SUNDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Broken Promise of ‘No cuts to the ABC or SBS’; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; China Infrastructure Investment bank; Senate
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be in Melbourne at Sunday lunchtime with thousands of people who care greatly about our ABC. Our ABC is an institution who is a constant in our lives, from childhood to adolescence, through to middle-age and indeed, later years. Australians will have a fight with the Abbott Government if the Abbott Government doesn’t take its hands off the ABC. Tony Abbott promised before the last election in black and white and no weasel words – ‘No cuts to the ABC’. Now he is cutting the ABC. He has lied before the election and he has broken his promises. These cuts to the ABC are even worse than just broken promises of Tony Abbott, despicable as that is. He is laying waste to the moral basis of Australian public life by attacking the independent voice of the ABC. We will, and Australians will, fight to defend the ABC. The Abbott Government has picked a new fight and they have severely underestimated the will and voice of the Australian people.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what about SBS?
SHORTEN: Today was organised by friends of ABC but of course everything I said for the ABC goes absolutely for SBS. We see the Government's trying to force SBS into doing more advertising. Labor doesn't support that. Millions of people benefit from our ABC and our SBS and Labor will fight to make sure that the Abbott Government keeps their promises before the election. The night before on an interview with SBS; Tony Abbott said "no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to the SBS". We know that Liberal sources have revealed from Denis Napthine that they don’t intend on having Tony Abbott here before the election. There is an Abbott proof fence around Victoria. Regardless, Victorians and Australians will keep lobbying Tony Abbott to back away from his savage cuts that he and Malcolm Turnbull are wreaking upon the Independent broadcasters of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you welcome Jacqui Lambie leaving the Palmer United Party?
SHORTEN: We saw last week, Jacqui Lambie subjected to an intense amount of personal pressure and bullying from the Government. This is a Government that always wants to play personalities and play the person, not the issue. The reason why the Government had such a shocking week last week and were attacking Jacqui Lambie is that last week it was revealed they were attacking the ABC and SBS. That is unpopular. Last week we saw the G20 as an opportunity which was squandered by Tony Abbott with his weird speech ignoring climate change and last week we managed to stand up collectively in the Parliament and defeat the Abbott Government's attempts to water down protections for consumers. I notice this weekend Eric Abetz, the low-profile leader of the Government in the Senate, has said he is going to do a charm offensive on the cross benchers that they were bullying last week. The problem with Eric Abetz is he is all offence and no charm. What the Government needs to do is rather than play personality games, just come up with better policies which are fair to Australia and stop trying to pass an unfair Budget that no-one wants.
JOURNALIST: What are your dynamics with the crossbench at the moment? Have you had any discussions with Jacqui Lambie regarding possible support for what Labor will vote for in the Senate?
SHORTEN: One bit of good news about Australian politics is that Labor has been consistent in what it stands for. This is a Government who before the election said they wouldn't cut the ABC or SBS. No changes to pensions, no cuts to hospitals and education. Then we see them backflip on their promises and inflict an unfair Budget. The good news for Australians is when Australians want to look on consistency on voting, Labor will defend the Medicare system. We will not have $100,000 degrees to go to University through these unfair changes of the Government. We won't see pensions cut and we do not support increasing petrol taxes putting greater cost of living pressure on Australian motorists. So when we see the weeks coming ahead, this is a Government whose budget is a train wreck. Whose relationships with the crossbench are dysfunctional and all they want to do is wreak unfair changes from the ABC, to deny climate change, to making university kids pay a lot more to go to university.
JOURNALIST: Have you or anyone in Labor had any discussions with Jacqui Lambie about supporting your views?
SHORTEN: We have had ongoing discussions with all of the crossbenchers and one of the reasons why we have good relations with the crossbenchers is we don't get out on television and bully them, we sit down and listen to them. If the Abbott Government wants to do better, maybe it should start listening to people, whether they be in Parliament or outside, less lecturing, less bullying and less finger pointing and a little more listening and a little more humility and that might go a lot further. This Government doesn't know how to listen to people, only to dictate.
JOURNALIST: There are reports the Abbott Government could sign Australia up to a Chinese led Asian investment bank if its provisions are met. Do you think we should be signed up to such a bank?
SHORTEN: We have now got new reports of the Government back flipping on their old reports. Labor has had a clear position. We welcome the peaceful rise of China. We understand that if China wants to build multilateral trade institutions and financial institutions, Labor says in principle; this is a good thing. We had this crazy situation where the Abbott Government treated the Asian investment bank, the infrastructure investment bank, as a security issue and all the reports showed they got their National Security Committee to reject the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. When will Tony Abbott realise that to deal with China is not a military issue, it is an economic issue and it is an issue about the future. Labor supports the principle of engaging with China as it seeks to reach out to the rest of the world. What we would also say is if the Government has reversed its position from being the deputy sheriff of the US to a more thoughtful nuanced position, I guess we will have to wait and see if that happens.
Last question thank you.
JOURNALIST: Is Eric Abetz's meeting with cross benchers on Monday too little too late?
SHORTEN: If Tony Abbott's break glass strategy to create a functional Senate which might agree with what he wants involves sending Eric Abetz as your charm offensive – that’s creepy and frankly, it’s not going to work. Rather than having a new stunt - rebooting, taking the binnacles off, unleashing Eric Abetz on the cross benchers - maybe what Tony Abbott needs to do is change his policies. Stop being unfair to university students, stop being unfair to the sick and vulnerable, stop going after pensioners and keep your promises on the ABC.
Thank everyone, have a nice day.
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