MONDAY, 16 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for advanced manufacturing jobs; Protecting penalty rates; Disunity in the Liberal Party; Liberal Government’s neglect of auto industry; Liberals’ Freemantle candidate, Sherry Sufi; Royal Commission into banking sector; Australian steel for Pacific Patrol Boats; Asylum seeker policy; Future of the auto industry
LIBBY COKER, CANDIDATE FOR CORANGAMITE: Good morning everyone. It is my great pleasure to introduce and welcome our leader, Bill Shorten, joined by the Premier, Daniel Andrews. What this shows is that we, together, Labor state and federal are going to be a great partnership to work on jobs for our region. Corangamite is a region that is threatened by a lack of local jobs and this is an opportunity for us to work together to ensure that people across our region know they can get work when need it. So I'd like to welcome Bill and thank him very much for being here today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody and welcome to Geelong. It's great to be in Geelong with my friend, the Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews, talking about providing long term stable jobs for the region. I'm accompanied today also by Labor's candidate for Corangamite, Libby Coker, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Immigration, Richard Marles, also the member for Corio, we’ve got John Eren from the State Government and Senator Kim Carr, my industry spokesperson, which is part of the announcement today. Today's announcement, for me after three years of watching Liberal Government neglect on manufacturing, I think today's announcement that we will provide, if elected, nearly $60 million in transition support to help keep manufacturing alive in Australia, today's announcement is a good announcement. For the last three years, Australians have watched in stunned disbelie f as the current Liberal Government goaded the car industry to leave. They have no plans for advanced manufacturing. Instead, they just say leave it to the market and leave the blue-collar workers on the scrapheap. By contrast, we're saying today that we will provide money to work with companies that are seeking to change their business from just relying on automotive components to be able to provide manufacturing jobs as these sort of companies, such as we're visiting today, reach out and find new export markets and new jobs for Australians. Labor is driven by the desire to ensure that we are a country that still makes things here. I think too many Australians believe that perhaps we don't make things here anymore and the truth couldn't be further from that myth. We see here today a company who's making export products for the aluminum industry. We see here a company moving into energy products. We see a company here poised to be part of the re newable energies boom of the future. What Labor will do nationally is work with progressive governments such as those of Jay Weatherill in South Australia and Dan Andrews in Victoria to make sure that not only do we catch the wave of investment in renewable energy in the future, not only do we have advanced manufacturing in Australia but we provide good-quality blue-collar jobs for the people of the regions of Australia. We think this is a very practical difference we can make to manufacturing in Geelong and in the region. There are 5,000 jobs here that are at risk. There are 500 companies at least who would benefit from the sort of support which only a Dan Andrews government can give in Victoria and a Labor Government would give after 2 July. Federal Labor, my Labor team is committed to keeping Australia as a manufacturing powerhouse, to grab the opportunities of advanced manufacturing in the future, to make sure we get our fair share of the renewable energies investme nt boom and it all starts at great companies here, and I think that we can do a great deal for jobs in Geelong and the region. I'd like now to invite my colleague, Premier Daniel Andrews to say a bit more about the Victorian Government's great work.
DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Thanks very much, Bill, and ladies and gentlemen, it's great to be here at such a successful company, one that's making that difficult and critically important transition as auto leaves our state. Look, I want to congratulate and thank Bill for his leadership on this. This is exactly the positive plan, the positive partnership that we need. It's national leadership, instead of cutbacks and excuses, instead of daring the car industry to leave and then leaving these workers, many thousands of people, abandoned without the support necessary, Bill Shorten and federal Labor have stood up and developed good, strong, common sense policy. Positive plans. Not just for our state, but for our nation. We are working intensively with about 135 auto component firms, to help them make the transition, about 70 of them have already transitioned into diversified products. They're putting product into new market. W e're working really closely with about 65 others. Our $40 million investment, matched today by Bill Shorten as the leader of a true Labor alternative, positive plans for jobs, positive plans for our things nation and positive plans for other things that are critically important, like hospitals and schools. This is a very important day and with this funding, with this support, with this positive partnership, we will be able to help businesses just like this one find new markets for new products, keeping skilled workers in the employment that they and their families rely upon. It really is a proud day and I could not be more proud than to stand here with Bill Shorten, putting forward positive plans, a positive alternative. The contrast is very clear. We've got a transition fund out of Canberra. It's frozen, it's effectively been cut. We've got a federal Liberal government and a Prime Minister in Malcolm Turnbull out of touch. As if it isn't bad enough t hat they dared the car industry to leave, they've now betrayed those workers whose livelihoods depend on good positive plans just like the one Bill Shorten has put down today. Thanks very much, Bill, the workers of this region and the rest of Victoria thank you.
