Bill's Transcripts

PRESS CONFERENCE FRIDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2013

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE
FRIDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2013


MELBOURNE


SUBJECT / S:
Death of Nelson Mandela, Coalition infighting about manufacturing jobs, Qantas

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: On behalf of the Federal Opposition, I pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. Unarguably, one of the greatest global figures of our time. Today we've lost a light of the world. In fractious and troubled times, Mandela led his nation out of the dark age of apartheid, not with a violent struggle, but with peace, compassion and a force of moral leadership. Mandela knew that his country could never be healed with violence or vengeance. He suffered so that his people could be free. Mandela was a true leader, a statesman and a defining symbol of reconciliation. He achieved perhaps more than other leader of his age, in pursuit of peace, acceptance and reconciliation. The slow struggle for reconciliation doesn't stop today, not for South Africa and indeed not for any of us around the world. Today is a day to renew, I think, our resolve for reconciliation. Mandela was an example to the world and we do his memory honour by living by the standards and ideals that he set for us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his nation and his people. And indeed, our thoughts are with all of those who saw in him a hope for a better world. Our world is better for Mandela, his life. May he rest in peace.

Happy to take questions, thank you.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

SHORTEN: This will be a matter for the Prime Minster to see who he will invite.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about Holden?

SHORTEN: Yes, sure.

JOURNALIST: Just in terms of the future, whether you see a bright future for Holden, whether you expect them to be staying on in Australia?

SHORTEN: We think that there is a future for Holden in Australia. But the Abbott Government must stop its internal fighting and start fighting for jobs in Australia. Australia can be a nation that has a manufacturing industry. It can be a nation that makes motor cars. It is most important that the Government stop fighting each about what should be done and start fighting for jobs. We've seen in the last three months since the Coalition Government’s been elected, the gradual disappearance of iconic Australian brands - Simplot and its manufacturing facilities, Electrolux last now operations at Orange. We also now see concerns about Qantas and of course Holden. This government needs to do more than it's currently doing to make sure that we are in control of about manufacturing, not out of control about the future of Holden.

JOURNALIST: What should it actually do?

SHORTEN: Well, the first do thing that the Government could do is stop arguing within itself and start confirming that it will match Labor's offer to see a $500 million automotive assistance fund which I believe will support and strengthen the basis for ongoing investment. The car industry is a multiplier of jobs. This isn't just a matter of a subsidy for some jobs. It’s Australians, a quarter of a million Australians, all around our suburbs and in country Australia too, who work directly or indirectly through the automotive industry. Now is the time for leadership, not for having fights within the Government. Now is the time to work with Holden, not run up the white flag on car manufacture in this country.

JOURNALIST: Would you subsidise Qantas?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, again very serious public announcement yesterday by of Qantas - a thousand jobs, some of which had already been announced for Avalon. First and foremost my, and Labor's thoughts, are with the families, with parents who will have their kids asking them at the table tonight, “What does this mean for your job mum or dad?”  In terms of what Qantas does, first of all, we believe that there is a role for a national carrier in Australia, especially an international/national airline. We also believe that there is no need to change the Qantas Sale Act. We think that the Government needs to stop running up thought bubbles saying, "Well, we could do this, or we might do that," in expansive lunchtime conversations with merchant bankers. What people expect is for the Government to say what sort of future they see for the aviation market. It should be competitive of course. But there are a lot of highly skilled jobs at Qantas and I believe that we should be capable enough to work in a bipartisan fashion to secure jobs in Australia. I make this offer in this press conference to the Government - Labor will work with you to see what can be done to assist Qantas. Labor will work with Qantas, with unions, with stakeholders, with the public and with the government of the day. There are some issues which should be above politics. Labor in Opposition won't pursue the same style that Mr Abbott pursued in Opposition of simply being negative about everything. We issue an invitation to the Government. Let's sit down and our manufacturing sector. Let's sit down and talk about the right settings in aviation that can sustain two airlines.

JOURNALIST: There are reports about Christmas Island of asylum seekers camping out (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: Well, this is not a good week for the Government and whilst I’m the leader of the Opposition Leader and that might be seen to be a natural comment, to find out there are people camping out in the bush on Christmas Island undetected requires further explanation. My colleague, Richard Marles will be speaking to you in the next hour or so, next hour and a half, to give a further update.

But what's been going on with the Government? They've been in for three months. They can't blame the Christmas Island boat people on the carbon tax. They can't say that Holden’s not a matter that they can't start to deal with. We've just seen difficulties at Qantas. What the workforce at Qantas and the flying public want is sensible policy debate, get rid of the politics, just make sure we keep an airline. I went through and saw what happened with the collapse of Ansett. I don't think Qantas is at that stage, not at all, not by any stretch of the imagination. But when you get elected to government, your job is actually to make decisions not just based on party politics, but based on the best interests of the nation. Holden, Qantas, our borders - these matters need serious sensible actions, not just political three-word slogans.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

SHORTEN: In terms of Qantas, what I'm offering the Government is to sit down with, and go through, what are the range of options. What we're saying about Qantas is there’s tens of thousands of highly skilled people, pilots, flight attendants, catering staff, engineers, baggage handlers - there is a lot of very skilled people there. I think that a government has to make a choice, does it fight for jobs or does it give up? And the Opposition will not fight the Government, we will stand alongside the Government to fight for Qantas jobs and for Holden jobs, because at the end of the day when all is said and done, jobs are one of the things which people expect governments to try and help sustain and encourage, not just throw your hands up in the air, give up and walk away and buy a white flag.

JOURNALIST: With respect, you won't say how?

SHORTEN: Well, let's work with the Government. There’s a range of options that have been ventilated in the newspapers, but what I do understand is that we're not going to help Qantas by doing nothing and we're not going to help Qantas by Labor chipping the conservatives and the Coalition chipping us. I'm saying that people are over the politics of negativity. As Opposition Leader, for me, it's far more important to retain jobs at Qantas than score points off Tony Abbott, so we would work with them to help work with Qantas and our aviation industry because Australia is capable, I believe, of a sustaining two airlines and having a very competitive, world class aviation industry.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

SHORTEN: We know the Victorian Government is alarmed at the attitude of their political brethren in Canberra. Manufacturing is viable in Australia and it is viable in Victoria. Labor is up for doing what we can to ensure a high quality, high-skilled manufacturing environment in the automotive industry and we were certainly more interested in positive solutions than simply saying, "Let's give up." I think it is alarming, reports emerging in the media the Government is having an internal fight. The Coalition Government, the Abbott Government should stop fighting amongst themselves about the future of jobs and start fighting for jobs in Australia.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

SHORTEN: Well, I know that certainty is an important part of any investment climate. I think the inability of the Federal Government to articulate ongoing support for the automotive industry in a competitive world, Australians all know that many other parts of the world support their automotive industries. What sort of mugs would the Coalition Government be if they insist on not supporting the car industry when many other parts of the world do? All we would be doing then is giving up on jobs and losing global competition and I don't want to see jobs march away under any government's watch. Thanks very much. Have a lovely afternoon.

ENDS

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