TUESDAY, 17 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans for advanced manufacturing jobs; AdeLINK project; Mr Turnbull’s dishonest scare campaigns; Penalty rates; US alliance; Tax records; Backpacker tax
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, it is great to be here at Axiom Precision Manufacturing with Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, with our Senate Leader of the Opposition Senator Penny Wong, with Nick Champion, our Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing and of course Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen. We're here today because Labor is committed to manufacturing and jobs in South Australia and right through Australia. It's a great pleasure for me this morning to be able to say that if Federal Labor is elected on July 2, we will commit nearly $60 million to help companies affected by the downturn in the automotive industry to be able to find new export industries to be able to generate new jobs. Labor does this because we want to work with progressive Governments like Jay Weatherill's to secure manufacturing for Australia. What we see as we walk through this marvellous and r emarkable operation is we see blue-collar jobs, highly skilled advanced manufacturing jobs backed in because of decisions made by Jay's Government to help back in companies trying to change and compete with the rest of the world and secure jobs for Australia. So Labor nationally will work with state governments to secure manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, the jobs of the future. We're also looking forward to later this morning, going to have a look at some of the public transport network of Adelaide. And in that vein I'm very pleased, along with Chris Bowen and Penny Wong and Nick Champion, Labor is announcing that if we are elected on July 2 we will commit $500 million in grant funding to secure AdeLINK, building a new network of tram services right through Adelaide to help ease congestion, to improve productivity, to help generate 2,000 new jobs. SA is the go-ahead State under Premier Weatherill. They're looking for new opportunities all the time but wh at they will get out of a Federal Labor Government after July 2 and what South Australians will get is a commitment to a Federal Labor Government investing in quality public transport in Adelaide, investing in new jobs for South Australia, and investing in manufacturing through the earlier announcement I mentioned. I'd now like to hand over to Jay to talk a little further and then I'll make other comments.
JAY WEATHERILL, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Thank you, Bill and it’s fantastic you’re here in South Australia. This one company tells the story of the South Australian economy. This is a company that was in the auto - the car manufacturing sector - and has now transitioned into the Defence sector, the medical devices sector and up marketing into some of the more sophisticated components in the car manufacturing sector - and they've done that with the support of the South Australian Government, they've done that because frankly they got busy diversifying their business before the decision was taken to actually close the car industry in this country. And in a very real sense, this transformation of this business reflects the transformation that's going on in the whole of the South Australian economy. I think we all agree that our economy needs to transform. The massiv e difference, though, between Labor and Liberal is that the Labor Party believes that there is a role for Government in supporting workers and businesses to make that transition. Just look at what we've seen here in SA. The car industry, the single-most important sector of the South Australian economy, was chased out of this State by a Federal Liberal Government. Without a plan, for what to put in its place. Now it's fortunate that companies like this had already got busy with the transformation but for many companies, they've been given a relatively short period of time to actually run their existing customer down to zero and then find new markets, create new products, to find a future for themselves and their workers. For many of them it will prove too difficult. That's why this investment in Federal Labor is absolutely certain. This the massive point of difference. Everyone's talking about the transformation of the economy. There's only one party, the Labor Party, that's talking about helping workers and businesses make that transformation. This is why this announcement is so crucially important for South Australia. I also want to talk about the tram announcement because there's a certain symmetry about the tram announcement being made and us talking about the future of the car industry. Back when the car industry began - part of the deal was to get rid our trams. All these years later with the closure of the car industry we are now talking about the recreation of our tram network. It’s another fantastic example of Labor investing in the transformation of the economy. Not just leaving South Australia to face this on its own. South Australia has managed to shame the federal government into giving us a defence contract that they promised to give us right from the start. But now we're standing here with Federal Labor who understands the challenges of a transforming economy. Bill Shorten has spent his wh ole working life advocating for working people. He understands what it means to look in the face of a worker who is facing redundancy, understanding what that means for them and their families. That's why he's with us today. That's why we should be supporting Labor at the upcoming federal election.
SHORTEN: Before I take questions, I just want to make some comments about Mr Turnbull and some of the dishonest things he's been saying about Labor. He has clearly decided that he is going to say as often as he can that Labor won't tackle the people smugglers and he's also clearly decided to say as often as he can that in the event of a hung parliament Labor would form a coalition with the Greens. There is no truth to any aspect or any detail of what he's saying. Mr Turnbull's clearly been told lies or he's telling lies. Whatever the case, he ought to stop and he ought to stop now. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten unions are demanding that you Protect penalty rates by any means necessary. Will you listen to them and enshrine penalty rates in law?
