TUESDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Bennelong by-election; banking royal commission; Coalition chaos; Turnbull’s dud second rate NBN; Terror arrests; Energy.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BENNELONG: It's terrific to be here in Bennelong on the day that polling opens. This is a day where polling begins and we've got Labor's A-Team here. Labor leader Bill Shorten, Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and, of course, the Labor Mayor of Ryde, Jerome Laxale, it's fantastic to have your support on pre-poll this morning.
This is a chance for the voters of Bennelong, their first chance, to cast a vote and to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull - enough of your lousy Government, enough of your cuts. The Liberals cut services in Bennelong. Labor opens services here.
What we see today is an announcement, an announcement from Malcolm Turnbull, and we welcome this announcement. Today, I'm pleased to say that a Shorten Labor Government will build the Macquarie Park Transport Interchange.
Labor, alongside Jerome Laxale, has been fighting the Liberals for months now to get more funding for public transport and ease the congestion in Bennelong. We know, because John Alexander told us last week, that Bennelong has four of the most congested roads in the State. And while this is small victory for Labor and the local community working together, this $100 million commitment to a transport interchange. We're pleased with it; we welcome it and we will build it, if elected. This is what Labor does, we improve services for local people in our community.
In fact the Liberals walked away from the Parramatta to Epping rail link, fully funded by Labor. That train line would be operating today if the Liberals hadn't given $2.1 billion back to the Commonwealth. Now of course, the Liberals are going to shut the Macquarie Park train station next year, they're going to shut the Macquarie University train station next year. And this is going to cause further congestion and chaos on our local roads, and that's why Labor will not stop fighting for more public transport and better infrastructure for the people of Bennelong.
I want to say a few words about preferences. I note today that John Alexander and the Liberals are preferencing a One Nation party member above Labor. There's a candidate running in this by-election who has stood previously for One Nation. He is One Nation through and through, and the Liberals are preferencing him above Labor. John Alexander said this morning that he didn't know, he was unaware. Well, John Alexander should read his own how-to-vote. But if John Alexander and the Liberals really didn't know that this person was a One Nation party member, then they should pulp their how-to-vote cards, they should tear them up, they should get rid of them, and they should issue new ones.
There is no place for racism in Australian politics. There is no place for racism and racist parties in modern Australian politics. Labor always puts One Nation and racist minor parties last. We've done so in Bennelong and will always do so. So now it's up to John Alexander and the Liberals. They need to show they're fair dinkum, that they didn't know that this person was a One Nation party member. They need to pulp those how-to-votes and they need to issue new ones.
I'm really pleased as I said, to have the A-Team here today, starting with Labor Leader Bill Shorten. He's been fantastic on the polling booths this morning and it's great to have him here.
Welcome, Bill to Bennelong.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Kristina and today voting has started in the crucial Bennelong by-election. Today is now the first day that the voters of Bennelong can send a message to Malcolm Turnbull. They can send a message that they don't want cuts to the funding of their schools or higher university fees. They can send a message that they want Medicare to be properly funded with no more cuts. And they can send a message that they don't want Malcolm Turnbull's dud second-class NBN.
Yesterday we found out, again, more bad news about the dud NBN that Malcolm Turnbull has inflicted on Australians and on the voters in Bennelong. Bennelong is ground zero for the dud NBN of Malcolm Turnbull. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull used to treat the NBN as his pride and joy, his crowning achievement. He was, after all the Communications Minister and now he's the Prime Minister. He was very proud of all of the decisions he's made on the NBN. But the problem is he now has to accept responsibility, both as Prime Minister and as the Communications Minister for the shocking and appalling policy decisions he's made. The fact that we've now found out yesterday and again this morning that the NBN is going to be delayed by another nine months, that his much vaunted HFC solution has turned out to be nothing but an unmitigated disaster.
Today, the voters of Bennelong, not just for themselves but on behalf of all Australians can send a message to Malcolm Turnbull that if this is his best, it's just not good enough for Bennelong.
We're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten what did you make of this morning's $100 million announcement and would you characterise it as pork-barrelling?
SHORTEN: Let's all tell the truth here - if it wasn't for Kristina Keneally and Labor's spirited campaign in Bennelong, does anyone think Malcolm Turnbull would have announced a $100 million interchange? Does anyone even think he would have visited Bennelong except for Kristina's campaign and Labor's determined commitment? The fact of the matter is that Malcolm Turnbull doesn't know where this interchange is. He didn't care about this interchange because if he did, he would have said something before this by-election. Kristina Keneally is already paying dividends for the voters of Bennelong and she hasn't even got elected. I say to the voters of Bennelong, if this is what Kristina Keneally can do with a week into the campaign, why not make her your regular member for Bennelong and she'll deliver wonderful things in a Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: Do you think people will see through this?
