THURSDAY, 16 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to protect jobs in steel industry; Parakeelia; Temporary Protection Visas; Tony Abbott; Tools for Your Trade; CFA.
JAY WEATHERILL, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Welcome to South Australia. It's great to welcome Bill Shorten and also Nick Champion, and Penny Wong, with whom we've been working very closely over the last few months to grapple with the challenge of the potential closure of the steel works at Arrium. We know that the steel works are not only central to Whyalla, it's also central to the nation. We have to be a nation that has the capacity to build structural steel for the defence of our nation, for its economic development, but most importantly, for the people of Whyalla.
We know that what is at stake there is about 3,500 jobs, but more than, courtesy of the Deloitte Access economic study, we know that Whyalla's economy, 70 per cent of which, $1.07 billion per annum, smaller by 2030 than it would otherwise be if we see the closure of these steel works. Whyalla’s its population would fall from 22,000 to approximately 8,500 to 11,000 people by 2030. And of course, the extensive infrastructure in Whyalla, which would no longer be capable of being supported, would impoverish the whole of the region in Whyalla and the northern areas of our state,
So, this is a massive issue for Whyalla, a massive issue for our state but also a critical national issue. We had the opportunity just a few moments ago to brief Bill Shorten and his team on the work of our steel taskforce. We've been working very closely with the administrator to come up with a plan which allows for the future investment and long-term security of these steelworks. It requires, though, the support of both levels of government. That's why we've reached out to both Federal Labor and also the current Federal Government to try and settle a bipartisan position. I'm very pleased to say today that Federal Labor, with Bill Shorten, has responded positively to our call. So I'd invite now Bill Shorten to say a few words about the proposition that he has put to the South Australian Government.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Jay and good morning everybody. It's great to be in South Australia announcing Federal Labor's package to save the steel industry. I'm accompanied today by my Senate leader, Senator Penny Wong, and my assistant minister for manufacturing, Nick Champion. And I must also pay tribute to the work of Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis, who have worked night and day to make sure that there is a steel making future for Whyalla and indeed Australia.
Today I announce that a Labor Government, if elected, would support the South Australian proposition of saving Arrium. Specifically, we would provide $50 million in grant funding and another $50 million in loan facilities, to line up with South Australia's offer of $50 million, and use that as the basis for the administrator to be able to ensure there is capital expenditure to secure ongoing steel production at Whyalla and the related steel operations. We do this because we believe in Labor, that Australia must be a steel-making nation. I had the privilege before coming into parliament of working in and around the steel industry for 14 years. I know the quality of steel production in Australia. I've seen it made first hand. I've been to our steel-making facilities around Australia and I believe that Australia should still be a nation that makes steel and still be a nation that manufactures products and steel is at the heart o f our infrastructure investment.
Specifically, there's an interesting statistic which I think tells the story of the importance of steel manufacturing in Australia. In the last five years, the administrator advises me that just about every house in NSW has been built with Arrium steel in it. Steel is a vital commodity. We use it in our road and our rail and our construction. And if we don't fight for our Aussie steel jobs, if we do not fight for our Whyalla steel jobs, what will happen is that in the future if we don't have a domestic steel industry, is that we will become price takers on the international stage. Our economy will be more vulnerable to price hikes because we can't provide domestic competition. Steel, of course, is vital to our defence industries. Malcolm Turnbull says that he wants there to be Australian steel in Australian submarines, we agree. But you can't put Australian steel into Australian submarines if there is no Australi an steel industry.
So in that tenor, I extend the invitation to Mr Turnbull to make the rescue of Australian steel a bipartisan proposition. There are 3,500 jobs in South Australia, there's another 2,500, 2,800 Arrium steel making jobs, steel distribution jobs in NSW, another 930 in Victoria, another 900 in Queensland. The steel industry deserves being saved. It deserves a government who will fight for it. Labor can be trusted to fight for steelworkers' jobs, for the small business jobs, for the small business operations who rely upon our steel industry. Mr Turnbull should move the issue of steel and steel jobs and manufacturing out of the zone of uncertainty, out of the zone of partisanship. Let's work together with the South Australian Government to save Whyalla, to save Arrium, to save steel-making jobs, to save our manufacturing industry and to save Australia's economic independence in such a vital commodity.
