MONDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Australian manufacturing jobs; Malcolm Turnbull $200 million plebiscite;
MARIA VAMVAKINOU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CALWELL: It's great to welcome the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten here at the Willow factory Tullamarine, and also to welcome Senator Kim Carr. We're here today to visit an iconic Australian manufacturing company that's been producing, amongst other things, the famous Australian Esky. Bill thank you for being here, there are issues in relation to jobs. This is my electorate of Calwell and it's always a pleasure to have you here to discuss the future of jobs in our electorate.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Maria and can I thank the management and workforce of Willow. This company shows that Australian manufacturing has got a bright future, provided the Government in Canberra shows as much leadership as the management and workforce of Willow.
What this company is doing is competing with the best in the world – both domestically and it has an opportunity to even compete on an export basis – provided there is modest support, modest investment to help drive innovation and productivity. This company employs 150 people. Its brand is famous across Australia. It's a family business since 1887 and it's got a bright future and the chance to employ even more Australians if we could convince Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Government just to make some modest investment to help drive significant improvements in innovation and productivity.
It's interesting to think that for a million or $2 million this company could secure 150 jobs and, indeed, increase jobs. At a time when Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party are contemplating spending $200 million and more on a plebiscite, that money could be used to help save and promote 200 factories across Australia, which with modest investments in innovation to make sure that we are more energy efficient, to make sure that we are matching our scientists and our researchers with our commercial nous and of course to make sure that we promote and preserve jobs.
Mr Turnbull has got a clear choice here: he can have a plan for Australian jobs or he can have a plan for a plebiscite. Mr Turnbull has got a very clear choice here, instead of just having a plan to protect the jobs of bank CEOs or the founders of start-up tech companies, what Mr Turnbull needs to do is prioritise the jobs of ordinary Australians and promote Australian manufacturing.
I say to Mr Turnbull the best three-word slogan you could use whilst you're Prime Minister is Made in Australia. I'd like to invite my industry spokesperson to talk further about the importance of using modest support to promote innovation and productivity and Australian jobs.
KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH: Well thank you very much Bill. We have been to visit this site on a number of occasions now as a result of Maria Vamvakinou’s intervention. This is a site of tremendous importance for Australia. This is an area which has the highest levels of unemployment in the entire state. One in five adults are unemployed. My daughter works in a local primary school, 90 per cent of the parents, she tells me, are unemployed. Yet we are facing the prospect where an iconic factory, as Maria says, an iconic factory like Willow, employing 150 people in high quality, high skilled jobs are at risk for the want of a very small co-investment from the Commonwealth. With the Commonwealth's investment the state comes in and when the state comes in, the banks comes in and we can modernise this plant and export industry can be developed and restored to where it once was.
But it needs the investment. It needs the commitment from Canberra to ensure that people have high quality blue collar jobs in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. This is a story that ricochets across the nation. It is exactly the same problem in so many parts of a country, with a Prime Minister, preoccupied of the affairs of the north shore of Sydney, not the concerns of communities such as this.
SHORTEN: Happy to take questions on manufacturing jobs or any other matter.
JOURNALIST: On the plebiscite if I could - What have you authorised Mark Dreyfus and Terri Butler to negotiate in today's meeting?
SHORTEN: My colleagues, in good faith, will attend a meeting with the Attorney-General to hear the Attorney-General's views and to see what compromises the Attorney-General is willing to offer. Although, it would seem to me that Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen, members of the hard right of the Coalition Government, have taken away the ability of the Government to negotiate any compromise. What the Government ministers have said this morning, even before there is any discussion, is that they are demanding that we waste taxpayer money on the 'yes' and 'no' cases. What a shocking waste of money. When we are here, talking about jobs for Willow, innovation, productivity, instead this government wants to spend millions and millions of dollars on a publicly funded 'yes' and 'no' case on a non-binding opinion poll which the Government wants to spend a lot of money on.
My Shadow Ministers will go and listen to what the Government has to say but it is a very unusual style for the Turnbull Government to say they want to compromise and yet we have the Deputy Prime Minister, we have Senator Abetz out there ruling out items of negotiation even before the negotiations have started. Mr Turnbull cannot control the right wing of his party. He's outsourced decision making on this marriage equality plebiscite to the right wing of his party. There has been no case seriously made to justify spending millions and millions of dollars on a vote which will be compulsory for Australians but not compulsory for the politicians to accept. How in all seriousness can Mr Turnbull think it's a good idea to spend tens and tens, hundred of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a vote which is compulsory for Australians to participate in, but which is not compulsory for members of his parliamentary party to agree to? How can it be compulsory for voters but not compulsory for the politicians?
