Bill's Transcripts







SUBJECTS: Marriage equality, Liberal Party division, national security

DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Well as you've heard, there's no need for us to be having this postal plebiscite, this postal survey but the Prime Minister in his weakness has given into some extreme elements within his Government and we are now spending enormous amounts of taxpayer's money, but if we are going to do this we might as well do it right. You should be enrolled to vote and people should vote yes. That's my view, we need to make a change that will signify that. It won't signify that my marriage means anything less, it'll, in fact, make it mean more as I'll be - my wife and I and our kids will be in a nation that is prepared to make the change that is appropriate. We will be a part of a community that has said fairness and equity and decency means something and that dragging these laws into the twenty-first century is something that we're all prepared to do. 

Today is about reminding people that you can't have your say, you can't vote for fairness and equality, you can't vote for people being treated equally if you're not on the roll. And that's why we're calling upon people to make sure that they're enrolled to vote by Thursday next week and of course, we will all be out there campaigning as hard as we can to encourage a yes vote for all the reasons that we've outlined and I think for all the reasons that the vast, vast majority of Victorians know is true and correct and know to be essential to this whole issue. Now we're happy to take any other questions you might have today but I'll just pass over to Bill to add a few comments and then I'm in your hands.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. It's great to be here with Premier Dan Andrews in Victoria, a bit of sunlight at last in Melbourne goes a long way, doesn't it? 

But it's also great to be here in particular because today I and Dan Andrews are encouraging Australians to enrol so that they can get their say in this $122 million postal survey. Labor didn't want the survey, we think the Parliament should just do its day job and many Australians and I share their frustration, can't believe we're going to spend so much taxpayer money to do a survey on something which the Parliament still has to vote on. But if the High Court challenge against the survey fails we do want Australians to participate. So in anticipation of the survey going ahead, we encourage every Australian to get their electoral details correct so they can receive this survey in the mail. We encourage people who have moved to correct their details so that they are eligible to get their survey in the mail. We encourage young people and indeed, not so young people who might have overlooked enrolling – please enrol. 

This is a chance for every Australian to have their say on marriage equality, this nation has spent far too much of its precious time and resources debating this issue. We think that marriage equality should be a reality, people should have their say in the survey. What I also promise Australians is that if I am elected Prime Minister after the next election, we will just legislate marriage equality and get on with it because this nation has got a lot of other work to get done. We're happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten your father Bill was born in the UK what steps have you taken to renounce any British citizenship that you might have?  

SHORTEN: He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, that would make him a Geordie, that's a part of England, they have their own identity. I did renounce my citizenship some many years ago.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us when, what year?

SHORTEN: I renounced it many years ago because one thing you are taught when you are a candidate running for Parliament is check, if your parents are born overseas or your grandparents, just check that you mightn't, by virtue of who your parents are, become a citizen of that country.  The advice about Section 44 is on the candidate form when people nominate so it's a matter of just reading the fine print. The Constitution has been in existence since 1900 and I have to say about the Government that perhaps this is a problem in terms of the Constitution that's been ignored, but it is still the Constitution of Australia until the Constitution is changed, it's the law. Now the issue isn't just whether or not successive governments have ignored the Constitution, the issue here is that the Government has turned a legal issue into a parliamentary farce. 

Frankly, I think a lot of Australians were left scratching their head at the end of the week saying what's going on when the Government was accusing the Opposition of being in a conspiracy with New Zealand, whatever sort of rubbish that was coming out. The real issue here is a legal issue has turned into a parliamentary farce. And I think that the Government, if they had their time again, when gleefully rubbed their hands and mocked the first Greens Senators when they found out they were constitutionally ineligible to sit in the Parliament, I think the Government missed an opportunity then to sit down and work with the Opposition.

Labor's position here in this constitutional mess is pretty straightforward: because the Government said that Minister Canavan who was, according to him, unaware that he was an Italian citizen because they said he wouldn't sit as a minister any longer, we are at a loss to understand why the Government hasn't applied the same standard to the Deputy Prime Minister and another National Party Minister in the Senate.

This is inconsistent behaviour by the Government. What they should have done is sat down with Labor at the start and said how do we work this issue through. And let's make it clear, Labor is prepared to offer a bit of a peace treaty to the Government because I think Australians want to see this Government focusing on them, not these legal and political games.

So I say to the Government if your two Ministers stand aside, sit down and talk to us about that then. What we also say is that if there are controversial votes, and there are not that many, why not delay them until the High Court has made the decision? We will work with the Government on all manner of issues, this could at least move the debate forward. Mr Turnbull has got to stop being at war with Labor and instead start getting on, working for the Australian people. The problem is that Mr Turnbull and his Government spend all their time protecting their own jobs and not enough governing. Labor is prepared to help at least move the debate forward so we can get on with running the country as opposed to just protecting Mr Turnbull's job. 

JOURNALIST: Are you prepared to provide evidence though to show that you have in fact renounced any claim you might have to British citizenship?

SHORTEN: Well I have to say that I don't feel any obligation to justify what I just said because I know it to be true. Let's face it, all of the referrals which have happened to the High Court are by people who have looked at the facts and on an honour system have said, actually, we've got a problem. I know that we don't and I don't expect every MP to have to jump through hoops to start meeting a standard which they've already met. 

