THURSDAY, 27 OCTOBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Renewable energy; Government division; paid parental leave; Indigenous incarceration; water infrastructure; CFA
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. Mark Butler and I have just left a meeting with the leaders of the clean energy industry - investors putting billions of dollars into our clean energy industry, employing tens and tens of thousands of workers.
The clean energy industry wants a government committed to making sure that renewable energy has a strong future as we go forward past 2020. There is a great deal of market uncertainty and alarm, concern about the ability of consumers to be able to access renewable energy and, of course, the investment and jobs that comes from renewable energy, because of Mr Turnbull's intemperate and reckless remarks trying to link renewable energy to the superstorm which happened in South Australia a month ago.
The renewable energy industry wants an end to the uncertainty of government policy. They would like to see Mr Turnbull articulate his policy and plans for renewable energy after 2020.
Labor's up for ensuring we take real action on climate change – prioritising jobs, consumers and investment. I might get my shadow spokesperson now to talk a little bit further about this matter.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thank you, Bill. We met today with a range of companies, some of them local Australian companies and some of them the biggest multinational companies in this space. They are keen to invest. They're keen to create jobs in Australia. They're keen to help put downward pressure on household power prices. And they're keen to help also with the task of reducing our carbon pollution levels in accordance with the Paris agreement that Malcolm Turnbull signed on behalf of Australia. But they've also said to Bill and to me that they need a renewable energy policy framework beyond 2020.
We saw a landmark report released by the International Energy Agency yesterday that again confirmed that since the Abbott-Turnbull Government, Australia has started to slip behind other countries around the world in renewable energy investment, renewable energy jobs, and in that task of bringing down pollution levels from electricity generation.
The very clear message that Bill and I got from the industry today was, Australia needs a renewable energy policy beyond 2020. Bill and I have asked Malcolm Turnbull about that in the Parliament and he's refused to deliver it. He must unshackle himself from the Abbott policies on climate change and energy and start to get with the revolution that is sweeping the rest of the world to move to clean, modern renewable energy.
SHORTEN: Thanks Mark. Before I take any questions, I'd just like to address the fact that new evidence has emerged today that Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull are at war with each other. You don't have to take Labor's word for it. The talking points of Government ministers refer to the war between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. This is a Government who will need more than spin to paper over the fundamental divisions in this Government.
The Turnbull Government should be fighting for the jobs of Australians, but they're more interested in fighting amongst each other about their own jobs.
At a time when Medicare has been grievously cut, when real wage levels are flatlining, wage rises are flatlining, and of course living standards are falling, all we've got is a Liberal Government focused on fighting themselves, not standing up for Australians.
Happy to take questions on that and other matters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull has said he is prepared to negotiate with Labor on the paid parental leave. If so, what transition would you be prepared to negotiate on?
SHORTEN: Well let's start the basis of any negotiation – do no harm. We say to Malcolm Turnbull don't make women who've negotiated conditions in their workplace, modest improvements to paid parental leave, don't punish them for giving up wage rises and, in return, getting paid parental leave from their employer, don't punish them by denying them minimum government payments.
If you want to have a negotiation, what we've got to start off from the position, is respect for working women in this country. It's not a laughing matter. What we need to see is the Government recognise that working parents, working mums, don't get a lot of special conditions. Having a child, very important part of people's lives, fundamentally important, but they shouldn't necessarily be penalised financially because they get conditions - some conditions at work. Mr Turnbull needs to drop that and let's instead have a discussion about how we help women participate equally in this country. That's the start of negotiations.
JOURNALIST: And what about moving the date, start date, back, would that make any difference for you?
SHORTEN: I notice Senator Xenophon's talking about, saying that if you become pregnant after a certain date, then you lose a benefit. If you're pregnant before a certain date, you keep a benefit. That's not the way this should be worked on. The real challenge here is that women don't get an equal go to men in this society and workplaces. What we need to do is support women with their paid parental leave. We shouldn't ever see a set of circumstances where you've gotta make tough choices between having a family or earning a proper wage.
I think the paid parental leave scheme is the wrong path for Mr Turnbull to be going down. If he wants to save money to the budget, don't give a tax cut to multinationals, don't give a tax cut to millionaires. There is plenty of ways you can save money in the budget without punishing 80,000 teachers, shop assistants, women who work in our defence forces.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Attorney-General George Brandis has announced an inquiry into the incarceration rates of Indigenous Australians. Does Labor support such an inquiry?
SHORTEN: Labor said last year, I gave a speech last year, saying that the incarceration rates of black Australians is unacceptable. It is a fact in this country that your skin colour is one of the more reliable predictors of whether or not you're gonna get a jail sentence. But that shouldn't be the case. So we do support having an inquiry, but the Government doesn't need to have another inquiry to get to the bottom of this. Go and talk to the lawyers, go and talk to communities. We need to have a lot more non-custodial sentences to help deal with a range of the issues.
The answer can't be, when you are an 18-year-old Aboriginal man in Australia, that you're more likely to go to jail than university. We need to be better than that. The problem is well identified. What Mr Turnbull and Attorney-General Brandis need to do is actually create a justice target which says that we will focus on making sure there are non-custodial, non-prison options, for young black men in this country.
JOURNALIST: Is it acceptable for a politician to use taxpayer funds to chauffeur their dogs? That's exactly what a state minister has done here in Victoria. Is that acceptable?
SHORTEN: No. It's dumb.
JOURNALIST: Should that person be sacked?
SHORTEN: That's a matter for Premier Andrews. But let me be clear, it is dumb to chauffeur your pets, doesn't matter who you are in politics, Liberal or Labor, from point A to point B.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull has been talking about job creation of dams in Queensland. Do you think dams can be job creators?
SHORTEN: Dams can create jobs, no question. Good irrigation networks are important to our farmers. But if Mr Turnbull wants to talk up job creation, why's he done nothing to help save the car industry? Why is he putting the renewable energy industry’s job creation into the future into a period of uncertainty because he won't commit to targets for renewable energy after 2020?
There is a lot of things we can do on jobs. And another thing he could do, if he is committed to helping people find work and stay at work, is he should drop his absurd paid parental leave propositions. There are many things which Mr Turnbull can do to help people in work. Dams is one of them. But perhaps not wrecking paid parental leave conditions is another. Perhaps not wrecking the renewable energy industry is a third measure. And perhaps standing up for blue collar manufacturing jobs, that'd be a good development, something that this out-of-touch Government hasn't done ever since they’ve been elected.
JOURNALIST: And just quickly, the CFA issue has been dropped from the Supreme Court and it's gone back to the Fair Work Commission. Do you think that will be resolved by fire season?
SHORTEN: I'm certainly very committed to seeing the safest possible system of fire prevention and our fire systems in Victoria. Our volunteers do a great job, so do our full-time firefighters. The best resolution is not gonna be found in Canberra or in the courts. It's going to found by people sitting around the table and recognising they have more in common than they disagree about.