MONDAY, 16 JANUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Australian jobs; Trans-Pacific Partnership; parliamentarians’ work expenses.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's very good to be here at A.W.Bell this morning, a wonderful manufacturing firm here in South Dandenong in my electorate. And to be able to welcome Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, to show him around with Sam Bell who was here with us before. A terrific business that has transformed itself over the last 15 or 20 years from a 100 per cent automotive business to now a firm that is making parts, high-end metal castings for the defence industries, for aerospace, for biomedical for a range of purposes and it is the future of Australian manufacturing. That kind of specialised, very high-end work that is providing jobs for Australians. That is why Bill is here today, and I will throw to Bill for him to talk a bit more about what he has seen at A.W.Bell here in Dandenong South. Thanks very much.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Mark and happy new year to everybody. This is the first day back for me from my annual leave. I am fired up and refreshed and I am starting the way I intend to play the whole of this year, talking about Australian jobs. It is great to be here at a family business, A.W.Bell, a success story. A family business who competes with the world and manufactures quality product for the world, from aerospace, right through to defence.
I am here today because Labor intends to make, as its number one issue for 2017, the fight for Australian jobs. We will be talking about building Australian first, making Australian first and employing Australians first. That is why I have picked A.W.Bell to start my year of work. because this is a story that Australians can compete with the world in engineering, with apprenticeships, in blue-collar and manufacturing callings, and compete in the high-tech advanced manufacturing space which is Australia's blue-collar manufacturing future.
For Labor, it is all about Australian jobs. I have to say, as Malcolm Turnbull, my opposite number, returns off his leave, he has suffered a summer of scandal and stuff-up. I watched with disbelief some of the mess which occurred in Centrelink, where people were being pursued for debts that they simply didn't owe. We saw the expenses scandal, with Sussan Ley, which actually affects and decreases Australians' confidence in all politics, and of course we see the pension cuts being experienced by hundreds of thousands of Australian pensioners.
My focus this year is on standing up for Australian jobs. I think my opposite number's focus is just fighting for his own job.
Happy to take questions on manufacturing jobs and any other matter.
JOURNALIST: It is an issue related to jobs. Is Labor committed to pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
SHORTEN: Well, here the Government go again, they're worrying about the things they can't affect, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and they’re talking about all the wrong issues. Donald Trump, now President, has made it clear he's not going to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So why on earth is Malcolm Turnbull taking us down a frolic on a treaty which the Americans are never going to sign?
I think Mr Turnbull should be focusing on matters closer to home. Standing up for Australian jobs, encouraging more Australian apprenticeships, getting behind the metal manufacturing sector, making sure there is a plan to pick up all the dislocated and displaced car workers who are losing their jobs at Holden this year. In 2016, we lost 50,000 full-time jobs in Australia. I don't want to see a repeat of that this year. We will work with Mr Turnbull, but we will work on the things that matter, which is fighting for Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: Just to be absolutely clear, Labor won't support the TPP?
SHORTEN: Well, when you talk about the TPP, it takes two to dance. The Americans aren't even up for the dance. This is just a classic distraction by a man who has no plan for Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: Should we be pursuing other deals then?
SHORTEN: Absolutely, we should be pursuing trade agreements. Trade is vital to Australia as a trading nation. But why on earth Mr Turnbull wants to tee off his year on a trade treaty with Donald Trump who said that he's not going to sign it is beyond me. It is a waste of time.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson has tweeted this morning she has been gifted tickets to the Presidential inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump in a few days time. Have you been gifted tickets yourself?
SHORTEN: No. What I have to say is that what we need to do in Australia is we can worry about what Donald Trump does or doesn't do, but in the meantime, we need to focus on Australian jobs. This summer when I was on a break, people wanted to know can their kids get apprenticeships? Older Australians who might have lost their jobs want to know what can we do to help them be able to re-enter the job market?
Last year we lost 50,000 full-time jobs in Australia. By the end of this year, we won't be making Australian motor cars at Holden anymore. The real fight is for Australian jobs and that is why it is important that all of us in politics work together to buy Australian, to build Australian and to employ Australian.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is headed to Queensland to campaign for two days, do you plan on heading there yourself and what are the key issues?
SHORTEN: I will be travelling all over Australia, that is what I do. But the key issue for Australians is jobs. It is about Australian jobs, it's making sure that we use taxpayer money wisely, to back in Australian manufacturers. It's about giving our young Australians the opportunity not just to go to university, but to learn a trade. It is also making sure that older Australians in their 50s and 60s who want to work can still find a job and not be discriminated against. For me it is all about Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept that many Labor politicians, as well as Government MPs and Senators, have claimed entitlements which are within the rules but the public may see as excessive?
