THURSDAY, 7 JULY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s success in Western Australia; Election result; The Nationals; Chilcott report; Negotiations with the crossbenchers
MATT KEOGH, MEMBER-ELECT FOR BURT: Good afternoon everybody. I'm Matt Keogh, member elect for the new seat of Burt. It's great to be here in Armadale in the seat of Burt with Bill Shorten, our Labor Leader and some of our new Labor team from Western Australia. I have to say personally I've been hugely surprised and honoured to have been elect as the first ever Member for Burt here in WA. It's a responsibility I'll take very seriously and to be the first Member of Parliament for Burt and area I grew up is also terribly exciting. But I am very, very conscious of the huge honour and responsibility that has been placed on me by the people of Burt on the weekend in our election. Over the course of the election though, we had conversations with thousands and thousands of people across the electorate to make sure that we really understood the issues that were important to them. And what I think has come through loud and clear over the course of the weekend over the Federal election has been just how much people in Western Australian felt overlooked and abandoned by the Liberals. It was also very clear that people here in Burt in particular, but across Western Australian wanted to see they weren't being overlooked and that the infrastructure investment that they need is going to be delivered upon. That we are resolving issues like congestion and public transport needs. But also people were really concerned, really concerned about the attacks on Medicare that are coming from the Liberals. They were concerned about the priorities that have been coming from the Turnbull Government, with their cuts to education. People here want to know that their schools and their kids are going to recieve the investment that they need and that's why, I think, we seen the result. And that of course has been in part of the conversations we've had on the local campaign on the ground here. But in very much a large part of that has been the great campaign that has been run nationally but Bill Shorten, he's done a fantastic job. It's been great to have Bill out here in Burt and in Western Australia so many times of the course of the campaign and I think the result that we've seen across the State and here in Burt in particular is a reflection of great local campaigning and a fantastic national campaign led by Bill Shorten. So, Bill thank you very much, I'll hand over to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. It's great to be here with some of Labor's new Members of Parliament-elect. Obviously Matt's done very well and Josh's done very well. We definitely got our fingers crossed that Anne will do well in Cowan as well. We've got Louise who's nominated again and we're feeling very positive about winning four Senate spots in Western Australia.
I'm here because I want to catch up with our candidates and congratulate West Australia Labor on putting on such a good performance. The trend of the last five terms has now been reversed. for the first time in a decade and a half plus Labor is winning seats in Western Australia and we're very grateful to the people of Western Australia who've decided to take a second look at the Labor Party and have voted very strongly for our positive policies. Now, the count goes on nationally, we understand that, but what is very important to recognise here, is that regardless of the outcome, Labor will fight in the Parliament for our positive platform of standing up for Australian jobs and making sure Perth has the best possible public transport infrastructure. Making sure that the schools of Western Australian are well funded and of course protecting Medicare from harsh and unreasonable cuts of Turnbull Liberal Party. Now, we’re doing all of these things and what we're also going to do to make the 45th Parliament work is we're going to reach out and work with the Independents and the crossbenchers in the Parliament. Mr Turnbull sort of got himself in a little bit of a bind here, having called the election partly to get rid of Independents and crossbenchers out of the Parliament, he now has to go back on bended knee and say listen I didn't really mean that and can I please work with you. I'm sure Mr Turnbull's eating his words where he said and I quote that the Independents he called them a dysfunctional, unstable, chaotic and I think he attacked Senator Xenophon as being a loner and of course you had Scott Morrison, the Treasurer who's well-known for putting his foot in it, I think he said that under Cathy McGowan in Indi, Indi had gone backwards. Now the Liberal Party is desperately trying to promise stability in this country and even if they just narrowly fall across the line they're going to need the goodwill of the crossbench and I just want to indicate to West Australians and all Australians that Labor's going to work with the crossbench and independents. People have voted for them, we'll respect the choice of people and we'll intend to make the Parliament work and stand up for our positive platform of jobs and education and Medicare, among many other important issues.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: From what you've just said does that mean you'll concede the election at this point?
SHORTEN: No, I've said all week, I said on Saturday night that now that people have voted, now it's time for the Electoral Commission to count the vote and to do it right and to do it properly, we'll have to wait and see. But what I'm also, just let me answer your first question. What I am making very clear here is that if Mr Turnbull is dragged across the line narrowly his problems, and unfortunately Australia's, are only just beginning. We know that Mr Turnbull has already had a demand for the National Party to have more National Party Ministers in his Cabinet and Government, which means there'll be less Liberals in it. We know the right wing of the Liberal Party is feeling very emboldened, they were bitterly unhappy when Tony Abbott got rolled, now they're demanding their fair share in terms of Cabinet representation. There is instability and of course, one things very clear, if Mr Turnbull does fall across the line in the next couple of days, there'll be so many Liberal electorates on razors edge that MPs will be very nervous about any decision that Mr Turnbull makes. The fact of the matter is that Mr Turnbull is returning to Parliament and he falls across the line it will be with a diminished authority, diminish mandate and a very divided political party.
