WEDNESDAY, 18 JANUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Australian jobs; Turnbull Ministry; medicinal cannabis; MH370; West Australian election; The GST; George Brandis; Expenses reform
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. It's great to be back in Western Australia in 2017 with my friend, Mark McGowan, talking about the number one issue in Australia, which is promoting and standing up for Australian jobs.
Western Australians face a choice on March 11. Do they go with a tired old Government which has run out of ideas or do they go with Mark McGowan and his plan to support jobs in Western Australia. It is a fact that 100,000 West Australians or so are unemployed. This number has skyrocketed under the Barnett administration and is the cause of grave concern.
Today, Mark and I have been meeting with local employers, leaders, people who invest their capital and create jobs. We've been speaking to skilled tradespeople and apprentices - the hope of the future. And what we're talking to them about are our good ideas federally and of course at a West Australian level to start fighting back for jobs in the west.
Today, we are proposing that Perth be taken off the regional fast-track list where it easier for employers to bring in temporary guest workers from overseas rather than doing the job of employing locals and giving Aussies first crack at the jobs. We also want to start restricting the number of occupations currently available for employers in Western Australia to simply look overseas rather than invest in training Australians.
Labor will fight at this next state election and throughout the rest of this year, across this country, for Australian jobs for Australians. We believe in building Australian, making Australian and employing Australian. I'd now like to hand over to Mark McGowan to talk about his great ideas to do something about decreasing unemployment in Western Australia.
MARK McGOWAN, WA LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Bill. Can I thank Bill for coming to Western Australia at this point in time to discuss the important issue of jobs for Australians. Western Australia is in a jobs crisis. Western Australia is in a jobs crisis. We have a domestic economy that is in recession. We have a Government that has been there too long and run out of ideas. So under WA Labor, we've got a jobs plan that we released last year which is comprehensive about ensuring that we have a more diversified, broader, West Australian economy that is about creating jobs for West Australians.
As you know, I live in Rockingham. I attend school graduations. Lots of those young people graduating from high school, are not able now to get apprenticeships or jobs. That is a common experience across Western Australia and it must change.
So we've announced that we are going to change the West Australian skilled-migration occupation list, to ensure that it better reflects the modern reality of Western Australia. Back in the boom time, when the mining boom was on, of course, we needed to fill those jobs and sometimes you needed to go overseas to fill those jobs. But now, with 100,000 West Australians out of work, with 6.9 per cent unemployment, a higher rate than every other state in Australia, bar one, it's time for drastic action. So we're going to rip up the skilled migration occupation list to ensure that West Australians get the opportunities for local jobs first, second and third. That list includes: refrigeration mechanics, geologists, teachers, nurses, electricians. There are thousands of people with those jobs here in Western Australia, unemployed today, who can't get work.
The first responsibility of any premier is to make sure that the citizens of the state get the opportunities on offer in Western Australia. So as Premier of Western Australia, I'm going to rip up that list. I'm going to make sure it reflects the reality of Western Australia today. I'm going to make sure that West Australians get the first opportunity for the jobs on offer in Western Australia. I'll hand back to Bill for questions.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions ladies and gentlemen?
JOURNALIST: What does your [inaudible] add in a material sense? Would an incoming McGowan Labor Government not have to negotiate this policy with the Liberal Government federally?
SHORTEN: What we're finding in national politics, is when we lead, Malcolm Turnbull follows. What we are doing is standing up for Australian jobs. We've seen in the last few weeks, Malcolm Turnbull, consumed by the bonfire of his own job security - that's all he's focused on. What I'm doing today, here, is reminding Malcolm Turnbull about the rest of Australia.
Malcolm Turnbull needs to follow our policies. We don't need to wait to the next federal election. He needs to wake up, smell the roses and realise there's an unemployment problem in Western Australia. Why on earth is Malcolm Turnbull maintaining the current status quo, which makes it too easy for jobs to be sourced from overseas rather than backing in our own - backing in our apprentices and our own industries?
So I predict that because we're saying this, Malcolm Turnbull, and he's welcome to do it, will copy our policies well before the next election. And of course, having Mark McGowan, a champion of Western Australia putting pressure on Malcolm Turnbull from the state level, well I think that'll be compelling.
JOURNALIST: Is this policy in any way related to the influence that Pauline Hanson's One Nation is having on it from the right?
