SHORTEN & BURKE - TRANSCRIPT - PRESS CONFERENCE - SYDNEY
MONDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s chaotic government and mismanagement of the Parliament.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: What extraordinary developments from a chaotic government. If you cannot control the Parliament, you cannot control the country. This is an assault on democracy. It is completely wrong of Prime Minister Turnbull to put off the Parliament because he feels he cannot control the decisions of the Parliament. This is very unhealthy for our democracy.
Clearly, Mr Turnbull is rattled and frightened. Frightened of his party, frightened of the electorate and frightened of the Parliament. But that is not a good enough reason to stop a democratically elected Parliament from doing its job, that the members were elected to do.
It is shameful of Mr Turnbull to put forward, as a reason to cancel Parliament, marriage equality. He is not right to hide behind marriage equality - an issue which can and should be dealt with by the Parliament. He is a coward when he hides behind marriage equality.
There are many other matters in front of the House of Representative - 53 separate pieces of business. All of these can be done by the House of Representatives.
Mr Turnbull should remember the Parliament does not belong to him or the Government - it belongs to the people of Australia. There is work that the Parliament should be doing and ought to be doing, and Mr Turnbull ought to let the parliamentarians do their job.
I'd like to hand over now to the Manager of Opposition Business to talk further about this most extraordinary and chaotic development.
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Thanks, Bill.
Well, what do you say? Today is the day that the Prime Minister decided to stop governing. Today is the day that a born-to-rule prime minister behaved like a spoilt brat and said, that if I can't bat, I won't let anyone play.
Today is just an extraordinary day. The last time we cancelled a week of Parliament was back in 2005 around the time of the Bali Bombings. I have never heard of an occasion where Parliament gets cancelled because the Prime Minister is throwing a tantrum.
Under these rules, if this was the expectation, the 43rd Parliament never would have sat. We would have three years without a Parliament. What Malcolm Turnbull is doing here is absolutely beyond belief - just beyond belief. The Parliament has got a job to do.
We have had years now where Malcolm Turnbull has said if Parliament sits, we are not allowed to have a vote on marriage equality. Now, he says the Parliament is only allowed to sit if we are going to have a vote on marriage equality, and it can't deal with any of the other 53 items of business that would logically be in front of the Parliament next week.
Be in no doubt, whenever the Parliament does meet, whenever Malcolm Turnbull decides to turn up to work - because at a time of low wage growth, we all know exactly what Australians are thinking right now. Because if they're going to have a hard week at work, they don't get to say, well that's it, I am not turning up. Malcolm Turnbull says well, if he has got a hard week, he just won't show up at all. That's what we are confronted with. But whenever the Parliament meets, be in no doubt at all, we will be pursuing our agenda. We will be pursuing a royal commission into the banks. We will be pursuing people who work on Sundays being able to get their penalty rates back. Because Labor is the party that will turn up for work.
And it is a pretty low threshold if the difference between the parties is whether or not you turn up for work, but that is exactly what Malcolm Turnbull's reduced the Parliament to today.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Tony. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Just clarifying, what are your options next week or what options are you exploring at this stage?
SHORTEN: We should turn up to work. Just because Malcolm Turnbull doesn't like what the Parliament might decide, no-one made him the boss of everything in the world. The people of Australia elect the members of Parliament. They've elected some Liberals, they've elected some Labor and they've elected some crossbenchers. But merely because Mr Turnbull did not like the outcome of the last election, merely because he doesn't like the inconvenience the Constitution has caused the ineligibility of his Deputy Prime Minister and a number of his ministers, does not give him the right just to put off Parliament.
Effectively, what he is doing, is he is locking the Opposition and the crossbenchers out of Parliament. Effectively, what he has said, well, I don't like what you are going to do so I am just going to cancel Parliament because it doesn't suit me. This bloke, he has lost the plot.
This is an extraordinarily and chaotic decision making from a government that is absolutely drowning.
JOURNALIST: Where does the suggestion come from that the Senate won't finish the same sex marriage debate until November 30? Isn't Labor keen to get it done ASAP?
SHORTEN: We all know Turnbull is desperate to avoid Parliament sitting because he does not have John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce. Please, this is not about marriage equality. The Senate is going to do its absolute best endeavours to finish the marriage equality legislation in the Senate before November 30. You are quite right. Labor is not suggesting that the marriage equality Bill couldn't be back in Parliament next week, it is only Malcolm Turnbull.
