Bill's Transcripts

Television Interview: Insiders




SUNDAY, 13 JULY 2014  


SUBJECT/S: Climate Change; Emissions Trading Scheme; Crossbench; Senate; Clive Palmer; Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s Broken Promises; Double Dissolution; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission into Trade Unions; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Australia.



FRAN KELLY: Next up, our program guest, the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten. And while Tony Abbott and his team have been spending this week negotiating again with Clive Palmer to scrap the carbon tax, the Prime Minister gave a shout out to Bill Shorten to do the right thing.




TONY ABBOTT:  “When you look at things in the Senate, sure, Mr. Palmer has three Senators, but Mr. Shorten has 25. And we know that Mr. Palmer will change his mind come Monday, but Bill Shorten will still be there; come Monday, come Tuesday, come next week, come next month, come next year, supporting putting your power prices up, smiling every time your power bill increases, because that's the modern Labor Party for you.”


KELLY: Bill Shorten, welcome to Insiders.




KELLY: Well, Labor did say, and you did say before the election, that the carbon tax should go. You'd get rid of the carbon tax if you were elected. Looks like you will get another chance in the Reps this week. Will you vote to axe your own tax?


SHORTEN: Labor believes in taking real action on climate change. We said before the election that we would repeal the carbon tax if it was replaced by an effective mechanism to deal with carbon emissions and climate change. The problem is that Tony Abbott's Government doesn't believe in climate change and they've got ineffective mechanisms to deal with this real problem for future generations.


KELLY: Okay well let's have a look at what's likely to happen this coming week. The carbon tax repeal bill will come back into the Reps. It will have an amendment from Clive Palmer, basically to ensure that power companies pass on the savings from getting rid of the carbon tax. Will Labor vote for that amendment?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, it will have another amendment as well. An amendment from Labor to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme. We’ve got a strong amendment which is based on consistent views over a number of years from Labor about emissions trading. So we will be putting the case, yet again, that a Government who doesn't have the courage to act on climate change, and this Government does not have that courage - doesn't deserve to be the Government.


KELLY: I’ll come back to the ETS because Clive Palmer wants one too, but to stick with events this week, will Labor support the Clive Palmer amendment even if it votes against the repeal bill?


SHORTEN: Well in the case that our amendment is defeated, then we’ve got this debate which Clive Palmer's people have raised about a pass-through of the price changes due to a carbon tax going. Now what has happened is that, on Thursday morning, the Palmer people put up a proposition where they said that it has to be passed through and if it isn't passed on by companies, then what would happen is there would be 250 per cent penalties. Other people said "Listen, hang on a second, is this just for electricity and gas industry, or is it everyone who uses synthetic greenhouse gases in their production processes?". And it’s not clear at all. Industry went absolutely off the dial Thursday morning when they heard the latest proposition from the Palmer Party. Then you had this crazy spectacle of government ministers basically saying to the Palmer people "We will do whatever you want, just repeal it on Thursday to suit Tony Abbott's timetable of announcements". That all went to custard. And so now what happens is we’re going to have to see the detail if it is indeed a workable amendment from the Palmer people.


KELLY: I noticed that David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day, they’re a bit concerned about the detail. Business I have to say that I’ve spoken to seem happier now that it is clarified it would only be the power retailers. But these other Senators are not sure they'd support the repeal because they’re worried about prices ending up, or penalties ending up being passed on to consumers. Do you have any of those concerns?


SHORTEN: Yes well first of all, we see other crossbench Senators I think sending up a pretty clear signal to the Abbott Government "If you just think that the Palmer Party people are the only people you have to dance with, we’re here too". So I have taken some of that from those other crossbenchers to warn the Government "Don't just think you should play with the Palmer people". In terms of their actual concerns, it is a legitimate point. There is not much point in repealing a measure if it’s going to cause more compliance headaches than the measure it’s causing that you are actually repealing.


KELLY: So talking about who is playing who, I noticed, we have seen on some news bulletins a text that Clive Palmer sent you on Thursday morning as events unfolded which said "Tell Penny Wong we are going to vote against repeal of carbon tax. Clive". So he told you before he told Tony Abbott and the Government who he was still negotiating with at this point. How close are you and Clive Palmer?


SHORTEN: We talk. See I understand that in a vibrant democracy like Australia, the Australian people will pick a range of different people from a range of different parties. I have been amazed at the arrogance of the Abbott Government. I mean let’s face it, the Abbott Government do not want to talk about their unfair Budget. We are coming into the last sitting week before the winter break, and they will do anything not to talk about their unfair Budget. And then what they’re doing is, they can't work out if they hate the Palmer Party or if they want to do anything the Palmer Party ask. In terms of myself and Clive Palmer, we meet, we talk about issues, but I do that on the basis that the Senate of Australia is a house of review, and you mightn't always agree with the politics of the people you have to deal with, but it is in the best interests of the Australian people to try and work together, not just simply stamp your foot and demand an outcome.


