Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Labor’s plan for a smarter, more prosperous Australia

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2015


 

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for a smarter, more prosperous Australia; Labor’s plan for Startups and innovation; Domestic Violence; Asylum seeker policy; China FTA.

 

ED HUSIC, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks everyone for joining us today for what we believe is a crucial announcement about where to next for the Australian economy, and where to next in terms of improving the lives of people across Australia, and Bill will be announcing today a series of measures that we believe will help provide a more supportive environment for startups in this country. We know, we have known within the Labor party for some time, that innovation is basically a very important mechanism for retooling, regearing the economy, particularly at a time when people are wondering where to next with mining and manufacturing going through change. We need to think about the massive changes ahead in the world of work, and we need to be prepared for that now. This is a long term vision, a national long term vision requires a long term plan and forward thinking. So we’ll be announcing a number of things that address some of the areas that we believe need to be tackled if we want to supercharge our startup environment and give us pride of place on the world stage as an innovation nation. So I’d like to invite Bill Shorten to outline our views as to where to next in this second wave of reforms to help startups in Australia.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, fantastic to be here.  And I’d just like to thank Jason Clare, Chris Bowen and Ed Husic for the work they’ve done on the announcements Labor will be making today. The Labor Party fundamentally gets that Australian politics needs good policies for the future of this country. At the core of good policies for a bright future for Australia is how we become an innovation and education economy. Labor's really committed to making sure that Australians can have good, rewarding work in the future. That is why in my Budget Reply, I outlined the first stage of Labor's policies to capture the wave of digital change that is washing through the whole world.

 

At Budget Reply, I said we needed to make sure our education system is up to scratch. We proposed that Australian children at school should be able to learn coding, but when they go to university there will  be 100,000 HECS debt-free places for students who enrol in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. At the same time, we've recommitted to properly funding TAFE and to opposing the deregulation [agenda] of the Government of universities, which means that there will be downward pressure on the price of going to university. So all of these measures, plus supporting funding for startups, means that we have outlined until today, how we can help set up the workforce for the future in technology. But more work needs to be done.

 

That is why today, Labor is addressing the challenges that we need another 100,000 workers in ICT industries in the next six years. Labor doesn't accept the status quo that Australian business in terms of collaboration with universities is only 32nd in the world when it comes to small and medium enterprises working with universities, and indeed 33rd in the world when it comes to big business working with universities. We need to see a lot closer relationships between universities and business and most importantly we want to see more young people encouraged to back their ideas. This is where our policies today on startups come in.

 

If we do startups properly in this country it's estimated that within the next two decades there could be over half a million jobs created by startup businesses. So today Labor is making the following announcement: one, we want to support 2,000 students every year, final year students, graduates, instead of automatically racing off into the work force, to be given an honours year but not in the old way which this was considered. We are proposing that 2,000 of our brightest, most enterprising young people, will work with university accelerator hubs, comparable to the institutions we are in today. And what we see is young people for a year will receive business training, mentorship but most importantly they've spent three years at university or four years, they have got a good idea. We want to give them for an extra year the chance to back in their own ingenuity, and the way we will do it is provide income contingent loans to them so young people have the financial security to be able to back in their great new idea.

 

In addition to 2,000 graduate income contingent loans for startup ideas in the year after they finish university, we're also proposing there would be 2,000 entrepreneurship visas. This means if there's bright people around the world who might be working out do they come to Australia or another country to start an idea, we are going to open the doors so that the 2000 of the brightest people in the world can have a chance to have a visa in Australia, where they can back in their ideas, where they have capital funding for it and we will be better off if we can win the competition for the brains race that is on. In addition to that we are proposing 2,000 graduate entrepreneurship visas. We take a lot of international students in Australia. But quite often when they finish their degree they head back to their home country. Having gone to the effort of helping educate these bright people we want to encourage some of them to stay in Australia and back in their ideas. We would create a one year visa capable of being extended depending on their idea. Where 2,000 students have a good idea, educated in an Australian institution, we encourage them to stay here and back their idea further.

 

These are some of Labor's ideas in our second wave of reforms to capture the jobs of the future. We have set up the case for properly teaching STEM subjects in schools . We will provide 100,000 spots for STEM students to go to university, as well as 25,000 teaching scholarships for science and maths teachers to go back into the education system so teach others what they know as well as upskilling existing teachers we have proposed all of that. We have proposed proper financing half a billion dollar startup investment fund for clever ideas in this area.  And now what we are proposing on top of our commitment to properly funding universities in Australia and put downward pressure on university fees is a series of innovative measures which will ensure that the best and the brightest in the world will be incentivised to come to Australia.  Some of the best and the brightest in the world who are currently educating in Australia might choose to back in their ideas here and very importantly, we nurture our home grown talent and give the bright kids who finish their degree to back in their ideas for another year at university, collaborating with industry and business knowledge.

