TUESDAY, 22 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Labor's plan for jobs and apprentices, national security, the Government's citizenship chaos
ANTHONY CHISHOLM, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: It's great to be back in Mackay with Federal Labor Leader, Bill Shorten. This is Bill's fifth trip to this region since the election and once again we're here focused on jobs, local apprentices, and young people seeing they've got a future in this region. The other issue we'll be focused on whilst we're in town is in regards to the natural disaster relief recovery arrangements, where this region's been let down by the Federal Government. So it's great to have Bill back in town once again, talking to local businesses, having a jobs roundtable and also listening to the community tonight. So I'd like to introduce Bill to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good afternoon everybody, it's great to be back in North Queensland in Mackay, this is now my fifth visit since the last election, and I'm really looking forward to catching up with people tonight at an open meeting where people can come and ask questions or even better, give me their views about what the region needs. I want to thank the management and workforce here at Hastings Deering. This is a real success story here: forty new apprentices being put on, many from the local area. Recently, casual workers were made full-time. Obviously this area, it's an international quality workshop, where they're doing great work helping servicing the mining industry, but it also shows me that Mackay's doing perhaps a bit better than it's been doing in recent times with the prices of raw materials, the prices of coal being up at the moment, and we're seeing a workforce here, very engaged and aligned to deliver quality service to the mining industry.
So the news is quite positive in parts of North Queensland, but what it also deserves is, therefore, a Government in Canberra who is backing up the region. I want to make sure we have more apprentices learning trades to become the tradespeople of the future, just like they're doing here at Hastings Deering. I also want to make sure that we've got local procurement - in other words, where you're spending important and scarce Commonwealth money, you've got to make sure local that businesses are getting their fair share of the business. I also want to make sure that we don't rely on overseas 457 workers and visa workers when we can train our own people up. But in all of these matters, Hasting Deering and its workforce are stepping up, it's a good news story here and it just reminds Australians, I think, that if you want to educate your kids to a trade, there are opportunities available and what we need is a Government in Canberra who is going to backup TAFE, and training, and apprenticeships, so we can go on being a great nation of tradespeople. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you have the paperwork to prove you're not a British citizen, that you've renounced that?
SHORTEN: Seriously? The Government's now trying run its latest smear. This is ridiculous now, this argument that I'm somehow a secret British agent; a citizen of the United Kingdom. I renounced my citizenship in May and June of 2006, as I was supposed to do, because unlike certain LNP Coalition politicians, I read the Constitution. Section 44 (i) is very clear, you can't be a dual citizen and it's expected that you take all possible steps to renounce your citizenship and I've certainly done that. But it's an important principle here the Government's trying to have a fight about, and I'm going to stand up for this, I'm not going to go down the American road of conspiracy theories. What the Turnbull Government's trying to do is distract from the very real problems that old mate Barnaby Joyce has got himself into by not checking the Constitution before he's in Parliament, and what they're trying to do instead is reverse the onus of proof. What the Prime Ministers been doing, and I expected better of him, is getting his cronies out to talk to the media and say: oh, Mr Shorten's not eligible to be in Parliament.
Well I am, and I've renounced my citizenship, I did what I was supposed to do, but now they're saying with no evidence at all: oh, there's a cloud over Mr Shorten. Well, let's been straight here. I'm not going to go down the American crazy conspiracy path where you reverse the onus of proof, and by that I mean, you make an allegation with no evidence about your political rival, and then you start demanding the rival, the political opponent, has to just through all sorts of hoops when in fact there's no evidence to back up the allegation whatsoever. I say to Mr Turnbull, if you have evidence that I'm still a British citizen, put up or shut up. And in the mean time, if you haven't got the evidence, stop wasting the time of the nation and get back to your day job, standing up for jobs, fighting for trades positions and TAFE, making sure that people can afford a home and doing something about the energy crisis too while you're at it.
JOURNALIST: But many would ask, do you have the evidence to prove you've renounced that citizenship?
SHORTEN: I've renounced it.
JOURNALIST: The paperwork?
SHORTEN: I've done it. Absolutely.
JOURNALIST: Don't you think it's reasonable though, that given the recent circumstances that these kinds of questions are asked of all our Parliamentarians?
SHORTEN: I don't blame the Government for trying to throw a bit of mud, but I think we've got to recognise here is that the only people going to the High Court are the people who've realised themselves they've got a problem. What I don't think is reasonable is that the majority, and that is the LNP for the time being, the Liberals in Canberra, and the Nationals, are now because they've got it wrong, are now trying to throw mud at everybody else. But we still live in a system, we still live in a democracy where if you've got the evidence, then put it to us, and then we'll answer it, but in the meantime, I'm not going to chase every rabbit down every hole just because Turnbull's having a bad day at the office or because his own Coalition MPs didn't read the Constitution and have possibly not adhered to it.
JOURNALIST: You're definitely not dual citizen of an overseas country?
