TUESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to put local jobs first; media reform
CATHY O'TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It's great to have Bill Shorten back in Townsville for his 20th visit to regional Queensland. Today, we have been walking around talking to the young men and women who were studying here at Tec-NQ doing their vocational education training studies in electrical work, automotive work, engineering work. These young people are the future of our country and it was just magnificent to talk with them today and hear about their aspirations, their jobs, the jobs they want in the future in apprenticeships - local apprenticeships, to be able to live here with their families and create their own lives as they move into their future.
So it gives me great pleasure to welcome Bill Shorten and also Shayne Neumann, our Immigration spokesperson, and welcome them to our country. It's a wonderful place to be on a beautiful spring day.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Cathy, and it's great to be back for my 20th visit to regional Queensland this year. And tonight, I'm looking forward to another town hall meeting where we invite the public to come along and not only ask us questions but I want to hear from the people of North Queensland about their great ideas for the future of this marvellous town and this marvellous region.
But as I travel all around, not just regional Queensland, but regional Australia, one message is repeated to me time and time again - it's all about the jobs. Look after the jobs, find and create jobs. That is the big message that we're getting here and every other part of Australia.
Now, of course, it's an acute issue in a town like Townsville. When the economy is going strongly Townville is flourishing, but when things are tough then Townsville has to dig deep. And with an unemployment rate of 10.1 per cent, and with a youth unemployment rate of 16.1 per cent, there is a real appetite for positive, constructive plans about jobs. And that's why Cathy O'Toole, our Labor Member for Townsville, got me to come and have a look at Tec-NQ and I'm very grateful to Josh and Kaine for showing me around here, meeting the trainers, meeting the fellow students, meeting the very committed staff.
Part of Labor's plan for jobs in North Queensland is to prioritise apprenticeships. It's very disturbing that under the LNP in Canberra, we're down 130,000 apprenticeship places on what there were three years ago.
The young people here who are studying and falling in love with the trades deserve a government in Canberra who is as optimistic about the future as they are.
And what we also see happening in North Queensland, is we hear constant reports of people coming in from overseas, by aeroplane, coming on temporary guest worker visas and taking Australian jobs which could be done by locals.
That's why I've been talking today to industry about saying we're going to toughen the rules on visas which give work rights to overseas labour. It doesn't matter to me where someone comes from; what we need to understand is that the economy has changed. The mining boom has ended. Unemployment is up on what it was three and four years ago. Now is not the time to have slack visa requirements which allow boilermakers, electricians, carpenters, other trades, mechanics - and not just those - nurses, cooks, you name it. What we need to do here is to prioritise Australian jobs first. We need to prioritise properly funding apprenticeships, giving young people the opportunity to fulfil their future.
We're always going to have some guest workers as part of our economy, but when the economy slows down as it has, when the economy is rebounding from the mining boom, now's not the time to have slack laws which aren't enforced. Now is the time to prioritise Australian jobs, and we're going to do it by toughening the rules around visas and saying to those employers who have a need to employ overseas labour, that they should have a training plan to give locals a go.
We can make our economy work in the interests of all Australians, but what Mr Turnbull needs to do is stop worrying about his own job and start worrying about the jobs of North Queenslanders and Australians generally, and Labor has got a plan from TAFE right through to clamping down on rorts and exploitation of the visa system.
I mean, when we saw this morning in one of the big media outlets, the whole-scale organising, rorting of the visa system; that's not on. When people are coming here, being exploited and working for a few dollars an hour and this is a whole-scale problem, then the system needs to change and Labor is up for that change.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what evidence do you have that 457 visa workers are taking Australian jobs?
SHORTEN: Well you only just have to talk to construction workers for example, you only have to see the rate of complaints which are coming into the Fair Work Ombudsman - it's not just 457 visas. You may be surprised to know that we grant visas for visitors to come to this country and there's nearly a million of them which have - carry with them work rights in this country. Enough is enough.
When we've got unemployment and over 700,000 Australians recording they can't find any work, when we've got over a million of our fellow Australians not getting enough hours of work, now's not the time to have a visa with work rights system which essentially is seeing Australians replaced.
I might get Shayne Neumann, my Shadow Immigration spokesperson to talk further about some of the problems we're seeing in the system.
NEUMANN: Thanks, Bill. There's been numerous reports that have come down in the last year or so from Parliamentary reports to the recent CEDA report, as well as the Fair Work Ombudsman Report that talks about the numerous complaints.
About one in ten complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman comes from temporary worker arrangements where people are being exploited, harassed. So we saw recently situations where people have been underpaid, harassed, sexually harassed.
The exploitation in areas such as agriculture, hospitality, retail are big challenges, but what we need to do is make sure that we prioritise Australian jobs so Australian job tests, proper labour market testing, proper advertising, and a prioritisation on local jobs here in Queensland, in the North, in Townsville and elsewhere is really important.
There's plenty of evidence to say there's been exploitation in the areas not just in 457s, but working holiday and work and holiday visas. We want to make sure we clamp down on that exploitation, but prioritise training for Australians and jobs for Australians.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Shayne. Are there other questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister's attacking you for your record and granting the most 457 visas as Employment Minister. How do you defend that?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, four years ago we had a thing called the mining boom. Four years ago unemployment was much lower. How out of touch is Malcolm Turnbull if he hasn't worked out that the world has changed.
Labor's saying that we need to toughen the rules. We toughened the rules even back then. It was I who pushed for labour market testing and making sure that the regulators - we had a tough cop on the beat.
