Bill Shorten’s plan: Matt Keogh to develop national ice strategy

In an expansive interview with Mandurah Mail on Friday, Labor leader Bill Shorten laid out his plans for government and his hopes for Labor’s candidate Matt Keogh, if the young lawyer wins the Canning byelection on Saturday.

During his fourth visit to Mandurah this campaign, Mr Shorten said he would ask Mr Keogh, a former Commonwealth prosecutor, to develop a national strategy to tackle methamphetamine, the drug better known as ice.

“He’s actually prosecuted people and through his actions, he’s actually made the streets safer,” Mr Shorten said.

“I’m looking forward to getting him to work on an ice strategy not just for Canning but working with my shadow ministers on an ice strategy across Australia.”

Mr Keogh said punishing people for their addiction was not a solution that worked in relation to ice.

“What we’ve also done is look at how do we get rid of this problem, how do we reduce the issue in the first place, and that’s about properly funded rehabilitation services,” he said.

“We’ve got to approach it in a multifaceted way.

“Now, we have to be tough on the offenders, and we’ve got to catch them, but we also have to remove ice from our streets.”

Mr Shorten said ice was a problem like nothing the country had seen before.

“Ice is a murder weapon,” he said.

“The solution can’t just be a headline hunting solution.

“Yes, it’s policing, and we announced the Armadale police station would open 24 hours a day, but then you’ve got rehabilitation and help for families who are at their wits end.”

On the topic of drug reform, Mr Shorten said Labor would support the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes, even though he opposed the decriminalisation of the drug.

“As a parent, I've perhaps changed my views on marijuana more generally, and the medical use of marijuana I'm comfortable with,” he said.

“If I was a parent, I'd want to relieve the pain of my child, so I have to say I've probably moved my thinking there, but more generally as a parent, as opposed to when I was a younger bloke, I am worried about the effects of marijuana more generally.”

Mr Shorten said he was worried about unemployment and especially youth unemployment.

“In Pinjarra, youth unemployment is up around 19 per cent,” he said.

“I met with 100 Alcoa contractors and workers and they're very conscious of jobs.”

He said workers were concerned about the free trade agreement the Abbott government had negotiated with China.

“Well, it is different from other trade agreements,” he said.

“There are fast-track mechanisms for foreign workers to be brought in to this country.

“This country has always relied on guest workers, and I love permanent migration much more than I suspect than many members of the Liberal party, but I can't see why you'd negotiate an agreement which means that employers don't have to try and look locally first.”

Mr Shorten also rejected calls to increase the GST from 10 to 15 per cent.

“I do not believe that the case has been made to increase a tax on everything and extend it to everything not currently taxed,” he said.

“I think there's other tax reforms you can make, we don’t have a fair taxation system.

“It's not fair that a multinational can shop between jurisdictions and not pay tax in this country, yet they [the Abbott government] have got an idea for pensioners to pay more tax.”

Mr Shorten also criticised Tony Abbott’s stance on gay marriage, which was subsequently adopted by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"Abbott wants to spend $150 million on an opinion poll? That's ridiculous. Just so he can delay it?" Mr Shorten said.

“I'll save the tax payer $150 million and, if I'm elected, I'll just put it to a vote in parliament.”