TUESDAY, 17 JANUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Australian jobs; Trans-Pacific Partnership; Yahoo data breach; Refugee resettlement; Turnbull’s Budget mismanagement; Centrelink debt debacle
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This is a great Australian company with not just operations in Port Botany in Sydney but right around Australia. We have had the privilege of speaking to some of the workforce amongst the 400 people employed here in permanent, quality jobs. I'm here today, on my second day back from leave, not only testing the engines of the forklift, but we are going to start testing the Government's resolve on Australian jobs in 2017.
There is nothing more important for a parliamentarian, no matter what their political affiliation, nothing more important for a politician and the Government than standing up and supporting Australian jobs. Good quality jobs like the jobs we see here.
We have heard today of the importance of government getting behind more truckie training. We have heard today, again, the importance of Labor's policy of supporting the road bottlenecks and gridlocks by supporting greater rail investment between this facility and other parts of Sydney.
I, in 2017, and my Labor team, will fight for Australian jobs and we will do whatever it takes to keep jobs and create jobs, and create quality jobs which put the food on the table for working class and middle class families in Sydney and right around Australia.
By contrast today, whilst Linda and I are out here hearing the policies, listening to people about how we can promote more Australian jobs, Malcolm Turnbull is in the bunker trying to reshuffle their existing ministerial jobs. This is the problem with Australia under the Turnbull Government. Australians want a government who is standing up for their jobs. Instead, Malcolm Turnbull is fighting for his own job.
And we see the remarkable situation where Malcolm Turnbull is so bereft of supporters in his Cabinet that he is going to recycle the dodgy Senator Sinodinos and give him a frontline position because he doesn't want to bring Tony Abbott back into the Cabinet or cause a wider reshuffle. The only reason Malcolm Turnbull is having a reshuffle is because one of his Government Ministers was simply mistreating the expenses system and making Australians really angry at all politicians.
What Malcolm Turnbull should be doing today is not recycling the dodgy Senator Sinodinos, he should, instead, be focusing on policies which help this company and thousands of companies like it around Australia promote and maintain Australian jobs.
We are happy to take questions on this and other matters.
JOURNALIST: Just on the TPP, the ACTU has demanded that Labor rule out supporting that agreement. Will you rule it out?
SHORTEN: Malcolm Turnbull has started this year very poorly. Returning from his summer of scandal and stuff-ups, not the least of which has been the Centrelink mess, Malcolm Turnbull has decided to distract Australia by talking about signing or ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Malcolm Turnbull's asking Australian politics to invest in a treaty with America which President Trump has said that he is going to rip up. President Trump has described the TPP, this agreement, he has described it in his language as a sort of rape of the American economy, to paraphrase President Trump.
President Trump is not about to turn around, and just because Malcolm Turnbull says he would like us to sign this treaty, the Americans aren't going to change. So we are left in this farcical situation where you have got Malcolm Turnbull basically asking the Australian Parliament to vote on last year's grand final. The result's over, the verdict's in. The TPP is dead in the water.
So in terms of it, we will see what the legislation is when the Government presents it, they haven't even got the legislation to present to us. But the TPP is over. It's dead. It's not going anywhere. Trump has said this. Everyone knows it. So why is Malcolm Turnbull not getting on with sorting out and protecting Australian jobs?
What he should do is do the sort of things which have been suggested to us today. Get behind more training for skilled transport drivers and logistics operators. What he should do is help cure the bottleneck, the lack of rail infrastructure around Port Botany and what he should also do, if he wants to do something effective for standing up for Australian jobs, is he should review and reform and revise the rorts in the 457 and temporary guest worker visa schemes which see foreign workers ripped off and Australian dole queues getting longer.
JOURNALIST: If the TPP does go ahead, would you support it or are you saying that you wouldn't decide until you see the detail?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. Trump has said it is over. When I see the Americans say that it is not over and President Trump, then we will come back and have a look at the matter. But who on earth thinks Donald Trump is going to change his mind on what he said about the TPP except for Malcolm Turnbull?
Malcolm Turnbull's clutching at straws. He is just trying to stage arguments about decisions which have already been made because he hasn't got any other ideas in his policy cupboard. He is out of ideas. That's why he is trying to re-litigate something which was decided by the American election.
JOURNALIST: What if a smaller TPP is salvaged without the US, would you be open to that?
SHORTEN: Well then it is not the TPP. What we need trade which includes America in terms of the regional architecture. If Mr Turnbull has another plan, put it on the table. But in the meantime, we have 50,000 people who lost full-time jobs last year. We don't want to see a repeat of last year's job losses this year. We've got Holden closing. We've got older Australians who regularly report extended periods of unemployment because they can't get jobs. We've got young people not able to get apprenticeships. We've got companies crying out for more work and more skills and more training. Malcolm Turnbull should worry about the things that he can meaningfully change and stop talking about the things he can't change.
JOURNALIST: Does the TPP have any merit in terms of economic benefits? And if so why not got ahead and legislate it even if Trump disagrees with it?
SHORTEN: Because Australia legislating a treaty with America isn't worth the paper it's on if the Americans don't legislate that treaty. It's just a waste of time. What Malcolm Turnbull could do, if he is fair dinkum about Australian jobs rather than worrying about his own job, is he could start funding more apprenticeship places, he can start building more rail infrastructure to help decongest the roads in Sydney. Malcolm Turnbull needs to get on and fix up the temporary guest worker schemes in Australia. These are things which Malcolm Turnbull can do. Instead he spends all his time talking about pipe dreams which aren't going to happen and worrying about who he should put into the Health Ministry to help make sure that Malcolm Turnbull can keep his job.