The problem here is that some parliamentarians and I don't – I'm not criticising them for it on one level, have discovered that they may not be eligible under the Constitution to sit in Parliament. They quite rightly have referred themselves to the High Court, anyone else who is concerned should do that. But I know that the Labor Party through its processes is diligent. The reality is that most MPs are eligible to sit in the Australian Parliament. We've got six or seven, or however many have started to emerge, but what I'm saying to Mr Turnbull today is, be consistent. If Minister Canavan stepped aside why not get Minister's Joyce and Nash to step aside? Stop worrying about protecting your own job and start worrying about governing the nation.

We say that if we want to move forward why not put any of the controversial legislation, and there isn't actually that much, they're not that busy a Government let me assure you, but they can put that controversial legislation to one side and we will get on with doing everything else. Because at the moment I think that after the last couple of weeks Australians are deeply disillusioned with Parliament as usual, we've got to start working together both Liberal and Labor and I'm up for that today. 

JOURNALIST: Do you think Nick Xenophon should refrain from voting in the Senate until the High Court decides on his status?

SHORTEN: Well he's not a Minister in the Government, he might help some of the Government legislation through which we think is bad for working people. I think the first priority is the Government Ministers and you know, they are sitting in cabinet. I mean Senator Canavan I think set the standard, we didn't ask him to do this, but he said that he would step aside from his Ministerial responsibility and his vote’s being paired in the Parliament. 

What I want to know is, if it was good enough for Senator Canavan why isn't it good enough for the Government now? The Government needs to stop protecting their own backside and start worrying about Australians.

JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be a strong statement though if you came forward and actually provided evidence that you had, in fact, renounced any claim to British citizenship? 

SHORTEN: Well, we haven't done anything wrong.

JOURNALIST: I'm not saying you have.

SHORTEN: Good. Next question. 

JOURNALIST: But why wouldn't you come forward and say it?

SHORTEN: I just did.

JOURNALIST: Give evidence? 

SHORTEN: I just did.

JOURNALIST: Have Labor MPs or staffers been researching Nick Xenophon's ancestry? 

SHORTEN: No. I rang Senator Xenophon last night, I understand that he's upset about what would seem to be I think, clearly quite an anarchism, a colonial loophole that he's caught in. I've got a lot of respect for Nick. I've made it clear to him that whilst he might have made some intemperate remarks and I understand he would be upset at being in this predicament, Labor has had nothing to do with that full stop. 

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Prime Minister's plan to protect pedestrians in crowded places from hostile vehicles?

SHORTEN: Well I know that both State and Federal Governments have been working on this and I might ask Premier Andrews to talk about the steps he's doing to keep Victorians safe in a moment. I'll just put it as simply as this, this is one of those issues where cost doesn't really matter. It's one of these issues where cost doesn't matter, if the issue needs to be fixed then it should be fixed. If this matter needs to be resolved then we should do it and not worry about the cost. But I might ask Premier Andrews to talk further.

ANDREWS: Look, we welcome the report and indeed we've been, the State of Victoria and our agencies both Victoria Police and others have been central to the development of many of the recommendations and the findings. As you know, we've taken many of the steps through the installation of bollards in a number of places of mass gathering. 

Crowded spaces can be a target as we've seen tragically and I know all of our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the attacks in Spain in recent days. We've seen so many examples right around the world and indeed whilst motivated by and I'm very careful not to get too close to commenting on the offender in Bourke Street, we have seen tragically close to home that we need to take some of these steps. We've done that and I think because of the advice of experts, diligent and hard work of both Victoria Police but also our partners  AFP, ASIO and others, I think we are in a strong position to do everything we can to make, to make an attack, to make those sorts of outcomes less likely. 

That doesn't mean though that the issue is sort of set and forget, we know and understand that we have to remain vigilant. Now I'll just direct you to Victoria Police I know has stood up this morning in relation to some arrests that were made overnight, they have a connection to events that were foiled just before Christmas last year and whilst I won't comment any further on the nature of those arrests and those activities, all these months later Victoria Police get the job done. They are absolutely determined with our partners to do everything that is necessary to keep our city, our state and indeed our nation safe. 

Just finally on this issue, you will know of course that former Supreme Court Justice Harper and also Ken Lay, the former Chief Commissioner are doing a piece of work for the Victorian Government around any gaps in our legislative framework. Any gaps or any issues where the balance might be tilted perhaps in favour of a person's individual liberty rather than the proper protection of all of us. They are difficult issues to deal with but we have sent that work off to those two, I think very well respected and renowned experts and we'll have more to say about that soon.  

JOURNALIST: You put out bollards as part of a $10 million program, the Government’s – Federal Government's plan was to involve local councils and businesses, is that the right way to go?

ANDREWS: We certainly have made a substantial investment in the bollards that we see in so many different public spaces but it is important to remember that's been done in partnership with the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and the City of Melbourne and we're very grateful for the very close working relationship, the  partnership in fact that we have with Councillor Doyle. Robert and I have discussed this many times and I think we are safer and stronger as a city and therefore as a state, particularly for those who are visiting our wonderful capital. We're in a much stronger position because Government's don't squabble about these things. We work together across levels of Government, agencies both State and Federal that's why we welcome the report. We've been an important part of developing it and now we will work as hard as we can to deliver the national- the national, I think, the nationally consistent approach that all of us would want. 


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