SATURDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for jobs in South Australia; Renewable energy; Industrial relations; Malcolm Turnbull; Family violence; Importation of asbestos.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it's great to be back in South Australia at the South Australian Labor Party Conference. South Australia as a state that has suffered more under the last two years of Liberal Government than any other state. Today Labor's flagged that we're committed to jobs in South Australia. Holden - since the Liberals got elected - is closing. The subs contract has been a debacle and unemployment is up. Only Labor has a plan for jobs in South Australia, only Labor has a plan better funded schools, hospitals, infrastructure, making sure that South Australia gets its fair share of the economic growth and jobs that Australia is looking forward to in the future. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: What is your plan for jobs in South Australia?
SHORTEN: Well it all starts with skills and education doesn’t it. We've got to make sure that our schools are properly funded. We also to make sure that our TAFE doesn’t see the sort of haemorrhage of funding to shonky private training providers. It’s important that our young people get a chance to go to university where their marks and hard work is what helped them get into university not how much money their parents have. It’s important we have well-funded research in this country. It’s important to make sure that we support innovative startups and the jobs of the future. Clean energy is a big part of South Australia's future. It’s important that we have a government in Canberra that who supports policies about renewable energy that are fair dinkum and that are going to deliver certainty for investors both domestic and overseas. And of course infrastructure is the big story in South Australia. Under Labor, when Labor was last in government, national infrastructure expenditure per head of South Australian rose from $109 to $272. Since the Liberals have been in we've seen about $318 million dollars cut from infrastructure expenditure in South Australia. So the challenge on jobs is to make that our manufacturing sector is being backed in, that our young people are getting the skills and education for the future and to make sure that we have policies which support jobs in South Australia. And central to that, not exclusively, is renewable energy policy. Of course there's also the submarine contract in Port Adelaide. Labor's been entirely consistent about building maintaining and sustaining submarines from South Australia. The Liberals, well we know that with three defence ministers in under two years and their confusion about who they are going to give the contract to and also other subs that are built in Japan. Only Labor can be trusted with support from Canberra for jobs in South Australia.
JOURNALIST: You talk about clean energy policy and jobs there will federal Labor support a nuclear industry if South Australia's royal commission recommends it?
SHORTEN: That's a good question. In terms of the nuclear industry in the future in South Australia we'll wait to see what the royal commission says. But I am quite a fan of renewable energy. I think that if you look in the investments possible in solar power and in wind power that's a bright future for jobs in South Australia. it really has been a shame that for the last two years the Liberal party undermined certainty in renewable energy and solar power investments. It's interesting if you look at the last two years across the world there’s been over a million jobs created in the renewable energy alone. Yet we've seen a number of people work in renewable energy in Australia go backwards. So Labor's the party who's fair dinkum on climate change, not just trying to retrofit Tony Abbott's climate change scepticism of a direct action policy.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair to say you have an open mind on nuclear industry?
SHORTEN: Well I have to say that so far I've always believed that the cost of nuclear energy outweighs the economic benefits and that's before we get to the environmental safe guards. I’m willing to wait to see what the Royal Commission says but I have to say I think and federal Labor our priorities are on solar and wind power, renewable energy making sure that we've got fair dinkum targets for climate change. It is very clear to me that if you want to vote for political party's who's interested in climate change you'd look at Labor. But specifically going back to your question, at this point I don't support nuclear energy. I don't see it as a viable prospect obviously, I'll see what the Royal Commission says.
JOURNALIST: Just on union reforms, the Prime Minister says that union reforms are needed especially in the building industry. Is that something you agree that is something that is needed?
SHORTEN: Well Labor has zero tolerance to criminality. When Labor was in power we had regulator enforcing that everyone employers, unions stuck to the rules. The issue though when the Liberals talk about unions its code for reducing conditions. The Liberal party of Australia, doesn’t matter if it's Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, understand that if you can discredit trade unions then you take away one of the best protections of working peoples' conditions. You only have to look at the work that happens in a non-unionised environment to see what happens to Australian workers - I’m talking about 7-Eleven. I think all Australians were shocked when they realised that the fast food convenience store which they have been popping into and served by someone to find out these people are getting half of the minimum wage with thousands of people. Liberals love to say there’s no role for our proper safety net for industrial relations that penalty rates are so yesterday, that there’s no such thing as the weekend and that there’s no real role for unions and everyone’s getting treated well. Well I’ll just get you to look at 7-Eleven this systemic under payment of thousands of people right underneath our noses contradicts the Liberal attract on trade unions.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor open to the olive branch that Malcolm Turnbull is offering in the Australian today?
