Doorstop: Cessnock - Tony Abbott’s cuts to Indigenous programs

14 September 2014






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s cuts to Indigenous programs; National security; parental counselling; workplace safety

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: The Prime Minister is visiting Arnhem Land this week to see firsthand the issues confronting Indigenous Australians. I think that is a great idea and I welcome his visit. But at the same time, the Prime Minister promised to be the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, yet he has cut over half a billion dollars from Indigenous services funding. So there are children and family child care centres which are closing. Legal aid is falling; this is at a time when young Aboriginal men, when they finish school, are more likely to go to jail than university. So Tony Abbott, it is great that you are visiting – but actions count more than words. It’s about time we actually started standing up for Aboriginal Australians, not just visiting them. Actually, not cutting their funding and helping them get a better and brighter future. Actions speak louder than words Prime Minister.

Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: What is your response to the execution of the British aid worker?

SHORTEN: The reports this morning are shocking and sickening. My heart goes out to the family of the aid worker who is on this video. It is just a deplorable act of evil. I absolutely condemn it. I am heartened by what President Obama has said, that whoever has done this will be hunted down and caught no matter how long it takes, and I echo those sentiments.

JOURNALIST: What is your response to reports that our Australian troops may be targeted on the ground here?

SHORTEN: I think that is an appalling, revolting report. The idea that Australian troops in Australia would be targeted is so repugnant there would be no Australian who would stand for that or support that. When it comes to fighting terror, we are all in this together. The Prime Minister and I are partners in national security and I just want to record my gratitude to the work for the Australian Defence forces and their families.

JOURNALIST: There are also reports now that the Federal Government are now outlining a taxpayer-funded scheme of counselling for first time parents, what do you think about that?

SHORTEN: I think it is amazing that we see reports of the Abbott Government proposing some new thought bubble around counselling. We haven’t seen the details. But if you want to take pressure of families, they don’t need a counselling voucher. What they need is not to have their family payments cut, they don’t need to pay more to take their sick child to the doctor, we don’t need to see pensions cut and slashed, we don’t need to see our schools underfunded.

If Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews are fair dinkum about helping families, they should do more to help cost of living. How do you help families doing it hard when you whack a new tax on going to the doctor, when you’re taking money away from schools and you’re making harder to get family payments. This is a government who is into the gesture, but not the substance.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

SHORTEN: We see the terrorists in northern Iraq and Syria as people who are insatiably ruthless. Cold, calculated violent criminals. I don’t see them as representing Islam in the slightest. Australia is a multicultural country, we have people from all faiths, people of all religions who live along side each other in the suburbs and towns across Australia. I see Islamic families and Christian families and all sorts of other families, if we can give our families the best start in life, give our kids the best start, a good education, mum and dad can get a job, if we can make sure they aren’t being squeezed by cost of living pressures, and we should be constantly backing in moderation. This is not about religion. This is about evil people, in some other parts of the world, twisting religion for their own violent and criminal ends. That is why Labor and Liberal, we are all in this together when it comes to fighting terrorism.

JOURNALIST: Today, it was very important for you to be here to remember the four miners lost?

SHORTEN: Yes, I think Australians think that workplace safety may be an issue which is solved, but every year in Australia there are hundreds of Australians who go to work, who don’t come home. Today is about remembering people who were killed in the mining industry, the coal mining districts of northern New South Wales. It’s very sad. People should be able to go to work and come home safely. I and the Labor Party I lead will do everything we can to make sure that in the future that fewer people are killed at work and maybe one happy day in the future, we should be ambitions enough to hope that no one gets killed at work, and that should be our goal.

Thanks everyone.