Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Shorten and Abbott debate the week in politic -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

attacks. Kim Landers, thanks so

much. As we go to air tonight, motorists across the country are preparing to face the traditional
long weekend petrol price gouge. As they sit there stuck in traffic jamedz and watching their fuel
gauges relentlessly falling, will they be thinking petrol's too expensive and the Government must
do something about it or climate change is a reality and higher fuel costs will soon be a fact of
life so why isn't the Government doing anything about that? Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is
preparing to fly out this weekend to Japan, a nation which has no oil of its own, already makes
hybrid cars and depend on nuclear power. To discuss this and more, we're joined by Labor's Shorten,
the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's and Services and he joins us from
Mackay. With me in the Sydney studio is Tony Abbott, the Shadow Minister for Families, Community
Services and Indigenous Affairs. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Nice to be here, Virginia.

As one observer this week put it, the Government is losing possibly one major thing at the moment,
and that's the issue of expectations, managing expectation, having raised expectations so high
before the election over helping with fuel prices and grocery prices and a swag of environmental
issues, you're not delivering and in fact might even be seen as something of a failure, so what do
you do now, Bill Shorten?

I'm not sure that's correct, actually. This Government has been working hard from day one, in fact
yesterday was World Environment Day and the Prime Minister gave a statement to the House. Tin he
outlined our commitment to environmentally friendly motor vehicles, he reminded everyone of what
we're doing on a range of environmental issues including significant expansion in terms of the
solar industry and dealing with the difficult issues of renewable energies and of course we've got

Which has been a pretty difficult issue for you to maintain as well over the last couple of weeks.
FuelWatch has actually been, you could argue, a long argument not really achieving a whole lot.

Let's be blund, last year in the lead-up to the election, both our Treasurer Wayne Swan and the
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd never made any undertakings that they could reduce the price of petrol.
It's gone up 400% since the Iraq war, in fact Peter Costello when he was the Treasurer, now just
the humble member for Higgins, he criticised us for not making commitments around petrol. What
we're doing with FuelWatch is not going to have a gigantic effect but this weekend, as every long
weekend always happens, we do seem to see the spike up of petrol at the start of the weekend and
mid week next week it doughs down. With FuelWatch, we're hoping to smooth this out so
holiday-makers don't have to pay the big price whz they're travelling to see mum and dad.

Tony Abbott, your mob had 11 years of trying to deal with this expectation issue of managing that
and balancing that against reality. What's the trick to it all?

There's no trick, it just requires doing your best and the problem at the moment is that we've got
a Government which is working very hard indeed but not very effectively. Kevin Rudd is running at a
killing pace, he's inflicting that same killing pace on his staff, on his colleagues and on his
public servants, but he's running around like a headless chook, that's his problem.

Do you accept that, Bill Shorten? There was some interesting evidence in Senate estimates this week
about the number of hours you've been taking some public servants work, in one case 37 hours for
one woman who has two young ones at home. Not a good luck flook a Government that likes to promote
itself as family friendly.

And a Government of union officials who would never allow it in their former life

I think what people want in politics is not calling people headless chooks. Kevin Rudd works hard,
so do all of us. That's what people want irtheir politicians. I think what's interesting is people
remarking you've got hard work going as opposed to the rip van winkle years of the last 11 years
where not a lot got done. What Kevin Rudd and the team are trying to do is to build an Australia
for the future for working Australians and there's lot of things happening and we want to get a lot
done. I reckon the enthusiasm's exciting and I don't think it's ever a point of criticism to say
someone is working hard.

Well, he's got a point there, hasn't he, Tony Abbott? I mean, you can't really be criticised for
working hard and also let's be blunt, not a huge amount of sympathy out in the general population
for public servants, some people believing they don't do enough work.

I'm all in favour of hard work but it's got to be effective and the problem is that this mob are
very good at striking poses but actually getting something done is another story. Announcing a
review is not making a difference. Setting up a committee is not solving a problem, and that's the
problem, it's all about process, it's not about performance.

Bill Shorten, you want to jump in there?

I think when you've got a new Government, you don't start from a sort of a flying start. It's not
like an old-fashioned foot race where you go up to the start and you're running. The Liberal policy
pantry that they left us in the kitchen of Australian politics was empty.

But you didn't want their policies anyway.

