Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: Canberra


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Climate change; Future of Financial Advice; Clive Palmer.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. I’d like to make some comments about the Budget and about climate change and then get the Leader of Labor in the Senate to update on where government legislation is at and how Labor is treating it.


With the Budget, this will be the last week that Parliament will be sitting for five weeks. I sincerely hope that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey use the next five weeks to talk to real Australians about their unfair Budget. I hope that Tony Abbott has got the courage to talk to pensioners and explain why they should be paying for cuts in the pension. To explain to doctors about the GP tax. To talk to teachers about cuts in schools. To talk to nurses about cuts in hospitals. To have the honesty to sit down with a single mum earning $50,000 a year and explain to them, explain to the mum why she should lose up to $6,000 in family payments and other matters because of this unfair Budget.


Tony Abbott just does not get how much his Budget is hurting ordinary Australians. They're not talking to real people. Because if they were, they wouldn't be persevering with this unfair Budget. And to make matters worse, you've got Joe Hockey threatening to bypass the Parliament, to make more cuts by regulations. This is a Budget in disarray.


Before I hand over to Penny though, I would like to make some comments about climate change. The Abbott Government has been hurting Australians with its unfair Budget, and it will hurt future generations of Australians with its backward-looking approach on climate change. Today, Tony Abbott has made Australia the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change.


History will judge Tony Abbott very harshly for refusing to believe in genuine action on climate change. Tony Abbott is sleep-walking Australia to an environmental and economic disaster. Tony Abbott has demonstrated time and time again that he is an environmental vandal with no view of the future. He will try and do and say anything to avoid the science of climate change. He still believes, as he famously said, it is ‘absolute crap.’


Australians now know who Tony Abbott is. He's lied when he says he's fair dinkum about climate change, just as he has lied about his unfair Budget and his pre-election promises. And it is truly extraordinary, reports emerging today that the ACCC has told business that they will only take action to force lower prices in the energy sector. Again, another lie from Tony Abbott.


He was the person who said that under a carbon price, a leg of lamb would cost $100. He has lied about climate change ever since he ambushed Malcolm Turnbull in 2009, and today he has taken Australia backwards. I believe in this next five weeks that Tony Abbott needs to get out and talk to the real people and understand that real Australians do not cop his lies.


I might hand over to my colleague Penny Wong.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE: So I will just make some comments about the Senate which is voting again. We've had a busy morning. We’ve had a lot of chaos in the Senate this last fortnight, and it's chaos that has arisen because of the way the Government is handling the Chamber.


I'd like to emphasise that we have seen time and again the Government changing its mind about what legislation is a priority. We've had a number of motions rearranging business, chopping and changing, putting things on, taking them off. Now, we are cooperating with the Government on the bills that they regard as important, and the Senate will sit tonight until 11 o'clock, and we'll sit again tomorrow if required to deal with the legislation that's still on the agenda.


A number of important pieces of legislation are on the agenda. Obviously the mining tax bills, which include the low-income superannuation contribution and the Schoolkids Bonus and the Income Support Bonus. Now, Labor will continue to stand up for low and middle-income Australians against what is absolutely a harsh attack on their incomes.


We also are currently debating the asset recycling bill. That is, Mr Abbott's privatisation agenda and as my colleague Anthony Albanese has said, we will be moving amendments and we look to the crossbench to support them to ensure transparency and accountability and to ensure those funds are not used for Coalition pork-barrelling.


And of course we also have the Qantas Sale Act. And we're pleased that finally the Government has agreed to Labor's amendments on that and that will be dealt with today.

SHORTEN: Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Are there any circumstances in which the Labor Party would support Tony Abbott's Direct Action policy?


SHORTEN: We believe that to take effective long-term action on climate change, an emissions trading scheme is the best way to go. In 2009, Labor made a mistake in 2010 when we settled for second best. In hindsight, we should've taken the emissions trading scheme to an election. We settled for second best with a fixed carbon price. Labor fundamentally believes that climate change is real, that Australia has a role to play in tandem with the rest of the world to address this most important environmental issue. So we will be backing in an emissions trading scheme.