SHORTEN: No. Our policy that we're talking about today reflects a lot of the work we did before the last election. The fact of the matter is, this country should be smart enough to train its own apprentices. This country should be far-seeing enough to realise that not every young person wants to go to university. What we've got to do is give young people hope that there's a career path by becoming an apprentice. How on earth can we help provide the trades of the future unless we put in place the policies that make sure that there's jobs for Australian apprentices?
JOURNALIST: Should we expect to see much more of you in the state election campaign between now and the election date?
SHORTEN: Well I think Mark McGowan's going to run an excellent campaign, because Mark McGowan and West Australian Labor are ready to govern if given that privilege.
I've been watching what Mark McGowan's been talking about. He wants to tackle the issues which effect real people in their lives. He knows that West Australia under Barnett and his Government, have been asleep. They've squandered the benefits of the mining boom and now what we need to see is a more diversified economy. We need to see the hospital waiting lists tackled. We need to see greater investment in rail and road. And primarily, I say, we need to make sure that there's jobs in Western Australia for Western Australians. But I'll certainly be across here as well, adding my support, because when I look at what Western Australia needs, it needs the sort of policies on jobs, schools, education, putting people first that Mark McGowan offers with his united team.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can we please get your response to the Prime Minister's Cabinet reshuffle announcement?
SHORTEN: Well, there they go again, Malcolm Turnbull just worrying about his own job and the jobs of his colleagues, and not doing anything for the jobs of Australians. The fact of the matter is, that it doesn't matter who's in charge of the health department, what really matters is the policies to save Medicare. This Government, the Federal Government, is still in denial about their cuts to Medicare. Just talk to people who face the prospect of paying more for prescription medicine. Just talk to the people dealing with hospital waiting lists. Look at the fact that this Government has frozen payments to GPs, frozen increases to GPs and is also getting rid of bulk billing for x-rays and blood tests.
What matters in our healthcare system, is not the latest occupant, who's the Minister, what matters is making sure that the Minister tackles Malcolm Turnbull and makes them change direction and start saving Medicare instead of wrecking Medicare.
JOURNALIST: Sussan Ley lost that job because of her use of expenses, does that mean that Malcolm Turnbull has overlooked Greg Hunt's serial holidaying at Noosa with his family at taxpayers’ expense?
SHORTEN: Well I think that's a matter for Malcolm Turnbull to interrogate or question Greg Hunt about. The fact of the matter is, that this whole debate about expenses is something which really turns Australians off politics.
Certainly he's lost his Health Minister because 37 nights on the Gold Coast was just implausible by any set of explanations. So I think Malcolm Turnbull, to help reassure confidence in the new Minister for Health, needs to explain pretty quickly what's been going on and does the Health Minister have his confidence, otherwise again, the health system keeps getting ignored. For me what matters, isn't the Health Minister, it's whether or not they're cutting Medicare, increasing the cost of medicine, making it harder to see the doctor, but I really hope Malcolm Turnbull hasn't picked another Minister who then falls under the bus because they haven't got their expenses in line.
JOURNALIST: What about George Brandis and his latest travel claims, do you think that Senate Estimates should be asking the Department of Finance or anyone else about this?
SHORTEN: Let's face it, George Brandis is not a household name. But I think for those people who watch politics, he is the most accident-prone Minister in a remarkably accident-prone Government. Just think about all of the problems of this Government. You know, George Brandis who said you've got a right to be a bigot. It's George Brandis who couldn't properly work out what to do or the meaning of the word metadata. It's George Brandis that has been caught up in issues about the proper funding of debts in Western Australia. George Brandis is an accident waiting to happen. How many times, how many lives does this fellow have? Why does Malcolm Turnbull keep this most accident-prone Minister in the position he's in?
JOURNALIST: The elevation of Ken Wyatt to the ministry brings to six the number of West Australians in the Liberal ministry, does that up the pressure on you to promote more West Australians in yours?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm really pleased that the West Australians that Western Australia gave me in my caucus, they're all a great team. We've got one of them here, Josh. Listen, I've got a good team, we've got Shadow Ministers, we've got Assistant Shadow Ministers. So I am happy, and what I need is to get more votes in Western Australia so that we can deliver more West Australians to Canberra.