SHORTEN: I think that people see that Malcolm Turnbull is desperate and he'll just chuck the kitchen sink because he knows he's got a divided Party. But that doesn't mean we're going to stand by and not support better transport options for locals. This is what Labor does; we support public transport, we support more productive cities. We want to make it easier for people to get to work and to study. But I do think people will realise in the case of Turnbull that he's just looked around the policy cupboard, found it is bare, and said righto, we'll spend this money here. There's a demand. But everyone knows if Kristina Keneally wasn't giving the Bennelong by-election a red-hot go, does anyone think the voters of Bennelong would be getting anything? And I can promise the voters of Bennelong, if you put a one next to Kristina's name, you will see more good policies in schools, in NBN and Medicare than you're going to get under the current mob.
JOURNALIST: Kristina Keneally, the Premier though, says it was your state Government that created the problem, allowing so much residential development in that area without any infrastructure.
KENEALLY: Are you serious? That's what she said today. This Liberal Government has presided over thousands of unit approvals in Bennelong. They have presided over - the Liberals here in New South Wales, utter congestion. They are going to close the Epping to Chatswood rail line. They gave back $2.1 billion of funding for the Parramatta to Epping. I mean seriously, who gives back $2.1 billion of a fully funded rail line that would be operating today, easing congestion. It would go from Parramatta through to Carlingford through to Epping and over to Macquarie Uni and Macquarie Park.
I find it laughable that the Liberals want to try and claim that somehow the mess, the congestion, the chaos that is on the roads here in Bennelong is anyone else's problem but theirs. It is their issue, their problem. Look, we're happy that Malcolm Turnbull has come to town today with $100 million, we'll match it, we'll build that interchange. It's extraordinary that it's taken this long for them to wake up to the problems they're creating.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this annoucement shows they're frightened of you today?
JOURNALIST: Do you think this annoucement just simply shows that they're frightened of you, they're concerned, they're worried?
SHORTEN: Listen, Kristina is too modest, I'll tell you. Malcolm Turnbull is absolutely scared of Kristina Keneally winning Bennelong. Everyone knows, every fair-minded person knows that as nice of a fella as John Alexander is, this is the dynamo, this is the energy which Bennelong needs, and the real test of Turnbull's desperation? Does anyone really imagine that if Kristina wasn't running a very strong campaign that Malcolm Turnbull would have materialised in Bennelong announcing $100 million for an interchange? Everyone knows that but for Kristina Keneally's insurgent campaign supported by a united Labor team, nothing would have happened from the Turnbull Government.
JOURNALIST: Ms Keneally, what was also said this morning is that while the Liberal Government's are building the metro, you scrapped it. You had a metro and you killed it, and that's according to the other side, part of the root of the whole problem?
KENEALLY: I'll make very clear; very different circumstances, not at a politically opportune time either but it was the right decision and saved billions of dollars for the taxpayers of New South Wales and as I said there was a $2.1 billion Parramatta to Epping rail line fully funded by Labor ready to go, would be operating today. Barry O'Farrell, Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian turned that money back, we don't have that rail line today, and that's extraordinary. That is an extraordinary loss to the people of Bennelong. It's an extraordinarily stupid decision by the Liberal Government.
JOURNALIST: Can we, just for the record, when did you renounce your American citizenship?
KENEALLY: Oh, really? It was in 2002. And you know what, it's been posted online and I tell you what, the US State Department helpfully puts online a list of all people who have expatriated and you can find me there.
JOURNALIST: Ms Keneally, you made a claim about the Liberals closing two railway stations. How do you substantiate that claim?
KENEALLY: They've announced it. They've announced that.
JOURNALIST: It's temporary.
KENEALLY: They can't tell us exactly when they're closing them, they can't tell us for how long they're closing them and they can't tell us how many buses they're going to use. What we estimate, it would be about 30 extra minutes if you're commuting from Chatswood to get to Macquarie University. This is chaos, this is dysfunction. I take the 506 from Macquarie Uni where I work to my house in Boronia Park. I know the chaos in peak hour. Everyone who lives in this community understands the chaos and it is only going to get worse. There is no plan. This is a rush job by Malcolm Turnbull. But you know what? We know that the area needs the money so we'll match it, we'll build the interchange.
