ABC 720 PERTH DRIVE WITH JOHN MCGLUE
WEDNESDAY, 18 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: An Australian Republic; the Government’s Budget Chaos; Industrial Relations
JOHN MCGLUE: Bill Shorten, welcome to drive.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon John.
MCGLUE: Tell me of the timing, the motivation for raising this issue at this point; can you explain those to our audience?
SHORTEN: Absolutely. I spoke about the need in 2015 to have a debate about the Republic on Australia Day eve and the Prime Minister took the ball and ran with when he announced the knighthood for Prince Phillip the next day. The trigger yesterday was that there was a Bill presented to the Parliament called the Succession to the Crown Bill. It wasn’t out of the blue; some people are concerned that it was.
There was legislation being presented to the Parliament and what this legislation was is, it was Australia having to ratifying something on, as we’re a member of the Commonwealth that the British Government wanted us to ratify. And what that is, is the British Government proposed in 2011 that we update the rules of how the Monarch gets selected from generation to generation.
So I was as interested and perhaps as surprised as everyone else to discover that yesterday we would be debating changes which would allow a successor to the British Monarchy to be able to marry a Roman Catholic, that would replace, update the law which said that if you were the older daughter, your younger brother, if you were the son and daughter of the royal family, the older daughter would not be displaced in hierarchy to become Queen by younger brother.
Now, whilst these changes no doubt help bring the monarchy from the 17th century into the 19th century, I was thinking why on earth are we debating this, these anarchistic issues? In fact what we should be discussing is having an Australian head of state so that’s context.
MCGLUE: Paint the picture for me then if you would Bill Shorten, what does an Australia as a Republic look like to you?
SHORTEN: Not greatly dissimilar in terms of governance to what it is now, but what it does mean is that we no longer have to borrow the Monarch of another country to be the head of our state.
This is the 21st century; we are engaging in Asia, I think that updating the Australian Constitution to have an Australian head of state, I think tells the rest of the world, tells our Asian region which is dynamic and fast growing, that Australia is comfortable in its identity as an independent nation.
By the way, none of what I say is a reflection on our current Queen; I think she’s been outstanding and remarkable. So I think there comes a time in the life of a nation when they’re old enough to be able to assert their own identity.
MCGLUE: Bill Shorten I appreciate this isn’t an either/or kind of a situation with the Republic debate on other issues, but so many people contacted the program yesterday and they were asking why you as Opposition Leader would even raise the issue of a Republic when they are crying out, they say, for you to set out your alternative approach to fixing up the fiscal mess that the country finds itself in, that many people say started on Labor’s watch under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and wondering when it is that you will give that, the alternative economic management of the country, your plans for that and give that focus and priority? When will you do that?
SHORTEN: Well there were two points in your question, I just want to go to the first one, the implication that somehow talking about the Republic is something which replaces discussion about our economy or our future, it doesn’t. It’s not an either/or situation as you’ve identified.
But the Parliament of Australia should discuss the future. Part of our future is, in my opinion, becoming a Republic. But it is not the only issue we talk about. It just so happens that yesterday the Government was presenting legislation to the parliament about updating the rules of succession for the British Monarchy and then when I thought about this, when I realised that was to be debated, I thought hang on, we’re debating that issue, I’d like to put on the table that we should become a Republic.
But you’re quite right it isn’t the only issue, absolutely not, and so when it comes to the Budget, which is the second part of what you’re asking about, we’ll reveal our policies in good time before the next election and we’ve already made a down payment on some of those polices. This Government isn’t even half way through its term and we’ve released costed polices about shutting down legal loopholes that some large multinationals utilised not to pay their fair share of taxation in Australia.
And our conservative costings reveal that would add an extra $2 billion over the next four years to Australia’s coffers, that’s nothing to be sneezed at at all. And in terms of how we develop our policies we’ve got our National Conference coming up in July.
We’ve also announced in the last two weeks that we think in terms of an important national issue, it’s the issue of family violence and how we tackle family violence and we will keep, over time, putting out more ideas but the Government’s got to bring down a Budget in less than two months and they’ve made such a hash of the last Budget with their unfairness and broken promises.
