Subjects: Labor’s women’s policy; Lack of female representation in the Coalition; NT Senate candidate; Candidate for Macnamara; Election debates; Coalition’s missing ministers; WA uranium mine approval; gender pay gap; Clive Palmer; wages policy; government chaos and division.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon everybody. Today Labor has launched its policy for Australian women. I am very proud of the policy and I am proud of the fact that Labor has so many talented women presenting themselves for election and contributing to this and all of our policies. Labor has outlined a vision to help close the gender pay gap between men and women in Australia. And very importantly, we're urgently committed to contributing $660 million to tackle the scourge of family violence. I'd now like to introduce Tanya Plibersek, and I congratulate her and Penny and the whole team. You know, it's exciting. If Labor wins this election on May 18th, for the first time in the nation's history a government will be made up of half women parliamentarians. Over to Tanya.
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, thanks very much, Bill. It is very exciting to be here with you and with Penny and, of course, with Linda Burney to launch Labor's women's policy. This is the most comprehensive women's policy that an opposition has ever taken to an election. And it's got so many strong policies in it because of the work of shadow ministers like Linda, because of our Status of Women Committee, because of the hard work of Labor Party members all over Australia. This policy document includes a very comprehensive plan, as Bill mentioned, to tackle family violence - including extra funding for emergency accommodation; extra funding for programs to keep women and their children safely in the family home; extra funding to build 250,000 new affordable rental properties through our National Rental Affordability Scheme; extra funding for stronger legal services to assist victims and their children; stronger funding for measures to teach respectful relationships to our children in schools. It's a very comprehensive plan here to reduce and, one day, eliminate family violence and sexual violence in Australia. But of course, the plan goes into details in other areas as well. Economic security and independence are absolutely critical to women having real choice and control in their lives. Making sure that women are paid equally to men, particularly low-paid workers in industries like childcare. Making sure that their wages actually reflect the complexity and the seriousness of the work they do. Making sure that women are better paid in their retirement by reducing the superannuation pay gap. Of course, we have policies throughout this plan for women's health as well. We've got a very strong focus on sexual and reproductive health in this women's plan too. So I'm very proud of what we've included in the plan. It is very comprehensive. There will be a few extra policies that we announce in coming weeks as well - particularly in the area of low-paid workers' wages - that will very much assist women workers. I think when you look at this plan you see the great policy work that's been done. And one of the reasons that we've been able to do it is because we have incredibly strong representation of women in our Parliamentary Labor Party and in the Labor Party generally. You can't really help but draw a contrast between Labor, on track to meet our 50-50 target six years ahead of schedule, and Scott Morrison who, when a quarter of the female members in his parliamentary team told him that there's a culture problem, that there's a bullying problem within the Parliamentary Liberal Party, said ‘nothing to see here’ and refused to address it. The Liberals are actually on track to have fewer women in the House of Representatives than there will be men named Andrew in the House of Representatives after the next election. Michael McCormack, when asked whether the Nationals had a women problem, said, no - both our women are ministers. Both. Only two. So the reason Labor's able to do so well in these policies is, of course, Bill's leadership and commitment to the issue. But also the fact that the modern Labor Party actually represents modern Australia because of our gender make-up. We're able to pay for these policies because we've made tough decisions when it comes to many of the savings that we've found, and we've prioritised investing in better services for victims of domestic violence, for closing the gender pay gap, closing the superannuation pay gap, making sure that low-paid workers are better paid. We've prioritised that over tax cuts for the top end of town. What you know for certain is that, when you're contrasting Labor and the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party is looking backwards. They're stuck in the past. They've got people like the candidate for Macnamara, who refuses to apologise for saying that women who are childless wouldn't make good members of Parliament because they lack the necessary empathy. You've got a Prime Minister that refuses to admit that there's a bullying or a culture problem within the Liberal Party when it comes to women and refuses to pull into line a candidate like this with such old-fashioned views. Whether it's women's policy, whether it's climate change, whether it's marriage equality, the Liberals are stuck in the past.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Tanya. Are there any questions on today's policy launch or any other matters?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, while we're on the topic of expressing views about women, one of your NT Senate candidates has posted a few comments on social media that have been framed as vulgar around Natasha Griggs and Emma Alberici. Will you disendorse him from the Labor team?
