MONDAY, 12 JANUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Queensland Election; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the GST; National security; Iraq; Brisbane weather
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Patrick.
PATRICK CONDREN, HOST: Are you here to help Annastacia because she isn’t up to the job?
SHORTEN: I’m up here because I’ve been coming up here ever since I became Leader of the Opposition. I think Annastacia is an outstanding person and the fact the Labor Party has, at the last election only won seven out of 89 seats and the fact they are doing much better now I think reflects well on her.
CONDREN: What is your advice to her?
SHORTEN: My advice is keep doing a lot of what you have been doing. For me, it isn’t so much the advice I can give Annastacia Palaszczuk, it is that there is a convergence between state and federal issues in this election.
CONDREN: It is interesting because Peter Beattie, the former Labor Premier always insisted that Queensland voters could always differentiate between federal and state issues which made it a unique state when it came to Australian politics.
SHORTEN: Let me be very straight – this is a state election and there are many state issues unrelated to the federal political scene. But in this election you’ve got Newman who has cut health, you’ve got Abbott who has cut health; you’ve got Newman who has been tough on education and training and you’ve got Abbott who has cut education and training. Of course, since both of these gentlemen were elected, we’ve seen unemployment go up in Queensland, not down.
CONDREN: Would you like to see, would you advise Annastacia Palaszczuk, because one of the key questions is the economy – would you like to see her outline her economic blueprint sooner rather than later?
SHORTEN: She will release them before the election. The election is due in 20 days so I am sure she will do all of that but when we talk about the economy, I don’t think there is anything more important to the economy than jobs. The unemployment rate in Queensland is now the highest on the mainland. It is a long time since Queensland had amongst the highest unemployment rates in Australia. And especially when you look in regional Queensland, Cairns – youth unemployment too high, it is just too high. And when I see the State Government say that they have got a new plan for employment, I think what have you been doing for the last three and a bit years?
CONDREN: How can people like you and Annastacia legitimately talk about the economy if we can’t gauge what her economic plan is?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all you’ve got Campbell Newman who is running on his record, so I think we can gauge that.
CONDREN: But if we don’t know how Labor is going to address the economic issues confronting Queensland, how can we have a conversation about it?
SHORTEN: I think we can, again we look at the record of the incumbent, the person who says ‘elect me based on my record’ and just ask the tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs what they think about that record. And, it is an election cycle now. The Government has announced an election in early January, a lot of people are still on holidays, the Opposition will unveil its economic policies before the election.
You and I both know Patrick, and you know Queensland much better than me, but a lot people, I think are disengaged and now are just beginning to tune in, so I think now is the right time for the Opposition to talk through its economic policies and they will in the next 20 days.
CONDREN: What benefit does Annastacia and state Labor get from having someone like yourself here?
SHORTEN: I think it’s not a matter of the benefit, I think it is a matter of engaging in the issues that matter to Queenslanders. Cost of living – I am sure Campbell Newman and his minders must have been slapping their foreheads when you see an organised campaign of leaks from the Abbott Government saying they want to put a GST on fresh food. That is an important issue for Queenslanders to weigh up. Will they get a leader in Queensland who will stand up to the Federal Government? We’ve also got issues around education and health. The truth of the matter is that confidence isn’t what it should be in the high street of regional Queensland or indeed south east Queensland. So I think there is plenty going on to talk about in this election which I can, and Labor can generally which effect ordinary Queenslanders – jobs, education and health.
CONDREN: Can I ask you a couple of federal issues? Tony Abbott is now referring to ISIL as Daesh, I don’t know if I have pronounced that correctly. The term is meant to insult ISIL because they have been taunted with it in the past. Do you support a move like that?
SHORTEN: It is a terrible issue but it is probably something that should reassure Australians. Tony Abbott and I have been working very closely on fighting terrorism. When it comes to fighting terrorism, we are all in this together. If Tony Abbott has got advice from the security agencies that this assists us by changing the name of what we call them, I’m all for it. He hasn’t directly spoken to me about this latest point, I’ll get a briefing from security agencies today. If it helps in making Australia safer, changing what we call this terrible organisation, well then we should. But again I just want to reassure people who perhaps don’t want to hear all about politics in January but have to, that when it comes to the dreadful security challenges, Liberal and Labor both take their responsibilities very seriously.
CONDREN: Should moderate Muslims be more outspoken about the terrorism, the murders that have been conducted by extremist Islamists?
SHORTEN: Well I think a lot of moderate Muslims as you call them are outspoken. You know, it made me it was a bright spot in that dreadful scene from Paris where people were killed by extremists that some of the heroes were Muslims, were French Muslims. I think we’ve got to be really vigilant against categorising adherence to a whole religion and just saying it’s the religion which drives the terrorism, I don’t think that’s the case. There are crazy extremists who’ve used different faiths throughout the ages to justify criminal, terrorist activity. But of course when it comes to extremism, I think the whole community has to work together, this is not about religion, this is about terrible extremism and crime and evil masquerading as other purposes.
CONDREN: Would you back moves to increase Australian troop numbers in Iraq?
SHORTEN: We’re waiting to get details from the Government. I saw some reports that there were requests coming in from the Middle East to increase our presence. Labor’s approach on this has been to carefully consider the propositions and I have to acknowledge that Tony Abbott has been pretty good at keeping me in touch with these matters. I’m not sure that – we’re not convinced that having Australian combat troops at the front line is going to change anything but we certainly do support the Australian engagement so far, of diminishing the assets of the terrorists, you know, bombing their equipment.
I think there’s probably a little discussion going on about training and support, we’ll just look at that on the merits. The Iraqi Government’s position is important. Ultimately the only way you’re going to fix these problems in Northern Iraq is through an Iraqi solution. Large, armed contingents from Christian nations isn’t going to be what I think wins local support. But we do need to help make sure that the Iraqi Government is able to defend its borders and provide safety for its citizens so we’ll just keep working with the Government.
CONDREN: What’s the best way in your mind then to tackle Islamic extremism? Nice easy one for a Monday morning.
SHORTEN: Well it’s a big question but it’s an important question. When we talk about Islamic extremism and extremism using Islam as its excuse, we’ve got to talk about what we do domestically in Australia and then what happens in the Middle East. Domestically in Australia what we’ve got to do is encourage people to be proud of their faith, to use their faith though as a springboard to engage in modern Australia. So what we’ve got to do is make sure there’s not disaffected young people who somehow think it’s romantic and adventurous to head off overseas to fight in these causes. We’ve got to work with communities to ensure that there’s no false Imams or false religious leaders who are pretending that they represent the word of Allah and then exploiting vulnerable young people. So we’ve got to make sure that we keep our connections right into communities and that we make sure that there’s not disaffected youth.
But when you get back to the Middle East, this has been a problem going on for fourteen centuries and much longer, religious conflict. It seems to me that we have to strengthen the governments in those areas. I think we also need to encourage as much democracy as we can in those areas, but I don’t think Australia can impose or America or Europe, can simply turn up and impose a solution. It’s going to depend upon the peoples of those regions and the leaders in those regions deciding the best future for those regions. And we can’t drain the swamp of terrorism through military action alone, and anyone who says there’s a simple military solution to this is a dangerous person.
CONDREN: Bill Shorten we’re out of time, thank you for yours this morning. Enjoy your time in Queensland, thanks very much for bringing the Melbourne weather up with you, unfortunately we can’t put on any blue skies at the moment.
SHORTEN: Poor old Melbourne, it gets blamed for everything.
CONDREN: Good on you, Bill Shorten, the Federal Opposition Leader.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 627