Bill's Transcripts

7.30 REPORT

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

7.30 REPORT

MONDAY, 10 FEBURARY 2014

SUBJECT/S: Toyota; Tony Abbott abandoning Australian jobs; Allegations of corruption in the construction industry.

 

SARAH FERGUSON: To discuss the Toyota decision and the announcement of the Royal Commission into union corruption I'm joined now from our Canberra studio by the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten, thank you for joining us.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good evening Sarah.

 

FERGUSON: We'll come to the Toyota decision in a moment Mr Shorten. But first today's announcement of the Royal Commission. Could union corruption cost you your chance of becoming Prime Minister?

 

SHORTEN: What matters in Australia is not political stunts, what matters is making sure that we have got jobs being created and jobs being kept. Let's be very clear though about what I think about union corruption - there is no place in our society for someone who's a union representative taking bribes or being corrupt, just as there's no place in our society for employers or anyone else who engages in criminal behaviour. That's why the Opposition's proposed a much more straightforward proposition to some of the challenges we've seen, particularly in the building and construction sector. Give our police the resources they need to catch the crooks and keep the politics out of this.

 

FERGUSON: You say that's more straightforward Mr Shorten, but the problem with the police is that they say themselves they can't compel people to give testimony. That's been a problem with the unions, that people haven't come forward to make those kind of witness statements that police need.

 

SHORTEN: But if you know the answers to the problem which is the way evidence is given and strengthening the law, why do we need to have a $100 million Royal Commission to tell the police what they already know?

 

FERGUSON: Precisely because a Royal Commission can compel people to give evidence in the way a police can't.

 

SHORTEN: But only the police can prosecute someone, a Royal Commission can't. Let’s be really straight with this. For people at home, they're saying what's this all about? There have been some union people who have been alleged to have done the wrong thing and that's reprehensible. That makes me sick because I know that most people who are in unions do the right thing every time. So there's got to be no acceptance of any culture of criminality. But what I also know is that if you're going to tackle this criminal problem, you don't do it through a political stunt. Our police need resources. The police know where the crooks are -

 

FERGUSON: Bill Shorten, you say this is a political stunt, but we know that the allegations of criminality, particularly in the CFMEU, were brought to the union's attention in the course of the last year and no action was taken. Isn't that precisely the reason why we need this kind of Royal Commission?

 

SHORTEN: I think it was the media who uncovered that particular problem, not a Royal Commission. I make the observation that we had the Cole Royal Commission into the building industry 12 years ago. Now these problems which are reported to exist now may well have existed then but the Royal Commission didn't get anywhere.

 

FERGUSON: But the Royal Commission did lead to the setting up of the ABCC, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which your government disbanded. Had you not done so, then perhaps this corruption wouldn't have flourished, you wouldn't be in the situation you're in now?

 

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, the ABCC, the body you're referring to, could only ever chase industrial matters; they couldn't deal with criminal matters. If the problem we're trying to solve here, and it's a goal which I share, and Labor shares, is tackling crime then you don't create industrial bodies or you don't create political committees. What you do is you get the police the support they need.  That's why we've proposed setting up an Australian Federal Police Taskforce, working with all the police agencies. We have the Australian Crime Commission which already has the powers of a Royal Commission. The tools are there, Sarah.

 

FERGUSON: Why not have that police task force running alongside a Royal Commission as George Brandis acknowledged was possible yesterday?

 

SHORTEN: We certainly hope that the government takes up our suggestion. My point is that the Australian Crime Commission already exists. It liaises with 13 or 14 police forces throughout Australia. My question is why spend $100 million to tell the police what they already know? They know the tools they need. I'd rather hear from the police about the extra resources they need. I mean, $100 million of taxpayers' money –

 

FERGUSON: I think the Attorney-General disputes that $100 million. Let me just ask you about one of the terms of reference as was announced today.

 

SHORTEN: Sure.

 

FERGUSON: The AWU is named specifically. Do you expect former Prime Minister Julia Gillard to be called to give evidence under oath about the so-called slush fund that she set up with the AWU?

 

SHORTEN: I have no idea. I know this matter is being rigorously investigated by the police. You have to ask yourself why the Abbott Government wants to go over matters which the police are already dealing with. Also when we deal with this, we have got to be really straight, I think, for people. There is an issue to challenge in the building and construction sector, with reports of outlaw motorcycle gangs. No one is above the law, not a union rep, not an employer.

 

FERGUSON: Let's move on to Toyota because obviously it's a very important subject you're going to want to address.

 

SHORTEN: It is.

 

FERGUSON: Notwithstanding the terrible blow that that decision is to the workers today, wasn't that decision inevitable?

 

SHORTEN: It became inevitable I suspect once the Abbott Government got elected. My first concern here though, before we get into why in has happened, is that tonight there will be thousands of auto workers talking to their families, maybe some even watching our show here. They need to hear from everyone that it is a sad day and people respect that it's a sad day, and the other thing they need to hear is that Labor the Opposition does not regard that the workers are to blame.  What we think made the Toyota decision inevitable was when the Federal Government wasn't capable of convincing Holden to stay, all of a sudden all the car component makers for Holden don't have enough work –

 

FERGUSON: But Mr Shorten your own government couldn't keep the Ford motor company operating in Australia. Isn't it the markets that are at work here? It's too expensive to make cars here, the cost of the Australian dollar, this is the market at work?

 

SHORTEN: No I don't accept that, because in 13 countries around the world, who actually make a whole motor car and we're one of them - every government sees it's in their national interest.  And that's what interests me, what's good for the nation, to provide some form of subsidy to their car industry -

 

FERGUSON: So how long would a Labor Government have tried to keep a dying industry alive with subsidies?

 

SHORTEN: Well, if I can just finish my answer to your previous question. Australia subsidises its car manufacturing in the order of about $17, whereas the Germans do it at about somewhere between $65 and $90, and the Americans, $250. First world countries can make cars and we were pretty efficient at it. I agree with you about the high dollar, it put pressure on it.

 

Then I answer your last question about what would Labor have done? First of all we wouldn't give up fighting for Australian jobs. I actually think it is better to have is a person going to work every day, and a meaningful job than facing the misery of unemployment, the uncertainty of where your next income comes from. We've got a government in Canberra who will fight hard for their own jobs, they will pull off political stunts today when there are other options available to them, but when it comes to 2,500 direct jobs and many other thousands of jobs going, the Abbott government is missing in action.

 

FERGUSON: So you would've kept those subsidies flowing to that industry?

 

SHORTEN: We would've worked on a transition which would've seen this bad news avoided, and even if it wasn't possible in the long term to avoid it, there's a big difference between Labor and Liberal. We won't stop fighting for people's jobs until we've turned over every rock and we've tried every -

 

FERGUSON: But you concede you would be delaying the inevitable?

 

SHORTEN: I'm conceding that with a Labor Government you will get someone who will stand up for Australian jobs. The Abbott Government thinks manufacturing is too hard. They've given up the ghost. They won't fight. Do you know, there has been 1000 manufacturing jobs lost every month the Abbott Government has been in power. Imagine if before the election, Labor had run a scare campaign and said ‘Once Tony Abbott gets elected there will be no car industry within five months’. People would've accused us of exaggerating and we didn't say it.

 

FERGUSON: All right Mr Shorten, thank you very much indeed for taking the time to talk with us this evening. I look forward to talking with you again.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks Sarah, have a nice evening.

 

ENDS

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