Labor congratulates Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg and all the personnel being sworn in today as part of the Australian Border Force (ABF).
Before becoming the ABF Commissioner, Mr Quaedvlieg excelled as the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
The ABF will play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity of Australia’s borders.
Labor wishes Commissioner Quaedvlieg and all ABF staff the very best.
WEDNESDAY, 1 JULY 2015
EVERYONE’S ON BOARD FOR CLIMATE ACTION, EXCEPT ABBOTT
Labor welcomes the cooperation of the business, manufacturing, energy, social services and environmental sectors on one of the most challenging policy areas of our time.
Labor agrees that climate change will have serious economic, environmental and social impacts on Australia.
Labor’s policies in this area will reflect that understanding and ensure meaningful action and economic growth.
Tony Abbott and some in his party seem to be the only ones who haven’t quite recognised this yet.
We thank these groups for their efforts to develop guiding principles for climate action.
Labor has met with the group and we will continue to consult with them as we develop our climate policy.
With each day, the Liberal Party force themselves further out of step by not accepting the need for responsible and meaningful action on climate change.
MONDAY, 29 JUNE 2015
US SUPREME COURT DECISION
We welcome the historic decision of the US Supreme Court.
A nation dedicated to the equality of all, has upheld that truth today.
We congratulate the LGBTI couples of the United States, to whom this victory, this legal recognition of their love, means the most.
This is a joyous day in America. In Australia, let us make it a call to action.
It’s time to make marriage equality, a reality.
SATURDAY, 27 JUNE 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
DAN DORAN (PLIBERSEK) – 0427 464 350
TERRORIST ATTACKS IN FRANCE, KUWAIT, SOMALIA, AND TUNISIA
Labor condemns the terrorist attacks in France, Kuwait, Somalia, and Tunisia, in the strongest possible terms.
We offer our condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured.
Our thoughts are with all nations affected by this senseless violence.
These were attacks aimed at the innocent. Acts of hatred, designed to provoke fear.
As an international community we say with one voice: such crimes will never go unchallenged, or unpunished. Terror has no place in our world.
We urge Australians in the countries affected, or those thinking of travelling there, to follow the advice of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
For any Australians that need assistance, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s 24 Hour Consular Emergency contact is 1300 555 135, or from outside Australia +61 2 6261 3305 (telephone) +61 421 269 080 (SMS).
Labor will do all it can to support the Australian Government at this terrible time.
SATURDAY, 27 JUNE 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
DAN DORAN (PLIBERSEK) – 0427 464 350
Labor welcomes today’s announcement by GE and Downer of the expansion of the Ararat Wind Farm following the passing of Renewable Energy Target legislation earlier this week.
This expansion represents a $450 million investment in Australia’s renewable energy industry, creates up to 285 jobs and will inject $7 million into the local community of Ararat.
The financiers and owners acknowledged the project would not have proceeded without the certainty provided by the agreement Labor struck with the Government on the Renewable Energy Target.
Throughout the 18 months of the Government’s attacks on the renewable energy industry, Labor was guided by industry advice to return the policy to bipartisanship so that investors had the confidence to invest in Australian renewable projects.
While Labor would have preferred Tony Abbott had kept his promise not to change the Renewable Energy Target, we are pleased investment has started to flow again and jobs are being created.
Local Liberal MP Dan Tehan should be ashamed it took his Government so long to come to an agreeable position, effectively holding up the creation of nearly 300 jobs in his own electorate.
The Greens should also explain to the families of those workers why they were willing to let their jobs hang in limbo by voting against the passage of the legislation.
Labor’s ultimate goal throughout the entire Renewable Energy Target debacle, created by Tony Abbott’s broken promise, was to restore investor confidence in a critically important industry.
Labor’s focus is on creating jobs of the future. Those jobs exist in the renewable energy industry and we’ll do all we can to establish the right policy framework to foster job creation and attract investment.
FRIDAY, 26 JUNE 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
JO MEEHAN (BUTLER) 0408 803 428
Doorstop: Tuggeranong – Labor’s commitment to TAFE; Abbott Government’s cuts to skills and education
THURSDAY, 25 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s commitment to TAFE; Abbott Government’s cuts to skills and education; Abbott Government’s cuts to schools and hospitals; Australian Labor Party; Tony Abbott’s ASIO photo op; ABC’s Q&A program.
GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: It’s great to be here this morning with Bill and Sharon to talk to all these fantastic apprentices and work experience students, work experience students from St Mary MacKillop College, just up the road here, who are taking advantage of Labor’s investment in the trade training centre at that school and then they’re segwaying here into an apprenticeship and off to CIT. So it’s great to be here to meet with the apprentices and to hear the stories of the workers through the course of their career, early on going and getting an apprenticeship and then keep upgrading their skills throughout the course of their career. So I’ll now handover the Bill, thanks for being here Bill, everyone’s really appreciated you being here and Sharon and over to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gai. It’s great to be here at the Action workshop, the bus workshop here, meeting apprentices and skilled tradesman who keep the buses of Canberra on the roads. What I also know is that what we see here is taking place all over Australia. There’s a lot of good tradespeople go to work every day, they’re delivering services which I think for a lot of Australians they never get to see and what they’re also doing here is they’re training apprentices, there’s a dozen apprentices here. It is vitally important for the Australia of the next 10 years that we keep training apprentices. The Labor Party is going to make the support of TAFE, backing TAFE up an election issue. The Abbott Government has cut $2 billion already from training since they got in, training and vocational ed, including a billion dollars from apprenticeships. If we want our buses to drive on the roads in the future, if we want our cars, if we want our building industry, we’re going to need apprentices being trained. The right policies for the future is Labor’s idea to train more apprentices and we encourage parents who are talking to their kids about their future to look at apprenticeships. There are great stories here and I encourage the media to talk to some of the individual apprentices and what’s also great is some of the apprentices here are mature age. They’re skilling and re-skilling, training and re-training, this is a great story. Labor is committing to make sure that a portion of our funding, which we give the States for training, goes to TAFE. That’s our guarantee because we want young people today and older workers today to train and re-train. This country needs apprentices and Labor’s backing them up. I’ll hand over to Sharon just to talk a bit further about Labor’s training policies and then we can talk about all other issues.
SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks, Bill. Look, yesterday we were at the Canberra Institute of Technology and now we are visiting in this great workplace Action Buses, some of the apprentices who are undertaking training there and the thing they said to us yesterday and that we’re seeing today is that to give high quality training that keeps pace with technological change, you need to have a really strong public provider in the TAFE system out there. Sadly over recent years we have seen across State Governments the heart being cut out of TAFE. Only yesterday New South Wales in the last 12 months, the number of people enrolled at TAFE has dropped 30,000 in one State.
So we are determined, and Bill made a really important commitment last night, that a Labor Government would work with the States and Territories to make sure TAFE is strong and has the future that it needs. If you talk to some of the older tradesmen here as we’ve just done, they are passionate about TAFE. Out in communities and workplaces like this, you will find that people understand the absolute value of our public TAFE system and that’s why our commitment is so important, compared to the Government who’s now toying with the idea of just walking away from the sector all together and just lumping it back on the States. So this is really critically important and I think you can see that in the stories we’ve heard today.
SHORTEN: Thanks Sharon, any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you now concede that you won the ALP leadership based on a lie of knifing a Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: What I’ve said is that I made a mistake in that radio interview and I regret that. It was very difficult times, as you are all aware. The Labor Party was bitterly divided and certainly I didn’t want to put any more fuel on that fire. In terms of what actually happened, I did speak to Kevin Rudd on the night of the 19th. He did ask me for support. I most certainly did not commit on that night to support Kevin Rudd. But they were tough times and what the Labor Party has learned since then is the fundamental importance of being united and we are united.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you’re anticipating an early election and you’ve said you’d like it to be to be fought in Labor’s areas such as TAFE and education. But if there is an early election how worried are you about attacks on your trustworthiness and how hard they might hit home with the public?
SHORTEN: Well we know the Budget that Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey brought down in May is not fit to last 12 months. We’re seeing very disappointing growth figures. We’ve seen lower than expected real wages growth. So this Budget that the Government’s brought down won’t last 12 months so that’s why I think there’s every chance there’ll be an early election and in terms of the issues in that election, the issues are going to be do we have enough apprentices for the future? Are we educating our young people for the jobs of the future? Are we getting enough funding for our hospitals and schools? For us it’s about jobs, health and education. They will be the issues that this election is fought on.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you have made such – you’ve played on the fact that Tony Abbott can’t be trusted because he has broken his promises, done what he said he wasn’t going to do. How can you be trusted when you’ve now admitted that you misled, you lied to Neil Mitchell on 3AW?