I'm confident that when it comes to diversity, that Labor has got it all over the Liberal Party, because you make the point about West Australia, I make the point about women. The Turnbull Government didn't have a lot of women in its ministerial line-up to begin with and now the proportion of women in the Turnbull Government has gone backwards. The Liberal Party of Australia is increasingly becoming a party for older blokes and no one else.
JOURNALIST: Just on another health issue. It has been 12 months since the Prime Minister announced the changes to allow for medicinal cannabis, [inaudible] your response to that?
SHORTEN: Malcolm Turnbull's conduct on medicinal cannabis is nothing short of negligent and disgraceful.
I sympathise with parents, and I have met plenty of them, if they have family members, children in pain, people in their family confronting terminal illness, why on earth do we treat parents who love their family members and only want to alleviate their pain, why are we treating them as criminals?
Why are we not making it easier where the GP and the medical treaters say medicinal cannabis can help alleviate pain, can help the difficult journey in terminal illness, why on earth are we making it harder for these parents, why are we treating these people as criminals?
I'd hate to be in a situation if my kids were so sick and their doctor proposed something to do with medicinal cannabis, I would move heaven and earth. I don't think that makes us - I don't think that makes parents criminals, it just makes them good parents. Malcolm Turnbull needs to get a move on. In February -
JOURNALIST: Should there be an amnesty in the meantime [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: Well I think that is something that the Government has to consider. Partly, I don't think the amnesty is the only issue. I think the issue is having domestically-produced available medicinal cannabis. We proposed last year how to do it. The Government ignored it but they eventually got around to doing it in February.
So we proposed a year-and-a-half ago how to fix it. The Government picked up our ideas in February. We voted for it but nothing's happened.
This is the Turnbull Government writ large. Talk a lot, talk good, do nothing. In the meantime though, the only way to get medicinal cannabis is to import it from overseas but the red tape is so extremely difficult, I think that Malcolm Turnbull, if he can't create a domestic medicinal cannabis proposition, or a market, he needs to get rid of the red tape.
And again, I go back to where I started, what is the problem we are trying to solve here? Parents and treating doctors are prescribing medicinal cannabis to help people living with terminal illness or great deals of pain. Why on earth is the Government getting in the way of effective pain management and treatment and why are we criminalising parents' conduct?
JOURNALIST: What's your view on the decision to suspend the search for MH370?
SHORTEN: That is a really difficult decision and issue. I couldn't imagine, it is beyond my capacity to imagine, the pain that family members must be going through not knowing ultimately what's happened to their loved one.
I do think the authorities in the Australian Government have done everything they can. I don't know the ultimate answer. How long do you keep searching? How much money do you keep investing? I actually think the Government in this case has probably handled the matter as well as they possibly can. I don't want to add to the turmoil that the families feel by trying to politicise the issue. On this issue I think the Federal Government has tried to do everything it can. It's just - one day we will find out what happened. I'm sorry for the families that is not today. I think the Government's probably handled this as well as it could.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten - Mr McGowan is prepared to campaign with you. He wasn't prepared to campaign with Julia Gillard last time around. How does that make you feel? Pretty popular?
SHORTEN: I think Mark can speak for himself but let's be straight here - Labor nationally and Labor in Western Australia is interested in jobs. The debate here I think, in Western Australia is how do we make sure that the people who are unemployed get back into work? How do we retrained adults to learn new skills? How do we make sure we have more apprentices?
You know, a job is a building block for a lot in life. Australians don't ask for a lot but if you have got a job, you are a chance to have a holiday, to have a mortgage, to be able to afford a car, pay for life's little luxuries.
A job is the building block of what is a decent middle-class life in Australia. Mark McGowan knows that. We are committed to it and we are going to work every day up to March 11th, and me up until the next federal election, talking about jobs for Australians.
JOURNALIST: Australians are also interested in the GST? Why doesn't WA or a potential Mark McGowan Government deserve more of its GST revenue?
SHORTEN: I will let Mark talk about what he thinks WA deserves to deliver. I think my old mate, Malcolm Turnbull has been across here any number of times. And again, a bit like all those other issues, I think he gave a great talk at the beginning. Really pumped hopes up and he has been on the GST like he has been on everything else - a massive disappointment. I might just get Mark - I will come back to you but I have invited Mark to say a few words too.