MCGLUE: Well one of the reasons Bill Shorten they are in so much trouble with last year’s Budget is because Labor has taken this position of blocking so many things, which in years past and you know this, where Oppositions took a very different approach to Government legislation, the Governments of the day. If you think back to the Hawke/Keating Government, if you think to the Howard/Costello Government, they had a much greater ability to prosecute their policy agenda because they didn’t face this kind of opposition at just about every turn in the Senate. But you’ve chose that tactic, I’m eternally curious to know why you do that?
SHORTEN: Well there’s several points in what you say. First of all I noticed that when you talked about Governments who didn’t have such fierce opposition you didn’t mention the Rudd/Gillard Government and the completely negative attitude that Tony Abbott took when he was Opposition Leader, because history shows that when he was Opposition Leader he opposed far more than what I’ve done and what I appreciate about your question is it’s a chance to detail some of the things that we’ve supported of the Government.
But of course the Government, it doesn’t suit the Government to say that we’ve supported them on anything. We’ve supported them in about $20 billion worth of changes that they wanted to make, improvements to the bottom line. We’ve also supported the, if you want to talk about negative oppositions, on their national security proposals. Now, we’ve moderated them and improved them but we’ve done so on a bipartisan basis. But when it comes to some of the changes they’ve put up in the last Budget, tell me John how do I vote to endorse them breaking their promise, how do I reward them breaking their promises by simply waving it through?
MCGLUE: But that’s out of date with the voters, they were elected, they were given a whopping majority in the lower house and you’ll have your take back with the voter’s next election.
SHORTEN: But our job isn’t to go on –
MCGLUE: But in the meantime they’ve been elected to run the country, they’ve got to be given an opportunity to prosecute their agenda surely?
SHORTEN: This Government puts everything in the too hard basket. When they can’t pass law it’s everyone else’s fault but their own. We have a chief economic officer of Australia how doesn’t have an adoptable economic strategy. There have been plenty of times in Australia’s Federation history where the Senate has been of a different complexion to the Government in the lower house but very rarely have we seen such an incompetent bunch of salespeople.
But the other thing John, and I will keep prosecuting this point, is they didn’t tell the Australian people that they were going to tax sick people to go to the doctor. They didn’t tell Australian pensioners that they were going to cut their rate of indexation.
How do I, who campaigned on not being the Liberal Party but being the Labor Party, vote for ideas which I think are bad for ordinary Australians, are also ones that they lied about before the election? I mean take something as basic as the ABC, they said that there wouldn’t be any cuts to the ABC, we both know that they lied. How do I reward that?
MCGLUE: Eleven to four on drive, Bill Shorten is my guest, the Federal Opposition Leader. Bill Shorten just one other issue I want to canvass with you, and it’s this one, about, I’m also curious to understand Labor’s position on this. The Government is attempting at the moment to reinstate the building industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. It’s due to expire, it’s got a sunset clause in its legislation that sees it disappear at the end of May and the Government says that the watch dog is necessary to stamp out thuggish, illegal behaviour on building sites and if it doesn’t get support it could just disappear into the ether come the end of May. So why not support the Government in seeking to provide this proper oversight of the building industry?
SHORTEN: Well as usual the Government only ever tell people the bits of information that suit them. There’s already a watchdog in Fair Work who does this. So the idea that at the end of some made up point that there’ll be no rules or no inspectors or no compliance in the building industry is a fiction. Secondly, and we’ve made this very clear despite the Government’s attempts to always try and smear us, we’ve got zero tolerance illegality in the building industry and when Labor was in power there was plenty of prosecutions where people had done the wrong thing. But what I also understand is that this is a Government who frankly, if we want to improve workplace relations there’s lots of things they could do that they’re not doing. We know periodically they have a scare campaign about will we tackle penalty rates or minimum wages, this is a Government who does have plans I think for workplace relations that they very rarely tell us what they’re going to do and I think that it will become an increasing issue before the next election. But there is compliance currently occurring in the building industry and where people are breaking the law - unions, employers, individuals - they should feel the full force of the law.
MCGLUE: Final question, it comes from Twitter from Craig who says what’s Bill Shorten going to do to stop MUA thugs attacking journalists?
SHORTEN: That was, the journalist was completely inappropriately treated. The MUA got that wrong and I think the journalist was completely poorly treated there and there are no excuses for that.
MCGLUE: Good to talk with you today, thanks so much for your time.
SHORTEN: Cheers John, bye.
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