Today is good news and I'm looking forward to travelling to Whyalla to talking further, not only with Premier Jay Weatherill, but the workforce and the community of Whyalla. Thank you very much.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on the Parakeelia issue, your party pays a company called Electrac for the same sort of software. Can you guarantee that money hasn't gone straight into the ALP?
SHORTEN: We use a company called Magenta Linas, they're not owned by the Labor Party. I think the Liberal Party has got more questions to answer here. And we haven't heard a word out of the Prime Minister himself. Mr Turnbull thinks he can hide for the rest of the election. He thinks that he doesn't have to take responsibility, although he is the leader of the Liberal Party. He does have questions to answer but instead, he's sent out a party official to do his dirty work for him.
It's not enough to be the leader of the Liberal Party and go missing with the tough questions have to be asked. And even more specifically, Mr Turnbull needs to answer this question as well: has he used any of his own taxpayer allowance to be paid into this Liberal-owned company for the services which improve the bottom line of the Liberal Party?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's a story in the Daily Telegraph today claiming that you're putting out the welcome mat for asylum seekers by scrapping temporary protection visas. I realise this was a policy agreed upon at Labor's federal conference last year and it's not new, but I'm interested in the implications. Does it mean the legacy caseload of about 30,000 asylum seekers who came during the Rudd/Gillard years will get to stay? What does it mean for people currently on Manus Island and Nauru, and what do you say to critics who say you're giving people smugglers a product to sell and it will encourage people to jump on boats?
SHORTEN: Thanks for those four questions. I think the magic of your questions was in the opening introduction to it. Nothing new. You realise that this has actually been out in the public domain since last July. I think even the person who wrote the story today has written the same story before –
JOURNALIST: Nonetheless, what are the implications –
SHORTEN: I'm going to answer them but I'm just going to make the point that there is nothing new in this story and you all know this. This is the same old Liberal Party trying to reheat their same old lies and fear campaign. Labor, on July 3rd, will have the same policy about stopping the boats. We will not put the people smugglers back into business. We will maintain offshore processing. But when the Liberals like to keep fanning this debate, and talk about these people who are already here. Well there's a couple of simple observations to be made. Taxpayers are already paying for the care of these people here. This use of the word temporary is a fiction. They've been here under these Liberal arrangements for years and years. Labor's got a clear policy to deal with this matter and we don't want to see taxpayers carrying the burden of this situation on indefinitely. In terms of Manus and Nauru, I make the same points that I've made in the first couple of weeks of this campaign. People smugglers should know that on July 3rd, whoever wins this election, you are not back in business, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Hypothetical, say the Coalition wins on July 2, should Malcolm Turnbull reach out to –
SHORTEN: So harsh.
JOURNALIST: I'm sorry, it's a hypothetical. If Malcolm does win should he reach out some of the conservatives in the Liberal Party like Tony Abbott and reshuffle his frontbench and give him a position?
SHORTEN: A vote for Malcolm Turnbull would be a vote for the return of Tony Abbott. Who on earth wants Tony Abbott to be the Minister for Education, more cuts. The pensioners don't want Tony Abbott back in Social Services. Who wants Tony Abbott as Minister for Health? More cuts to hospitals, more cuts to Medicare. And I don't think anyone in workplace relations want him back as workplace relations minister.
The truth of the matter is that Malcolm Turnbull leads a divided party and if he is re-elected on July 3rd, what will happen is that Tony Abbott will be back because Malcolm Turnbull has to appease the right-wing of his party, and we all know what Tony Abbott in the leadership position means, more cuts to health, more cuts to education, more cuts to the safety net of workplace relations.
