TUESDAY, 24 JANUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Australian Jobs; Trans Pacific Partnership; cyber security; Shoalwater Bay; jobs in the regions.
SENATOR MURRAY WATT: Thanks everyone for coming along today to Hastings Deering. I'm Muarry Watt, Labor's Senator for Queensland and I'd like to very much thank Hastings Deering for welcoming all of us here today. It's been great to be accompanied by Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition and Jason Clare, our Shadow Trade Minister & Minister for Northern Australia, to see one of the real success stories in Central Queensland being Hastings Deering.
Without a doubt, the number one issue that is always raised with me right across Central Queensland is the need for us to create more jobs, this region has obviously had a pretty difficult time post the mining boom and the people are wondering where the new jobs are going to come from.
So, it's really encouraging to see a success story like Hastings Deering, putting on more apprentices, putting on more permanent employees to give a lot of hope to this region. And it has been great today to talk with Bill and Jason with some of the employees here about some of the policies that Labor has got to create more jobs and apprenticeships into the future. I'll hand over now to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. It's great to be back in Rockhampton for the start of the new year, and it's great to be at Hastings Deering. This is a success story and clearly with the potential development of Adani, more jobs will flow in this great mechanical hub of Hastings Deering. What's also good about Hastings Deering is they're employing so many apprentices, and not just kids out of school but adult apprentices. This is literally, a real Rockhampton and indeed Australian success story.
Today also, other than visiting Hastings Deering, I and my colleagues will be holding a round table to talk with police and doctors and other people on the front line of dealing with the ice scourge which affects all parts of Australia.
I'll also be talking to landowners who are affected by the government's remarkably clumsy handling of the Shoalwater Bay Defence expansion. These are all important issues. I have to say though, that whilst I'm here talking about Labor's policies to buy Australian, build Australian and employ Australian, I notice that my opposite number has been down in Canberra complaining about Donald Trump cancelling the TPP.
Mr Turnbull should've realised ever since Donald Trump got elected, in fact in November, Mr Turnbull should've realised that the Trans Pacific Partnership was dead. The fact that Mr Turnbull is so delusional that he's attacking Labor, when in fact it was Mr Trump who killed the Trans Pacific Partnership, shows that Mr Turnbull's credibility on jobs is gone. He has no plans for jobs, instead he's trying to talk about a trade treaty which is not going to see the light of day.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Should Australia be looking for new trade deals now that the TPP might not go ahead?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull should now leave the la la land which he's lived in ever since Donald Trump got elected. There is no doubt that when America voted for Donald Trump, the Trans Pacific Partnership was dead. But Mr Turnbull instead has pinned all of his hopes on a trade treaty, including the United States, which Donald Trump said he would never sign.
So now Mr Trunbull's lashing out and blaming Labor. It's not Labor who killed the Trans Pacific Partnership, it was Donald Trump. And Mr Turnbull should have the courage, if he wants to criticise me, I hope he has the same courage to criticise President Trump, for doing something which Mr Turnbull's blaming me for.
I do think, however, to go your question specifically, that of course we need to salvage our trade agreements, and I do think it is important to pursue trade arrangements with nations. Many of the nations who were in the Trans Pacific Partnership have already got agreements with us. What's important is to pursue multilateral trade agreements which create Australian jobs. This is the problem today for Mr Turnbull. He spends too much time playing politics in criticising Labor for something that everyone in the world knew was going to happen once Donald Trump got elected.
Malcolm Turnbull needs a plan for jobs, not just a plan for his own job of playing politics.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor vote against the ratification of the TPP if it went to a vote?
SHORTEN: The TPP is dead. How on earth can Mr Turnbull want to waste the time of the Parliament, asking the Parliament to ratify an agreement which includes America, when America's not in it? It is just the peak of delusional absurdity.
The reason why Mr Turnbull still insists on pursuing these matters, even though the rest of the world and everyone in Australia knows it's over, is because Mr Turnbull doesn't have a plan for Australian jobs. If he wants to be genuine about fighting for jobs, he should stand up for Australian apprenticeships, he should clamp down on dodgy visas when you've got people coming in taking Australian jobs, which we could be training Australians to do.
I might ask Jason Clare to talk a bit further about the trade implications and Mr Turnbull's lack of a policy.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT: Thanks, Bill, happy to do it. It's great to be here with Bill and Murray here in Rocky. Well as we know overnight Donald Trump has signed an executive order withdrawing from the TPP. That means the TPP is dead and Malcolm Turnbull's credibility on this issue is not in much better shape. Remember, last week he made a big song and dance saying that his big plan to create jobs this year was to introduce legislation and to implement the TPP. Donald Trump's decision overnight means that legislation wouldn't have any effect at all. It wouldn't create one job. Legislation introduced to implement an agreement with America in it has no effect if America pulls out and that's important to understand when understanding the TPP.
