THURSDAY, 27 AUGUST 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for the jobs of the future; Marriage equality; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission; Australian Republic; Syria; Workplace relations.
TIM WATTS, MEMBER FOR GELLIBRAND: It's a pleasure to welcome you all and Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, to Scienceworks right here in my electorate in Melbourne's west. Scienceworks is a big part of my family life. I bring my kids here probably every other weekend and like half a million other Victorians, they get to see the wonder and potential of science here every weekend. Scienceworks really is the shopfront of science in Australia. It’s where we can kindle that passion for science and the importance of it in not only individuals’ lives but in our nation’s future. It was only around a month ago that I was here with my daughter at the new exhibit here at Scienceworks - Tyrannosaurs Meets the Family - where she dressed up as a little palaeontologist, saw a dig for dinosaur bones unfolding before in one of the video displays and she ran up to this particular video display from about 50 yards away and pointed at it and jumped up and down and said ‘dad, dad, dad, there's a woman palaeontologist just like me’. And I thought that's the value of Scienceworks - it's showing kids that there's a future career for them in science, it lets them imagine a future for themselves in science, and it's something that we really need to be making available to all Australian kids. That's why I'm really proud that Bill Shorten is here today to talk about Labor's passion for science and putting science really at the forefront of the national political debate so that all Australian kids can have a future and be a part of these jobs of the future that are coming over the next decade. So on that note I'll hand over to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tim, good morning everyone. There can be no doubt that Scienceworks is Australia's premier museum for young people, for children of school age, but in fact it's not really a museum is it, when you walk around, it's a window into the future. Scienceworks allows children to discover and fall in love with the passion of science and being here this morning again to me reinforces why the next election should be in part a science election. Not about whether or not the science of climate change is real, or whether or not a particular science discovery is right or wrong, but that we need to have science at the centre of national political debate. I think this is my 36th visit to a science-based facility, a research facility, a jobs of the future facility. Ever since the Budget, I've been determined to move the national debate towards putting science and research at the centre of Australia's economic future. See what we see here today is young children falling in the love with the jobs of the future. That is why Labor and only Labor has a policy to teach children coding in schools, computational thinking. Labor and only Labor wants to provide an extra 100,000 places for school leavers and school graduates to study science, mathematics, engineering and technology at university. Labor and only Labor wants to see 25,000 teachers upskilled and another 25,000 teaching scholarships for science graduates so the future generations of young Australians can complete with the rest of the world. There is a science race on across the world and it’s most important that Australia's political leaders start giving our young people the best start in the future for the future and also making sure we can keep and attract jobs in this country.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Should Julia Gillard have signalled earlier her support for gay marriage in Australia?
SHORTEN: I welcome Julia Gillard joining the ranks of now probably 70 per cent of Australians saying enough is enough: the time for marriage equality is here. I voted for it when it came before the Parliament in 2011/12 and I have been a strong supporter of it. I do not believe that Mr Abbott's delaying tactics are worthy of this nation. We don't need $120 million taxpayer funded opinion poll to tell us what Australians already think. I think that Mr Abbott should stop living in the past and just allow a free vote of Parliament. If he can't do it before the next election I can promise Australians that if elected within the first 100 days of being elected I will present a Bill to the Parliament for marriage equality and MPs can have a free vote. But I also think it's important that Mr Abbott stop delaying this debate because frankly there are other issues as well that this nation needs to get on with. I just don't get it at the end of the day why Mr Abbott is so hung up about who marries who, it really is none of our business.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the PM appears to be backing away from his support for Dyson Heydon, saying that the commission must continue but not mentioning Heydon specifically. Do you think that Mr Heydon will go?
SHORTEN: I don't know what Mr Heydon will decide tomorrow but clearly the royal commission is now in a shambolic and politicised state. I and Labor have said that ever since Mr Abbott set up a royal commission to investigate his political opponents that it would end in tears. Now I think Mr Abbott has put Mr Heydon in a very, very unenviable position. Mr Abbott should have acted to resolved this matter before now. But furthermore, I think today's reports in The Australian newspaper are most concerning. They do reveal the possibility that evidence by the royal commission and the Royal Commissioner and Counsel Assisting has not been disclosed or has not been disclosed until today's report. I think it is now time - on top of all the other issues - that Counsel Assisting and the Commissioner explain and answer these very serious questions about whether or not further evidence which has now been revealed in The Australian should have been disclosed earlier.
JOURNALIST: What are the implications do you think of whether this was, you know whether this should have been disclosed earlier? What's the possible implications?
SHORTEN: I think there are questions to answer here by the Commissioner and indeed Counsel Assisting now who is embroiled in this matter: did Mr Stoljar tip off Mr Heydon? These are questions which the commission is going to have to answer. I think today's report is quite a new and dramatic development. But furthermore, this royal commission really has turned out to be a political shambles and a mess of some amazing proportions. Labor has never believed that the royal commission was necessary if you want to stamp down on crime in workplaces. Labor believes that the police and agencies who investigate these matters should be given greater support to do it but we haven't needed a two year multi-million dollar exercise to do this. I think that the power's already there for actions to be chased down and in the meantime this royal commission I think, it doesn't matter how you vote, is increasingly looking like a shambles.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you formally going to push for a Republic vote by 2020?