KELLY: You’ve got to have a Clive basis of trust for that don't you? I mean if Clive Palmer was negotiating in bad faith with the Government in the sense that they still thought the amendment was alive but he told you they were going to vote against the Bill, I mean that’s, you can't run a Parliament like that can you, without any trust?


SHORTEN: Well the Abbott Government shouldn't be giving anyone a lecture on bad faith. If we remember before the last election, Tony Abbott staked his whole reputation as a Prime Minister that he wouldn't break promises. He said that there’d be no cuts to health or education, he said there'd be no changes to the pension; he's doing all of these things. He’s cutting health, he’s cutting education, he’s changing the indexation rate of pensioners. This is a Government elected on bad faith.


KELLY: Okay back to the ETS, because you’ve said, you know, Labor’s going to put up an ETS, that's what you think is the right mechanism. Clive Palmer also wants to introduce an ETS and we understand that will come in with his Climate Change Authority Bill this week. Will Labor support the Clive Palmer ETS proposal even if it has no price on carbon attached if that's the only game in town?


SHORTEN: Well let's look at all of the parties' contributions on climate change. Clive Palmer is a late convert to an interest in climate change. I think as recently as early this year he wasn't sold on the issues of climate change. So he’s got a proposition which is essentially, I think my Shadow Minister Mark Butler has characterised as a photograph of an ETS. We haven't seen the final detail of his amendment but an amendment which doesn't propose a start date or a price. Dennis Atkins, one of your panelists just said before, one version of an amendment has been mooted as saying only the Senate, not the House of Representatives. There is a lot of moving parts in that detail. But of course there is an ETS, an Emissions Trading Scheme available. That's Labor's model.


KELLY: Yes, you can keep saying that, but that's not going to get up. The Government is not going to support that. So is Labor going to shift at all to make sure Australia ends up with a price on carbon or a mechanism for a price on carbon, which is your view, that you should have one. I mean if Direct Action gets voted down, if the carbon tax goes and Direct Action gets voted down by Clive Palmer, will Labor reconsider supporting Direct Action if that's the only mechanism to cut Australia's emissions?


SHORTEN: We’re not sure what the mechanism that they’re actually proposing is. So there was assumptions in your question Fran, about would we vote for this price on carbon? There is no price on carbon under what we have seen from Mr. Palmer's amendments. We will wait and see what the amendments are. But my point is this. Labor is the only consistent party about wanting to take substantial action on climate change for an Emissions Trading Scheme. 39 other jurisdictions around the world have moved to or are moving to have an ETS as a mechanism for a carbon price. Why is it that Tony Abbott wants to take us backwards? He is not being conservative on climate change, he is taking a radical risk with Australia's future.


KELLY: Do you think - you have been around a while in the Parliament, do you think we are headed for a double dissolution election and would you welcome that? Everyone seems to think Clive Palmer that is angling for that. Would you welcome a chance to go back to the polls early?


SHORTEN: Well first things first. I would welcome Tony Abbott keeping the promises he made from the last election. A new election would just give him a chance to break more promises I suspect. But what I’ll also say about Tony Abbott having these thought bubbles about you know, we could have an election in 12 months. Hell will freeze over before Tony Abbott calls an election based on this unfair Budget. We know, you know, the whole of Australia knows that Australians don't like this unfair Budget. Tony Abbott will not go to an early election, because this unfair budget, which harms millions of Australians, will be the issue that he gets judged on.


KELLY: Let’s go to the Budget. Labor is planning to vote a very big chunk of the Budget down, $30 billion worth so far as I understand it. On the weekend the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said there has to be a way of closing the budget gap and a failure to deal with the deficit and projected deficits will erode confidence. Are you going to be a wrecker or will you give some ground in the Budget debate, in the interests of reducing the deficit?


SHORTEN: We will stand up for Australian people, ordinary people. I do not accept the proposition that the only way to deal with the future sustainability of our budget is through the prescription of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey. Why should the bottom half of Australian society do the heavy lifting for the whole of the Australian economy?


KELLY: And that's all very well, and obviously from the polls a lot of people agree with you, but are you talking to the Government privately about trying to get some compromise in the interests of the economy and getting back to a surplus budget? Is there any compromise talks going on?


SHORTEN: You raise a really interesting point. I have been stunned as Opposition Leader that this Government is so bad at the skill of negotiating. This is a Government who say- they’ve got a born to rule mentality. They bring down a Budget that they lied about before the election, they hid their Commission of Audit until weeks before the Budget. This Government is so arrogant, they wouldn't know how to negotiate with cross benchers, we saw that last week, with the anarchy of last week, they don't know how to talk to the Opposition. If Tony Abbott truly wants to govern Australia, he needs to show that he’s got the skills of governing, which includes talking to people who don’t agree with his initial ideas and compromising. Tony Abbott -


KELLY: Are you willing to compromise?