SHORTEN: I think it’s ridiculous to say that the particular circumstances of Labor’s internal brawl, that terrible time, which the Labor Party went through and take from that particular circumstances the rest of your question. But the truth is in the last election, the Government now, the then Opposition, did make promises not to cut pensions, which they have done. They promised not to cut education which they have now done. They have promised not to cut health which they’ve done. Australians will look at the issues and they’ll look at who has got the best plan for the future and we welcome a contest in Australian politics about the best plan for the future.
JOURNALIST: How are you assuring your colleagues that your position now is not untenable?
SHORTEN: My colleagues and I are united. We are united by the desire to see Australia not have Tony Abbott re-elected as Prime Minister. We’re also united about positive things. See walking around this workshop is like a breath of fresh air frankly, because it reminds you after a day or a week in Parliament, that there are apprentices who are actually backing themselves in. They don’t get paid a lot of money to be an apprentice. Some of their other friends are out there earning more money in the short-term but they’re backing themselves in for the future. It’s great also when you walk around here and you talk to some of the older tradesmen. These are tradesmen who fundamentally believe in manufacturing, they fundamentally believe in giving young people a go. This is where the real world is and what Labor’s going to do is we’re going to back up apprentices and training with all of our capacity.
JOURNALIST: Will you now concede a new ballot in relation to the ALP leadership, given that people weren’t aware of this lie when they voted for you?
SHORTEN: People we’re well aware of the internal instability and the terrible rack and ruin that the division was causing. Now I do regret the mistake I made and the words I used. I was motivated by not wanting to cause even greater heartache and concern, which was then already going on in the Labor Party. But I acknowledge I made that mistake. But what I also know is that the Labor Party is united in terms of fighting Mr Abbott’s cuts to the pension, his cuts to healthcare, his cuts to hospitals. But it’s not just being against Mr Abbott, we also believe in a better Australia in the next decade.
That’s why we want to make sure that we’ve got better roads and rail, public transport, smart energy grids and a better NBN. We’re most committed as well to ensuring that small businesses are encouraged to innovate. We want to make sure that we have enough kids learning science, that we’ve got enough teachers qualified to teach science. For us the battleground of the next election is who can outline the best economic and social program for the future of Australia. We’ve started that process and again today I add another limb to that by wholeheartedly committing to the proper funding of TAFE and supporting the development of our apprentices, both young ones and mature age.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you say you regret your actions, you made a mistake. Can you guarantee that from here on in, you will not mislead the media and as a result the public on anything from this day forward?
SHORTEN: I guarantee that when I’m asked about internal party matters, I won’t give the sort of answer I gave. You can rest assured, I am kicking myself in hindsight. If people ask about internal party matters, there are far better answers to give than the one I gave and we’ve certainly learned that lesson. We’ve also learnt the lesson from that time period about disunity. Australians mark political parties down if they’re disunited. We are not disunited.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Abbott has an obligation to personally travel to Paris and negotiate the next international climate change agreement?
SHORTEN: I think it would be good if Mr Abbott attended the climate change discussions in Paris. I don’t expect him to, he’s a climate sceptic. But how we handle the future of the planet is a matter which all countries should be involved in. Australia can’t afford to pull up the drawbridge, ignore climate change and not want to work with other nations. I think Australia has a strong story to tell in the future on climate change, especially the important role renewable energy will play, so I would hope that Mr Abbott would attend Paris, but I’m not holding my breath.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor support the Greens amendments on the immigration legislation being put to the Senate?
SHORTEN: We haven’t seen those amendments. I made a very clear speech yesterday afternoon where we said on one hand we regret that the Government only notified us literally at a quarter past 7 the night before that they needed Labor’s votes. But on the other hand, what we are committed to is making sure that genuine refugees do not come to Australia via that most dangerous stretch of water between Java and Christmas Island. The safety of people is fundamental. We support regional processing. The Government has given us a promise this is not an extension of existing policy and it is not empowering new conduct. The Labor Party had a really good discussion about this yesterday.
