11 May 2019

SUBJECTS: Labor's investment in the ABC and SBS; regional processing; Coalition divisions and chaos; Costings; childcare workers’ wages.

FIONA MCLEOD, CANDIDATE FOR HIGGINS: Good afternoon everyone. It’s my very great pleasure to be here, my name is Fiona McLeod and I am the Labor candidate for Higgins. The people of Higgins understand that if you change the government you will save the ABC. It is my very great pleasure this afternoon to introduce someone who is responsible for my standing here. Someone who supports women, someone who supports women in leadership and someone who is a strong voice for the ABC. Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you. That was Fiona McLeod SC, Labors candidate in the marginal seat of Higgins. Fiona of course is the head of the Australian Law Council, the head of the Australian Bar Council. The go to Senior Council on just about any issue from corporations to victims in royal commissions, so she is a calibre candidate in Higgins showing how seriously we’re taking winning votes in Victoria and how serious we are about promoting women to the ranks of Parliament. Today is about saving our ABC. We need a strong independent public broadcaster in this country. Unfortunately, under the Coalition Government we’ve seen cuts, upon cuts, upon cuts. So today I was pleased to confirm that a Labor government if elected next Saturday in seven days’ time will reverse the cuts to the ABC. The $83.7 million of cuts Mr Morrison has in his Budget, but in addition we want to do more than just keep the ABC treading water. It serves such an important role around the nation, in times of national emergency and bushfire through to comedy, through to children’s shows, expanding Australian values and culture to the wider world. So Labor will invest another $40 million to help make new programs, more local content, more jobs for Australian people who work in Australian media. We’ll also put $20 million extra into the SBS because we think the SBS serves a very important part of the Australian viewing audience. We can do this because we’ve made the hard decisions, we’re a party of reform, and I say to people who love our ABC, people who’ve grown up with it, new generations falling in love with the old favourites on iView, vote Labor to change the government, vote Labor to save the ABC, and together we can ensure that our national public broadcaster which serves the unique and trusted role in Australian cultural, political, economic and social life has a future as bright as the talent it’s producing. Thank you very much, any Questions?

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you’ve already reiterated you support for, keeping offshore processing in place but you’re quoted as hinting that you could move Manus Island to West Papua can we get some clarification on whether you would?

SHORTEN: Oh yes, okay, I understand. We intend to have regional processing operations, we would like to have them in Papua New Guinea. In the event it’s not in Manus we would work with the government of the day to pick another province within Papua New Guinea.

JOURNALIST: Even West Papua?

SHORTEN: Well, West Papua is part of Indonesia. What it is, is the western part of Papua New Guinea. Provinces within the territory, the nation, the borders of Papua New Guinea, not Indonesia.

JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten can you give some details about exactly who will be getting the childcare industry pay rises and also relatedly the aged care industry is saying that  it will need another hundred thousand workers over the next four years. How can you guarantee that people won’t be going to childcare because of the pay rise instead of aged care and leave them for the dock leader with workers.

