TUESDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Local jobs; cracking down on dodgy 457 visas; Adani; Direct Action review; Dick Smith; Labor’s priorities; Liberal Party divisions; Constitutional Recognition; Closing the Gap.
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY: Good morning everyone, can I thank Colin and the team at Qenos and Bill Shorten for visiting this very important site in our community. Qenos, this company, this site, has a very important legacy in our area. Good quality jobs and apprenticeships for locals. When I finished school, a lot of my mates came and worked on this industrial site and many of them still work here. Others who did their training here, got apprenticeships, went on to run businesses locally. This is a good quality employer, providing great jobs for locals in our area. The New South Wales Apprentice of the Year is currently working at this site here. It's demonstrates that we can create, grow and foster these jobs right here in Australia and they're important for Australian exports, for supply chains and ensuring our economy keeps growing. And I know that Bill Shorten, I've worked with Bill for 20 years, that Bill is committed to ensuring that these jobs stay in Australia, that we put locals first when it comes to good quality jobs like this and I'm very very pleased and proud that Bill has come here today to experience these jobs in our local community and I'll now hand over to Bill to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Matt and good morning everybody. It's great to be at Qenos Botany. Qenos and the workforce and management here prove that Australia can still be a country which makes things. The people who work here are part of hundreds of direct employees and contractors who are a vital part of Australia’s industrial supply network, and indeed there are 10,000 downstream jobs which depend upon the ongoing operations, productivity and efficiency of Qenos. This is a success story in Australia. It's a flat management structure, it's a safe business, it's a highly skilled, highly motivated workforce and the people here want to know that the Government and the Parliament is focusing on Australian jobs as their number one priority.
Australia’s number one priority is jobs, therefore it's my number one priority.
In the last three and a half years under Liberal administration we've seen a 130,000 apprentice places lost, gone. At the same time we've seen 140,000 people come here on temporary work visas, 140,000 457 visas have been issued at the same time as we're losing our own apprentices. Since the beginning of the year the Prime Minister’s overseen the creation of more part-time jobs and the loss of more full-time jobs. A generation of workers here want to make sure that there are blue collar, engineering, skilled manufacturing jobs for their kids. They want that to be their legacy, they just need a government in Canberra who is as committed to keeping jobs in Australia as the workforce here are.
That's why last week it was Labor leading the debate, leading the debate insisting that we need to crackdown on dodgy visas, leading the debate to make sure that we have more apprentices being trained in Australia. We should be a nation which teaches Australians skills. Not a nation skilled at importing other people to come and do jobs that can be done here by locals. Labor will fight for Australian jobs, always. I have to say that our plan for jobs contrasts with Mr Turnbull's. Mr Turnbull has a plan to protect big business and bankers, he just doesn't have a plan for apprenticeships and local jobs.
And indeed, the Liberal Party is not focusing on the jobs of Australians - they're just currently, even as late as today, focusing on a plan for their own jobs.
The Liberal Party is in meltdown under Malcolm Turnbull's leadership.
We've seen, yet again, Malcolm Turnbull know what he has to do on climate change but he simply can't lead his party. Yet again, another battle in the Liberal Party civil war. Yet again, Malcolm Turnbull, who's becoming not Australia's number one leader but Australia's number one follower.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Coalition is investigating carbon pricing for the electricity sector. Do you feel vindicated?
SHORTEN: Well, we know that the current Government has made a mess of tackling real action on climate change. Labor's made it clear that we won't be supporting a carbon tax - it's not our policy. But we do recognise that you've got to have fair dinkum policies on climate change. That's why we want to focus on renewable energy, making sure at the same time that our emissions intensive trade exposed businesses like Qenos aren't unfairly penalised.
Malcolm Turnbull knows that the Government's policies on climate change are a flop. He knows he's a sell-out. He knows he needs to do more on climate change but he just can't convince his party. Yet again, Malcolm Turnbull knows that the Government's not doing enough on climate change. Yet again, we see the right wing of his party staging another battle in the civil war for the leadership of the Liberal Party. And yet again, Malcolm Turnbull will wimp out and do exactly what he's told by the right wing of his party: that he doesn't have a plan to tackle climate change in Australia.
JOURNALIST: If the Government does pursue an emissions intensity scheme, will you support them in the interests of industry sustainability?
SHORTEN: Labor's said that we need to modernise our electricity industry. We will look carefully at whatever the Government proposes. But you wouldn't want to take a large bet on the chances of Malcolm Turnbull winning this fight. We've all see what happens when Malcolm Turnbull tries to take any issue in the national interest. They float ideas in the background in the media, the right wing of the Liberal Party then rebel and then Malcolm Turnbull ends up the loser.
