Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: Belmore - Multiculturalism; NRL Grand Final;






SUBJECT/S: Multiculturalism; NRL Grand Final; National Security; Iraq; Nauru.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s fantastic to be here with my colleague and friend Tony Burke in the heart of Belmore, seeing the true blue Canterbury Bulldogs supporters getting behind their team. It's a big weekend in Sydney with the NRL Grand Final, it's fantastic to watch. It's also a big weekend in Sydney and it shows how important what teams like the Bulldogs do is to build community. You’ve got two of the most community-based Sydney times lining up against each other in the Grand Final late tomorrow, the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs, proud teams with strong traditions of engagement in their community. It's the Rabbitohs with their Indigenous program or indeed the way the Bulldogs reach out to their multicultural community which supports them so strongly.

We’ve seen the importance of building community in the last weeks and days. It is incredibly important that Australia appreciates that what unites us is greater than what divides us. It is very important that we understand and remember on a weekend like this where Australians by birth and Australians by choice come together, where people of all nationalities, all faiths, all religions come together united by a common love of football. So I think this weekend is a timely reminder that as our skilled and professional men and women of the Australian Defence Forces are overseas standing up for Australian values, the very least we can do to support them and their families is stand up for Australian values on a great weekend of football and bring the community together. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, is it inevitable that Australia will have to commit more troops to Iraq, if so how many?


SHORTEN: No, it is not inevitable. Labor is supporting this important development on a bipartisan basis. When it comes to fighting terror, Labor and Liberal are all on the same side. But it is important that we recognise that Australia's contribution is part of a broad international Coalition. Ultimately you cannot drain the swamp of all terrorism by the use of military force or aeroplanes alone. We’re most pleased to see the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people standing together to protect their own citizens in the name of stability and security and harmony. The ultimate solution to the conflicts in the Middle East have to be dictated and guided by the people of Iraq and by the nations of the Middle East. But it is important that nations of good conscience such as Australia do their bit to stand up for the vulnerable everywhere.


JOURNALIST: Are you worried, though, that this conflict could last for many years?


SHORTEN: My first thought is with the Defence Forces who are going in harm's way to stand up for the vulnerable in Iraq. I don't know how long this conflict will take. I believe, though, that our task is clear. It is about protecting citizens of Iraq from evil, from murder, from mass murder and sexual slavery. Our job is to make sure that the Iraqi Government and people can set a course to a brighter future. That's a task-based outcome, I think it's impossible to put a deadline on it. But also I don't see our role there as being forever and ever, not at all.


JOURNALIST: Well how steadfast are you in your resolve against any action in Syria?


SHORTEN: Well the Government hasn't asked us to support any action in Syria, I'm not going to jump at shadows. What is important to remember in Iraq is that the Government of Iraq has asked for Australia’s assistance. This is quite different to even the 2003 second Gulf War. We are not intervening in Iraq to topple governments, place our version of democracy into another country. This is principally driven by humanitarian support on the principle that a population when they seek our support, we should do our bit as part of a broad international Coalition to protect citizens from violence.


JOURNALIST: A fourth hostage has been beheaded in the Middle East. Does that just reinforce Australia’s decision to send troops into advise Iraqi government forces?


SHORTEN: Yes indeed. This is devastating for the family of the Englishman with the murder overnight of the Englishman. I think what these terrorists don't realise, is they severely underestimate people of goodwill throughout the world. This dreadful act of violence, this dreadful murder doesn't make people shy away. I just think it strengthens the resolve of people of good conscience everywhere to put a stop to this crazy violence with no purpose, no meaning whatsoever.


JOURNALIST: In your speech this morning you made comments about bigots and racists, were those comments directed at various government backbenchers who have spoken out, talked about this ban on the Burqa?


SHORTEN: In a weekend where Australian troops are going in harm's way to defeat sectarianism, prejudice, violence, religious intolerance, I think Australians and Australian leaders and Australian parliamentarians should measure up to the standard set by our professional men and women of the Australian Defence Force. In Australia the very least we can do to compliment the efforts of our troops overseas, is on behalf of our community stand up against sectarian idiots, bigots, people who would seek to put prejudiced views and call them mainstream.

I'm not singling individuals out but what I will say to politicians, wherever they are, please do not be headline hunters by engaging in the diminution of people's particular customs and cultures. People who come to Australia should leave their conflicts behind. We have one set of laws for everyone in Australia. But also as a nation, our values are to value diversity. As we see in Belmore, as we will see the NRL Grand Final, thousands and thousands of people will come together in that great Aussie dream of seeing a great game of sport and to do so we are all equal. No-one is better or worse than everyone else.


JOURNALIST: How much has that debate about the Burqa in Parliament set back relations, or has it set back relations with the Muslim Australians?


SHORTEN: The debate about what people wear to the Parliament has nothing to do with security. We should always take the advice of our security experts. I think it's a debate which undermines the role of Parliament as leaders. When you have a leadership position in this country, it is not your job to give the green light to picking on minorities or people who are different to the majority. Our challenge as leaders is to unite the country. Our troops are doing it overseas, standing up for Australian values. The Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs are going to be part of uniting Australia and the love of great sport. And I think Parliamentarians need to measure up to what a lot of other people do in our community. What unites us is more important than what divides us.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think the Government's language of so-called ‘Team Australia’ is an inclusive one or does it simply encourage an us against them mentality?


SHORTEN: The Government uses the language Team Australia. I don’t know if they’re, you know, that's up to them what language they use. I'm more worried about the emergence of Team Idiot, that is Parliamentarians who should know better flaming division rather than creating unity. Last question thanks.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there’s been more stories about children being abused and, you know, coached to self-harm in Nauru, what do you have to say about that? Is that more of a reason children shouldn’t be detained?


SHORTEN:. These are disturbing reports. The Government is correct to have an independent inquiry but I would just say to the Government, if you want to have community confidence in the way you are handling immigration matters, you need to be transparent and open in what you are doing. That's the best policy every time. Thanks everyone.