FRIDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Liberals cuts to TAFE; drop in apprenticeship numbers under Turnbull’s Coalition; Bennelong by-election; National Energy Guarantee.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's fantastic to be here campaigning this morning with Kristina Keneally and our Leader, Bill Shorten in the seat of Bennelong. Labor takes Bennelong very seriously. Kristina and I visited Ryde Hospital this morning and we were there talking to staff about the enormous impact of the Government's health cuts. Kristina's had to go off to the ballot draw but she was here, with Bill Shorten and I, talking about the impact of TAFE cuts on students right here in Bennelong and right across Australia.
There's a real choice for the people of Bennelong. Do they support a government that's cut health and cut education and wants to make further cuts to TAFE or do they want to vote for Kristina Keneally and send Malcolm Turnbull a message. Bill's been here now, I think this is his sixth visit. Bill's been campaigning very strongly in Bennelong, telling the people of Bennelong that they do have a real choice when it comes to this by-election. In contrast, Malcolm Turnbull hasn't been here for 232 days. It's pretty inexplicable that a Prime Minister wouldn't turn up to a by-election that would make or break his majority government. The only explanation is he doesn't care about the people of Bennelong, he takes them completely for granted. Or else, he's realised that his leadership is so toxic, has so lost authority, that in fact turning up would be a negative. Either way the Prime Minister should just put Australians out of their misery.
Here's Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tanya and good morning everybody. Labor wants the people of Bennelong to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull that his cuts to education just aren't good enough - they're not in the best interests of families in Bennelong. There's no area of education more important than TAFE. Under the Coalition Government, nearly 150,000 apprenticeship and traineeship places have disappeared. That includes hundreds in Bennelong alone. TAFE is very important, not just for young people who want to do apprenticeships, but also for adults seeking to retrain. Malcolm Turnbull may not be aware, but there's two TAFEs right in Bennelong. One of which, Meadowbank where we are at today.
Labor wants people in Bennelong to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull, if you don't want the privatisation of TAFE, so what we want to do is make sure that people in Bennelong realise that they have a choice and they can send a message on TAFE. TAFE is fundamental to Australia's economic future. There are plenty of parents out there right now in Bennelong and right across Australia who want to be confident that if they encourage their kids to take up a career in the trades, that they can find an apprenticeship place. Right now in Australia apprenticeship places are harder to find than ever before.
We also want to make sure that adults who are affected by change are able to train for the jobs of the future. Labor has a clear policy on TAFE, we're going to reverse the pendulum towards privatisation, we're going to put TAFE back at the centre of vocational education, we're going to make sure that taxpayer money in vocational education goes to TAFE and not some of the fly-by-night operators in the privatised part of the vocational education system. If Labor's elected, we'll make sure that at least one in every 10 people working on Commonwealth projects is an apprentice.
Parents can be assured that if they vote for Kristina Keneally in Bennelong, and if they vote for Labor at the next election, apprenticeships won't be something you read about in history books, they'll be part of Australia's great and creative future.
We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've attacked Malcolm Turnbull for not being in Bennelong, your candidate for Bennelong, Kristina Keneally has left before answering questions, she's been accused of not answering questions on her record, what do you have to say about that?
SHORTEN: Fair is fair. I think maybe the train was arriving as Tanya said it, but Kristina's gone to the ballot draw. In a by-election they have a ballot draw, it's important the candidate's there, that's an important event. I've visited Bennelong on six occasions already. Kristina Keneally at the previous five was with me, and she seemed to be pretty keen to take a lot of different questions. I'm completely confident that if you stack Kristina Keneally's visibility with John Alexander, I mean there's almost a competition to see if he's visited the electorate.
The fact of the matter is that Kristina Keneally is high profile, and she lives in the area, so I'm very confident that Kristina Keneally is the goods for Bennelong and I think you know probably deep down too, the Liberal Party is greatly concerned that the Labor Party was able to convince a candidate of Kristina's calibre to campaign in Bennelong. Bennelong is a hard seat for Labor to win. In about 70 years, we only had it once and briefly for three years, but the fact that Kristina Keneally has got the strength to stand up and offer herself again to public service, shows you how seriously we're taking this very hard fight.
And I'm happy to answer questions on Labor policy.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the revelation that the Prime Minister went to dinner with a Chinese donor four days after he made a substantial donation to the Queensland coalition. Is that a cause for concern for you?
SHORTEN: What is it with the Liberal Party and political donations? We saw the remarkable and unhealthy spectacle of Gina Rinehart whipping out $40,000 cash to give it to her old mate Barnaby Joyce, and then we find out another $40,000 from a Chinese company and then miraculously Malcolm Turnbull is sitting down next to them within days. The Liberal Party and foreign donations, it needs to stop. Only Labor wants to clamp down on foreign donations. The Liberal Party and money, the two just don't seem to go well together, do they.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you say to Mr Turnbull's comment, that Kristina Keneally has sent a "come on down" message to people smugglers because of her support for the cause of refugees on Manus Island?
SHORTEN: Malcolm Turnbull's obsessed with Kristina Keneally isn't he? Because she represents everything that he's not. She represents energy, dynamism, she's talking about the issues that the people of Bennelong care about; health, TAFE, education and NBN. I mean she's in Bennelong, we haven't seen Mr Turnbull. I think Malcolm Turnbull would be better advised getting that circus he calls a government into line. I mean we are seeing Cabinet leaks, we're seeing inquiries into Cabinet leaks, we're seeing him the last man standing on the Banking Royal Commission opposing it. Mr Turnbull should focus on his day job and stop obsessing about Kristina Keneally, I mean she's a calibre person and I think Mr Turnbull would be doing better if he focused on his day job and stopped worrying about Kristina Keneally.
