Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview: ABC - Republic; Labor opposing the Liberal Government’s unfair cuts to low and middle income families; Labor opposing the Government’s plan to introduce a new $1,000 baby bonus






SUBJECT/S:  Republic; Labor opposing the Liberal Government’s unfair cuts to low and middle income families; Labor opposing the Government’s plan to introduce a new $1,000 baby bonus; Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals plan to raise the GST.


FRANK KELLY: Bill Shorten good morning, welcome back to Breakfast.

Good morning Fran, thank you.

You and Malcolm Turnbull are both republicans, will that make for some awkward small talk do you think when you meet Charles and Camila this afternoon?
SHORTEN: No, I've met Prince Charles before, he's a very nice person. And of course ever though I am a republican, personally I'll just be as polite as I would be with any visiting head of state.

I'm sure you will. You've already promised that if Labor wins next year’s election you will push for republic within a decade. The polls suggest right now it's unlikely you'll get that chance as Prime Minister, of course anything can happen, but will you push anyway? Have you spoken to Malcolm Turnbull, another high profile republican, about rebooting this campaign?
SHORTEN: Not specifically about the republic, he and I have had a series of constructive discussions about constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. Malcolm Turnbull has been very active obviously in the past about the republic. I think though the republic is an important discussion to have with the nation. It is said yesterday, it's 245 years since Captain Cook made land fall, it's a 114 years since federation and today's 40th anniversary of the dismissal. I think Australia's ready to have its own head of state, I think we're an independent nation and I do believe that the debate could be handled constructively over the next number of years.

How passionate are you about it?

SHORTEN: Well I think we should do it. Do I think it's the only issue in town? No I don't. I'm probably at the moment more passionate about opposing the GST and securing jobs for Australians. But it is a legitamate issue for us to talk about, Australians can multitask we can talk about more that one issue at a time.

  A referendum on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians you mentioned that. Is that the priority?


SHORTEN:  Well there's also marriage equality, I am not convinced that we need to spend $160 million on a plebiscite, an opinion poll merely because the current Prime Minister has to implement Tony Abbott's delaying tactics on marriage equality but they're all important issues. Marriage equality, the republic, constitutional recognition but that’s quite a, if you like, a crowded runway of legal issues and planes to take off. But it is about being a modern Australia and I think all them speak to our national identity, an independent head, an Australian born of state for an independent nation. Marriage equality speaks for itself and of course constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australian’s; they're all part of what I think Australia needs to be in the future.

KELLY: The timing of this royal visit is exquisite, it's the 40th anniversary of the dismissal, 40 years on have you maintained the rage?

SHORTEN:  Well I was only eight at the time. So, I can't say I was the most outraged punter in 1975 -  I was in grade three.

KELLY: How exercised are you about this, you're a senior Labor politician, this is a key constitutional moment for Labor in particular. We haven’t been able to change the Constitution to make sure this can't happen again.

SHORTEN: Well it is true that the Constitution’s very hard to change but I think and I gave a speech earlier this year where I looked an idea the Professor Anne Twomey from New South Wales had and she reminded me that after the failure of the 1891 constitutional convention Victorian John Quirk came up with the idea of an enabling bill to be passed by each of the colonial parliaments outlining a clear time table for the move to federation. So, I like a similar approach again in the future, legislating a process to create new milestones and new momentum. I think the challenge for the republic is outlining a clear process, choosing the right sequence and combination of options, such as a constitutional convention, a plebiscite to gage popular support and choose a preferred model and then a referendum to enact the change. That can't be done overnight and as I say Fran, at the moment where this nation’s been thrown to uncertainty because the Liberals talking about a GST. We do have a challenge of unacceptably high unemployment but I do believe as I outline just then to you that could have a discussion about a process.  I'm attracted to the idea that the nation has a constitutional commission, this could be a permanent body which educates our young people about the Constitution, educates people about the Constitution, just like they do in America. So, we have a greater understanding of the role of the Constitution in Australian life.

KELLY: Our guest is Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten in our Parliament studios. Bill Shorten lets go to some of the policy challenges before you right here and now. Legislation to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if the quote engage in or support terrorist activities. The Government’s accepted all 27 recommendations made by the joint committee on intelligence and security to tighten up the bill. Will Labor support this?

SHORTEN: Well, we take a bipartisan appreciate to national security and Labor has very strong view which we articulated through a parliamentary committee since June to make sure we were getting the balance right and still preserving people's liberties. There was a great deal of concern about the initial Abbott legislation.

KELLY: Are those concerns allayed for you?