 

And behind all of that we're also proposing that we need to open up our government, it makes itself accessible to new technology. We are proposing there should be more generally publicly available data that government has and greater access to this data so that we can start opening up the information government has and have other people work with this information. We want to adopt a particularly innovative idea from the United States called Challenge.gov where we provide challenge platforms. Labor understands that quite often the best ideas an organisation may need are not immediately within that organisation so we will set up challenge platforms and invite the whole community, bright people to look at the challenges Government has.

 

Now this is quite a detailed plan and we will have more to say in coming weeks and months about taxation, about a platform for investment and engagement in our region. What Labor is doing today is we recognise the digital age is upon us, we recognise it is not enough for government and politicians to remark about the existence of change. What would we do about? It we get that the digital economy is changing the way Australians are educated. The way we communicate. The way we work, the way we relate to each other. What we want to do is make sure that Australia benefits from the global competition for jobs, by making sure that Australians have the best possible skills going forward, that they have the best possible chances to innovate and backing their own ideas and that we become a startup nation. I believe that Australia is capable of being in the top 10 per cent of global nations when it comes to startups, provided we have the right policies. Now what I'd like to do is ask some of my Shadow Ministers to talk further in detail about what we are talking about today.

 

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bill. The fact of the matter is that the majority of jobs that will be created in Australia over the next 10 years will be in firms which do not today exist. What we are doing today, what Bill has announced, is Labor's next stage. Plans to make sure the environment intis exists for those firms to emerge and grow and create great jobs for Australians. The fact of the matter is that the technological revolution is occurring, Australia does haven't a choice about that. But we do have a choice where we're at the cutting edge of it or the victims of it. That is the choice Australia has, it's one of the most important economic opportunities Australia has before it. What we are announcing today is the next stage in Labor's plans. Bill made a series of very important announcements in his Budget Reply back in May and today we are announcing the next stage. And as Bill said there will be more to come. This is the culmination of months of work on behalf of Labor's team. I know that innovation and entrepreneurialism is the favour of the fortnight night but this is the culmination of consultation with startups, with universities, both in Australia and overseas. What we are implementing today in many regards represents world's best practice, the entrepreneur's visa, it exists in other countries. We looked at how it works in the United Kingdom and other countries and we have adopted the best part of the schemes around the world and the scheme to enable young university students who have ideas to stay on and try to turn those ideas into reality comes from consultation, not only with universities but with startups themselves. This is the result of considerable amount of work. These ideas will form the basis of the approach of a Shorten Labor Government. But if the Government chooses to embrace them in the meantime they will do so with our full bipartisan support and likewise if they have other ideas if they're good ideas we will also back them because this is too important for Australia's future. I just want to emphasise just how much this will be defining feature of the next Labor Government, the belief in entrepreneurialism, in taking risk, in getting out and starting up new businesses. There are announcements that Bill has made and we have flagged in the past the entrepreneur’s visa and today we are announcing how it would work in more detail. I would come with the full focus of Bill as PM, myself as Treasurer, Jason as Communications Minister, Ed, Kim the whole Labor cabinet and team. Focussed on creating the jobs of the future because the opportunities so important.

 

JASON CLARE, SHADOW COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Thanks Bill and Chris. The important point I want to make here is this is not a boutique debate. This is the main game. For too long in Australia the big economic debates have been focused tax or spending or industrial relations at the expense of this issue, the digital transformation of our economy. This has been left on the sidelines, it can't be left there anymore. 40 per cent of the jobs that Australians do today will be replaced by computers in the next 10 to 15 years. And more jobs will be created, new jobs will be created but they will require different skills and we need to make sure that Australians have the skills to do those jobs. As Chris said just then, most of the jobs that will be created in the next decade and beyond are by companies that don't exist today, by startups and we need to build as many great startups in Australia as we can. We have met some today and we need more of them. To give you an example of the potential of startups to grow exponentially have a look at five American companies on the West Coast of the United States that, together, have a combined market cap of almost the size of the Australian Stock Exchange. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Uber, together almost the size of the Australian Stock Exchange. That is why we need to focus here, this is where the jobs of the future are. And from the work we are doing the key take-outs from people working in the sector in start-ups and in venture capital are we don't have the skills we need and we don't have the money to invest and target investments in the startup community. That is why we have said to make sure we have the skills we need to for the future, we need coding starting in primary school. We need to teach teachers the skills to teach our students STEM subjects and we need to make sure we have the home-grown talent we need and that is why we have a startup year at university and also bring in talented people from overseas and keep students who come to Australia and study here, here in Australia starting up new businesses. On top of that we need to make sure we have money invested in good ideas. So Bill announced six months ago a co-investment fund, a half a billion dollar co-investment fund, investing with venture capital in great startup ideas and on top of that today we are announcing we want to work with Australian superannuation funds and look at ways to provide incentives to work with them for Australian venture capital companies to invest in Australian startups. We need more skills and more money and that is what we are focused on, working with the start-up community. I want to thank all the people in the startup community who have helped us to come up with this plan, this is stage two and there's much more to come.

