SATURDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Morrison back down on Australian embassy in Jerusalem; ALP National Conference; dividend imputation; Newstart; space agency; NT economy.
KATE ELLIS, MEMBER FOR ADELAIDE: It is my absolute pleasure to have the chance to welcome Bill and Chloe Shorten, and their beautiful family to Adelaide. Under Bill's leadership of course for the last five years, we have enjoyed a united, stable team focused on the best policies for the future of Australia. And of course, all of that is going to come together over the next few days with our national conference when we make sure that in contrast to our opponents who are focused on themselves, making it up as they go along, we will be debating and outlining our plans to tackle the challenges of the future. We are so very pleased to be hosting Bill and Chloe in Adelaide, and to be welcoming 400-odd delegates here. We hope you all have a wonderful time, and on behalf of the South Australian Labor team who is here behind me, can I just thank you for coming to Adelaide, but also for having such a commitment to Adelaide and South Australia over the last five years, it is noted and appreciated. So I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Kate. It's great to be at the Adelaide Central Market. It's one of the many reasons why I love South Australia. For the record, this is my 32nd visit to South Australia since I've been Opposition Leader. And in fact, since the 2016 election I've been here for about 25 days. Chloe and I will also get the chance to catch up with some of her family who live in South Australia. I'm here today with Penny Wong, South Australia's senior Labor representative in the Federal Parliament, and of course with Tony Zappia, our Member for Makin, and our great candidate, Nadia Clancy who is running in the bellwether seat of Boothby.
Today, I'm pleased also to say that we are here because the Labor Party like South Australia so much, we're holding our national conference. The National Conference opens tomorrow; it's our 48th National Conference. It's the longest running national conference of any political party, from Australia's oldest political party. What I hope to see in the coming days is energetic, enthusiastic debate. The best thing that the Labor Party has are its members and supporters, and I believe we will see the energy and the passion on display. And I also think in what is the least estimated, but perhaps the most valuable proposition that Labor presents the Australian people at the federal election, within the next five months - it's a united team, it's an energetic and it’s a team with vision.
So we are very much looking forward to our visit to South Australia, and hearing all of the very important issues which South Australians think are important to the future of this great state. Penny and I are happy to take any questions on any matters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, DFAT yesterday upgraded their precautions in Indonesia for Australians travelling due to Scott Morrison's likely announcement. Are you concerned that the decision around Jerusalem might put Australians at risk overseas?
SHORTEN: I am assuming you've asked about the Prime Minister's -
JOURNALIST: Jerusalem - yes.
SHORTEN: I don't know if you can hear the answer over our friends, but I believe that Mr Morrison decision today is a humiliating backdown. What has happened is -
All right. I appreciate your point and I am happy to talk to. You've made your point which is fine. Now, we're going to talk about some issues because (inaudible). I am happy to talk to you after this. If you don't respect the offer of a conversation, if you don't respect the idea that there are other issues important (inaudible), I can't stop you but that would be a shame and undermine the important message you've got.
No, it's all right. Listen, we live in a free country and they have made their point and it really doesn't worry me that much.
Ok, going back to the question of Jerusalem. We are having an argument about something that most Australians didn't realise was a problem. It's been a humiliating back down by Mr Morrison. I am not sure when he rushed the announcement of moving the embassy that he really knew what he was doing. I’m tempted to think it was a sort of, rookie mistake by an L-Plate Prime Minister. But it is a little more serious than that. My fear is that Mr Morrison hasn't just had to do a political back down, my fear is that he has made Australia look stupid on the international stage.
Conflict in the Middle East is a complex issue. People have been trying to resolve it for decades, and there are very strongly held views on both sides. Rushing in and making a premature announcement about Middle Eastern foreign policy just to sort out a domestic political by-election in Wentworth, I feel was risky and foolish. What I am worried about is that Mr Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest. So you know, I regret that we've seen a complex debate derailed by reckless and foolish behaviour. Australian Government foreign policy on the Middle East can't afford to be dictated by short-term polling considerations in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Will the back down as you call it, save the trade deal with Indonesia?
SHORTEN: I sincerely hope the trade deal with Indonesia occurs. It's not just me saying it as the Opposition Leader, but everyone from Indonesia to local business in Australia have all expressed concern. This decision was a very rushed decision.
JOURNALIST: Do you think - there have been concerns raised that the decision in relation, or any decision in relation to the embassy could lead to protests in Indonesia or increase the risk of terrorism. Do you think there is any grounds for that?