SHORTEN: I noticed in the Australian today that Malcolm Turnbull's setting an IR test for me and Labor. Today at South Australian Labor conference I think I answered them. I set an IR test for Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm, stop obsessing about trade unions and look at what's in the best interests of workers and co-operative environments. My test is, what are you going to do to reduce the serious injury and fatality rates in Australia's workplaces? In particular, what are you going to do to address the scourge of asbestosis and atheroma which is going to kill more people in Australia than Australians died in World War I? I want to know what Malcolm Turnbull is going to do about equal pay for early childhood educators in early childhood education which is such an important industry educating our future generation? I want to know where Malcolm Turnbull stands on sham contracting. I want to see where he stands in terms of making sure that the 800,000 plus temporary work right holders in Australia, visa holders from overseas that they're not getting ripped off. I want to know where he stands on the fact that there's around 800,000 people unemployed, there's 1.3 million Australians regularly recorded to be underemployed. And another IR test I have for him is: why do the right-wing of your Liberal Party keep talking about lowering penalty rates? What will you Malcolm Turnbull do to make sure penalty rates can't be ripped off people? I think in industrial relations if Mr Turnbull wants a debate we're happy to have a debate about a good strong safety net, win-win situations for employees and employers, co-operative workplaces, good health and safety and the promotion of Australian jobs for Australians.
JOURNALIST: Will you take up that specific invitation to talk about union corruption?
SHORTEN: I'm happy to talk to Malcolm Turnbull about corruption be it in the boardroom or unions I'm not going to play some dog whistle game where Malcolm Turnbull backs the big end of town and just says 'the source of all evil is trade unions' I'm not buying that. Now I have zero tolerance for corruption or illegality in unions. It was me who put the administrators in to the troubled Health Services Union which is uncovered so many of the problems we have now seen. I put the administrators in at the same time that Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne were extolling the same people who ripped off millions of dollars from health workers. I'm happy to sit down with Mr Turnbull and talk about workplace relations but it he just wants to play the tired old politics of blame the unions for everything when we’ve got thousands of people being ripped off at 7-Eleven, you've got a debate about sham contracting at Myer with the cleaners there, where you've got a debate about hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities not getting a fair go in the work place and being discriminated. I want to know what Malcolm Turnbull going to go do to help millions of Australians who are underemployed or have insecure work. It's very important that Malcom Turnbull isn't just Tony Abbott in a better suit when it comes to workplace relations and trying to bag unions all the time.
JOURNALIST: The PM has also suggested that sovereign wealth fund be created instead of cash handouts for the future. is that a policy that Labor would be open to?
SHORTEN: We already have a sovereign wealth fund in Australia it’s called the Future Fund. It's already one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world. I understand that Malcolm Turnbull flying a whole lot of kites, putting a whole lots of balloons in the air, talking about a whole lot of ideas. But I think if we want to make sure that we get the budget back in to surplus over the cycle he needs to sort out his disagreement with his treasurer. See I understand that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison might be from different wings of the Liberal party and they had a mutual self interest in replacing Tony Abbott. But only two weeks ago Malcolm Turnbull’s number one economic spokesperson said that we only a spending problem in Australia, not a revenue problem. But today Malcolm Turnbull in a series of expansive interviews in the media has said we have both a revenue problem, which is a taxation issue, and a spending problem. It is very hard to hope that Australia can get on track economically with its ballooning deficit under the Liberals with its slowing growth, with its high unemployment with the two top spokespeople of economics have basically different analysis of the problem. When your doctors are disagreeing on the problem with the patient, the patients got a problem with their doctors.
JOURNALIST: You spoke there about the tax system being a leaky faucet can you explain what you mean by that and can you give some examples of how the tax system is being abused?