SHORTEN: Well we’ve already agreed to support some measures in the Budget, but I can't compromise on the basic Labor values. How on earth can I compromise Fran on a new GP tax, slugging pensioners, how can I compromise on making it harder for young people going to university? It’s a rotten Budget. The Government doesn't want to talk about it, and we will stick to our values and we’ll hold our ground.


KELLY: On another issue Bill Shorten, this week the Royal Commission into union governance and corruption heard some pretty shocking allegations of intimidation and extortion, supposedly involving the Victorian construction union of the CFMEU. One of those giving evidence was the CEO of Boral, Mike Kane, who in the Commission, said Boral had been locked out of millions of dollars’ worth of contracts by the union. Let's have a look.


MIKE KANE: “It’s my considered opinion that based on 41 years in the construction industry, that on the construction sites in Melbourne, the law doesn't apply. The law is applied by the CFMEU. And for that, we’re concerned for the health and safety of our employees, particularly those here in Melbourne who work on construction sites.”


KELLY: As leader of the Labor Party, are you shocked? What's your response to that kind of allegation?


SHORTEN: Well Tony Abbott's Royal Commission into unions has still got a way to go. We will see people with evidence to give, people with points to make and agendas to run.


KELLY: That was a pretty strong point though, from a senior businessman.


SHORTEN: Of course. But what I say is I can't give and I’m not going to give a running commentary every day on the evidence. That's for the Royal Commission to give. But I can say that anyone, doesn't matter if it is an employer or a union representative, breaking the law, deserves the full force of the law. There are laws in place, and what we need to do is make sure that the existing laws are enforced, and Labor has zero tolerance for anyone breaking the law. No-one should use their place in the Labor movement as some sort of justification for breaking the law. They’re not welcome, they should get out.


KELLY: What does zero tolerance mean then? Because the Employment Minister Eric Abetz said when these allegations involving the Victorian branch of the CFMEU came out, he said Victorian Labor should disaffiliate from the CFMEU in Victoria, shouldn’t accept donations from the CFMEU in Victoria. If these charges are proven, will you agree with that and will you move to have that occur?


SHORTEN: Fran, as I said earlier, I can't give or I won't give a running commentary on each day's evidence. Let's see what the Royal Commission concludes and at that time we will make our decisions based on all the evidence available.


KELLY: Is it all damaging Labor's brand, though?


SHORTEN: Well, when I participate in my electorate and I'm moving around business in Australia, I think that the big issue which is damaging Australia at the moment is that confidence has hit a stand still. Now the Royal Commission has got its work to do, but the real issue in the high street of Australia is the massive stalling flat lining of confidence because of the Budget. Now this is a government, you know it and I know it, they will talk about anything but their unfair Budget. This Budget is wreaking havoc in Australian business confidence. That's a fact. You just have to look at retail numbers. And I truly worry that we’ve got a government who, as we saw last week, doesn't know how to govern, doesn’t know how to negotiate, is so arrogant, they think they are so right about everything. I thought yesterday's contribution by the Prime Minister was bordering on delusional where he says that this is just another day at the office. No Prime Minister, this is not another day at the office. We’re not going to do anything on climate change, he doesn't want to talk about the Budget. You know, I’m truly worried about where this chap is taking Australia.


KELLY: Can I just ask you finally before we leave, about the speech from the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Australian Parliament last week. There was immediate reaction coming through from China. Do you support our Prime Minister's endorsement in the speech he gave of Japan moving away from the Pacifist Constitution? Do you welcome that?


SHORTEN: I am pleased that we have good relations with Japan. They're an important, very important, trading partner and friend of Australia. I am uncomfortable at undertones where we see us trying to be used to have a debate about fearing the rise of China. I think Australia is smart enough to be able to work with both Japan and China, and I would be uncomfortable at any undertone which says that we are being used to form some sort of containment strategy to contain the rise of China. Labor welcomes it, just as we welcome the visit of Prime Minister Abe last week.


KELLY: Do you think we are being used? And who by? America, Japan?


SHORTEN: Well, what I’m concerned about is making sure that we don't shut off options. Japan is a great country. They've made marvelous progress since the Second World War, and our minerals sector and indeed many parts of the Australian economy have benefitted from the rise of Japan. But we also benefit from the rise of China and other Asian mainland economies. I think Australia needs to be sophisticated enough, smart enough for 2020 and 2030 to work in the Asian century, one of the things which I have been disappointed by the Abbott Government is their sort of retreat from the language of the Asian century. We are close to Asia. We should be deepening our cultural, economic ties with all of Asia, and I think that is a challenge for all political parties.


KELLY: Bill Shorten, thank you very much for joining us.


SHORTEN: Thank you very much.