SATURDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s South Australian Taskforce; Labor's plan for jobs in South Australia.
STEVE GEORGANAS, LABOR’S CANDIDATE FOR HINDMARSH: Thanks for coming out. Can I first of all start by saying what a great forum that was and what a great pleasure it was to have the Leader of the Opposition here in the electorate of Hindmarsh. It gave my constituents the opportunity to ask questions directly of the leader and what Labor policy will look like, where we are heading and what we're going to do. It also gave the opportunity for Bill to hear firsthand the aspirations and the views of the electorate of Hindmarsh, which hopefully could be fed through to develop policy in the future. On that note, I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Steve and can I first of all start off by thanking the media, it's been quite a long session. I appreciate you helping watch and cover the debate of citizens of the western suburbs of Adelaide. I'm here because I think Steve Georganas will make an excellent member of parliament. He and I and Nick Champion agree that what we need to see South Australia is a real commitment to jobs. What a Federal Labor Government would do is make sure they we build 12 submarines in South Australia and furthermore, we are so committed to economic growth that I've asked Nick Champion, one of our Parliamentary Secretaries to finalise our policies which are specifically aimed at improving the economic circumstances of South Australians and their families. He'll be looking at policies which help generate jobs, keep existing jobs and create new jobs. He'll be looking at economic development, he'll be looking at the role that education can play and improving the chances of South Australians, both young and not so young. And of course he'll be looking at our policies around energy of water. He’ll report to us in a fairly quick timetable because a lot of work has been done. But South Australians should rest assured that a Labor Government will make sure that we priorities jobs in South Australia. Nothing is more important to the economic wellbeing of individuals that having a job, which generates an income, which allows people to be able to create livelihood and great futures for them and their families. I'll just ask Nick to say a few words about the taskforce then we will take questions.
NICK CHAMPION, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR MANUFACTURING: Well thanks Bill and it's a great honour obviously to - for Bill to ask me to do this job. It's critical, I think, for South Australia to have a Federal Government that's interested in the car industry, interested in the steel industry and interested in the ship building industry. It’s a critical thing, I think for South Australians to have a Federal Government that is interested in jobs. That's what we want. One that's engaged with jobs and most of all a leader and a Prime Minister, who's dedicated to South Australian jobs. So, we've already began, Bill came last Friday to talk about the steel industry, not just in South Australian but also in the Illawarra, to announce further action and to encourage the Federal Government to work with us in the steel industry. Yesterday I was in Whyalla talking to Arrium, talking to steel industry unions, talking to the local community. Seeing how we can best engage with the state government and what they've been doing with the steel industry. Obviously Bill's committed to building 12 submarines in South Australia and most of all we want to help protect those car industry workers who have been effected but the terrible discussion by that the previous Liberal Government had made in regards to the automotive industries. So, this taskforce will be out there engaging with the community and most of all with dedicated jobs in South Australia.
JOURNALIST: Will you be working with other people in the taskforce and will that include the State Government?
CHAMPION: Yes, we've already had some discussion with the State Government. I've already had long discussions with state treasurer Tom Koutsantonis about the steel industry and car industry obviously. This will formalise, I think, some of that thinking and some of those engagements. And obviously we want to be out there in the community. We’ve already had discussion with the food production industry and we're looking forward to holding more industry round tables where we can really look for the opportunities to build jobs - new jobs in South Australia and keep existing ones.
JOURNALIST: Who else is on the taskforce?
CHAMPION: Well it's every South Australian member who is not on the front bench. So, of course Steve's got a - who's practically the sitting Member for Hindmarsh - he's on the taskforce and all of our Senators and backbenchers and we're going to draft in our front benchers - people like Amanda Rishworth to do things like higher education forums and the like. We want to make sure that we milk out every single job for South Australia that we can and that we have a dedicated plan for the future.
JOURNALIST: Why wouldn't you have the Premier here today? I mean if you're dealing with the working - with the South Australian Government. It looks as though there's not partisan support at all, why wouldn't you have the Premier or someone from the State Government here today?
CHAMPION: Well we had many state government MPs here, about three or four backbenchers and obviously I talked to Ministers yesterday about the forum. But this was a forum for the Federal Leader and it's a forum focused on federal issues. But I don't think there is any difficulty in interacting with the state government. They've had an important function, a look north function which of course I was at and we search - we have, if you like, a positive interaction with the state government and obviously they are going very, very important things.
JOURNALIST: What will be one of the first things you do tackle? Particularly in the northern suburbs it's taken a real hit after the announcement yesterday.
