Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview: 6PR






SUBJECT/S: Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; unemployment; ASADA; Petrol tax; Iraq; Abbott’s lies


GARY ADSHEAD: Bill Shorten, the Federal Opposition Leader joins me in the studio now. It’s a bit of a free kick in many ways, that’s almost his John Hewson GST cake moment that we all remember, isn’t it? How can he possibly explain it in the way he just tried to?


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I was amazed when I came to Perth yesterday and I was told when I landed that Joe Hockey said that poor people don’t drive cars, or they don’t drive very far, as if that somehow justifies putting a new tax on petrol and breaking your election promise. What’s amazed me even more though is not that he said it, but that since then he’s tried to justify it and they’ve had other Government Ministers out trying to justify it. I don’t know what planet Joe Hockey lives on, but it’s not the real world.


ADSHEAD: Alright. He’s struggling right now, he’s almost sort of trying to sell manure to a dairy farmer really. What do you think, quite bluntly, does he need to go back to the drawing board on the Budget? Does he need to go to an election to see what the people really think? Or are we looking at a situation where we’re heading for a double dissolution?


SHORTEN: Well, I think he’s got - the first two options are in the hands of the Government. It’s clear that this Budget has gone too far. It’s too unfair. It’s harder for kids to go to university, a GP tax for sick people, the fuel tax - the Government promised before the last election they wouldn’t increase taxes, there’s a petrol tax gone up – schools and hospitals funding, there’s going to be a big impact in the west. I think they should go back and start again. I mean they say that there’s a Budget emergency, yet for the first seven months they were in power they did nothing, then they say there’s a Budget emergency, and now they’re willing to drop some of their measures so other measures can get through. And you’ve got Joe Hockey making out of touch comments which show that – I don’t know, he’s battling as the Treasurer.


ADSHEAD: Three months, I think it is, since the Budget. Three months since the Budget, he’s off around the country negotiating and having a chat to the crossbenchers in the Senate. Do you think he’s making any ground, from what you’re hearing?


SHORTEN: No, I think the Government should’ve thought about these ideas before the Budget. I think they actually should’ve told Australians before the election what they were going to do. There was a Senate by-election in Western Australia, where I don’t think they were straight with people. So they’ve rushed this Budget. It was ironic that this Government’s had one of the longest lead times between getting elected and doing their first Budget. They should’ve spoken to doctors and nurses about the health system. They should’ve spoken to the motorist industry and people about the fuel excise. They should have kept their word. So yeah, I think they have got problems. They should have spoken to the Senators before now, I think it’s unedifying to watch Liberal Cabinet Minister after Liberal Cabinet Minister fly up on bended knee to ask Clive Palmer to vote for their Budget. It’s almost like Clive Palmer is convening the Cabinet of Australia.


ADSHEAD: What would you do? People keep ringing this program and saying it’s all well and good for the Federal Opposition leader to bang on about the mess that Joe Hockey appears to be in in trying to sell the Budget, but there is a necessity to stop spending, there is a necessity for cuts. You know, $40 billion worth of savings in this Budget is what they talk about, if they get any of them over the line. What would you do?


SHORTEN: I would drop the paid parental leave scheme that Tony Abbott is pushing, I think that’s a white elephant. The idea that you give millionaires $50,000 to have a baby, that’s sends pensioners crazy. I was at the Bedford Bowling Club yesterday with Alannah MacTiernan and Mark McGowan – pensioners are modest people, they live on modest incomes, it drives them crazy to think that the Government says that there’s an emergency so they’ve got to have their pensions cut, but at the same time they’ve got this paid parental leave scheme. So I think that that’s a significant measure that the Government should just drop.


ADSHEAD: The thing about that though is the rhetoric around the Budget was that the age of entitlement was over. Well if the age of entitlement is over, how can you have a paid parental leave scheme to suit certain people in the community, who may think they’re entitled to it?