SHORTEN: Well I was very careful with my words I didn't say there was anything illegal happening. But I'm in touch with the real world - most Australians go to work and they claim very few deductions and they just Pay as You Go tax, I’m sure many of the people in this press conference are in exactly in the same boat. But it is fair to say that Saul Eslake, a respected economist, made some very good points at a business reform summit recently. He made the point that our tax system that our tax system, the concession in it are disproportionately availed by the top tax bracket earners. In 2012-13 that was about 2.7 per cent of taxpayers. But this 2.7 per cent get more access to put the income they earn into these tax privileged categories where they are able to claim more concessions. That’s why we're talking about superannuation tax concessions. We think at the very high end for instance if you already have several million dollars you don't necessarily to get tax preferred treatment on the income arising from that. If you've already got it. You know there’s a debate about the future of superannuation. I have the dream that every Australian could get to well in excess of a million dollars in their super but i know in order to do that what we’ve got to do in encourage more people to put into their superannuation not necessarily have tax concession which rewards those who already have more. I mean going back to the sovereign wealth fund issue there’s a couple other specific examples Mr Turnbull's talking about sovereign wealth funds. We already have them but what I would also remind Mr Turnbull is that if we want to have more Australians to have their individual sovereign wealth fund - their superannuation account - why on earth are the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull persisting on taking away tax concession for low income earners who earn less than $37 000 a year. Yet they're fighting tooth and nail against multinational tax reform when Labor wants to make sure the multinational companies pay their fair share of tax in Australia and why is he so dogged in his defence that the very highest wealthiest Australians should actually get a tax holiday on income from their superannuation? Yet the rest of Australians well they can't avail themselves of many concession in the system. Perhaps one or two more.
JOURNALIST: You mention in there Australia’s shame with violence against woman, if you're elected what would you do?
SHORTEN: Well there’s several things that we would do and I'm really glad that you picked up on that part of the speech. Family violence doesn’t - even despite the great efforts from the media - still get enough attention. But some experts and activists in the area tell me that 72 woman have died this year at the hands of ex-partners. 72 women have died. This is a national shame. Several of the ideas which Labor has as we formulate our policy we think that people who experience family violence they should be able to claim some form of leave from their work place because when it happens you just need a little bit of breathing space to make sure you're safe. Secondly, we're got to look at measures which see the perpetrator asked to leave home rather than the victims leaving home. I think it’s really important we do more to fund refuges in Australia so that woman have somewhere to flee. I think it's very important that the Liberal Government reverse its funding to community legal services because when you are a victim or a survivor or family violence trying to use that legal system the lack of legal support could well leave you being jeopardised and being cross-examined by perpetrators not having adequate legal representation. I also think that fundamentally the way we solve family violence in the long term is recognising it’s a gender issue. The police can't arrest their way out of this problem. We've got to recognise that until woman are treated equally in society in all forms then we send messages to future generations of Australian that gender inequality is acceptable and we all need to work on that. Liberal, Labor, business, the media, everyone.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Border Force is doing enough to prevent the importation of Asbestos?
SHORTEN: I was disturbed to read some of the reports today about asbestos materials getting through border security. It's really important we understand that border security isn’t just about people movement it’s also about dangerous substances coming into this country. Asbestos is a real scourge - not enough has been done. Not enough has been done here and Australia’s going to need a renewed effort to tackle our third wave of asbestos in this country.
Now we had the people that worked at the mines and the mills who breathed it in and many of them have died. We've got people who've worked in the building industry commercial and residential that might have been exposed. Now we've got people who are renovators, the DIY. What we don't want is a forth wave of asbestos injury in this country, which is imported coming with asbestos in them. It really is as important as other forms of security in this country.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly the latest opinion polls show that support for yourself fallen low. What can you do to help address that?
SHORTEN: It is policies which matter - if Labor gets its policies right, the polls will look after themselves. Today you heard me articulate a view that jobs is at the centre of what Labor stands for. That's why we're backing subs in Port Adelaide, that's why we're backing clean energy. We also know that to have the jobs of the future we need to make sure our kids get the best education possible. That means kids from poorer schools, from country schools, from schools with less resources get the funding they need so that they can get the best education. We are determined to stop this slide in standards in the TAFE and training sector. Labor's determined to make sure that we have jobs of the future by making sure that kids, whatever their background, get to university - this discredited Liberal strategy of increasing fees and making it harder for people to get to university. And of course you need a government who's committed to infrastructure in this country. I'm more than a little bit flattered that Malcolm Turnbull today has borrowed parts of my speech of a month ago about the need to borrow money to help incentivise superannuation funds to invest in our infrastructure. But the short answer to return to where we started is that if Labor works on the policies the polls will look after themselves. Thank you.
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