Bill's Transcripts






7 JUNE 2013


SUBJECT/S: Auto manufacturing meeting, election


RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Bill Shorten joins us. He is the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, just come out of the meeting with the Prime Minister and car manufacturers. Mr Shorten, good afternoon.

 BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon Raf.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Look I will ask you a few different things but a caller says that your meeting with the car makers is a charade. His example was a deal, I haven’t heard about this one myself, but there’s apparently some wind turbines that we are going to buy from China – 600 of them apparently – why shouldn’t they be made in Geelong rather than buying them from overseas?

 BILL SHORTEN: The Federal Government hasn’t purchased 600 wind turbines this will be - I don’t know anything about what that particular caller was talking about, what deal that is – the Federal Government can try and mandate local content and we have put in some new, for major projects, requirements that industry look at their local content plans. The Conservatives have opposed this. So we can try and lead a horse to water and look at Australian owned, Australian made but unless we nationalise every industry, and make every purchasing decision – Australian companies are still free to by where they think. What I would say is when it comes to automobiles, cars Victoria – it’s a Conservative government there – South Australia Labor Government, Federal Labor Government in Canberra we all have very strong buy Australia policies for our own materials, for motor cars. Other governments do not. Local government is probably the most recalcitrant offender. I think there is a role, what keeps a car manufacturer going – and I don’t accept that caller’s description of the meeting I was just in, I don’t know if he was there, as a charade – one of the points that was made, is that Australian manufacturing - and automotive manufacturing can survive, can do well…

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: But they’re going to need more money aren’t they? They’re going to need continuing and more?

 BILL SHORTEN: What a private company does is one thing, but when it’s local government I think rate payers should ask the local government, are they buying Australian?

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: I think you’ve made that point, I expect people know that Toyota and others aren’t going to stay here without some form of government subsidy. And people want to know, are we going to need to increase that level or are things going to stay where they are? So whoever wins after the election, is there going to be, do you need to increase how much we give them?

 BILL SHORTEN: Ok. You talked about the election; the Opposition if they were elected said they would cut the support for the automotive industry.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Well, they will ask the Productivity Commission to have a look at it. That’s different…

 BILL SHORTEN: No, they’ve actually said they would cut $500 million out of it so…

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: And Sophie Mirabella has been doing many media interviews this week saying you’re misrepresenting her but go on.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well, if you and Sophie say that it’s one thing but I’m just telling you, you and I know the Liberals are running a small target policy. They do want to cut that money out of the system. Only Labor is going to support the automotive industry but we’re not over egging that omelette compared to other countries. European countries, other countries per head of population spend more than we do so I don’t think we’re going overboard. But automotive is important. The challenge for automotive surviving in the future is to work on diversification and that means that automotive components suppliers and the technologies and the research, and the engineers working there also, as well and the companies are encouraged to look at other industries using the same skill sets; aviation, clean technology, the mining industry. There probably needs a consolidation gone through so you have a smaller number of companies but with a larger production base. There are good news stories. Down in Geelong, the Federal government is supporting a carbon fibre research centre…

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: The Carbon Revolution wheel.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well, the carbon…and that is the aluminium of the future. It’s going into the new Boeing Dreamliner. There are good news stories. I think we need to showcase the good news stories. I think we do need more encouragement to buy Australian, I agree with what that last caller was saying but…


 BILL SHORTEN: …I also recognise there are other ideas that the car industry has which the government needs to listen to carefully. But I wouldn’t give up on automotive manufacturing because it’s at the high-tech end of manufacturing and if we don’t support that then we’ll just have dumb manufacturing which will be even less likely to survive.


 BILL SHORTEN: I also know that, in the case of Geelong and Broadmeadows, that they’re cities and regions which don’t just depend on manufacturing. We’ve also got to work on having the most educated workforces of the future. That’s why getting our school system right and putting more resources into schools is so important.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Can I ask you about something you said earlier this morning. I will just read the quote, as it is on the ABC website, you tell me if they’ve got it right or wrong. “There is no doubt in my mind that if the polls are correct Tony Abbott will win in a landslide”. Is that what you said and do you stand by it?

 BILL SHORTEN: What I am saying is, yes, there will be a clear choice at the election. The polls are saying that the Opposition will win the election. Now, I don’t think it’s automatic that the Opposition will win the election because there is a choice. Labor can win the next election. What I know is there is a choice and the choice will be – do we want an automotive industry? Do we want to spend more money on having better quality schools for our kids to be educated in? Do we want to have increasing superannuation so people don’t have to rely on the age pension in retirement?

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Look I know they’re your policies, what I guess I am curious to know…

 BILL SHORTEN: Well, they are our policies.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: I understand. I am curious to know, Kevin Rudd said there is a culture of defeat that he wants to fight against inside the ALP. Is he right?

 BILL SHORTEN: I think there is a culture of defeat amongst some of the political observers. I think that Labor is a better bet for the nation. So I certainly haven’t given up. I know that if extended members of my family have got a disability I’d rather have Labor in charge of the national disability insurance scheme because we’ve driven it. I know that as friends of mine grow older, that Labor’s policies have enabled them to…

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Is there not a fairly bipartisan position on the NDIS? Both sides want to back it. There is no difference in the way they’ll implement it is there?

 BILL SHORTEN: There is no doubt that it’s a good idea and the Opposition want to hug the idea but there is no doubt who came up with it.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t implement it, just because you came up with it.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well, you can say that but I also know that if people have a good idea and they’re passionate about it, its people who genuinely want to commit to it. What I also know in superannuation, the Opposition have now said they’ll freeze superannuation increases at 9.25 per cent. That is just crazy. The idea that somehow we can delay saving for our own retirement and not pay more taxes through an increased call on the age pension, that’s just short-sighted.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: And can I ask you finally Minister, are people still listening? I don’t know what it’s like when you get out into your electorate, its different when you meet people face-to-face. Do you still think people are willing to listen to what you say are significant policy differences?

 BILL SHORTEN: I think Australians and people in my electorate, in Avondale Heights and East Keilor and Moonee Ponds and Essendon and St Albans, they want to know what are the policies. We all know there is a debate about personalities but I know that for the families, the people earning less than 65,000 a year who are working hard but still, it’s a battle to make ends meet, they want to know what we’re going to do for them. And I know that in my suburbs in the north west of Melbourne, only Labor has spent real money on school infrastructure. Only Labor’s increased the age pension. Only Labor is pushing disability reform. Only Labor’s got a solid plan for manufacturing. So I think people will listen. It’s a matter of putting the case time and time again.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: And can I just ask you finally, Anna Bligh, the news websites are reporting has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I don’t know if you, sorry I didn’t know if I was bringing you that news…

 BILL SHORTEN: Oh, I didn’t know that.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: I was going to ask you for a comment on that but you don’t know about it so it’s a bit tough to ask you that one on the run.

 BILL SHORTEN: She is a very good person, that news is – it could be anyone with that news – that news is not good.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Of course. Sorry to spring that one on you. I didn’t know you weren’t aware.

 BILL SHORTEN: That’s alright.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Thanks for giving us some of your time.

 BILL SHORTEN: Thank you bye.

 RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Bill Shorten, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.