SHORTEN: That’s exactly right, it doesn’t stack up. And everyone from businesses on the terrace, to pensioners out in the suburbs, to people living in the bush know that it doesn’t stack up. But you ask the question that people say what would Labor do. Well, first of all, if you want to fix up the health system, you talk to the professionals, you talk to the people in the system. It’s come out that the measures for this GP tax or co-payment as the Liberal call it, they were born barely a month before the Budget. So you’ve got to talk to people, you’ve got to listen to people in the real world. I think that if we want to have more substantial Budget position, first of all we need to have more jobs being created. See if people can go to work, they can pay their taxes – we now see unemployment creeping up, not down. The Liberals got a good mandate at the last election, they said that people were sick of Labor.  Fair enough, the election occurred, the Liberals formed Government. But they promised everyone things would get better. I don’t think that most people think that things have got better.


ADSHEAD: Do you think that the unemployment rate which came out the other day, which was a bit of a shock, is a glitch in terms of the way the data is being collected at the moment? Or are you saying that next month we’ll see the same thing?


SHORTEN: I hope it’s a glitch. I don’t actually enjoy bad news in unemployment figures. But I think that unemployment for men between 30 and 60 is a real problem in particular – not just them. Alcoa Refinery, a smelter in Geelong near Melbourne just closed, there’s 1,000 people who’ve lost their jobs. In Gove, there’s a refinery there that just closed. We saw Forgacs, a shipbuilder, close its gates. We’ve seen mining companies here downsizing. There are real people who are losing their jobs and the Government want to have an argument which is killing confidence and which is asking the poorest half of the community to do the heavy lifting.


ADSHEAD: 922 11 882. This is the man who wants to be the next Prime Minister. If you’ve got any questions for him, call through now – 922 11 882. We’ll be back, and I’ll ask Mr Shorten – it looks like the former Labor Government’s been drawn into the supplements scandal somehow, well get to that one after this.





ADSHEAD: Welcome back. Before we talk some of the calls, because some of them relate to it. This is the suggestion yesterday that Labor was interfering in the way the report was coming out about supplements and drugs in sport & that Labor had a role in the way that it played out because it was a prefect diversion away from one of the leadership issues that was going on at the time obviously between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd in 2012 I think it was. It would have been a spill in 2012 at the time which of course we know failed. Mr Shorten, Did Labor have any role in the way that darkest day in Australian sport was being covered?


SHORTEN: I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t involved in it. What I do understand is it is a matter before the Federal Court. I’m not going to provide a running commentary; I don’t it’s appropriate.


ADSHEAD: Have you asked Kate Lundy whether she forced the press conference to paint this bleak picture to divert anything away from Labor leadership woes?


SHORTEN: I think people who love Football and Essendon supporters in particular, want to see this matter resolved. I don’t think I can add anything that can throw any more light on the matter then that is already there.


ADSHEAD: Lindsay is on the line, G’day Lindsay.


LINDSAY (CALLER): Good morning gentlemen. Well I am absolutely staggered with that comment Mr Shorten. You are the Leader of the Opposition. The buck stops with you. It is quite evident that Kate Lundy and the other junior Minister did put this out as a diversion. We know what happened to them after that. I think Kate Lundy lost her portfolio and the other junior minister or whatever has just been shoved somewhere. It will come out that is exactly what happened, that is my belief is anyway. But for you to say ‘oh I can’t comment on that, I didn’t know’. You are the Leader of the Opposition. The buck stops with you. Do you want me to vote for you next time? You’ve got to show some credibility and guts.


ADSHEAD: Have you ever voted Labor, Lindsay as opposed to the next time.


LINDSAY: Unfortunately, until the last election – until the last Senate election, I had never ever voted Liberal.


ADSHEAD: Ok then, Interesting. Bill what do you say to that?


SHORTEN: Well, the matter is before the court Lindsay and realistically, I reckon politicians commenting about court matters as they are going on, and there are plenty of other people who are happy to fill the column inches of newspapers and radio airwaves. I haven’t just said what you’ve said, I’ve also said that the matter is before the Federal court and it really isn’t appropriate to comment on. If you are concerned about politicians interfering with football well then me to continue to comment would be exactly what you are criticising.


ASHEAD: Well alright Lindsay, that’s your answer. Nigel is there. Nigel


NIGEL (CALLER): How are you going?


SHORTEN: Alright thank you.


NIGEL: This fuel excise bullshit. If they put the fuel excise up, no matter who they are, the prices go up. They keep the fuel excise down, prices stay the same. If they put the fuel excise down, the prices go down.


ADSHEAD: Stop using such common sense please, Nigel. It just isn’t fair (laughter).