JOURNALIST: You said they will listen to George Brandis. What will they ask of him?
SHORTEN: We want to see if the Government is prepared to make any concessions at all in the process. They say they want Labor to vote for their measure but what they do is they present a take it or leave it approach which is the height of arrogance. Senator Brandis has to explain and guarantee that nobody will suffer any harm because of the hate-speech in this debate. How does he explain and justify the wasting of $200 million? And how on earth does he explain that it will be compulsory for Australians to vote in an non-binding opinion poll on the Government. It is as simple as this: mum and dad will go down to vote. If they don't vote, they can get fined but members of Mr Turnbull's own Government are not obligated to accept the result. How is this fair, how is this a good use of taxpayer money? By contrast I'm here this week, just as I was last week, since Parliament has risen talking about Australian jobs.
For $50 million we can save 7,000 steel jobs in Australia. For want of a million or two million dollars we can help invest in the productivity and innovation of an Australian iconic brand. I'm more interested in saving the Esky than saving the plebiscite. I do not know why Mr Turnbull wants to spend so much money on a publicly funded opinion poll which his own people don't even accept its compulsory for them to accept.
JOURNALIST: Will the removal of public funding for both sides of the debate make the plebiscite more acceptable? Is that something that you're hoping to get out of the meeting?
SHORTEN: Clearly that is an impossibility now. We've had Barnaby Joyce rule it off. This is the only negotiation I've ever seen in human history where before you go in to have any discussion, any briefing from the Government, they start ruling off what people are allowed to talk about and not talk about.
This Government has set up the marriage equality process to fail. They've set up a process guaranteed to fail. They've made it so ridiculous in form and design that they know that it is difficult for anyone to vote for it other than members of the Liberal Party.
Having set this up to fail, Mr Turnbull's outsourced the negotiations to the shouters and the megaphones of the hard right of his own Coalition. And in the meantime, Australians are going to work every day wanting to see support for their jobs. Why is it that the Government is spending more time sending dictation about the marriage equality plebiscite than they are about supporting blue collar manufacturing, supporting advanced manufacturing, supporting investments, modest investments in productivity and innovation?
Mr Turnbull should spend more time fighting for the jobs of Australians than fighting for a plan to keep his own job and keeping the right wing of his party happy.
JOURNALIST: George Brandis has suggested that a stalemate could see reform put off until the next Parliament. Isn't he just being realistic when he says that?
SHORTEN: No, the Liberals are just being stubborn. We meet in Parliament 20 weeks of the year. We are there for 10 to 12 to 14 hours every day. They could easily have a vote in Parliament which wouldn't cost the taxpayer a single additional dollar.
I do not know what Mr Turnbull keeps offering Australia a second best option in terms of marriage equality. He himself said before he became the leader of the Liberal Party that a free vote in Parliament was to his way of thinking the best way to go. How did we end up with such a weak Prime Minister that when he knows what the right thing is to do is he still persists in spending $200 million on a second best option.
Is this man, Malcolm Turnbull so weak that he would subject Australia to a compulsory vote which is not compulsory upon his politicians to vote for after the Australian people have voted? That he would spend $200 million plus on a non-binding opinion poll and cause such a divisive and nasty debate in the Australian community?
Malcolm Turnbull has sold out Australia to the right wing of his party just to keep his job and in the meantime he doesn't have a plan for manufacturing, he doesn't have a plan for blue collar jobs. I've got no doubt that if we were visiting the CEO of a major Australian bank or the founder of a tech start-up, Malcolm Turnbull would have a view on what we should do to help those jobs. But when it comes to the jobs of millions of ordinary Australians, Malcolm Turnbull has no plan except to keep his own job.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor willing to budge at all? Is there a middle ground?
SHORTEN: The middle ground is very straightforward, let's just have vote in Parliament. I mean really, what Malcolm Turnbull is trying to turn this from a debate about marriage equality into the process of how you get to marriage equality.
For us the goal is simple: marriage equality. For us the goal is straightforward: have a vote in Parliament. We meet every day. I am going to see Malcolm Turnbull, I think, face-to-face along with all of his Government MPs for four weeks before Christmas and yet apparently they are so busy doing nothing else they can't afford to have a vote on marriage equality.
I'm here today because I am standing up for Australian jobs. That's what Australians want politicians and leaders to be doing. Instead, Mr Turnbull is engaging Australia in a time wasting debate on a $200 million opinion poll which will be compulsory for Australians to vote in, but just not compulsory for his Members of Parliament to accept the result.