Bill's Transcripts


MONDAY, 30 JULY 2018

SUBJECT/S: By-election results; Turnbull’s tax handout to the top end of town; Labor’s priorities.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: It was a huge weekend in politics and particularly for Labor and the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten. He joins me live from Melbourne. Mr Shorten, thanks so much for your time. What a difference a weekend makes, you must be feeling pretty pleased this morning?

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I'm pleased for our successful Labor candidates and all the volunteers who worked on that campaign, they worked very hard. I'm also pleased because I think it sends a timely wake up call to the Turnbull Government to put better hospitals ahead of bigger banks, to drop their absolutely unfunded, unaffordable, unnecessary corporate tax cuts. But also I think it's a shot in the arm for Labor, a signpost towards the next general election.

GILBERT: The PM says the swing of this sort to an Opposition is not out of the ordinary for a by-election. Do you buy that given he says by-elections enable people to have a crack at the government without getting rid of them?

SHORTEN: Well I think it was the Prime Minister who made it into a contest between him and I. I always thought it wasn't about that, I thought it was about the people. But it is Turnbull who ratcheted up the rhetoric on these by-elections, now he's trying to pretend that there was nothing to see here. Let's see what he does though if he thinks that these by-elections were irrelevant, to his corporate tax cuts. I mean today, panicked Liberal MPs are anonymously saying they need to drop the corporate tax cuts. Well we could have told them that before the by-election. But the point about it is that if he drops his corporate tax cuts, he should go with them. This was his signature economic policy, and if he hasn't got his corporate tax cuts then what is he? And at the end of the day, if he can't sell his own economic message, and if he won't fight for what he believes in, well then he should go with them, because this nation hasn't got time to waste on governments and leaders who won't back themselves.

GILBERT: Mr Shorten, is your message to your team or will it be over that over the coming days and weeks, to avoid hubris, after you know - I can see why you're understandably happy today after the big win on Saturday, but obviously the big one that would see you in The Lodge is not likely till next May.

SHORTEN: You are completely right Kieran. I don't think anyone in Labor has any arrogance about the weekend. It is good that we won our seats. It's the government who made them such a big issue, and I'm pleased that ordinary people have been able to stand up for their hospital funding and their school funding, and the need to lift wages in this country. But the real issue here is it's not about Malcolm Turnbull or me, it's not about Liberal or Labor, it's about the people. And the people spoke on Saturday and they said, what concerns us is the welfare and well-being of our families, of our health. Labor's got the message loud and clear. We're going to fight for your families, we're going to fight for your health care, we're going to start having a national conversation about how do we get wages moving in this country as opposed to energy prices, the cost of living and private health insurance, which are the only things moving under the Liberals.

GILBERT: Mr Shorten, you touched on it earlier but there's a lot of talk around, certainly I've picked this up from within the Government as well, a keenness now to resolve it one way or the other, get the company tax cuts - in a sense that among some of them that they should dump them. If they do that though that would reduce would it not, your scope for repurposing that funding elsewhere, in health and education for example.

SHORTEN: We think they should drop the proposals, we don't think they should have ever brought them in. Turnbull fought the 2016 election on these matters, he again has spent the last two years talking about them. They're a dud idea, they should go in the dud-bin and that's it. But what we think is in terms of other decisions, we've made other hard decisions to reform our taxation system. So we have the capacity, because we've been doing the hard, positive reform to pay for our promises. I think this should be a country which prioritises the funding of our schools over tax cuts for the top end of town. I actually think this should be a country where we properly fund our hospitals and Medicare, and don't pass on unaffordable tax cuts to people on $1 million a year. It's all about priorities. Australia is a great country but in order to stay a great country and to keep up with the rest of the world, we've got to make sure that we're educating our kids, that a teenager can think about getting an apprenticeship or going to university that is not too expensive. This is what really matters. The future of our families and the quality of our health care. And of course, I want to be in a country where the only things which don't go - where we make sure that the only things which don't go up are energy prices and instead we're lifting wages.

GILBERT: Why is there a disconnect do you think, between you know, the by-election result which we saw on the weekend, Labor's healthy primary vote. For example in Longman, over 40 per cent and yet in the Newspoll the primary vote is at 36 per cent, your approval or unsatisfaction rating is it 57 per cent. Is it inherent for an Opposition Leader because you have to be negative, you know, day to day critical of the government that you're not necessarily that popular?

SHORTEN: Well I've made a point, Kieran and you know this, I don't get excited or talk about the polls when they're really strong or when they're not so strong. But I think that one lesson that we could take from Saturday, and all fair minded people could, is the polls might indicate you to think one thing, but when people actually vote, that's what really matters. That's what really matters. And on Saturday when it really mattered, Labor did well. My united team did well and I thank them all, and they did well because we've got the better ideas and the better candidates.

GILBERT: You continue to defy your critics, inside Labor and outside of it as well. Do you feel people underestimate you?

SHORTEN: Well what I know is it's actually not about me. My job as leader of the Labor Party is to get people working together. My job as leader of the Labor Party is to do the hard work on policies. My job as leader of the Labor Party is to reflect the wishes of every day Australians. I don't need an opinion poll to tell me that everything in this country is going up except people's wages. I get out and talk to people in the real world. I've got friends who I used to represent in the union movement, who live in streets in Northern Tasmania where 10 years ago half the street had a full time job, now only two of them do and the rest are working for labour hire. I talk to people in the northern suburbs of Brisbane who've got to travel an hour a day, have got to wait for hours at a hospital in the centre of Brisbane to get chemotherapy and radiation treatment, when I think they should have it closer to home. I get out and talk to parents who are saying Bill, child care is so unaffordable. Yet every expert in the world is saying that if we invest in the early years of children's education, that gives them the best start in life. I do these public meetings, the media don't turn up to them, that's up to them. But I go to town halls all over Australia - country Australia, regional Australia, suburban Australia where people tell me that their ageing parents have been be diagnosed with early signs of dementia yet they can't get aged care packages support. None of these people ever come up to me and want to talk about what Mr Turnbull wants to talk about, which is tax cuts for the top income bracket, tax cuts for large companies. They want to know why governments don't look after them when they pay taxes to the government.

GILBERT: My last question, obviously the weekend's results put your leadership beyond doubt. Do you feel now you've got the loyalty of your team including your former leadership rival, Mr Albanese?

SHORTEN: I wasn't very worried about my leadership before this weekend, and I'm certainly not worried about it now. What keeps me up at night is how do we make sure that older Australians can get proper aged care. What makes me concerned is how do I make sure that bright kids who want to do an apprenticeship in suburban or regional Australia get access to a TAFE and a job, an apprenticeship. I understand, unlike my opposite number, this job is not about me. It was never about me. It's not about Malcolm Turnbull. It was never about him. It's about what we can do to serve other people, that's what I'm thinking about every day.

GILBERT: Mr Shorten, we'll talk to you soon. Appreciate it.

SHORTEN: Thank you.


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