WEDNESDAY, 25 JANUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Australian Jobs; Labor’s plan to protect penalty rates; Barnaby Joyce’s out of touch comments on housing affordability; Trans-Pacific Partnership; FIRB; Renewable energy; Queensland election; an Australian Republic; Australia Day.
WAYNE SWAN, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: It's great to be here with Bill at Watkins steel. Managing Director, Mr Watkins, Mr Des Watkins, has taken us around this plant and I've got to say that what has occurred here is absolutely inspiring. 61 employees, up to 8 apprentices, world-leading technology being deployed and Australian manufacturing seen here being very much alive and very much a good thing. (inaudible) here they're investing in their people and they're investing in technology, what we're getting is world class products, we're getting plenty of jobs, we're getting good jobs and good wages. That's what we aspire to, the whole of Australia. This can be done if government policy backs up innovative managers such as Des Watkins here today. So pleasure to be here, welcome to Lilley.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you very much Wayne. Good morning everybody, it's great to be here with Wayne Swan talking about Labor's plan for jobs. Our plan for jobs is about building Australian, buying Australian, employing Australian. Watkins Steel is an example of Australian manufacturing, Australian steel-making taking on and competing with the world and winning.
Meanwhile, as I travel around Australia talking and listening to Australians about jobs, my opposite number is in Canberra having a meltdown about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I've got a suggestion for Mr Turnbull, stop worrying about what is never going to be and instead get out of the ivory tower, get out of the harbourside mansion, get out amongst the real people of Australia. Talk to real Australians who are having a go, listen to them about their idea for jobs.
And in fact, tonight, I'll be back in Melbourne talking about Labor's commitment not only to jobs but to well paid jobs. Labor is the party who will always stand up for working people and their right to receive fair and reasonable penalty rates for working unsociable hours. And my speech tonight will make clear that Labor will never standby and allow cuts across the board to penalty rates of millions of low paid Australian workers.
Happy to take questions, thank you.
JOURNALIST: What impact will your proposed plan [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: What Labor will do, and first of all we'll wait and see what the Fair Work Commission actually says, but what I'm signalling tonight, unequivocally, is that in a climate of increasing inequality, with historic low wage growth, what we will do in the face of a conservative, anti-penalty rates Coalition Government, is we will make sure that the rules that apply to the setting of penalty rates do not allow across the board reduction in workers take home pay. No cuts to penalty rates.
JOURNALIST: So how will you compel an independent body to protect penalty rates?
SHORTEN: I have got a lot of respect for the Fair Work Commission as an institution. I am not like the right wing who keep attacking everything that they say and do. But what we want to do is to make sure that we get the rules that the independent umpire rules by, we want to make sure that the rules that give the instructions for the independent umpire, the parameters in which wages are set, that these rules do not allow a reduction in workers' conditions.
Wherever I travel in Australia, from airports to building sites, to manufacturing sites to retail to hospitality to cleaning, so many people come up to me and say Bill, please don't let them reduce our penalty rates. And I and Labor are keeping faith, as we always have, with millions of Australians who go to work. This country can succeed and flourish and prosper but it doesn't need to cut people's penalty rates to be a successful country. On the contrary, Australia works best when we don't leave people behind and everyone gets a fair go at work.
JOURNALIST: Rio Tinto has agreed to sell (inaudible) to the Chinese company Yancoal. Should the Federal Government give approval to the Foreign Investment Review Board?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all we will let the process go through our independent Foreign Investment Review Board process. We are a country that has foreign investment in this country and we are a country who makes foreign investment elsewhere. For me and for Labor, what matters when you've got overseas purchases is; is what is being sold in the national interest. If it’s a matter of national security, that should be a no-go zone. If it is going to lead to lots of Australian job loses, that's a no-go zone. But let's let the process work through but Labor will be vigilant. For us, what matters is making sure there are jobs here and we are keeping our national interest foremost, including national security.
