BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody.
It's great to be down at Torquay talking to the G21, the leaders of Geelong and the various councils in the Geelong region about how to make this area go ahead. Today I've made it very clear that the Labor Party wants to hear the best local ideas. We're interested in ensuring and creating better jobs and a fairer go all round; infrastructure, NBN, skills and training, backing in the comparative advantages of local industry and of course prioritising and encouraging investment in renewable energy. If we can get the package right from agriculture to tourism, to services, I think this is one of the most successful regions in Australia and Labor is absolutely up for the job of ensuring that local success is matched by a government in Canberra who puts people first. Happy to take any questions?
JOURNALIST: Did you want to talk about Geelong first?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you've obviously seen G21's plans for this region, when can we expect actual funding commitments from Labor towards them?
SHORTEN: Well before the next election but I think that some of the priority or the pillar projects that have been put forward by the G21 deserve a very serious look: the convention centre, Simonds stadium expansion, supporting agricultural industries, making sure that Geelong and the region is getting its fair share of jobs from the Commonwealth in infrastructure projects, they're all things that we're looking very closely at. We're very committed to not abolishing the Education Infrastructure Fund, which is really important to a world-class university like Deakin. So Labor's an open door through which the leaders of this region can push on to make sure they get a fair deal out of Canberra because that hasn't been happening up until now.
JOURNALIST: We've seen a coffee chain get suspended from the PaTH program for abusing the system, what are your thoughts on that?
SHORTEN: No surprises there that some employers have been manipulating the cheap wage scheme of the Federal Government. This is exactly what Labor warned against. The Turnbull Government has created a scheme which means that young people are working for virtually nothing and we warned that they would get ripped off, and they're getting ripped off. This Government has never seen an idea where it isn't interested in reducing the wages of working people and this is another example. From penalty rates through to casualised work, through to the PaTH scheme, the Turnbull Government never stands up for low-paid workers.
JOURNALIST: It's getting increasingly just to be the system that just to get into an industry you need industry experience, and I know all of us here have worked for free just to get into the industry. What would you suggest that would actually be better than Turnbull's program?
SHORTEN: Well ultimately what we need to do is make sure that we've got a proper apprenticeship courses, proper traineeship courses, then we've got a good opportunity for people to be able to afford to go to university. I don't believe that the only way you can survive in an industry is to be exploited on a systemic basis. Too many people at the lower end of our economy are just getting ripped off; wages theft is all too common. We are seeing from the fast food industry, through to your 7-Elevens, through to a range of other companies, people are just getting ripped off. This Government will never fight for low paid workers. We all know that they want to give a tax cut to multi-millionaires, we all know they want to give a tax cut to large multinationals but if you're someone who relies upon your penalty rates, if you're someone who is going, looking for a job this Government does nothing at all for you, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of the low end of the economy do you support the Government's move to extend the trial of the cashless welfare card in Kalgoorlie?
SHORTEN: Listen, I can see pluses and minuses of what the Government is proposing. But the one thing I know about trials, they've got to be genuine trials. We've got to make sure the community supports it, we've got to make sure that if people are suffering from addiction that there is all of the support to help them break the cycle of the addiction, as opposed to just the heavy handed terms of this card. Labor is going to wait until we see all of the results. We've got an open mind but the community has got to want to support it, there has got to be adequate supports in the community. What I don't want to see is genuine people who are down on their luck being treated with hard measures just to get a headline in the big cities.
JOURNALIST: The PM says this is an exercise on practical love. Does that description fit?
SHORTEN: I'm not sure if you are on $265 a week, getting lectured by this Prime Minister about, they just need to lose money, I'm not sure that that doesn't sound a bit hollow and insincere. What the Government should do is talk about the results, let's see what the results are. I can see pluses and minuses with this scheme. We have to make sure that local communities, though, want the scheme, and again, just as there are some people who probably this scheme would benefit, there are plenty of others who are down on their luck through no fault of their own and I don't think they should all just be lumped into the same basket and suffer hardship.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, seven elderly residents up north in Wangaratta died in a nursing home from the flu, and there was a similar situation I think recently in Brisbane as well, is the regulation of aged care homes sufficient when it comes to infection control protocols?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, that's disastrous news, and so my sympathy goes out to the families of these people and these older citizens. I think aged care is a sleeper issue in this country and by that I mean that I think the rules have kept up with the system. We have a lot of older people who are in hospital beds who would be better off in aged care. We've got some people being put into aged care who, if there was a little more support, they could stay at home. I'm not sure that the training is adequate for all the aged care workforces and I think we need to make sure we have more nurses in the system. I also think we need to make sure that the large companies who are making a lot of money out of this system, that what they're not doing is making a lot of money but having lower standards in a deregulated environment. I think the inspection system needs to be overhauled.
413,000 of our fellow Australians are diagnosed with dementia - this number is increasing every year. I think that aged care policy in this country has been neglected. Labor certainly sees it as an important area for us to work on before the next election. Returning to the immediate tragedy you talk about, I'm sure the State Government will have a lot more to say about that.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the announcement that Australia is going to send military advisers to the Philippines to help fight against Islamic State?
SHORTEN: Well, we've got different information from the Government that what was in the media today was perhaps over-egging what's actually happened. I'm not going to comment about it until we've got a proper breifing from the Government. I think that's most sensible.
JOURNALIST: But do believe there is a compelling case there though?
JOURNALIST: For the –
SHORTEN: There's a few points generally which can be made. One is that terrorism in Asia, in the Philippines, is a real issue. Secondly, our Defence Forces and special forces and our ADF personnel are amongst the best in the world and, of course, when it comes to national security and opposing terrorism wherever it happens, Labor has got a very good track record of working with the Government. So out of courtesy to the protocols, we'll wait until the Government briefs us on what's actually being proposed, and I think that's the most sensible thing we should do.
JOURNALIST: The postal plebiscite is in the High Court next week - do you think that will be successful?
SHORTEN: Well, unlike the Prime Minister, I won't tell the High Court what to decide. I think the postal plebiscite is an amazing and scandalous waste of $122 million. We all know that we're only having this postal survey because the Government can't work out one position within its own ranks. I'm very disappointed at some of the debate which is unfolding in the community - it's what we've predicted. Labor will legislate for marriage equality if we get elected. I think this $122 million could have been used for a lot of other projects other than this postal survey. What the High Court will decide will be up to them.