THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2013
Subjects: Coalition’s Direct Action con, Climate Change, Tony Abbott’s comments on torture, CHOGM, Debt Cap, Childcare Cuts, Griffith by-election
KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Shorten thanks for your time. Given you supported the repeal of the carbon tax before the election now you don’t, doesn’t it simply look like Labor’s latest flip-flop?
BILL SHORTEN: No. Before the election Labor said we would repeal the carbon tax on the basis that we did something meaningful about tackling climate change and carbon pollution. Labor is willing to compromise, we are willing to go part of the way to repeal the tax but what we are not willing to do is to do nothing. All Australians, doesn’t matter if you’re 75 or 17, know that climate change is a huge challenge. We know that our summers are hotter; we know that droughts are more extended and what will happen under the Coalition if they get their way, and there not willing to compromise, all we are going to do is pay big polluters to pollute.
GILBERT: But they won the election. Its crunch time this week, the vote. They say you’re not respecting the will of the people.
SHORTEN: Well lots of people voted to take action on climate change - climate change is happening. It doesn’t matter how much the coalition can stamp its foot, the reality is we don’t want to pass to future generations a system where we are not tackling climate pollution. The reality is pollution degrades the environment in the long-term. It does have a cost and why on earth would you create a system where we doing nothing and where basically it’s free to pollute.
GILBERT: But again I put to you that they won the election, you did support getting rid of the carbon tax, now there is this caveat about we’re moving to a carbon price, but surely if they won the election and got the majority of votes they should be allowed to adopt their policy on this signature issue?
SHORTEN: Labor went to the election with a policy which says that we will repeal the carbon price as long as it’s replaced with meaningful action on climate change. What we are seeing is, and what people who voted for us -
GILBERT: And won 33 per cent of the vote.
SHORTEN: They are the people who voted for us so we’ve got to be true to who we are. I operate on what is the best science available and that’s how I make my decisions. I operate on what is the best interest of the future of Australia.
GILBERT: Are you worried that the electorate will think, just see Labor and think you’re not listening?
SHORTEN: Science is on our side. I worry when you’ve got a government who say climate change isn’t real. I worry when you have a government who don’t want to do anything. I worry when you have a government who are going to make the future harder for our kids and our grandkids because they won’t tackle pollution.
GILBERT: The Greens want to knock this off before Christmas, rather than support your idea of a Senate inquiry, why should that hamper Labor’s ability to scrutinise direct action, the Coalition’s alternative?
SHORTEN: Well we think you should reveal before you repeal. We think that’s important to understand what the Coalition is proposing in detail. The Senate is the house of the review, Australians vote for the Senate to review the ideas which the government of the day are putting forward. Labor is very clear – we will always act on the basis of the best science and we understand climate change is a huge challenge for all Australians. We understand that it’s an issue for the future. We understand it’s a long-term issue. Just because the Coalition don’t want to do anything and just want to allow people to pollute for free, that’s not Labor’s way.
GILBERT: But you can still scrutinise the direct action plan, the fact that there is no Senate inquiry doesn’t preclude you from doing that does it?
SHORTEN: The Senate is the house of review and we should be able, that’s why we have a Senate to do these things.
GILBERT: Why are the Greens, why are they not buying that?
SHORTEN: Well we hope to persuade them.
GILBERT: Alright, let’s move on. Sri Lanka, UK Prime Minister called for an international inquiry into the alleged human rights abuses and war crimes. Tony Abbott did not endorse that, what’s your view?
SHORTEN: Well first of all I think there was a real contrast between the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Tony Abbott in their recent visit to Sri Lanka. What I think that surprised me is not that there are different ways to engage with Sri Lanka, I get that, but what surprised me was when Mr Abbott said and I’m just going to quote here, he said when asked about torture that ‘we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen’. Mr Abbott’s going to have to explain what are the difficult circumstances is which torture is appropriate?
GILBERT: He praised the progress though that Sri Lanka has made in ending the civil war; do you agree with him on that?
SHORTEN: Certainly, it’s been a terrible time but our Prime Minister went overseas and he said that in difficult circumstances difficult things happen when asked did he accept about the issues of torture.
GILBERT: It’s a civil war, its 30 years of conflict.
SHORTEN: Mr Abbott just needs to explain what are the circumstances in which torture would be acceptable because I believe torture is never acceptable in any circumstance.
GILBERT: So do you think he should have gone harder on the issue of human rights there?
SHORTEN: Well I think perhaps he didn’t need to wonder off the script and start talking about a set of circumstances in which torture may or may not be acceptable.
GILBERT: What about the issue of human rights? Because that was the fundamental difference as you say between Cameron and Abbott. Should have he gone harder on that issue?
SHORTEN: Well some nations didn’t go, Canada and India, other nations went and strongly raised it and visited the areas and Mr Abbott says he raised it directly in discussions with the Sri Lankan Government. That’s as it is, there are different approaches.
GILBERT: What do you think?
SHORTEN: Well what I think is Mr Abbott shouldn’t have wondered off the script and said in difficult circumstances difficult things happen.
