TUESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECT: Hakeem Alaraibi; medical transfer legislation; Banking Royal Commission; Aged Care Royal Commission
JOURNALIST: Hakeem Alaraibi - do you welcome the fact that he's been released?
SHORTEN: Yes it's fantastic news. I congratulate everyone who's been involved - the government, my colleagues in the Opposition and I’ll give a shout out to Soccer Australia, they were determined to have one of their players back. This is the right outcome and I am very pleased for a local Melbourne boy to be able to come back and play soccer and live safely in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Why has it taken you so long to come to a position on the medical evacuations bill that was different from the one that was proposed at the end of last year?
SHORTEN: Listen, let's be very clear about what Labor is suggesting with the medical evacuation of ill refugees under our care in Nauru. I think the current government confuses stubbornness with strength. They think they're being strong but they are just being stubborn. What we want to do is make sure that whilst we maintain strong borders, we treat refugees humanely and provide the appropriate medical care for people who require it.
JOURNALIST: Have the crossbenchers given you an indication of whether they will support your amendments?
SHORTEN: Well let's see how we go today. This issue is capable of resolution. It is possible in Australia to have strong borders without treating people cruelly; it is possible to make sure that treating medical clinicians who are looking after people, that their advice is given the appropriate weight. Australia can have strong borders and be compassionate to the treatment of people in their care.
JOURNALIST: Are those amendments though a back down from you, away from the original intention of the bill?
SHORTEN: I think it is important that when people provide advice, when they study what's proposed and people make suggested improvements you look at it. What I've done is listen to the border experts and listened to the refugee advocates. I think that this is not an issue which should be dividing the nation, I think that we've had people now in our care for beyond five and six years. I think it is appropriate that they receive proper medical care. It is as simple as this, if you need to see a doctor do you go and check with the government's minders or do you go and check with the doctors? I think we're going to back the doctors and the experts. It is possible to have strong borders but still treat people humanly when they're within our care.
JOURNALIST: Should Ken Henry go straight away?
SHORTEN: That is a matter for the NAB. I think a lot of Australians are concerned that despite the important Hayne Royal Commission which has revealed scandalous conduct at the various highest levels of trusted business, a lot of Australians are concerned that nothing is going to change, that the people who have been doing all of this scandalous carry on still stay in their big jobs and their big salaries. And we are very concerned, and Australians are very concerned, that this current government wants to bury the Royal Commission. They say that they have no time to debate it and they want to get through the election and hope people forget about the malfeasance in the banking sector. It is not the case that you have to have an unethical banking sector to have a profitable banking sector. I believe that you can have good banks which are honestly run – honesty and profit shouldn’t be strangers in different rooms. We need an ethical banking sector, Labor will not give up. This government voted 26 times against a Banking Royal Commission and now they don't want to debate the Royal Commission, it is a shame and they are part of the cover up.
JOURNALIST: If you are in government, can you guarantee that you will implement all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care?
SHORTEN: We will have to see what they say, but we certainly have a starting position that if the Royal Commission into Aged Care uncovers the problems that we think exist there, that our starting position would be that we would implement the Royal Commission. That of course, is subject to you know, if they come up with something which is very unexpected. But our starting point is you don't have a Royal Commission and then ignore the outcomes. Labor said we should have a Royal Commission, I got personally attacked by the government for saying it was elder abuse. This government always shoots the messengers rather than listen to the message.
One last question.
JOURNALIST: Can I just confirm something on the medical evacuation bill. Did you discuss your proposed amendments with the security agencies in that briefing yesterday, and if so what did they say?
SHORTEN: I won't go into the details of briefings provided by security agencies. I am grateful for the work of our Border Force, and the people involved in Operation Sovereign Borders, but what I also recognise is that this country is smart enough, generous enough, to maintain strong borders with the humane treatment of people within our care. That's what is motivating Labor, strong borders and the humane treatment of refugees and I think we are capable of solving both.
Thank you everybody have a nice day.