JOURNALIST: The Chinese company has already leased out the Newcastle Port and now they will have the largest coal mine in the country. (inaudible)? Are you happy with that?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, we are a country that does allow private enterprise to make decisions about their commercial interests. But what a Labor government I lead will always do is we will always run the ruler over the proposition. Is it in Australia's national interest? Is it helping us maintain our economic independence? Is this guaranteeing quality jobs for Australians? We will always look at national security - that's what we did when Wayne Swan was the Treasurer, that's what we will do in a future Labor government. So we will look at each proposition on its merits.
JOURNALIST: It's been announced that the ERM power would rather pay a penalty than renewable energy certificates. Are you worried that other companies will follow suit?
SHORTEN: Let's go to the big issue here which is behind that question - should we have a Renewable Energy Target or not? We absolutely should. We are a nation which will always use fossil fuels as part of our energy mix, but we are mugs if we don't start embracing change. We recognise in Labor, the science of climate change, it is happening around us. From the farmers affected by drought to the fact that last year was the warmest year on record. So Australia does need to do more to tackle climate change and we need to be encouraging new jobs, new investment and new technology that comes from renewable energy. And so we want to make sure we have got a consistent system which delivers certainty.
What I find with Malcolm Turnbull is he is a massive disappointment on climate change. He used to say he didn't want to lead a political party that doesn't believe in taking real action on climate change. That's exactly what he does now. We need to make sure we get the settings right on renewable energy and Labor is confident that our policies are very solid.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) next generation coal fire power stations?
SHORTEN: Let's go to the issue of say the Adani mine and coal there and investment there. These deals have to stack up under their own merits. I don't believe Commonwealth money should be used to invest in these projects - absolutely not and they also need to meet scientific and environmental standards but, if they do, that will be part of our future.
JOURNALIST: So do you think that Adani (inaudible), that it's something you don't back?
SHORTEN: What I say is that I don't back Commonwealth taxpayer money being used to invest in this large commercial project. If the deal stacks up, if it stacks up environmentally, if it stacks up scientifically, if it stacks up commercially, then it should go ahead - it will generate valuable jobs. If the deal doesn't stack up, well then it shouldn't go ahead. What we shouldn't see though is taxpayer money from the Commonwealth being used to invest in this mine.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson has accused you of jumping on her anti-TPP campaign. Are you concerned that you've got the same views as One Nation?
SHORTEN: Well, let's go to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Malcolm Turnbull has lived in a fantasy land since the day that Donald Trump got elected. And rather than have a plan in the last two months to have trade which generates real jobs for Australia, he’s clung onto this fantasy that somehow Donald Trump would change his mind on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And instead of having a plan, all he seems fit to do is to criticise me for saying the truth.
The truth is that once Donald Trump got elected, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was dead. The Japanese Government has come out today and said that without the United States, this trade treaty is meaningless. Malcolm Turnbull doesn't have to take my word for it, he doesn't have to take Donald Trump's word for it, maybe he should just take the Japanese Government's word for it.
What we need is for Malcolm Turnbull to get out of his ivory tower, stop playing politics, stop criticising me for everything that he can't get done and instead, he should have a plan for jobs. That's what this country needs; build Australian, buy Australian, employ Australian.
JOURNALIST: One Nation says it is campaigning in Queensland with the goal of governing the state. Could One Nation form government here?
SHORTEN: That will be a matter for the voters of Queensland. I think that Annastacia Palaszczuk has got the best policies for Queenslanders.
I tell you one person we haven't seen a lot of, in terms of campaigning in Queensland, and that's Barnaby Joyce. But why would Barnaby Joyce want to campaign in Queensland today, after the absolutely out of touch comments he made on housing affordability. There is very little chance that this government would seriously address the question of housing affordability when senior ministers like the Deputy Prime Minister make the silly comments that he did. Quite frankly, they don't get it and they don't even seem to care about getting it.
JOURNALIST: Just on penalty rates, would you accept a workplace deal where pay went up in a trade off for cutting penalty rates?
SHORTEN: The question you're asking is if there's compensation for penalty rates in people's pay, is that a good thing? That is obviously a reasonable proposition.
