Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Canberra



SUBJECT/S: Qantas; Abbott Government exporting jobs overseas; Manus Island; Kevin Rudd; Ukraine; Political extremism.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: [audio begins] they would be losing their jobs as soon as today. Labor’s thoughts are with people who do a good job, who are losing their jobs. Unemployment is not liberation or freedom, it’s a misery. But we know the Qantas workforce are highly professional, we know that anyone who’s worked in aviation has on their CV with references to aviation, an impressive description of what they can do in the future. But this is why Labor cannot support a plan to export jobs overseas. We need from our government more of a future for jobs in aviation and Qantas than a plan to export jobs. Now is not the time for the Government to play politics – now is the time for the Abbott Government to fight for jobs, not send them overseas. Happy to take questions.


REPORTER: [inaudible]


SHORTEN: I’m not going to start second guessing how the company and the workforce work through these difficult issues. What I would say though is just two things. One is, whatever changes are being asked of the workforce, my view is that the sacrifice should start at the top, as well as the bottom. But probably more relevant for the national parliament, if Qantas and its workforce are facing difficult days and difficult decisions, surely the parliament should start facing the difficult decisions it has. It is not good enough that our Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott says that regretfully, the only plan for Qantas – the one and only plan the Abbot Government has – is to export jobs overseas. How on earth did we end up in a situation where the Abbott Government can only create one export industry, the export of Australian jobs overseas?


REPORTER: [inaudible] change from the top as well as the bottom, is that a direct call to Alan Joyce or can you explain that statement?


SHORTEN: It's very straightforward. When you've got change in a company, everyone needs to be part of the change, everyone needs to be doing their bit. But if the company's going through these difficult issues, the Government needs not to be so inflexible as to say there is only one way for Qantas to go, and that is to go overseas. It is very clear that most nations, most of the big aviation companies in the world, have significant government support, be it Singapore or New Zealand, China or the Middle East. Yet we have a situation Australia where the Abbott Government is seeking to give the right to Qantas to transfer Australian jobs to jobs overseas. I am not a parliamentarian in Australia for aviation jobs overseas. Tony Abbott and I were both elected to fight for Australian jobs in Australia. What is the benefit to Australians of a government exporting jobs overseas? And Mr Abbott's conceded that regretfully, he says, jobs have to go overseas. Well since when does the Prime Minister of Australia buy a white flag, say the world is too hard to compete in? What is the benefit for Australians to have a Prime Minister fighting for jobs overseas, not fighting for jobs in Australia?


REPORTER: Mr Truss says that if Qantas was to split in two with its international arm, its international base would still have to be majority Australian owned, isn't that reassuring?


SHORTEN: Not at all. Because the idea that this government is swinging the axe through a company structure and saying split it into two, this is a very over confident government. Their answer to Qantas is send jobs overseas. This is not me making up the words. Tony Abbott said that he regrets that jobs will go overseas. But what's his day job? Since when did he become the bloke in charge of sending our jobs overseas? Look, Warren Truss said in 2009 that he believed that majority - that if foreign ownership was at 49 per cent that would significantly change the nature of Qantas. Now they're advocating that Qantas be split up and dismantled. I saw what happened at Ansett. Once you disband the critical mass of skills and jobs, then you never get them back. I saw Ansett families who had to move to the Middle East, who had to move to Asia in order to pursue their skills in aviation. That's not good enough. Never again, never again should we have a government who says that it's too hard to keep jobs in Australia.


REPORTER: Is Labor still willing to negotiate on the terms of the proposed legislation with the Qantas Sale Act, or is it fait accompli you will not be negotiating on this?


SHORTEN: I was elected into parliament to fight for Australian jobs, not to fight for the right of the Government to transfer jobs overseas. But of course we are more than open to sitting down with the Government, as we have been over the last three months, to talk about alternatives. How on earth do we get to a situation where the Government says that it's only got one plan, a plan A, and it has no plan B. Everyone should have a plan B. If you can't get one option through you should always have always a fall-back position. You should always have a negotiated position to work through with people. How on earth do they expect the Opposition to say it's a good thing to send jobs overseas? I do not agree with the Government, it's not a good thing to export high-skilled Australian jobs overseas.


REPORTER: Will Labor seek to amend the legislation in the Senate or will you just flat out oppose it?


SHORTEN: We haven't even seen their legislation. This is a government who in early December and late November were aware there was an issue. For three months they have been adopting multiple positions. You know, the debt guarantee, on again, off again. Now we're seeing the Government trying to bomb the airline management and attack them. We see more conflicting positions out of the Government. We've seen Joe Hockey I think clearly indicating to journalists and to others that the debt guarantee is a live option. We've got Tony Abbott, who is saying let's just send the jobs overseas, it's too hard. He talks about a level playing field. In global aviation there is no level playing field. There is no level playing field. And what we do is we send our Australian airline to compete with the rest of the world, and our government says it's not our problem.


REPORTER: The Coalition says the terms of reference for its inquiry into the events on Manus Island are the same as the ones Labor used on Nauru and Villawood. Why now once you are in Opposition are you also calling for a committee inquiry? Why aren’t the terms of reference enough?


SHORTEN: Well, to begin with, we’ve proposed that the Senate inquiry should not happen until the Government’s own efforts are concluded. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of people to say that the Government’s been fairly secretive on what’s been happening. But let’s see how the Government inquiry goes. If the Government inquiry covers all the issues, well that would be a good thing. But with this Government’s track record and their addiction to secrecy, I think it is prudential to have a Senate inquiry after the Government inquiry, in the event that the Government inquiry just doesn’t stack up.


REPORTER: Why do you think Kevin Rudd has gone to Moscow? What do you think he can achieve to try and ease tensions between Russia and Ukraine?


SHORTEN: I’m probably like the rest of you, I only read this report this morning. There’s no light I can shed on the matter. What I do appreciate, and what the Opposition appreciates, is that the situation in Ukraine is very troubling. That we should use the voice of our parliament and we support the Government in its efforts, that they should put pressure on the international community to put pressure on Russia to respect Ukrainian sovereignty.


REPORTER: There’s reports of a far right anti-Islam party being set up in Australia, do you have any concerns about the radicalisation of the Australian political sphere?


SHORTEN: That’s an important question in the morning here. What I would say is that extremism, be it of the far left or the far right, is not welcome in Australia. We don’t need extremism. People who preach simple solutions for the future of this country are often just leading Australians up the wrong path. So I believe that Australia works best when we encourage diversity, multiculturalism. We’re an immigrant country – we work best when we include all Australians, rather than trying to divide Australians. So I am certainly the enemy of extremism.


Thanks everyone, have a nice morning.