GILBERT: But on the issue of human rights -
SHORTEN: I think that Sri Lanka has been through an incredible difficult time. From the reports I read, I get that things are improving. I get all of that. But what I also understand is that it would appear over the weekend there were two very different styles on demonstration to the world; there was the UK Prime Minister’s style very upfront, then you had Mr Abbott’s style, when asked about torture, I’m not going to verbal him, he said we deplore it but then said that he accepted, he accepted that in difficult in circumstances difficult things happen. I think the nation can reasonably expect an explanation from Mr Abbott. I mean, we have signed up to seven different United Nations standards -
GILBERT: You think he should have been more like David Cameron?
SHORTEN: I don’t think he should have been saying there are difficult circumstances and fudging an answer about torture.
GILBERT: Donating two patrol boats, is that a good move?
SHORTEN: I think working with our neighbours is reasonable, I’m not perturbed about the issue of working with other Governments in terms of tackling the challenge of people smugglers, but I am concerned that a Prime Minister of a nation can go overseas and when asked about something as difficult and as tough as a civil war and some of the things we have seen in our news, asked about the issue of torture, he says we deplore it, but ‘I accept that difficult things happen in difficult circumstances’. I think there is an explanation due because I don’t believe Australians do support torture in any circumstances.
GILBERT: Labor is demanding the mid-year economic update before you are willing to agree to increase the debt limit to $500 billion. Surely the advice of the Treasury secretary should be enough; he’s going to appear before a senate estimates committee hearing this week. If he says you need do it, why don’t you capitulate?
SHORTEN: Well surely it’s enough to trust the Australian people isn’t Kieran? What is wrong, and Labor’s up for doing a deal, let’s be clear we’ve said that we recognise over the next three years the debt cap may need to go to $400 billion so no problems. Labor’s pragmatic. We are not going to mindlessly oppose everything. So we’ve said on one had if you don’t want to tell us what the mid-year books look like, we’ll give you a sort of cheque for $400 billion. But, if they actually need to go to half a trillion dollars the fastest, the largest debt ever and this is the party what said that you don’t deal with debt by increasing debt, so they’ve forgotten what they said before the election, but if they want the nation to give them half a trillion dollars would you or I or anyone watching this show be able to front up and get a home loan and say ‘we’re not going to show you our books, we’re not going to show you our financial commitments’. I make this offer on your show, I say to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott we will do a deal, just make your mid-year financial statement available so you can tell us what’s really going on.
GILBERT: But why not the Treasury Secretary, I’m sure if you wanted a loan and the treasury secretary endorsed you, you’d get it?
SHORTEN: Why is it that all of a sudden when it comes to making decisions the Government goes into hiding? You know before the election -
GILBERT: - But he’ll be public, this is a Senate committee. Parkinson says do it, but you’ll say no.
SHORTEN: Hang in with me just for a second, I’ve noticed a trend with the Abbott Government, they were a government in waiting, now they’re a government in hiding. It doesn’t matter if it’s boats, where you see, you know the Immigration Minister hiding behind the people in uniforms. Now Joe Hockey, he’s the Treasurer of Australia, if the Treasurer of Australia can’t make a case to the Australian people why they should give him a higher debt cap, a higher credit rating, then what on earth is his day job?
GILBERT: On the childcare matter, the Productivity Commission is going to look at long day care, family day care, in home care including nannies. Given the complexity of the system at the moment, the long waiting lists, the high costs and just the sheer complexity costs of it it’s good the Abbott government is having another look at this isn’t it?
SHORTEN: Well they said they would before the election but in life there is no free lunch. What they have also said in this review is there can be no increase to the amount of money allocated to childcare. So the point about that, that’s the start, they haven’t ruled anything in or out so everything is on the table. Rebates, cutting services, if you can’t increase the pot of money that you’ve got to help people with their childcare needs, and you’ve got to use the same amount of money and if you’re going to give some people who are currently not getting support more support, who are the losers?
I think that if they want to commission this review they should make another commitment. Not just that everything’s on the table, they should make a commitment they’re not going to take away from people, mums and dads currently working, the resources they need to make sure that their kids [need]. Trusting your kids to childcare is a really important decision and the idea that you’ve got a bunch of people in Canberra just hacking and slashing, it’s our kids they’re talking about and I think they need to be crystal clear. Are there going to be any families that will be worse off and are they willing to count those families that are worse off.
GILBERT: Just one final question, on the Griffith by-election you really should hold on to that seat shouldn’t you? History shows that a Government has won a seat from opposition once in Australian history so the odds are in your favour there aren’t they?
SHORTEN: I won’t predict what voters will do, but what I do know is that if you’re a Queenslander and you’re having your SchoolKids Bonus cut by the Abbott Government, if you’re having your superannuation taken away, if you’re a small business losing money because of the decisions of the Coalition in terms of tax write-offs, there are not a lot of reasons in the first two months of the Abbott Government have given to vote Coalition in the seat of Griffith especially not when you look what Campbell Neumann is doing in Queensland.
GILBERT: Who are you putting up there?
SHORTEN: The party will pick its candidate in due time.
GILBERT: Okay Bill Shorten, thanks for your time.
SHORTEN: Good morning.
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