Not in my area of disabilities. I'm afraid Labor has done a lot more on disabilities in a very
short time and people who are disabled than we've seen in the last 11 years, but the general push -
Wayne Swan's brought down a Budget in five months.

Whacky do, a Budget came down.

It's OK to mount a criticism but it can't just be a criticism with no visible means of support.
This Government has tax cuts in.

Howard Government tax cuts.

You mightn't like what we've done but the point is we've done it and at the end of the day there's
legitimate dewait and I know the Opposition, you get up and make your points and no-one - I think
this debate about hard work is perplex ing. Our public servants work hard, from the whaling
commission to Kevin Rudd going to China, this is an active Government. If the Liberal road back to
winning the elections to convince the electorate somehow we're working too hard or bothering to ask
people what they think - I mean, Julia Gillard's got brenteden O'Connor and I talking to people
with mental illness about an employment strategy. I think it's worthwhile talking to people.

Let's get to some of the issues which have been contentious this week and the previous week. On the
issue of emissions trading, Ross Garneau has rejected the idea of petrol being exempt from a scheme
and said higher petrol prices could help mitigate carbon emissions. Do you want to try and make the
argument that he's wrong?

I thinks there a lot to be said for treating petrol in a category of its own for the simple reason
that demand is very price inelastic.

Is it a political reason for wanting to do that but try and make the case for it actually being the
right thing to do.

There's absolutely no doubt that as far as the Opposition is concerned we want lower petrol prices,
that's why we've proposed to 5 cents a litre cut in the excise. The Government is confused. On the
one hand FuelWatch is supposed to get prices down, on the other hand its cuts in greenhouse gas
emissions are going to get prices up so they can't have it both ways.

Bill Shorten, your response?

I'm a bit surprised at what I'm hearing. I mean, the Liberals were in power for 11 long years. They
never proposed cutting the excise at all. As soon as they get pushed into Opposition, they want to
make a $22 billion raid on the economy. I guess when you're in Opposition you don't have to make
your mathematics and numbers add up and I guess the role of Opposition is just to oppose but I do
think as we get closer to an election it will be interesting to see if Tony Abbott, Brendan Nelson
on one side who want to take $22 billion out of the Budget and excise or the Malcolm Turnbull more
economically responsible part of the wing of the licht, we'll see who wins the debate.

I have a specific question on what Labor plans to do but do you want to respond, tab isn't

I don't want to get knit picky over the figures but the fuel excise cut we are proposing is $1.8
billion a year, a it gets bigger in the out years but it's not $22 billion.

It's not fully funded?

No, and we haven't pretend weed have fully funded it. We have said whether it's a $22 billion
surplus or a 18 billion surplus is not really all that significant, the important thing is that we
have good microeconomic policy and we try to do the right thing by the Australian general public.

Bill Shorten, your Climate Change Minister Penny Wong today seemed to indicate that all polluters
will be involved in a future trading scheme. Will that include oil companies? Will that take in

As I understand it - I haven't seen the latest report of what Penny said today, but I understand
you have to do something about climate change. Doing nothing is not an option. The Liberals in
Government denieses climate change was happening, it seemed to be something you get as an optional
xrs on a Lexus motor vehicle. We understand any emissions trading system we bring in has to
recognise there is energy intensive trade exposed sectors. This work is going on and I have no
doubt Penny Wong is taking into account the views of industry.

Petrol has to be include in some way, does it?

I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is Penny Wong is working on that issue. I'm unaware of what
she may have said today on the matter but what I do know is it will get the balance right between
doing something about climate change and the energy intensive trade exposed industries and sections
of industries. We'll get this right. The point about it is that we're talking to industry but we're
also determined that we do something. That's why we've got the 20% mandatory renewable energy
target, that's why we're introducing green loans so people can borrow money to make energy
efficient adaptations.

Gentlemen, both of you, let's stop dancing around here, how can petrol be left out of such a
scheme? Not withstanding what your leader has promised Tony Abbott, how can you make the argument
that petrol be excluded?

Because there is very - it's very inelastic.

I heard that before.

Put the price up or the price down, consumption remains pretty well the same. That's the argument
for saying that you can responsibly leave it out.

And you think it's responsible to have it left out, Bill Shorten?