SHORTEN: Well I'm stepping you through the process because what happened is that eight weeks ago the parliamentary committee made its recommendations and Labor was satisfied with those 27 recommendations. Then late yesterday afternoon the Government’s briefed my shadow spokesman for the first time and then they've said they want to bring it on today in parliament. I've indicated overnight to the Prime Minister that we want the time to look at these measures. Labor is bipartisan on national security, we want to make sure that the spirit of the recommendations is born out of the actual proposals. The Government as I  said provided us detailed legislation last night and they've moving to debate it today and Labor won't unduly delay debate but we also intend to make sure that we go through a proper and through examination. Every time the Liberals have brought in national security legislation it's been Labor who's had to do the hard sort of work of checking to make sure that there are not unforeseen consequences and that the laws being introduced don't cause new problems rather than just solving existing problems.

KELLY: Let's go to the issues of family payments because yesterday Labor said it will oppose most of the package of family payments, cuts to family payments, the Government has amended quite radically already. Under the changes you will support I understand is the measure to remove full family tax benefits when a child turns 13, currently at the age it’s been 16. Single parents with children between 13 and 16 years old will lose $1700 a year, why is that fair?

SHORTEN: Well what we've said is that we'll look at changes which we think are bearable, we wouldn't have handled the family payments process the way the Liberals have - but they're the Government so we're obligated to look at what they're doing. Some of the reporting this morning's been a little confusing so I appreciate the opportunity to be really clear here because there's a 1.5 million Australian families who are affected by the changes that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals are bringing in. What we've said is that we will oppose the reduction of Family Tax Benefits B payments to grandparent carers and single parents.

We've also said that we're going to oppose the phasing out of Family Tax Benefit Supplements. The only thing that - the measure which we have said that we would support is ceasing Family Tax Benefit B for  couple families with children 13 years or over. So we've agreed that we will go with that. But for those families let me add that Labor's not supporting the phasing out of the supplements. The other thing we're doing is the Liberals somewhat unusually want to spend money at the same time as they're saying others have got to take a hit and they're proposing, I think it was a deal done with the Nationals to ease Malcolm Turnbull's transition into the top job. But they want to introduce a baby bonus -

KELLY: $1,000 payment.

SHORTEN: The Government can't have it both ways. They keep telling us that we have a spending problem in this country and on that basis they're going to savage families who receive badly needed supplement payments - 1.5 million families, but quixotically they're proposing to introduce new payments to people as well.

KELLY: But you can't have it both ways either, I mean this will mean reduce the Government's savings from these measures, already cut in half, down again from $4 billion to $1.5 billion. It was meant to pay for expanded child care. How would Labor pay for better child care?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, merely because the Liberals have an idea doesn't mean Labor's got to stand up and ask where are we going? We're the Opposition and if it's a bad idea we'll stand fast. I've been down this road before with the Liberals over the last 2 years as Opposition Leader. We remember the horrendous 2014 Budget and there was a lot of pressure on me and Labor just to buckle and say don't you understand there's a spending crisis, just do what we say. Well, the issue is not every idea about change is a good idea. And cutting the supplements payments, which is desperately needed by families, is a bad idea. So we're just not going to be a rubber stamp for the unfairness of the Government and I have to say, people talk about all the changes between the two prime ministers, these family tax benefit payments is the same unfairness rewrapped.

KELLY: The Opposition, you've lined up squarely against the GST, you’ve mentioned it a number of times this morning. The Prime Minister's emphasising all week any changes will be accompanied by appropriate compensation. Fairness would be a quote "fundamental design requirement". Labor is warning about higher costs for food, health, education, financial services, if these things attract a high GST they will go up. Low income earners will be compensated though, just as they were for the carbon tax. It's a model you thought was fair for the carbon tax, why isn't it fair for a GST?

SHORTEN: Fran, none of us have seen what the Liberals are proposing in the way of compensation -

KELLY: No, but do you accept it's possible to compensate for it as it was for a carbon tax?

SHORTEN: But do you see the silliness of this? They're saying that we're going to increase the prices on everything to 15 per cent and then we're going to compensate you for it. There will be inequities that occur out of this. The Liberals railed against the carbon price and they said that not everyone would be adequately compensated. Now they're just trying to say we'll do exactly the same. My observation is that the Government should come clean on their plans. They should trust Australians. They're creating a vacuum which is causing uncertainty. They say, as if it's some sort of esoteric dinner party conversation, well, you know, we'll look at all measures. Are they seriously wanting us to have a national conversation about increasing the cost of MRI scans? Are they seriously saying we should have a national conversation about increasing the price of fresh food? I mean we have a situation in Australia where fruit and veggies have increased, I think, respectively 43 and 34 per cent over the last 10 years. Are they seriously saying that Australia should pay another 15 per cent for fresh food? This is not a well thought out debate. And this argument that we don't need to provide any detail is wrong because it's hurting people's confidence. 15 per cent extra on everything is not a good idea. Why is it that if we've got to reform tax in this country working people, poor people have go to do the heavy lifting?

KELLY: Bill Shorten I'm sure we'll be hearing more from you on this, thank you very much for joining us.

SHORTEN: Thank you very much Fran.