 

HUSIC: Can I make one final point before we move to questions. This place, Tank Stream Labs, and other places like it are about disruption an we're about disruption too. We are prepared to disrupt the usual way in which politics is usually done, and what we’re saying to the Government is that if these ideas are things that the Government believes they can work with us on, we are happy to work with them on it because innovation doesn't wait for elections. The national mission now is for us to become more innovative, to grow the economy and to generate new jobs and we think that work can start right now. It doesn't wait for a Federal election to happen, and we are certainly willing to work with Malcolm Turnbull if he is willing to work with us.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you pleased with Malcolm Turnbull’s domestic violence announcement?

 

SHORTEN: I am but are there any questions about the technology that I would love to talk about today?

 

JOURNALIST: How much is it going to cost and how will you fund it?

 

SHORTEN: Two answers and then I will ask Chris to expand further. We cannot afford not to be in the game of innovation, technology and better chances for our young people. We have articulated across all our policies that we want more kids to feel they can go to university, more mature age students to feel they can change occupation. We want to encourage more women, more people from the regions to have the opportunity to get into STEM. I believe the current situation is a dire indictment of where we're at. The truth of the matter is, say, for instance, New Zealand - they are providing when you have a look at the startups they're doing something like 20 per cent of their turnout as a collaboration between companies and universities; we are at 4 per cent. If you look at the graduations of Australians finished with STEM degrees; 16 per cent of graduates in Australia finish with STEM qualifications, it's something like 51 or 52 per cent in Singapore and 45 per cent in China. So the first point I make to you in term of cost and price is let's start doing politics and the reporting of politics differently. Let's look at the value we're creating and where we need to be not just the price of it. But coming to the important point you make about price, our policies today are $16 or $17 million. That is what is really good about what we are proposing today. The idea that we would get 2,000 kids who are at uni, the second sort of big dot com startup inventor might right now be studying at one of our universities. This man or woman, they’ve done three years of study, they’ve got an idea which they think is an idea which might change the way our society is organised, might change the way commerce is conducted. What we are proposing today is that for 2,000 of these kids who’ve got drive and entrepreneurship – and they don’t have to be young people either – but for when they finish their study, a year, when we back in the innate capacity of people, when you look at the price of it compared to what we are potentially develop, this is a great deal.

 

The same with the visas we’re proposing. We need to be in the global competition for the smartest minds on the planet. There's lot of good reasons to come and live in Australia. We have a great lifestyle, a great quality of life. We’ve got a great commitment to fairness and egalitarianism.  This is a very good society. What we need to do is attract people to it. As my team have been talking about, we have been looking at what's best practice in the world. It is a very small cost to offer 2,000 entrepreneur visas to people who would bring some capital and also back in their ideas. It is a very small cost to help say to international students we would like you to stay here for a year and back in your idea. So when you look at it from improving the quality of our teachers, from more kids going to university to upskilling existing teachers and through making sure more kids are in love with the STEM-related subjects, making sure they’re prepared for the jobs of the future.  From providing a venture capital assistance fund that will actually have an exponential multiplier effect on capital accumulation through unlocking the flow of capital from superannuation funds into technology and startups in this country, right through to opening up government. Right through to having challenge platforms where for a very small cost -  we are saying $5 million – we can engage the whole Australian community in what the challenges of government are. So I appreciate your question because it really does go to the point that there is a lot more value to be created here if we're imaginative, if we’re bold and willing to back in the best and the brightest.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten the latest Morgan poll shows 61 per cent of voters aged 18 to 24 actually [inaudible] Labor. Would you say this is a plan to appeal to that demographic and sure up their support?

 

SHORTEN: I did say go back to domestic violence, so I will quickly deal with this question. Labor gets how young people are organised in this society. One big difference between the Liberal Party of Australia and Labor is we don't look at young people and say you have to pay more for everything. When we look at the costs of young people in Australia, they go to work, they have to compulsorily save some income to support their retirement in forty years’ time, we support that but that means foregone income right now. Young people have to pay their HECS debt and then what the Liberal Party's approach to young people is they see a cash register. They want young people to pay more in GST. They want them to pay more in going to university. And our strategy today about technology and startup is not about votes, frankly. We are happy if Malcolm Turnbull takes our whole platform because we think that innovation shouldn't wait for an election. This nation is too important to worry about. That we are entering in the competition of ideas. I am pleased if young people are responding well to our ideas, not to mention our consistency on climate change. But for us it's all about making sure that young people and their parents know: we're backing bright kids, it doesn't matter where you come from but you will get the same chances in life. It's not based often how rich your parents are and we will make sure we give the best start in life for jobs of the future. As a lot of young people are now leaving university and there will be jobs they will be doing in the next 10 years that currently don't exist now. We must give them the best skills so they can fulfil their own potential.