Malcolm Turnbull's been missing in action when it comes to the issue of worker exploitation. Let's be perfectly straight here, Malcolm Turnbull needs to get out of the Sydney harbourside and start visiting regional Australia and talk to blue collar workers, talk to boilermakers, talk to tilers, talk to plasterers, talk to carpenters, talk to people who work in hospitality, talk to the farms and where we see some of these problems.
The fact of the matter is, that when you've got a queue of unemployed Australians, when you've got a queue of young unemployed Australians, what we need to be doing there is not gutting TAFE, not making it too hard or too expensive to go to university, making sure that we're actually standing up for Australian apprenticeships, making sure that when taxpayer money is spent it's spent on local contracts in the regions.
No, no Mr Turnbull's got to recognise that the times have changed and he needs to stand up and start worrying about the jobs of his fellow Australians, not just his own job or him and Tony Abbott and that ongoing civil war.
JOURNALIST: Is your Australia first approach to jobs inspired by Donald Trump's campaign tactics?
SHORTEN: My approach to standing up for Australian jobs is inspired by 125 years of Labor Party tradition. My approach to standing up for Australian jobs and fair and secure conditions is based upon 25 years of representing workers and standing up for working families. My approach to Australian jobs is based upon the simple truth that where you've got a lot of unemployed Australians, why on earth have we got a visa system which is allowing the sort of rorts and exploitation that we hear about from building sites, to hospitality, to the farms and we're hearing about them as recently as this morning.
Mr Turnbull needs to stop acting for the global economy, talking about the easy movement of labour around the world, and recognise that what Australians want, is they want to make sure that their kids are getting a fair crack at the jobs that go here.
We will always have guest workers and we accept that, but when you've got unemployment in the high five per cents, when you've got 700,000-plus unemployed Australians, when you've got a million Australians-plus who are recording that they're in insecure work, they're casualised, they'd like more permanency, we will stand up for Australian jobs and no amount of out of touch rhetoric from Mr Turnbull is going to deter us from standing up for Aussie jobs.
JOURNALIST: What's your view on the CFMEU's pay deal with Lendlease and should there be an industry watchdog?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, you've got the Government and the conservative commentators and Mr Turnbull - why is it that they are upset about what a crane driver, or a rigger, or a scaffolder or bobcat operator gets on a construction site, yet they turn a blind eye to what's going on in executive remuneration in the big banks?
Why is it that Mr Turnbull and his conservative cronies are always complaining about wage rises for blue collar workers, men and women who earn less than $80,000 a year, if they didn't have any overtime, less than $60,000 a year if they didn't have any overtime. Why is it that Malcolm Turnbull gets the microscope out to examine the wage rises of blue collar tradies and subcontractors, yet he wants to give a $17,000 tax cut to a millionaire?
Why is it that Mr Turnbull is so obsessed about some Australians getting modest wage rises when in fact the problem in Australia is that people are getting no wage rises, yet at the same time he turns his back on a Royal Commission into the banks, we've got a remuneration system in our banking sector at the top end which rewards profit over people.
Mr Turnbull should stop worrying about what tradies and subbies are getting paid and start worrying about finding jobs for their kids.
JOURNALIST: What's happening in regional Australia, why isn't unemployment improving?
SHORTEN: I think we've got a government in Canberra who are asleep at the wheel. Cathy O'Toole and I will being talking to industry again later today here. We think it's important that when the Commonwealth spends taxpayer money, some of that comes back to the regions.
We think it's important that you have a world-class NBN so local businesses can connect into opportunities in our region. We think it's important that TAFE gets the lion share of funding out of Canberra, rather than some of the shonky private vocational education providers. We think it's important that when you have defence contracts, that whilst they may be allocated nationally, there's a requirement to have a local component. We think it's important that you stand up for the Australian steel industry, of course there’s a lot of steel manufacturing in the regions.
Labor is not going to stop advocating for the regions. We've got to make sure in this country that your postcode doesn't determine your success in life. That's why we want to also make sure in the regions you've got properly funded Medicare, so that you don't have to move to Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane to get a basic level of health care. We also want to make sure that kids in country schools and regional schools get the same educational opportunities as their peers the big cities.
JOURNALIST: Going back to the visas, do you think locals really want these hard labour jobs?
SHORTEN: I think Australians are very hardworking. Let's not put an argument that says that a tiler, or a plasterer, or a cook, or a boilermaker who's unemployed in Australia, is unemployed because they're lazy.
No, this is an argument used by those who just want to totally deregulate the labour market - anything goes. We've seen what happens when you deregulate the labour market, it's called 7-Eleven and Pizza Hut. We've seen what happens when you have a Liberal Government in charge, you see the whole-scale exploitation and rorting of the visa system.
Mr Turnbull is attacking Labor for standing up for Australian jobs. What does he think his job description is? His job description is to stand up for Australian jobs and if he doesn't want to, he should move out of the way and listen carefully to our very good ideas.
JOURNALIST: Just on media laws, there have now been two Senate committee reviews of the proposed media reform bill, both have supported abolition of the two out of three rule along with the reach rule, so exactly why is Labor standing in the way of the total reform package?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the Government's media reforms only go to two issues and they've ignored a whole lot of other issues, so it doesn't go anywhere near touching the sides of proper reform. Labor's said that we're happy to compromise in terms of the reach rule. In terms of two out of three rule, we want to maintain media diversity, we don't want to see a greater concentration. We're concerned that if you abolish the two out of three rule you'll see greater concentration in the cities and the closing of local media bureaus as you get larger, more powerful media operations out of the big cities.
Thanks, everybody. See you at the town hall meeting.