19 July 2018




PATRICK GORMAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PERTH: It is just nine days until the Perth by-election. Of course early voting is already open and we’ve had more than 2,000 people already cast their votes here in Perth.

Today we’ve had Penny Wong talking to people in Maylands about Labor’s plans for the future; Labor’s plans to ensure we invest in TAFE – that we provide 100,000 TAFE places with no upfront fees – that we uncap university places and that we restore penalty rates for hundreds of thousands of working Australians.

We’ve had a great response from the local businesses, from the local shoppers. It’s been a lovely morning to wander through Maylands and to talk more about Labor’s plans. I’m happy to hand over to Labor’s Shadow Foreign Minister, Penny Wong.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much Patrick. Well it’s fantastic to be here in Perth and what a beautiful, beautiful day it is too. I have to say it’s been lovely walking around talking to some of the residents here in Maylands. Generally, politicians can get bouquets or brickbats, but I got a bouquet today so thank you to Angela from the florist around the corner for your very, very sweet bunch of flowers that I just got. It’s going to put me in a good mood for the whole day; it was really lovely.

Obviously this is a by-election that has been around for a long time and I’m sure that people are waiting to have this by-election over and done with in a very short time. On the 28th of July people will get to vote. Can I say to the residents of Perth, Patrick is a fantastic candidate. We’re very proud to put him forward as a Labor candidate. We know how important it is, given the importance of Western Australia to the national economy, that you have a good set of Labor representatives in Canberra, and he will be a great addition to your representation in Canberra and a great addition to the national Labor team.

This is a by-election where a number of issues are important. One of those, as Patrick has said, is TAFE and the opportunities that we want young people to have to ensure they can go on to get further education; to get the skills they need for the jobs that are available and the jobs that will become available. But to get those jobs they have to get the skills. Obviously, we don’t agree with the government’s $17 billion cuts to schools – providing tax cuts to the banks instead of funding our schools – and we don’t agree with the cuts to health. So there is a very different set of priorities that the Labor Party’s putting forward at this election. Priorities which are about opportunity, priorities which are about education, about health, rather than prioritising tax cuts to the big end of town. I’m happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you on a foreign affairs matter?

WONG: That is surprising (laughs).

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop was hoping to try and get the US Secretary of State to get more involved in the whole Russia MH17 issue given what we saw of Trump and Vladimir Putin. But Pompeo’s already written back and said that the language that she’s using in a statement is way too strong and doesn’t accept it. Is that a problem that we can’t get the US support?

WONG: I haven’t seen the correspondence to which you’re referring and Secretary Pompeo’s words. What I will say is I completely agree with Ms Bishop that we have to stand firm on MH17. It was extremely distressing and disappointing to see a member of the Coalition, Mr Kelly, make the comments he made. Let me say this, we don’t get over the loss of Australian lives, we don’t get over the murder of Australians and we don’t get over the murder of civilians.

It is quite clear from the investigations which have been undertaken that there were Russian elements involved in the downing of MH17. So I would say very clearly, I think Australians stand together behind all those who’ve been touched by this tragedy and we will not get over it when it comes to our relationship with Russia.

JOURNALIST: Is Craig Kelly’s apology for those comments enough?

WONG: Well, I don’t know how you apologise for something like that; telling some people to get over the loss of family, but he’s going to have to live with that.

JOURNALIST: In relation to those comments, was it particularly insensitive given Anthony Maslin had come out and put that Facebook post up talking about the issue.

WONG: I think it’s just insensitive and all I can say – and I know that the Maslins have sought a deal of privacy – is that our sympathy is with them always and to lose a child is beyond words.

JOURNALIST: He said he was taken out of context; did it sound that way to you?

WONG: Oh, come on. No. I don’t think anybody listening to him or seeing what he said could’ve misunderstood the lack of empathy, and frankly, the lack of ethics in it. We’re talking about the loss of life, we’re talking about the murder of Australians. It’s not something we get over. It’s neither consistent with who we are as a nation nor is it consistent with Australian interests.

JOURNALIST: To get you on the by-election, obviously no Liberals are running here in Fremantle or Perth and obviously Labor’s spoken about that before. But do you think, although it has some benefits to Labor’s campaign, is it difficult though in some ways to elevate the issue up, and get media coverage and make people interested and aware?

WONG: Well I think the difficulty is it demonstrates the Liberals take Western Australia for granted, doesn’t it?

We’ve seen the way in which Malcolm Turnbull has dealt with your state, and frankly, you’ve seen the difference between that, and Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen who both have spent a lot time here and have listened very carefully to Premier McGowan and others here in Western Australia about a range of issues; infrastructure and the GST.

