SUBJECT/S: Liberal Party chaos and division; Abbott Government’s unfair Budget; Liberal’s broken promise on submarines; Labor’s agenda for 2015.


BILL SHORTEN: In the Parliament today we’ll hear reports on how we’re improving life expectancy, improving opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have for 223 years been treated as second-class citizens. But of course today also we need to see the Government focussing on governing, not fighting each other. I hope that the Government today will clean up the mess it’s made about submarines. Did Tony Abbott really allocate a $20 billion contract tender on the basis of gaining two votes in the leadership?


The Government, unfortunately, even though it says it’s now going to be a good government today, it seems to have more problems than answers. Any questions?


JOURNALIST: The Government seems to be dragging its feet on responding to the Forrest Review, would you urge them to do that this week?


SHORTEN: Sorry, just after responding, it dropped out, I didn’t hear what you said.


JOURNALIST: The Forrest Review, the Government has yet to respond to it, should they be doing that this week?


SHORTEN: Well, I think the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap address is very important today in Parliament. The Opposition look forward to seeing what the Government’s saying about the Forrest Review and indeed whether or not it will reverse its $534 million worth of cuts. It’s no good really standing up in the Parliament saying all the right things if when you leave the Parliamentary Chamber your actions keep cutting services to Indigenous Australians. Actions speak louder than words.


JOURNALIST: You said last year at the Press Club that this year 2015, would be the year of ideas. We haven’t seen any yet and it’s February, when are we going to see them?


SHORTEN: I don’t accept that proposition, Laura. Yesterday we televised my address to the caucus where I made it clear, and it was unanimously endorsed by my united team, that as the Government was getting weaker and weaker it was time for Labor to be bolder and better because that’s what Australians want. I made it clear that at the core of our approach this year will be a commitment to education, will be a commitment to growing the economy, will be a commitment to creating a national infrastructure market. Labor will, during the course of the year, produce its ideas for a brighter, better Australia. Everyone knows, however, that the events of the last 2 weeks have demonstrated that no one trusts the Government of Australia anymore, that the covenant of trust between Australian voters and the Liberal Government is irrevocably broken. It is therefore our challenge in the course of year to win back faith in politics for Australians in politics.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of reports that Malcolm Turnbull was sounded out for the role of Treasurer as early as last December before the Cabinet reshuffle?


SHORTEN: You wouldn’t know what’s going on in the circus which is now the Government of Australia. Clearly there’s great dissatisfaction with Joe Hockey. What I would say to those in the Liberal camp who think that changing the sales people will change the fortunes of the Liberal Government in Canberra; they are wrong. What the Government needs to do is not drop its Treasurer or its Prime Minister; drop the GP Tax, drop the $100,000 degrees, drop the $6,000 cuts to families, drop the pension cuts. Australians don’t like the fact that they’ve been lied to and they don’t like, and they no longer trust the Government.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think that Tony Abbott should trust Malcolm Turnbull that he doesn’t want his job or Joe Hockey should trust Malcolm Turnbull that he doesn’t want his job? Mr Turnbull says they have his full support.


SHORTEN: Well, in the last couple of days we’ve seen bizarre proof of life kidnap style videos coming out of the PMO bunker with Tony Abbott saying if you’re still watching this I’m still leader. You’ve got Tony Abbott declaring that he is a fighting man; all he is, is he’s fighting Australia. But then of course we’ve got the Member for Wentworth. He’s not a fighting man, he’s just a plotting man. Never has one man wanted so much and is prepared to do so little. This Government is divided, it’s not focused on the issues that matter. What we need to see is the Government drop the GP Tax, drop the pension cuts, drop the $6,000 cuts to families, drop the $100,000 degrees, stop using submarine contracts as a tawdry bargaining chip to save the Prime Minister’s job. That’s what Australians want to see.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister lied? Did the Prime Minister lie to his SA colleagues to save his own job?


SHORTEN: Before the last election the Prime Minister lied to Australia. He said there would be no new or increased taxes, he said there would be no cuts to health or education. He said there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS. This Prime Minister has form on being tricky, on misleading, on lying to obtain votes. On Monday we saw this poor hapless anonymous senator from South Australia declare victory saying that he had an open tender for the submarine contract which would see the Australian Submarine Corporation able to compete on a level playing field with other nations in the world. Then we saw the debacle yesterday where you’ve got the Defence Minister flying all these poor back-benchers across to Adelaide to watch them make an announcement which contradicted what was said on Monday. This Government clearly cannot be trusted with the submarine contracts for Australia’s future.


JOURNALIST: The Shadow Treasurer said as well early this year that there would be no magic pudding style budgets. You’re calling for the Government to drop all these revenue-raising measures. I understand we’re not that far, we’re still quite a way out from an election but what’s Labor’s responsibility, if you’re calling on the Government to drop all measures should you be coming up with alternative suggestions?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, I think at the heart of your question is the real problem for this Government. The Government before the last election promised no cuts to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and SBS. Well Labor didn’t put our hand up the back of their jumper and make these say these things. Tony Abbott and the whole of that Government said it. Then we’ve got an unfair Budget which is really taking Australia in the wrong direction and yesterday in Parliament we watched the contenders, the new salespeople, Foreign Minister and Minister for Communication or Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull, declare that they supported the Budget unreservedly. The problem is we’ve got a Liberal Government who are happy to break promises, not change any of the bad policies, they just want their turn to sit in the Prime Minister’s chair.


Labor has said in order to help the Budget the Government should drop its Paid Parental Leave Scheme. We’ve had a win. Labor has said that the Government should have pursued measures to ensure that for the superrich, some of the excessive tax concessions arrange for a more modest level, that a saving the Government could take. We know the Government has cut back tax compliance on multinationals. Why is it that when given a choice this Government will pick on the poor, the vulnerable, the low paid, the people on fixed income, yet give a holiday to the super rich and some of those who should be paying their fair share of taxation. They have a strategy for austerity and marginalising the middle class, they just have no strategy for growth in Australia and that’s what we will keep working on regardless who this divided Government offer up as their chief salesman of their unfair Budget and broken promises, Labor will fight to our last breath for the poor and for the marginalised middle Australia who are getting nothing out of this Government. Thanks, everyone