MONDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for jobs & apprenticeships; superannuation; John Key; Malcolm Turnbull’s Direct Action fig leaf; healthcare; Warren Mundine
TIM WATTS: Good morning. I'm delighted to welcome Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition to the Victoria University Polytechnic Trades Training Centre here in Sunshine in Melbourne's West today.
I'm really proud that Bill has come here today to talk about Labor's plan to put Australian jobs first, and to listen to young Australians doing exactly what we want them to do: investing in themselves, building up their skills, getting the training that they'll need to get jobs in the new modern economy. And just walking on the shopfloor of this fantastic facility, we heard the stories of what these young Australians are looking for from their government. They want a government that's on their side, that is supporting them in getting this training at a facility like this, and ensuring that there's the apprenticeships available in the private sector for them to move into fulltime work - and that's what Labor's doing.
I'm really proud that Labor is buying Australian; building Australian; employing Australian; requiring one out of ten jobs on national Commonwealth projects to be apprenticeships; ensuring that temporary foreign labourers aren’t coming in and taking the jobs that people investing in their own training here will want to do in the future. So on that note, I'm very proud to hand over to Bill Shorten to talk a little bit about what we've seen today. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tim, and welcome everyone to Melbourne's Western Suburbs. It's great to be here at VU Polytechnic talking to apprentices and trainers as we train the workforce of the future.
Tim and I are here today because Labor supports TAFE and we support local jobs. Mr Turnbull has no plan for TAFE and no plan for local jobs.
Australia cannot create the prosperity that we hope for in the future unless we have a well skilled workforce. And we will not have a well skilled workforce unless we're providing apprenticeships for young people and for adults to retrain.
The key to our prosperity is to make sure that we have a skilled workforce for the jobs of the future. Apprenticeships and trades are very important to Australia's economic and job make-up. We do not want to become a cheap paid nation doing meaningless jobs. That is why it is important that we arrest the decline of the last three and a half years of the Liberal Government where we've lost 130,000 apprenticeship places. At the same time, this Government has issued 140,000 457 visas which allow guest workers to come in from overseas but they're not doing enough, the Liberals, to train our local workforce.
I want Australian parents to be confident that their sons and daughters at Year 11 and Year 12 and beyond, can get the opportunity to do a trade. Trades are still fundamental to Australia's future. We also want to make sure that adults, who are being dislocated by change or seeking to do new skills, can get the opportunity to do TAFE training. That's why only Labor has a plan to support local jobs, to crackdown on dodgy visa schemes, to crackdown on dodgy private providers - and whilst there's some good ones, there are some who've been very poor.
And it's only Labor who's saying that we should put more apprentices into government funded projects and that we should be supporting TAFE a lot more than we currently are. Tim and I are happy to take questions on this. And I congratulate again the apprentices, trainees and trainers at this excellent Western Suburbs training facility.
JOURNALIST: While we're on the topic of workers and their future, how alarmed are you, how concerned are you, about a recent study showing a third of workers has been short changed on their superannuation, and what do you think should be done about that?
SHORTEN: I think it's pretty scandalous to find out that 2.4 million Australians who go to work are not receiving their correct superannuation. That's about a third of all Australians who are eligible for superannuation. This damaging report today reveals that on average Australian workers are being underpaid $1,489 per year or about four months’ worth of their superannuation.
Let's be really straight here and call it for what it is, when employers keep the superannuation they're obligated to pay employees, they're borrowing money, they’re ripping off their employees to help the company's cash flow. The problem is that this is actually a short-term outcome. One, workers are entitled to the pay they receive, it's compulsory. Two, this undermines retirement incomes for Australians in the future. If Australians do not have enough money to retire upon, then the taxpayer will still have to pay more in the larger pensions bill. And thirdly, the Government needs to start taking some real action. We need to change some of the laws, where currently you get your superannuation paid four months after you've earned it. Now the problem with this arrangement is that quite often you can get a lot of detail and money fall between the cracks of when it's earned and when it's actually being paid.
This is a Government who has got a lot to say about building workers' wages but has nothing to say about looking after the superannuation of ordinary Australians. This Government has had a lot to say about unions but it does nothing to protect millions of Australians’ wages & conditions. This is a Government who will protect big banks from a Royal Commission, yet it does nothing to stand up for ordinary Australians’ superannuation.
At the end of the day, superannuation is the employees' money, it's not the company's money - but Mr Turnbull, he just doesn't seem to care.
JOURNALIST: I have some breaking news that I was wondering if you'd like to comment on. Just hearing that the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has announced that he will stand down as his party’s leader and he is retiring, that there will be a meeting next Monday to select a replacement. Just hearing this news about John Key, do you have any thoughts or comments about him as a leader in New Zealand?
