Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Dickson - Jobs for the future; Liberal leaks and cabinet division






SUBJECT/S: STEM; Jobs for the future; Liberal leaks and cabinet division; Royal Commission; Government splits on superannuation; Immigration; Government voting against their own budget measures; $100,000 degrees


ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FRASER: Thanks to everyone for being here and welcome to the great electorate of Fraser to Dickson College which is a school with an innovative program to encourage students to put their coding skills to work. I’d like to thank Kerry and Mark and Tom for their hospitality in having us here and their willingness to show us what coding skills can do to help create the jobs of the future. It is truly inspiring to see what some of these students are doing, putting in place skills that some Australian students wouldn’t be learning until university. Let me now hand over to Labor leader Bill Shorten.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Andrew. It’s great to be here at this remarkable college. Australians perhaps underestimate how clever and how hard working our young people are. I’ve just met a dozen of the smartest secondary school students I think we could meet anywhere and they're all studying science and engineering, technology and mathematics. What these young people are doing is setting Australia up for the future, it's all about the jobs of the future.


Labor has proposed that we need to have a plan for the jobs of the future, a lot of parents wonder where will the jobs be for their kids. In the future we will need more skilled jobs and less unskilled work. That's why Labor wants to see primary school students, every child and every primary school have a chance to learn to code. It’s computational thinking, it’s learning the language of computers and then what we've also said is that for this bright generation of future engineers and scientists and teachers, we want 100,000 of these young people over the next five years to be able, if they complete their degrees, not to have to pay HECS. But we've also made it clear that it's not just a matter of training our young people. It’s not just a matter of encouraging more to do science and technology at university, we want to see our teachers rewarded to upskill so that they have the skills to teach our kids and so that the kids can fall in love with the passions of the future through their studies and their motivated teachers. We also want to make sure that a lot of the science and engineering grads actually are encouraged to do teaching so they can again teach the future generation of our young people.


But along with all of these very important plans, these sensible plans, supported by our business community and our science community and our education community, we also believe it's important we support start-up business, that's why we have a smart innovation fund worth half a billion dollars to make sure that we put the money behind the early start-ups and we work with venture capitalists and fund managers so that we've got an economic pipeline of investment to back up the workforce of the future and indeed that is why we have supported parts of the Government's Budget to do with small business.


We've made it clear from Budget night to my individual and direct conversations with the Prime Minister, to my Budget Reply speech and every day in the last 22, 23 days since the Budget that Labor will support the Government's proposals on small business. We are not the negative Opposition that Tony Abbott was. We are made from different stuff. Where there's a good idea, Liberal or Labor, we'll get behind it to help small business and to help jobs. For me it's all about jobs. So you can imagine my surprise today when I proposed that we bring on the legislation, bring on the Budget to help small business, let's get it through the House of Representatives and the Senate in the fortnight. Now Tony Abbott challenged us to do it after scaring people that we weren't, even though he knows that Labor's always supported these small business measures in fact we supported them in Government when he didn't. But today we put our money where our mouth was, nearly every Labor MP there to vote for the small business package.


What on earth is the Government thinking when they voted today against fast tracking their own measures to help small business? It was one of the silliest acts of political stupidity the Abbott Government's done.


We know they are districted by the division in their own ranks. We’ve seen Julie Bishop run out to say she wasn't the original leaker of this terrible national security leak, now we've got Malcolm Turnbull trying to move the spotlight off him. There are a couple of facts when it comes to division in this Government. One, someone leaked what happened in Cabinet to do with national security. No one's denying that the discussions that we’re reported didn't take place.


So now we're in the zone where we've got Ministers lying about lying. They're all issuing their denials. But the problem for Tony Abbott is every one of his Cabinet Minister said it wasn't them, then who did leak the national security discussions? You know, the Government treat Australians as mugs.


It would appear today in light of their crazy vote against fast tracking their own small business measures, the only thing that unites the Abbott Government is voting against their own Budget measures being fast tracked.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Speaking of divisions, just how damaging is the now very public split between the former Labor Prime Ministers being dredged up all over again and will this cost you the next election?


