Bill's Transcripts






05 AUGUST 2013





Subjects: Election campaign; Better Schools; Election debates



NEIL MITCHELL:                On the line is the Minister for Workplace Relations.  We'll talk to him regularly through the campaign as we will a number from both sides.  Bill Shorten, good morning.

BILL SHORTEN:                 Good morning Neil. I hope you're feeling better.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Thank you very much. One thing that puzzles me a bit when I saw the Prime Minister talking about leading a “new way” is how can that be when Labor's been in charge for six years?  Why would there need to be a new way?

BILL SHORTEN:                 Well first of all there's no question that the last three years of minority government have seen a lot of tough politics - a lot of good changes - the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Better Schools Plan. But there's no doubt that there's a hunger out there in the electorate for more positive politics. And I think that Kevin Rudd is articulating a desire to see both sides of politics play the issues not the man to have a more courteous discourse between members of parliament and I think he's speaking to a feeling that a lot of people have.

NEIL MITCHELL:                That's a bit like the new paradigm that Julia Gillard promised.

BILL SHORTEN:                 No, I think it's about the need that - when you have every vote in Parliament - one-by-one vote I mean it is a bit like watching your football team win every match by one goal. That inevitably creates some tension. Tony Abbott's done a good job of being the Opposition Leader. We've had the sort of fevered environment, and what Prime Minister Rudd is saying is that what people want for the future is not just the next vote or the next poll, they want to see Australia having better schools, they want to see that people with disabilities are looked after, they want to see the creation of jobs, they want to see Australia compete with the rest of the world as we can.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Yes but I'm sure you'd argue you've delivered those things in the past six years - it hasn't worked-

BILL SHORTEN:                 I believe that-

NEIL MITCHELL:                It hasn't worked.

BILL SHORTEN:                 We have delivered a lot of these things. I mean when you look at Australia five years ago to now, our superannuation increase is finally happening so we'll see more people - we've got the largest private savings market in the world in superannuation funds. We see schools and most significantly Victoria yesterday morning signing up to Labor's Better Schools plan. I think that this country is better than what it was. And I think that what we do need though is more civility, more talking about the future not just the past, more talking about what Australians need. Families are organising their lives for the next twenty years.  Whilst we have the day-to-day ups and downs in our households and our families, we do try and think ahead of the next 24 hours. And I think they want to see Australian politics positively talk about the future.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Just on that schools deal which you did with the State Government on the weekend - are you disappointed that low income families are going to have their assistance cut for uniforms and excursions, that sort of thing?

BILL SHORTEN:                 I can't be disappointed at what the Commonwealth is doing. We're putting in more money into Victoria's schools than a Federal Government has ever put in before. The State Government has indicated that they want to increase their funding effort to schools. The decisions that they make are for them to make.

But what I do know is that when we talk about Better Schools, what we mean is that on average a school like Essendon Keilor College which has campuses in Niddrie and Essendon and East Keilor, they will receive nearly a million dollars or over a million dollars extra on average each year. They can use that for extra teachers, so that the kids who are falling behind get greater support with literacy and numeracy - for the really bright kids who need to be pushed. It can provide greater opportunities for them - support for teacher development. That is how you build a future - it's by making sure that our kids get the best start in life.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Okay, are you the underdog?

BILL SHORTEN:                 Yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:                What are the odds?

BILL SHORTEN:                 I've seen different odds at the bookmakers. I can't particularly recall them, but they would have the Liberals as favourite and us as the not so favourite.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Okay, and you'd agree that's appropriate?

BILL SHORTEN:                 The Prime Minister said that if an election had been held on Saturday, it is likely that the Coalition would have formed a government, but it ain't over til it's over. And I know that at last we'll have a contest between two sets of policies. We'll examine whether or not the Coalition will actually pay for their policies.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Don't you think it's about trust though? Isn't it about trust as much as anything?

BILL SHORTEN:                 It is about trust, and it's about the detail, and now the Opposition can't simply say we're not them. They have to say what would they do positively in the alternative.

NEIL MITCHELL:                And we have to trust that Kevin Rudd's a changed man?

BILL SHORTEN:                 I've got no doubt that if you have a look at what he's done in the last five weeks, we've brought forward the price on carbon pollution, so that's taken that pressure off in terms of the cost of the carbon price. We've settled the schools agreement. What’s interesting is that on Thursday, the Federal Coalition as they have for three years were really rubbishing our schools plan. On Friday, because obviously their polling shows that Labor's more trusted on education, for good reason, they try and change their policy and what Mr Abbott said is, I will give all this money to the states and I won't ask for anything - no reform, no common national approach.

Interestingly, on the Saturday the Victorian Liberal Government - the same party as Tony Abbott - had a look at Tony Abbott's no strings attached deal and logically they could have waited until the election and if the bookmakers are right they could have had a no strings attached deal with their conservative brothers and sisters and what they said is they didn't want that, they instead wanted to sign up with the Victorian Government and the National Government - the Labor Government - our deal.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Okay. How many debates should there be?  Let's face it nobody really cares that much about the debates. The worms are essential - the worm is the                                          most interesting thing in the debate.

BILL SHORTEN:                 Well if you've got a Leader in the Opposition who won't debate the Prime Minister - I mean they've had every excuse under the book - the dog ate my homework, there hasn't been an election date called - what excuse now do the conservatives nationally, what does Tony Abbott, the Opposition Leader have on a debate about the future of this nation?  If you want to run this nation you should be willing to put your idea forward. I've even challenged my local Liberal candidate for a debate, and can't get it.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Well you'll debate Joe here won't you?

BILL SHORTEN:                 I do every week, and I'm happy to.

NEIL MITCHELL:                Good. Thank you very much. Bill Shorten, Minister for Education and Workplace Relations.