JOURNALIST: More than 3,000 government officials have been victims of the Yahoo data breach. Do you think there needs to be an urgent investigation into what information has been accessed?
SHORTEN: As I understand it, this breach happened three years ago, so some of it would be a bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. But the Yahoo data breach is a timely reminder that business and people who hold personal information and passwords need to make all efforts to protect that data. I think there probably is a role, and we will work with the Turnbull Government on this constructively, to make sure that government reaches out to business and to other people who hold that personal information and passwords, to see what we can do to use our skills to strengthen Australia's response against cybercrime. So I think in the case of Yahoo, it is a timely reminder all of those who keep secure information of people's passwords and important personal information electronically, we do need to do more to help protect that and there is a role for Government to liaise with business to ensure that this breach which happened in the past isn't repeated in the future.
JOURNALIST: Community leaders in Fairfield in Sydney's west have called for more Federal Government assistance to help settle refugees. They are set to get about half of the 12,000 special intake. Do you think they should get more help and how do you think it has been handled so far?
SHORTEN: I do think It is important that for refugees who are officially approved and able to come here, that there is appropriate levels of support to ensure their absorption into the community is done as effectively as possible. We'll certainly be talking and my Shadow will be talking to the Fairfield community about their concerns.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there should be so many people settled in the one local council area?
SHORTEN: First of all, that's a matter for Fairfield to decide and I will get my Shadow spokespeople to talk to them.
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer is expected to allow Government debt to rise above $500 billion this year. What message do you think this will send the ratings agencies and the markets?
SHORTEN: The Government is not managing the economy at all well. On one hand, we've got unemployment near per cent, we've got more people than ever on the disability support pension and we've got a lot of discouraged job seekers. So we do have an unemployment problem in this country. On the other hand, the Government seems incapable of protecting our credit rating and they're not making the sort of hard decisions which need to be made to improve the Government and the Budget and the taxpayers' bottom line.
The Government can help protect the ratings, the important credit ratings, of the Australian Government by taking the following measures: drop the $50 billion corporate tax cut to large companies, institute sensible reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax deduction rules which will also have the added benefit of helping Australians be able to afford their first home, and the Government needs to reconsider the tax cuts it is currently proposing for millionaires.
This will add tens of billions of dollars to the bottom line and it will do so in a way which doesn't mean we have to see a repetition of the summer's scandalous treatment of people who owe nothing to Centrelink, being chased like common criminals for the debts which the Government acknowledges, many of them, they know don't exist.
I might ask my colleague, Linda Burney who has been acting in this area over summer, to talk more about if the Government's fair dinkum, it doesn't pick on the most vulnerable.
LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES: Thanks and good morning everyone.
Well, if the Government wanted to do something in relation to Centrelink, something decent, they would be doing what we are doing here today, Bill Shorten and myself, and that's talking to companies about employment, talking to companies about apprenticeships and what can be done in relation to creating that employment.
Instead, today is the 21st day since I have written to Alan Tudge to ask him to suspend the Centrelink robo-call debt automated collection system. I have heard absolutely nothing back from Alan Tudge. He has had 21 days to respond and yet he gives those people that Bill Shorten has referred to, the people that owe nothing to Centrelink, 21 days to pay up. It is a real story of it's okay for the Government, the Turnbull Government to have one set of values, one way of action, but it doesn't apply to the rest of the community. It is absolute hypocrisy.
Two quick points. First of all, Alan Tudge admitted that there were problems yesterday by saying that he would make changes to the system. There wasn't even the Centrelink number on the letter that initially went out to people who supposedly owed money and they could not get the addresses right. But, more significantly, he is now saying that people will not have to start repaying their so-called debt until their review takes place.
Labor is calling on two things: a, for the system to be suspended and, b, for those people already caught up, that there be a retrospective rule applied that they can stop paying back a debt they don't even know, and Centrelink doesn't even know, whether it exists.
One rule for the Government, another rule for the rest of the community. It's hypocrisy and that's what we are seeing writ-large here by Alan Tudge. And we've just learnt, we've just learnt that this automated robo-system of so-called debt collection, if it goes ahead, will be applied to people on the age pension so that they can collect over $1 billion. Why doesn't the Government look at creating jobs, creating apprenticeships, instead of chasing people that do not owe them money and are yet being forced to pay back money and debts that don't exist?
SHORTEN: Perhaps we might take one last question if there is one? I just want to finish, just making the point about Australian jobs. The Turnbull Government needs to focus on creating and maintaining quality Australian jobs. They can't run a Census, they can't run Centrelink, they can't run their own ministers' expenses system. And now today, the biggest question in front of Malcolm Turnbull is which discredited or dodgy former minister are they going to recycle back into the Health Ministry. What we need in this country is a proper policy on apprentices training. What we need in this country is a proper policy to build rail so that we can help take the big cargos off the roads, and what we need in this country is a government fair dinkum about tackling some of the rorts and issues amongst the temporary guest worker scheme.
Labor, today and every day for 2017, is going to be a champion for Australian jobs, the people expect nothing else.
Thank you very much.