SHORTEN: The best way to protect penalty rates is to vote Labor on July 2. I know a thing or two about industrial relations, I’ve been protecting workers’ rights for 25 years in one form or another. I understand that our tried and tested conciliation and arbitration system, the independent umpire, is the best protection of low-paid and disadvantaged workers. We understand workplaces and when you stop to have a think about it you see the strength of the independent umpire. When you have hospitality workers, shop assistants, people working the difficult shifts of the late nights and weekends in a range of industries, they often individually lack bargaining power with the employer. What helps keep them in a position of penalty rates and shift allowances and the other benefits they have is their ability to use the conciliation and arbitratio n system. It was nearly 100 years ago that the first double-time rates for Sunday were proposed under Justice Higgins and since then the independent umpire has been a true friend of working people and their conditions. In this latest case, which only Labor bothered to put a submission in to, and from opposition which has never happened before, the evidence is overwhelming that penalty rates should be here to stay and I have no doubt that the independent umpire will do exactly that. What is really concerning is the cooperation or collusion, inadvertent perhaps, between the Greens and the Liberals. What the Greens are saying is, "Let's take away from the independent umpire and get the parliament making the decision," and what will happen then is the that there's only one Green in the House of Representatives out of 150. It is much more likely that Mr Turnbull's Liberals could form a Government than the Greens. Call me old-fashioned but we've got a ver y good independent umpire, or the alternative is giving the Liberals or conservatives in a future Government the power to cut penalty rates which they don't currently enjoy. The truth of the matter is that there's 61 Liberal MPs and candidates running for public office right now in this election. 61 who have said they want to cut penalty rates. So the short answer back to your question is the best way to protect penalty rates, the best way to protect the safety net of working people in this country, in my experience and the old-fashioned proven test of history, is to elect a Labor Government on July 2.
JOURNALIST: You've got the unions on one side as we heard and the Greens ramping up their campaign on the other side. How difficult and damaging is this to your campaign?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I don't accept the assumption that trade unions don't support the independent umpire - and for me, with all of my work history and standing up for working people, I understand this: If you want to protect penalty rates, do not vote for Mr Turnbull on July 2. This issue, that he has 61 people in his team who've already, on the record saying they want to cut penalty rates, is a very severe threat to working people. There's a very clear choice at this election. Do you go with the political party, Labor, who's backed penalty rates? We put in a submission from Opposition supporting and maintaining penalty rates. Or do you back the political party, the Liberals, who've in fact said they want to cut penalty rates? And we shouldn't give them easily the mechanism to be able to chop the independent umpire and if people think that there's any exaggeration about the threat that Malcolm Turnbull is to the independent umpire and the setting of penalty rates, have a look at what Malcolm Turnbull did to the truckies' tribunal in the last four weeks.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, we're talking about serious issues of industrial relations here, your industrial relations shadow’s around here in the background I think. You're sitting him in the naughty chair after yesterday's interview with Neil Mitchell. Why isn't he here?
SHORTEN: I've got my Shadow Treasurer, my Leader of the Opposition, I’m also talking about manufacturing and we're talking about jobs for South Australia. Brendan is doing plenty of interviews and the real issue here, Mark, is this: Why is it that the Liberal Party is proudly pushing 61 candidates who want to support cutting penalty rates? You've got Nick Xenophon who's been on the record wanting to cut penalty rates. If we want to protect penalty rates in Australia, you've got to protect the independent umpire and you've got to have a Labor Government. Our track record is standing up for the award system. We don't support the dismantling of the award system and we are not only saying this in the heat of an election, we put our position up in lights before the election, before the election is called. Mr Turnbull has got a team of right-wing conservatives who are itching to get their hands on people's penalty rates and if you don't want to lose your penalty rates, don't vote Liberal, vote Labor at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you described the Greens' position on penalty rates as dangerously naive this morning. Could I ask you about another Greens position? In a speech today the Greens are calling to reconsider the US alliance. They warn that it's a risk to national security, that it's a huge cost. Are you concerned by those comments? Is that another reason why you wouldn't do a deal with the Greens? What would the approach you would take to the US alliance be? Could you deal with Donald Trump as President? Could you deal with Hillary Clinton as President?
SHORTEN: I'll answer those four questions. First of all, when it comes to the Greens I think the Greens have got some silly positions on a range of matters. In terms of the American alliance, the Labor Party sees as part of our foreign policy the strong ongoing maintenance of the American alliance. In terms of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I have to say that if I was in America I would be voting for Hillary Clinton. Whoever America elects we'll deal with but there's no doubt in my mind that Trump would be very difficult, I think to deal with. But Australia, we will stick to the American alliance full stop.
JOURNALIST: In what way would he be difficult to deal with?
SHORTEN: Have you read what he's said?