McGOWAN: Well, the Liberal Party has promised big and delivered little. The GST issue has bedevilled this state now for a very long period of time since it was signed up by John Howard and the Court Liberal Government with Colin Barnett as its main advocate. The Liberal Party is responsible for the GST situation facing Western Australia full stop.
Now, I support a better deal for Western Australia. I have said that from the very beginning. Unfortunately Mr Barnett, Mr Turnbull, Mr Abbott, all of them, despite all of their carry-on, have delivered nothing. I remind you of this fact - when Labor left office, 8 years ago in Western Australia, we were getting 80 cents in the dollar. Now we are getting 30 cents in the dollar. When the last Federal Labor Government left office, Western Australia was getting 50 cents in the dollar. Now it is getting 30 cents in the dollar.
It has been the Liberal Party that has let Western Australia down.
JOURNALIST: What would you expect Federal Labor to do? Is Bill Shorten offering anything different?
McGOWAN: What I would like to see, as I have said the whole way along, is I would like to see a floor put in of 80 cents in the dollar - and that is a consistent position.
Mr Barnett has argued any number of different positions, including full support for the GST, full support for the GST back when it was created. Our position has been consistent and clear. That is the position I will argue no matter who the Prime Minister of Australia is.
JOURNALIST: With a Federal Labor leader, what is Federal Labor's position on this?
SHORTEN: We recognise, and I recognise, I think the current deal, isn't fair. In terms of the best way to progress it, we will listen carefully to Mark. Personally, I get the argument about a floor but also, I can say to Western Australians, the next federal election, I guess that will probably be next year unless they replace Malcolm Turnbull this year, so I assume next year, at the next election we will have policies which will show greater financial investment in Western Australia.
When I look at investment in Western Australia, I don't just look at the GST. I look at our Medicare system, I look at our roads, I look at our rail project that Mark McGowan is such a champion of. I look at our school system, our TAFE system and our universities.
I can make this promise here early on in the year of 2017, if Mark McGowan gets elected and if I do, we will work together to make sure Western Australia gets its fair share of revenue so that Western Australia continues to be such a fabulous place to live, to work and to raise a family.
Are there any other questions before I go?
JOURNALIST: Just one more on George Brandis. Is there anything that you and the Labor Party plan to do or can do about further scrutiny of the travel claims either through Senate Estimates or any other process?
SHORTEN: Well, we do think the expenses system has to be overhauled. We do need a process where it is not just left to their sort-of periodic scandals and a whole lot of 'we are very sorry' and then business goes back to usual. I will work with Malcolm Turnbull about making sure we have an independent expenses authority - that idea was introduced in the United Kingdom and we do think it has merit and I'll work with him on that.
But also, what we're going to do to help improve public confidence in the administration and political processes of this country is we will not just stop at expenses reform.
We also want to look at political donations reform. It is about time there was a lot more transparency, who is paying whom and what are the expectations and promises? Also I think it is about time we have a national conversation about the adequacy of our anti-corruption measures at the national level. Labor will revive a Senate investigation into looking at how the state anti-corruption commissions have gone. What are the lessons and what are the improvements? That is a trifecta of reform in 2017 that Labor will advance. I hope Malcolm Turnbull works with us. We will certainly work with him. But if we want to restore confidence in the honesty of our political process, it can't just be at expenses. It has got to be in terms of the adequacy of our anti-corruption measures and also, political donations reform.
In terms of the specific cloud over Mr Hunt and Senator Brandis, we will certainly follow these matters up and we certainly look to Malcolm Turnbull to give a full explanation or expressions of confidence in their conduct.
Ultimately, it is Mr Turnbull's team, he is the captain, the buck stops with him.
SHORTEN: I did say that was my last question but you haven't asked one so I certainly would like, in the interests of fairness, like to cover off everyone.
Listen, what this state needs, and Mark can perhaps finish the whole press conference, but what this state needs from my perspective, is it needs serious leadership. It needs a Government, not just individuals who talk from the sidelines, it needs a Government committed to jobs, healthcare, education, effective action on climate change, dealing with congestion, making sure our cities are liveable and making sure our regions get their fair share.
What we also need is a Government who is working for the working class and the middle class. What I mean by that is that we have got to make sure that fairness never gets lost as this country and this state proceeds. A child's future shouldn't depend on the wealth of their parents or the postcode they live in or their particular religion. What a child's future should depend on is their merit and their hard work. That's what I'm committed to and it all starts with the opportunity to get jobs.