THURSDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s citizenship crisis; Sam Dastyari
LEANNE DONALDSON MP, STATE MEMBER FOR BUNDABERG: It's wonderful that we've got Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of Federal Labor. Can I just say that this is Bill's 29th day in Queensland which just shows, this year, that just shows that you know, Bill is very focused on what's happening in Queensland. And this isn't Bill's first visit to Bundaberg, Bill's a regular visitor to Bundaberg so, thank you again and I might introduce you and let you say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be here. Well as Leanne says it's my 29th visit. Actually my brother-and-sister-in-law have had a little baby and I still haven't been to see the baby yet, so I hope they're not watching this broadcast.
I'm here in Bundaberg supporting Leanne Donaldson and indeed Annastacia Palaszczuk, because we can't afford for TAFE to go backwards and that's the very real risk if Tim Nicholls and Pauline Hanson are successful in this election. It is too big a risk to education and training in Queensland, with Mr Turnbull and his educational cuts nationally, to have those cuts mirrored in the event that the LNP were successful. The Federal Government, the Federal LNP Government have cut money from TAFE and training, $600 million. They've made it harder for working class kids to go to university. They've cut funding for schools.
And when you remember that when Mr Nicholls was last Treasurer of Queensland, he oversaw the closure of state schools, a hit list of more schools to be cut, and of course, TAFE did it very hard under the LNP. And TAFE is as important as university when it comes to the future of regional Queensland.
Those auto mechanics, the mechanical tradespeople that we're meeting – third year apprentices. That's exactly what this country needs. We need to make sure that for people who are finishing up school, who don't want to go to university, that we're giving them a trades qualification. A lot of tradies in Australia are getting older, and I am sick and tired of the LNP, leave it to the market, privatise at all costs, export our jobs overseas culture.
Only Leanne Donaldson and Annastacia Palaszczuk can be trusted to stand up for TAFE. And of course the other problem in the Queensland election is Leanne's not just fighting the LNP. She's got to stand up against the LNP satellite also known as the One Nation party. The problem in Canberra is that One Nation promised a lot at the last election, but almost nine in every ten times they vote in Canberra, they vote for LNP measures.
So it's one thing to put the word ‘battler’ on your bus. But the problem is that the One Nation party does everything they can to kick battlers in the head every time. They support the cut of penalty rates, they support the cuts to education, they support the cuts to our healthcare, it's not good enough. If you want to make sure that the Queensland region doesn't get forgotten, then the only choice in town in Annastacia Palaszczuk, and of course Leanne Donaldson here in Bundy.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Can we just ask you, you and Malcolm Turnbull are yet to come to an agreement on the citizenship crisis. We're coming up to the anniversary of the famous dismissal between Whitlam and Fraser, are we heading into another Constitutional crisis here?
SHORTEN: Well, to answer the second part of your question first, there is no doubt that Mr Turnbull's Government is engulfed in a citizenship crisis. The Deputy Prime Minister was found to be illegitimately elected. They've lost LNP Ministers. And after the High Court made their decision, we then found out that the LNP President of the Senate, one of the most senior office bearers in the Australian Constitution, wasn't eligible to sit as the President of the Senate. This is a citizenship crisis not of Labor's making, but it is most serious. And it's most serious not just because the Government's in trouble, but because the Australian people are losing confidence in the Government and the Parliament.
So returning to the first part of your question, I encouraged the Prime Minister last Friday to actually have a universal disclosure, all the Members of Parliament, should fess up, come clean on their details. We think that's important. Initially, when I said that last Friday, Mr Turnbull, I think unfortunately, sneered and said, no terrible idea. But by Monday, obviously when he received facts which we're not fully aware of, I think yet, he changed his tune. So, of course, I met with him at the first available opportunity.
We did make constructive progress yesterday. It's not all doom and gloom. I understand that the Prime Minister had a bit of a tantrum on television this morning, and I get that he's under pressure. But I just want to say to Australians who want to look beyond the carry on and the name calling, we did make progress. Labor only has two, only two outstanding issues. I think they're important issues, and for the sake of clarity I'll briefly explain them.
The first of our issues is that Mr Turnbull proposed a test for MPs to disclose, but it is not, in my opinion, the High Court standard. You know, I take, perhaps, an old-fashioned tradies approach. My dad was a tradesman, and he always said to me – do it once, do it right. We need to uphold the High Court standard. So that's the first difference that we have. And I will send to Mr Turnbull today our view about what the High Court standard its.
The second difference we have is one of timing. I think this crisis has gone on long enough, and I think many Australians would agree with me. We want MPs to universally disclose all their circumstances by the 1st of December. Mr Turnbull says it'll take longer than that and therefore we may need to reconvene Parliament. I don't want to see taxpayer dollars wasted, one more dollar wasted sorting out Mr Turnbull's Constitutional governmental crisis. I mean, you'd have to live on another planet, if you're an MP, not to realise that you need to sort out your citizenship information.
So that's essentially the difference we have. These are not, the bridge is not too big, the divide is not too big to be bridged. What I want to do is maintain the High Court standard, and I also think we need to do it by December 1st .
JOURNALIST: On the same Issue, Mr Turnbull's comments this morning were that you're wasting time and you don't want to see this resolved because you can't reach an agreement on how to move forward. What is your response to that?
SHORTEN: I understand that he's under pressure. I read in the Courier Mail today, on the front page, that Mr Turnbull wanted to take one course of action, which I think sounded more sensible and closer to Labor's view, but he got rolled by his Cabinet ministers. I understand it's not easy.
