Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Adelaide - Tony Abbott’s Broken Promise on Australian Shipbuilding; Australian Jobs

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

ADELAIDE

TUESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Broken Promise on Australian Shipbuilding; Australian Jobs; Iraq; Mining Tax.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Very importantly today, Labor has stood alongside our skilled submarine and shipbuilders in South Australia to stand up for Aussie jobs. I'm accompanied here by a number of Federal Labor representatives, because the Labor that I lead is indeed the party of manufacturing, the only political party who wants to stand up for Aussie jobs.

 

Today we are seeing the consequences of a ruthless and cynical campaign by Tony Abbott to lie his way into power. It was on May 8th last year, last year on May the 8th, that Tony Abbott’s Liberals, in their cynical pursuit of votes made promises that they are now not keeping. They promised on May 8th last year, black and white, they said it for all the world to hear, that an Abbott Government will build submarines in South Australia.

 

We now see that the Abbott Government has decided to buy submarines from Japan at the cost of thousands of Australian jobs. This is a broken promise that the small businesses who supply these world’s best practice, world’s best class shipyards behind me. This is a broken promise to the apprentices, because in South Australia ASC is the largest employer of apprentices and what the Abbott Government’s been doing now to justify their broken promises and lies before the election, is they’re now lying about  the workforce here and they’re saying that Australians can’t build submarines as well as Japanese ship workers.

 

Let me put on the record – Labor, if elected, will build submarines in Australia, unequivocally. Labor knows that we have world’s best practice in these shipyards. According to Tony Abbott, he has a jobs plan – the only problem is Tony Abbott’s jobs plan is to create jobs in foreign countries. Labor believes in Aussie jobs, we believe in our national security.

 

Before I hand over to my colleague David Feeney, one of our spokespeople on these matters, let me just remind Australians of something they probably already know but Tony Abbott's forgotten. One, don't break your promises before an election and lie to the Australian people. Two if you're going to break your promises and lie, don't trash the reputation of thousands of hard working Aussies on the way through. And three, we are an island nation; our national security depends upon keeping skills in Australia.

 

The Abbott Government is contracting out the national security of Australia to other parts of the world, it's getting rid of jobs and skills and intellectual property which will never be reassembled once lost. And four, we live in uncertain times, why on earth is the Abbott Government exposing a maritime nation like Australia, an island nation like Australia, a proud nation, in uncertain times of international security to not having the best possible submarines with the best possible security and jobs for Aussies.

 

I might ask my colleague David Feeney to say a few more words about the submarine decision.

 

DAVID FEENEY: Good afternoon. The Australian shipbuilding and submarine building industry is now at a crossroads. One pathway means that the 48 ships that we know Australia needs built in the next 20 years will be built here in Australia, in a planned rolling build that would guarantee jobs, whether it be in manufacturing or systems integration. High value jobs producing the warships that we know Australia needs.

 

The other pathway is that the industry here withers and even dies and that those jobs and opportunities go overseas. The great tragedy for Australia is that sitting at the centre of that crossroads, is the decision maker is Tony Abbott. We know that when presented with the decision like this in recent times over the automotive industry, he chose to let that industry wither and die. Our very great concern is that he's going to do that with our shipbuilding and submarine building industry as well and that would be a tragedy not just for these workers, and not just for these companies but for our nation, for our nation because we need the capability to the build and sustain our own submarines and our own warships.

 

It is a nonsense to imagine that in a time of crisis we as a country could not build or repair or sustain our own ships and submarines. But that is the nonsense being seriously entertained. I want to make one brief point about the numbers that are being thrown around in this debate. Today, in The Australian newspaper, Government sources were claiming that an Australian submarine build would cost $80 billion. A nonsense number, a number that has not been made out and a number that is three or even four times greater than the real number. A number that Government has invented to justify its own absurd decision to look to Japan rather than look to Australia for this work.

 

It's critically important that when that number is assessed we understand the supply chain that we are getting into, because Tony Abbott is talking about a future where Japan owns the intellectual property and has monopoly control over the spare parts of our sovereign strategic capability rather than us right here, right now. It's a dangerous idea.

 

So, the critical thing, we know these ships have to be built. Are they going to be built here in Australia or are they going to be built somewhere else? We say they should be built in Australia.

 

REPORTER: What's your understanding of the quantum of how much more expensive it would be to make them in Australia?

 

SHORTEN: I'll have a first go at the headline issue and ask my colleague to answer in more detail. The first time a number for the 12 submarines really appeared was through a strategic institute who said it was going to be in the order of $36 billion. Then we've seen number creep go up and up and up, and a trashing of a quality brand which is behind me and thousands of people, because the Government wants to justify breaking its promise.

 

This Government cannot be trusted to tell Australians the truth on the submarine build because they promised Australians before the election they would build them here, now they are desperately trying to justify their broken promise and lies with more broken promises and more lies.