SHORTEN: John Key is from a different political party. But I think he's done a good job being Prime Minister in New Zealand. He certainly was a great friend of Australia. I wish him and his wife and his family very well. They've done a lot, John Key has done a lot to improve Australian New Zealand relationships. At the end of the day there is no closer friend to Australia than New Zealand and John Key has certainly been a great friend to Australia and I wish him well.
JOURNALIST: Have you had any personal dealings with him that..
SHORTEN: We have had dealings in the past, he was always a gentleman, he was, in my opinion a very civilised conservative, he wasn't pursuing some of the far right agenda that Australian Liberals pursue.
JOURNALIST: Let's talk about the electricity industry if you wouldn't mind, do you support a price on emissions for the electricity industry?
SHORTEN: Well we've proposed reform with the electricity industry because something has to be done. Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull's Direct Action policies are a flop. Malcolm Turnbull is a sell out on climate change. There's no doubt in my mind that what we need to do is be focusing on investing in renewable energy. This is a Government who is denied taking any real effective action on climate change and in the meantime, all we're doing is passing a bigger problem by not acting effectively on climate change to our children and to our grandchildren. I think the sweet spot that this Government needs to look at in climate change is focus on investing and renewable energy. Renewable energy will generate jobs, it'll generate investment, it'll allow consumers to have greater control over their power bills and it's good for the environment.
JOURNALIST: So do you support a price on emissions for the electricity industry?
SHORTEN: Well we've said, in the electricity industry, that we would support a modernisation plan. But to do that you've got to look at all of Labor's policy and that involved fundamentally a focus on renewable energy. Remember two, three months ago Malcolm Turnbull proverbially jumped the shark and he blamed renewable energy for causing the transmission problems in South Australia even though that towers, the transmission towers, were physically knocked over by cyclonic winds.
No this Government can't be trusted on climate change, Direct Action's a flop. Malcolm Turnbull's a sell out on climate change and the sweet spot of climate change is to invest in renewable energy.
JOURNALIST: Do you support a price on emissions for the electricity industry if it does result in driving up electricity prices?
SHORTEN: I think in the long run, you've got to have a total approach or you've got to have holistic approach on climate change. Modernisation of the electricity industry, got to have a look at land clearance, you've got to make sure you're investing in new technology, you've got to make sure that we're following through on investment in renewable energy.
At the same time we've got to keep an eye out for our emissions intensive trade exposed sector to make sure that they're not disadvantaged by changes in climate change policy.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor has a whole accept partial responsibility for the gas shortage now facing Australia, given it's a Labor Government in Victoria that's banned further gas industry development?
JOURNALIST: Do you still think a natural gas interest test would be enough to address the national crisis, or would you look at a national gas reserve?
SHORTEN: I think the interest test is sufficient for the circumstances.
JOURNALIST: The Productivity Commission has called for greater competition and consumer choice in areas such as public hospital and dental care. Is this worth exploring?
SHORTEN: I don't trust Malcolm Turnbull or the Liberals on privatisation of our healthcare system. In the last election we've warned against Malcolm Turnbull's ruthless cuts to Medicare. They said that that wasn't a fair criticism to make and as soon as the election's over, what are the Liberal's up to again? They haven't reversed their cuts to Medicare. They haven't reversed their cuts to bulk billing. And now they're openly toying with privatising our public hospital and dental system. When it comes to healthcare, it's too important to trust Mr Turnbull, his investment banker mates and their absolute addiction to privatisation.
JOURNALIST: Warren Mundine says he's been reappointed head of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council. Is he the right person for the job and has the right process been followed with his reappointment?
SHORTEN: We don't have all the details about what the Government's done on the appointment of that gentleman.
But I do notice that the Government's looking at dumping tens of thousands of people in their Green Army. People might remember that Mr Abbott's fig leaf for climate change was he was going to get a whole lot of people, unemployed people, to work on environmental projects. Now Mr Turnbull's in, apparently they're going to scrap this scheme. This is the policy chaos at the heart of the Liberal approach to jobs and the environment. Tony Abbott likes the idea, so Mr Turnbull trashes the idea and in the meantime we've got no clear policy on the environment or jobs.
And to finish off this press conference, I want to return to where we started. Labor's here today because we think that TAFE and publicly funded training, publicly funded training institutions are at heart of our plan for a productive, high skilled workforce. We believe in Australia in the last three years plus the unacceptable demise of 130,000 apprenticeship positions is not good for Australia, it's not good for apprenticeships, it's not good for our productivity. It's about time that Mr Turnbull and the Federal Government started having a positive attitude to training and a positive attitude to TAFE. Throughout 2017, Labor will work on a training plan for this nation because we think our apprentices, their families, the employers and Australian industry deserve nothing less than a very robust, well-funded TAFE sector and Labor's up for the job of standing up for apprenticeships.
Thank you everybody.