Bill's Transcripts







SUBJECTS: Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba; foreign policy; Coalition chaos

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good evening, everybody. I am here accompanied by my colleagues, Mark Dreyfus and Warren Snowdon. We will be attending the celebration and commemoration of the Australian Light Horse charge of Beersheba on Tuesday. I am here, along with the Federal Labor Party, to pay tribute to the men of the first ANZAC and the First World War, the Light Horse, and indeed all of the men and women who served in the Middle Eastern theatre of operations in the first World War. 

I am also here to pay tribute to the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces serving Australia right now in the Middle East stopping the scourge of terrorism.

Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us what you're doing tomorrow and why?

SHORTEN: Well I am looking forward to meeting with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Hamdallah and I am also looking forward to visiting refugees and work in United Nations in Hebron and Bethlehem. I am also looking forward to meeting with representatives of the Israeli Government and the Israeli Opposition, including the new leader of the Labor Party, Avi Gabbay. 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Prime Minister Hamdallah and the Palestinian Authority - his government is now 12 years into a five year term, they're arresting anyone who opposes them and dissidents. What's your message to them? Why should Australia support a government like that - that has become so undemocratic? 

SHORTEN:  Well, first of all: I am here in support of a two-state solution. I think the right of Israelis to live within secure borders should be paramount and I also support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to have their own homeland. 

I am here to hear how they think they're going, to hear their point of view and of course as I said earlier, to visit Hebron and Bethlehem and to see what services are being provided to support refugees and others in the Palestinian territory. 

JOURNALIST: What about the Labor Party's position on recognising a Palestinian state. We've had six Labor conferences, territories and states, recognise this motion - pass it. Are you going to look at changing your policy on this?

SHORTEN: What I will do tomorrow is meet with the Palestinian Authority, meet with their Prime Minister, just as I will meet with Israeli representatives. The path to peace ultimately relies upon a two-state solution, that is Labor's policy; that's our policy from the National Conference, that's the one which I support.

JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce has teed off on the Liberal Party on the front page of the Australian today. Have you had a chance to have a look at that?

SHORTEN: I haven't seen Monday's Australian as I am still working on Sunday time. But listen, I said at the outset that I am here to pay tribute to the 100 years commemoration of the charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba.

It's my intention that when I travel overseas, to not forensically engage in domestic Australian politics. There's plenty of people, as your question implies, doing that in Australia right now. 

There are perhaps two points I will briefly make: I think that all of this current turmoil and chaos in the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament could have been avoided if Turnbull had simply stood Joyce aside until the High Court had made it's decision. Turnbull is too arrogant for that and because of his arrogance and his poor judgment we've now got the current turmoil. 

The second point I want to make is this: Mr Turnbull's judgment was further underlined when he announced in Parliament in August that the High Court would absolutely, according to Turnbull, make sure that Joyce was still sitting in the chair of Deputy Prime Minister. As we've seen, that judgment was hopelessly wrong, underlining the poor judgment. 

So if there's domestic issues in Australia, they rest 100 per cent at the feet of the poor judgment of our current Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Are you aware whether the PM will meet with any of the Palestinian Authority leaders (inaudible) delayed trip. Is that a good look?

SHORTEN: Well I understand that the turmoil in Australia caused by Mr Turnbull which might interfere with his calendar here. I haven't come to Israel or Palestine to start commenting about the Government in terms of its Middle Eastern policies.

Again, as I said earlier in this discussion, I am not here to forensically debate Australian politics. I think that when Australian leaders travel overseas, we should leave the vast bulk of the detail of domestic politics to those back in Australia.

JOURNALIST: During your meetings here, will you be raising the issue of the three sisters from Melbourne who were allegedly abused (inaudible)

SHORTEN: Yes, I hope to have further discussions with Israeli Government representatives. I think that the best way justice can be resolved is for justice to be dispensed in Australia. I think it is a very serious matter and I will be raising it with the Israeli Government.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you think is behind that shift in the ALP grassroots to have that motion passed at six state and territory conferences - what's behind that?

SHORTEN: Well, without getting into the ins and outs of every person and every person's view in the Labor Party, I think there is genuine frustration at the lack of progress towards a two-state solution. Let's also be really candid, I think that is a general frustration shared by people in Australia and around the world, but also here in Israel. So I don't think it is any different to a lot of debates which happen in Israeli politics and right around the rest of world either.

Thanks everybody, see you all tomorrow.


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