JOURNALIST: In the meantime, is there any way you'd support Direct Action?


SHORTEN: I believe that most serious experts, in fact all serious experts, view Tony Abbott's Direct Action as nothing far removed from a boondoggle, an inefficient mechanism where you pay wads of taxpayer money to big polluters for little likely result. So why should Australia settle for Tony Abbott's climate sceptics' policy of Direct Action?


JOURNALIST: On your ETS, obviously you haven’t got the detail yet, but do you envisage something along the lines trading in cheaper, you know, international permits from developing countries until if or when, you know, as has been proposed in recent weeks by Ross Garnaut and the AI Group and people like that?


SHORTEN: Phil it's early days for us to be announcing our election policies, but on Monday I outlined the principles that Labor will apply in terms of developing an emissions trading scheme. We know that water levels are rising. We know that 13 of the last 14 years have been the hottest on record. We know that greenhouse, heat-trapping greenhouse gases are going to cause and are causing a problem for our environment, so we know that we need to be part of international best practice.


JOURNALIST: Will you campaign on it or is it too electorally damaging, the whole issue?


SHORTEN: I believe Australian’s are up for sensible arguments. See Tony Abbott’s got a very narrow world view. I think we've seen that in the 10 months since he’s become Prime Minister. We've seen a sort of, not even an ideology coming out of them in many cases, they’re just, they just react to with a very narrow view of the world. Climate change is real. Many other jurisdictions are working towards having a price on carbon and yet we've got Tony Abbott - the whole world is going in one direction and Tony Abbott is so out of step he’s taking us backwards, so we are prepared to stand by our principles loud and clear. We will not be Tony Abbott weathervane politics. We are the only major party in Australian politics who’s had a consistent view about the importance of an ETS.


JOURNALIST: But what do you do differently to make sure it's not voted down again in the future? How do you sell it better?


SHORTEN: Well, I think that Australians are aware of climate change more than ever. I believe that Labor does need to communicate in a straight fashion with the Australian people. We have to say what we mean and mean what we say. An emissions trading scheme is the policy which Labor will take to the next election.

Now that the Climate Change Authority will come out with recommendations presumably it stays now, so it will come out with recommendations over the next few years on what our emissions cuts should be. Now, your ETS, will it be in line with the Climate Change Authority's recommendations?


SHORTEN: Well, we will work our policies in detail and announce them close to the election. We are pleased that Labor has had the win, to preserve some of the hard work which has happened to create the architecture for an ETS, and so we are pleased that the Climate Change Authority will be staying, and we’ll be watching very carefully to make sure that Tony Abbott's Liberal Party don't try and damage that by the back door. But what I’ll say about our policy is that we will reveal it in good time before the next election. Again, I just remind you, and through you, all Australians, Labor very clearly recognises that what we want is this Parliament to be a place of inspiration. We want to make sure that all Australians have a Parliament which is dealing with the issues of the future and an ETS dealing with climate change is the right way forward, and no serious person disputes that.


JOURNALIST: Doesn't Mr Abbott have a mandate for his Direct Action approach to climate change?


SHORTEN: Direct Action is a Clayton's climate policy designed for the audience of internet trolls and shock jock radio announcers and climate sceptics. It’s a mandate from the flat earth society to give a lot of money to big polluters.


JOURNALIST: Is a Clayton's policy, though, better than no policy at all?


SHORTEN: Well, Labor has learnt the hard way that if you compromise on what you think is the fundamentally best practice, people mark you down. So I recognise that a lot of hard work has gone in under previous Labor administrations. The baton has been passed to me and the team I lead in the Parliament to win the argument about climate change. Australians want to understand the policies but they know that we've got to take action on climate change, as are many other nations in the world.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on the $550, now that's based on the Treasury modelling that was done for the Clean Energy Future package that, you know, the last Government did and we heard for two years Labor using that modelling to refute hundred-dollar lamb allegations from the other side. So why is it not acceptable for the Government to use those figures to, you know, to calculate the expected saving? And if those figures are right, if the saving is not $550, doesn't that just show that margins were squeezed in the economy as people absorbed the carbon price?


