TUESDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Las Vegas massacre, Gas export controls, Toyota, Australian manufacturing; marriage equality
THE HON MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Fantastic to be here with Bill Shorten at this plastic injection moulding plant in Braeside. This is a family business, run for 30 years by the Suttie family. It's a very sad day for manufacturing here in Australia because of course, it's the day that Toyota is closing. And more needs to be done to look after Australian manufacturing, and that's one of the reasons why we're here, talking to the Suttie family about the problem that they are facing with very rapidly rising energy costs. And on that note, I'm going to hand to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. Before I go to gas prices and energy prices, I just want to express publicly, and extend Labor's condolences for the families caught up in the murderous rampage in Las Vegas. We grieve with our American friends, we pray for the families who've been affected, and of course, we pray for the recovery of those who are injured. Las Vegas is something which is known all around the world as a place of light, fun, pleasure of entertainment. Las Vegas is now the scene of the worst mass murder shooting in American history. It is shocking. I don't know if I can speak for all Australians, but I'm sure there's a lot like me who last night, when you see the social media feed, as the terrible news crept out, of this murderous cowardly rampage, thank God we live in Australia, thank God we have strong gun laws, and I hope we never weaken them.
On the visit today with energy, my message is very simple to Turnbull and his government. I do not know, Mr Turnbull, why you are afraid to use the legal powers you have to do something about out of control energy prices. I do not know why Turnbull is choosing not to use the legal powers that he has to help Australian households and Australian businesses combat rising energy prices.
We're at PMG plastic injection moulding in Braeside. This is a great family business. It's got a longstanding workforce. Once people start working here, they want to stay here, it's a good business to work in. It's a business which competes against imported product from around the world. It does quality tooling, it can provide speedy bespoke manufacturing service to Australian industry, and it has been doing that for many years.
But it doesn't matter how hard family businesses in Australia work, if every gain they make in more productivity and better quality, and better after sale service, and better tooling and engineering, if every time they make a benefit, an improvement, all of that gets washed away by rising energy prices.
This business has had a 30 per cent increase in its energy prices in the last 12 months. And despite their best contract negotiations, they're facing increases in the next 12 to 24 months, of 170 per cent to 200 per cent.
There is an energy crisis in this country, yet Mr Turnbull and his government, they're all talk and no action. Every time they have a meeting with energy companies, the bills for ordinary Australians and business seem to go up and up. It's not good enough. Mr Turnbull should not be afraid to use the legal power he has to back in households and business rather than big energy producers.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: On the closure of Toyota at Altona North today, Mr Turnbull says that the closures like this aren't the result of the failure in government subsidies but the result of changes in market taste. What do you say to that?
SHORTEN: First of all, before I get onto the politics of this, I just want to say this is a very sad day for 2,500 Toyota workers. In fact, it's a very sad day for tens of thousands of car industry workers right around Australia.
We now are a country who no longer makes motor cars from start to finish. There are still plenty of other countries that do. It took 50 years for Toyota here – Toyota has survived for 50 years in Australia making cars, but they couldn't survive Abbott and Turnbull.
It is not enough for this government to wash their hands and say there is nothing they could do. The reality is this government is all talk and no action. They are out of touch. But having said that they are normally all talk and no action, they haven't even been talk when it comes to sympathy and the recognition that thousands of car industry workers are losing their jobs and have lost their jobs today.
This is a government who is out of touch with the lives of ordinary Australians. They are not interested in manufacturing. They did nothing to help save the car industry and they are doing nothing to help save other Australian businesses with out of control energy prices.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying that Mr Turnbull’s comments that the exit of car manufacturing is because of change in market taste, do you think that is insensitive to say on a day that 2,500 people are going to lose their jobs?
SHORTEN: I think that Turnbull and his government are insensitive and out of touch. On a day when 2,500 Toyota workers finish their jobs, for him to simply blame the car and the product, and not look at what the Government could have done, that's hopeless.
I mean, this is a government who can find hundreds of millions of dollars to hold postal surveys, to hold Royal Commissions, but when it comes to saving manufacturing, blue collar engineering, high-skilled jobs in this country, the Turnbull Government is all talk and no action. I think it is a very sad day for these workers.
SHORTEN: Sorry, it's pretty noisy factory.
JOURNALIST: Doesn't the work that the Government is doing on naval manufacturing show that they do have plans for the manufacturing industry?
SHORTEN: Listen, Labor are the ones who fought to have the submarines and frigates built in Australia. Let's set the record straight here.
Back in 2013 and 2014, when Abbott and his Cabinet, including Malcolm Turnbull, came into power, they weren't interested in building the submarines and naval shipbuilding in Australia, and they were busy rubbishing it. Remember when one of their Ministers famously said that the Australian naval shipbuilders couldn't build a canoe? It is only been Labor who has stood on the side of Australian shipbuilding and Australian jobs.
I'm pleased that the Government is allocating taxpayer money to building our naval ships in Australia, I support that completely. But I don't accept that just because we're doing that, that we should have abandoned the car industry. Some people say that that's the way of the world, that Australian manufacturing can't compete. I don't buy that defeatism. I don't buy that white flag of surrender on manufacturing in this country.