What Labor won't ever accept is people just having their Sunday rates just cut and that's it. We don't believe in reducing people's wages in this country. We've got a strong safety net of a minimum wage, and what we need to see is that these conditions aren't cut. What we have at the moment is a stagnant economy. We’ve got an economy where you have historically low wages growth. We've got an economy where you've got historically high under-employment. The last thing workers need is to have their wages just cut willy nilly. Mr Turnbull needs to take our good ideas to protect workers conditions.
I might invite Wayne to talk a bit further about his view on the economy.
SWAN: I think it's very clear that if we want to see a strong economy, we want to see living standards lifted and rising and extra jobs, then the Government needs to be making the critical investments in human capital and physical capital. We have seen the Government not investing in the critical economic infrastructure; that's holding back jobs growth. We've seen them pulling money out of education and training; that's not going to help jobs growth. We need massive investment by the public and private sector in physical and human capital to drive our growth levels and to drive jobs.
It's just not happening from the Federal Government. That's why we’ve got a stagnant economy, we’ve got record high levels of under-employment, so what we do need is a government that will take an active role in the economy to drive jobs. Not a government that wants to cut the wages and working conditions of ordinary people - wants to attack their penalty rates, or a government that wants to give the top end of town a $50 billion tax cut. None of those things will lift living standards and drive jobs.
So it’s a pretty clear choice, and a pretty clear choice when you come to Queensland as well, between Labor, committed to investing in people, Labor committed to investing in infrastructure, and the conservative alternative. And when I say the conservative alternative; it's a National Party, Liberal Party, One Nation alternative. Because One Nation backs in the conservative agenda of hacking into the social safety net and hacking into wages.
So it will be a pretty clear choice in Queensland, federal and state. You can have the LNP, backed up by One Nation, or you can have Labor.
JOURNALIST: Will they form government?
SWAN: We’ll see, the people of Queensland will make that decision but the Palaszczuk Government; it has an agenda for jobs growth, it has an agenda to support working people, it doesn't support attacking penalty rates. It wants to make sure, for example, that companies like Uber pay their tax. It wants to make sure that people in the taxi industry have decent levels of safety, that the public is protected. Wherever you look at the conservatives in this country, they want to attack regulation. It doesn't matter whether it's in the labour market or it doesn't matter whether it’s elsewhere, they will support deregulation which takes down wages and attacks minimum conditions including safety in the transport industry.
So, there's a very clear alternative coming up for Australia. Labor governments committing to working with the private sector to protect ordinary working people, or conservative governments, backed by One Nation, who have got a deregulatory agenda and one which is anti-worker.
JOURNALIST: The Australian Republican Movement has launched a campaign ahead of Australia Day tomorrow, calling on people to declare their independence from Britain. What are your thoughts about it?
SHORTEN: Well, I support us being a Republic. I think it's long overdue for Australia to have an Australian head of state. I think, over two centuries after the British landed on our shores, we're probably ready to - in fact, we're definitely ready to be an independent country with an Australian head of state. Of course, while we have Malcolm Turnbull there, he'll do nothing about it so it's an interesting talking point.
JOURNALIST: Labor Senator Murray Watt says there should be a more appropriate day for Australia Day. (Inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Well, Australia Day is on January 26. That's the day I'll be celebrating and that's the day millions of Australians will be celebrating.
Just as I wrap up, I just again want to reiterate on the important issue of housing affordability. There is very little chance that this government will do anything serious about the question of housing affordability when senior ministers like Barnaby Joyce make silly statements about housing affordability. Quite frankly, they don't get it, and they don't seem to care.
When Malcolm Turnbull tells kids to get rich parents, when Barnaby Joyce says you've got to change cities, they're out of touch. Only Labor has put forward a plan on housing affordability by reforming the unaffordable tax concessions in negative gearing. In the course of this year, we'll further develop our plans for housing affordability, but put simply, Malcolm Turnbull's Government think that with a few glib lines, they can deal with the issue of housing affordability. They don't get how important the dream of first home ownership is to Australians and indeed their parents, and Labor will keep fighting to ensure that the dream of first home ownership is not beyond the means of working and middle class Australians.
Thanks very much everybody.