 

REPORTER: You’re talking about the brand behind you, you're standing before an air warfare destroyer that's running a couple of years late and come in well over budget, what does that say about Australia’s ability to do this on budget and for a reasonable price?

 

SHORTEN: Jobs, jobs, jobs. These are Australian jobs and they’re highly-skilled jobs. We all know that in political warfare, the first victim is truth, this Government cannot be trusted. You and I know they have set out to justify breaking their promise by trashing the reputation behind us. The most recent Cole report into this stockyard and into this ship yarding business, made it clear in the last six months they've made massive improvements. We had the Japanese experts came out to Australia to look at what the Australians are doing and take our good ideas back home. Productivity is lifted. Let's not help Tony Abbott justify lying before the election by perpetuating the myths which the workers behind us, the management behind us, working cooperatively are fixing every day.

 

REPORTER: It's not a myth that this project is running $400 million over budget and 21 months behind?

 

SHORTEN: I’ll tell you what is a myth, Tony Abbott's promises in the election. It’s all about jobs. I might ask my colleague David Feeney to further address the question of the Government propaganda bagging the people behind us.

 

JOURNALIST: As long as those jobs are sustained –

 

FEENEY: Let's answer your question. There was recently an ANAO report into the air warfare destroyer program. If you go back to the days when building ships in this country was a bipartisan proposition, when both sides of politics supported it, there was a decision made to build those destroyers here and to pay a premium and that premium was paid so that this industry could be built up, the workforce assembled, the capital invested and the industry brought to world-class in terms of quality and in terms of production. Having now paid that premium and got industry into that position, we now see the Government is talking about abandoning that investment at precisely the moment when that investment should come good, when a rolling build of frigates and submarines should realise that capacity. But instead, this Government is proposing it wither and die. What we say about the air warfare destroyer program is it has done what it was intended to do. It has got this industry into the condition it needs to be to make good the work of the future and the recent review conducted into it by Government, the Winter Report, is a report that remains secret. Government has not kept faith with its promise to release that report. It bags this industry on the basis of a secret report, but we know from the information given to us that these guys stand ready and willing to do the work.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you know, you're saying for certain that this submarine project will go to Japan. As recently as yesterday Premier Jay Weatherill said no decision has been made and he'd be horrified if one had been made? Has he had the wool pulled over his eyes?

 

SHORTEN: Jay Weatherill is fighting for South Australian jobs. Where's Steven Marshall been on fighting for South Australian jobs? It almost since the fact the Liberals couldn't win the state election they've given up on the State of South Australia. But you have to say that with the carefully targeted leaks, carefully targeted off-the-record briefings from the Federal Government, the prospects aren't great. All I say to Tony Abbott is, just keep your word for once in your life.

 

JOURNALIST: How can you say you will go back and reinstate locally-built submarines? If you were elected, its two years down the track and we're already facing a potential capability gap between the Collins Class and whatever replaces it. Aren't you going to push out those timeframes even further?

 

SHORTEN: Do you reward a bad decision by saying it's all too hard? We need to stand by our Australian ship builders and our Australian industry. A lot of people have invested their livelihoods, a lot of small businesses, in terms of the future of the ASC based on the Abbott Government's promises. I hope the Abbott Government reconsiders what it's doing and I hope before they make a commitment, they send our best naval experts not just David Johnston, to have a good look at the submarines. There are a lot of questions to be answered here. We know this Government who is rushing this deal, for what reasons we can't work out. They're rushing this deal and I think Australian taxpayer money, Australian national security and Australian jobs deserve a better analysis than this rushed, botched, dishonest government is giving the situation

 

JOURNALIST: Considering it was first flagged in the 2009 white paper under Kevin Rudd's Government do you think more should have been done then to really lock it in and secure it?

 

SHORTEN: First of all there was a lot done. There was a lot of work done by Navy and Defence in terms of making the decision. You just don't spend billions of dollars in terms of our defence procurement position for the next 20, 30 and 40 years on a whim like this Government's doing. I might ask David Feeney to further talk about the work done in preparing for this, but can we be really straight about the one fact which is inescapable, the Abbott Government when they were in Opposition stood here and lied to South Australians, lied to the shipbuilding industry, they lied to all Australians and said we'll build subs here. I am not prepared to let the Government off the hook about lying to Australians about Australian jobs.

 

I’ll pass you over to David to further answer your question.