We know that Malcolm has taken this state for granted and I think that’s exemplified by the fact that they’re refusing to even run candidates in this seat.

JOURNALIST: Makes it easy for Labor though, doesn’t it?

WONG: Well, we never think anything is easy when it comes to elections. We’ve won government federally since the war, what is it? Three times. So we know how hard you have to work, as you should, to gain the support and the trust of voters here in Western Australia and around the country.

JOURNALIST: When I was wandering around talking to people not everyone seemed aware of the by-election here. Is that an issue, did you find that?

WONG: Oh look, I think people have their lives. We’ve all got families, and work, and people are busy and sometimes what’s happening in politics isn’t front and centre around the kitchen table. I would say this, there is a by-election on, you’ve got a chance to send a great Labor candidate for Perth to Canberra as a representative, so get out and vote.

JOURNALIST: The early voting is I think you said about 2,000, that’s low compared to some of the other by-election early voting that’s going on. I know Longman already had over 6,000 votes for example, early voting. Is that concerning to you that there’s a bit of apathy there?

GORMAN: It’s always concerning if not every single Australian has their voice heard when they have an opportunity to vote in an election. What I’m doing here and every day is saying “have your voice heard, go and vote”. You can vote early at the Morley Growers Markets – it’s open from about 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. It’s not too late to lodge a postal vote. You can always go and vote early in the city.

We’re doing everything we can to make sure that people know how and where they can vote. Obviously, the Liberal Party’s probably not doing anything at all, but there are 14 other candidates; I’m sure they’ll be out encouraging everyone to have their voice heard as well.

JOURNALIST: How are you feeling at this stage? I mean you keep saying you don’t want to be complacent, but are you feeling very confident given there is no Liberal candidate?

GORMAN: I’m feeling that there’s about nine days left. That means I can knock on about another thousand doors. It means I can probably make an equivalent number of phone calls. It means we’ll probably do a few more press conferences like this talking about issues important to the people of Perth. Things like TAFE, penalty rates, education. I’m feeling like it’s nine days to go and I’m going to do everything I can to earn the votes of the people of Perth.

JOURNALIST: What has the impact of Scott Morrison’s plans for GST had on this by-election do you think? Has it killed the issue?

GORMAN: People see it as another announcement. They want to see the money actually delivered to Western Australia. That’s the test for Mr Morrison.

JOURNALIST: So it’s not neutralised Super Saturday then in terms of WA, it hasn’t neutralised it as an issue – GST?

GORMAN: If Mr Morrison is claiming that he’s fixed and neutralised the GST issue then he can claim that, but I think people just want to see it actually resolved. We’re the opposition at the moment, Mr Morrison is in government. When the cheque arrives at Mark McGowan’s office, then it’s over. Until then…

JOURNALIST: But when your own state colleagues, including the Premier and Ben Wyatt, come out and back the proposal and say it’s great, that must have at least brought the issue down in the minds of voters here where it has been such a big concern; getting a fair share?

GORMAN: Labor started talking about a 70 cent in the dollar floor. Bill Shorten announced that here in Western Australia last year. People are seeing that we’ve now got a 70 cent floor going to 75 cents from the government. Labor supports that move. We’ve said we’d like to see that legislated, but these are really constructive conversations about delivering a fair go and a fair share for WA.

JOURNALIST: You’re a former Labor Party Secretary, are you concerned that with the withdrawal of Lauren Palmer, it’s going to go over to the east coast to make a decision on who the candidate should be?

GORMAN: I’ll leave matters of candidates’ endorsement outside of the federal electorate of Perth for others.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any idea why she quit?

GORMAN: I think she released a statement and I’d refer you to that statement.

JOURNALIST: Back on the by-election, obviously there’s benefits of not having a Liberal opponent, but there’s also difficulties getting journalists to come because there’s no argy-bargy in this campaign; as much as there ordinarily would be. Has that been difficult for you in terms of the campaign itself?

GORMAN: No, we’ve had a little bit of colourful discussion. I was at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy Candidates Forum last night. We saw some very interesting, different views on the big issues facing voters at this election. I think there’s another candidates’ forum next week. What the media chooses to cover is part of our democracy, that’s up to you.

JOURNALIST: What about real people though, I mean the CME’s a lobby group. When you’re doorknocking with real people in the street, are they aware that the by-election’s on and there’s a campaign?

GORMAN: Of course they’re aware there’s a by-election on.

WONG: Well they certainly are when he knocks on their door, I suppose (laughter). Okay, thanks very much guys.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.