SHORTEN: Well Australia should always make its foreign policy without fear of threats from other people around the world. You know, I respect the right of Australia to have an independent foreign policy. But I do really think it has been a foolish and risky bungle by the Government because what they have done is they didn't consult the ADF, they didn't consult our security experts, they didn't have a proper cabinet process. And now as everyone has predicted, the Government has walked away from their initial rush of blood to the head. It really was a rookie mistake that just had repercussions for our relations in the region. I might get Penny Wong, our Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson, to talk further about this reckless and foolish behaviour.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Look I just want to make a few comments because I think Bill has covered it. This is a decision which is all risk, all risk and no gain. A humiliating back down that puts Australia in the position of just a handful of countries like I think Russia, the Czech Republic. A humiliating back down that continues to present risk to Australia's relationship in the world, and within the region. And for what? Let's be very clear about why this decision has been made: this is Scott Morrison trying to dig himself out of a hole of his own making, that's what this is about, and that is not how you run foreign policy. You don't put your domestic political interests above Australia's national interest and that is what this government has done.
JOURNALIST: Would you say that Mr Morrison is scraping the barnacles off?
WONG: No, I think he is just as I said, digging himself out of a hole he put himself into. But the sad thing is it the country's national interest which has been compromised.
JOURNALIST: But is it a terrorism risk or not?
WONG: Well, we are responsible party of government - and I think Bill answered that correctly. We are not going to speculate about those sorts of issues. Government should ensure that they keep Australians safe. We are entitled as a nation to make our foreign policy according to our national interest. So our criticism of Mr Morrison is that he has not made this decision, or the decision in Wentworth in the national interest, he has made it in Scott's interest. And that is not how you should run foreign policy.
JOURNALIST: If we could ask the Labor Leader Bill Shorten a question about your franking credits policy. Now you're here today with the candidate for Boothby, Nadia Clancy, there's research out today suggesting that more older voters are actually really concerned about that franking credit policy, particularly in the seat of Boothby. Is it a danger to you in electorates that have a higher population of seniors, which is going to be the case quite a lot in South Australia?
SHORTEN: Labor is the party of the fair go for all Australians. It is neither sustainable nor fair for some people to get a tax income refund when they've paid no income tax. That's at the heart of our policy. When the Government pays a payment for owning shares and getting dividends, that was to compensate for income tax that's paid by the person who owns the shares. But these days what we're seeing is people are getting income tax refunds when they pay no income tax. It's not illegal, but it’s not sustainable and it certainly isn't fair. And when we talk about older Australians, what worries me is the fact that there's 120,000 people waiting for aged case packages. What worries me, is that there's 420,000 of our fellow Australians who have been diagnosed with dementia and we don't have enough funding in our aged care system to support them. What worries me is that we’ve see the out of pocket costs for going to see a GP go up and up. We've seen the out of pocket costs to go and see specialists go up and up. What I'm seeing is that older Australians are disproportionally on the receiving end of the brunt of Mr Morrison's health care cuts, and I want to find money in the Budget to make sure that all Australians are guaranteed quality health care no matter how old they are.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) if you are elected, will you reverse this decision?
SHORTEN: First of all on the Jerusalem question, let's say what really happened. Mr Morrison has tried to copy Donald Trump, and he's failed to even do that. Labor's position is the view of the sensible world opinion and the best advice within Australian foreign policy. What we believe is that Jerusalem should be recognised as the capital of both Israel and Palestine as part of the final stages of a negotiated two-state peace deal between Palestine and Israel. And the problem that Mr Morrison has done, is he keeps trying to reverse engineer to cover up for his initial mistake. He shouldn’t have said he was going to move the embassy like Donald Trump has done. Mr Morrison, we're not American, Mr Morrison shouldn't have done that, and ever since then everything that he's said since has been to cover up for his initial mistake. What Mr Morrison is doing is confusing stubbornness with leadership. What he's doing is confusing his own political interests with our national interests.
JOURNALIST: So will you reverse it?
SHORTEN: I've just said, we will do it at the final stage and we're not at the final stage of a two-state peace deal.
