Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Interview with Jon Faine, 774 ABC, 28 February 2012

Subject: Labor leadership

JON FAINE: Bill Shorten is the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and has been one of the key Gillard backers ever since he participated in the coup against Kevin Rudd all that time ago.

Bill Shorten, good morning to you again.

BILL SHORTEN:  Good morning.

JON FAINE:  Much to be said here.  Simon Crean for the whole week was out shooting from the hip.  Nicola Roxon did some of the heavy lifting.  David Feeney did a number of big interviews.  Stephen Conroy was readily available at all times and you kept out of it.  How come?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well, Jon, maybe that's because you don't watch the Q&A show or you don’t watch Sky News or ABC 24.  I did eight or ten press conferences and interviews.

JON FAINE:  You kept out of the abuse, you kept out of the…

BILL SHORTEN:  That's a different point.  I thought you were saying I kept out of the leadership ballot.  I'm sorry.

JON FAINE:  No, you were there for some occasional comment but you didn't do what I'll call a heavy lifting.  There was a clear difference between what Simon Crean, Nicola Roxon, Stephen Conroy and David Feeney were doing and what you were doing and I wonder if this is a strategy.

BILL SHORTEN: No, it's not.  The last week's been very tough.  I think people who were in the cabinet with Kevin in particular wanted to explain their views about 2010 and some of the supporters to the challenge, they were quite forthright too.  But what this to me shows is that the Labor Party still can fire up.  What this shows me is that these are important issues, the leadership of the nation.

What it also shows me is the ability of Labor, once we've had the argument, to get on with life.  The Prime Minister received the overwhelming support of Caucus, the largest margin, I think the statisticians would say, in a leadership challenge in thirty years.  So she does enjoy the confidence of the Government.

I thought Mr Rudd was gracious in his concession.  I believe the best in people and I believe he meant every word he said.  I think the voters can look at the Government and say, okay, they've had their argument and that does happen in all political parties in all organisations from time to time, but they are solidly behind the Prime Minister, which is what I think people want us to be.

JON FAINE:  And what I think it shows me is that the strategy was to keep you above the fray and to keep you in reserve and Simon Crean, who quite unequivocally said he has no leadership ambitions, Nicola Roxon, David Feeney, Stephen Conroy, to put out the heavy shooters who had nothing to lose whilst keeping Bill Shorten in reserve in case you're needed and unsoiled down the track.

BILL SHORTEN:  Yes, I think the Liberal Party spins that theory.  The reality is that I'm not going to comment any more made about the debate between others about the leadership challenge of last week.  I think people expect us to, having focused on ourselves and had a fight on leadership, now to have a fight for Australia's future.

In terms of myself, I do fully support the Prime Minister, as you said in your opening, and I still do and I will.

JON FAINE:  Kevin Rudd's campaign gathered zero extra votes in the course of one week of ferocious battle.  Why did they go ahead with so little prospect of success?  I said earlier this strategy and this campaign could be put in a museum in a glass case with the placard beneath is, here's what not to do.

BILL SHORTEN:  We've had a leadership debate and I believe that having had it, things can become very different very quickly for Labor.  We've got some clear air.  I hoped it wouldn't come to a leadership debate, a challenge, but it did.  In the last two weeks, the speculation grew intense but I believe now things can turn on a dime and that the Prime Minister is energised.

We're going to get the budget into surplus.  We're going to put a price on carbon from 1 July which is going to see the tax free threshold go to eighteen thousand dollars.  The family payments are coming in.  People will realise that we've got a long term plan to decrease our reliance on carbon pollution…

JON FAINE:  Sure, sure, but we're still talking about last week.  Darren Cheeseman went too early…

BILL SHORTEN:  Yes, but you…

JON FAINE:  …Simon Crean flushed out a Rudd resignation and half-baked on the other side of the world before they were ready, you forced them to a contest.  It was a hundred per cent strategically managed well on your side and a hundred per cent appallingly managed on their side.

BILL SHORTEN:  I really don't think it helps for me to analyse yesterday and the week before's leadership debate.  I can understand that some people are interested to re-hash over, you know, last night's dinner but the truth of the matter is it was a very public debate.  There weren't a lot of secrets.  It was right out there and I think that's the way the world's going with twenty-four hour media, twenty-four hour television shows, digital channels, a demand for content with tweeting and social media.