CHAMPION: Well the amount of damage that's been done by the Liberal Government - the Federal Liberal Government in cars and submarines and the steel industry will not be easily repaired. What we're critical in doing is - what we'll critically look at doing is actually interact with the community, interact with industry and protect and advance jobs.
JOURNALIST: Can you give use more specific detail about what you've planning to do because we've spoken to business leaders and they say there's nothing new in what you're proposing, can you give us some detail?
CHAMPION: Well I went and met with business SA not so long ago so I'm surprised that business leaders might cynically view this but we're very, very keen on interacting with business, with unions and particularly with South Australians public. It's important to have leadership here, it's important to have a Prime Minister who is interested. Bill Shorten, when he heard about problems in the car industry he backed South Australians in, when he heard about the lackadaisical approach by the Federal Government on submarines, he flew here, he announced a policy, it's a good policy and it stood the test of time. And last week when the steel industry was in trouble, as he did for the steel industry in the Illawarra, he rocked up and made a positive announcement, a positive policy for our nation and for our state.
JOURNALIST: Labor doesn’t have the federal cheque book, so how does it proposed to pay for implementing the proposes in the taskforce?
CHAMPION: Well obviously this is about looking forward to a Labor Government, looking forward to a long term Labor Government, a stable government. Not a divided and confused and leadership -less government which is what we've got now. So we're looking forward and will aim to adopted the policies over time.
JOURNALIST: You've a bit vague about the timetable with this, could you be a bit more specific? Are you going to come up with a plan in a certain timeframe?
CHAMPION: Look, my intention is to provide some ideas to Bill and his office pretty quickly. But obviously we want to come up with some comprehensive reports as well and I see this very much as an ongoing process. So, one of the things we want is for South Australia to be fully engaged with the Federal Government and we want to know that when we’ve got a Labor Prime Minister we can pick up the phone at any time and get his attention.
JOURNALIST: What are your plans moving forward with Arrium after your discussion with them recently?
CHAMPION: Well, as I said before Bill might want to say a few words about this but he came last Friday made an announcement and the last words he said to me on that Friday was go to Whyalla. So I went to Whyalla, met with Arrium, met with the unions and obviously we're very keen on interacting with them.
SHORTEN: I might add a little bit more. Thanks Nick. Labor sees our steel industry as a non-negotiable. I mean I would have though the Liberal Government would have seen our car industry as a non-negotiable. But a nation that doesn’t make its own steel is really going to be a price taker in global steel markets in the future. It would be incredibly short sighted to let go of some price and control of our steel industry. What's happening is that we are seeing the trade version of match fixing, when we see Korean and Chinese companies basically testing Australian dumping laws. What will happen if we don't make steel here anymore, in the future foreign steel producers will be able to increase their prices of steel because we don't have an competition in Australia. So we're very committed to keeping a steel industry because that's one of the levers which a government has, which a nation has to maintain some control of prices. When we talk about economic plans, Nick said before in the next couple of months we will finalise our plans for South Australia but there has been a lot of policy work go on. We were backing the 12 Australian submarine build in South Australian long before the Liberals found any great interested in it. What's been interesting today is that we've seen former Prime Minister John Howard, we've seen former Prime Minister Tony Abbott out today agreeing on one thing, that Malcolm Turnbull doesn't have an economic plan for Australia. We're also seeing in foreign policy, well Julie Bishop is the Foreign Minister, but the way Tony Abbott's acting he's also a Foreign Minster in the Liberal Party. We don't need foreign policy, we don't need defence policy being a political football being contested between the left wing of the Liberal Party and the right wing of the Liberal Party, it's just too important.
JOURNALIST: How important are those defence jobs to Adelaide now practically in light of Holden’s announcement yesterday?
SHORTEN: Well we need to be a country that makes things, we need to be a country which has these blue collar jobs. It may be fashionable in some parts of Sydney or Canberra where the Liberal politicians live to say that we're just going to be a nation of internet dot com millionaires. The truth of the matter is the manufacturing industry in defence generates apprentices, generates good stable jobs which allow people to pay mortgages. It also generates a lot of multiplier economic benefit for small business. It give us some independents. It's not good being independent in foreign policy and defence policy if everything we buy comes from somewhere else. Australia saw when the British were in the Falklands War that we had submarine parts we needed for Australia but we found that we could get them because Britain was at war. We don't want to rely on Australian Defence on long supply lines from other parts of the world. Now, some of what we buy has to come from overseas, that goes without saying and of course we have sharing of technology and we work with other countries. But we can build submarines in Australia, we can build warships in Australia, we can make armoured vehicles in Australia. Australian Governments need to back Australian industry, the same way Australian industry delivers the best equipment in the world to Australia's Defence Force.
