Bill's Transcripts

Interview with 3aw - Neil Mitchell


Interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell

09:30AM Friday

11 May 2012


Subject: Costello/Abbott, GEERS,

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten's on the phone. Good morning.

BILL SHORTEN:     Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:    And the Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey is in the studio.  Good morning.

JOE HOCKEY:        Morning.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Well Joe Hockey, Michael Kroger a former president of your party has just unloaded massively on your former Treasurer Peter Costello.  I would suggest that that is not a good thing for the state of your party, particularly Tony Abbott.  What do you say?

JOE HOCKEY:        Well I would say that both are friends.  Both are respected former office holders.  And I would say that when two people who are extremely close, they have a bit of a falling out and they're still members of the family, it's pretty awful.  But having said that I wish they'd do it in private rather than sharing it with everyone across Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Well it must be hurting Tony Abbott because it calls his economic credentials into question.

JOE HOCKEY:        Look I think this is a dispute between two very, very, very close or former close mates.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Well you'd rather they weren't doing it?

JOE HOCKEY:        Yeah of course.  Look it's regrettable and I think, you know, they just need to - they need to sit down, have a beer and settle their differences because they're members of the same family and you always have disputes within families, it's best that they not be out in the open.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten, you must be enjoying it.

BILL SHORTEN:     It's a matter for the Liberal Party.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay fair enough.  I'll tell you what is a matter for you. Anthony Albanese in the Parliament last night tabled a press cutting of a sexual assault charge against Tony Abbott in 1978 that was a result of student politics and was dismissed in 1978.  That to me is sleazy politics.  What's your view?

BILL SHORTEN:     I think people's personal lives and their families in particular because their families - they get paid to put up with that sort of - or put up with the sort of debate politicians put up with.  So I think that should be off limits.

In terms of the more general what goes on in the Parliament, what gets said there, I do know that the leader of Government Business Anthony Albanese takes the view that there's too much discussion about matters other than issues, that we've got to get out of the boxing - Parliament is not a boxing ring - and that we want to get onto the issues.  There's plenty of issues for us to fight and disagree with the Liberals on.

NEIL MITCHELL:    But can you justify, him raising something that happened in 1978 and Sophie Mirabella's personal battle over a deceased estate.  How is that relevant to the Australian Parliament?

BILL SHORTEN:     I also know that - well I - go back to my first answer -  I think that people's personal lives aren't the subject of, shouldn't be the subject of political discourse.  I know that families and for this I'd also think of people's families.  I don't think that's fair.  What I don't - what I also think isn't fair is that Craig Thomson and I'm not here to defend the individual.  I think that what's happened in that union or parts of that union is disgraceful.

He's got to have the findings tested in court, that's the appropriate place.  And Parliament shouldn't be a boxing ring.

NEIL MITCHELL:    We've talked before and you've both said there was a fear that things are going to get dirty and you both said you objected to that.  Joe Hockey is this dirt, is this sleaze, what's happened in the Parliament overnight.

JOE HOCKEY:        Look Anthony Albanese should be better than that.  And I totally agree with Bill.  People's family life is off limits.  You never should be attacking a member of a family of a politician because they didn't sign up themselves to be in politics.  And I know that there are a lot of hurtful things said about people on both sides.  It must stop.

In the case of Craig Thomson it is a Government quasi judicial tribunal that has just delivered eleven hundred pages of findings, findings by a tribunal that go to the heart and integrity of Mr Thomson.  And the Prime Minister herself said that she's going to expel him or ask him to step aside from the Caucus which is a matter for the numbers on the floor of the Parliament.

There are a number of issues as Bill's raised himself as Minister for Workplace Relations that came out of the report and they're very significant and they need to be dealt with by the Parliament.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay but are both...

BILL SHORTEN:     But Joe isn't - Joe used the term quasi government tribunal, I made it clear.

JOE HOCKEY:        Quasi judicial.

BILL SHORTEN:     Quasi judicial tribunal.  I've made it clear that the sort of findings which are reported there are unacceptable to this significant report.

JOE HOCKEY:        Yeah you have.

BILL SHORTEN:     But what I - as distasteful as those findings are I've also got to say that none of them have been subject to cross-examination and everyone is entitled to their day in court.  And whatever you may think about what's gone on that is the system which we have in this country.  And I don't think that Parliament should be judge and jury.

NEIL MITCHELL:    But how is it relevant that Tony Abbott in 1978 was acquitted of a frivolous sexual assault charge.  How is that relevant for the Parliament in this age?  How is it relevant that Sophie Mirabella has had a debate over a - a dispute over a deceased estate?  How is that in any way relevant?