SHORTEN: I do believe that the Ley debacle hasn't just hurt the Coalition but it has hurt the reputation of politics. I take no joy when I see a debate about expenses in the way that we have seen it. Australians are sick and tired of politicians who rightly or wrongly they perceive to be serving their own interests and not the interests of the nation.
It is no coincidence that on my first day back I have made the trip to Dandenong South with Mark Dreyfus to talk about Australian jobs. What Australians want to see their parliamentarians do, they don't care whether they're Liberal or National or Labor, they want to see them fighting for the issues that matter to Australians.
This will be the year that we keep pushing for Australian jobs. This will be the year that Labor keeps standing up for Medicare, and the cuts to Medicare. This will be the year we keep pursuing our agenda for a Royal Commission into the banks. Australians want to see their parliamentarians stand up for the issues that affect Australians, not just serving their own interests.
JOURNALIST: To the heart of the question though, do you believe that Labor MPs have claimed entitlements that really wouldn't pass the pub test?
SHORTEN: I do not believe we have seen a widespread outbreak of what Sussan Ley has done – 36 or 37 nights on the Gold Coast just beggars belief. I do not believe that most parliamentarians are serving their own interests to that extent. But having said that, I don't see – and let's call it straight her – don't see that the Sussan Ley, Malcolm Turnbull issues actually serve the reputation of politics at all. I think it is no surprise that Australians get frustrated with the mainstream parties because they perceive that all the parliamentarians are behaving in the manner that we've seen the former Health Minister behave in.
Having said that, I will work with Malcolm Turnbull to reform the expenses regime of parliamentarians. And I tell you what, If he doesn't have changes ready to go when Parliament starts, we'll be up for making those changes. I will work with Malcolm Turnbull on that, but I think that there is more to be done in the reform space to improve peoples' confidence in Australian politics.
One is the expenses. Two is cleaning up political donations. It is not right that we have a regime where currently anonymous donors can give $10,000-plus to political parties and we can't find out their identity. It is not right that we still have foreign interests investing in Australian elections in the way they do. It's not right that we don't have real-time reporting. So for me, reform doesn't just stop at parliamentarians' expenses. It must include greater transparency, greater accountability on political donations.
And of course, no discussion about electoral reform, and rebuilding the confidence of Australians in the political process, can take place without having an open and honest discussion about a Federal ICAC. Before the last election there was a Senate committee set up to examine the existing capacities of the anti-corruption regime in Australian federal sphere of government. And I think we need to get that Senate committee back going again. Because we need to demonstrate to Australians that we're working for them, not just for ourselves.
JOURNALIST: You've offered your in-principle support for the Prime Minister's proposed entitlement changes and overhaul. Can you take us through that conversation?
SHORTEN: We spoke on Friday and certainly Labor had been thinking along similar lines to what Malcolm Turnbull announced on parliamentarians' expenses. But let's tell it straight in 2017. Just simply reforming parliamentarians' expenses isn't enough. We need to reform political donations and we need to have an open discussion, an honest and transparent discussion about a federal anti-commission [sic] body. We must examine how the existing system is working and what improvements can be made.
JOURNALIST: With the Prime Minister considering some frontbench changes thanks to Sussan Ley, do you have any plans to reshuffle your frontbench at this time? Do you have your best talent there?
SHORTEN: I didn't lose any of my ministers over summer to expenses scandals. Let's be clear, Malcolm Turnbull is having a reshuffle because he keeps losing ministers. This will be his fourth in 18 months. I am very fortunate to have a talented frontbench and a talented backbench and what we are all doing, regardless of our titles, is working on what is important to Australians. 2017 is the year where Labor fights back for Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, a recent poll has you leading 54-46. What is your confidence levels heading into the year?
SHORTEN: I don't need an opinion poll to tell me that Malcolm Turnbull and his government are out of touch. What matters to Australians is does a government have a plan for Australian jobs? What plan does the Government have to have Australian apprentices? What plan do we have to help older Australians who have fallen through the cracks and can't find a job? What plan do we have to have a Royal Commission into the banking sector? What plan do we have to fight for Medicare? What plan do we have to tackle renewable energy?
This is a Government who has no plan for anything except their own survival and Labor is going to use 2017 to further improve our policies, to prepare to be an alternative government. And at the centre of all of our strategies is a plan to help fight for Australian jobs.
Perhaps if there's a last question? If not –
JOURNALIST: Just going back onto the topic of the TPP, do you not think it is premature to write off the TPP given there are actually a variety of views within the US administration?
SHORTEN: Well, If you're asking me should I not take President Trump seriously when he says he's not going do a TPP, I'm not prepared to do that. He has made it very clear that he doesn't want to ratify a Trans-Pacific Partnership. That door has closed. It is now time for our government and our foreign policy planners to be looking at other options. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead in the water, and I do not know what the Government is pursuing that agenda when we have got other good things we can do in the space of trade and Australian jobs, which will deliver much more fertile and productive outcomes for Australians.