SHORTEN: I love the assumption in your question that because of Labor early childhood educators will become a more attractive profession to work in and that’s a good thing. Aged care has got a whole separate set of issues. I mean we can practically have a Q and A on this. Of course I’m going the only leader who goes on Q and A aren’t I? So we don’t have that time here, but when we go to the key issue about early childhood educators pay you put aside and envelope of funding, which we would work with the industry, work with early childhood educators to help supplement the wages, so they in fact are able to get a better wage than they currently get. In terms of aged care, you make a really good point. You know when I called for a Royal Commission. When I was asked about a Royal Commission on Q and A last year, I said that Labor would consider it, because we thought there were problems in aged care. I remember at the time, Minister Wyatt accused me of elder abuse because I thought there should be a Royal Commission. So I agree with aged care industry concerns that we need to do more. That is why we are putting aside thousands of places in TAFE to train aged care workers for example. The argument that we should not pay early childhood educators more because some people might leave other jobs to go and work in it, is not an argument against paying early childhood educators more; it just means that we are going to have to do more over time in aged care. The other thing is that I noticed the Prime Minister has been talking about women. It is great that he is talking about women candidates in Victoria. I just jotted down very quickly the list of some of the women that we are running in Victoria. Jennifer Yang in Chisholm. Fiona McLeod in Higgins. Peta Murphy in Dunkley. Stella Yee in Menzies. We are also running Jana Stewart in Kooyong as well. We are running Libby Coker in Corangamite. Kate Thwaites in Jagajaga. Labor is very committed to seeing women get promoted in politics and I think our record is pretty good. If we get an okay swing at this election, nearly half or half of our MPs will be women. But no amount of belated interest by Mr Morrison can hide the problem that the Liberals have with women. I mean if the Liberals did not have a problem with women politicians, why did Julie Bishop only get 11 votes? Why is Julia Banks running against her own party? Why are so many former members of the Liberal Party, you know Cathy McGowan in Indi, Rebecca Sharkie in Mayo, she worked for the Liberals, Kelly O’Dwyer even in Higgins, observed about the problems their party has. If you want to be fair dinkum about the equal treatment of women in Australian society, you cannot just say it at the last minute before an election. You got to do it in terms of who you support, in terms of politics and also your policies. To square the circle back to where your question started. Labor has a fair dinkum policy on childcare. We are putting aside significant resources for early childhood educators, but even more than that, if you want Australian working women to be able to work, you have got to help them in childcare. Why is it that Mr Morrison won’t match Labor’s policy to provide $1,500 to $2,000 subsidy for nearly a million Australian families, per child per year. I might just hand over to Kristina because she is also interested in the equal treatment of women.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, SENATOR FOR NSW: Thanks Bill. Today we see from the Prime Minister a desperate last minute attempt to get some credibility when it comes to the issues affecting women in Australia. He has announced a $75 million package to provide some mentoring if women choose to go back to work. This stands in stark contrast to the $4 billion package Labor has announced to help up to a million Australian families with childcare. On top of that, our universal preschool commitment for 3 and 4 year-olds. These are the things that women want and need in order to return to the workforce. Help with childcare, help with preschool, a government that gets what it is to be a woman in Australia, to have a family in Australia, and to combine work and family. It is not just from a desperate Prime Minister at the last moment standing up and, by the way, he had to borrow a National Party woman because he's so bereft of women within his own ranks, to stand there next to him as he announced this desperate last-minute plea for women. Maybe he has a problem with women voters, I do not know. But what I do know is this: He does not have a women's policy. He does not have a fair dinkum policy when it comes to childcare. He does not have an answer to the problem that the fastest growing group of homelessness in Australia is women over the age of 55. Labor has a policy for 250,000 affordable houses. He does not have a policy to solve the gender pay gap. He does not have enough women in his ranks. Let us remember that Scott Morrison was a Liberal Party director. He cannot stand by the side and say, "The issue of pre-selection is a matter for the party and whether or not we have quotas is a matter for the party." He is part of the party machinery. He was the party machinery and he chose to do nothing. This is a desperate Prime Minister and he has told so many desperate lies in this campaign. He said that the weekend is going to end. He lied about his own electric vehicle target. He lied about an environmental protection legislation. He said it had passed the Parliament. The legislation does not even exist. He is lying and the Liberal Party are lying when it comes to death taxes. It is a desperate lie from the Liberals that somehow it is part of Labor's policy that there is a plan for a death tax. This is just a desperate lie from a desperate Prime Minister who today is up trying to desperately plea to women with a $75 million package. Contrast that with our $4 billion package for childcare, to help families in a very real way. Some $1,500, some $2,000 help for childcare. For some families it will be as good as free. Now I am going to make a prediction here. In this negative, nasty, lying campaign that the Liberals are running it is going to get even worse in the next few days and I predict this. This week we are going to hear a scare campaign, more lying from the Liberals when it comes to negative gearing. They have tried every other scare campaign. They are trying every other desperate tactic. They are out there today, desperately pleading to women with some pittance offering and I bet my bottom dollar this week it is going to be a lying scare campaign when it comes to negative gearing.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, are you being fair dinkum though by not outlining exactly which childcare workers are going to receive this taxpayer-funded pay rise? Only about half of them?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, when you say the number 200,000 are you including kindergarten teachers?

