ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 8 MAY 2019
SUBJECT/S: Bill Shorten’s mum; election coverage; preferences; Morrison-Palmer-Hanson three-ringed circus; Labor’s pro-vaccination stance; Labor’s steady, stable and united team
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Returning now to Federal politics and with 10 days to go in election campaign 2019, we're joined now from Brisbane by the Shadow Minister for Finance and Labor's Campaign Spokesman, Jim Chalmers. Good morning to you.
JIM CHALMERS, LABOR CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Good morning, Michael.
ROWLAND: I want to start with a story in the News Corp tabloids this morning claiming that your leader, Bill Shorten, was glossing over the truth when he was on Q&A this week where he talked about his late mother, Ann, a working mum, raising her family. Bill Shorten talking about the opportunities that she missed. The paper's story talks about references to the fact that Bill Shorten should have referenced the fact that his mum went on to become a very successful barrister late in life. So should Bill Shorten have been, I guess, much more up-front with Tony Jones on Monday night?
CHALMERS: I think that this is a disappointing new low. You don't go after a bloke by using his mum. Bill Shorten has talked lovingly and glowingly about his mum who passed away about five years ago. He's spoken about her publicly and privately. The Daily Telegraph are pretending, somehow, that they know more about Bill's mum than he does. He speaks frequently about her achievements, particularly later in life, and in the law. So I think that this is a disappointing new low. It does show the lengths that some people will go to, to prop up a failed and failing Government, which has been defined for six years by cuts and chaos. If they want to go after Bill, they shouldn't be bringing his mum into it. He's very proud of his mum. He's told that story repeatedly and they shouldn't be doing this.
ROWLAND: What do you make of News Corp's coverage of Labor in this election campaign?
CHALMERS: It's best not to get too focused on it. They've made their position very clear. They've done it before. They said, laughingly in hindsight, that Australia needed Tony Abbott in 2013. This is what they do. They go to any length to prop up the Liberals, to prop up a failing Government, which has spent six years rotating through three prime ministers; which has doubled debt in this country; which has presided over slowing growth and stagnant wages. This is what they do. So, our job is to tell our story, to talk about the future of the country, to talk about the choices at this election, which are between better hospitals and schools, or more cuts; a united Labor Party or more chaos; dealing with wages and the cost of living, or driving down wages and giving big tax cuts to the top end of town. Those are the actual choices. I'm confident that the Australian people get their news from a range of sources and that they will reject this latest attempt to go after Bill Shorten by using his mum's story.
ROWLAND: OK, now what's the Labor Party doing, preferencing an anti-vaccination campaigner ahead of the Coalition in the New South Wales seat of Richmond?
CHALMERS: Well, I was just made aware of it this morning when I heard your earlier bulletin. As I understand it, the two candidates that you mentioned in your story, we're preferencing them, I think, number six and number seven, in Richmond. And the reason that we're doing that is because you do what you can to make the how-to-vote instructions as simple as clear as possible.
ROWLAND: An anti-vaccination campaigner, Jim Chalmers?
CHALMERS: Well, our preferences won't be counted in Richmond. And so, who we preference at six and seven will not impact on the outcome. From time to time, all parties, what they try to do is they work out who their key preference arrangements are, and then they try to make the how-to-vote card as simple as possible and that's what we've done there.
ROWLAND: You've also preferenced ahead of the Coalition, a chap called Ray Karam who is in a group called Universal Medicine that the NSW Supreme Court described as a "socially harmful cult". The point I'm making here is, doesn't this blow up your criticism of the Coalition, for preferencing the United Australia Party, and in some seats in Queensland, One Nation, ahead of Labor?
CHALMERS: No, it's entirely different, because what the Government is proposing to do is to continue this kind of Coalition of chaos, which would see a three-ringed circus of Scott Morrison and Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson calling the shots in this country if they win the election. Scott Morrison is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the extreme right in this country. Clive Palmer stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts that Scott Morrison wants to give to multinationals and millionaires. And so, it's an entirely different thing. And if the Liberals win this election, what you will see is that three-ringed circus calling the shots, a three-ringed circus which has shown their willingness to cut further into hospitals and schools, to support cuts to penalty rates - all of these sorts of things which have done such damage to Australian workers over the last six years.
ROWLAND: OK, in hindsight, would you have preferred a different preference allocation in that seat? We are talking about an area covering places like Byron Bay, that have the highest levels of anti-vaccination campaigners in the country, and in preferencing this anti-vaccination candidate, aren't you seen as encouraging this point of view, ahead of where you've put the Nationals, right down the bottom of the ticket?
CHALMERS: Not for one second, Michael. I think that our strong position on vaccination is well known. Our Health Spokeswoman Catherine King is regularly on the record promoting vaccination. We all do in our communities. It is a crucial thing that we get our kids vaccinated. I've explained the preferencing decision in Richmond. We're preferencing these characters six and seven or something like that to make the how-to-vote simpler. I don't think that anybody would confuse that or consider that to be some kind of watering down of our very, very strong and long-standing position on vaccination.
ROWLAND: OK, all eyes now turn to the election debate tonight, but I also want to ask you about - we saw that epic burying of the hatchet between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard at Labor's campaign launch in Brisbane on the weekend. Now we have the front page photo of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating putting out their first joint statement in 28 years. No love lost, as you would well know Jim Chalmers, between those two. What did it take to get Paul Keating and Bob Hawke to sit together?
CHALMERS: I thought that it was amazing to see the band back together. I thought it was inspiring, frankly. A lot of us joined the Labor Party because of Hawke and Keating. So to see them together, and just speaking about Labor's proud record of economic management, compared to the Liberals, I found to be really uplifting. I thought it was absolutely terrific. As I understand it, the relationship between Paul and Bob has been good in recent years. And what it shows, whether it's Paul and Bob, Kevin and Julia, and the whole team - what it shows is that we are steady and stable and united in the Labor Party. You can't say the same thing about the other side, which has spent the last six years attacking each other. And Paul and Bob, the point that they're making is that if you want the economy managed well, and if you want the economy managed by a united, stable and experienced team, then you'll have to vote Labor at this election.
ROWLAND: Jim Chalmers in Brisbane, thank you so much for joining us.
CHALMERS: Thank you, Michael.