Bill's Transcripts





30 MAY 2013

SUBJECT/S: Asbestos safety, Electoral funding


WALEED ALY:          I'm joined now by Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten, good evening.

BILL SHORTEN:       Good evening.

WALEED ALY:          Are we losing control of this process Bill Shorten? Have we got cowboys involved and exposing workers to this asbestos risk?

BILL SHORTEN:       No, first of all I want to say that the Government, and myself included, think that there's no safe level of exposure to asbestos. It is dangerous. It's killing people. Today in the Parliament we just passed a law setting up the creation of an asbestos agency because it is an issue.

So first thing is, I'm not going to start telling people that asbestos isn't an issue because it is, and it's killing people now.

WALEED ALY:          Yep.

BILL SHORTEN:       Having said that, Telstra's got to remediate its pits which have asbestos in them and do it properly. There's no excuse for cutting corners. And certainly the regulator, Comcare who report to me, have intervened with Telstra to make sure that there is proper training. I've spoken with the CEO of Telstra directly, he certainly has taken a direct interest at putting on extra resources, because communities and residents and workers do not need to be having concern about this matter and we need to have the best practice standards.

WALEED ALY:          I imagine Telstra is taking a pretty direct interest...

BILL SHORTEN:       Absolutely.

WALEED ALY:          I also imagine this will not do much to speed the roll out of the NBN?

BILL SHORTEN:       Well, I'll be honest, for me - I'm not sure if it will or won't – for me the first issue is not anything else other than safety. So I understand that a lot of people's minds automatically go to what does it mean for NBN. I'm sure that that'll be proceeding okay. The previous caller was spot on, this is Telstra remediating its pits. I just want the job done safely. That's, you know, there is no other issue as far as I'm concerned.

WALEED ALY:          Do we have any sense of how widespread this asbestos is in these pits?

BILL SHORTEN:       No we don’t. Well sorry, some people might, I don't. Asbestos was commonly used for a very long time. We only banned it a decade ago and whilst the risks have been known for too long - as we know with James Hardie not doing the right thing - we've got a lot of asbestos in our community that has to be removed, especially where it could be disturbed. If there's a disturbance of asbestos and it moves from being within materials to being airborne and exposed, well that has to be dealt with. There's no shortcuts.

WALEED ALY:          Sure. And on another issue Bill Shorten, on the electoral funding bill, isn't the Coalition right to walk away from something so clearly on the nose with voters?

BILL SHORTEN:       Oh listen, the Coalition probably need help to work out what to wear of a morning. I mean they can't make up their mind on anything. Their leader makes a deal with Labor about improving public funding then he changes his mind. I mean what this tells me about the Coalition frankly is that whenever they sign a deal, whenever they make a promise before the election, it's not worth the paper it's written on.

WALEED ALY:          So you stand by the public funding idea?

BILL SHORTEN:       Oh, I think we do need public funding in elections, otherwise you just hand it over to the vested interests. On the other hand I accept that unless it's bipartisan the issue is not going anywhere.  But what has happened is that Tony Abbott wants everyone to vote for him. He signed the document with the government of the day and then he reneges. What happens is he gets into power? What's he going to do about statutory individual contracts or about keeping superannuation at nine-and-a-quarter per cent forever? Like if the man hasn't got the strength to keep his word in one set of circumstances on this, what does that mean if he was to be Prime Minister of Australia?

WALEED ALY:          Bill Shorten, thanks for your time.

BILL SHORTEN:       Thank you.