JOURNALIST: This morning Chris Bowen said that Labor would govern alone or not at all. Can you rule out forming any kind of coalition with Greens, independents, the minor parties, and if so, what will you do in the event of a hung parliament?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the election hasn't been counted, the votes haven't been issued. 16 million Australians haven't voted. Let me be very, very clear. Labor's got fantastic policies for this country. A vote for Labor will be a vote to save our steel industry, the heart of our manufacturing industry. A vote for Labor will be a vote to make sure we have more apprenticeships, that we have genuine manufacturing opportunities for renewable energy. Labor is the party of manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and Australian jobs. We haven't given up the chase of winning the election. I'm not chasing people's second preferences, I'm not worried about the Greens or whatever those people care to try to dial themselves in, in relevance. They have none in this debate. Labor will form a government and one thing is for sure, we're not going back into any form of coalition with the minor parti es or the Greens, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Aren't you being completely disingenuous about Parakeelia? Wasn't the ALP, your software provider in 2014, did that operation make a profit and how much?
SHORTEN: Well, let us be clear. The Liberal Party pay Parakeelia. The Liberal Party own Parakeelia. The Liberal Party pay Parakeelia, a company they own, with taxpayer funds. It is not sufficient or acceptable that Mr Turnbull pretends he's not a Liberal when there's trouble, but the rest of the time says he's the leader of the Liberal Party. You cannot be a part-time leader, Malcolm Turnbull. You either lead your party or you don't. Hang on, Sarah, sorry, Anna. The other point here is that we pay Magenta Linas. We use our money, we pay Magenta Linas, we don't own the business. We're not recycling, like a Liberal Party washing machine, taxpayer funds into the bottom line of the profits of the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: But until two years ago, weren't you doing the same thing?
SHORTEN: We've never used Parakeelia, to the best of my knowledge.
JOURNALIST: It's National TAFE Day today.
SHORTEN: Thanks for reminding everyone Alice.
JOURNALIST: And you announced you're going to bring back the tools for trade bonus. I wanted to find out first of all why it's less than it used to be, it used to be $5,500 and now it's $3,000, and also the TAFEs want to know if you will guarantee a 70 per cent funding balance for VET courses?
SHORTEN: First of all, the tools for trade program is a much better proposition than asking apprentices on low pay to go into debt. If you want to look at this election and the clear differences between Liberal and Labor, the apprenticeship system of Australia highlights the difference in our values completely. The Liberal Party proposition for young people doing trades is they won't fund schools properly, they will take major cuts to vocational education. And what they want to do instead is say to apprentices, you can borrow money and get into debt.
This Liberal Party led by Mr Turnbull is shamefully out of touch with the real lives of apprentices. A first year construction apprentice earns barely $420 before tax. What he needs, or she needs as an apprentice, they don't need to be offered a snake oil debt proposition from the Liberal Party, but they do need tools. What we have announced today is $3,000 tools for your trade to be paid to an apprentice, but what we will do is payments would occur in milestones. In other words, as you successfully complete your course, you receive a portion of the payment. And I've met hundreds of apprentices, and they like that proposition. Would it be nice to give them more money? Sure. But the Liberals have made such a dreadful hash of this economy in the last three years that the money isn't simply there to do anything more than the responsible measures we do.
But when we talk about the merits of our TAFE proposition, I've never been stuck in a traffic jam behind a Government white limo going to a TAFE offering a better deal for apprentices. When we talk about what goes on in vocational education more generally, we've taken the sensible decision to reign in unsustainable Government funding by capping the amount of vocational education loans so that dodgy private providers can stop banking ill-gotten profits and not delivering good outcomes to apprentices. In terms of our commitment and vocational education funding, whilst we haven't fastened on a final percentage of what we want to spend of our vocational education dollar on TAFE, there's no doubt in my mind that a Government I lead will spend the vast bulk of our vocational education spending back in TAFE, the known brand, which has delivered for generations and generations.
JOURNALIST: Can you rule out that Magenta Linas has donated to the Labor Party or any members or candidates? And also can you explain what the Labor Party's concerns are with Nick Xenophon’s financial arm? There's been a report today that Labor's asked the AEC to investigate.
SHORTEN: The Labor Party has no financial interest in the ownership of Magenta Linas. Let me answer your question fully because this is about Parakeelia and Malcolm Turnbull's lack of leadership. The Labor Party has no ownership structures at all of Magenta Linus. I don't know every transaction they've had at the state level but what I do know is that the clear difference here is that the Liberal Party, they love a dollar these Liberals. What they've done is they used the taxpayer allowance to buy software and to train, but what they've managed to do is create their own business so they use the taxpayer allowance and they pay themselves.
