MONDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Jobs in the Latrobe Valley; Regional resettlement; Turnbull stuffing up the NDIS; Climate change
HOST: The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is visiting the Latrobe Valley today, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning.
HOST: Now, why are you here two weeks after the announcement?
SHORTEN: Well I wanted to come down myself, I don't think Mr Turnbull's been down, I think it's important to see some of the success stories in the Valley. That's why I'm visiting SafeTech. It's also important to talk to the workforce who have hard hit by the closure.
HOST: If you were Prime Minister at the moment how would you be supporting the people of the Latrobe Valley?
SHORTEN: Well, frankly I think the State Government's doing more than the Federal Government in terms of the size of the package, so you'd have a look at that, what are you doing to help with replacement jobs. I think there's another conversation to be had and I'm certainly going to listen to the workforce where they've put forward the view that perhaps volunteers for redundancies should be called across the power industry rather than just from Hazelwood and some of those who want to keep working in the power industry at Hazelwood could go and fill those vacancies in those other plants.
HOST: We've had groups like the ACTU, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, calling for a national body with federal funding to manage the transition away from coal power so that people don't get such a short timeframe to deal with decisions like this. Do you back that idea?
SHORTEN: Well I think there's a couple of issues in what you just said. First of all, there should always be planning to help people displaced by change. So that’s the first thing, this Government doesn't pay much attention, in my opinion, to blue collar workers and what happens to them. Coal’s still going to be part of our energy mix going forward, the decision to close Hazelwood got a lot to do with the age of the plant and the willingness of the existing owners to reinvest in the plant. But I do think medium term this country needs to do better when economic change happens, not to leave people behind. That's why I want to talk to the workforce directly and I'd encourage Malcolm Turnbull to do exactly what I'm doing today.
HOST: Is there an ETA which the ACTU is saying that an ETA, something like the energy transition Australia authority would help that transition go a little smoother, do you agree or do you support an idea for an ETA?
SHORTEN: Well, in the last election we put forward a policy which said that if you're going to have change as we modernise our power generation industry then you've got to have a just transition for the workforce. So, we would certainly be open to what the representatives of workers are saying.
HOST: And you also mentioned the possibility for some of the Hazelwood workers to go and work at other power stations in the Latrobe Valley, how realistic do you think that opportunity is?
SHORTEN: Well this is where Government comes in, you've gotta lead, not follow. I think they Government needs to sit down and talk to the generators, I mean, there’s an obvious question here. If you are operating a power generator and you've got someone you know who is probably approaching retirement, who wants to put their hand up and finish up and you know that down the road there is another bloke or another woman who is perhaps a bit younger, got a younger family, got a mortgage, very committed to working the industry. Why wouldn't you want to try and have a system which allocates the people who want to do another couple of decades in the industry, keep working and someone who is coming to the skinny end of their career put their hand up and perhaps finish up.
HOST: But is that a negotiation that needs to happen between private companies, not necessarily government?
SHORTEN: No doubt private companies have to be involved. But I don't buy this sort of right wing economic textbook which says that governments collect the taxes off workers but when people and industry and small business and regions are hit by economic change the Government says ‘that's not our business, let's just leave it to the market’. I do think Government has a role to get involved to help smooth transitions.
HOST: What will you be saying to Hazelwood workers today? How will you -
SHORTEN: I'll be doing a lot of listening.
SHORTEN: Yep. Exactly. I mean the best ideas are always at the local level. You got to get out of your ivory tower and get out and talk to people.
HOST: Well onto other issues of the day, the United States and Australia have agreed to a one-off refugee resettlement deal for people on Manus Island and Nauru. You’ve had some time to think about that deal now, do you support it?