SHORTEN: Listen, I only found out about this overnight. I think he has been incredibly stupid. He's not running in a winnable spot, but we've told him, I understand the party has told him to take it down and apologise straightaway.
JOURNALIST: You have been offered debates by the ABC and Channel Nine - both of those debates being played on the main channels on those free-to-air stations - instead, you're on 7TWO and Sky News with fewer people watching. Why have you not accepted the ABC and Nine...?
SHORTEN: Let me be the healer! First of all, on the debates, we do have two scheduled. I'm really pleased that I'm going to Western Australia to do the debate. They haven't had a big debate like this before. It's been a little bit of a negotiation to get it right, but I think we're there. We've got another debate scheduled with Sky in Brisbane. We've got two debates. Let's see how they go. I'm open to doing more. But I also would just note that this sudden belated interest in the Liberal Party in debating us - these people have invented the part-time Parliament. I'm not even talking about the Member for Manila. We had seven sitting days in eight months. If Mr Morrison wants to spend a lot of time listening to me, he can always vote for me. Actually, on debates, there is another point, now you come to mention it. Why on earth is this government hiding all of its ministers? I'm up for debates with Mr Morrison. We've got two scheduled already. But gee whiz, they're hard to find, some of these government ministers, aren't they? We should almost set a little prize - you know, where on earth is Melissa Price? Environment, climate change, we can't get a debate there. Industrial relations, wages policy, the issue that dare not speak its name in Coalition ranks? How about a debate on workplace relations? And how about that hoary old chestnut for the Government, a National Integrity Commission? Surprise, surprise - does this government want its Attorney-General to debate our Shadow Attorney-General? No way. I mean, with all of the scandals engulfing this government, from Paladin to Manus to Helloworld to goodness knows what's gone on with Eastern Agriculture. No wonder Mr Morrison is keeping many of his ministers in witness protection because he's too embarrassed by them or too afraid of what they'll say.
JOURNALIST: If you are so confident in your agenda, why have you rejected these debates in front of these mass national audiences?
SHORTEN: We haven't rejected them. But, first of all, we've got two scheduled. And secondly, let's get a few of those shadow ministers out and a few of the government ministers out, and we're certainly open to doing it. The other thing is - let's see how the government goes answering questions in these two debates. If they're good affairs, then we're happy to do more of them.
JOURNALIST: You took part in four at the last election. Will you commit..?
SHORTEN: Three. I was there.
JOURNALIST: People's forum style debates.
SHORTEN: There was a Facebook one which I'll - of course, who was I debating then? Malcolm Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: You took part in more than two at the last election, will you not commit to doing more than that this time round? If not, what has changed? Is Scott Morrison a fiercer opponent?
SHORTEN: First of all, that was an eight-week election and we fit three in. This is a five-week election. We've committed to two. And again, let me just say - very open. It'll be a bit of an arm-wrestle between Channel Nine and the ABC for the third one. But the point about it is - where are Mr Morrison's ministers? Mr Morrison wants to say it's just about him and me. That's fine. I'll debate him. But the point about it is it’s also about the policies. The biggest issues in Australia at the moment. Wages, everything's going up except wages, but can we get the minister in charge of wages policy? Nup. And climate change? Why on earth? Where's this Melissa Price? She goes from success story to success story, doesn't she? I mean, we've just found out about a uranium mine, miraculously approved, in the teeth of a West Australian state court hearing, the day before an election. What a coincidence.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency says that the pay gap's going to persist in Australia until the late 2060s. You've talked about the lower end of the spectrum. Can you force big business to close its pay gaps in Australia?