SHORTEN: I do believe - and I've spoken about this on a number of times this year - that Australia is now ready to become a Republic. I welcome the new revitalisation of the Australian Republican Movement and I welcome Joe Hockey and Katy Gallagher setting up a Parliamentary friends group to help put added impetus. By 2020, it will be the 250th anniversary of when Captain Cook came to Australia. I think after 250 years, we are ready to have an Australian-born Head of State.
Having said all of that, and being open to a bipartisan process, it's not me or many Australians that Mr Hockey needs to convince: it's his own leader, Mr Abbott. But I also have to say that, whilst we have a discussion about the Republic, which I welcome, what I also think is that we have other highly pressing problems on the national agenda. I think it's time for Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey's Liberals to start tackling the scourge of unemployment. There is real anxiety in the community, which wasn't there when Mr Abbott was elected, about people's job security. We now have over 800,000 Australians of our fellow Australians who can't find work who are looking for work. There is now over 1 million Australians who are doing insecure or part-time work, not getting enough hours, casual work, who regularly record they want more work and we have another 800,000 plus Australians on the disability support pension. Just because you have an impairment doesn't mean you should be written off and I think we need to be doing a lot more to encourage the participation of people with impairment and disabilities and give them the opportunities to work. So whilst Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott are having disagreements about the Republic, what we see is that there are literally millions of Australians not employed or under-employed.
JOURNALIST: Just on Syria, have you had another briefing on Syria yet and are you comfortable with Australia joining US airstrikes there?
SHORTEN: We haven't announced our response on Syria so I probably won't pick Scienceworks to do that. I'm talking with my colleagues - I've had one briefing from the Government, we've requested further information. Let me also state very clearly, I am not going to - I can't sort out did Mr Abbott ring the Americans to be engaged in Syria or did the Americans ask Mr Abbott? I'd appreciate, like most Australians, clarity about the sequence of events. But there is also for me I think an even bigger issue which is what is in our national security interests? I was privileged earlier this year to travel to Baghdad, to see some of the work of Australia's remarkable Defence Forces, part of our commitment to helping make Iraq again a safer country than it is with these terrorists threatening the integrity of Iraq. So I am very, very supportive of the professionalism and the efforts of the Australian Defence Force, and the RAAF and the Army. But what I'd also say is we just want to be clear about what is the legal basis for further actions in terms of extending our air force into Syria.
JOURNALIST: What about personally, then? Are you personally comfortable with Australia joining air strikes in Syria?
SHORTEN: I want to make sure that - would it be effective? Will it help defeat or degrade the dreadful scourge of Daesh and terrorist organisations and are our people safe and is it legal? You know, these are some of the tests which I think principled Parliamentarians will weigh up in the mix. But I just want to say to all Australians that, Liberal or Labor, we understand that when it comes to fighting terrorism we have to be in this together and it's also important we do it in a considered manner which achieves the outcomes which we're seeking, which is greater security for Australians and an improvement in the situation in Iraq.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Victorian Liberal Party, do you think they should be doing more to investigate potential misappropriation of taxpayer funds?
SHORTEN: Yes, I do. You know, we've seen the dreadful news that a senior office bearer of the Liberal Party has allegedly taken $1.5 million or more of money. Now, if some of this is taxpayer funded money then the Liberal Party has an obligation to explain to Australians about the use of taxpayer money, if some of this has been defrauded. I also think these people need to explain within the senior ranks of the Liberal Party what they knew; were they aware and could they have prevented this; and what steps they put in place; were there early warning signs of this problem and what did they do about it?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you going to take some form of IR reform in regards to construction sites to the election? You alluded to it yesterday in a speech but we're just looking for some specifics.
SHORTEN: Certainly Labor will have a policy - sensible policy on industrial relations before the next election. What I said yesterday at the national summit organised by The Australian Financial Review and The Australian is that we need to be - there needs to be a national focus, a united national effort to lift productivity and to lift growth in this country. A Labor administration that I lead, if we were privileged to be elected, will look at several areas which a Labor Government would work on to improve productivity, to improve growth, to improve the output of goods and services and jobs to make sure that we are a fairer country and to make sure that the quality of our life as it goes along is improving.
Now we would do that by improving universities, not making it more expensive for kids to go to university. We would tackle climate change which is going to provide us opportunities in the future; I cannot believe the Government and Mr Abbott keep refusing to talk about renewable energy. They treat it as if it's the enemy not the solution, and of course workplace relations along with education and health, taxation and infrastructure are important areas.
When it comes to workplace relations, I've got over 20 years of experience in the real world, and I understand that workplaces work best when you have cooperation and harmony. Now, periodically, you've got a Government and we have one at the moment in power, which is very ideological, they're very extreme people in this Government. They get hung up when workers get wage rises, they seem to think somehow that's not the way to go. They want to swing the pendulum of workplace relations where employees have very little security and very little say over their work. Now I happen to think that in construction and major projects there is opportunity with this - that’s contrasted with this current government who always wants to fight with unions - to build cooperation and I think there are measures which we can talk about for the next election. I think there is a greater role to encourage women into construction. There's a greater role to make sure that our apprenticeship is working so that apprentices aren't dropping out and that they're getting quality training. I think there is an opportunity to improve the access to apprenticeship and training for adult apprentices. Safety and construction is always a constant battle so we've got to make sure that we have safer worksites. We've also got to make sure that when there are industrial arrangements in place that they're respected. Now that's the way you do things, it's not - this country, we're only 24 million people. we can't constantly be fighting each other. Mr Abbott wakes up in the morning and you get a sense that he's looking for someone new to have a fight with. That is not the future of workplace relations. Thanks, everyone.
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