Bill's Transcripts

Interview with Jon Faine

Interview with Jon Faine, 774 ABC Melbourne
30 July 2012
08:43 am


 JON FAINE: Mr Shorten, good morning to you.

 BILL SHORTEN: Good morning Jon.

 JON FAINE: With your Employment Minister hat on, this is a potential disaster, how do you plan for it?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well first of all, there’s been ongoing change happening in manufacturing, not just for the last year or two years but over the last 20, 30 and 40 years. And I’ll come back to that. But in terms of Ford, we don’t know their plans so I don’t think it is all bad news and I certainly, just going back to that first point I made, the Australian manufacturing industry’s been changing for a long time. In 1960…

 JON FAINE: But nothing this big.

 BILL SHORTEN: Oh no, that - no, I don’t agree.  I think if we recall, Nissan closed in Clayton. I’ve also…

 JON FAINE: Mitsubishi in South Australia. Look at the effect that had on the Adelaide economy.

 BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, but I’ve also seen that change occurs - without conceding that Ford is going to, we’ll wake up one morning and find that Ford’s no longer there. Change is an inevitable part of the Australian economy. In 1960, 30 in every hundred Australians was working in manufacturing. Now it’s about eight or nine. 

 I think manufacturing will continue in Australia and it will continue in Victoria. I believe that the high dollar has accelerated some change but I also think that we’re very good at manufacturing and I have a look even in Coolaroo near where Ford’s Broadmeadows operations are, and I know that Visy’s moved into cogeneration of waste. There’s your cogeneration power using waste.

 I know that there’s new jobs which get created in manufacturing as well as old jobs go.  But of course, the good news doesn’t get onto the front page of the Financial Review. 

 JON FAINE: There’s a massive transition involved in this and there has to be a massive adjustment…

 BILL SHORTEN: There does.

 JON FAINE: …and you’ve got to be planning for it rather than waiting one day, as you say…


 JON FAINE: …to pick up the paper and say, oh, it’s happened. So what do you start to do now to cater for the inevitable, as we’ve just been told, a couple of years down the track?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well, even if we don’t know when Ford or if Ford is going to close, I accept the basic proposition you’re putting forward that jobs which were here 10 years ago may not be here in five years' time. So I think the single best strategy, which is what the Gillard Government is doing, is spend money on training people. Skills. 

 We can try and fight hard to save a particular job at a particular company, and we do that for our automotive car plan. We’re spending several billion dollars helping modernise our car industry. But the best strategy a Labor Government can do to help people through change, which is inevitable, is educate them and skill them. That is why we’ve spent more money than any of our predecessors ever before. If a person’s got skills, that helps them find new jobs.

 JON FAINE: We’ve just given Ford $34 million to keep going for, what, just a couple of years. Is that value for…

 BILL SHORTEN: Four years.

 JON FAINE: Well, is that value for money?


 JON FAINE: What? Because you don't want them to close on your watch?

 BILL SHORTEN: No, no, because we want to encourage cars which are more environmentally friendly, which people want to buy. I currently drive a Ford Territory. I think Territories have been made - and I'm not a petrol head. So no doubt there's someone out there who may contra - have a more timely or precise fact than what I'm about to say. But I think they've made several models of Territories since they came out.

 But the model I've now got finally has a diesel engine in it, which is magically more fuel efficient. So what we've seen, courtesy of the Labor Government, is encouraging car companies, and not just the automotive industry but other industries, to modernise their manufacturing processes, to invest in R&D. I mean, again, I have to say it's one of the reasons why we're doing the right thing to introduce the price on carbon pollution, because industry needs signals to start investing in products that we need in the future, not just products we needed 10 years ago.

 JON FAINE: But this is - again, you'd have to say that the carbon tax makes things harder for Australian manufacturing and particularly for big business.

 BILL SHORTEN: It's never hard. It's always harder to put off a problem until tomorrow that needs to be dealt with today. And I think that the most recent polls which have come out have shown that the scare campaign being promulgated by the Opposition isn't actually true.

 And I don't think pushing greater energy efficiency, greater sustainability - that actually helps modernise our economy. That is why we've got a car plan to help modernise our car production. That is why we're also spending more money on skills than ever before. That's why we're doing the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network helps creates jobs because what it means is…

 JON FAINE: What's the broadband network got to do with Ford?

 BILL SHORTEN: Oh, everything because…

 JON FAINE: How does it relate?

 BILL SHORTEN: Because you were saying what are the jobs of the future? And if car jobs are going to come under pressure, as they are all around the world, then where are the new jobs going to come from? And I said one way we help people through a period of change is to skill them. But another way is creating economic enablers so that new jobs can be created.

 Now the national broadband allows a textile design business in Coburg to bid for a contract in Hong Kong. What a National Broadband Network allows is that people don't have to sit in a car for an hour going to work and from work because jobs get created closer to people's homes.

 JON FAINE: Surely the carbon tax sends jobs offshore. That's the bottom line of the carbon tax. It makes it cheaper for multinational corporations to look for places to make polluting things like cars, rather than making them in a country like Australia which taxes pollution. You go and make it somewhere where they don't tax pollution.

 BILL SHORTEN: I've heard that line from the Opposition. And where that fails is that assumes that no-one else in the world is doing anything about carbon pollution, which is not correct.

 JON FAINE: No. There'll always be a country like China did 20 years ago that says, come and pollute here. It creates jobs. That helps our economy.

 BILL SHORTEN: I've been to China several times.  

JON FAINE: Yeah. They're catching up slowly…


 JON FAINE: …now they're getting riots over pollution now. But there'll be a country in Africa that says come and pollute here because it creates jobs and builds our economy.