You've got to love these Liberals. They're making a profit out of a system and what we think is that they need, the Auditor-General needs to investigate this. But what I also think is Mr Turnbull can't go around saying vote for me as Liberal Prime Minister but then send a party official out to do his dirty work and not take any responsibility. Mr Turnbull needs to answer the question, is it improper? He needs to answer the question, will he continue the practice? He needs to answer the question, has he paid his own taxpayer allowances into this company owned by the Liberal Party contributing to the bottom line of the Liberal Party? In terms of Senator Xenophon, I haven't followed the reports you're talking about and happy to get back in touch with you.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned submarines as a reason to keep the steel industry alive for strategic reasons. I understand the amount of steel required for the 12 submarines would be less than a day's production for a steelworks plant. Is it really a credible argument to argue that one reason among others to keep it going is to prop up the steel industry is for something that requires such little work?
SHORTEN: What I was doing, you're right, the proportion of the steel required in submarines made in Australia is a relatively small proportion, you're completely right. But the point I make there is it's Malcolm Turnbull, you know, who rushed around and said we'll make sure that there's Australian steel in Australian submarines. The reason why he used that as the sort of example, the metaphor, is that Malcolm Turnbull loves to talk big, very fond of talking, making big generalised promises. He now has an opportunity today to be genuinely bipartisan, to genuinely stand up for the steel industry. The truth of the matter is that at Arrium, and I know this because I've been in and out of their steel works over many years all around the country, most of it is used in the domestic construction industry, some of it can be used in rail and certainly others can be used in national infrastructure projects.< /span>
If you want to vote for the steel industry, vote for Labor. If you want to vote for manufacturing, vote for Labor. If you want to vote to keep jobs in Whyalla, keep the population there, vote for Labor. I sincerely hope that Mr Turnbull doesn't, in a fit of pique, say because we've taken some leadership on the issue, working with Jay Weatherill that he doesn't take his bat and ball and go home. It would be a very healthy sign for Australian democracy if Mr Turnbull says do you know what, Labor's called it right here and I'm a big enough fellow to admit that Labor's called it right and I'm happy to follow Labor's lead.
JOURNALIST: Premier, can I ask you what you're still asking for from Mr Shorten? What are you still looking for from a potential Labor Government?
WEATHERILL: I think that we've seen some very fantastic announcements, renewable energy policy. We have a national energy market that is in need of reform that takes into account of what is a bipartisan position on renewable energy targets. That's a great proposition that's been put forward by Mark Butler and Bill Shorten. We've seen a fantastic announcement just in the last few days about health funding, doubling the proposition that was put on the table by the Commonwealth, that's a good step forward.
JOURNALIST: Have you got everything you wanted?
WEATHERILL: No, there's more to go, I'll go through the list. There's 11 things we've put to both major parties. $500 million in response to our proposition of investing in public transport which is a superior proposition that was put by the Federal Liberal Party. We have a range of other infrastructure projects that we've put forward, both in the irrigation sector, Strzelecki track upgrades, health funding. They're all propositions that we put forward and we're looking forward to positive responses. So far I've been delighted with the response that we've had from Federal Labor in this campaign. We've had some wins from the Federal Liberal Party but at the moment the balance is very much in favour of Federal Labor. My job at the end of the day, of course I want to see Bill succeed and my party succeed, but my job at the end of the day is to promote South Australia's intere sts. So we've put both of these sets of propositions to both major parties and that's my job. We tried to broker a bipartisan agreement on steel. Bill stepped up to the plate and we do invite the PM to join him.
JOURNALIST: Premier, briefly on a separate story from New South Wales. Mike Baird is going to Broken Hill and he will make an announcement that they will build a $400 million pipeline from Wentworth which would involve taking 10 gigalitres a year out of the Murray River. How does South Australia feel about that? And can this be done, in your view, without negotiation with South Australia?