JOURNALIST: On that, over-development is a huge issue in this area. Have you got any plans or are you going to ask the State Government to curb it?
KENEALLY: Well look, this is a Liberal state government that ran on a platform that they were going to turn planning powers back to local communities. They've done anything but. They've presided over thousands of unit developments in this area. And one thing I keep hearing over and over, whether I'm talking to people at train stations or on the phone is, they're telling me about their frustrations about the congestion. Last week, John Alexander turned up to Macquarie University. He told us that four of the most congested roads in the state were in Bennelong. Last week his suggestion was, his promise was they would fund some type of traffic data monitoring system. I mean we don't need to count the traffic, we need to fix it.
JOURNALIST: Ms Keneally, do you have any thoughts on the fact that - this came up this morning - that John Alexander when he was playing tennis, went to South Africa during the apartheid era. Do you have thoughts on that?
KENEALLY: No, I'm not going to pass any comment on that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on the banking royal commission, it doesn't look like Mr Turnbull is going to change his mind on it.
SHORTEN: Listen, when Malcolm Turnbull says he's not going to change his mind, get prepared for a change of mind. Let's be upfront here, the Government and its members are running around like a bunch of headless chooks. They're so busy fighting each other and the reason why they're all fighting each other is because there is a vacuum of leadership at the top.
I say to Australians if you want to be guaranteed of a royal commission, vote for me and Labor at the next election. I also say to Mr Turnbull, this fight is over but you just haven't worked it out. One way or the other, sooner or later, there's going to be a banking royal commission and the way I see this happening sooner is that either the Government splits and some government members vote for Labor's royal commission. Or at the next election, if Labor is successful, we'll just legislate for a royal commission.
The Australian people I think, do not understand why Malcolm Turnbull is fighting so hard to protect the banks. He doesn't fight hard for a first-class NBN. He doesn't fight hard to make sure schools are properly funded. He doesn't fight hard for Medicare. He doesn't fight hard to restore people's penalty rates. But somehow, when it comes to the banks, the big four banks, then all of a sudden, Turnbull shows some uncharacteristic courage and will fight tooth and nail to defend them. Well, I've got news for him. As hard as he fights to defend the banks, the will of the Australian people will not be denied and Labor will implement either sooner or later, a banking royal commission.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can you tell us what would, if you were elected, if your government was elected, what would you do about the NBN now? Would you go back and put fibre to the premises of every house in Australia or would you stick with the current model?
SHORTEN: Well obviously, you can't rip out every mistake that Turnbull has made. I'll be upfront with people on that. But what I do ask Mr Turnbull is that before the next election, right now, will you finally listen to the technology experts and do it right the first time? The fact of the matter is that Bennelong is ground-zero for his dud NBN. Let's just remember, Malcolm Turnbull's pride and joy were his policy decisions on the NBN. First as Communications Minister, making the very significant decisions which have now proven to be so horribly wrong and now he's the Prime Minister. Just for once in Mr Turnbull's life, can he accept responsibility for his mistakes rather than trying to blame everyone else? So we hope that he will put more fibre in now because the longer this train wreck goes on, the harder it is to fix it.
JOURNALIST: By the sounds of it, the answer to the question is no, you won't guarantee that you will put fibre into houses?
SHORTEN: No, I don't want to repeat my whole answer but that isn't what I said. What I said is that the longer this goes on, the harder it is to fix the roll-out that he does. But we are very committed to having more fibre in our offer to Australians. For peat's sake, isn't it better to just do it right the first time? And we are seeing I think, real problems and I think the ACCC needs to have a good look at the NBN because every day consumers are getting more and more annoyed. The fact of the matter is that Australians are now trying to delay their disconnection because they understand that they're entering worse problems with the new system and at the end of the day, where does the buck stop - Malcolm Turnbull. He was Communications Minister. He championed his so-called solutions and now his solutions are found out to be very hollow indeed, like much of what this out of touch government does.
JOURNALIST: In the wake of these many allegations against Don Burke, a lot of his victims are calling for his Order of Australia medal to be revoked. Do you agree with that?
SHORTEN: Yes, I think it's something that has to be looked at. The allegations - I want to say first of all to the victims who have come forward, and there's been plenty of them, this is not easy to do, or to relive, or to talk about. But you're right, there should be some accountability for his behaviour.
JOURNALIST: And this incident in Melbourne where police have arrested and unfoiled a suspected terror plot for New Years Eve. Any comment on that?
