Bill's Transcripts

Interview with Georgie Gardner - Channel 9 Today Show

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

GEORGIE GARDNER: A union meeting in Victoria this morning will formally announce six hundred workers affected by the collapse of troubled engineering company Hastie Group will remain employed.  For more, I'm joined by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten.  Morning to you Mr Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN: Good morning Georgie.

GEORGIE GARDNER: This, of course, is a big relief for many Australian families, isn't it?

BILL SHORTEN: It is. The Hastie Group covered - it was a large company which owned a lot of other companies and employed thousands of plumbers and electricians and mechanical service workers.  This morning I'll be meeting with nearly six hundred plumbers, with their union and the administrator.  It looks like after ten long days of uncertainty, every plumber who was working for this company in Victoria will have an ongoing job in a new business, which is fantastic.

GEORGIE GARDNER: It is indeed.  The collapse of Hastie Group, of course, is among a number of companies this year that have gone under or experienced job losses.  Do you think the Government needs to do a bit more to protect Australian workers?  What can be done on that front?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, your broader question, can the Government - can and should the Government do as much as it can go protect jobs?  You're absolutely right.  But in the case of the Hastie Group I think as the dust settles you'll find that there were problems within the accounting practices of that company and you'll find that the reasons why this particular company got thrown into upheaval and confusion were probably more to do with what was happening within the company than factors outside the company.

But more generally, we've got a multiple speed economy.  Yesterday we found out though that the Australian economy was growing at a surprising rate.  So I think on balance, the Government is doing the best it can in difficult global circumstances, where we see Europe's just in - a large part of Europe's in chaos. But we've always got - the first priority for the Government is jobs, jobs, jobs.

GEORGIE GARDNER: Let's talk about that news of growth, four point three per cent growth recorded yesterday.  Treasurer Wayne Swan's been on a media blitz hailing the Government's economic record.  He has to be careful though, doesn't he?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh listen, I saw what the Treasurer had to say yesterday.  He conceded the growth numbers were surprising.  But indeed, even the shadow Treasury to say well, the numbers are the numbers, which I think was the Opposition's way of saying wow.  This is good news.  So no one in the Government's complacent about the difficulties in Europe.  You see Greece is heading towards further elections.  Will they or won't they change their ways and try and climb out of recovery - into recovery?  What will the Germans do?  Will they bail out the rest of Europe?

There are lots of questions there and in Asia, some of those economies, whilst you're still going strongly, you get the reports of uncertainty.  Will they keep buying our coal and iron ore?  So, global circumstances are uneasy.  But let's - you know, I know good news doesn't sell newspapers like bad news.  But yesterday's national account numbers, which show how much the Australian economy - if you call it a cake - how much the cake's grown in the previous quarter.  It's grown.

GEORGIE GARDNER: I guess…

BILL SHORTEN: We know things are tough.  Sorry, Georgie.

GEORGIE GARDNER: Yeah.  I guess the point being though, that when the Treasurer says the country should have a bounce in its step, many people are suggesting he's out of step with the community.  I mean many people are obviously experiencing job uncertainty.  There's rising rent.  There's surging gas and electricity bills, increased costs in childcare.  Plenty have anything but a bounce in their step.

BILL SHORTEN: Georgie, you're right.  Cost of living is always an issue.  We want to make sure that we can help families make ends meet.  But national account numbers going up is good news.  I mean I think the point you're making is that it's not the only bit of news that people are dealing with and that is why from issues as important as childcare to increasing the tax free threshold from six-and-a-half-thousand dollars to eighteen thousand dollars.  That's why the kids' school bonus helping family pay those costs of children going to school.

Now we're a government who gets the cost of living is important.  I mean only yesterday, or the day before I should say, the Reserve Bank decreased the official cash rate, which puts downward pressure on interest rates.  You know, it's probably closer to one hundred basis points down in the last twelve months on interest rates or in plain English, what that means is if you have a mortgage of three-hundred-thousand dollars, it's three to four thousand dollars less you'll be paying on your mortgage this year than at the same time last year, which is good.

GEORGIE GARDNER: So which is it?  Should we have a bounce in our step or should we be concerned?

BILL SHORTEN: I think that we have to keep on getting up every morning working hard.  But I do think that when we look at the news, there's some good news and we should be allowed to pause and reflect on good news.  Part of the problem in Australian politics is that the Opposition's being so negative.  They knock everything all the time.  This is a bit of good news and you put it in your pocket and you get on with the - on the day's job.

GEORGIE GARDNER: You do.  We embrace good news, absolutely.  But isn't it what lies ahead that counts and the outlook is bleak.

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, well I think the glass…

GEORGIE GARDNER: [Interrupts] I mean take the mining sector, for one.

BILL SHORTEN: Sure.

GEORGIE GARDNER: Further investment there.  I mean, we know China's growth is dropping off sharply.  What measures are we putting in place to deal with that?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, just on the general point, I have to say I'm more positive than negative.  The glass is half full, not half empty.  But I’m not unrealistic and nor is the Government.  That's why something like the mining boom, which you refer to, it won't go for ever.  The best thing we've got in Australia is our people.  Not actually our iron ore and our coal.  But that's why we're spending more money on skills and training than any government ever has before in Australian history.  That's why with the mining boom, we've spread the benefits by making sure that all families have money to help them pay for the kids' school costs.  That's what we're using the mining tax for now and we're also helping small business be able to claim back losses from the previous year and - so what we're doing is helping small business with their tax.  We're helping families pay the school bills. That helps the - all the shops in the High Street because the parents go and spend, you know, the money on the kids' school uniforms, on the books.  They spend it in the High Street and our local communities.  Life's not always easy.  But we are doing things to help people spread that mining boom across all Australia, not just some people.

GEORGIE GARDNER: You - well I'd suggest that might not be resonating.  Monday's poll had Labor at twenty-six per cent.  When are you going to step in and save them, Bill?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, I agree that people are feeling - some people are feeling down and that the negativity certainly comes at a price.  I'm not stepping in anywhere and in terms of polls, Georgie, you've been around the media a fair while.  I think what we're seeing with the polls is they're becoming disproportionately the centre story of the news.  Polls go up.  Polls go down.  What really matters in the long run is what you do for people and whether or not you get on and just finish the job.  But with the polls going up, polls going down in the media, these days because of the electronic media, the rise of the morning shows like Today, newspapers need to keep an edge in the community, so they will research a poll.  They'll release it.  They'll interview themselves about that poll and that's one of the reasons you buy newspapers, because the polls are breaking news.  I think it's important that whilst you acknowledge the existence of polls, that we also look at the long term, not just the twenty-four hour, you know, day to day news.  You've got to look at where are we going in the future and does the Government have a plan, which we do.

GEORGIE GARDNER: Alright.  We'll have to leave it there for now.  Always good to talk to you Bill Shorten.  Thank you very much.

BILL SHORTEN: Likewise. Have a nice morning.