JOURNALIST: Similarly, Donald Trump is refusing to release his tax records do you reckon Australian leaders should have to reveal their tax returns and would you be willing to do so?
SHORTEN: Well, it hasn't been the tradition but I've got nothing in my tax records which concerns me in the slightest.
JOURNALIST: The backpacker tax, we've got the decision by the Government to delay it by 6 months. What is Labor's attitude towards it? If the Government decides to keep it after the 6-month review, would you scrap it?
SHORTEN: I've got my Shadow Treasurer here. He'll go into detail with this matter, but the Budget was barely two weeks ago and the bits and pieces and the wheels are falling off it. What a shemozzle. Whenever the Government's got a tough issue from bulk billing to pathology, through to backpacker tax, they just desperately want to get through the election, this is a Government who cannot govern. Chris.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks, Bill. The Budget was brought down two weeks ago today. This is just more evidence that Scott Morrison's not up to the job of being Finance Minister of a G20 economy, being in charge of the economy of a G20 nation. Two weeks later, a Budget measure falls apart. The Government today has announced a delay. There's three tests for the Government. Will they back out the savings? Will they not include the savings in the pre-election economic forecast? Will they ensure that the sector is consulted going forward about the plans and will they, given this Government's track record, will they promise not to make it retrospective, given this Government's track record on superannuation, and will they instruct the tax commissioner today not to start collecting the tax? Now, Labor has been doing the sensible thing, myself, Joel Fitzgibbon, Anthony Albanese consulting with the sector. Now that we know the government's position, because there's been all sorts of rumours about what the Government might do over recent days, we've been waiting to see that. There've been rumours that they might delay it for six or twelve months, or they may have a different option. The appropriate thing to do was for us to wait and see what they did. We'll continue our consultations of course, with the sector. The sector is furious, quite rightly. Both tourism, agriculture, hospitality in regional areas in particular, this has been a body blow. This just again shows the Government is making this case that they somehow understand budgets. They have been completely not up to the job on what is a pretty basic measure, what is a pretty basic matter. We will have more to say about it. We'll continue our consultations but clearly the Government has completely lost control of this and two weeks later after the Budget, I mean, the s uperannuation measure is unravelling, the youth unemployment measure is under legal question, and now you've got this backpacker measure which the Government knew about because remember this was a measure in the 2015 Budget. They said they'd fix it in the 2016 Budget, they didn't, and two weeks late we see it unravelling.
JOURNALIST: Your Shadow Agriculture Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the idea should be killed off entirely. Are you at odds with his position?
SHORTEN: No, I'm not. The issue though is the Government proposed a Budget measure in 2015 and it met a great deal of scepticism and complaint. They've still tried to reheat it again in the 2016 Budget and they can't go two weeks without tripping over themselves. This is a Government who's out of touch with every day people and every day businesses. This a Government who's effectively led to an almost de facto strike by backpackers choosing to go to Canada and New Zealand rather than come to Australia. This a Government who doesn't know what they're doing. Doesn't matter if it's taxation, workplace relations, bulk billing, you name it, this Government is out of touch with everyday people.
JOURNALIST: Your jobs announcement, this is just money for Infrastructure Australia to study it, are you giving false promises to the people of Adelaide if it doesn't go ahead?
SHORTEN: What I'll do is I'll get Jay to supplement this answer from the position of South Australia. Labor believes it is appropriate to use scarce taxpayer dollars to help improve public transport of our cities. We've seen three years of Liberal Government with an effective sort of ban on public transport infrastructure investment. The truth of the matter is it's not good enough for Mr Turnbull to take selfies on trams, he's got to build public transport. What we're doing is providing grant funding for an idea which is well over due. The cost of congestion in South Australia and Adelaide is projected to increase four times to $4 billion. What the people of South Australia deserve is a Government in Canberra who's helping create a more liveable city, creating thousands of jobs in South Australia, helping provide options to co ngestion and therefore improving productivity, but I'll let Jay talk a bit further about this.
WEATHERILL: To your question, this is a massive contribution half a billion dollars to invest in our tram network. It will make a very substantial contribution to beginning that project. Obviously it is a very large project but that would fund at least one of the links to one of the sectors of the metropolitan area that we've planned. The South Australian Government has committed $2 million and is partway through a detailed study to look at routes, stops, all of the issues associated with this network. We look forward Infrastructure Australia giving the approval for this project. It has already received priority project status. We think this is a wonderful investment in South Australia's future and just to support the remarks that Bill Shorten's made, investment in the tram network inevitably leads to other private investment along the tram corridor. That's been our experience as we've begun the process of rebuilding our tram network. We fully expect that will happen as we roll out the rest of the tram network.