SHORTEN: Well the Government hasn't briefed us, which is a bit disappointing. I've got my representatives talking to the Government today. But the principle of it we welcome. I remember when Labor proposed to get some of these people who were genuine refugees resettled in Malaysia, the Green political party and the Liberals voted against it. But I'm not going to take that sort of politics at all costs approach. We're committed to stopping the people smugglers, Liberal and Labor working together, that’s the right way to go. That shouldn't mean that genuine refugees are kept in indefinite detention forever. If the Government's continued the work of Labor in terms of regional resettlement, in principle we're really open to supporting it. But of course we need to see the detail.
HOST: Well the ABC understands the offer will be made to the vast majority of people still in offshore detention centres as well as those processed offshore but currently in Australia due to medical reasons and the offer won't be made to those who have accepted resettlement elsewhere. And those who don't accept the resettlement deal with the US are set to be sent to Nauru and provided a 20 year visa to stay on the island or return to their country of origin. So just on that level of detail, does that sound like a good idea?
SHORTEN: Well, we would be foolish to just sign up to something without seeing all of the detail, but in terms of the principles of what you enunciated, giving people the chance to resettle in another country, that does make sense. That's consistent with our policy. Labor's policy is that the people smugglers do the wrong thing. They put people in jeopardy and as a result people drown at sea. We don't want them selling this false hope that you can just live in Australia if you come by people smuggler. So we are committed, and Liberal and Labor are on the same page, of stopping the people smugglers and if some of the people who've been sent by people smugglers who are now on Manus and Nauru are genuine refugees and can be resettled elsewhere, well, that's exactly what should be done.
As for the precise detail, we reserve the right to read the measures ourselves.
HOST: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is with us today, he will be in the Latrobe Valley speaking with Hazelwood workers who will be out of a job after the end of March next year. Another issue of the day is the first quarterly report from the National Disability Insurance Scheme transition phase showing that the scheme came nowhere near hitting its original estimates for enrolees. So why don't you think people are signing up to the NDIS?
SHORTEN: This Government I don't think, having said I can work with them about the people smugglers, on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, this Governments been delinquent. I don't think their heart’s in it, I think they've interfered with the management of the authority over seeing the National Disability Insurance Scheme. What the National Disability Insurance Scheme is, perhaps some listeners are not aware, is it’s the idea that if you give packages of support to people with disability and their carers they will actually get greater control over their lives and be more efficient in terms of how they use scarce money, but the roll out of the scheme has been marred with problems. It's had IT problems, it's had the issues that have just been raised that you just went to, but also the Government’s interfered with the apolitical board who were oversighting the rollout of this marvellous new scheme so, no I think the Government’s implementation of this is pretty poor.
HOST: We've got one text here from Joe, saying can Mr Shorten spell out his parties response to climate change. Can you give us a short outline around that?
SHORTEN: Sure, we think that you can't delay dealing with climate change to future generations. So we think you need to modernise our electricity generation, we need to make sure that we've got a focus on renewable energy so we diversify the sources of energy. We think that there's a great opportunity to invest in new technology which will also generate new jobs, including solar power. We also believe that we need to work with other parts of the world in terms of how we tackle climate change.
HOST: Well speaking of working with other parts of the world, US President-elect Donald Trump has said before that he thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax. How will you go working with him on that?
SHORTEN: Well, fingers crossed that what he said before the election isn't what he does after the election. We'll just see how we go. The Australian/American alliance is longer and deeper than individuals on either side of the Pacific. But in terms of climate change, I just hope that the Federal Government doesn't totally backflip on acting on climate change. It's not good leaving problems for future generations. So you've got to start thinking now of what'll happen in the future, is you're gonna have to make more drastic consequences. I mean some of the consequences of climate change include extreme weather events, include pressure on our food supply, include increasing insurance costs, and of course there's health costs. So not acting on climate change is a false economy, ignoring the problem or hoping it goes away isn't a way to cure a problem.
HOST: Bill Shorten, thank you for your time this morning. Good to see you in the Latrobe Valley.
SHORTEN: Good to be back here, thanks.