SHORTEN: Nigel, I’m just going to ask you what you drive?


NIGEL: I work in transport, I drive a truck. If you put the prices up, then my boss is going to put prices up and someone is going to suffer and then someone else is going to put their prices up. It is just a vicious circle.


SHORTEN: It is. The current Government lied to you and the other thing is, I don’t think driving is just a hobby for the rich. There are working people every day who go out. There are companies, small businesses who pay the petrol bills. The Government surely can’t be so out of touch. They are sort of trying to justify this whole petrol tax now by saying this is a tax on the rich. This is the Liberal party, they aren’t interested in taxing the rich. There are a lot of people who live in the suburbs or in the bush that don’t have public transport. So they have got no choice but to drive. So this is a tax that you can’t duck if you want to get into a car. The Government shouldn’t be doing it this way.


ADSHEAD: Can I just ask you the situation in Iraq, we know the Federal Government are talking about joining the United States  in terms of a humanitarian approach to it. But Tony Abbott has certainly left the door open for some military intervention if required. Where does Labor stand on the idea, the notion, that we would ever have troops on the ground in Iraq again?


SHORTEN: We support humanitarian relief. We are supportive of using our professional RAAF people to drop supplies. What going on there is bad, it is really bad. The Islamic fundamentalist are causing mayhem and terrible activities. Labor though in 2003 did oppose the second gulf war. I think as the facts emerge on what is being asked, if it is at the humanitarian end of relief and making sure that our people are safe, well then that is appropriate…


ADSHEAD: Those things can go wrong. You know, a plane up there doing a humanitarian mission can get shot down with our military personal on board. One of them is alive and captured, suddenly, it becomes military. So even going in there in a humanitarian way…


SHORTEN: It is a war zone and it is risky. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the professionalism of our defence force. You are asking me what’s Labor’s view. We will work with the Government. When, despite what some say, we give there is plenty of stuff where we give the Government our backing. The Government has made it clear to me they are not talking about combat troops or military operations. Clearly, there has been discussions between the Government, the UK and the US about what our humanitarian relief looks like. Labor wants to see the detail of that but we will try and work on these matters in a bipartisan way where we can but I don’t see the purpose of having large military style operations in Iraq.


ADSHEAD: Colin is on the line, hello Colin.


COLIN: Morning guys. Upfront here, I am a Liberal supporter but when my mob has annoyed me, I have given my primary vote to Labor. In my humble belief, the Senate should be a house of review, not a house of control. So my very quick question to you, why can’t the Labor party support the absolute mandate that Tony Abbott has from the last election?


SHORTEN: That is a really important question and that’s one other people ask too. Millions of people voted for the Labor to be the Labor party. I get that the Liberal party won more electorates and have more representatives in the House of Reps and they have the privilege of forming a Government and carrying out their ideas. But I didn’t run for Parliament to be a proxy or a rubber stamp for the Liberal party. I’ve got different views. We have our job which is to be a strong Opposition. I don’t remember Tony Abbott very often feeling the need to explain that he should vote for Labor measures when he was the Leader of the Opposition, he said he has his views to represent. In terms of the Senate, it is a house of review. It is appropriate. The Constitution sets out that the Senate has certain powers and I think that we need to respect that. The trick with life isn’t that is very unlikely that you’ll always find people who always agree with what you say. The trick in life is to persuade people on the merit of your views. This is a government who isn’t good at negotiating with people who don’t agree with them.


ADSHEAD: And I’m not sure that Mr Abbott had a mandate to put a $7 co-payment or a mandate to put in a fuel excise increase.


SHORTEN: He got a mandate to form a Government, but he didn’t get a mandate to break his promises, to lie to the electorate, to go after the pensioners, to go after the sick and the vulnerable with extra taxes. The Liberals keep arguing, sorry, the Government keep arguing that nothing is free and Healthcare should be free. Well, they are right. We already pay for Medicare through our taxes. So I think this Government needs to make its arguments better and if it is going to go back on its word from at the election, it would want to have pretty strong arguments and we haven’t seen them emerge yet.


ADSHEAD: Thanks for coming in today Mr Shorten. I know you’ve got other issues to go and deal with now, so I’ll let you go. Appreciate your time


SHORTEN: Thanks, nice to be here.