SHORTEN: I'm definitely not a dual citizen of New Zealand, England or any other country. Full stop.
JOURNALIST: What did you do to renounce your citizenship?
SHORTEN: You write to the British Home Office, and you say you want to renounce the citizenship.
JOURNALIST: And sent you back a letter?
SHORTEN: They would have confirmed at the time, absolutely.
JOURNALIST: They did?
SHORTEN: Yes. I just want to say, the Government can have all the conspiracy theories in the world they want about it, but I'd admire Malcolm Turnbull a bit more if he just fronted up himself rather than getting his proxies and his cronies to whisper in the ears of the media and say blah blah blah. Listen, Malcolm, if you've got evidence that I'm a dual citizen of any other country, put it up. But if you don't, please go back to doing your day job and while you're at it, and I'm in Mackay, I'd say to Mr Turnbull, it is amazing that literally overnight, you could find $122 million of taxpayer money to have a survey about what people think about marriage equality, yet your Government's done everything they can delay providing disaster relief to the people in this region. I just wish Mr Turnbull would show the same urgency on people in this region as he did to sort out his internal mess on marriage equality.
JOURNALIST: What do you think it says about Malcolm Turnbull that he hasn't come back to the regions after Debbie since he went shortly after (inaudible)
SHORTEN: Listen, frankly I don't know if you need Malcolm Turnbull to visit the region, that's not going to change anything, that's just a photo opportunity as he flies over the place. What you need is the legitimate natural disaster relief and recovery assistance, which is in place, for when regions have natural disasters. It is beyond doubt, that this region was hard hit by the cyclone. I've been to Airlie Beach, I've been to Prosperpine, I've seen the damage in Bowen. I cannot believe it has taken this hopeless medican Government months and months and they still haven't done all the necessary paperwork so that the relief to help the businesses in this community flow through. It is amazing isn't it, that they could find $122 million literally overnight, to survey people on marriage equality yet when it comes to processing the disaster relief it's months and months and months. I wish that Mr Turnbull and the Government would show the same urgency on supporting the farmers and businesses of this region and the tourism operators, as they do in sorting out their own internal problems.
JOURNALIST: Would you pledge the full amount asked for by the State?
SHORTEN: Well I haven't seen all the evidence but I think the case is pretty clear. I was here. I saw the damage. I've seen the tourism operators who were effected. I know that it's taken a long time for people to get back on their feet, I know that tourism income was hit hard I know that tourism income was hit hard, the costs of insurance never cost all of the costs of the damage and for a lot of people, they've been hard hit. So,
And hopefully that's Malcolm Turnbull with the money, I don't think so though.
JOURNALIST: So how much would you pledge to the region?
SHORTEN: Well it's whatever the State Government has said is necessary.
JOURNALIST: How much is that?
SHORTEN: Well, I think it's in the order of $110 million but I'd have to go back and check the final numbers.
JOURNALIST: And another council in Melbourne has changed their Australia Day celebrations are you at all concerned that a domino effect might start and other Councils will follow?
SHORTEN: If a council in Melbourne has a view about Australia Day I'm not sure that's the number one issue in the nation. I'm running for Prime Minister, not mayor. Australia Day I think should stay on January 26th but I don't blame Aboriginal people for not thinking that the day that the British landed in Australia was a great day for them. Ever since then there has been dispossession, disease, and disaster.
Let's also tell the truth here, Australia Day wasn't always on the 26th of January but I'm not proposing to change it let's be clear about that but did you know during World War one Australia Day was on July the 30th? Did you know that in the 19th Century Adelaide and Perth and other places felt that Australia Day was a Sydney conspiracy celebrating Sydney's birth rather than Australia's birth? Now, it's been our national day for all of the states from about 1935 onwards, if we're going to have an argument about this, this nation's got real business it's got to get on with and I include on that list; tackling energy prices, making sure in the big cities that young people can afford to buy their first home, making sure that the regions are getting their fair share of local contracts, this is what matters. Some of the debates the Government want to have on same sex marriage or on Australia Day you know it's just not the main game is it?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you mentioned before if Malcolm Turnbull came up here, it would be a photo opportunity. We've just done a tour through here, I mean are you announcing anything tangible, is this itself a photo opportunity?
SHORTEN: I'm going to talk to the men and women afterwards, I'm coming up here to do a public meeting. The challenge for Malcolm Turnbull is that his events are always done almost within a protective cordon, you know where he doesn't get out and meet the real people.
I'm up here to see what's happened, to hear whats happened. I'm impressed that the truck bays are full, I'm impressed that there's companies putting on more apprentices, I'm impressed that people are being converted from labour hire or casual into permanent work. I'm impressed by the calibre of the workforce I've met here. This is a modern workplace where I could speak to the individual employees, they've got the overalls on and the high vis but they understand how the business is organised and they understand the importance of quality and service. I'm here because I want to see what's going on and learn what's going on, I'm not here to lecture, I'm here to learn. I'm not here to talk so much as to listen. I'm looking forward to tonight at six thirty hearing more issues.