SHORTEN: I'll get some of my shadows here to add to this. Yes, we can. What will guarantee the pay equity gap persisting for the next 50 years is if you vote for Scott Morrison at the next election. We've got fair-dinkum policies. We're going to announce some more on Sunday. We are about closing the gap. Whatever improvements have been made in the last six years is because no wages have risen. But the point about it is, we are going to say to big business, don't hide behind pay-secrecy contracts anymore. We want to see what you're paying the men in your organisation and the women. And if you're not paying them the same, why not? If not, why not? We're going to make a requirement of our procurement, we want to see what is actually happening for companies bidding for Commonwealth work. Why should a company who pays its men and women equally be at a financial disadvantage to a company who doesn't when they're bidding for Commonwealth work?
JOURNALIST: Those two methods aren't going to close the pay gap though on their own, are they?
SHORTEN: You should try them. Actually, I did say my colleagues would talk a little more.
PLIBERSEK: I think you answered it really well, Bill. The changes that we made to the Workplace Gender Equality Act and Agency last time have been responsible for a slight narrowing of the gender pay gap, but the real impact has been men's wages falling. We can't reduce the gender pay gap by undermining the growth in men's wages. We want to see men and women's wages growing strongly so measures like banning pay secrecy clauses so you can choose to disclose or not disclose your pay to your colleagues, your union and others, are really important. Making sure that companies are transparent and publishing their gender pay gap. Very large companies will be forced to disclose their gender pay gap and show what plans they have to reduce the gender pay gap. These measures are making a difference overseas, and we believe they'll make a significant difference here.
SHORTEN: Sorry, someone did ask me a question before about the uranium mine. I just want to say on that, this is yet again looking like another shonky deal by this government. Pretty big decision. Lot of money at stake. Made in the dead of night, the day before the election's called, miraculously, straight afterwards. It's apparently the most important decision the government had to make before it immediately called an election to go to the Australian people. There are questions for this government to answer here. Yet again, though, why on earth do we have the minister who is doing the approvals in hiding? It is a legitimate question for you to ask the Prime Minister, why is it that, on everything from climate change to the approval of this uranium mine, that the minister involved just can't be found?
JOURNALIST: On national security, the Prime Minister today has accused Labor of continually dragging its feet on national security legislation, including over foreign fighters. Are the days of bipartisan support in this area dead?
SHORTEN: Listen, this bloke should be ashamed of himself, playing political games especially in the shadow of the shocking Sri Lankan murders. He should be ashamed of himself. Is there no … he loves to be on the high ground, this Prime Minister, but he never fails to reach for the bottom of the barrel when it suits him. I'll get Penny to explain why this Prime Minister should be ashamed of himself.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE, SENATOR PENNY WONG: Thanks very much. Can I just say this. Bill's right, he should be ashamed of himself. He knows we have given bipartisan support to national security legislation over and over again. And we have ensured bipartisan support under Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, but the only Liberal Prime Minister in that series who wants to open up a political divide on national security has been Scott Morrison. I'm on that committee. And as Senate leader, I've ensured, with our party, that we have given not only bipartisan support, but prompt passage. Now the particular legislation in place was the subject of a unanimous agreement from the Intelligence Committee, and was not presented to the part-time Parliament of Mr Morrison. He should be ashamed of himself for playing politics with this.
JOURNALIST: Several commentators have said that the PM has outperformed you in the first couple of weeks. Mr Morrison himself has called you a "cranky bear" today. Can I ask you how you would rate your own performance in the first couple of weeks?