JOURNALIST: Inaudible question
SHORTEN: Well as Penny said, Labor is a responsible party of government. I don't believe any government puts people's lives in danger knowingly or willingly, nor should they. But I think the Australian and indeed people all around the world have said, normally Australia's pretty savvy on Foreign Policy. We might be a middle power, we're not a great power, but we've got a good reputation globally for making the right calls, for pulling our weight globally. I think this sort of bull in a china shop reckless foreign policy of Mr Morrison, which we all know was about trying to win a few votes in the Wentworth by-election, has jeopardised our reputation. People expect Australia to be a sensible middle power in the world, that's what it'll be under a Labor administration. But what we're seeing is nothing to do with foreign policy by Mr Morrison. Mr Morrison thought that if he said we would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a la Donald Trump, that Jewish Australian voters in Wentworth would love that announcement, and they would rush off and vote for their candidate in the Wentworth by-election. Now none of that happened, and what we've seen is that this reckless and foolish action - and it was, half the Liberal Party will tell you off the record, as I'm sure they have, and so what we now see is a clean-up job. But even the clean-up job, as is so often the case with this Government, they're dragged kicking and screaming and it's too little, too late.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) increasing Newstart, what's the message to delegates about why a review is the preferred option?
SHORTEN: Well I think Newstart is too low. I don't think anyone who says that it needs to increase is wrong. But what we need to do from government is review the level, and understand the implications of increasing Newstart, along with the impact on all of our other taxes and payment systems. We have to look at what we can afford as a nation. But we're not reviewing Newstart to decrease it.
JOURNALIST: What's Labor's position on the Australian Space Agency, have you reached a final position?
SHORTEN: Yes we have. We're quite excited with the decision, we want a national space agency in Australia and we're happy the decision has been made for Adelaide, and Penny Wong and Tony Zappia and Nadia Clancy, Labor's candidate in Boothby, have certainly been very diligent saying Bill we're pleased it's South Australia. So I'm all for it being in South Australia, but I do wish that this Liberal Government nationally, had discovered South Australia before last week. I mean, I wish they'd done more than goad the car industry out of South Australia. We lost 3,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs. I'm pleased that we're going to get 20 jobs back to South Australia, but it's a real shame we lost thousands.
JOURNALIST: Just on the ALP conference, there's an expectation that you'll resist moves to end offshore processing and turn back boats. But there is a lot of support for increasing the cap on the refugee intake beyond 27,000 and of course putting in place like a new regime for asylum seekers that would be brought over here by other sponsors. Do you support that?
SHORTEN: Labor will debate our policy in the next three days. But if I was to predict everything that would happen today, then there mightn't be a point to have a conference over the next three days. So I want to encourage you to come along Sam. But let's put our approach on boats very clearly. One, we're going to stop the boats and we'll put whatever resources we need to do that. Two, we are supporting regional and offshore processing. But three, we think that refugees are part of our population intake. So we will be taking refugees into this country but we'll do it properly, not via people smugglers. We want to be a good international citizen, we also recognise however that we've got to make sure that whatever policy we adopt we can afford, and that it meets our combined goals of not keeping people in indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru, but also keeping our borders strong so we never again see the people smuggling trade start up, and we see hundreds of innocent people drown at sea merely because they want to come to Australia. Very last question.
JOURNALIST: Just from Darwin, the NT Government, the Labor Government is flat broke despite getting $160 million GST top up. It's spending a lot more money than it is collecting in revenue and GST. Does this mean the Coalition is right and Labor doesn't manage economies?
SHORTEN: Oh no, what it means is that the Northern Territory has been on the receiving end of a downturn from the INPEX hydrocarbon development. I think the Northern Territory has got an exciting future. We're committed to better tourism in Kakadu, we're committed to playing to our strengths in defence in the Northern Territory. Michael Gunner is making significant and well thought out considered decisions about improving access to some gas reserves in the Northern Territory. Palmerston and Darwin are very exciting cities as are Katherine and Tennant Creek, smaller regional communities. There's opportunities in the environment, health care, defence, infrastructure, resources, and of course building on our amazing 60,000 year Indigenous Australian history which makes the Northern Territory one of the luckiest places on the globe. Thanks everybody - I did say last question.
WONG: Can I just finish on a South Australian note. Bill, South Australia was the first State in the Commonwealth to give women the vote, first place in the world where women got the right to stand for parliament and vote. You were introduced by a woman at this press conference, behind us we have Emily Gore, Marielle Smith, and of course Nadia Clancy - great Labor women. And at a time where the Liberal Party has preselected one in four, I think it's pretty clear which party is about modern Australia. Thanks very much.