 

In terms of domestic violence I am really pleased that the Liberal Government is taking up this issue. To be fair, I think that Tony Abbott had worked on a lot of this and I notice that Malcolm Turnbull did give him some credit and I am also happy with that. In terms of domestic violence - it is a black mark on Australian society. What sort of country do we want our kids to see we are? What sort of nation do we want to present ourselves to other people in the world where 63 women have been killed, murdered by people who say they love them? It is unacceptable.

 

I firmly believe that domestic violence, family violence is a national crisis. So I am pleased that the Liberal Party's talking about domestic violence just like the Labor Party is. I am pleased for Rosie Batty and Ken Lay and all of the survivors if there is interest in what they've been through. But it needs to go further. I do say this to the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull: good start, I'm really pleased. I also say that you cut $22 million from legal aid funding, sorry, communities legal centres which help women. Any person who has been through the system trying to recover from family violence who has had to go through the family law courts, through dealing with the post code lottery depending on does the magistrate get what’s happened to you or are they old school and have no concept? What is important is that women going through this system have legal advice and support. So I ask Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals, congratulations on what you've done, but please just find that other $22 million you've cut because otherwise we haven't even got to where we were before the 2013 election.

 

And furthermore, women's refuges need to be properly funded, there’s been $88 million cut from women’s refuges. Anyone who has ever known someone who has been through family violence often finds that someone the perpetrator gets the reward of staying in the house and the women or the mother has to change jobs, has to change accommodation, has to move the kids from school. Women's refuges won't solve the problem of family violence but they will help those survivors get through the next few weeks and months after terrible things have happened .  So I say to Malcolm Turnbull great start, Labor, we can work together on there but this is money which has been cut by the Liberal Government to community legal services and there has been money cut from women's refuges, we need to deal with that too.

 

JOURNALIST: Was it wise for Malcolm Turnbull to say he would consider changes to asylum seeker policy yesterday?

 

SHORTEN: You'd have to ask Malcolm Turnbull that. In terms of asylum seeker policy Labor at our national convention has come up with I believe a very humane policy when it comes to refugees. We proposed doubling the number of refugees we take, before the Syrian crisis blew up, we believe fundamentally that Australia can take more refugees. We've also proposed that when it comes to Manus Island and Nauru that we sit down and talk to the Nauruan and Papua New Guinea Governments to talk about bilateral mechanisms to ensure there is proper oversight. Australian Governments cannot wash their hand of what happens in these facilities when they're funding them. Of course we have to work with the particular Governments where these facilities are but we believe that staff have the right if they're concerned what they say to be able to say what's going on without facing penalty, we also believe there's a big role in terms of the Ombudsman and looking after the protection of children in these facilities.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think if you became PM your resolve on boat people would be tested by people smugglers?

 

SHORTEN: I think that people smugglers are criminal syndicates. These are not altruists, what they do is they exploit vulnerable people legitimately seeking a better life, they charge them up to $10,000 plus and put them in harm's way with the risk of death and drowning. So I've got no doubt that criminal syndicate will always be trying to test the resolve of Governments but I know that they will find no chink in our armour when it comes to humane treatment of refugees, when it comes to making sure that the criminals don't get back into business. We are as determined as anyone else to defeat the criminal syndicates full stop.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull has challenged you to put forward legislation amending the China FTA, will you do that?

 

SHORTEN: Yes, no problems, what I'd also say on the China FTA is - and I've spoken to Mr Turnbull about this directly - is this: we know you can't change the treaty, Labor is not seeking to do that. We think that a China Free Trade Agreement is a good thing but we also want to ensure that Australians are getting the opportunities to work in Australia and getting priority. That's all. Now the Government says that there's no problem and that any of the concerns we have won't materialise, that's the basis for a negotiation. If they say there is no problem and legitimate concerns have been expressed we'll work it out. I've been in far harder negotiations than this but our priority is to make sure that when we have change in this country doesn't matter if that's digital disruption or a China Free Trade Agreement, we want to ensure that no-one gets left behind. See, that's one element which is fundamental to Labor. We are ambitious about the future, we're confident about the future, have the policies for the future, but we believe that there must always be the test of fairness. I don't buy this argument that if change only works for some people that that's good enough. Got to make change work for all Australians and that's what we're doing today by making sure that we have got a platform to help Australia's clever startups get turbocharge they need so that Australia can win the race to the future for jobs and attracting the smart people to Australia.

 

Thanks everyone, have a lovely day.

 

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053