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible].
SHORTEN: Okay well, I would just put that question back to you. What we have budgeted for is for early childhood educators who work in childcare centres, who are not qualified kindergarten teachers. If there are some more, we have an envelope of funding and we will work that through. The real reason why we are getting these questions is that this government is not going to do anything for anyone. Can we just call it out as it really is? You all know that you could send out search parties from here to Christmas to find the Liberal policy on anything new on childcare or equal pay. But do not bother. It does not exist. So really, is this what the government spinners are trying to get you to do? To say that because we have got funding to give early childhood educators, the less qualified ones, a leg up, that somehow this is a bad policy? We have provided an envelope of funding, it is there. We have provided our costings, it is there. Do any of you - I am not even going to beyond, to Australia – do any of you here, as human beings in Australia, think that early childhood educators are paid appropriately? Do any of you think the government is going to spend one cent on early childhood educators? We will work this through. This government cannot play 'gotcha games', when we are the only team on the field to properly fund childhood educators, and how about childcare subsidies. Why is it - you know, Mr Morrison - I thought - in a fairly undistinguished debate at the National Press Club made a real clanger when he said to Australians watching the debate that childcare prices are going down. My goodness me. What planet does this out of touch government, who have run out of excuses, think in any possible universe that we know of, that childcare prices in the last six years haven't gone up and up and up?
JOURNALIST: Do you think that the Liberal Party should have chosen a day other than Mother's Day to launch their campaign, particularly in the context of all of the discussions around the treatment of women?
SHORTEN: Listen, it is up to them when they pick their launch. People will make the judgement. That is up to them. I am not going to take a pot shot on which day. I mean, to me what is more interesting is who is not going to be at the launch and what they are not going to say. I mean, I love that the current fellow says he is sort of 'iron-man' and he does lone ranger and does not need the Liberal Party. Well, maybe the Liberal Party is not coming because they do not really - they are not that keen on him. Let's go to the policies, what they are not saying. Do you think they're going to provide 2.6 million Australian pensioners with dental care tomorrow?
Nope. Do you think they are going to provide a million Australian households with childcare support subsidies of up to $2,000 per child, per year? Nope. Do you think they are going to have a real climate change policy? Nope. So, you know, whatever day this government picks for its launch it does not change the facts. Time is nearly up, they don't have any policies and they are certainly not going to tell you about the deal they have done with Clive Palmer to put corporate tax cuts back on the table, they are not going to agree to tell you about the $77 billion they want to give to the top end of town. This is a government who has nothing good to say for themselves, so I don't care what day they hold their launch. I do not care if they hold it in a telephone box or the convention centre, it does not change the facts. They have got nothing to say, all they are three more years of Liberals, three more years of chaos.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. I noticed you call Higgins and Kooyong marginal electorates now. Have you - is that hope - is that wishful thinking or do you - have you seen Labor evidence to suggest you really might take the electorates, the blue-ribbon electorates, of Prime Ministers past and Treasurers past?
SHORTEN: Something is going on in Victoria. People don't want more of the same with the government. I think the voters in Kooyong and Higgins, like all over Victoria, all over Australia, have been taken for granted by the government. But it is a matter of record that I have got the most qualified, professionally experienced candidate running in Higgins and that's Fiona McLeod. Jana Stewart is doing a great job in Kooyong against the odds. My point is that our policies are what are resonating with people. And do you know what I hear of most often in Kooyong and Higgins? Real action on climate change. Let's get on with it, no more excuses. But I tell you, as a pretty solid drum beat coming up a close second, save the ABC. People in these suburbs really care about the ABC, as they do all round Australia. So we have got the better policies from the ABC to climate change and I think people are responding very well to being in a marginal seat. 

JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical for the Labor Party to be attacking Angus Taylor over an undeclared interest in a company that he never received a benefit from, when ASIC registers show that Ann Aly and Mark Dreyfus both have shareholdings in companies that they're directors of but that hasn't been declared. 

SHORTEN: No, no, I don't know the detail of all of that, but the point is we should have proper disclosure. Beyond that, let's face it, I just wish the government would start disclosing their policies. I don’t know, I set a challenge a couple of days ago, and some of you were talking as we do, and I did say the challenge for Mr Morrison this week is to confirm, is it $77 billion that he's going to disclose that he's giving to the top tier? Will he disclose the deal he has done with Clive Palmer? I mean, I will tell you what I do hear when I travel around Melbourne. People say, really, the Liberal Party of Menzies and Turnbull is doing a deal with the likes of Clive Palmer or the One Nation party? You know, really. This is not the Liberal Party which Victorians have grown up with. It's a far more right-wing creature both within its ranks and the people it's willing to cosy up to.  

JOURNALIST: Will you seek assurances though, will you seek assurances that Ann Aly and Mark Dreyfus don't have any…

SHORTEN: I’ve got complete confidence in them.