JOURNALIST: But aren’t you concerned she has a different message from your government in that she has written this year to bring back the refugees from Australia, to bring back refugees on Nauru and Manus.
SHORTEN: No that's not right, I stood alongside her yesterday -
JOURNALIST: She's written in this article I'm reading, quoting directly from this article: there is a solution to Turnbull's Nauru and Manus problem, bring the refugees to Australia -
SHORTEN: Sorry I didn't mean to interrupt you. I stood alongside her yesterday she made it clear she supports our policies.
JOURNALIST: Well regarding the dinner the Prime Minister had he said he didn't know that the person made a donation so is it just a storm in a teacup?
SHORTEN: Classic Turnbull, someone else's fault isn't it. This guy never takes responsibility for anything that's uncomfortable for him. He's the head of the Liberal Party in Australia. He should - the way he can avoid this sort of embarrassment is he can just agree not to accept foreign donations full stop. That's my policy, why doesn't he just copy me, he copies me on most other policies.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor consider endorsing the National Energy Guarantee if more detail is released?
SHORTEN: That last part of the question is, if more detail is released. You know this is a government who's long on thought bubbles and short on detail. What we believe about energy prices is we want them to go down and the way you do that is you start investing with no ambiguity, in renewable energy. All of the evidence, all of the science, all the experts say renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper including the Cheif Scientist who recently came out and in a report lined up with what Labor has been saying. If Mr Turnbull wants to tackle energy prices stop talking about coal and start talking about renewable energy.
JOURNALIST: You're campaigning here on education today but as Premier Kristina Keneally was accused of opposing Workchoices-like conditions on TAFE teachers. Simon Birmingham has also said she cut funding to students of $508 each. Why should the people of Bennelong trust her to deliver on education?
SHORTEN: The Liberals who are briefing you are giving you complete rubbish.
JOURNALIST: I'm not being briefed by any Liberals.
SHORTEN: Let's go through Birmingham's record on cuts. Under this Federal Liberal Government $3 billion taken out of vocational education. Under the Coalition Government nearly 150,000 traineeships and apprenticeships gone. Under this Liberal Government nationally we've seen the cost of going to TAFE going up and up and up. If we want to rescue TAFE, if we want to put TAFE back in the centre of our vocational educational system, if we want parents to be able to see their kids do apprenticeships vote Kristina Keneally on December 16 and send a message to this remarkably out of touch and elitist Government that TAFE matters.
JOURNALIST: So are you going to be here every day in the Bennelong by-election?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to be here every day but I suspect I'll be here more than Malcolm Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: Cory Bernardi has announced his candidate for this seat. Are you concerned given that the people of Bennelong voted No in the same sex marriage survey? What guarantees can you give them that a Labor candidate would protect, try and protect their religious freedoms?
SHORTEN: Well it's very straightforward. We are going to support legislating on marriage equality. We were supporting that before the outcome of the survey and the survey - after the survey, we will still supporting it. But when it comes to people who vote No I actually respect the fact that there are two different points of view on marriage equality and I've said that publically, including in the immediate days after the survey result was released. What I promise Australians regardless of their views is that we will always respect religious freedom in this country full stop. But we should get on and legislate marriage equality. Most Australians be they people who voted No or Yes now want the parliament to just get on and do their day job. I promise you I will do that.
JOURNALIST: Kristina Keneally also wrote a column last year saying that in politics when the curtain comes down it's time to get off the stage. She said that former politicians shouldn't return to politics, now she's come back. Why should she not let someone younger, someone new have a run at it as she said herself?
SHORTEN: Someone younger? She's a bit younger than John Alexander. Now that's no issue, John's a good fellow and we know that he was planning to retire pretty soon and he’s sort of, been dragged back in because of the unfortunate matters around The Constitution and his citizenship.
But if you're looking for youth and energy let's line up the two propositions. John Alexander, nice fellow. But Kristina Keneally, she's got more energy in her little finger than that whole tired Government front bench. I think she would be - she's not only younger than John Alexander, she's younger than Malcolm Turnbull. No I think she's got the energy and the goods. She's a working mum, she's done a great job raising her boys, she's had a distinguished career including an important profession of the media. No, I think she's a dynamo and I think the Labor Party in Bennelong are fortunate to have a Candidate of that calibre and I just watch this space - she's very, very active. And I mean one thing she's dead against is the Liberals and One Nation working together. We just look at the Queensland election which will be held tomorrow. Tim Nicholls let the cat out of the bag this morning when he said vote for the LNP and One - One Nation. You know, goodness me what is going on here? What I want to see is the Liberals in Bennelong put One Nation last because Kristina will.
JOURNALIST: Just on the National Energy Guarantee would a failure of the states and Federal Government to agree on anything be a backwards step for the country?
SHORTEN: I think what a backwards step for the country is Mr Turnbull's war on renewable energy. I think what's a backwards step for this country is under - over four years of this Liberal Government gas prices are going up and up and up, electricity prices are going up and up and up. Only the Labor Party has got the right policies to put electricity prices and gas prices - put downward pressure on them, to make sure we have more jobs in renewable energy and to tackle climate change. Only Labor can be trusted to sort out the energy problems of this country. The Liberals have had five years and they've done nothing, they've just made the problem worse.
Thanks everybody, see you soon on the trail.