So, no this is - you know, Mackay is a regular place that I visit on a regular basis, there's no election, there's no national disaster - although that's an important time to visit, I'm just here because I think part of what a good leader does for the nation is getting out of Canberra, get out of the big cities and talk to the people in the regions of Australia.
JOURNALIST: You're here to talk about jobs, how should the people in the region think about their futures?
SHORTEN: Well I have a vision of Australia which is more than three big cities on the eastern seaboard, I have a vision of Australia which says that young people should be able to get a quality education in their own towns without having to travel away from family vast distances. I have a view that we've got a lot of skills outside of the city, what we've got to make sure is that the fair share of taxpayer dollar, taxes paid out of this region, get reinvested in this region. I've got a view that this is a nation not just for investment bankers and for lawyers and politicians- this is a nation for tradespeople.
You know, this country has 1.6 million tradespeople but a lot of them are getting older, I want to make sure that we don't have a shortage of tradies in the future so we back in TAFE. I also want to see the regions get their fair share of economic growth in this country. The fact of the matter is that if you look at educational outcomes, health outcomes we're seeing across regional Australia, a lesser deal. You look at the NBN, you look at access to the internet, things which make a difference. regional Australia has been missing out under this Government and I want to hear what the real issues are.
Also, I want to hear how we're going with battling the ice epidemic. I noticed the government's today putting drug testing, drug, and alcohol testing in for welfare recipients but where do they start? They start in a working-class electorate in South Western Sydney, I think that people would have a little more respect for this project if they did it in Mr Turnbull's electorate, one of the wealthiest electorates in Australia. Why is it that this government only find working class electorates when it's to punish them and on other matters, all of the effort and energy seems to go into the CBDs of our big cities.
JOURNALIST: Just beyond Canberra, Donald Trump has defined new military strategy with Afghanistan, if asked should Australia make a greater commitment there?
SHORTEN: I'm not about to give a blank cheque to President Trump but let's be very clear here, I and Labor are very supportive of what our 300 plus ADF personnel are doing in Afghanistan. The work that our ADF personnel do in Afghanistan is important. I for one never forget that some of the terrorists who have operated in our region much closer to Australia were trained in Afghanistan before 9/11. So I think that the work that our ADF is doing there is very important, I also have to say that this is the sort of issue where I would expect the Government to brief us and we'll just work through this in a calm and considered matter. But one thing's for sure, Australians should know that my track record when it comes to national security and the deployment of ADF has been to work with the Government of the day because our ADF expects nothing less from the Government and their opposition.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten also on security policy, the North Korea has said it's a "suicidal act" for Australia to join in the war games with the US. What would you say to that?
SHORTEN: I think that North Korea has been very provocative in the way that its developed its nuclear weapons and I do think it is a challenge to the stability and security in the region. What I think Australia needs to do as an important ally of the United States and with interests in the region, is use calm and considered language. I'm not too fussed what the dictator of North Korea says I'm not going to give that too much oxygen. But what I do say to Australians who are concerned about this is that both the Government and the opposition should take a considered and calm measured approach. And I think we need to prioritise diplomacy over hot and temperate language which doesn't solve anything.
JOURNALIST: And also on another issue, Parliament Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson's burqa stunt should there be a dress code for the Senate?
SHORTEN: I thought there was a dress code for the Senate. I mean, I find the burqa challenging but where does that solve any issue in Australia? I mean, first of all, we've got rules in our courts and our systems people have to show their face before they can enter buildings already. So if you like it was more stunt than reality. I also have to say this, just talking about her stunt is probably what she wants. It's a very attention seeking device so I'm not really going to engage in that but I will just remind Australians who are concerned about the goings on, our security agencies, our police, the people who keep us safe have made it clear the best way we keep ourselves safe is by working with all parts of the Australian community including the Australian Muslim community. Disrespecting a religion doesn't increase our safety at all.
JOURNALIST: There was a report that came out yesterday, 90 businesses in the Mackay region are at risk of shutting down, what would be better for them? Changes to energy prices or a corporate tax cut?
SHORTEN: I reckon if you ask them, energy prices. I've got no doubt energy prices is the issue confronting a lot of businesses at the moment. Businesses close for a range of reasons, there's always some churn but there's no doubt that energy prices when I travel around Australia is the number one headache for business. Energy prices full stop. That's the game in town and that's what I'd like Mr Turnbull to work on rather than worrying about all these citizenship conspiracies, start working the same amount of energy into energy prices. Rather than having this silly $122 million survey on what people think about gay marriage, marriage equality. Spend some of that effort and energy and urgency on energy prices. Cost of living is a much bigger issue for everyday Aussies than some of the stuff that Turnbull spends his time on. Thanks, everybody.