BILL SHORTEN:     I think Eleanor Roosevelt once said and she was the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt and in their time there was plenty of stuff said about the Roosevelts, much of it unfair.  And she said the great people ideas, ordinary discuss events, and small people discuss gossip.  You know and I think, I agree with Joe and I don't think you can much improve upon what Eleanor Roosevelt said, except perhaps quote it precisely, but that is the sense of what she said.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay.  Is either side Joe Hockey running a dirt file?

JOE HOCKEY:        I don't know.  I hope not. 

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten, is your side running a dirt file?

BILL SHORTEN:     No place for that in politics.

NEIL MITCHELL:    I know, but is it happening?

BILL SHORTEN:     No, not to my knowledge, absolutely not.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay, Minister for Workplace Relations, how is it possible to advertise that you don't want to employ anybody who is a smoker?

BILL SHORTEN:     Where has that happened?

NEIL MITCHELL:    Victoria, Herald Sun, page three today, online ads saying smokers need not apply.


NEIL MITCHELL:    That'd be illegal [inaudible]?

BILL SHORTEN:     I'll go and check with the Fair Work Ombudsman on that.  I understand if people don't want smoke in their workplace but smoking is not illegal in Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah okay.  The...

BILL SHORTEN:     Now - the only think is unless it's a job for an astronaut or a, you know, a...

JOE HOCKEY:        No it was a graphic - I think it was a graphic designer wasn't it?

NEIL MITCHELL:    It was a graphic designer.

JOE HOCKEY:        Graphic designer, yeah.

BILL SHORTEN:     We'll go and check that with the Fair Work Ombudsman.  I don't see the point - what you need in workplaces, even whether or not someone's a smoker or not, whether or not it's a productive workplace with a cooperative relationship, the good jobs don't depend on whether or not someone has a smoke outside.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Do you reckon that this budget is going to turn to - I've said Paul Keating always promised to bring home the bacon.  Julia Gillard is trying to save her bacon.  Do you think that this will do it for her Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN:     I think the Budget is important.  What the Budget does do is it brings us to surplus which the mining boom benefits all across all of Australia.  The families, the million plus families who've got kids at primary age or secondary school age getting money to help with their educational costs, ideas like that are very good ideas.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Joe Hockey what's wrong with it?

JOE HOCKEY:        Well there are two things.

NEIL MITCHELL:    You don't believe it do you?

JOE HOCKEY:        No well.  Well given that it was meant to be a twenty-two billion dollar deficit last year and it's now forty-four, I have serious doubts.  But, you know, the thing that's really upset me Neil is the words the Prime Minister has used before and now after the budget, talking about the poor versus the rich, talking about suburb versus suburb in Australia.  And mate, I hate that attempt to try, by a Prime Minister, to try and divide the nation.  I loathe it.

And my Prime Minister should be about uniting the nation, growing the pie, encouraging ambition and opportunity, not about trying to create class warfare or turn Australians against Australians.  You know, people come from all around the world here to Australia, running away understandably from class war, from religious war, all those things where people turn on each other, that's - we can't allow our nation to go down that path.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN:     Well Joe's sentiments about, you know, uniting the place is spot on.  But I would just say in terms of class warfare and attacking people the Liberal Party justify not giving a million plus families, eight-hundred-and twenty bucks for their secondary school kids costs because people will waste the money.

The one problem with that and it's clear that the people who are getting this money are people who are eligible for Family Tax Benefit A so they're people who earn between seventy and eighty thousand dollars a year, not a million dollars a year.  And the problem with the Liberal analysis is that it assumes that poorer people are going to waste the money and you know the implications, pokies, drink, whatever.

I know when you've got kids at school and I know parents, they're all DNA hardwired to spend the money they get on the kid's education, on their kids.  And there's probably a few listeners out there saying I know someone who's a single mum, has got six kids and you know blah, blah, blah and just doing it to get the pension.

Spare me.  It's a wolf whistle, it's a dog whistle saying that you know what they're like in some parts of Australia, they just waste that money.  They're sort of like the feckless, feckless ones.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill I know you need to get away and I apologise for running late.  Just a quick question from a member of the audience, the changes to the golden handshake taxation, you know where the bank chief executive leaves with fifteen million or something.  Will that apply to a regular redundancy if I've lost my job out at the local widget factory?

BILL SHORTEN:     No I don't believe so.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Are you sure?

BILL SHORTEN:     No I don't believe so.  I'll go and check because it's always best to check one hundred per cent but I don't believe so.  And in fact that's why, talking about redundancy, I'm able to say to people who work at First Fleet and also CMI in Campbellfield, Horsham, Ballarat and First Fleet in - and Westwood's [inaudible] for CMI and First Fleet transport yard, the Government's ticked off yesterday that they're eligible to get their redundancies and the Government will make sure they get their money because the companies have gone belly up.  So we're on top of redundancy issues.  But I'll go and check that precise point.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay.  I could ask Joe Hockey.  Do you know when you're reading the budget whether it will apply to normal redundancies?