But I also have to say do any of you remember when the High Court overruled Labor’s first regional re-settlement program with Malaysia, and that when Prime Minister Gillard wrote to Mr Abbott and said would he assist rectify the problems that had been created by the High Court decision, and he effectively said it’s your mess, you fix it. Yesterday I decided that I would not be like Tony Abbott. I think that the rejection of the Malaysia agreement was a low point in Australian politics. You know, we had the now Treasurer crying crocodile tears saying there is no way you let a 13-year-old be unaccompanied and sent somewhere. We had the Liberals working with the Greens to defeat our proposals then. In exactly the same circumstances Mr Abbott has asked me and the Labor Party to give him the sort of support he did not extend to us. But for us, we will do that. Because we think that the safety of people, the integrity of our regional re-settlement program is more important than partisan politics. But what I do hope – and we didn’t ask for anything back in return for it from Mr Abbott, but what I hope, and you will be the best judge of this as you watch Question Time in the future; that the Government will stop politicising the plight of refugees, genuine refugees and other people, stop using the attacks on Labor and let’s use this opportunity, this unusual opportunity that we work together and we take the issue out of politics and into proper leadership.
JOURNALIST: Is your own integrity going to be a problem in the lead up to the next election? Is this an issue Labor now has to deal with?
SHORTEN: No that’s ridiculous. What I say is that the interview with Neil Mitchell was done in the heat of the worst period of internal division for the Labor Party in decades. They were particular circumstances. But I certainly regret the answer I gave and I made a mistake.
JOURNALIST: Given your previous answer about not misleading the media and the Australian people, have any of your parliamentary colleagues mentioned the fact to you – mentioned this to you and said that they are unhappy about you admitting that you lied to Neil Mitchell?
SHORTEN: There is a couple of questions in that. Are they unhappy that I admit that I made a mistake? No.
JOURNALIST: Have they come to you and said that they’re unhappy about this?
JOURNALIST: Does Tony Abbott need to explain himself over the ASIO maps saga?
SHORTEN: That was remarkable yesterday. I saw some of the photos myself and some of the images. If Tony Abbott wants to have a photo opportunity promoting his credentials on national security for the nightly news, it’s up to him that he does it properly. I think it is a problem that official information, which wouldn’t normally be available to the public has become made available merely because of Mr Abbott’s desire to have a photo opportunity. I’d also ask Mr Abbott please do not blame ASIO and the hard working security professionals because you wanted to have a photo opportunity at their office. I think it’s Mr Abbott who has to explain his conduct, not ASIO.
JOURNALIST: Don’t you have faith that the ASIO officials would have only brought out maps that that knew were okay to be photographed?
SHORTEN: We better get the answers to that hadn’t we? Clearly there’s an issue, clearly ASIO says this was official information. I don’t know how you’ve gone getting access to these maps on any other occasion and if they provide them to the media as the course of normal business, but if they don’t provide this information in the normal course of business, it wouldn’t be available to you if you rang them up and said could I please have these maps. You have to ask yourself why was it allowed to happen?
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) the Liberal Party using terrorism fears to spruik for donations?
SHORTEN: Yes that’s very unsavoury, I was staggered frankly. We’re working with the Government on national security, you see that yourself. I don’t think it is right in any fashion appropriate for the Liberal Party to be using national security to try and raise money against the Labor Party. It sends all the wrong messages about is national security an important issue or is it just a party political matter and political opportunity for the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Sorry just to clarify, could you have won the ALP leadership had you not lied?
SHORTEN: I did win the ALP election.
JOURNALIST: Would you have won it if you hadn’t lied?
SHORTEN: In terms of this I make it really clear, Ursula. It was an interview in the heat of the most difficult period that the Labor Party was going through in many decades. I made a mistake, absolutely I made a mistake, and I regret that. But what I also know is that I’m motivated not to at that time, to inflame the debate in the Labor Party. But there’s a lesson learned here about using other words to answer questions.
JOURNALIST: You’ve just said yesterday that you decided you were going to be different from Tony Abbott. Will you be different from Tony Abbott and make a concrete commitment to reinstating the Gonski funding for schools?
SHORTEN: I make a concrete commitment that if you believe in the proper needs-based funding of your children in Australian schools, the Labor Party will always do better than the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: That’s not a commitment to money?