And Malcolm Turnbull, in his heart of hearts, actually knows this. That's why they're now talking about a plan B agreement that doesn't involve America. So you can't very well introduce legislation into the Parliament to implement plan A when they're now going off trying to develop plan B. I think Donald Trump's decision overnight to issue this executive order also makes a mockery of Malcolm Turnbull's claims that somehow he could change Donald Trump's mind. Well, he can't, it's over, he has got to move on.
And I heard Malcolm Turnbull just moments ago was saying that he still thinks Donald Trump might change his mind. Well he's either deluded or he's deliberately lying to the Australian people. He's acting like that pet shop owner in that Monty Python parrot sketch. It's not dead, it's just resting. Well the TPP is dead and we've got a problem in this country. We've got unemployment going up, we've got economic growth going down and we need a prime minister with a plan to create real jobs. That means go out there and sign us up to trade agreements that will create jobs in Australia, not a puerile, domestic debate about a dead agreement that won't.
JOURNALIST: Will you accept a cyber security briefing from the PM?
SHORTEN: Labor has always taken under my leadership, a bipartisan approach on national security, and that's what Australians expect us to do. So I’m incredibly disappointed that Malcolm Turnbull has broken the convention of Australian politics on national security and chosen to brief a newspaper before he's even spoken to the Opposition about cyber security.
Malcolm Turnbull must learn to stop playing politics, rushing out trying to get a hurried headline to distract from his lack of a plan on jobs. I mean after the Census fiasco, who can forget that, you would have thought this Government would have learnt a lesson on important issues like cyber security and not play politics. We will sit down and work with the Government as we always have, but sometimes Malcolm Turnbull should learn not to play politics and instead just work with the Opposition on something as fundamental as cyber security.
JOURNALIST: How concerned are you that Australian elections could be vulnerable to the (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Cyber security is an absolutely number one issue in the national security debate. But I’m concerned that we've got a prime minister who would rather rush out and try and grab a quick headline in the newspaper rather than sit down and talk to the Opposition. Wherever I travel in Australia people say Bill surely there are some issues where you can just work with the Government and be above politics. Number one I believe on that is national security. Why doesn't Malcolm Turnbull want to have a political debate that is about our jobs plan versus his. Instead just sort of grandstanding on national security, I don’t think that's the way to go. We'll work with the Government, we always have, we always do and we always will.
JOURNALIST: Are there any aspects of that briefing that you believe should have been kept confidential and not sent to the media?
SHORTEN: I think the public have a right to know, and the media have got a right to report but I also think that when it comes to national security these are not political footballs to be kicked around. Everyone knows that Malcolm Turnbull has had a shocking start to the year. He's lost ministers over expense rorts, we've had pensioners and Centrelink recipients treated as quasi criminals, he staked everything last week on a Trans Pacific Partnership which wasn't going to happen and I said that. Malcolm Turnbull's lost the plot and it's not even the end of January. Now what he's doing is he's playing national security games, trying to pretend how strong he is on that.
The fact of the matter is that he should sit down and work with us. I promise Australians in 2017 that where the Government and I can see eye-to-eye, and national security surely should be number one; keeping Australians safe, we will work with the Government and then that's the best way forward. We have got to show a united front to those that would do Australia harm, not have this divided approach that Malcolm Turnbull is trying to sort of pump-up his political muscles a bit when he hasn't got a plan for jobs.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe there's enough resources in place to protect political parties from cyber-attacks?
SHORTEN: No, I do think this is an issue which does have to be worked on. I think the issue is a legitimate issue but what I just say to Malcolm Turnbull is not everything is a political game. Not everything should be just fodder for the, you know, 'he said, she said' because that is what is turning people off main-stream politics. I say to Malcolm Turnbull we will work with you on national security. To be honest, I even worked better with his predecessor, Tony Abbott than I have with Malcolm Turnbull. At least Tony Abbott knew on some matters, we've got to get the policies right and work as a united front. So, on cyber security, sure we will work with the Government. They are right to say it is an issue but I just wish they would follow a bit of the standard conventions of working with us rather than trying to score the political headline first off.
JOURNALIST: Should the Defence Force be able to acquire land at Shoalwater Bay for a military expansion?