SHORTEN: Great. Are there any questions of myself or Dan?
JOURNALIST: Could you guarantee the workers here and other workers they won't lose any of their penalty rates if you win this election? If you can, how can do you that and accept the independence of the Fair Work Commission?
SHORTEN: Absolutely, I can guarantee to the workers here and indeed workers across Australia, that only a Labor Government can be trusted to protect our penalty rates system. The contrast couldn't be clearer between me and Mr Turnbull. Mr Turnbull has at least 50 of his MPs or candidates to be in his team who have all called for cutting penalty rates. By contrast, Labor is the party of penalty rates. We know, and we helped establish when we were last in government strengthening the protections for penalty rates. I have absolute confidence, and I've read the evidence and Labor put in a submission from opposition into the independent umpire's case, that we will win the argument in the independent umpire to protect the penalty rates system of Australia. The case to get rid of penalty rates simply doesn't stack up. I have no doubt that if we are successful on July 2; my Government will further intervene in the case before the decision to str engthen, only as a government submission can, the case to defend our penalty rates. I do also just caution the Greens, from their sideshow position, that they need to be careful of what they're playing with fire by proposing that a government should be able to legislate on specific penalty rate outcomes, they are loading the gun for a future conservative government to pull the trigger, because what the government has the power to put in, a future government has the power to dismantle. The independent umpire, the system of conciliation and arbitration, has served this nation well for 120 years. I have spent my whole working life improving workers' conditions, and I know that if Labor is successful on July 2, that is the best news that the 4.5 million people-plus who depend upon shift allowances, who depend upon penalty rates, who deserve to be paid extra for the unsociable hours, for the extra work that they do, only Labor can be trusted to stand up for the conditions of all working Australians.
JOURNALIST: If the Fair Work Commission does decide to cut Sunday penalty rates, regardless of the submission that you'd make, would you at least guarantee compensation for workers affected by this to ensure they're not worse off?
SHORTEN: When I was last Minister for Workplace Relations, I made it clear as one of the guidelines for the independent umpire that they had to take into account the nature of the work being performed. I do not believe - and I've had a look at the evidence - and Labor, for the first time in the history of federation my united team, put in a submission to defend penalty rates. This case will be decided after the election, but I have no doubt, Olivia, that the case to defend penalty rates will win the day, and with a Labor Government in Canberra, standing up for the voices of the people who don't always get heard, the lower paid and the less well paid, that only an in-touch Labor Government can be trusted to defend penalty rates in this country.
,JOURNALIST: But Mr Shorten that means you can't give a guarantee, you can't say it's an independent umpire and say that Labor will protect penalty rates. It's not in your hands.
SHORTEN: Well, I've been doing workplace relations for 25 years. I have stood in the Commission, I've stood in the independent umpire and I've put the case and I know the case and I know how strong our case is. Those conservatives and those on the right who argue that the only way this country can grow is by cutting the wages of those who are less well off, well, I just don't buy that economic theory. That's Turnbull economics. Give a business cut to the top 1 per cent, give business tax cut to the multinationals, give an income tax cut to someone earning a million dollars of $17,000. Backing in and covering up for the banks. Having 50 members of your team wanting to cut penalty rates. That's Turnbull economics, it's out of touch economics. By contrast, my experience - and this is not the first time I've been in a foundry, this is not first time I have walked arou nd talking with workers and standing up for them. I know that the case to keep our penalty rates system is one of the unique features of Australian industrial relations which makes us the best country on earth. I proudly support a strong safety net, and for me that's not just something which I say to you today in answer to your question, it's my working life.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Senator Carr this morning on radio raised the prospect of a legislative option to deal with penalty rates. He said that if the decision came down that the Labor Government didn't like, they would look at whatever legislation could be put before the Parliament.