Listen, Malcolm Turnbull is a drowning man clutching at straws. He has decided the marriage equality is the only order of business in the House of Representatives. One, marriage equality could well get through and be in the House of Representatives next week, and two, there's 53 other items of business. Some of these matters include cracking down on money laundering and terrorism. They involve redress for the victims of institutional child abuse.
This is a government who uses whatever excuse just to maintain control. They have locked out the Opposition and the Crossbench. Malcolm Turnbull is frightened of the Parliament, he is frightened of his own backbenchers supporting Labor for a banking Royal Commission, he's frightened of the electorate, and now he is treating Parliament as his personal plaything. This is hopeless conduct.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor support a delayed December 5th deadline for citizenship disclosures?
SHORTEN: Turnbull has found more excuses than one could possibly imagine not to disclose the background of all of his MPs. Labor made it very clear that we sport universal disclosure and we said it should be done by December 1st. This is a resolution of the Parliament. Turnbull knows that he is under pressure for this December 1st deadline to disclose the background of his MPs, so he has cancelled Parliament rather than turn up and have December 1st forced on him. I am sorry, but this man is using any excuse under the sun to avoid the scrutiny of Parliament because he has lost control. And let's put it as plainly as this to the Australian people. Labor and the crossbenchers are prepared to go to work next Monday. The Liberal Party don't want to show up because they have lost control of the Parliament. And if you've lost control of the Parliament, you've lost control of the nation.
JOURNALIST: If any more MPs are referred by the Parliament to the High Court, should they immediately stand aside from Parliament, or wait until the Parliament rises?
BURKE: We've made clear the whole way through that with Barnaby Joyce, you had a unanimous resolution of the House of Representatives where every member of the Parliament said we don't know if he is eligible. In those circumstances we said he should do two things: he should stand aside from the executive immediately, and he should stop voting until it was resolved. It's now clear, he continued voting and that turned out to be unlawful. It turned out to be unlawful for him to be a Member of Parliament. Not unlawful from the day we resolved it, but in fact, he hadn't been eligible his entire Parliamentary career.
So, we are now having two by-elections for different Members of Parliament where they hadn't met the requirements of the law. But the principle is very simple, and think about this: why would the Government do something so extraordinary? They knew the disclosure date was going to be in the middle of the two-week period. If they are hiding the fact that they have more Members of Parliament who legally aren't allowed to be there, and they're doing an entire stunt in cancelling a week of Parliament to try to push it out to the last possible day, what does that say they are willing to do?
Are we actually meant to believe that for an entire week, the Government is going to have its Members of Parliament in there voting, only at the end of the week to suddenly say, by the way, we don't think legally we are allowed to be here. If that's what the Government is up to, then this is even more offensive than it looks, and it is pretty dodgy from the start.
JOURNALIST: What do you think this means for the banking Royal Commission? Is it likely or less likely, with the delay etc?
SHORTEN: There is no rock big enough under which Mr Turnbull can hide which will prevent a banking Royal Commission. Labor will never give up standing up for the victims of financial malpractice. If Turnbull doesn't go ahead with this most unprecedented, cancellation of Parliament, I believe that there are some Coalition Members who care more about justice for banking victims than they do for Mr Turnbull's feelings. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons why Mr Turnbull has cancelled Parliament next week is because he knows that a banking Royal Commission is inevitable, and he will do everything he can can do to protect his mates at the top end of town and the banking sector.
JOURNALIST: You used pretty strong language like the word, "coward" etc. By the same token, if he is delaying Parliament to provide greater certainty for potentially same-sex marriage, and also even greater certainty for Government, is that actually such a bad thing to do?
SHORTEN: It is rubbish and cowardly to hide behind the arrant nonsense that marriage equality means you cancel Parliament. First of all, the Bill for marriage equality is in the Senate right now, and it can be dealt with in the first week of Parliament, scheduled next week. So we can deal with marriage equality next week. But furthermore, there are 53 other items of business which are scheduled for the Parliament. Is Malcolm Turnbull now saying that this Parliament is so simplistic, it can only deal with one item of business?
I have always voted for marriage equality. I voted for it in 2012, and I supported marriage equality actively during the survey, so Labor is not up for any delay for marriage equality. But we know why Turnbull is cancelling Parliament next week. It's because he is frightened of the Parliament, he's frightened of his party and he's frightened of the electorate. But Mr Malcolm Turnbull's lack of courage is not a good enough reason to cancel Parliament. Parliament belongs to the people of Australia. It is not Mr Turnbull 's play thing, and we will be turning up to work on Monday because the Australian people expect nothing less of the people it elects to send to Canberra.
Thank you everybody.