JOE HOCKEY:        Well we haven't seen the legislation to back it up at the moment, that's the...

BILL SHORTEN:     Let's not scare people Neil.  I don't believe so.  I'll come back and confirm that.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay and I don't - this one last question for Joe Hockey.  If there's a swing by the Independents and you need one vote to get rid of the Government you've called toxic, would you take Craig Thomson's vote if he voted with you?

JOE HOCKEY:        Mate, let me promise you, it is our view that he shouldn't be entitled to vote in the Parliament the way he is voting and...

NEIL MITCHELL:    So you wouldn't take his vote to bring down the Government?

JOE HOCKEY:        Well can I tell you I don't know what the votes are going to be.  I don't - you're asking me a question I can't answer.

NEIL MITCHELL:    It's hypothetical, but so is the whole situation.

JOE HOCKEY:        Well it is, well you know frankly the issue is at the moment, that the Labor Party has his vote and, you know, that's a fraudulent vote if you like because Mr Thomson is, you know - now we've got an eleven hundred page report with these unbelievable findings against him and the Labor Party has got a lot of questions to answer.

NEIL MITCHELL:    When I spoke to...

BILL SHORTEN:     Hang on, hang on...


BILL SHORTEN:     Are you saying that the Government has committed all these matters in that report Joe?

JOE HOCKEY:        No well no I'm not saying that.

BILL SHORTEN:     Okay so when you say...

JOE HOCKEY:        Hang on, no hang on, hang on.

BILL SHORTEN:     No I've let you go.  You said that because someone's been - the investigation stage is concluded.  It's taken too long and the report findings are terrible.  But now what happens is we owe it to the members of that union and the parts which have been contaminated by these findings.  But we owe it to those members to have now these findings proven in court and then what comes from that will come out.  But in the meantime...

JOE HOCKEY:        There's more to it than that.

BILL SHORTEN:     You've had conservative Members of Parliament who have been charged with matters and no one ever said they should be banned from Parliament or their day in court.

JOE HOCKEY:        No, no, no, no, no, but there's more to it than that.  There are a number of questions about the involvement of the Labor Party paying for his legal fees, whether he owes money to the Labor Party and therefore as an Independent is tied somehow financially to the Labor Party.  Whether he would have been bankrupt but for the Prime Minister potentially.

NEIL MITCHELL:    In which case he's out of Parliament.

JOE HOCKEY:        Yeah well all these things.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten the other thing you were going to check for me when we spoke earlier in the week is whether there's a statute of limitations on not declaring any assistance you had from the union on the Electoral Act.  Did you get an answer on that?

BILL SHORTEN:     The Commonwealth Electoral Act has a number of different statutes.  So I spoke with Gary Gray, the Minister for State.  He's asked the electoral commission to investigate all of the matters raised in that finding and that will happen promptly.


BILL SHORTEN:     But I've raised - I passed your point on…

NEIL MITCHELL:    Thank you.

BILL SHORTEN:     …to the Minister for State.

JOE HOCKEY:        But yesterday in Parliament the Assistant Treasurer said he wasn't going to refer the report to the Tax Commissioner because there are significant tax issues.  Well we know there are.  There are significant tax issues involved.


BILL SHORTEN:     But the Tax Office is fully aware of the report.

NEIL MITCHELL:    How do you know?

BILL SHORTEN:     Because when it first - when the report of the number one branch came out I had one of my staff ring the Tax Office and say are you aware of this report and they said yes.

JOE HOCKEY:        The eleven hundred page report?

BILL SHORTEN:     Well no the first one.

JOE HOCKEY:        Well what about the second one?  Will you send it to them?

BILL SHORTEN:     Are you saying that the ATO, like don't read newspapers?

JOE HOCKEY:        [Laughs].

BILL SHORTEN:     Are you saying that are you?

JOE HOCKEY:        Mate, mate Gary Gray stood up and appropriately said he was sending it to the Electoral Commission.  The Assistant Treasurer said that, you know, if you want to refer it to the Tax Commissioner you do it.  Well he's the Minister, he should do it.  It's a Government report…

BILL SHORTEN:     I have no doubt…

JOE HOCKEY:        …he's from a Government agency, he should send it to the Tax Commissioner.

BILL SHORTEN:     Not that you're probably losing any sleep over the point you're making.

NEIL MITCHELL:    But anybody can be sure.

BILL SHORTEN:     I'm sure the Tax Office is aware of it.  I bet you a Tatts ticket, okay.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Alright Bill I know you've got to go.  Bill Shorten, thank you for your time.

BILL SHORTEN:     Thank you.  Bye.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten. And Joe Hockey, thank you for your time.

JOE HOCKEY:        Thanks mate.

- ENDS -

Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Sam Casey