JOURNALIST: Is part of your cash splash here in South Australia pretty early in the campaign and you're cosying up to the Premier and that's all well and good but is this partly to thwart the Xenophon factor?
SHORTEN: What's driving Labor is creating jobs in South Australia, creating a more efficient city so people can get to work more quickly and get home more quickly, we want to improve productivity. What we are prepared to do is back infrastructure in Australia. We are prepared to back better public transport. If we want to tackle the scourge of congestion you've got to give people options other than using their cars. I think this tram proposal is an excellent proposal. In terms of the personalities of this election and the other point you were going to there, we are interested in providing and making a practical difference in the lives of everyday Australians. As we say, we want to put people first and we will do it through jobs, through properly funding our schools, through making sure it is your Medicare card not your credit card which determine s the level of health care you get, through real action on climate change by prioritising renewable energy, by having fair tax reform. It's a very straight forward election for us in terms of some of the key issues. Do you give a tax cut to the four big banks of $7.4 billion over the next 10 years or do you defend bulk billing? It is a very straight forward choice for us. Do you give someone earning a million dollars a year a $17,000 reduction in their tax or do you actually stand up and make sure that our schools and infrastructure are properly funded?
JOURNALIST: On trams, has this process been through Infrastructure Australia and has it been approved, and who will pay the $2.5 billion outstanding?
SHORTEN: It is on the priority list for Infrastructure Australia. Obviously there's work being done by the South Australian Government to finalise the business case with Infrastructure Australia - it's on the priority list for Infrastructure Australia. I might let Jay talk a bit about the rest of the funding.
WEATHERILL: We've had some excellent discussions already with local government, led by the Lord Mayor of the city of Adelaide. He's brought together a range of inner suburban councils. They've all expressed interest in being part of an investment to bring trams back to South Australia. Now we have the commitment of Federal Labor. We're of course committed so between the three levels of Government we believe this project will get away and, as I said, we have our $2 million study, which is about a detailed plan for exactly where the tram route will travel, where the stops will be and how that will fit in with existing infrastructure.
JOURNALIST: How much is the state government going to contribute?
WEATHERILL: They're all things that will emerge from the study but it's a fantastic start, half a billion dollars, that can get you a long way and we're very excited. Just like there's a ten-year plan for the north south corridor, no doubt this will roll out over an extended period.
JOURNALIST: The Auto Transformation Package, $17.5m for SA is a long way short of the million, hundreds of millions of dollars that are being saved in the Automotive Transformation fund, you've been critical of the Government for saving that money. What are you going to do?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Labor's committing a lot more to jobs in South Australia than just our automotive transition scheme. But let's just go and remember a little bit of history here. Three years ago, we had a viable car industry in this country. And under the Liberals’ watch, they goaded the car industry to leave. Now that is, being in Opposition can be frustrating on days but in particular where you see a Government just not even try to fight for Australian jobs, it is really galling to me to see the tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost. And let's also tell the truth about the submarine project. Before the last election, the Liberals fronted up in Osborne and said "oh trust us, we'll build the 12 submarines" and we had to fight a major war, the South Australian Government, Federal Labor, we had to fight a major war with the Government, just to get them to keep their promises. What we're doing by contrast is we are outlining positive plans to make sure that people have stable and long term jobs. You've got Arrium on the critical list, and this Government has had nothing to say, nothing to say about supporting Arrium to survive. By contrast, we've made it clear, automotive transition scheme, that's a good box to tick because it helps clever companies like this and other companies be able to make the capital investments they need. But also with our announcement about grant funding for AdeLINK. What AdeLINK means is 2,000 jobs. What it means is Aussie steel in the tram tracks to be able to be laid. It means opportunities for Australian cement. It means opportunities for construction work, it means people who have been displaced by the downturn in the mining boom have a real prospect in the foreseeable future of new work. The other thing I'd say about advanced manufacturing and what we are doing is we are going to make sure that 100,000 Australian kids over the next 5 years get HECS free positions, HECS free positions, to go and do science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What we are going to do is properly invest in research and support the baseline funding of our universities so that we can improve the collaboration between universities and business. Mr Turnbull talks about innovation but he does nothing on education. Mr Turnbull talks about jobs and growth, but he has, he's a hollow man with an empty Government when it comes to the specifics. The smartest thing Mr Turnbull could do today is back in our commitment to South Australia on trams, because if you want to defend Australian jobs, if you want to defend well-paid Australian jobs, if you want to see more apprentices trained in the future, if you want to see more of our young Australians pursuing more courses in science and engineering and mathematics, vote La bor on July the 2nd. Thank you everybody, see you at the next function.