MARK COLVIN: The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has re-affirmed Labor’s commitment to a market based greenhouse emissions policy.
At the same time he’s conceded that Labor failed to prosecute the case for action on climate change.
Harking back to 2009, when Malcolm Turnbull was Liberal leader, he said Labor had underestimated the challenge Mr Turnbull faced from within his own party on climate change.
From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: As of today there are 12 new senators who’ll take their seats when the Senate sits next week.
The Coalition, with 33 senators, will need to secure the votes of six of the eight crossbenchers, if Labor and the Greens won’t play ball.
TONY ABBOTT: Okay colleagues, well look, it’s good that we’re gathered here today on the first of July, the day the new senate starts.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister convened a cabinet meeting in Canberra today and provided some brief comments to mark the senate’s changing of the guard.
TONY ABBOTT: We do welcome the new senate, we do want to work constructively and respectfully with the new senate and I am reasonably optimistic that we can do good things together for our country and for the benefit of our people.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: As the Government considers its approach to corralling crossbench votes for contentious legislation, the latest Newspoll has support for the Coalition slipping back to its post-budget low, 10 points behind Labor after preferences.
TONY ABBOTT: There’s been lots of political ups and downs, but nevertheless those fundamentals… those fundamentals that we made a commitment to the public on, we are delivering.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: While much of the Government’s budget remains to be negotiated in the new senate, the carbon tax will be repealed with the support of Clive Palmer’s party. That’s prompted some reflection from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN: If you want people to get on board change with you, convince them of the merits of change and that lesson also is for Labor when it comes to climate, we’ve got to reiterate the case and I don’t think Labor was expecting that we’d have to go back to first principles.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Today he charted the demise of political support for a price on carbon.
BILL SHORTEN: If you look at one of the key fault lines in Australia, it started in 2009, when Tony Abbott and the sceptics and the denialists and the internet trolls rolled Malcolm Turnbull. And ever since that day we’ve seen a break down in consensus. I’ve got no doubt that Labor underestimated the impact that the anti-climate change brigade had.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Bill Shorten says some business leaders, academics and members of the Greens and Liberal Party look back with some regret – as does he.
BILL SHORTEN: I think in 2009 we underestimated the challenge that Turnbull was under internally.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: And while championing the merits of consensus, he’s taken another swipe at the Government’s budget cuts.
BILL SHORTEN: The real test of political leadership is a willingness to build consensus, to earn agreement, not just to yank the bell at the Downton Abbey political college and expect a servant class of obedient Australians to carry out your will.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: One of the budget casualties is the nation’s first full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner. Graeme Innes is retiring and his job will be taken on by the Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan.
SUSAN RYAN: Look I think my work agenda kind of suggest itself in the light of the McClure report and the obvious interest in the Government and the sector group in finding pathways for people on disability pension to get back into the workforce. I think I will concentrate on barriers that are put in the way of people with disabilities, finding paid jobs and how to overcome those barriers.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: And do you have a view about where the problem lies?
SUSAN RYAN: Look I have a view that, but it needs to be a much more informed view than it is today. I have a view that employers have concerns about hiring people with disability, they don’t quite understand what their responsibilities are going to be, they need some back up support and information so that they can be confident that they can hire a person with disability and that person will fulfil the task involved. So I think employers need some back up and information and support. And of course I think bodies like Job Services Australia which, you know are charged with finding placements for people with disability, they also need to improve the way they operate and get better at matching the person who wants the job with the job that’s available.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you think it’ll require some financial incentives for employers to employ more people with disabilities?
SUSAN RYAN: Look it well may and that’s an area I need to discuss further with employers and with people with disabilities and their representative organisation. Financial incentives can help but sometimes they don’t seem to get traction.
MARK COLVIN: Susan Ryan, the Age Discrimination Commissioner with Alexandra Kirk.