I'm just saying to the Australian people, we are capable of fixing this citizenship crisis. I'm prepared to work in good faith. Mr Turnbull put a document on the table. I don't think anyone is surprised that we don't immediately sign the first document we see, especially when you look at the cascading problems that the Government's had. But this is fixable. And I just say to the Australian people, what Labor wants is that MPs make disclosures which meet the High Court test of the Constitution, and we want to do it by December 1st.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson agrees with you that these citizenship issues should be dealt with as quickly in the existing sitting schedule. Do you agree with that?
SHORTEN: Well, I think most Australians would agree with Labor's proposition that if Parliament is scheduled to sit for two weeks, from November 27th and the week after that as well, that is adequate time to fix it.
Mr Turnbull came up with a proposition – it was a complex proposition where he said, well, if we don't put all our documents into December 7th, then that means we'll have to reconvene Parliament at the cost of nearly $1 million a day closer to Christmas. I've got no hassle about working extra hours, but I think that the Australian people say, just get on with it. Just get on with it. And that's what we're up for.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Governor-General should intervene if you two can't come to an agreement?
SHORTEN: I haven't given up reaching an agreement. I've been around the block, I understand, I hear what the Australian people are saying. They're saying, can't the Members of Parliament work out if they're eligible to be in Parliament? And I just want to say to the Australian people that yes, we can.
I was as surprised as everyone else that the Deputy Prime Minister was ineligible. I was surprised that Minister Nash was ineligible. I was surprised that the President of the Senate came forward after all the hoo-ha and said, oh, by the way, I might be ineligible and subsequently was ineligible. I was surprised that Minister Fifield, a senior numbers man for Mr Turnbull, knew about the President of the Senate's predicament, but said nothing.
That is why Labor has taken the lead, and we've taken, in the unusual set of circumstances we face, and said I think everyone needs to put up the case and demonstrate that they're not dual citizens. We're prepared to do that. I've done that myself, personally already, when Mr Turnbull asked me to. I'm now asking Mr Turnbull to apply the same standards to himself and his team that he demanded of me.
Sorry, I'm just going to repeat because Australian people are saying, what is this Punch and Judy show all about? Again, to be really explicit, we want the MPs to disclose to meet the High Court standard, not something less. So, if you like, I want a tougher disclosure regime than Mr Turnbull. But, I think, eventually, he will see that that is a sensible course of action. Do it once and fix it.
The other thing is we want to have all the MPs with their information out there by December 1st, so we don't need taxpayers, as you said, to your question – spending $700,000 a day merely because government MPs can't sort out their paperwork.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you'll reach middle ground?
SHORTEN: I think it's very straightforward. The Constitution is the Constitution. We don't need to change the Constitution, we just need Members of Parliament to comply with the Constitution. It's served us well for 117 years.
But what we also need to do is make sure that, as MPs provide their information, we don't do a half-baked solution. What's the point of doing a test lesser than the High Court standards? Then we're just all back here arguing again and people will be even more annoyed with us. Let's do it right the first time, High Court standard, December 1st, and the Parliament doesn't have to spend extra money to sort out, you know, if there's any further questions for the High Court to address.
JOURNALIST: Is there any way you would agree to recalling Parliament before Christmas?
SHORTEN: I take the expenditure of taxpayer money very seriously. If we are going to be there from Monday the 27th and again on the week of the 4th, surely in those two weeks MPs can provide their material, they can be analysed and scrutinised, and then at least we know where we stand.
Mr Turnbull's argument, that we need even more time after that, I think, is a trifle complex and definitely a waste of taxpayer money. If we have to meet again, we will, but let's try and use the time we've got to make sure, that not only do we officially expend taxpayers' money, we just sort out the mess once and for all.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about the altercation between Senator Sam Dastyari and the patriot group, so called?
SHORTEN: Listen, I think that what happened was some idiots behaved abysmally. Senator Dastyari, his faith and background shouldn't be the source of racial vilification and insult. I think he handled himself very well.
Let's be clear, whatever you think of someone's politics, you don't have a license to go and stand over and bully people. There were another 100 people there who were all very happy with the discussion that went on. You've got a couple of idiots trying to get their names on television. I can only assume it's to get their names on television, but it was racially mean.
Sam is a federal Senator. He can look after himself. I get worried about the green light this gives for the idiots on the bus to abuse women who look different. For the green light this gives to racially vilify.
You know, the strength of our country is everyone comes here and adheres to Australian values and Australian laws. But we take people, as our anthem says, from all across the world and all across the water.
JOURNALIST: The seat of Bundaberg is seen as a three-horse race between One Nation, Labor and LNP. What will it take for Leanne to reclaim the seat?
SHORTEN: I see Bundaberg as a two-choice race. Do you go with properly funding TAFE, our schools and health care system, do you go with proper infrastructure, do you go with prioritising Australian jobs, or do you go with LNP and their proxies, One Nation? I see that as the choice.
Leanne Donaldson, she has been very active in Bundaberg. And the issues in Bundaberg are a template, I think, of what happens across the nation. You need good infrastructure funding here. I think it is absurd you've got some of the best fruit and veggie in the world, and they've got to fly south to Brisbane to fly north to Asia. I think we can do more to help infrastructure here.
You had the big storm cell here on Tuesday. We've got to make sure there's proper insurance offered to businesses here. You know, Leanne's right. She's got her finger on the pulse, and she'll look after and make Bundaberg a region where people can raise families, where the kids don't have to leave to do their TAFE, and where there a good-quality jobs here.
Alright everybody. I think that's it. Thanks.