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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News: 20 September 2013: Labor Party leadership; Liberal Party calls to increase the GST

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GILBERT: Bill Shorten, thanks for your time. I just want to ask you about the vote. Amid all the fanfare of your campaigning, along with Anthony Albanese, isn’t there a real risk here that the votes go along factional lines anyway once you get to the rank and file?

SHORTEN: It’s a really exciting proposition for 40,000 people who belong to the Australian Labor Party to have a vote. I think it’s a great development and I’m really enjoying myself, talking to people.

I was in Pine Rivers last night in the Federal electorate of Dickson. So it’s a Liberal seat. There were 50 people in a hall and they were keen to hear why I was running. These people aren’t factional. While there are people who belong to factions, the vast bulk of the Labor Party does not. People are going to decide this issue according to their conscience and who they think is most likely to lead Labor to a competitive and winning position at the next election and who has got the good ideas.

GILBERT: Would you encourage the unions, the right wing unions, to free up their members to vote how they see fit?

SHORTEN: Kieran I’m not even going with your assumption that people are trying to control people. What I know is, that it doesn’t matter if you’re a left wing union or a right wing union; the issue here is the rank and file of the party. I don’t expect that there should be factional binding lock-ins but what I know is that people from the left and the right and the non-aligned groups are all giving me a great hearing. They know I’ve got a good track record in industrial relations but they also know that I helped work hard to

create the momentum for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. I think people are responding well to my proposition that I can help turn an idea into a reality. I can help turn a minority into a majority and people are hungry for ideas.

GILBERT: On same-sex marriage, what would your contribution be if Tony Abbott did seek to overturn the ACT legislation which passed this week? Would you allow a conscience vote? Would you bind Labor members into voting to block overturning the Territory legislation?

SHORTEN: We’ve got a few hurdles to go but let me put some markers down. This will be a matter for the Caucus, but people are entitled to know my personal beliefs. I did support the gay marriage legislation. I exercised a conscience vote in favour of it. So that’s my position generally. Back in 2011 the Parliament did give the Territories more power to make laws. I think we have to see: one - what gets passed through the ACT and then two - what will Mr Abbott do about it?

Mr Abbott once famously said in Opposition that he wasn’t the government and it wasn’t up to him to try and make the decisions for the government. I would just remind him of those words now. He is the government. He needs to weigh up all the issues. One thing which I will be keenly scrutinising the government for is will they allow a conscience vote? Do they trust their MPs?

Anyway we need to see a lot more detail. There’s still water to go under that bridge. I think Mr Abbott is going to have to see if he believes in telling his people what to do or if he’s going to engage in allowing Liberal MPs freedom of thought.

GILBERT: Paul Howes has decided not to put his hand up for a Senate vacancy if it does open up. Bob Carr is expected to step out of the Upper House. Was that about taking the pressure off your leadership bid?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all Senator Carr hasn’t resigned. I think Paul is a very good union leader and if he chose to come to Parliament he would make a very good contribution. As I understand it, what he did is he didn’t want to have a big debate within New South Wales about this matter. So he’s put the interests of the party ahead of perhaps his own particular interests at the moment. I know that he and his union do good work. I think what he’s done is demonstrated that he’s interested in the interests of the many and not just the few, which is what he always does.

GILBERT: You and Anthony Albanese say you’re having a positive campaign. You’ve both had subtle digs at one another though, haven’t you? He’s said he’s been loyal to both leaders. You’ve said well you’ve always backed Kevin Rudd and you respect you for it. There’s a few subtle ones being thrown, aren’t there?

SHORTEN: Let me help you Kieran. I will not say, and I do not intend to say, anything negative about Anthony Albanese. I know that will mean that I might get less column

inches in the newspapers or the ticker tape of SKY News. Let me repeat again: I intend to start as I intend to finish, which is being positive.

I think Labor party people are sick and tired of MPs disparaging each other and so I regard that as a no-go zone. In terms of the difficult issues of the leadership change, they were incredibly difficult. But let me also be really, really, really clear on what was an incredibly difficult period, not just for me, but for all members of the Parliamentary party and all supporters of Labor. I believe that I acted in the best interests of the Labor Party. I believe that I try and always act in the best interests of the nation. Difficult decisions had to be made and all Caucus members had to make them. I think I, and we, need to take some collective responsibility. Having said that, these are matters of record.

In terms of Mr Albanese; if he is successful he will do a very good job, of that I have no doubt. That is really the last word that I can say on the matter. I think positive is the order of the day.

GILBERT: Only one quick question before you go. I know you’ve got to get going. On the GST; Colin Barnett says that it needs to be looked at and Tony Abbott needs to step up to the plate. Given diminishing state revenues, isn’t it sensible to have a mature debate about this?

SHORTEN: We always want mature debates but when it comes to the GST Labor has made its position clear. We don’t see the need to put an extra tax on bread and milk. We don’t see the need to increase the cost of living for Australians. Colin Barnett and Tony Abbott have got to do some sorting out, I agree. I think Mr Abbott needs to come clean. He says he wants to review the GST, does that mean he will accept a recommendation to increase it? Australians have got pressure on cost of living. Mr Abbott is now in charge of the government of Australia. It’s easy to throw rocks from the outside. I’m just interested to see how he goes balancing the demands of Liberal Premiers vs the demands of the normal community who want to make ends meet.

GILBERT: Bill Shorten I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Thanks, see you KG.