Malcolm Turnbull can't be trusted on climate change because he can't run his own party. And the real issue here is that you've got the Liberal Party in meltdown over Malcolm Turnbull's leadership.
In the last 24 hours we've seen no less than three battles where you've got the Liberal Party at war with their Liberal leader. You've got the gun law reform, where you've got the Deputy Prime Minister taking his party in a different direction on gun control to Malcolm Turnbull. You've got Tony Abbott up in arms over Mr Turnbull trashing his Green Army scheme. And today, you've got a revolt from the right wing of the Liberal Party, basically putting Malcolm Turnbull on notice that he can't take any serious action on climate change.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, should the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund loan $1 billion for Adani's rail line?
SHORTEN: If the Adani coal mine stacks up commercially then we welcome the jobs that it will provide in Northern Queensland. In terms of accessing taxpayer money through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, we haven't seen the case made out for that. The deal should stand up under its own commercial merits. Having said that, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund is so far just a big ball of hot air. Not a single dollar has been lent to any project in Northern Australia so I wouldn't be holding my breath to see what the Government does.
JOURNALIST: Dick Smith came out today in support of Pauline Hanson's stance on immigration. What are your views on that?
SHORTEN: Well, Dick Smith is entitled to his opinion. But for me, what really matters is what are the policies on jobs, Medicare and keeping our banks in line?
What Labor says to Sydney, what Labor says to Australia, is that our number one priority is jobs, jobs and jobs. We believe in the creation and maintenance of well-paid jobs. We want to have safe and secure jobs. We want to have policies which help keep a business like Qenos in business. So our priority is jobs.
Our second priority obviously, is Medicare and making sure that this Government doesn't make the price of health care unaffordable for middle-class and working-class Australians.
And we think another important priority for national political debate is a banking Royal Commission. Two of the Big Four banks – Westpac and NAB – now that Parliament has risen have just announced - Two of the Big Four banks, now the Parliament's risen and avoiding the scrutiny of Mr Turnbull's toothless tiger, the parliamentary committee, have now said they're going to increase investment rates, that what they're going to do is charge people more for their mortgages. These big banks are out of touch and arrogant. They wait until Parliament has risen and when Parliament has written its report on the banks and then the next week, they decide to gouge their mortgage holders more. And what is the economic case for charging ordinary Australian home owners more for their mortgage? More profits for the banks.
I think what really matters in this country is having a political party who will stand up for Medicare, who will stand up for Australian jobs and will stand up to the big banks; and Labor is up for all those challenges.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has renewed his Indigenous advisory council for just a month. Should Warren Mundine remain chairman and should its work change going into next year?
SHORTEN: We will have a look at what the Prime Minister has decided here. What matters in Indigenous Australia is making sure that young people are more likely to get a job than go to jail, that they get a quality education and that we close the health gap.
I also have to say, as Mr Turnbull is making appointments, I just put him on notice: do not appoint the Attorney-General George Brandis to some high paid judicial job; no golden parachute for him to go to London.
The real challenge here in the Liberal Party isn't the issue of who they appoint to run an Indigenous council.
The real issue is that this is a Government at war with itself. They have got a discredited Attorney-General looking for a golden parachute out of that job over the Christmas break when they think no one is watching. They have got Tony Abbott at war with Malcolm Turnbull because Malcolm Turnbull took the wrecking-ball to one of Mr Abbott's signature schemes. They have got a Liberal Party who won't let Mr Turnbull do what he knows he should do on climate change, which is have some fair dinkum policies. And they've got the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister at war with each other about watering down gun laws.
Mr Turnbull needs to start focusing on the jobs of Australians, not just his own job. It is not a good prospect this Christmas, as we head towards the Christmas break, that the Liberal Party is having yet again another battle in their civil war in the Liberal Party. And the one thing we can predict is that whenever Mr Turnbull wants to do something for the nation, he will end up losing the battle in his own party.
One more question please.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, both you and the Prime Minister have called on the Referendum Council to finish its work as soon as reasonably practicable. Is it taking too long? And is a referendum off the table for next year?
SHORTEN: I believe that our first Australians should be included in our Constitution. The Constitution is, sort of the nation's birth certificate so I think it is important that we include all Australians within it.
I believe the Referendum Council is doing a good job. They're going to do a series of consultations up to May and June next year. They should be allowed to do that work.
The real issue about constitutional change is making sure that both Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians support the change and that's where my focus is, and it is one of the areas where Malcolm Turnbull and I are working very closely together. It is long overdue to include our first Australians in the Constitution.
Thanks everybody, have a lovely day.