would you like to see for this Royal Commission?
 
SHORTEN: I'll get Linda to supplement it, but what we think is that it can't just be about individual incidents and it can't just be about people in institutional care. The fact of the matter is that we need to make sure we look at the issue of forcible restraint, but none of these issues are totally clear cut. But it is clear cut that people are suffering. I might get Linda to supplement some of the other topics.
 
BURNEY: Thank you Bill, the terms of reference will be based on the principal of we will work them through and work them out with many of the people that we've got here today - advocates and people living with disability. It is important that we just don't think about the individual, but we actually think about the whole family. So that will be done in consultation with those peripheral people. And as Bill has said we want it to not be just about people in institutions. We want a broad ranging inquiry and we want to make sure that there is capacity for people like our friend here for historical abuse to be reported, to be given as well. So it will be broad ranging, it will be done in consolation on terms of reference with the people that are affected. It will cover all situations of people living with disability and it will also have a historical component as well.
 
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, there was a news report today quoting a people smuggler who said people smugglers are going to target Australia should Labor get into government. What is your response to that and how would you prevent that?
 
SHORTEN: So someone asks a criminal to give an explanation of why they're a criminal, and the fact that they are still a criminal and want to be a criminal - I put that in the criminal bin, I'm not interested. We always know that there are people who would seek to undermine our border security. Under a Labor government we'll have a ring of steel around this country, but the issue though that the government is conflating, is they are confused that you can only have strong borders by treating people in our care cruelly - I don't buy that argument.

We will have strong borders under a Labor government. We will make sure that our ADF, our air assets our sea assets, our Australian Border Force have whatever resources they needed to defeat people smugglers. But what we won't accept is that it should be Peter Dutton who gives medical advice to people as opposed to treating doctors. It is possible in this country to have strong borders and the humane treatment of people within our care. And if the government's so worried about it you've got to ask yourself why is it that in the last four years alone 64, 000 people have arrived by air claiming asylum, and many of those claims have found to be unmeritorious. What's happened is this government has stopped the boats and now they're catching the plane.
 
JOURNALIST: The PM is out in Braddon today to make a forestry announcement, do you think it's about wooing blue collar voters? Trying to win back the Greens?
 
SHORTEN: Listen, it's a free country he can go wherever he wants. If you want to win back blue collar voters - restore penalty rights. If you want to win back working class families, lower energy prices. If you want to win back blue collar voters, don't cut Medicare. If you want to do something about blue collar voters give them a tax refund like Labor is proposing of $1000 each, every year. If you want to win back blue collar voters start talking about cost of living, of why is everything going up except your wages. 
 
The fact of the matter is this is a government as it approaches its last week in parliament other than its budget propaganda week. This is the last week and what are they going to talk about? They are not going to talk about energy because they're too divided. They're not going to talk about protecting small business because the National Party rebels want to vote with Labor. They've got no plan on cost of living, they've got no wages policy at all. I mean, last week the Reserve Bank has had to lower the projections of growth under this government, and we saw last week that housing approvals are falling, not increasing. This is a government who's given up governing. This is a government who wants to talk about absolutely everything except why the economy is not working in the interest of working and middle class people. 
 
JOURNALIST: The government's also got another announcement in Warringah with Tony Abbott today. What's your read on that, is it just to hold on?
 
SHORTEN: What is the announcement they're making in Warringah? Sorry I wasn't (inaudible).
 
BURNEY: I don't know either.
 
SHORTEN: Well it's good that the Liberals have discovered their safe seats and are belatedly trying to remind voters there that they're not taking it for granted. But if I was a voter in a safe Liberal seat like Higgins in Melbourne or Kooyong or Flinders, where you've got Peter Dutton's ally Greg Hunt, being attacked by Independent Liberal Julia Banks. When they start seeing the government give them promises in those seats, you'd have to conclude that the reason why the government is giving them promises in those seats is because they realise they haven't done anything and they're worried about losing the votes. And just as the voters in Wentworth discovered, if you don't vote for the Liberals you're probably going to get more attention from the Liberals, than if you just voted for the Liberals.
 
JOURNALIST: Support has slumped for the LNP in Queensland according to a YouGov poll out today, but votes are flowing to the United Australia Party. Will you seek UAP's preferences in Queensland?
 
SHORTEN: I would like Clive Palmer to pay the money he owes the taxpayers of Australia instead of spending taxpayers money promoting his own head on billboards around the country. Labor's focus on getting primary votes. We've got a good plan for Queenslanders, it's a good plan for all Australians. We know that everything is going up in this country except wages, so we have a wages policy. We know the cost of living is a real problem for working and middle class families living in regional Queensland or any other part of Australia, that’s why we're going to cap the increase in private health insurance fees. That is why we're going to back in more renewable energy and solar batteries, so people get solar rooftop power batteries and be able to force down and take control of their own power bills. It's why we're going to do more funding of Medicare, so that people don't have to pay more out of pocket cost to go and see the doctors. If you want to get someone's vote my view is that you need to talk about them not yourself, and I say to Australians, I hear you loud and clear. The other thing which we can promise Australians is stability. This Government's been in for less than six years. They're on their third Prime Minister, the National Party and the Liberals can't agree on energy policy, they're all over the show. So we're focusing on the people and that's I think the best strategy. But I will say in closing this interview - unless there are any other questions - 
 
JOURNALIST: One more.
 
SHORTEN: One more and then I'll just close, okay two more.
 
JOURNALIST: Will you try to seek to ban religious schools discriminating against students on the basis of their sexuality in the final sitting week before the election?
 
SHORTEN: Well we think that the case for not discriminating against kids on the basis of sexuality is 100 per cent clear. We would like to see that legislated. Of course, we need to get everyone else in the Parliament to agree with us.

JOURNALIST: This might be a bit of a tricky one, but what do you make of Senator Michaelia Cash's evidence yesterday in the AWU case. She seems to have distanced herself from it, or tried to.
 
SHORTEN: I don't know if you've ever seen that show Muriel's Wedding and it was an actor - an Aussie actor called Bill Hunter and he kept running into this lady Deidre Chambers and it was always a great surprise. And you know, you've got to say there's Michaelia Cash saying that she's not playing political games, tipping off the media - her office tipping off the media. What a surprise to see you Deidre Chambers, to see you at the scene of another attempt to smear the unions and the Labor Party. Listen whatever she told the court I'm sure she believes it, I just don't know if anyone else does. 
 
Alright, I just want to finish on this issue of a Royal Commission. I just say to Australians again saying, oh well you know, is this really the problem that you say it is? I am telling you now - speak to a parent with a child with disabilities, speak to someone who's been in care or had to deal with the challenge of their impairment and some of the treatment they've got. This is an overdue problem for attention. Everything else has been tried - a Royal Commission just makes sense. That's what the families are calling out for, it's what the experts are calling out for. I've would ask the Government to reverse their position from Thursday. This is this is an idea whose time has come. People shouldn't be denied justice just because the government is feeling concerned about controlling parliament.

Thanks everybody.
 
ENDS


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