The fact of the matter is we are in a great family business here. This is a business whose business model means that they can do quality plastic injection moulding. They've got a modern tool room which provides very fast turnaround for Australian manufacturers. I'm sick and tired of some politicians in the Liberal and National Party giving up on manufacturing. They just see Australia as a financial services centre or a quarry for resources, and very little else.
JOURNALIST: The PM has suggested strengthening Australia's gun laws will be on the agenda at this week's COAG meeting. Do you think there's weaknesses in the system here?
SHORTEN: We'll work with the Government if any strengthening is required to be done. But can I really be straight here in the light of the Las Vegas tragedy, thank God we live in Australia. Thank God for our gun laws, and heaven help anyone who wants to weaken these gun laws because they're going to have to come through me and the Labor Party.
There's a lot of very good things about America, but we don't want their gun laws. And I again, just want to say, our complete condolences. We grieve with the American people, we mourn for their losses, we pray for their survivors. And the best thing that we can do is fight to keep our gun laws as strong as they possibly can be.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Helen Polley's claim that she was told to publicly advocate for a yes vote even though she herself will be voting no?
SHORTEN: Helen has been overseas, I've communicated with her. She is very happy with what the Labor Party is doing. And to restate our policy, for the record, unlike the Liberal Party, we have a conscience vote. If the Liberal Party had adopted the Labor Party's policy of a conscience vote in this parliament, we could have saved $120 million and we didn't have to have the sort of rancorous divisive debate that we've seen play out over the last six weeks.
So we have a conscience vote, the Liberal Party don't. And I just hope that the Liberal Party, after this postal survey is completed, that they actually stand up, allow a full conscience vote, and let's get on with it. Because everywhere I go, I get two comments from Australians. Most Australians support marriage equality. And I think nearly every Australian just wants the matter finished so we can get on and do with everything else, like deal with housing prices and energy prices and flat-lining wages growth.
JOURNALIST: Is support though for traditional marriage, a valid position that a Labor MP can hold?
SHORTEN: Yes, we support the conscience vote, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Australia's future frigates are being equipped with combat systems to target long-range missiles. Do you think it is a sensible decision to spend $3 billion of the $35 billion being spent on this project on such a system?
SHORTEN: Yes, I do. Let me state my view very directly on this. If this is the best missile technology in the world, then it's only just good enough for our defence forces.
JOURNALIST: Just back on gas and energy. Should states like Victoria take another look at developing onshore gas?
SHORTEN: I've said regardless of who is in power at the state level across Australia, we should be doing more conventional gas exploration. We should be trying to use what resources we have. The trick with energy policy is that we need to make sure that the Government uses the legal powers they have and not be afraid of the big energy companies.
Secondly, we need to expand exploration of conventional gas.
And thirdly, we need to have a Clean Energy Target. What is forcing prices of electricity and gas up is that we don't have any clear rules for investment. Why on earth would any business spend money investing in a new energy generation when the rules are so uncertain? It is pretty straightforward. If Mr Turnbull is fair dinkum about reducing energy prices, he needs to get fair dinkum on a Clean Energy Target. He needs to get fair dinkum about using the legal powers he has.
JOURNALIST: Talking about Australia's missile defence systems, does Australia need a missile defence shield as the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has suggested?
SHORTEN: Well, we're getting briefings from our military experts on it. I always take very carefully, consider carefully everything that former Prime Minister Rudd says. I think as the first step, we need to make sure the experts agree on what needs to be done.
I also have to say that one of the best things we can do in terms of keeping Australia safe is make sure that the United Nations Security Council sanctions, which have been strengthened, are actually delivered.
Senator Penny Wong and I had a four-day tour through South Korea and Japan. It is very clear to me that if we can get the international community, including China and Russia, enforcing the new UN Security Council sanctions, that will put a very strong degree of pressure on the North Korean regime to stop the escalation of tests and greater insecurity throughout the world.
One last question, if there is one?
JOURNALIST: What should state and federal governments be doing to transition the Toyota workers to new jobs?
SHORTEN: I think it is a combination of more skills, more training and more jobs being created. I think that we need to keep backing in advanced manufacturing. I think there is no doubt that if we could actually back in renewable energy, that will create more blue-collar jobs.
We need to make sure that Victoria is getting its fair share of federal infrastructure funding. The Turnbull Government is notorious for its anti-Victorian bias – the fact that we are getting such a small share in Victoria or federal taxpayer resources.
And of course we need to resuscitate and revive TAFE. When we've got a strong apprenticeship system, when we reverse the trend in the privatisation of vocational education, then there is a lot more we can do on jobs.
So it's new industries, it's infrastructure, it's skills and training in apprenticeships.
And I think it's also important to say that wherever possible, the Turnbull Government buys Australian. We've got very good Australian manufacturing business. We have got some of the best tradespeople in the world, some of the best small and medium-sized businesses in the world. I think it's very important that the Australian taxpayer dollar is prioritised to be spent on Australian-made products. And I think they are some of the strategies which the Turnbull Government is not doing.
And finally, to finish where we started, if you want to keep Australian manufacturing surviving and flourishing, Mr Turnbull needs to do something about energy prices. Turnbull is afraid to use the legal powers he has got. Turnbull is not choosing to use the legal powers he's got and in the meantime, Australian businesses and the Australian households are the losers.