WITH by-elections on the way for Perth and Fremantle, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has headed west to woo voters.
Mr Shorten pledged today Labor would contribute an extra $400 million to make up for the state’s GST revenue shortfall, which could be directed towards roads, rail and hospital funding.
Community News sat down with Mr Shorten after the announcement.
“We don’t believe in the hunger games where you pit state against state, but I think the deal of under 70 cents (in the dollar) has been too unfair,” he said.
“The decisions we make on the fair share fund will be in consultation with WA. It won’t be wise men from the east just spending money.”
Four of the five upcoming by-elections across Australia on ‘Super Saturday’ are the result of Labor resignations, with all of these, bar previous Perth member Tim Hammond, stemming from the citizenship saga.
Mr Shorten said he was satisfied all candidates standing were eligible.
“I’m sorry that this has happened and people have been inconvenienced; the High Court’s taken a new, tougher test and they’re the cards you’re dealt with, so you’ve got to make sure you update your processes,” he said.
“I can understand the frustration of voters, but I think by the time we get to election day the issues about the future of Australia will be more important than what has happened previously.”
Four candidates are standing in the Perth by-election, while three are standing in Fremantle; neither seat has a Liberal candidate on the ballot, setting up a contest between Labor and the Greens.
“I’m really disappointed the Liberals have such a low regard for their base of supporters in WA and such a lack of confidence in their arguments they’re not putting candidates up in Fremantle or Perth,” Mr Shorten said.
Greens Fremantle candidate Dorinda Cox recently called on Labor candidate Josh Wilson to “show compassion” in regards to offshore detention, with the same issue being raised with Mr Shorten on the ABC’s Q&A program earlier this week.
“I’ve done town hall meetings in Perth; I did one in Dianella last night with 400 people. (Immigration and detention) get raised, but I think people want to know what we’re going to do for their schools, their childcare, their Tafe, for universities, for hospitals,” Mr Shorten said.
“We’re not going to see the boats start up again under Labor. But we don’t believe the corollary of not starting the boats again is keeping people in indefinite detention.
“For those who are concerned about indefinite detention, which is legitimate, I understand that, Labor is going to do far more than the conservatives to make regional resettlement a reality.
“We’ve got to prioritise talking to the countries in our regions. I’ve said I’ll take up the New Zealand deal for example, which the Government won’t.”
Mr Shorten also said Mr Wilson had been a leader on stopping the live sheep export trade, Perth candidate Patrick Gorman had been strong on a fair go for WA in terms of GST, and both candidates had influenced public transport funding.
“The Greens can’t make those points. But Malcolm Turnbull is the real challenge here, he’s the Government, and what we’re seeing is he has such a low opinion of West Australians’ opinions that he’s not even bothering to submit himself to their judgement,” he said.
“It’s pretty remarkable. They got more primary votes in Perth than the Labor Party at the last Federal Election, and they’re not even turning up. Imagine what you’d say if West Coast or the Dockers didn’t turn up to a game because they couldn’t be guaranteed of a win.
“This is an opportunity to send a wake up call to the Turnbull Government that Australians think it’s more important to properly fund your hospitals and your schools, give proper income tax cuts to working class people and to make sure we’re backing Tafe than it is to give away tax handouts of billions of dollars to large banks and multinationals.”
The by-elections take place on July 28.