JOURNALIST: But there's no way you can form Government at this stage is there?
SHORTEN: Well, I think we have to wait and see but it is more likely that, I mean depending how the count goes, that Mr Turnbull may well fall across the line. But what we are promising West Australians, and indeed all Australians, is that we've gone to this election with a very strong policy platform, we are very committed to saving and defending Medicare, we are very committed to making sure we reverse some of the harsh cuts. We are very committed to make sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity through the implementation of needs based funding. We are very committed to clamping down on the rorts in the 457 area and other work related visas, so that we're prioritising Australian jobs, that's our promise to Western Australian. But what we said before the election is what we're going to vote for and do after the election.
JOURNALIST: How confident are you in (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm reasonably confident, we'll have to wait and see but I think that that Anne's run a fantastic campaign and suppose the best compliment that can happen in politics is when your opponents all piling in on you. They were so desperate to stop Anne that they even got poor old John Howard out of retirement to give everyone a good scare about her. Anne Aly is a very very good candidate. She's the only person running in that electorate and indeed across Western Australia who was asked by no less a person than President Obama to come to the White House to talk about counter radicalisation and national security. I thing it spoke volumes of the concerns of Liberal Party that you had Julie Bishop, you had Michael Keenan, you had John Howard and whoever the local fellow there is - the current member, all complaining about Anne. She's an outstanding candidate and yes, I am very confident about her chances.
JOURNALIST: You call it a good performance in WA. Is a 33 per cent primary vote really worth Labor celebrating?
SHORTEN: Well, let us be clear where we've come from and secondly, is Mr Turnbull got anything to celebrate if he just falls across the line? Remember, Mr Turnbull called the election three weeks ago and remember some of you reported that Malcolm Turnbull had said he'd won the election, I don't take people for granted. And indeed we've seen in the days since the election as the counting goes on, everyone agrees it's very close, I don't think that's an exaggeration. We've seen Mr Turnbull come out and say that the voters got it wrong on Medicare, they're still out of touch the Liberals, they still don't get it, Medicare is an important issue. If Mr Turnbull's really fair dinkum then actions speak loud than words, the Australia people don't trust the Liberals on Medicare. Australian people know that actions speak louder than words. Mr Turnbull should reverse his harsh cuts to Medicare and to hospitals, that would show a real understanding of the electorate the message they've sent.
JOURNALIST: Australians don't trust Labor either, do they? With a 33 per cent primary vote, is that the message from voters targetting both major parties? Don't you also need to listen to that?
SHORTEN: I read all the commentary from the media throughout the election that said Labor had no chance. I'm just saying that what I listen to is the voice of the Australian people. Under our system of voting we have compulsory preferential voting and in the House of Representatives. Labor has got roughly 50 per cent of the vote maybe a shade north or a shade south of that. I am pleased with Labor's result. But what I am even more pleased about is our platform of positive policies. I promised Australian people that win, lose or draw, we're going to fight for our policies. We will demand a Royal Commission into the banking sector, we will fight to have a vote in Parliament on marriage equality, we will take real action on climate change. We'll clampdown on the scandalous set of situations which emerged during the election which shows that the Department of Immigration had been undermined by criminals and scoundrels and we see visas being sold to criminal gangs for large payments of money. So I am pleased at Labor's progress. But I am here not because we are resting on our laurels but because we are very keen to see our agenda advance. It's us keeping faith with the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect to be unanimously endorsed tomorrow? Does the process show due regard to the grassroots of the party which Kevin Rudd introduced a few years ago?
SHORTEN: I've been very pleased by the unity of purpose of the Labor Party. I think we've seen the dividends in terms of Australians responding to our unity. I think if you want to look at division in Australian politics, you wouldn't be looking at us, I think you'd be looking at the Liberal Party and their recriminations. I think even Andrew Hastie has had a crack at the national campaign, you have got the Nationals saying they want more power than they've currently got. You've got the right wing, the Abbott conservatives, they're all out leaking on the record, off the record, anyone who will put a camera now face. They're out there bagging the campaign. The Labor Party has learnt our lesson over the last three years, I could not ask for any more support and I have received. Not only from our Members of Parliament but the broader Labor movement.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify on the Nationals, the Nationals now make up a larger percentage of the Coalition. Under their agreement that would naturally mean they have more people in Cabinet wouldn't it?
SHORTEN: You sound like Barnaby Joyce and I think you're right, they'll have to.The point about it is, how have the Nationals got a larger proportion of the Coaltion? It's because more Liberals lost their seats. Of course the one thing I can tell you about the Liberal Party who voted for Malcolm Turnbull because the Nationals weren't in that vote is, will expect that Malcolm Turnbull will remember their loyalty to him. But unfortunately Malcolm Turnbull has got more favours that he owes than places he can bestow. They are a divided party and no amount of wishing that away can deny the truth of the matter, they are very divided.