WEATHERILL: Well, provided it's within the sustainable limits of take from the River Murray, then there's no issue with it. But if it involves depleting and degrading the resources of the river, then obviously it will be a source of great concern to us. I mean we're always wary when we hear an upstream Premier talking about the River Murray, because generally speaking they've spent most of their career depleting and polluting it. So we'll have to understand exactly what's being put but provided they operate within the limits that were established, I think by Minister Wong when she was Minister for Water, in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin plan and others under the previous government, then it's something that no doubt could be supported.
JOURNALIST: Premier you touched on energy in your previous question, obviously this week we've seen power prices go up with our major retailer AGL yesterday foreshadowing a 12 percent increase for retail consumers. Origin in the retail space have followed this morning. Is your Government doing enough to address this issue for our state?
WEATHERILL: No, we need to do more. We need to be successful in building stronger connections with the Eastern States. When the previous Liberal Government privatised our electricity assets, they deliberately scotched the interconnector with New South Wales to drive up the price they could sell ETSA for. That's had a damaging effect on South Australian consumers because we don't have those connections to the other States. So we're pursuing those. An important policy issue in this Federal Election campaign is reviewing the rules of the national energy market so they can permit us to send out clean energy over the border and we can take back base load energy to stabilise our system. Both major parties have a National Energy Renewable Energy Target. South Australia's blessed with renewable energy resources, that's why we've got so much wind resources and solar resources that we 9;re playing into the system. But the market at the moment is holding us back and we're the ones doing the heavy lifting in this National Renewable Energy Target. It's a national objective but we don't have a truly national energy market, and fortunately Federal Labor are promising to remedy that should they be elected and once again, we call on the Federal Liberal Party to match that proposition because it's an important bipartisan commitment for renewable energy. The future is not going to be in producing dirty energy emission systems in our nation. We know what the future looks like. South Australia is the future in terms of renewable energy and we just need a fit for purpose modern national electricity market.
JOURNALIST: Some of your Victorian Labor colleagues have contacted Daniel Andrews' office about the CFA dispute. I think Rob Mitchell even said volunteers are feeling torn apart and discarded and volunteer fire brigades have confirmed they will campaign for the Coalition. Will you travel to Victoria and meet with CFA volunteers who are concerned? Are you worried about electoral chances in Victoria now?
SHORTEN: Well, not only will I travel to Victoria, I live in Victoria.
JOURNALIST: You haven't been there in a while.
SHORTEN: Well I've actually been there for the last 49 years, but anyway. Yeah, certainly I'll be getting around our electorates. More than happy to talk to volunteers and career fire fighters. This is a dispute with a beginning, a middle and an end. I've got no doubt that the parties involved in this negotiation are capable of resolving this negotiation because one thing I know about our volunteer brigades, our career fire fighters and the State Government is they're all committed to the better safety of Victoria.
JOURNALIST: On Electrac, you personally pay $1,600 out of your electoral allowance for this software provider. Can you rule out that money hasn't gone straight back into the ALP as a donation?
SHORTEN: I don't believe it has, no.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton has conceded this morning that Mike Kelly has a chance of winning Eden-Monaro. Being the bellwether seat, does that boost your confidence ahead of the Election?
SHORTEN: Well listen, well I think we all remember yesterday that Malcolm Turnbull declared he'd won the Election, he said "we'll win". The truth of the matter is, this election will be decided by 16 million Australians. And I believe Labor can win this election. And we will work night and day for the best interest of Australians and putting out our policies to Australia as Australians vote. Mike Kelly is a candidate who will deliver better funding for schools, he will protect Medicare against the privatisation of any parts of Medicare. He will stand up for rescuing the Australian steel industry. He will make sure that we have proper world-class National Broadband Network. Mike Kelly will make sure that we have a system where the banks are held accountable for a royal commission into the banking sector. Mike Kelly will make sure that we take real action on renewable energy and that first homebuyers have an opportunity to have a level playing field in a reformed tax, taxation system. Mike Kelly and every candidate of the Labor Party know that this election is about choices. We will not be choosing to offer Australians a $50 billion tax giveaway to the largest companies in Australia, much of which will go overseas. But we will make sure that we put people first.
Thank you, everybody.