SHORTEN: Well, so far my colleagues and I have not seen the case, the national security case made out for compulsory acquisition of land. We all know that this announcement happened right on the eve of the election. It reeks of a snap decision, shooting from the hip on a sensitive issue. You could tell it was rushed out in an dishonest fashion without the detail being out there - more about buying votes than necessarily thinking through the detail. So Labor will be constructive. We are meeting with the land owners, and my colleagues have already been doing that. We've got to ask the question; is it the right decision to acquire all these prime pastoral land? Now, we want the Singapore deal but the question has to be asked, surely there is way to have the Singapore deal without demolishing our beef industry in the region. We need to do and find out is there a better alternative? Is there an equally sensible alternative which will deliver the outcomes of our relationships with Singapore but also preserve the beef industry and the rights of land owners and I don't think the Government has exhausted that process. So, my sympathies are with the land owners. They have been treated as political mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed you-know-what by the Government and we’ll sort it out - that's our promise.
JOURNALIST: The Defence Minister was here yesterday to meet with a couple of land holders (inaudible). Your thoughts on that?
SHORTEN: It's not always possible for someone to meet with everyone but for me what matters is the Defence Minister came and Defence Minister went and what happened? Nothing. It's just the constant promise to 'we will look into the rear-vision mirror and see where we have been'. No, I think Labor has got the right approach. Listen to the land owners and that's why we’re meeting some of them today. I think we need to see a lot more evidence on the table. What's the case for compulsory acquisition? There is nothing more serious than compulsory acquisition and I think it is important to see the national security case. I think it is important to find out is it possible to retain the Singapore arrangements which are good, without compromising our beef industry. I have seen the reports that we are going to see land shut off which would allow up 70,000 cattle to otherwise be raised on this fertile land. Surely this country is smarter than this sort of shoot from the hip, cynical vote buying exercise. We are not going to reward the Government's sort of lazy, shoot from the hip approach and simply rubber-stamp their approach. We will listen to people. We will do what this Government hasn't done, we will get the facts and the evidence lined up and work with people to make the most informed decisions in the interest of our country and the region.
JOURNALIST: If Labor was in power, would these acquisitions be going forward?
SHORTEN: We need to see the evidence. The fact of the matter is that the Government is the one with the information. Does anyone seriously believe that it was just a coincidence that the Singapore arrangement was announced just before the election was called? I'm sorry, but this Government doesn't have a great track record of putting the facts ahead of the politics and ladies and gentlemen, just wrapping up this press conference, this is the problem in 2017 with the Turnbull Government. It's all about the politics. We've seen the trade agreement, which everyone in the world knew was a dead duck, we've seen Malcolm Turnbull sort of lose the plot and attack Labor for killing the deal. Malcolm Turnbull should be brave enough to criticise Donald Trump for what he is criticising me for, because it's Donald Trump who has killed this trade agreement. But do we think our Prime Minister will be brave enough to reprimand him? I don't think so. That's the problem - Malcolm Turnbull is worried about his own job and not the jobs of ordinary Australians.
Thanks, everybody. Sorry, is there any local questions? Yes, sorry, just local questions.
JOURNALIST: Yes, ok sure. You said jobs for central Queensland, what needs to happen? Is it Adani that will bring those jobs here or something more (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Well, we have several points on our jobs plan already but what I want to stress is we are here today to listen and I might talk to that bit first. I was talking to some of the adult apprentices, people who are in their 20s and 30s, are willing to take a lower wage to gain new skills. What I want to do is be a nation that encourages lifelong learning and there were some outstanding examples of people here, they should be really encouraged. So adult apprentices are a part of our plan.
I think that when the Commonwealth allocates big contracts, construction contracts, manufacturing contracts - we should require that at least 10 per cent of the workforce working on these contracts are apprentices. I think it is long overdue to clamp down on the use temporary visa workers which is just a lazy way of not training our own Australians.
I do think it is also important that we get behind our TAFE system and private providers to make sure that we are encouraging young people that they don't just have to go to university to get ahead, they can get a trade.
We also think that Adani could have significant benefits if it commercially stacks up. Also, I think that when it comes to – and our education system is fundamental to that, are we giving our kids the right skills no matter where they live in Australia to be able to compete for the jobs of the future. So, we are working on our plans but one thing is for sure, when it comes to standing up for jobs, the alternative is very clear today. You can go on this sort of delusional crusade that Malcolm Turnbull is having, to resuscitate a trade agreement with America which Donald Trump has got rid of or you can back in Labor's sensible and measured approach to build Australian, to buy Australian and of course, employ Australian.