FRIDAY, 24 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Brexit; Labor’s plan for Cairns Airport; National security; 457 visas.
SHARRYN HOWES, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Welcome everyone. Give a very special warm welcome to Bill. He's a regular visitor to our region and he's always wanting to know what's going on, on the ground. Today's announcement will allow the Cairns Airport to access concessional funds under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Tourism Fund which will create 2000 jobs for construction locally and over 5000 jobs for locals into the future. It is fabulous to have Bill here today, so I'll hand you over. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. Welcome to Cairns, it's great to be here with Sharryn Howes, our candidate for Leichhardt. Sharon's been lobbying this for a long time, so I'm pleased to be able to reconfirm and announce today that not only are we going ahead with our Northern Australian Tourism Infrastructure Fund, but we're going to make sure the one of the very first projects that gets considered will be providing extra funding for the development of the master plan of Cairns Airport. Cairns Airport represents one of the two fastest growing airports in Australia. If we're able to provide the funding and help the Cairns master plan in its development for coming years, we can make sure that Cairns' position as one of the leading tourism destinations in the world, continues to grow and its reputation continues to get even better than it already is.
Tourism is at the heart of improving job opportunities in regional Australia and North Queensland is certainly at the centre of tourism jobs. This announcement, which will ensure that a loan facility be available to Cairns Airport, will provide just the sort of turbo-charging that's required to give a strong, reinvigorated future to Cairns tourism. So we're very pleased about that and we think this reconfirms and demonstrates yet again our commitment to jobs in regional Australia, our commitment to promoting and boosting tourism jobs.
I think I'd also, if it's alright, before we take questions on that, I might make some comments about the Leave and Remain vote, the referendum that's taking place in Britain. The decision, the vote to leave the EU by Britain, it is a big deal in Britain and arguably a very big deal in Europe. But we are, in Australia, fortunate that we are much more integrated into United States and Asian markets than we are to the EU and Britain, as important as they are. This decision will have little direct economic impact in the short term as three per cent of our trade is with the United Kingdom and our financial system is not reliant upon the Pound Sterling. What we see though is some short term volatility on our share market and in the currency market. Share markets and currency markets are doing as share markets and currency markets do. They’re reflecting and correcting based upon external events. Last week markets went up on t he assumption that the vote would be to remain. This week the markets are now making a correction on the learning of the news that the decision has gone the opposite way.
It is important to understand that whilst there's volatility in our share market, caused by this new bit of news as we see markets correcting, the vote in the UK doesn't change, doesn't change Australia's basic economic facts. The vote in the UK doesn't change our economic fundamentals here. So, like the Treasurer and like the Prime Minister, we urge people to be calm and not to necessarily confuse the volatility in the stock market with any greater economic shift or proposition in Australia's fundamentals. We have requested a briefing but the appropriate government officials and departments, APRA, the Reserve Bank and Treasury. We've requested that briefing in writing. I acknowledge that in the care-taker period, these agencies and organisations have already been briefing the Opposition, as they have the Government.
The fact of the matter that whilst this is a big matter and moment for England and of course for the European Union, for Australia our fundamentals are solid and not changed by this referendum whatsoever. Happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Given that volatility and given that uncertainty, isn't it reasonable for Australians to think twice before changing Government?
SHORTEN: Share markets go up and down all the time, that's not an argument to not change a Government. The argument about not changing the government goes down to the economic fundamentals and the economic plan. Mr Turnbull has plan to give away $50 billion out of our budget bottom line in the next 10 years. Now shows that it is the worst possible time to do that. As former Prime Minister Keating has pointed out today, Mr Turnbull has no idea about how he will replace that $50 billion of income out of the budget. And what we will see instead is a decline in our health care services and our education. By contrast, Labor has economic plan which helps inoculate Australia's economy in the future against the sort of volatility we see in other parts of the world.
