We’re a policy-rich opposition and proud of it - Transcript, Sky News Agenda





SUBJECTS: Julie Bishop, the Coalition’s policy black hole, Newspoll. 

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Welcome back to the program. With me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Good morning and welcome to you, I want to play for our viewers some comments made by Julie Bishop on 60 minutes and then I'll get your thoughts on them.

JULIE BISHOP, LIBERAL MP: I think the question term probably does more damage to the reputation of the political class than any other issue. There's far too much throwing of insults and vicious behaviour, name calling and alike, and the public see that as no better than school children. In fact, not as well behaved as school children. As a minister and as a shadow minister, you are judged on your ability to strike a blow against your political opponent.

GILBERT: The former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop there with Chris Uhlmann on Nine Network. What do you make of those remarks? Do you agree that the tone of Question Time should improve?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Question Time’s a peculiarly Australian institution, Kieran, and it’s one in which there is a good deal more shouting than there is in the more genteel British equivalent. I think sometimes people do forget their old debating injunction that interjections should only be hurled if they are concise, witty and pertinent. But it's important that we make sure that Question Time does show us that our best. I'm not sure we always live up to that standard-

GILBERT: And you'd say that her critique is consistent across the board? Because obviously it’s not just one side that’s heckling.

LEIGH: Indeed and certainly, as Ms Bishop acknowledged in that interview, she's given as good as she's got over the years. As the gender composition in Question Time changes, as the parliament changes, you also see differences in this. I’m really struck sitting on the side of the house which is about half women, looking across the side of the house that's about a fifth women, that there are differences in how people comport themselves in Question Time.

GILBERT: You made the comparison with Westminster and there is a different tone. It can be robust, of course, it is often robust in the House of Commons but not as ugly it seems on a daily basis.

LEIGH: Yes, it's a little more fast paced and there's more focus on getting direct answers. One of the frustrations for an Opposition is where you ask a very focused question and then just get three minutes of either waffle or smear.
GILBERT: Let's turn our attention now to some, well people have wanted some face time with the Opposition Leader last week and the rest of your team. Senior figures in the business community, paying thousands of dollars a head for some one-on-one time with the senior team of the Labor Party in expectation that you will win the next election. Can you give us a sense of what that is all about With a few dozen executives meeting with Mr Shorten last week?

LEIGH: Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen, Jim Chalmers and I and the rest of the economic team engage extensively with business. I would have had hundreds of meetings with business people over recent years, talking through Labor's plans, discussing exactly how we plan to boost productivity, bring down unemployment, get wage growth going again. Bill has also had a record number of town hall meetings, more than 70 town hall meetings since he became leader. So he's extraordinarily accessible, as is the Labor team-

GILBERT: Have you seen, have you found the appetite from the business community has increased in recent times given the turmoil on the other side?

LEIGH: Yes, I have. I think there's a strong interest on what a future Shorten Government would look like. We’re able, because we've got more positive policies out there than any opposition in living memory, to really talk people through policy by policy. You look to the other side, their official policy on energy is not to have a policy. Their strategy on climate change is non-existent. They don't have a single policy that would boost wages in Australia and several that would cut them. So we're able to offer a very good story-

GILBERT: Your policies, of course, have been criticised by some of the peak business groups so part of your effort as well would be to try to placate those concerns?

LEIGH: I wouldn't pretend that everything we've announced will be loved by every Australian. But what people want in an opposition is a team that will put together a robust and coherent set of policies. In an era in which the Liberals are chopping and changing from leader to leader, what's characterized Labor has been stability in leadership and stability in policy. We've announced multinational tax policies in one case now three years ago and we've announced a series of loophole-closing policies, productivity boosting policies. We announced over the weekend gender pay reporting as a way of helping to close the gender pay gap. So we’re a policy-rich opposition and proud of it.

GILBERT: I know you don't engage in polls too much, but clearly members of the business community do, given that as you say that increased appetite and keenness is to get some time with the opposition leader.

LEIGH: I think people are very enthusiastic and I certainly wouldn't downplay the role of business engagement and lobbyists, as per the Grattan Institute report we've seen out today. But it's important too that we also provide opportunities for new voices to come through. I’m out on my street meetings outside Big W in Gungahlin and across Canberra. I put out last week a gender advocacy toolkit written by Joanna Richards, who was seconded to my office, to encourage gender based organizations to engage more with politicians. So we want to hear all of these voices right across the spectrum.

GILBERT: And as I say, you’re not somebody who comments on all the polls specifically and not too keen on that predictive capacity either, but is your sense as you – because you do travel around the country quite a bit – are you picking up that there is that solid mood for change right now? Or is it is it a bit more lukewarm than that?

LEIGH: People are hungry for change. But they want to be sure that a Shorten Labor Government will be stable in terms of personnel and stable in terms of ideas. There is no appetite in Australia for electing a government that won't go full term and won't keep its promises. You see that the real rot sets in with the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government in the 2014 budget, backed by all three of those men, in which they tore up a whole set of their policies. We’re not going to do that. We're laying out a clear agenda as to how we want to make a more egalitarian, a faster growing, a more productive Australia. We want to stop the cuts to schools, hospitals and penalty rates. We're ready for the honour to govern and we're fighting hard to earn it.

GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, I appreciate your time.

LEIGH: Thank you Kieran.


Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.