TUESDAY, 29 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECT/S: Jobs in regional Queensland, NBN, Statues; Citizenship; Media reform
ANTHONY CHISHOLM, LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Thanks everyone. It's great to be back in regional Queensland with Federal Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, and it's great to be in Bundaberg focused on jobs. Thanks to Liam for the tour of the operation here, and the ability to chat with local workers, and also talk about the importance of apprenticeships and the fact that Liam has two apprentices working, and they train locally, and they came from the local community as well. So it really is a good news story and it's a good opportunity for us to hear more about what we can do to ensure that many more people in Bundaberg get that local opportunity. So as I mentioned it's good to have Bill here focused on jobs, and he continues his tour across regional Queensland. We've got a Town Hall forum tonight where we'll hear directly from local people about the issues of concern, so I'd like to introduce Bill to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Anthony, and it's very good to be here at Oakwood Sheet Metal. I congratulate the owners and the workforce here. This is a manufacturing operation which I think a lot of Australians don't realise still exists in Australia, and in regional Australia. This is a business which can answer a contract for quality sheet metal work no matter what the scale, no matter what the industry, and what's really pleasing about this family business is that it's employing apprentices, and it's encouraging people to be able to either stay in Bundaberg or indeed attract people up from Brisbane to come and work in Bundaberg.
Bundaberg's been doing it hard though - let's be straight here - it has a lower workforce participation rate than other parts of Australia, and unemployment is stubbornly high in Bundaberg and surrounding regions. It's not all doom and gloom though. What Bundaberg needs is a Government in Canberra who shows the same sort of courage and inventiveness as we see here at Oakwood Sheet Metal. What this business needs and what Bundaberg needs is a Government in Canberra who knows where this place is and doesn't take it for granted, as the LNP have.
Specifically, we should see greater support for apprentices across Australia and in Bundaberg. Specifically the NBN rollout has been a real shemozzle in this area and that's really unfair. Also specifically, there's no doubt we need to have a further discussion about greater support in terms of hospital resources in Bundaberg.
Of course, on the upside, the farmers and the agriculturalists are doing their bit to lift Bundaberg. It's got good tourism opportunities here. The macadamia nuts have been doing very well and as an export facility, Bundaberg has got a lot of potential. So the news isn't all bad, but what the people in Bundaberg need, the families and the businesses need in Bundaberg, is a Government in Canberra who doesn't take their vote for granted, and gets out and about and talks about Australian jobs and regional jobs, especially in Queensland. Happy to take questions on this and other matters today.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on a cashless welfare card trial here in the region?
SHORTEN: I'll be talking to people throughout the course of my visit here about what they think. I don't believe one-size-fits-all. The last thing we need to see is Canberra imposing outcomes on local communities. There's no doubt that there's concern in the community about the prevalence of ice and other drugs of addiction, but let's also recognise, unless the community wants to do this cashless welfare card, it won't work. There's plenty of things we can do to help people and one thing which we're waiting for is the Government report on where the cashless welfare card is being rolled out already, in two parts of Australia, in Ceduna in North Western Western Australia. I'd like to see those results, I'd like to hear the views of the community. The other thing I've got to make very clear here is that if you're going to try and encourage people to break drugs of addiction, alcohol of other drugs of addiction, you need to make sure you've got the rehab facilities. It's no good just kicking people in the bottom and saying "well you're a bad person" and then you've given no way for them to climb out of the cycle they're in. It really takes both carrot and stick I think to get a place humming.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop's offering to send Special Forces to the Philippines. Do you think Australia needs to have a greater military presence there?
SHORTEN: Listen, we haven't been consulted on this latest development. Before I comment I'd like to see what the Government has in mind.
JOURNALIST: Can you comment now on whether you'd support a greater military presence in the Philippines?
SHORTEN: Until I'm briefed by the Government I think it would be rash to comment, let's see what exactly has been asked for and what exactly the trainers would be required to do. So we'd like to see the detail first, so I think that's sensible.
JOURNALIST: Under the right parameters would you support it a decision like that?
SHORTEN: In a hypothetical situation I can give you a hypothetical answer.
JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to the latest North Korean missile launch?
SHORTEN: No doubt it was a very provocative action by North Korea. We, Labor, condemn it absolutely - we stand alongside the Government. I think though of course it's now time for everyone to be calm and considered, to work with our allies, to put whatever pressure we possibly can on the North Korean regime, and of course I hope that Australia continues, along with other nations, to encourage China to put as much pressure as they can, on the North Korean regime.
JOURNALIST: Tony Burke says he's open to changing the date of Australia Day, would you support that?
SHORTEN: We're not going to change the date of Australia Day. There's no proposal to do that.
JOURNALIST: Turnbull has accused you of rewarding vandalism by calling for the Captain Cook statue to be altered - why not create a new statue with a new inscription rather than trying to rewrite history?
SHORTEN: Oh my Lord. This Prime Minister is now engaging in statue wars with Labor. We condemn the vandalism, full stop.