JOURNALIST: For families out North who perhaps you know aren’t feeling great at the moment given what's happened. How will they be able to take part in this taskforce or how can they in some way be involved on these policies that you're shaping.
CHAMPION: Well look, we'll be holding obviously a number of forums with industry but we'll also be taking submissions. So if people are interested and engaged they'll be able to send it in in writing or orally with they wish and obviously we'll be doing more town halls like the one Steve did today. We're always out there in the community listening and we want to formalise that through the taskforce.
JOURNALIST: So this is very much about ideas and talking rather than doing?
CHAMPION: Well I wouldn't say that, I've been out to see a number of manufacturers both in my own electorate and outside of it, particularly in the food production industry and there are a number of practical things you can do to make government work harder and obviously in the areas that we've been talking about cars, subs and steel the Federal Government has a big role and what we've had is a Federal Liberal Government, whether it's under Abbott or Turnbull completely asleep at the wheel and completely disinterested in South Australia and every single time Bill Shorten has had to lead the way in policy so we're going to be there putting pressure on the current Federal Liberal Government and we're going to be formulating policies for the future.
JOURNALIST: And have you got a - you've mentioned cars, subs, food etc, have you personally got a priority number one amongst these things?
CHAMPION: Well I think the solution will be many different things rather than one big thing and this is why people fight so hard to keep their car industry because these are the hubs of job numbers of jobs and obviously the submarines will be critical but we know that we have to kick every single goal and every single point in this jobs match that we're having to make sure that, you know, repair the mistakes does by the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: There are a lot of calls and Nick Xenophon brought it up this morning to release more funding to help workers in the car industry. Is that something that Labor would like to see done?
SHORTEN: Can I just - a number of your questions go towards what's the core issues for Labor? And what the small parties are calling for. What Labor will do is we'll prioritise manufacturing and manufacturing related services jobs in South Australia. So for us the test we don't see an Australia where everyone is operating off the interest, that's very important and that's part of everyday life. We still believe in blue collar jobs. Might not be a modern fashionable view in the eastern suburbs of Sydney view but we need to be a country that makes things and South Australians are very good at making things. So I see Defence jobs, renewable energy jobs, food industry, steel, manufacturing and manufacturing related services. When Australians put our mind to it we can compete with the best in the world. One last question thanks.
JOURNALIST: Is it alright if I just quickly ask a question, Tony Abbott spoke in Tokyo overnight and brought up very various things about China. He said that he doesn’t believe China shares Australia's values, is that something you would agree with?
SHORTEN: Listen, Mr Abbott seems to be the de facto leader of the Liberal Party, there's Malcolm Turnbull and then there's Tony Abbott. We it comes to foreign policy he's the Liberal Party's de facto Foreign Minister. Malcolm Turnbull needs to do something about his backbench, now I've got some respect for the fact that Tony Abbott was Prime Minister so he should be given a little bit more rope than some of the more right wing characters in Malcolm Turnbull's backbench. But when you've got a former Prime Minister of Australia saying that Chinese values deserves particular attention by the Liberal Government then I think that's not the way to conduct our relations in the world. There are Australian values special and unique but what I don't understand is why Malcolm Turnbull has got senior members of his own Government out there giving their own speeches on foreign policy. This is a recipe for chaos. Even leaving aside the substance of what Mr Abbott or Mr Turnbull think, they are a very divided football team. You know, they're kicking in different directions at the same time. Australians deserve better from their government. Malcolm Turnbull promised new economic leadership six months ago when he moved on Tony Abbott. Since then we haven’t seen a lot of action, we've just seen a lot of talk. Now Mr Turnbull needs to control his party. I get that you might get a Cory Bernardi sort of floating around in the weeds but when you see backbenchers challenging the tax policies of the frontbench, when you see Malcolm Turnbull unable to control some of the extreme comments of his backbench and when you see the former Prime Minister taking a very different priority to Mr Turnbull on foreign policy. This is a divided government and a divided Government is not good for Australia, it's not good for Australian jobs, it's not good for Australia's position in the world. By contrast you heard today a vote for Labor is a vote for a fair tax system, it's a vote for restoring the Australian dream of home ownership and first people getting into the market. It's a vote for a universal health care system where it's your Medicare card not your credit card that determines the level of care you get. A vote for Labor is making sure that we're on renewable energy, making sure that we have properly funded schools, TAFE and university and prioritising Australian Jobs. That's what we'll do and that's why Steve Georganas deserves to be the next Member for Hindmarsh. Thanks everyone.