SATURDAY, 26 JANUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Australia Day; Michael Keenan resignation; Government division and chaos
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. I just want to take this opportunity at a citizenship ceremony in Footscray, in my local electorate, to wish everybody in Australia - happy Australia Day.
Australia Day is a fantastic day. It's a chance for people to reflect on the fact that we live in one of the best countries in the world. We're truly the lucky country. It's also an opportunity to have a reflection and catch up with family and friends and enjoy a long weekend.
I also want to put on record my gratitude to all the people who are working today and across the long weekend - and if you're getting penalty rates, you have certainly have earned them and deserve them.
And finally I think it's appropriate as we celebrate our national day, to give pause and realise how lucky we are to share this continent with people who have a continuous connection to country for over 60,000 years - we really are a very special country.
Happy to take any questions that people might have.
JOURNALIST: I have quite a few.
SHORTEN: Okay. Let's go through them.
JOURNALIST: Just on Michael Keenan to start with, what do you make of that announcement? He was demoted after the leadership spill, do you think it was retaliation?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, just on the string of government MPs who've announced their decisions on the eve of the election to retire, I wish them well personally. Service in the parliament is a privilege. The people, I believe, across the political spectrum give it their absolute best. So I wish them well personally and their families.
Meanwhile generally, this just shows though a government that's barely limping to the end of its term. Three ministers in a week have said they're not recontesting. It's another three members of this government not even recontesting the next election. This is a government where its members have given up and now they're walking out the door.
But what I want to say to Australians is that whilst this government lurches ever increasingly into a cycle of chaos - that it goes day to day with even greater chaos - the Labor Party is working in a united way. We're united, we're stable. We're concentrating on policy to present a plan to the Australian people for their consideration at the next election.
Whilst the government's focused on its retirement we're focused on the future of Australian families.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has refused to guarantee that no other frontbenchers will quit before the election. He's also said that you also wouldn't be able to make that guarantee - can you?
SHORTEN: I can't guarantee that government ministers won't retire. I suspect if the rumour mill is right, there's plenty more to come. The government has had nine of its current ministers and backbenchers just say that's it. They're either not recontesting or that their party has dumped them. This is a government in chaos.
I don't think it's right for the government to compare his level of disunity with our level of unity. My frontbench is excited by the future - they want to put forward a positive plan to promote the interests of working middle class Australians. Federal Labor is now the party of stability in Australian politics. We're united and we're focused on the future of Australians, we're not talking about ourselves.
JOURNALIST: I think there's been - does this increase the chances of an early election?
SHORTEN: I just think this government simply running out of puff. They're too focused on fighting themselves. More and more of their members have decided that they don't want to continue serving in the Parliament. It's a government which has lost its way, its members are now giving up and walking out the door. And what I want to say to Australians though is that the Labor Party is the complete opposite. We're focused on a plan for Australian families to tackle the cost of living.
In a day and age where everything's going up except wages, we're offering fair dinkum tax refunds for ten million Australians - a thousand dollars a year, near enough, each person who earns between $41,000 and $90,000 a year. We're focused on renewable energy to get energy prices down. We're certainly focused on reversing the cuts to schools and hospitals. Labor's got a plan which puts everyday Australians at the front of the queue. That's our motivation. We want better hospital not bigger multinationals. We want better schools not better tax loopholes for those people who are already well-off. So we're focused on the future.
The government - the reason why Mr Morrison can't guarantee more retirements, is because he knows there is more coming.
JOURNALIST: So can you guarantee that none of your frontbenchers will quit?
SHORTEN: I'm not aware of any of my frontbenchers intending to retire at this stage, no. I don't think Mr Morrison can say that.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that there'll be more ministers to resign in the months to come?
SHORTEN: Well it's - the government decided, bizarrely, towards the end of last year that they would only have ten days of Parliament in basically the first eight months of this year - ten days of work. In the Senate the government decided that the government senators should only turn up to formal Senate sittings for seven days.
As we sit back and reflect on Australia Day this weekend I wonder how many other Australians unlike the current government, the current Prime Minister, could go until their boss that they're going to turn up to work for ten days in eight months.
This is a government who's run out of ideas, they seem to be running out of government members, and I think sooner or later they're going to run out of time.
JOURNALIST: How much of a blow do you think this is to the Coalition -
SHORTEN: Sorry, I missed that?
JOURNALIST: How much of a blow do you think that this last week has been to Coalition?
SHORTEN: I'm not here to commentate on the Coalition's internal chaos. What I'm here is to reassure Australians, we are united in Labor - we've learned our lessons.
This summer when I was on the beach I'd get people who said listen, they’ve been voting for the Liberals since Robert Menzies, they've never thought about voting Labor nationally until this election, and I do so not because they agree with everything we say - they like some of our ideas and they don't like other of our ideas. But what Australians across the political spectrum are saying is we just want one Prime Minister for three years. We want a government that focuses on us, that fights for us, not each other. That's what Labor's hearing loud and clear right across Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe some of the reasons that have been given about wanting to spend more time with family or do you think that it's actually that these members are just abandoning the sinking ship?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to second guess the stated reasons for individual members - people have got a right to retire. It's not compulsory to run for Parliament, or be in Parliament, that's their choice, and you know I'm not going to second guess that.
All good? Thanks everybody.