SHORTEN: Gonski is about a number of matters isn’t it? It was a report which was, I think quite a new development in the role of federal funding for schools. It moved the funding system to a basis of need and there was a number of criteria for need. We support those principles. Then when you get to the issue of the dollars behind that, Labor has a much better track record both in Government when we win elections in terms of funding it. I can’t give you the final answer about the final dollar before the next election. But what I can promise you and through you to the parents, the teachers and the children of Australia, is that the Labor Party is fundamentally committed to needs-based education.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Kevin Andrew’s decision to boycott the ABC’s ‘Q&A’ program and will you continue to appear on the show?
SHORTEN: I think the ABC did make a big mistake in terms of that last show, in allowing that person to be in the audience. I think they did make a mistake. But I wouldn’t want to see the show shut down, I wouldn’t want to see the ABC punished forever and a day. I would be more than prepared to go on ‘Q&A’. Last question thank you.
JOURNALIST: You’ve just tried to move a censure motion regarding this ASIO maps issue. Do you think you are trying to politicise the issue of national security and would you admit that is a bit of a stunt to try and pin the Government on this?
SHORTEN: First of all, the issue that you’re asking about, the ASIO maps issue is Tony Abbott wanted to do a photo opportunity at ASIO and they have made a blunder. Now I feel for ASIO. They probably got a call from the Prime Minister saying that they you know – let’s do a photo op down here and now ASIO has got to carry the can because the Prime Minister wanted a photo opportunity on national security. We’ve got a whole Parliament House, there is plenty of spare flags around for the Prime Minister if he wants to do something on national security. I do not think that it was right that it was done there, and if this information is of the official nature which we’re led to believe in some of your reports, I think that’s a problem. Thanks everyone, see you later today.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
A Shorten Labor Government will back TAFE by guaranteeing a portion of government funding for vocational education is dedicated to public TAFE.
This announcement is part of Labor’s plan to make skills and training a national priority, by working cooperatively with states and territories.
This will mean quality vocational education in this country, and more kids getting the opportunities and the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
As the Australian economy changes, the need for a highly-skilled workforce will be even greater.
Currently 45 per cent of Australians who work in manufacturing don’t have a qualification beyond secondary school. This is despite the fact that nearly 90 per cent of all new manufacturing jobs will require one.
Under the previous Labor government, the number of people participating in government-funded training grew from 1.2 million in 2007 to1.5 million in 2013.
Labor understands that TAFE provides an important quality touchstone across the sector, making it vital to maintain and grow.
TAFE also provides access to critical courses that no other provider delivers, especially for apprentices.
In many parts of Australia, TAFE is the only vocational education and training provider that young people can access.
Only Labor understands the role TAFE can play for industries in transition and their employees, including mature age workers.
That’s why Labor is backing TAFE.
That’s why the Liberals $2 billion cut from TAFE and vocational education, including $1 billion from apprenticeships, has been so harmful to our economy.
And this is just the beginning. Tony Abbott’s Federation Green Paper proposes the Commonwealth completely abandon its role in funding vocational education and training.
Labor commits to working with the states and territories to continue to refine the contestability of VET funding so that we get the balance right.
In addition to the TAFE funding guarantee, Labor will work with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan which properly defines and supports TAFE and places it at the centre of our vocational education and training sector.
Labor is backing TAFE and training because we believe every Australian – young or old, from the city or the bush – has an equal right to share in the jobs and opportunities of the future.
THURSDAY, 25 JUNE 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
ALISON BYRNES (BIRD) 0419 878 956
Labor welcomes today’s announcement that Professor Brian Schmidt AC FRCS will be appointed as Australian National University’s (ANU) new Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Schmidt will replace outgoing ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young when his term ends in February 2016.
His appointment heralds exciting times for ANU. Professor Schmidt will be the first Nobel Laureate appointed to head the university. He will make an outstanding contribution to public debate.
Labor looks forward to working closely with Professor Schmidt when he takes up his challenging new role leading one of Australia’s most respected institutions. ANU has a unique relationship with the Australian Government as the only university established under Commonwealth legislation.
The university was established in 1946 by a Labor Government led by Ben Chifley and Labor has always valued the contribution it makes to cutting edge research, public policy and teaching some of the nation’s best and brightest students.
Professor Schmidt moved to Australia and joined the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics more than 20 years ago.
Over that time his pioneering work into the acceleration of our expanding universe has seen him awarded a Nobel Prize in 2011 – the first time since 1915 that an Australian was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
Professor Schmidt is a strong advocate for higher education and the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths in building Australia’s future jobs and prosperity.
Labor congratulates Professor Schmidt on his appointment.
WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE 2015
MEDIA CONTACTS: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053
THOMAS MOORHEAD 0427 126 355
MIGRATION AMENDMENT (REGIONAL PROCESSING BILL)
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, PARLIAMENT HOUSE – CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE 2015
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
We understand this is an urgent matter – and the government is seeking for it be dealt with before the Parliament rises.
We note the guarantee, from the government, that this amendment solely goes to:
- Enabling payments
- Enabling the fact of regional processing.
And that the legislation does not change, or in any way expand, the current situation in regional offshore processing.
Labor has been promised that this amendment is not empowering new conduct and that nothing here is the basis for new action.
We should record that we are underwhelmed with this request for ‘urgent’ action at one minute to midnight.
Surely such important proposals and their timing can be allowed greater periods of preparation and debate.
We flag that we will ask questions in consideration in detail in the Senate, to ensure this legislation is in fact what we have been promised.
But this Legislation goes to deeper issues in the nation.
Trust is in short supply in the 44th Parliament.
Every Question Time the Government regularly attacks our patriotism, and love of this nation, our good faith and our sincerity on these matters.
But sometimes in life, it is a very big wheel that doesn’t turn. Sometimes in life, the very people you attack are the very people you need to turn to.
This is one of those times.
Labor will be supporting this legislation, because it is our policy.
Our policy is based on fundamental principles.
How do we best ensure safety at sea?
How do we stop people-smugglers preying on the desperation of the persecuted, the vulnerable and the dispossessed?
How do we make certain that genuine refugees get a second chance – and those who are not genuine are sent home?
How do we ensure that Australian Navy and Customs officials never, ever again face the grim task of pulling bodies from the water off Christmas Island?
I am sure I speak for all of us in this place, when I say that the devastating loss of life, the drownings of vulnerable people…of children…is something we cannot, in good conscience, ever accept.
It is a human tragedy we must do everything within our power to prevent.
And Labor stands, resolutely, to make sure the dangerous sea voyage from Java to Christmas Island remains closed.
As I have said before, Labor learned lessons from Government.
At the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, the movement of refugees in our region changed fundamentally – and immediately.
Australia was slow to respond, to change our approach.
The consequences are well known – and no-one supports them, no-one.
But today we support this legislation…which is consistent with the approach we took in government and consistent with our policy.
Entirely consistent with the regional agreement Labor settled in 2013.
So we come to this position today, not, as some do, out of fear.
Not, as some do, in an attempt to pander to the worst instincts, or the base motives of those who have never learned to accept and appreciate and value the reality of modern, multicultural Australia.
We come here not as defenders of an inward-looking, ‘fortress’ where the problems of the world are never ours.
Instead, we stand here guided by our compassion.
Because our compassion demands we prevent drownings at sea.
Just as our compassion demands the humane treatment of all those in our care.
For us: as lawmakers, as leaders, as parents, as human beings, this is not an abstract debate where the loss of human life is lightly dismissed, or conveniently overlooked.
And we cannot limit our compassion, to those in our line of sight.
We never see the photos of the people who drown seeking refuge in Australia.
We never hear their voices, we don’t know their stories.
But their life doesn’t matter less, because of this.
Their death is no less tragic, because of this.
And the duty we owe them is no less.
These are real people, the challenge before us is real – and the questions we grapple with are as fundamental as life and death.
And if we sit here, in the house of the Australian people, with the power to pass laws which can save lives…
Laws which can stop some of the most desperate, downtrodden people in the world from paying every last dollar they have, for a cramped spot in an unsafe possibly lethal boat for them and the people they love, then there is no choice.
Our compassion, our conscience demands we act.
We will vote for this bill, because, people’s safety comes first.
We will vote for this bill, because some things are more important than partisanship, or political agendas.
We will vote for this bill because we are guided by our compassion.
In voting for this legislation, we make it clear that there has been no more effective deterrent, than the regional resettlement agreement introduced by Labor.
And I appreciate the government by moving this amendment, acknowledges Labor’s policy.
It acknowledges that there is no better method of preventing people from taking a dangerous voyage in unsafe vessels, than the arrangement we put in place.
No better way of ensuring genuine refugees are put ahead of those who are not.
There has been no more important act by an Australian government in reducing the flow of asylum seeker vessels than this.