The fact of the matter is that our decisions to invest in people through a good education system, a world-class education system, and a world-class health system are the right way to go. The fact of the matter is our decisions to invest in public transport, in infrastructure for roads, in tourism infrastructure, in the NBN, is the right way to go. The fact of the matter is we are committed to helping develop new industries in Australia and diversify our economy shows it's the right way to go through renewable energy, through advanced manufacturing and indeed, our vision for tourism in this country which Labor has been talking about a fair bit during this election.
It is all about building sustainable growth, and at the heart of sustainable growth is inclusive growth. When working class and middle class families, when working class and middle class citizens of a nation feel disengaged from the political process, then you see the sort of results you see in the United Kingdom.
JOURNALIST: So Mr Shorten, would you be happy to fight the last week of the election campaign on an argument over which major party would be the better at managing Australia through global financial storms?
SHORTEN: Tim, I don't mean to sound offended but we've been fighting that argument for the last three years. That's why we took the position we did in the 2014 budget, for instance. The Liberals have always read the economy wrong at the crucial times. When we were transitioning from the mining boom, the Liberals didn't help go and encourage diversification of industry or investment in people. They cut and smash and cut. And now we see Mr Turnbull, who's only economic plan is do a ram-raid on the budget, take out $50 billion dollars, give it to overseas shareholders, give it away to large banks, with no plan on how he would replace that $50 billion. As we saw, the entry into the debate today by former Prime Minister Keating, where he explained very clearly I thought, that you can't just take $50 billion out without explaining how you replace that in the budget. And all Mr Turnbull is doing to repla ce it in the budget is undermining inclusive growth, undermine the fabric of our health care system and not properly fund our schools.
The lesson for me, out of what has happened in the UK and Europe overnight and today is that you need inclusive growth. When people feel that the current system isn't working for them, where they don't have a share in the centre ground of Australian politics, where they don't have the prospect of their kids getting proper employment with quality education, where their health care system is deteriorating, then you get the sort of political uncertainty and economic uncertainty which we have been witness to overnight.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on Anne Aly, Malcolm Turnbull says the point Minister Keenan was trying to make was that Miss Aly doesn't agree with counter-terrorism national security policies and legislation. He says you support that legislation but Miss Aly is at odds with it. Does she have different opinions to your party?
SHORTEN: Sorry, I wasn't aware that Malcolm Turnbull had doubled down on Michael Keenan's smear. I find that quite a remarkable and disappointing development. I call that another example of Malcolm Turnbull's weak leadership. He knows that Dr Anne Aly is a respected global expert on de-radicalisation and counter-terrorism.
I actually am surprised by what you've just told me. I thought that Malcolm Turnbull would at least have the courage of his convictions to stand up for the middle ground of political debate. I'm surprised that Malcolm Turnbull is not standing up for someone from Anne Aly's background, who no less a person than the President of the United States invited over to the White House to talk about counter radicalisation of young people. And now I find out that Turnbull's joining the chorus of people who are trying to tear her down. I am really disappointed. I consider that a real weakness by Prime Minister Turnbull. and I back my candidates. and I back the efforts of counter-radicalisation, and I back talented people like Anne Aly.
JOURNALIST: On the plebiscite, the Prime Minister has said that the vote wouldn't be binding on Cabinet. Does that surprise you?
SHORTEN: Well, you might have detected that I have a sense that Malcolm Turnbull's not the man I thought he was before he became the leader of the Liberal party, but I'm not unique in thinking that, am I? You know, Malcolm Turnbull, before the ascension to the leadership of the Liberal party, said that the best way to resolve marriage equality was to have a conscience vote in Parliament. We know his own personal attitudes are in favour of marriage equality and we know from everything he said before becoming leader of the Liberal party, that given his chance, he would support a vote in Parliament. But he did a deal with the devil, so to speak, with the right wing of his Liberal party, and he sold out his convictions.
And what I think turns people off politics is weak leadership. Australians know if you think one thing but you're prepared to do something else altogether, that qualifies as weak leadership and that makes Australians cynical about you. The whole proposition here, whether or not it's standing up for Anne Aly, and I'm sure the old Malcolm Turnbull would have stood up for her, but the new Malcolm Turnbull is happy to throw her overboard because it doesn't suit the right wing of their party. Now he's thrown overboard his views on marriage equality conscience vote. The idea that we're going to spend $160 million of taxpayer money so that Malcolm Turnbull can keep the right wing of his political party happy for a non-binding opinion poll?
