FRIDAY, 26 JANUARY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Australian of the Year, trade, Australia Day, republic, cost of living.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. I’m fortunate to be in the western Suburbs of Melbourne, welcoming 150 new Australian citizens.
I’d like to congratulate Australian of the Year, Michelle Simmons. Her win is a win for her and her personal hard work, but it’s also a win for science, and it’s a win for women. I congratulate all of the Australian of the Year winners in their various categories.
Happy to take any questions that people might have.
JOURNALIST: Is there any hope now that the US can re-join the TPP deal?
SHORTEN: I think first of all we need to see if this new trade agreement stacks up. Let me be very clear, this is not the old Trans Pacific Partnership which included the United States. I was right when I said that Donald Trump had walked away from that, and he hasn’t come back. But this new arrangement, whilst it’s much smaller than the old one, certainly bares consideration. What I want to make sure is that Australians aren’t getting duded, that there is jobs for Australians, that we’re making sure that Australian interests are put first.
If it stacks up, Labor will give it the tick, if it doesn’t stack up then we’re not going to give it the tick. What we need to do is always watch out for the interests of working and middle-class Aussies, to make sure that they’re getting the best possible deal. Looking after them, not someone else, somewhere else.
JOURNALIST: Just back on Australia Day, we’ve already seen a few far right rallyists go to citizenship ceremonies and they’ll be holding an event in St Kilda today, what do you have to say to those people?
SHORTEN: Doesn't matter if you're on the far right or the far left, Australia Day shouldn't be an idiot magnet for a few yobbos and idiots. Australia Day is a day of national reflection. It's our national day. But when we look at Australia Day we've got to understand, and take the good with the bad and the bad with the good.
Today's a great day for all the new citizens but it also is a day of great pain, in particular for our First Australians. It's a public holiday, that's a great chance to celebrate, but what I would say to the idiots who want to politicise Australia Day and cause trouble, you're not welcome.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull has said that he doesn't think the Australian flag can change. If we do become a Republic, do you think the flag should change?
SHORTEN: Well I think that last part of your question is the key part, if we become a Republic. When I see the debate about changing the flag, that isn't my priority. I said last year that Australia should have an Australian head of state. I said it here.
I think that we will be a truly independent country when we have an Australian head of state. The Queen and the royal family – you know the Queen's been a fantastic person, she's done great things, but she's not an Australian. I think for Australia to proceed in the 21st Century, it's about time – two centuries after the English settled us, European settlement, it's time for us to have an Australian head of state. That's my debate that's the issue I'm going to focus on.
JOURNALIST: So you do you think the flag should change?
SHORTEN: For me it's just not on my to do list. My to do list is about making sure that we have an Australian head of state, it's about making sure that we recognise our First Australians. That's where I think the debate about our identity needs to go.
I actually think that for most Australians, cost of living's their number one issue. You've got health insurance premiums going up and up and up, energy prices going up and up and up, income taxes under this government going up and up and up - in fact, the only thing not going up is wages.
They're the issues which I think most Australians are focused on, that's certainly what I'm focused on.
When it comes to matters to do with Australian identity, it's about making sure our First Australians are in the Constitution, and it's about saying we should have an Australian head of state. They're my priorities.
Thanks everybody, have a nice Australia Day.