Because of the agreements Labor secured with the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, to have people found to be genuine refugees at the Manus Island Detention Facility and in Nauru, resettled – but not in Australia.
Our country was unequivocally taken off the table as a permanent resettlement destination.
News of these agreements spread rapidly through the people smuggling network.
Despite a clear attempt by some of those now in government – and by some of their supporters – to send a message to those very same networks…that our arrangements put in place could be overwhelmed.
The only possible outcome of such irresponsible public messages was to encourage people to continue to risk the voyage.
Messages which those opposite, and some of their backers in the community, stopped articulating the moment the election was complete.
But Labor understands – in opposition as we did in government – it is essential that the people-smugglers do not have a product to sell.
This means settlement in Australia must be off the table.
This is the clear, unambiguous message Labor sent from the first day of our regional resettlement policy.
People would still be processed under the convention, but people-smugglers could no longer advertise Australia as the destination.
Under Labor, Australia increased our humanitarian refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000.
Our policies were designed so that Australia would help more people, while ensuring each individual got here safely.
Within two months of the conclusion of Labor’s PNG agreement, vessel arrivals had dropped by 90 per cent.
And, following this, the new government didn’t put in place a single other piece of substantive policy until mid-December.
Labor believes in doing all that is necessary to bring an end to the loss of life at sea.
We do support offshore processing as a step which has saved lives, at Nauru and Manus Island.
But this does not absolve the Government from their fundamental responsibility to ensure that people on Manus Island or Nauru are treated humanely, and with dignity.
We do not believe the government is running offshore processing in the way we would, or the way Australians would expect.
Genuine refugees are vulnerable people, fleeing persecution.
It is not for us to demonise them, to vilify them, to seek to score political points from their misery.
They are not ‘illegals’. And fleeing persecution is never a crime.
And, when asylum seekers are in an Australian-funded facility – even if overseas – Australia still has a duty of care.
Languishing in indefinite detention is not a humane solution.
And there is no place, no place whatsoever, in Australian-funded facilities, for violence, for inhumane or degrading treatment.
Our responsibility is to process asylum seekers as efficiently and as rapidly as possible, so that genuine refugees are not left in limbo.
And people who are not genuine refugees, they’re sent home.
Regional resettlement will always be the core of Labor’s approach to this issue.
We know it works.
We know it sends a message to the people smugglers that your days of profiting from those in dire need are over.
And we know that, when properly administered, regional resettlement is the strongest and most humane approach to asylum-seeker policy.
Of course, when Labor was first asked to support this amendment there was some recollection in my party.
Some considerable recollection about Labor’s first regional resettlement policy centred on the Malaysian Arrangement.
And because of the High Court’s decision in that case, the fate of this plan was entrusted to the hands of the Parliament.
Just as we are being asked to be entrusted now.
It was a debate that was captured for all to see the poisonous, obstructiveness negativity of the Abbott opposition.
We remember, after years of slogans and scare-mongering, that they suddenly sought to lecture us on the rights of refugees.
We remember the then-Shadow Minister for Immigration, the Member for Cook…
The man who said, in 2011 that allowing relatives of asylum seekers who drowned at sea to attend the funeral of their loved ones, for some, the funeral of their own child, was not a ‘reasonable’ use of money…lecturing us about being humane.
We will never forget the crocodile tears from the Treasurer, when he said, and I quote:
“I will never ever support a people swap where you can send a 13-year-old child unaccompanied to a country without supervision—never.
It will be over my dead body.”
We will never forget when Prime Minister Gillard wrote to Tony Abbott asking for bipartisanship, seeking co-operation to reach a solution.
And he wrote back saying:
“This is a problem that you have created and that it is your responsibility to solve.”
That was his idea of leadership.
‘This is your mess, you fix it.’
We will never forget the deal that the Liberals and the Greens did, teaming up to defeat the Malaysia Arrangement.
And we will never forget the 689 lives that were lost after that vote.
My fear is that the truth is, the Coalition opposed the Malaysia arrangement…not because they thought it would not work.
They opposed it precisely because they were afraid that it would work.
They played politics hard.
It is precisely because we remember, which I think was one of the saddest days in the Parliament, that Labor is determined to be better.
I cannot, when confronted with the same facts as Tony Abbott, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, draw the same conclusion that he did.
My job as Leader of the Opposition first and foremost, is to put this country first.
I am a very different person.
There is the national interest – we do put that first.