SHORTEN: Well, there is a fair bit in that question Sid, let me go to a couple of the basic assumptions. Tony Abbott lied his way into office. He said that he wouldn't cut schools and hospitals; well we know he is doing that. He said there would be no change to pensions; he’s clearly announced his plans to do that. He said there would be no new or increased taxes, he’s clearly lied about that. And he scared a lot of people about the massive impact of the carbon price in terms of – remember Whyalla wasn't going to exist? Remember the $100 leg of lamb? Remember how he said that there would be a tough cop on the beat? And we've even seen him and Clive Palmer in this sort of patchwork theatre, this Punch and Judy show which passes for this government in Australia, and what they've said is, you know, they’ll make sure - it was $10 a week to the average shopping bill, that was going to go on. Is that going to come off? Do Australians really believe that they're going to see back all the money which Tony Abbott alleged the carbon price cost them?


Tony Abbott’s caught in a trap of his own making. He said the carbon price was so deadly and so bad that Australians should be, according to him now, with its repeal, be seeing a river of cash coming back into the cost of living. We know the real problem for cost of living in Australia, Sid, is Tony Abbott's unfair Budget. The petrol price, you know, Tony Abbott says one thing in Australia, he says another thing overseas. Let's not forget that when he’s with President Obama, he calls his petrol tax a carbon tax, here he’s trying to pretend there’s no increase in petrol and it’s not a carbon tax.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when you developed your last carbon policy there was consultation but the business community claimed it wasn't serious, that they weren't listened to. Will you engage more meaningfully with groups like the BCA, AI Group and so forth when you develop –


SHORTEN: Well I don't accept that previous consultation wasn't meaningful, but we will engage in meaningful consultation. I will tell you something else Phil, we won't use this current Government's template for business consultation. Businesses consultation of the Future of Financial Advice laws is, Clive Palmer steams down and confronts Mathias Cormann and Greg Hunt and, you know, Senator Abetz, and he says to them, "This is what I want." 15 minutes later the guys sort of have a collective panic attack, they run around then they come back and say, "Clive, whatever you want." I bet you not a single business was rung when they made those changes to the Future of Financial Advice. This is a government who as soon as Clive Palmer, SS Palmer, you know, the steamship Palmer comes into sight, they run up the white flag. They don't consult business. We’ll do a lot better than the Liberals at consulting business.


JOURNALIST: John Howard argued for an ETS and lost his job. Kevin Rudd argued for an ETS and lost his job. Malcolm Turnbull argued for an ETS, he lost his job. Julia Gillard argued for an ETS, she lost her job. Kevin Rudd came back, argued for an ETS and lost his job. What makes you think that you can argue for an ETS and win an election?


SHORTEN: Well, without necessarily deconstructing the reasons why each person lost an election – I don't think John Howard just lost it because of this issue to be fair. But what I do know, and your point really is that, are the Australian people are up for real and genuine action on climate change? Yes, they are. Australians aren't silly. It’s a matter of making sure that what we do is anchored in international best practice. What we need to do is be fair dinkum on climate change, be consistent. Australians get that climate change is real. They get that sea levels are rising, they get there are more extreme weather events than ever before. They get that if we put more greenhouse gases into the environment that will trap more heat which will have consequences for our weather, and the way this planet is organised. So I do believe that an ETS, argued through, learning the lessons of the past, communicating with Australians, with business, people are up for that.


JOURNALIST: Just back on your policy development, have you given up any notion of every trying to engage with the Greens again on this?


SHORTEN: Labor will form its policies. We will win our arguments by the basis of having the best ideas and by talking directly with the Australian people. One more question.


JOURNALIST: Are the Greens more flexible on an ETS?


SHORTEN: Well, I think history shows that Labor didn't see the far right of Abbott mugging Turnbull, and we assumed that Turnbull was there. I think history also shows that we assumed that the Greens would recognise the value of an ETS and they didn't, they had some sort of more, you know, Green definition of the future. And the real lesson here is Parliament should be a place of the best ideas, it should be a place where we measure up, where we deal with the politics of climate change but not in a partisan fashion. That's my aim for the next election, that we have an ETS which does deal with climate change. Thank you very much.