SUNDAY, 20 JANUARY 2019
SUBJECT/S: Swim Smart – Labor’s plan to keep our kids safe in the water; Jobs Not Cuts bus tour; Federal election; Clive Palmer.
BASIL ZEMPILAS, HOST: Every primary school student will have access to swimming lessons under a major policy announcement being made today by Labor. It follows a summer drowning toll which has shocked lifesavers around Australia, 65 deaths since the start of December. In the same period last summer, there'd been 44 drownings.
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: And Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten joins us now from Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Good morning to you, Mr Shorten. We've seen so many drownings at beaches and also inland waterways, it's important to note. So does your announcement today cover every child everywhere in Australia?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Our aim is to make sure that every child in Australia gets the chance to learn swimming lessons. Now states are doing quite a bit already, but as you said in your preamble to this discussion, it has been a shocking toll this summer. I think one of the best things that as a nation we can give our children is confidence in the water, and that involves swimming lessons. So it is not the national government, if I get elected, taking over this - the state are doing it, but it is very patchwork. And isn't it great when kids learn to swim?
This summer I took my youngest - our nine year-old, we went down to the Bass Strait, which is about seven degrees colder water than where I am up on the Sunshine Coast. But she did nippers, and it teaches them confidence in the water. I could not have been prouder. And I must say, this summer in particular has opened my eyes up to the work that the volunteers and surf lifesaving clubs do, giving kids water confidence. But I think it is time for the national government to use a modest amount of taxpayer money to make sure that every child can finish primary school, having had the chance to do swimming lessons. It is going to save lives.
Also, as you might appreciate - you might have friends who are adults who don't swim. Kids who don't get the chance to learn to swim when they're young, it sort of punishes adults for a whole long time, so I think it is a good social measure as well.
ZEMPILAS: $46 million - let's hope it saves some lives, 65 deaths since the start of December, way too many. You're on a bus tour at moment, Mr Shorten, of south-east Queensland. The Prime Minister recently went on a bus tour. Are you going to finish your tour?
SHORTEN: Yes ours is a nine day tour, although because it overlapped with the weekend, I've had a day on the Sunshine Coast. I'm here at Moffat Beach - it's in the People's Republic of Caloundra. I know that Queenslanders are rightly proud of the Sunshine Coast, but having spent summer in Bass Strait where there are more wetsuits than bathers - listen, the temperature here is just stunning, and my wife comes from here so she's been at me for a long time -
BARTHOLOMEW: It certainly is a lovely spot.
SHORTEN: So I've had a day off the bus and I'll go back on the bus on Monday.
BARTHOLOMEW: The Prime Minister is also in Queensland at the moment. It seems like Queenslanders will be the big beneficiaries of election campaign cash-splash, and also be used for a lot of photo opportunities over the coming months it seems, Mr Shorten. Tell us, what electorates are you really targeting there, because you do have a good chance of winning some of these marginal seats that you're travelling through over the next 16 towns that you will be visiting.
SHORTEN: Well this is my sixth January as Opposition Leader and what I'm hearing all over Australia, not just Queensland, is people are sick of the instability. So when you say what am I targeting, I don't look at Queensland as LNP or Labor, I just look at them as Queenslanders. I want to make sure that kids get a good education and well-funded schools, that when you're sick you can afford to see the doctor, that the pensioners get a better deal, that there are jobs in regional Queensland. So our policies are aimed at all Australians, and I think people are just looking for stability. Do you know that over summer, one of the comments I got from people who say they are die-hard Liberals, they just want one person to be Prime Minister for the next three years. So stability is the big message I'm getting, and I can offer that after six years as Opposition Leader.
ZEMPILAS: Clive Palmer has been copping some criticism for sending out mass text messages. Will the ALP be doing that in the lead up to the next election?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that part of the reason why Clive Palmer is copping some criticism is that he used to run a nickel plant or business interest associated with it in Townsville. And that nickel plant went into insolvency and workers were left with unpaid wages and entitlements - the taxpayers had to step into the shoes of Palmer and pay the workers their entitlements. So I think what's annoying people, other than the electronic spam nature of these communications, is that it would appear a lot of people think that Mr Palmer owes his workers tens of millions of dollars, and the taxpayers - and they say, if you have got enough money to put your billboards up or annoy me with your unwarranted text messages, how about you just repay the taxpayer first? And I think once he does that people might take him more seriously.
BARTHOLOMEW: So that's a promise not to spam our phones during the election is it, Mr Shorten? No messages from Bill?
SHORTEN: We will only ever give you facts - important facts.
BARTHOLOMEW: I think that might be the likelihood of receiving one.
SHORTEN: But I tell you one thing Edwina, I'll tell you one thing we won't do: we won't be spending as a company director, money chasing votes when they need to go to repay the taxpayers and the workers what they are owed to begin with. It's about priorities.
ZEMPILAS: I say this with respect this morning, Mr Shorten, back on the bus. Thanks for making the announcement with us this morning about the school swimming program.
SHORTEN: Have a lovely morning guys. The swimming program is really important, it's good policy.
BARTHOLOMEW: It certainly is. 1,600ks to cover so he has got a long way to go.