TUESDAY, 4 MARCH 2014
SUBJECT/S: International Women’s Day; Qantas; Abbott Government sending Australian jobs offshore.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at breakfast for International Women’s Day, the clear theme of today is that Australia is a great country, we can do more to help to ensure we help women globally but also in Australia. There is a gender pay gap. We need to have concrete reporting of how we are making progress. If we don’t know where we are going about the equal treatment of women and we don’t measure it, how on earth do we know when we’ve got there? So I think that it’s important that on International Women’s Day we recognise the massive unpaid economic contribution that Australian women make every day from morning to night and we recognise that when women go to work there’s still a great deal to be done to ensure the equal treatment of women. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Is there any room for negotiation from Labor’s perspective about the proposed changes to the Qantas Sales Act?
SHORTEN: Goodness me, hasn’t the Abbott Government mishandled the future of Qantas. For three months they’ve been flying more kites than I think Australians would reasonably expect them to. We’ve seen 5,000 jobs go, three months of dithering and delay and then in the middle of the night last night, the Government comes out and says that our only answer for Qantas is to sell it off overseas. Now we’ve seen for the last three months , in numerous press conferences, in numerous discussions we are happy to sit down with the Government. How do you negotiate with a government who says there’s my way or the highway? They’ve only got one plan which is to allegedly free Qantas, how on earth do you free an airline by selling it off overseas, by sacking people, we know and people in Australia know that once you send those skilled maintenance jobs overseas, once you give the green light for the board of a company to be overseas, once you open the door for the company to be taken off the stock exchange and listed somewhere else we are going to wave goodbye to another Australian industry. The only export industry that Tony Abbott has created since he’s been elected is the export of Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: Is there room for negotiations on some of those key points, be it in the Senate or in the House?
SHORTEN: We’ve always been open to constructive dialogue and I’m sure that Qantas will be feeling rightly miffed today. For three months, Treasurer Joe Hockey has been opening the door to having a stand-by credit facility, and then all of a sudden, clearly there’s been some disagreement in the Government and now Qantas has felt that it’s been let up the garden path and it’s got precisely nowhere. What we can’t agree on as an Opposition, but importantly as parliamentarians who are interested in the future of this country, is how is it in the national interest to allow one of Australia’s iconic companies, and not just in any industry, this is not just a milk bar, this is the aviation carrier, the national aviation carrier. How on earth does it help the national interest to say to cabin crew, to say to maintenance workers that we no longer want the principle operation centre to be required by law to be in Australia.
JOURNALIST: The Government argues that Labor started this process, the privitisation process decades ago why not help the Government finish that by removing these foreign ownership restrictions?
SHORTEN: Why not help the Federal Government finish off jobs in aviation in Australia? No way. I saw what happen to Ansett Airlines, what happened is you dispersed an invaluable set of skills, nation-building skills, skills which are great for our national security, advance manufacturing, aviation maintenance, we saw lives tipped upside down by the collapse of Ansett. Now Qantas hasn’t collapsed but the Abbott Government is shipping thousands of jobs offshore, that’s the issue. Is that all that the Government can do? Mr Abbott life is not an economic text book this about real people and real jobs. When he talks about a level playing field, the rest of the world is laughing behind their hands when he says that, because the reality is that most large nations and plenty of small nations believe in the value of having a majority, national-owned airline company, but not Tony Abbott. He’s read the text book, he’s got the ideology, doesn’t matter what the real world is like, doesn’t matter about real world jobs, it’s good-bye to Qantas. If we had said before the election that a vote for Tony Abbott would see the death of the car industry, would see the demise of Qantas as an Australian-owned business people would have accused us of scaremongering, unfortunately that’s exactly what is happening.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that half the Armidale- class Fleet is undergoing emergency repairs for [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: We want to make sure our warships are sea worthy and are safe to carry out the mission which they are required to do. We certainly support whatever work the Navy has to do to make it. There is no doubt that the tempo of operations has put additional strain on these warships. We appreciate that the Navy has a job to do to make sure that these warships are safe and can complete the mission that’s required of them from by the Navy.
JOURNALIST: You said in parliament the other day following Senator Conroy’s comments about Angus Campbell that you then tried to contact him, have you suceeded in contacting him now and what was his response to your call?
SHORTEN: It was a private conversation. I have spoken to General Campbell, it’s a private conversation it was very professional and very productive.
JOURNALIST: And just going back to the Qantas issue, on Sky on Sunday Brendan O’Connor seemed to indicate that the Government was the main shareholder, is it a concern that Mr O’Connor appears not to know who owns Qantas?
SHORTEN: Oh, come on. Everyone in public life periodically misspeaks. The point here is that the Australian Government, the Abbott Government doesn’t know that, or think that Qantas should be an Australian airline. The only export industry Tony Abbott has created since he became Prime Minister is the export of Australian jobs, what we are seeing is thousands of jobs already go under this Government and the only solution that this government has is to a jobs problem is to send more jobs overseas. These are the people who say, if you own a house, in order to renovate it you’ve got to sell the house to overseas interest, this is crazy. What we need in Australia is a Government who will fight for Australian jobs, not just their own jobs.
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