SHORTEN: I'm proud of our team and I'm proud of our policies. [JOURNALIST ASKING QUESTION]. Come on. I know you want me to speed up my answers, but four words! OK. We're putting forward proper policies. Let's tell the truth of the first two weeks. This government doesn't talk about you or the people. They've got no plan. They don't talk about climate change. They've spent one day on health and said that's all they're going to say on health, even though the out-of-pocket costs are going up. They have no plan to match our proposition to help cancer patients, for example. On TAFE today, they're offering $60 million. Let me give you a couple of simple numbers. 150,000 people less are doing apprenticeships now than six years ago. $3 billion worth of cuts in vocational education, and they offer $60 million? This is a government who just hopes the people have got a short memory. They have nothing positive to say about Australia. The reason why we're doing a women's policy launch today is because we are excited by what we can do for Australian women and the Australian people. The reason why we are so committed to investing, for example, in helping people in Medicare with the greatest expansion with the helping of their costs of cancers. We've got a vision for the future. I guarantee you all Mr Morrison can say is yell out "Liar, liar!" That's all he can do. You guys should keep a count - every time he says it. He's been bottle-fed by a focus group to say, "If you just keep attacking Bill, then somehow they'll make you forget their disunity and chaos." What is shameful about this fellow is he's always up on the hill giving the preaching lecture, he’s always saying ‘I’m such a good fellow’, but then he reaches for the bottom of the barrel. He's trying to confuse people, saying we're taking their utes, which we're not. He's trying to say we're introducing a death tax, which we're not. He's tried to say somehow we’ve delayed security legislation when in fact we had a unanimous position. So he's wrong on that. This fellow knows that the only chance they have is to totally talk about me and not talk about their own policies, and to scare people about the future. This election, I believe in the first two weeks, has shown two diametrically different paths. One path is the low road. Just nothing good to say about anyone, every excuse in the world about everything, why he can't do something. Now we find out he's cosying up to the extremists in the Senate, cosying up to Mr Palmer, who owes the taxpayer $67 million. Whereas what we've chosen to do - sure, we've got our tough things to say on them - but we're also saying what we're going to do for the people. We've got a wages policy - they don't. We've got a climate change policy - they don't. We've got a policy to provide the equal treatment of women - they don't. We've got a vocational training policy to make sure that we've fixed up all the mess they've made - they don't. And we've got a policy, in fact, to make sure that we can help our health system with the best expansion in a generation. So, yeah, it'll be up to the judgement of the people, and that's what we're gonna focus on.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, to follow up on Dan's question, this Senate candidate, Mr Kurnoth in the Northern Territory, not only has posted an image with Ms Alberici, but he's also made a comment seemingly disparaging and derogatory of Natasha Griggs in 2015. Is it enough to say, to tell him to take down the Alberici post when he's made previous comments like this in the past? Should he be disendorsed?
SHORTEN: Let me know how you go with Morrison and what his candidate for Macnamara has said about people close to me, alright? So let's not start giving a lecture here. I've said this bloke is incredibly stupid. Has Morrison said that the candidate for Macnamara is incredibly stupid, which she is? Has Morrison actually set a standard for his own candidates that he's setting for ours? I understand this bloke shouldn't have said it. He's No. 4 on the Senate ticket, not running in a marginal seat like Macnamara, but that doesn't excuse it. Stupid conduct is stupid conduct. And by the way if you want to talk about who you're supporting and not supporting, why on earth is he putting an out-and-out crackpot like Fraser Anning in the seat of Capricornia ahead of Labor? Why on earth is he preferencing One Nation with that person in the Hunter Valley? Seriously. If you want to talk about quality control in political parties have a look at the Palmer United Party. Have a look at the One Nation Party. Have a look at the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Will you extend the industry bargaining rights beyond low-paid workers?
SHORTEN: We know that the bargaining system's not working as it should. But I'm not convinced that we need to have, you know, everyone going into industry bargaining. What we think with our wages policy is very straightforward. Reverse the penalty-rate cuts. Pay equity for women. And we're going to have more to say on that very soon. We want to shut down sham contracting. We want to make sure that enterprise bargaining is fairer. And we want to have a living wage, and we want to reform labour hire.
JOURNALIST: Could you just clear up the situation with Clive Palmer? You said a couple of things about him in this press conference. Did Michael O'Connor or anybody else negotiate with Clive Palmer on your behalf to share preferences with Labor?