I think that what we've got to do is have an emiltions trading system which gets the balance right
between making sure that we're doing something on climate change and we're reducing our carbon gas
emissions and on the other hand recognising that we have energy intensive, trade exposed sections
of industries and industries. And I think Penny Wong and indeed swOning, Mark Ferguson and Anthony
albnies and many of the relevant Ministers involved will get the balance right. I can't predict
what the scheme is going to look like because that's not, I don't believe, finalised.

Any scheme of that nature is going to be costly to Australians individually and to the Australian
economy. The great philosophical question for both of the parties is that after so many years of
inactivity by so many successive Governments, why is it that individual Australians have to pay for
this? Isn't this is situation then - looking back on what hasn't been done by so many Governments -
it's up to State and Federal Governments to carry the weight of financial responsibility for this
rather than taxpayers?

We don't have any resources we don't get from taxpayers.

It's ultimately our money but you have it already so why don't you use some of it a little more

The point is if we have it, we have it on trust from you. You might prefer to get it back into your
pockets rather than have us spend it on greenhouse gas combat. The point I make, Virginia, this is
the bottom line - doing what Labor says it wants to do, achieving massive cuts in greenhouse gas
emissions, will be very, very expensive which is why they can't actually tell s precisely what
they're going to do

. And very, very expensive politically, of course, Bill Shorten.

I think the price of inaction is truly expensive, the price of not recognising climate change is
real. My concern is that we work through a process, which is happening, we listen to the voices of
industry, listen to the voices of consumers. I thing people are sick of short-term politics. Kevin
Rudd's indicated he's the man for the next decade and beyond and Tony, as much as what I say may be
annoying or offensive to your ears, at the end of the day climate change is one of the issues in
the election-

Speak in English, mate, not waffle.

All my advice is free, you don't have to listen but that's why you lost the election, you didn't
listen to people.

Let's move to another subject. Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has announced a
review of the intervention. What would you like to see come out of this?

I think the essential elements of the intervention must stay and I'm disappointsed some of those
have already been watered down by the Government, although I am reassured both Kevin Rudd and Jenny
Macklin say they support the intervention. There are obviously some logistical issues, trying to
make sure enough stores and the right stores can access the quarantined welfare money is a
logistical issue. I think the big challenge is trying to make sure that the rest of us are fully
engaged with remote Indigenous communities and one of the things that I'd like to see is a big
effort to get more senior public servants on the ground there for the long-term dealing - living
amongst the people who they're effectively dealing with.

Bill Shorten, your parliamentary secretary for children's services. What interest do you have in
this review?

I think what Jenny Macklin is trying do is make sure that what Government intervention there is is
actually effective and equitable. I think one of the most interests ideas which she's spoken about
is economic empowerment of communities. It's good to have Government assist scpns that's important.
It's irsomeplaceable. What we need to do though is to empower Indigenous communities to have some
say over the creation of jobs and good leadership, so I reckon economic empowerment, that's what
will help children and help the whole Indigenous community. I don't suspect Tony would greatly

Changing gears for a moment, we finally now have two candidates in the US presidential election,
after a very protracted contest there on the Democratic side. Trying to put aside as much as you
can your own personal party affiliations here, what is your view on the two candidates? Are you
impressed by Barack Obama?

Thee is obviously a very charismatic individual. When you analyse what he's vaing it's pretty con--
what he's saying it's pretty contentless.

You reckon that speech on race was without content?

The cadences are beautiful but what does it all mean? He's very young, he's a first-term Senator.
This is the biggest job in the world, presidency of the United States. What previous jobs has he
done to really prepare him for it?

Bill Shorten, I guess you must be looking forward to a Barack Obama presidency, are you?

I don't have a vote. I think Australia will be well served if either of these people win. You have
to be impressed by John McCain's war history, you know, he's - the guy's the real deal in that
regard, a very impressive man and he's spoken out independently on issues as a Republican, but I do
think Barack Obama is also an equally compelling individual. I think his talk about a new America
is fantastic and I think he brings a whole strand - if America elects a black President, I think
that speaks volumes for American society and if they elect yawn McCain, that will also be a good
thing. I'd probably tilt to Barack Obama because I think we need a change from the Republicans,
they don't have national health insurance. They're in Iraq, it hasn't worked out the way that
people were promised it would work out. I do think we need a clean start with the United States,
it's so important to Australia's future but they're both quality candidates.

Gentlemen, a real pleasure