SHORTEN: Senator Carr is correct. Labor can always be trusted to have better workplace relations. Now the point is we just saw an example of Turnbull economics, the out-of-touch approach that they would take to workplace relations. They didn't like the decision of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. The Government didn't even bother appealing the matter. They just scrapped the independent umpire. I'm a believer in the independent umpire to help set the terms and conditions and take it away from the politicians. I would never want to see a system where we had to trust Malcolm Turnbull's change of moods, his change of mind, something he's notorious for depending what the right wing of his party think. It would are a grave mistake to trust Mr Turnbull with the conditions of working Australians. By contrast, Labor always has good laws because we believe in the safety net and w e want to create cooperative workplaces. I believe that the Labor approach, just as we're announcing today, helping companies and workers make the transition from one section of industry to be able to win contracts and manufacturer across Australia and export, it's the Labor way. We bring people together. What the Liberals do is they divide our community. We believe in cooperative workplace relations, underpinned by a strong safety net. Shift allowances, redundancy pay, four weeks holiday. We believe in creating domestic violence leave. We do believe there is a role for government to lead, but what you also have to do is make the best case on the best evidence. The best evidence supports penalty rates.
JOURNALIST: How can you guarantee that no workers will be worse off under this plan? Is $59 million enough to breathe life into these areas that have been crippled by a failing auto industry and would you like to re-establish a car industry in Australia?
SHORTEN: What has crippled the auto industry is having a delinquent Government in Canberra. I never thought I would live to see the day where you would see elected representatives, even if they're Liberal, goading the car industry to shut down in Australia. I never thought I would see a government of Australia abandon tens of thousands of Australian workers. I never thought I’d see the day but we did, and we've seen it over the last three years. The problem with this Government is that they talk jobs and growth, but in fact, the words have no meaning. It isn't good enough just to lift a slogan from a George Bush campaign and say: fantastic, let's do it. This is a hollow leader, leading an empty government. When they talk about jobs and plans, what they really mean is let's give a tax cut to a billion dollar company. Let's give an income tax reduction of $17,000 to someone earn ing a million dollars a year. When you see the scandals that we're seeing today in Westpac, let's cover up for the banks. This is the ultimate hollow man leading the ultimate empty government on jobs and growth.
JOURNALIST: How will your package boost jobs here specifically?
SHORTEN: Well, it's a very good use of scarce taxpayer funding. What we want to do is use up to $60 million to help companies with some of the capital injection they need to buy new plant and equipment. We want to help companies retrain workers. The truth of the matter is that just because someone wears a set of overalls to work doesn't make them silly, doesn't mean that they're disposable. What we saw out there on the shopfloor, you saw the people in the warehouse, they are problem solvers. You see a fettler making a complicated piece of machinery useable for our new residences, our new housing estates or our mines. The people on that shop floor, the foundry workers using skills that are a very long time in the formation, are people who can compete in a modern economy, provided they've got governments at the state and national level willing to back them in. So this money is a very practical differenc e made to improve the lives of small businesses, and export and manufacturing businesses.
JOURNALIST: The Western Australian Treasurer has openly encouraged people in Western Australia to vote for the Palmer United Party, because of the GST distribution situation, which has left the Budget with a $3.9 billion deficit and almost $30 billion in debt. Will the ALP commit to any change to the GST distribution system?