 

FEENEY: Just some brief points. The previous government doubled the sustainment budget for our Collins Class submarines from about $250 million to $500 million a year. That was to recover from 10 years of systematic underinvestment. What that investment did is it doubled the ready days of our submarine fleet. Forget the numbers and horror stories you hear in the media. Even David Johnston had to admit after years of bagging submarines, when he came into government that in fact our submarine capability was in very good working order. In government, Labor undertook a future submarine capability study and at the end of that study concluded that an evolved Collins built here in Adelaide was the right solution for our defence needs. The Opposition at the time came here and on 8 May stood alongside that conclusion and also promised to build 12 submarines in Adelaide to meet Navy's requirements. So at that moment in time, everyone was on the same page. It's Tony Abbott that has betrayed that promise and it's Tony Abbott that has rendered that important work done by the previous government null and void.

 

JOURNALIST: Could I just clarify your pledge today on when you say that you will build submarines in Australia if a contract is let to a Japanese builder, will you reverse that decision?

 

SHORTEN: First of all, there is no way that any person of conscience can reward Tony Abbott lying to the electorate before the election and then again lying after the election about costs, and smearing the reputations of thousands of people. Remember, every day that we swallow Tony Abbott's lies, these people behind us who have been building Australian defence equipment, building our ships to which we send our forces out to sea in, they're being betrayed by a government who disparages their work. So when we look at this, there's no way that Labor's going to reward the bad behaviour of the Abbott Government. For me it's all about our national security and it's all about Australian jobs, and it's about keeping your word. Torpedo Tony has torpedoed the Australian ship building industry and Labor's never going to stand for that.

 

JOURNALIST: Will you reverse the decision if you win the next election, if there is a decision made to buy Japanese submarines?

 

SHORTEN: If this Government is committing us to 50 years and multiple billions of dollars, I don't think that future governments automatically have to be bound to every mistake of the current government, but I tell you what, rather than I decide or Tony Abbott, we'll let the Australian people decide who they trust with Australian jobs.

 

JOURNALIST: Just on a slightly different issue, the Prime Minister's flagged sending Australian military advisers to Iraq, is that something you would support?

 

SHORTEN: What Labor has said from the outset of the rise of IS, the Islamic State, is that they are a dreadful force for evil with an insatiable appetite to cause violence and to use religion as a rationale for acts of evil. We do support humanitarian relief. We have supported the role of the RAAF in terms of the resupply of Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq. We believe it's in Australia's interest to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq. We have ruled out supporting sending formed-up combat units, but as the Foreign Minister today has said, the question you've raised about sending training cadres to Iraq hasn't been put to Australia. We'll get briefed by the Government at the right time, but our attitude is national security, the safety of Australians, the defeat of foreign fighters, humanitarian relief and they're the principles upon which we will judge this issue.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if Labor wins the next election will you reintroduce the mining tax?

 

SHORTEN: In terms of the mining tax, I think the worst travesty we've seen about the Government's repeal of it is that in the middle of the night they did a dirty deal with Palmer United Party to rob Australians, nearly 9 million of them of superannuation increases. I just wish the Abbott Government would be honest. I get that I might not agree with their views on not building ships in Australia, I get that they've got a view about not backing in Australian jobs, I get they don't even like compulsory superannuation, I just wish they'd tell us the truth. Does anyone believe that having moved from supporting it to freezing it for two years, to freezing it for six years, does anyone seriously believe the Abbott Government will ever increase people's superannuation? In terms of the mining tax, what we say is that we do believe that Australians are entitled to their fair share of the natural resources of this special country within which we live, but the process has to be done through consultation with state governments and industry. That's the approach we would take, but in the meantime, Tony Abbott in favouring nine mining companies has taken away and diminished and retirement savings account tens of thousands of dollars for nearly 9 million Australians. His priorities are all wrong.

 

JOURNALIST: How would that work then? Would you only introduce it if you could get an agreement of every State and Territory?

 

SHORTEN: Well first of all, we do not support the way the Abbott Government has repealed the tax and throwing nearly 9 million Australians into uncertainty about their retirement savings accounts. A lot of people who are working don't always think about what they're going to do in retirement and they've always had compulsory superannuation to fall back on. Tony Abbott has stabbed in the back the retirement savings accounts of nearly 9 million Australians. We are not going to let go, Tony Abbott promised before the election he'd make no adverse changes to superannuation. He stressed the word 'adverse'. Anyone who can open a dictionary knows that the meaning of adverse means it's not a negative change to people's superannuation. Denying Australians tens of thousands of dollars in their superannuation, that is adverse Tony Abbott. It's time you opened a dictionary, discovered the meaning of the word and for once in your life just keep a promise which doesn't involve doing over millions of Aussies.

 

JOURNALIST: What are the terms on which a Labor Government would reintroduce the mining tax?

 

SHORTEN: I've made it clear that we will reveal all our policies in good time before the next election and what we will do is make sure that before we were ever to introduce major economic changes we will consult with the affected parties. I ask who did Tony Abbott consult about freezing the superannuation accounts of millions of Australians? My tip is he looked in the mirror and consulted himself and I find that very, very scary for retirement savings.

 

Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

 

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