We all know that in the marriage equality plebiscite that Malcolm Turnbull wants to have, the pro-marriage equality brigade, they're going to have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. The anti-marriage equality brigade aren't going to sit on their hands, they're going to do everything they can to stop it. We are going to see literally hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on an opinion poll which Mr Turnbull said isn't going to bind his members of Parliament anyway. The only thing you can be guaranteed about for marriage equality is if you vote Labor at this election, and we will bring in the law and have conscience vote in the first 100 days.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on this airport, the Cairns airport can already apply to the existing Northern Australian infrastructure fund which your party helped establish. What’s the point of setting up a new fund and isn't it just a waste of time?
SHORTEN: Well I think after three years of the Liberals you'd know all about a waste of time up here in the north. I mean, goodness me, if you could build a road out paper of the press releases that the current Liberals have said about the Northern Australia Fund, you could build a road between Cairns and Darwin. Fact of the matter is, if talking is what mattered then this current mob would get a gold medal.
No, what we've said is we want $1 billion to go specifically into tourism infrastructure because we think that the tourism industry in the north is one of the good sort of counterweight industries to the mining and agricultural sector, they've all got an important role to play here. We are a big fan of airports in Labor, we think if you build the Cairns airport further, this is only going to become more of a gateway between Asia and Australia for tourism.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I know you said earlier that [inaudible] of the election and I don't think anyone's disputing that. But if you were to be unsuccessful and you did decide not to re-contest the leadership, is there anyone on the front bench [inaudible] leader going forward?
SHORTEN: Jason I remember that is the same question you asked this morning, pretty much. And my answer's still the same, mate.
Excellent, we’re running out of questions friends.
JOURNALIST: This morning you made some announcements about changes to the temporary visa scheme. How would they impact backpackers coming to Australia or wanting to come to Australia?
SHORTEN: Well, our changes we're making to make sure there are no shonks in the 457 visa industry is because too many Australian workers complain to us – because we're in touch with Australian workers – that they think they're not getting their fair share of jobs in Australia, that they're concerned the people who come over here on various, a variety of visas, are getting ripped off. You know, a lot of Australians say to me, why is it that Malcolm Turnbull is doing nothing on the 7/11 workforce, which he's not, and a lot of those people are here on student visas. I believe that it is now time to do major reform of our visa system to make sure that people are not being exploited who come here, that the people, that the occupations that the visas are issued for are actually the work that the visa holder is doing, make sure that Australians are getting their fair crack at jobs, to make sure that overseas guest workers are not getting ripped off. The economy has changed. We've ebbed from the mining boom and now what we need to do is make sure that our visa system's working in the interest of guest workers, but even more importantly, Australians, and what we will do is, a million people who have work rights [inaudible]. What we want to make sure is that they're not getting ripped off but also [inaudible].
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you make of Warren Entsch, the local member, putting up posters in this electorate beside your candidate that feature a witch. Do you consider that an allusion to the whole 'ditch the witch' thing that was gone through when Julia Gillard was in power?
SHORTEN: When you're right up to the back end of an election campaign, you can call it a coincidence, but I don't. I believe this is a bit of an attack on our very good candidate. Now, she's though enough, she hasn't sort of given up because the Liberals are being sexist, but what I do expect here is for Malcolm Turnbull to stand up. I mean, he's not standing up about the Parakeelia scandal, is he? He's not standing up on campaign finance reforms, is he? He's not standing up to the right wing of his party on marriage equality. He's not standing up on climate change, even though he knows that the policies he's now espousing have been written by Tony Abbott. And he won't even stand up against extreme conduct by some of his own party. I just wish Malcolm Turnbull, for once, would stand up to the right wing of his political party, stand up to the vested interests, and actually be the o ld Malcolm Turnbull, rather than the new fellow who's disappointing so many Australians.