Bill's Transcripts

Doortsop: Melbourne - Australia day; Australian republic






SUBJECT/S: Australia day; Australian republic; Reported beheadings of Japanese hostages held by Islamic State; Bali Nine; Australians travelling to Iraq and Syria.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I want to wish all Australians a happy Australia Day eve and I sincerely hope people celebrate tomorrow and catch up with family and friends.


Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Are you pushing for a referendum on the republic?


SHORTEN: I think Australia is mature enough now in the 21st century to be able to have a debate and a discussion about becoming a republic. I'm not pushing for a referendum any time soon, but I do think, as we celebrate Australia Day, it's time again for us to start debating ‘should we become a republic?’ and I think Australia should have an Australian head of State.


JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten you were calling for people to rally behind an Australian republic. What are you doing to advance that cause?


SHORTEN: I think today the very fact that we are talking about the issue shows that the way which we should engage in change in this country, is it should be sensible, it should be somewhere in the middle of the road, not punctured by extremes, or by incivility or rudeness. I think it is legitimate, on this weekend on which we weigh up where we have come as a nation both since settlement, in 1788 and indeed 40,000 years before then, that we as a nation are mature enough to have a discussion about ‘should we have an Australian Head of State?’. But I do it with no rancor or criticism, it's a matter of just people reflecting, what is our identity and should we be an Australian Head of State?


JOURNALIST: Is this something you are pushing for in this parliamentary year?


SHORTEN: Well I'm having a discussion and debate about it. I think when you put time tables you create sometimes your own artificial political arguments. But I think it is straightforward and I think most Australians fundamentally get that at the right time people will view that we should have an Australian head of State. And I think what we should do is have that discussion with people. Not one with acrimony or politics or finger pointing, but do we in the 21st century think we should have an Australian head of State?


JOURNALIST: The answer for that was no 16 years ago, do you think anything's changed?


SHORTEN: 16 years has passed by. And I do think that there are lessons from that referendum. It can't just be a debate between A-list celebrities, it has to be something which all Australians are engaged in. It's not something you rush. But, again, how is it that in the 21st century we don't have an Australian head of State? I think it's something we can positively discuss.


JOURNALIST: You referenced Myall Creek in your speech, was that an acknowledgement I guess on the eve of Australia Day that that day presents some difficulties for some people?


SHORTEN: I think Australia Day's a day to be celebrated, but we do have a history and it's got its highlights and it's also got its tragedies and low lights. The massacre of Indigenous Australians is a part of our history and I don't think shirking it with the great Australian silence solves anything. We need to recognise our history. And we need to then discuss our future.


JOURNALIST: Do you have any comment on the reported beheading of one of the Japanese hostages held by Islamic State?


SHORTEN: I sincerely hope that the reports of the beheading of a Japanese person are completely unfounded. If this has happened, this is an act of blood thirsty barbarity, it is medieval savagery. Again it highlights the need for the world to stand up against gangsters, crooks, terrorists, people masquerading as religious causes. My thoughts are with the family if this terrible deed is true. It is unspeakable evil and should be deplored by all peoples of the world.


JOURNALIST: Shifting to Bali, do you have some words for the Chan and Sukumaran families for today?


SHORTEN: They face the most unimaginable period ahead of them. The death penalty solves nothing. It is an act which demeans human beings whenever and wherever it occurs. I'm supportive of the efforts of the Government. I have spoken with lawyers involved with representing these two men. I sincerely hope that the worst doesn't befall these two young men and my thoughts are with the families and let me reassure them that I think Australians generally are united in their concern for these families and these two young men.


JOURNALIST: Has the Government and the Prime Minister done enough, do you think?


SHORTEN: Yes, now is not the time for finger pointing and politics. I do support the efforts of the Government, of our professionals. We want friendship with other nations in the world. We understand that. We understand these two young men have broken laws. But I also understand that Labor does not believe in the death penalty, and I do not support the death penalty in any circumstances.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that more Australians, including young women, are travelling to Iraq and Syria?


SHORTEN: We have seen reports of some young women being lured there for misguided reasons. Labor, along with the Government, would just say that to any young people thinking of going to these conflict zones in pursuit of some romantic or romanticised or twisted goals, just do not go. Do not go to these parts of the world. It will end in tears. Do not go, and, again, I just want to reassure Australians that when it comes to opposing terror, Labor and the Government are in this together.


Thanks everyone, have a lovely afternoon.