 BILL SHORTEN: One, I don't think that we're trying to put our economic benchmark, our economic progress against a sub-Saharan African dictatorship. I think we're a little more ambitious for the future than that. Two, you know, I've recently been to the United States. Everyone is contemplating how you reduce energy wastage, how you become more energy efficient. How do you tackle carbon pollution?

 And going back to where the conversation started from this morning about Ford, one, we're not going to hypothesise about what happens if Ford does or doesn't reinvest in Australia. Although I know Mr Longley and I’ve worked with him in the past on saving auto businesses. So if he says the trend is that it's going to be greater pressure on Ford, you know, you don't ignore what he says.

 So how therefore do you create jobs in the future? What are the new jobs? One is a highly skilled workforce. Two is an enabled workforce, which is why we're doing things such as the National Broadband Network. The third thing is we are standing by our car industry. And I think the fourth thing is we need to make sure that, when we are advocating change, we realise that our economy is more than just a manufacturing economy.

 JON FAINE:  Twelve minutes to nine. We'll hear from the State Government on this issue in a moment as well. And call us too, 1300 222 774, in a moment.

 The Baillieu and O'Farrell Governments of Victoria and New South Wales respectively came to the party late on Friday to provide the funds for test sites in New South Wales and Victoria. The Opposition over the weekend say that they will find a proper foundation for it when the inevitable seems to look like it's going to happen, that they form the Government after this one and pick up and inherit the load that the NDIS will create on the economy. Do you accept that it's not sufficiently clear where the funding is going to come from yet?

 BILL SHORTEN: No. And I don't accept that. But just to also put a bit of perspective. The real architects of a National Disability Insurance Scheme are the thousands of people who live with a severe or profound disability, or indeed the people who work with them and love them and care them. What Labor realised, coming in 2008 and '09, is that disability is genuinely an area where there's people get a second-class deal.

 JON FAINE: Sure and now there's reforms.

 BILL SHORTEN: So we set this insurance scheme…

 JON FAINE: You still have to pay for it. You still have to pay for it.

 BILL SHORTEN: Of course you have to pay for it. Labor and only Federal Labor commissioned the Productivity - who asked the Productivity Commission, a group of independent economists, to sketch out is it possible to have a holistic, a real answer to that midnight anxiety of carers, who's going to look after their adult kids, adult children. And they came up with a proposition which said that the Commonwealth should become the principle funder of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. That's a working title which talks about providing individualised packages of support.

 Now what the Productivity Commission did say is that, in return for the Federal Government moving into the field of disability services, which traditionally has been left to the states, is that the states would go along with this. But they would then replace their inefficient taxes. In the alternative, if states weren't prepared to do that, the Productivity Commission said that, whilst the Federal Government should fund it, they should then reduce payments to the states. So there was never any discussion in the first two preferred options of how you fund the scheme, that it would be some sort of exclusive Federal Government operation.

 JON FAINE:  No, it never was. But the states have been, for whatever reason, persuaded to join in. We'll hear from the minister in just a moment for Victoria, Mary Wooldridge. But either way, you get your test programs up. In Victoria, it will be down in Barwon, at Geelong and the coast. You still, when you go from that to a national scheme, need billions of dollars of funding. Where does it come from?

BILL SHORTEN: Well first things first. We've seen such a toxic debate in Australia that when a new idea gets proposed by the Government there's such a sort of a negativity, not on this, but on most other issues, that I want to make sure that we don't lose the argument for want of getting things right in a measured approach.

 JON FAINE: But we still have to pay for it.

 BILL SHORTEN: Yes, I'm coming to that. But I want to set up a debate quicker than 20 seconds. So what we are proposing is four launch sites. We want to put in legislation to set the scheme up. We want to be able to demonstrate to Australians that these launch sites can actually deliver real care and real empowerment to people with disabilities. The Barwon region was one which the Federal Government wanted to do. The State Government for two days got itself in a muddle. They've got to the right answer now. They're going to work with us, which is good.

 JON FAINE: Even if it's for the wrong reasons. But longer-term, you still have to pay for it for a long time.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well the PC has proposed - the Productivity Commission - I shouldn't use acronyms - has proposed several methods, which I just went through. We'll work - we will fund this scheme. Of that I have no doubt. We will work this out with the states. But we also need - anyone who says that the state governments can walk away from disability funding miss one particular proposition. If nothing happens, if nothing happens the cost of disability expenditure is still going up seven per cent per year. So it's not a sort of a nil sum game where you've got the Federal Labor Government's proposition or nothing. The costs are going to keep going up. What we're interested to do is to work out a collaborative model which actually is a long-term solution.

 JON FAINE: All bright. And just finally, before we hear from the State Government Minister, Mary Wooldridge, the latest opinion polls, Bill Shorten, the Age Nielsen poll published today shows Labor up two per cent, Julia Gillard up one per cent but Tony Abbott up as preferred Prime Minister two per cent. Is this the post-carbon compensation bounce you've been looking for?

 BILL SHORTEN: Unlike some, I don't study the polls each week. I think things will tighten up in the four to six weeks before an election. What I do know, if we want to talk about the numbers that matter to me, is whilst unemployment in parts is patchy in Australia it is still much lower than most of the industrialised world. That's a good number. The cash rate, which forms the basis of mortgage payments, has been falling. And inflation came in at 1.2 per cent, with underlying inflation at 2 per cent. These are good numbers. Australia is doing on average better than a lot of the negative debate which goes around the political space.

 JON FAINE: You can't pretend you don't care about the opinion polls.

 BILL SHORTEN:  I care more about these numbers. If people are getting jobs, if prices aren't rising, if people are able to enter the housing market, give me those numbers any day.

 JON FAINE: Thank you for your time this morning. Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation, in the Gillard Government.


 Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Sam Casey 0421 697 660