SHORTEN: Well yet again, I think it shows that our security services are top notch. They're working very hard. I've only got admiration for the way our security services are keeping us safe. And I think in amongst the heat and noise and fury of the Bennelong by-election, all Australians both in Bennelong and beyond, should realise that when it comes to fighting terror, Labor and Liberal are on the same page - as we should be, by the way. So I'm very pleased with the work of our agencies.
JOURNALIST: Should people be concerned about New Year’s Eve? Should people be taking extra precautions?
SHORTEN: No, I think if there's something to be concerned about our security agencies will tell us about. The worst thing we can do is change our behaviour and give in to this potential for threat. We've got to go on living our lives. When we change the way we live, and if we live our lives in greater fear and insecurity then the bad guys win. But I'm confident that our security agencies are doing the best they can.
JOURNALIST: Ms Keneally, can I ask on your record as Premier, would you want voters to take that into account or is this a clean slate? Should they judge you on your past there? Are you proud of that record?
KENEALLY: I am asking the people of Bennelong to have a long, hard look at Malcolm Turnbull. Have a long, hard look at this lousy government. Have a long, hard look at the cuts. Have a long, hard look at the chaos. Have a long, hard look at the dysfunction. This is a government that is eating itself alive in front of the Australian people. Now this is my community, it's where I live and I know that my fellow residents are so frustrated - 20 per cent electricity price rise in New South Wales this year. A 20 per cent rise in electricity prices in New South Wales this year.
Malcolm Turnbull said in February it was going to be his number one priority. Well he made it a priority alright, those prices just went up. And you know, look around, four of the most congested roads in the state here in Bennelong. Too little, too late from Malcolm Turnbull but we do welcome a $100 million commitment to the bus interchange and we will back it in. We will celebrate it as a small victory for what Jerome Laxale and Labor have been fighting for here in Ryde. This is an opportunity for the people of Bennelong to send a message. To send a message to Malcolm Turnbull; enough of his cuts, enough of his chaos, enough of his dysfunction. I'm standing up for my local community. One thing the people in New South Wales know about me is I never stand back from standing up for what I believe in. I never stand back from a fight, and I will fight as hard as possible for my local community to get a much better deal and hopefully, under a Shorten Labor government:
JOURNALIST: Accepting that, Ms Keneally, the question was though: why don't you say, I was proud of what you did as Premier -
KENEALLY: I am, I am proud, absolutely. I'm putting myself forward for Bennelong because I know that Bennelong deserves a better deal. I know that Bennelong deserves a better deal than what they're getting under this lousy Liberal Government with its cuts and its chaos, its dysfunction. As I said, this government is eating itself alive right in front of the Australian people. Yesterday here in Bennelong, we got the news - nine more months we're going to wait for an NBN. It's a second-rate NBN anyway and it’s a third-rate government. This is an opportunity for the people of Bennelong to send a message loud and clear. Enough, Malcolm Turnbull, enough. Enough of your lousy government.
I want to thank everyone -
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten -
KENEALLY: Sorry, the Weekly Times.
JOURNALIST: We're the local paper. We know the big issue in our local area is the electricity bills, which are 30 per cent rather than 20. What can you do about that?
SHORTEN: We can start creating policy certainty at the national level. Now policy certainty sounds like, you know, just another sentence but what it means is this. We won't get new investment in new energy generation until the rules are clear, the direction this nation is going in policy is clear. So the policy uncertainty of both Abbott and Turnbull, now in their fifth year, has meant we've seen a lot of investment in new generation stalled. What we need to do is be very clear about where we're going and we want to be in line with the rest of the world. More renewable in our energy mix. We need to reform the national energy markets. We need to also make sure that we're getting the gas that is produced in Australia prioritised to be sold to Australian industry first.
So Labor is for certainty. This will deliver new jobs in renewables. It will deliver fair dinkum action on climate change. And the fact of the matter is that good energy policy is good environment policy and vice versa. So we've got a plan to help put downward pressure on energy prices. We said we'd back the Chief Scientist. The Government back flipped on that. We are determined to make sure that Australians get lower energy prices and we're going to do it by encouraging investment in renewable energy.
JOURNALIST: There are reports that New South Wales Nationals are putting pressure on this government to build and fund the new coal-fired power station. What are your thoughts on that?
SHORTEN: I think the National Party is in the process of divorcing the Liberal Party so they're looking for their own headlines. The fact of the matter is that there isn't going to be a wave of new investment in new coal-fired power station and the sooner politicians start telling people the truth the better we'll all be.
Alright, thanks, everybody.
KENEALLY: Thanks, everyone. Thank you, all.