There is the safety of vulnerable people, we certainly put that first.
We will not grind this parliament to a halt…we will not create or allow the uncertainty to continue…
We will not ignore the consequences of our decisions, in pursuit of political gain.
It took me not even 10 seconds when hearing the problem to work out the ultimate course of action I believe Labor must take.
And my colleagues when they had the facts put in front of them, they have arrived at the same conclusion.
We will do the right thing.
We will help you solve this problem.
As we have from the very outset, the Government will continue to have the support of Labor when bringing to an end the flow of these vessels to Australia.
Too often, this debate is only ever conducted at the highest temperature.
Too often, fear and suspicion rule.
Too often straw men and slogans are substituted for argument.
Too often, refugees are demonised.
Still too often, the two decade old toxic malignant poison of Hansonism still seeps to the surface of Australian politics.
That genie needs to be put back in the bottle, forever.
And we can, I believe, because I believe we are a better, bigger, more generous country than this.
We live in a nation made great by migration.
We are fortunate to count people from every faith, flag and culture as our own.
In the future, I believe we are capable of a better conversation about how we fulfil our obligations as an international citizen and a peaceful, prosperous nation.
Labor’s approach to this question is clear.
We believe in being true to our international conventions.
We believe in being true to the welfare of all people affected by our policies, whether or not they are in our line of sight.
We believe the pathway to a better life for genuine refugees should always be governed and supported and working with the United Nations and its agencies – not exploited by people-smugglers and their criminal networks.
Our approach is to ensure that when we offer a place in our nation, the great privilege of being a part of this country, to some of the most vulnerable people in the world – they should come here safely.
So consistent with this approach, we offer our support to the Government.
But I say to the government, please do not take our support lightly.
It may well be in the light of what we have done, the Government in its Question Time attacks will stop questioning our sincerity, our commitment to safety, our commitment to refugees, our commitment to the security of this country.
It may well be that this is a new turning point.
It may issue in an era where the Government does not always resort to the baiting of the Opposition and the politicisation of an issue which is far more important than any speech any one of us will ever give here.
But that may not happen
We have not asked for that promise back from the Government.
But when the Government do this, remember what every man and woman in Labor is thinking.
When you needed us in the national interest, we are there.
And when you feel like taking a shot at us to pull some lever, to push some focus message, to bring out the lesser angels of the Australian nature, all I say to you is: remember this moment because every person over our side will.
I have asked the Labor party to take the Government on trust on this matter, and we know trust is in short supply.
But even if nothing in the Government’s approach in the way they treat the politics of this issue in this parliament and outside.
I will ask that we should make a decision that the moment of co-operation here could be a turning point in our national debate.
These decisions are not reached easily. I understand that.
But I can ask all of us, including the Government no more dehumanising, inflammatory language.
No more false bravado and faux toughness.
Let us no more use the world’s most vulnerable people as a prop for politics.
Take what we are doing and let us commit to a parliament which we can explain to our children that we are proud to serve in because this is the right thing to do.
Let us commit to a Parliament worthy of our decent, civilised, humane country.
A parliament which shows us for who we truly are.
The nation that we want to see in the mirror, should be reflected in the Parliament of Australia: compassionate, strong, generous, secure, safe and fair.
We all love our country.
We are all human beings and don’t want to see anyone else suffer.
Because we love our country, today, let us vow to serve it better.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053
Leader of the Opposition and Federal Member for Maribyrnong welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement today that preferred contractors have been announced to remove the Main Road and Furlong road Level crossings in St Albans.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced that a preferred contract had been decided and contracts were close to being signed.
“It’s with a great sense of satisfaction and relief that the St Albans community will see contracts signed to remove the Main Road and Furlong Road level crossings,” Said Mr Shorten.
St Albans station will also be rebuilt and re-built with platforms below street level.
“The community of St Albans and surrounds have worked hard on this for years. I remember standing with Diane Dejanovic as she called for the dangerous Main road crossing to be removed after Diane tragically lost her son at this crossing in 2012.”
“These crossings not only contribute to congestion, they are dangerous, and at times deadly.”
“This announcement shows what we can achieve when we work together.”
Works will begin on the Main and Furlong Road crossings in the coming months and be completed in 2017.
The Furlong and Main road crossings are two of four crossings that are part of a $480 million package that is expected to create more than 200 jobs.