Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview: ABC Radio






SUBJECT/S: MH17; Iraq; Abbott Government’s unfair higher education changes.  

I believe that the Government should be 100 per cent focused on bringing the remains of the Australians passengers on MH17 home, and they need to be focused on the safety of Australian investigators. If Tony Abbott believes travelling to the Netherlands will help that then of course he should and I support him doing that 100 per cent.

LOUISE YAXLEY: What do you think Mr Abbott can add to the experts who are there doing their jobs in the Netherlands?


SHORTEN: Well he believes he can add something and I’m not going to make politics out of this so I’m support him going if that’s where he thinks he needs to be, full stop. It’s been more than three weeks since this disaster. The families I met at the national memorial service, their pain is real. I believe we owe it to the families of the victims to do everything we can to bring their loved ones home.


YAXLEY: And you think its justified for him to go to the Netherlands to help with that?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to second guess him. If he believes that that’s what he needs to do, well then I support him doing it.

YAXLEY: Mr Abbott’s also announced Australia will be offering Air Force Hercules aircraft to help drop food into Iraq. Is Labor comfortable with that?

SHORTEN: The humanitarian assistance for innocent civilians is in the Labor tradition, so yes we are comfortable with supporting the provision of food and humanitarian aid to civilians caught up in a dreadful conflict.


YAXLEY: Is it a step towards though to returning troops to Iraq which Labor previously opposed?


SHORTEN: I don’t think the two are linked. Yes you’re right, Labor has previously opposed sending our troops to Iraq. We support the people who went in terms of their professionalism but we haven’t supported them going to Iraq in the past. The Government has given us no indication that it’s doing anything other than what it says it is, which is the humanitarian assistance to civilians. If we have the technology and the capacity to render assistance to people in dire straits, we should. That’s why Labor has supported a strong foreign aid policy historically and continues to do so.


YAXLEY: You’re launching a campaign today about the Government’s plans for higher education. Is Labor prepared to accept any part of these proposals, or is it a blanket no?

SHORTEN: These changes are a blanket lie from before the election. Tony Abbott said very clearly, he said on the Insiders show on the 1st of September 2013, he said ‘I want to give people this absolute assurance, no cuts to education.’ Well what a colossal and breathtaking lie that’s proven to be. There has been research released very recently which shows that universities like Monash will lose $217 million, Sydney University $209 million, University of Melbourne $185 million. Or put another way, take Victoria University in the western suburbs of Melbourne where I live, they get nearly 30 per cent of their funding from the Commonwealth and this is going to be a massive cut for them. This will mean that fees will go up, student debt will go up, inequality in Australia will go up, access for the children of working-class and middle-class parents will go down.

YAXLEY: Mr Pyne does say though that he is trying to bolster fairness, that 80,000 more students can get Commonwealth Government help to study a course, why say no to that?

SHORTEN: What’s fair about cutting funding across the board to universities? What’s fair about increasing student debt? This government uses the word fairness but they would need a dictionary to find out the meaning of it –

YAXLEY: He says that there will be students who can do diploma courses or other sub-bachelor level courses with government support that previously couldn’t, and they tend to be from families that haven’t been to university before.


SHORTEN: Everyone can see this for what it is. This is a massive cut to higher education. So they want to have us hear all their fine of words about reform and change, you don’t start reforming or changing a system by taking giant slabs of money out of the system. We’ll always be up for a sensible debate about changes but we won’t do it at the price of making sure that ordinary kids can’t go to university. No way, never.