SHORTEN: No. You know in elections, I'm sure there's plenty of conversations go on. There have been no formal negotiations and furthermore, let's go to the heart of the matter why we think Mr Morrison's made such a dreadful error of judgment here. The reality is that in 2016 Queensland Nickel, of which Mr Palmer has a great interest, went into administration. That was the beginning of the year. What happened then is that workers were left with entitlements. We understand - I'm not even talking about all the creditors, small businesses - of about $74 million. What then happened is that, under the law of the land, where workers are out of pocket, the Commonwealth steps in with a safety-net payment, and then the Commonwealth seeks repayment from the company which has gone belly-up. Mr Morrison was the Treasurer who, in about April 2016, authorised the payment of about $67 million to the workers from the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth stands in the shoes of the workers to seek recovery from Queensland Nickel. Now, I think that it is actually beyond a joke that, on one hand, you've got a businessman running around spending $30 million - and some of it in your own organisations, advertising in your own organisations. He's found $30 million to put his own head all over Australia on those billboards. The government has done a deal with him. Only one leader in Australia's done a deal with Mr Palmer. Now, this government - what is their plan? What have they promised Palmer? Because I tell you, when you deal with Palmer, the idea that it's just a non-exchange arrangement with Clive Palmer would be the first time in human history. And then, what is the detail? What is Mr Morrison doing to recover the money that taxpayers are owed by Queensland Nickel? And it would have been a precondition for us to go to the heart of the matter. It's a deal-breaker for Labor to have a businessman and try and seek and do a deal on their preferences without sorting out the money owed to the taxpayer and to the workers.
JOURNALIST: A photographer at a media event today for a Fraser Anning candidate was allegedly punched by someone who was apparently a supporter of the party. What do you make of this?
SHORTEN: I don't know anything about that at all. I don't know anything about it. Violence is completely unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: Given your views on Clive Palmer, can you then therefore rule out doing any deal with his party to pass legislation through the Senate if you're elected?
SHORTEN: Well, my aim is to get as many of our people elected first. I do think that Mr Morrison as the current Prime Minister should explain how he's going to recover the money owed to the taxpayers. At the end of the day it's not about Mr Morrison, Clive Palmer or myself. It's about whether or not you think it's appropriate for a major political party to enter into a self-serving deal but at the same time see taxpayers out of pocket for $67 million. This is the chaos of the government. You know, someone asked earlier about the election of the last two weeks. One thing's clear. This government is increasingly desperate. The fact that they won't stop the Nationals, their Coalition partners, their bosom buddies, from doing a deal with One Nation shows their desperation. The fact that you've got Coalition Members of Parliament preferencing Fraser Anning very high up the ticket after all of what he has said. The fact that you've got a prime minister of Australia up on the high moral ground always saying how good they are but reaching to the bottom of the barrel with a Palmer deal. Never forget what happened last time Palmer got elected. Never forget. And, you know, four senators, three political parties - the chaos of those years. Listen, I might finish up - Penny Wong's had to serve in the Senate and seen what happens when the Liberals and Nationals cosy up to the extreme right and the desperate and dateless of the far right, and I think that we should hear from Penny about what happened.
WONG: Just very briefly. I think we all know that Clive got a lot of people elected to the Senate. He had three people elected to the Senate plus himself to the House, and then just two short years later we had three different political parties that we had to deal with in the Senate. Bill just said Clive is desperate and dateless. What I'd say is this, in addition to that. This is a marriage of convenience. A marriage of convenience between an ad man and a con man. That's what Scott Morrison is offering the Australian people. That's what Scott Morrison is offering the Australian people. I'd make this other point. What this really shows is Scott Morrison's desperation. Does anybody in this room believe you can actually govern with Clive Palmer? Do any of you believe that? Scott Morrison doesn't believe that. But he's so desperate to cling on to power, he'll do a deal with Clive Palmer even though he knows he can't govern with him. You know what that means, ladies and gentlemen? What it means is more of the same, more chaos and division. Thank you very much.
SHORTEN: Thanks, everybody.