And let's go to the broader issue which we are debating here. In our history with the benefit of hindsight, there are plenty of things which have happened which you wished hadn't happened. But you know, in my case, I'm most focused on the future - that's where I want to spend my time and energy. I mean, if we want to make sure our first Australians, for example, have a better future that's about focusing on health services, education services, the opportunity to get jobs and secure housing, to keep people out of jail.
I am going to spend my energy and time looking forwards. As important as some of these history debates are to some people, I think that the best thing I can do for our first Australians, and indeed, all Australians is spend my time and energy focused on the future.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor support capping the salaries of bank bosses when the Government's legislation is introduced in the coming months?
SHORTEN: We'll have a good look at it. You know, if this is something which will help improve the performance of banks then we are open to the idea. But let me just say this, what Australians want to see the Prime Minster do is have a royal commission.
I think Australians are generally surprised and perplexed at how the Prime Minister and the Treasurer seem to want to do everything except have a royal commission. Why is Malcolm Turnbull so determined to protect the banks from a royal commission which every Australian just about wants them to have?
JOURNALIST: And Turnbull has seemingly back-flipped on his push to have another coal-fired power plant in Queensland during a 7.30 Report interview last night. What do you think of Turnbull's chance in stance?
SHORTEN: Well, I think The Nationals need to explain why they have been telling the people of Central and North Queensland that they are going to build more coal-fired power stations and the Prime Minister has just contradicted it. The Nationals having been selling a story in Queensland, in Central and North Queensland, that their plan to reduce power prices is to build more coal-fired power stations. Last night, a divided government took a different position with the Prime Minister contradicting his Deputy Prime Minister. This government is a shambles on energy prices.
Perhaps one last question.
JOURNALIST: Why won't Labor produce documents to prove citizenship?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, are you saying that anyone in Labor has problem to refer it to the High Court? Because the fact of the matter is we don't. Today, we saw a rather fanciful story that one of our senators is in some fashion a secret Ecuadorian. You know, I am not going to jump every time the Liberals say jump. But as it happens, I am aware of Senator Gallagher's facts of the matter and there is absolutely no problems with her eligibility to serve in Parliament.
Everyone who has gone to the High Court are people who have referred themselves because they realised they have a problem. The Labor candidates have an extremely stringent vetting process and that's why that hasn't happened.
JOURNALIST: Why not release the documents to give the public peace of mind anyway?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all let's see what the High Court says about these seven people who didn't pay enough attention to the Constitution before they nominated for parliament.
And again, I am going to be direct as this: just because the Liberals' have a problem in their ranks and they say jump to distract everyone and have a look at Labor. I am not going to jump every time some Liberal gets up with a complaint because it's a matter of fact that we have a very good vetting procedure and no one has been able to say otherwise, full stop. And indeed, two senior Liberal ministers have actually, Cormann and Pyne, come out and said the same as what I am saying.
JOURNALIST: Why won't you commit to an audit on citizenship when you know that there is so many answers - questions to answer?
SHORTEN: Which questions?
JOURNALIST: Well, in terms of what is happening, why won't you commit to an audit on citizenship?
SHORTEN: Because we've done nothing wrong. Let's be very clear here, we've read the Constitution before we nominated for Parliament.
This debate about eligibility under the Constitution is not new. There have been cases in the past, in the late 80s and early 90s, where people in parliament and candidates running for parliament fell foul of the Constitution. You know, if it was such a problem then, how come they didn't audit everyone then? And there is a simple answer: because most people got it right.
Just because the Deputy Prime Minister, and just because Senator Canavan and just because Minister Nash haven't got it right, doesn't mean everyone else is automatically either a suspect or done something wrong.
JOURNALIST: And media executives say that the Channel 10 deal will scuttle media reforms. Why are you at odds with them?
SHORTEN: Sorry, could you repeat the question?
JOURNALIST: So media executives are saying that the Channel 10 media deal shouldn't scuttle the media reforms. Why are you at odds with them?
SHORTEN: Well Labor hasn't changed its view. We want to maintain media diversity in this country. We think it is unhealthy for media diversity to have one powerful multinational controlling the radio, the newspaper and the television in a particular media market. Media diversity requires a diversity of voices. And I think that one of the arguments which was being used by some of media companies who were pursuing their own commercial self-interest, nothing wrong with that, but let's call it for what it is. When some of these media barons demand changes in the law, that's so they can make more money. This is not altruism - they want to make more money. There isn't anything wrong with that but we don't have to change the laws in Australia just because really rich companies want to be a bit richer.
And one of the arguments which is being used is that Channel 10 would fall over. As it turns out, we have now got a new media player in Australia; CBS, very formidable. I think it will we assert quite a bit of competitive benefit in the Australian media market. It's just another reason why we don't need to undermine media diversity in this country.
Thanks everybody and I hope I see some of you at the town hall tonight.