SHORTEN: Well, I will go and have a look at what the Western Australian Treasurer has said, but the Western Australian Government, as you and I know, is floundering. We're seeing that they had no plan for the mining boom coming off, and now they're doing everything but deal with their own issues in Western Australia. We've seen them ignore public transport and only federal and state Labor in the West have got a proper plan for Perth's public transport network. In terms of GST allocation, that's always a matter done by the Grants Commission, but I also respect the arguments which are put in Western Australia feeling that for the taxes they pay, are they getting a square deal? But I think in terms of the next seven weeks of this election, what is startling is yet again Mr Turnbull’s got another outbreak of disunity. You know, you’ve got a West Australian Treasurer recommending voti ng for Clive Palmer's party.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Liberal Fremantle candidate, Sherry Sufi, he has reportedly said that he opposed the apology to the Stolen Generation, said that legalising same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy, that he invoked the Holocaust in describing why section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act should be removed and said constitutional recognition was divisive and thrives on the mindset of victimhood. Would you like to respond?
SHORTEN: Great! Another knuckle-dragger from the far right who's going to be one of Malcolm Turnbull's team. This is the problem Malcolm Turnbull's got. He doesn't have the courage to argue his views through his political party like we've done. And that they’re attracting all of these fringe dweller views. This is the main stream of the Liberal Party you just described. It's just not the mainstream of Australian society. The truth of the matter is that Malcolm Turnbull has had a lot to say, but he can't even deliver on what he says because the real people pulling the strings are people with these sort of views. When you look at these matters, I mean, you had Senator Brandis saying we need to dis-endorse someone for trumped-up reasons, then you've got these sort of fringe-dwellers, the lunar right, running around the Liberal Party as their mainstream candidates. It just goes to show you how divided they really are.
JOURNALIST: Just back on penalty rates briefly, your advertisements specifically say Labor will keep penalty rates.
SHORTEN: Of course we will.
JOURNALIST: Isn't that misleading? Shouldn't they say something like "We'll do our best to keep penalty rates", "we'll try to keep penalty rates", "we'll fight for penalty rates", not "we'll keep penalty rates"?
SHORTEN: I didn't mean to interrupt your statement there, but I assume the question you're asking is do I agree with you? Labor will at every stage fight for penalty rates. That’s what we do. That's what I've done my whole life. And that's what my movement has done. What I can say is the Liberal ad should really say what they would do if they got the control of the Senate and the House of Reps: 15% GST, state income taxes, getting out of the funding of state-funded schools, getting rid of penalty rates. Malcolm Turnbull has a working majority in his own party room who want to get rid of penalty rates. There is a real contest at this election about the future of workplace relations. And the contest is, do we want to be an Australia that has a strong safety net? Do we want Australia to have a set of conditions where there is a strong minimum wage? Where there are penalty rates and shift allow ances, where redundancy agreements are honoured and where we see cooperative workplaces built upon the skill and productive relationships at work? Or do we want to go down in Turnbull land, where it's a race to the bottom, where half the Government or more want to cut the conditions of blue-collar workers, where we're a country where we don't make anything anymore? Where we see public TAFE gutted? It is a very clear choice, and penalty rates is right at the heart of it.
JOURNALIST: On Westpac, on the bank bill swap rate rigging, can you explain why the bank bill swap rate is target and will your Royal Commission target that area?
SHORTEN: I've got to say this, enough is enough Mr Turnbull. How much evidence will it take for you to recognise that you’ve got to stop covering for the big banks? This evidence, the new allegations and the reports coming out of ASIC show that there is a real and fundamental problem in our banking system, in many ways it's the last straw to break the already overloaded back of the camel. What we see here, reported in the Australian Financial Review, is we see, we hear of tapes of a group of cowboys in the Westpac bank, are cynically talking about manipulating interest rate rates, which affect every Australian. And what this means is that the business as usual approach advocated by Mr Turnbull is not good enough. It is not good enough to simply say that just doing more of the same with ASIC, and doing that more intensely is going to change the banking culture. I wish that Mr Turnbull was a big enough leader of this country, that regardless of who wins the election after July the second, he would commit to there being a Royal Commission into the banking sector. He said in the debate on Friday night that he'd lectured the banks. I don’t think the banks are listening. He said that it wasn’t right that there should be a public investigation about the banking sector and the ethical standards within it. He is seriously out of touch, just as he's seriously out of touch on penalty rates, on the future of manufacturing. When it comes to the Australian banking sector, and the remarkable news today, nothing less than a Royal Commission into banking will satisfy the voice of the Australian people. He needs to stop covering for the banks and start speaking up for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: The Government is announcing today that Australian steel will be used to build the Pacific Patrol Boats, is that not a sign that it's committed to keeping local jobs.