JOURNALIST: What concerns do you have in regards to your economic costings and policies after the RBA downgraded its forecasts for economic growth? 

SHORTEN: Well, I think the RBA made the case indirectly for voting Labor. This is not the time for reckless spending of $154 billion on unaffordable tax subsidies for the property investors who make a loss, for giving people income tax refunds when they haven't paid any income tax. Now is the time for strong economic management in the interests of working and middle class people. Our set of books frankly, has caught the government flat-footed. I think the government tends to believe its own nonsense more than they should. It's not healthy for them. You asked the question, I'm going to do it. What we are doing is the trifecta of what is sensible for solid, sustainable economic growth and economic security. Here's the trifecta: Reverse the cuts to schools and hospitals. When you have got a healthy nation and an educated nation we're doing better than we would otherwise be doing. Fairer tax cuts and tax cuts for the 10 million working Australians from 1 July. That is good, that helps get a bit of consumer confidence going. And strong surpluses. I liken our position of winding back unnecessary tax spending on the top end as building a national fighting fund to deal with the uncertain global economic circumstances. I'll take one more question.  

JOURNALIST: Christian leaders have written to both you and Mr Morrison raising concerns over the handling of the Israel Folau case. Now you obviously spoke about this in Wednesday night's debate. Have you received a letter? Will you respond? And what are your thoughts on that issue and its handling? 

SHORTEN: Well my position hasn't really changed from Wednesday, but for those who didn't watch the debate. I think we have got two tough issues, the sharp edges of which are bumping against each other. I do believe in religious freedom in this country. I was raised in faith, I get it. People should have the right to practice their religion. It's a core value of Australian life. But I also think that we have got to be careful that we also don't use freedom of religion and freedom of speech to cause unnecessary hurt and pain to other members in the community. I don't share Mr Folau's view that you're going to hell if you are gay. Now, if he wants to think that, that's his business. But I don't share that view, and it's an uneasy point. I don't think he should automatically lose his whole living because he has that view, even though I disagree with it. But of course, he's in an important position, with social media, and people listen to him. It's not easy. So what I have said to the churches who I met with, and I meet with them on a regular basis, is a Shorten Labor government will maintain religious education, we will maintain the freedom of religion, and we believe in freedom of speech. But we also believe that we can't be a nation who allows one group to inflict hurt on another group. So we will work this through. What I will be is I won't be the most right-wing religious ideologue and I won't be the most left-wing person on this issue. You know, I was raised in a faith where I don't put my religion on my sleeve. You are entitled to do that if you want to do it. That's not who I am. I just think in this country we have got to learn to tolerate and live and let live with each other a little more than we do right now. Very last question and I'll share them around.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you said earlier in your press conference that the race is basically over. Do you think a week out... 

SHORTEN: No, I didn't. Seven days to go.

JOURNALIST: Paraphrasing, my apologies but you said... 

SHORTEN: I just want to be clear, this is a very close election but we are making every post a winner as best we can.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned though that with the record number of pre-poll voters and you said earlier this week yourself that people are switching off from politics, how much more can you actually do in this final week to convince voters that your way is the right one?

SHORTEN: I can talk to as many Australians as I can. I can get our candidates talking to as many Australians as I can. See we have got policies. I've been Opposition Leader now for 2,044 days, just a number, but it's a fair while. We've been working hard. I don't think there's any doubt, and even our harshest critics would say it. Labor is united. I don't think that is untrue. In fact, I know it's to be true. We have learnt our lessons. You can't say that about the Liberals. In the time I have been Opposition Leader I'm onto my third Liberal Prime Minister, I'm onto my second reincarnation of Clive Palmer and we're onto our thirteenth energy policy. They are divided. I think one of the big issues emerging in the final week is a sense that three more years of the same last six years would be chaos. And what's worse is, you have now got some very unusual people, and that's being polite isn't it, of the right wing coming through in the Senate. If you vote Liberal you're banking another three years of chaos, if you vote Labor, we have done the work. We have got policies. At the end of the day, when we say we believe in a fair go for Australians, when we say we believe in a vote for change, it's a vote to end the chaos, it's a vote to properly fund our schools and hospitals, it's a vote to make sure we tackle cost of living issues like childcare, it's a vote to stand up for our pensioners with dental care, it's a vote to take real action on climate change. And I'm going to use every waking minute to put the case for change, because the Australian people deserve a government as worthy as the Australian people.

Thanks, everybody.