I don't think the world politics in any party is ever going to be the same as it was in the nineties and the eighties and the seventies.  Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull had a horrendous fight where Tony Abbott beat Malcolm Turnbull by one vote to become leader of the current Opposition, by one vote.

The Prime Minister had a forty vote margin and if you take the argument that the Liberals have united behind Tony Abbott with a one vote margin, I think Labor MPs, who are conscientious about their duties to their electorate, are determined to get on with the hard work creating a national disability insurance scheme.

We've got an uncertain economic climate in Europe where there's pressure on existing jobs.  We've got a high dollar.  That's why we want to spread the benefits of the mining boom.

JON FAINE:  Sure, the challenges are there.  If you really believe Kevin Rudd that there'll be no rancour or pay back, then you must also believe in the tooth fairy, Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN:  No.  What you're then saying is that Kevin Rudd is lying and I don't accept that.

JON FAINE:  No.  Labor Party tradition and politics, everything tells you that there will be pay back, there will be some form of retribution down the track, even if it's not today or tomorrow.

BILL SHORTEN:  I'm a fan of this show but I can't quite agree with that sort of dramatic sort of Saturday afternoon movie, there will be retribution.  I don't accept that.  The Prime Minister was magnanimous and showed her qualities as a leader.  What she does with the ministry is a matter for her and the Caucus to accept that and support that.

In terms of Mr Rudd, this is the second time he presented to the - this is the second time that he presented to the Caucus.  People want to keep going with Julia Gillard and I think he was unequivocal in his statements, unequivocal.

JON FAINE:  Mark Arbib's reasons for leaving.  Do you take a faceless man at face value?

BILL SHORTEN:  In terms of Mark Arbib's reasons for leaving, what he said is that he wants to heal the party.  He feels that he's been controversial over many years.  I think it's a shame he's chosen to go.  He did very good work in indigenous unemployment.  He's got a young family.  Politics takes a tremendous toll.  I think he was frustrated when the media were reporting where his kids go to school.  Sometimes…

JON FAINE:  Yes, we sometimes can go too far but if it's truly to be healing, don't you need someone from the other camp to also quit as well?

BILL SHORTEN:  No, I think - no, I don't think that.  I do think - I don't think that for one reason.  There's now one camp again in Labor and secondly, Mark Arbib's made an action which he feels is important for him and his family and where he's going.


BILL SHORTEN:  I'm grateful we've had his services.  I regret he's going but that's what he's chosen to do.  He's back…

JON FAINE:  Kristina Keneally or Mundine to replace him?

BILL SHORTEN: That'd be a matter for the New South Wales ALP.  As you know, people in New South Wales think we Victorians are Mexicans so we try not to ride north of the border.  But I just made the other point about having the ballot yesterday is a process of healing.  We've all seen what people think in the Caucus.

We are a political party who doesn't believe in playing grand final every Saturday.  That's Mr Abbott's solution.  Every time he doesn't get what he wants he says, let's have an election, let's have an election.  We take a longer term view of these matters.

JON FAINE:  Alright.  Very briefly and finally, the nurses' dispute.  You weighed in last week, are you going to try and weigh in again?  The State Government is again winning the court against the nurses.

BILL SHORTEN:  Yes.  I have a great deal of sympathy for the frustration of the nurses that they're at a stalemate.  I don't want to tell the Victorian Government how to employ their employees.  That's a matter for them.  That's what Mr Baillieu wanted, the power.  He should accept the responsibility.

I'm disturbed that they're at a stalemate.  The Federal Government and I have a position we think that if you're at a stalemate, which you clearly are, without deciding where you should cut the cake in terms of the competing claims of the nurses and the Government, they should have a private arbitration.

They should agree that there's certain matters that they can't negotiate on and if they can't negotiate on them, have a process.  I don't think - I don't want nurses taking unprotected industrial action.  By the same token, the Government of Victoria shouldn't be offside with forty thousand nurses.

We need our nurses.  They're not a greedy militant bunch of, you know, exploiters of the system.  They're hard working carers who provide with their emotions and their skills.  I do not believe this argument is incapable of resolution.  Private arbitration is the way to go.

JON FAINE:  Thank you for your time this morning.  Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, in Julia Gillard's Government.

- ENDS -