SHORTEN: Oh I love these Liberals, you know, they do what's expected of their day job and they want a bunch of flowers for doing it. Australian patrol boats should be using Australian steel, these guys want a medal for doing the basics don’t they. They’re spending tax payer money building defence infrastructure and they’re saying they're going to utilise Australian content. Well that's what any of us would do. Under Mr Turnbull we've seen supply ships to be built in Spanish dockyards. He makes great play that they've ordered some ships in the future, the truth of the matter is whilst Labor was in government, our shipyards were full. We had more shipyards doing more work employing more people. This Government, as we know, you can see their fingernail marks on the concrete of these dockyards as they're dragged to backing in Aussie dockyard workers, Aussie companies and Aussie steel . If you want to make sure we've got Australian content, vote Labor at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Margaret Darcy, some tweets have emerged from 2013 criticising you and the Labor Party and Kevin Rudd, what do you make of the tweets and does she continue to have your backing?
SHORTEN: Yes she does. In our party, people do disagree, it happens. But what I also know, is that in the last three years, the Labor Party has given me the most unity that an Opposition Leader has had really this century. And I’m very grateful to our Party but what I also can be upfront and straight with the Australian people about is that my Party and I are on the same page. We debated our issues last year and we've made it perfectly clear that we will not allow the people smugglers back into business. By contrast you've got Mr Turnbull contradicting George Brandis yesterday. You could see George Brandis had been working for a week, they'd kept him in the cupboard out of the public limelight, but they let him out and there he was, he was going to say Labor should change a candidate. And then what happens is Malcolm Turnbull obviously didn’t get George Brandis's script, Malcolm Turn bull won't back up that call, because Malcolm Turnbull knows that he himself was accused of leaking from the Cabinet of Tony Abbott, undermining Tony Abbott, because he didn’t agree with the National Security laws. Perhaps two last questions.
JOURNALIST: On the automotive sector, there will be dozens of car parts makers still operating after the three manufacturers stop, and they’ll be exporting, can they be given access to the automotive transformation scheme?
SHORTEN: Yes, we want to see companies who are bidding for work, to be able to get that support. Next question.
JOURNALIST: There are mass protests and violence on Manus Island at the moment and people demanding to be brought to Australia. What's the answer to that continuing situation?
SHORTEN: The Federal Government should have done for the last three years what Labor would have done - negotiate regional resettlement arrangements. We want to stop the people smugglers. This is an issue though which vexes Australians. I think 99 per cent of Australians want to defeat the people smugglers. But I think some Australians, and many Australians are concerned, that this Government has been negligent in negotiating regional resettlement, and we've got a situation of almost indefinite detention. That's clearly unacceptable to people and it's unfair on the people in the middle of it all. What a Labor Government will do after July second, my very capable Shadow Minister who is here, is we will prioritise negotiating arrangements with nations in our region.
JOURNALIST: Would a Labor Government reinstate the car industry, or are you conscious that it is, will be an industry of the past?
SHORTEN: I'm not in the business of making promises we can't keep. But before the Liberals of Mr Abbott, Mr Hockey, Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull got elected there were 20 countries in the world who could make a car from whoa to go, put it all together. Since the Liberals got in, there’s now 19. Do you think those other 19 countries think we were smart to get out of the business, or do you think they're just laughing at us. The truth of the matter is that one of the most galling things I’ve found in opposition, is when big manufacturing and little manufacturing facilities close without so much as a crocodile tear from this Government. That’s why today's announcement with Dan Andrews is so important, because we will fight for every manufacturing job. I can't promise every manufacturing job, every manufacturing worker that we'll always win every fight, but I can promise them thi s: if we're your Government you've got someone on your side, not someone who's given up and doesn’t care about you, your family and your small business. Thanks everybody.