JOURNALIST: Mr Wilkie has asked for an Australian inquiry into the Iraq war, that's something that he says he's going to bring up with whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, is that something you would report?
SHORTEN: I think the Chilcott report which is what has triggered this debate in the United Kingdom is very significant. I think it does highlight that Mr Howard as the Prime Minister of the time it took us to war needs to answer questions and if we went to war on the basis of errors of information, was that the basis of which we have gone to war and Mr Howard needs to answer those matters. In terms of a full inquiry we will digest the report and it has just literally come out overnight but Labor is not ruling out supporting a full inquiry, we will consider our position carefully.
JOURNALIST: Bob Katter has said he will support Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, where does that leave your negotiations with the crossbenchers?
SHORTEN: Well if Malcolm Turnbull's promise for stability in Australia that he is banking Bob Katter, it's not really the most stable proposition I've heard. Bob Katter by nature, tends to vote much more with the Coalition so there is no surprises there. But I hope Malcolm Turnbull has got more in the stability draw than just saying he's got Bob Katter on his side.
JOURNALIST: How do you see WA? Do you see this as a resurgence for Labor? How do you think it might translate to our state election next year?
SHORTEN: You're right, we have increased the number of representatives from Western Australia into the Labor team nationally. I also think it is not just a matter of numbers, it's also a matter of quality. I think you'll have noticed that we have got a new slate and I know back in February people were saying that the Labor Party what was it going to do with candidates? We have now got new candidates in Perth. Tim Hammond, he will do very well and we've got Josh down in Fremantle. We have also managed to recruit Patrick Dodson to the Labor cause. And we have got Louise returning to our ranks and we've got Matt who has put in absolutely outstanding effort in his election, got the biggest swing in the country. And of course we've got Anne who has withstood everything that the Liberal Party could throw at her including the kitchen sink and she is still standing and going strong. Not only has Labor increased by approximately 50 per cent, we have not only got a new slate. I think we've got a great slate of candidates.
In terms of what it means for the state election, there's no doubt that as i travel around here, people think Colin Barnett is on the nose and they are frustrated that Western Australia has gone backwards. As the mining boom as eased off, it appears that the Coalition over here have no plan to deal with life beyond the mining boom. I don't want to take anything away from the accomplishments of my Federal candidates and that is why I am here. We have good policies at the national level. Policies which resonated in Western Australia. We've still got a long way to go and we certainly want to get more people looking at Labor more positively in the future but I think we have made a fabulous start with great candidates. We've made a fabulous start in terms of our policies. Any when you look at the fact that the ratings agencies have just come out and said they are putting Australia's AAA credit rating on a negative watch, they're concerned about it. It just shows you the last three years, Western Australians didn't need to be told this by ratings agencies, but the last three years this country has stood still. In many ways the rating agency's decision to put the AAA credit rating on a negative watch is a vote of no confidence in Mr Turnbull, in Mr Morrison and the way they have been handling the Australian economy. The fact that they are relying upon measures which are never going to pass the Parliament shows that the ratings agency thinks this country has not been well run and there is little prospect in the immediate future under this mob that things are going to get better in our fiscal situation. One last question.
JOURNALIST: You say the country stood still, will you accept partial responsibility for that? Isn't the message from voters here that they want both major parties to grow up and work together for the sake of the nation?
SHORTEN: I think in all fairness we've been the Opposition for the last three years it's a little hard to blame us for 2014 Abbott budget. I think it is a little unreasonable, and I don't agree with the assumption of the last three years has been the product of Labor. We've been the Opposition. They had 90 Members of Parliament, we've had 55. So the decisions of the fiscal ineptitude, the tripling of the deficit, the inability to transition the Australian economy from mining, and diversify our economy on mining. I lay that solely at the feet of the current Coalition.
In terms of the message from voters, I understand very well that voters are exhausted and cynical about parties who make promises and don't keep them. That's why, you know, on Sunday morning after the election, I haven't gone into a bunker and not been out there talking to voters, we put forward a positive policy program. What I'm doing here is reassuring voters who voted for our Labor candidates in Western Australia in much improved numbers on previous elections. We will stick to our guns and fight for Australian jobs, we will fight for having proper needs-based education and we will absolutely fight for Medicare. We've got the message loud and clear, people want to see political parties keep their promises. All I would ask in terms of the Turnbull Liberal Party is that they hear the message too. People don't want Medicare touched and they do want to see the schools properly funded, they do want to see Australian jobs supported, they do want to see a Royal Commission into the banking sector for example. We will do this. I am very grateful for a support that our candidates have received from Western Australians. We understand how we've got to this position, we're not going to let people down, we mean what we say and we say what we mean. Thanks everybody.