SHORTEN: Ursula, when you say these matters are being dredged up again you’re right on the money. This is history, it is not a secret that there was disunity in the Rudd Labor Government and the Gillard Labor Government, that’s not a secret, it’s old news to be fair. I mean the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments did accomplish some really good things, things which will stand the test of time. The handling of the Global Financial Crisis where Australia fared better than most other first world countries, the apology to the Stolen Generations, greater funding for education so we get these kids getting the best chance in life and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, just to name some accomplishments.


But there's no denying that mistakes were made and one of the greatest mistakes was disunity in the Government. When a Government can't govern itself how can it govern the nation? But as your question conceded, that is in the past. I think I have been very fortunate to have quite a marvellous run of unity within the Labor Party and I think what's interesting about the discussion of Labor's history is this is Liberals’ present. They are divided. You've got Andrew Robb saying different things to other Ministers about whether or not they'll deregulate wages and conditions in the aviation industry. You’ve got different Ministers wanting different strategies when it comes to the handling of national security.


I mean today, the only thing which unites the Liberal Government is voting against fast tracking their own small business legislation. It really was an episode of stupidity in the nation and we need to do better from our Government.


JOURNALIST: Can I just get your reaction to the Royal Commission into trade unions, there was story into today’s Australian suggesting that workers for Clean Event would have lost penalty rates. Did you sign off on that sort of deal in 2006 when you were the secretary of the TWU?


SHORTEN: Well first of all I'm not going to provide a running commentary on the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission's got its path to pursue. We’ve had a policy of not making running commentary and I'm not going to start today.


JOURNALIST: On superannuation, do you believe that you can win this issue coming up to the next election given the Government is now increasingly confused on their position?


SHORTEN: Well we've got the Government disturbingly at odds. You’ve got the elected representatives disagreeing with their chief economic adviser. The Government's chief economic adviser, the fulltime public servant whose day job is to provide Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey with financial advice about the sensible maintenance of Australia’s economic future has said that the existing superannuation tax concessions at the top end do need to be reviewed, I mean that’s the import of what he said, no doubt. Yet you've got the Government, Tony Abbott, stuck in one of those sort of promised self-made booby traps where he says there will be never ever any changes to superannuation. I mean he said before the last election that he wouldn't cut pensions, cut education, cut health, you know the spiel that he gave before the last election, he broke all of that.


Now he's stuck in this never ever thing where he says that the superannuation, the unsustainable concessions at the high end. When we talk about unsustainable, let's be clear, Australians are smarter than Tony Abbott treats them. If he wants to say that if Labor proposes reducing a tax concession, a tax concession, in other words if you've got $2 million in superannuation and you're in retirement and you’re earning an income of $100,000 interest, very few thousand of our fellow Australians will ever get $100,000 in interest from their superannuation nest egg, we're proposing that you pay a reduction in the tax concession.


See at the moment, under Tony Abbott's view of the world, every taxpayer in Australia, millions of us, reward people who already have millions of dollars in superannuation, get massive flows of interest from them and he says we don't want them to pay any tax at all. Yet what he would do to pensioners is effectively give them a tax hike on their pension and punish part pensioners. Tony Abbott's created an unsustainable system and because he's so desperate to hang on to his job and tell people what he thinks they want to hear, he just won't tell them the truth.


JOURNALIST: On the Cambodian refugee deal, there's still no evidence that the first four have actually made it there. What's Labor's position on the deal?


SHORTEN: Well we need to see the detail. We do support regional resettlement. Let's be very clear, despite the Government trying to say something else, that’s not the case. We do support regional resettlement. But this Government is addicted to secrecy. How many millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money are they paying for a few people to be resettled? I think that, as much as I would like to help with the answer to your question, it's time for the Government to answer to Australians how they're spending taxpayer money.


JOURNALIST: It’s $55 million so far and is that an appropriate cost?


SHORTEN: How many people have they said so far they're resettling?


JOURNALIST: Four so far.


SHORTEN: Four for $55 million does seem - is very expensive. Taxpayers would rightly say, $55 million, what are we getting value for it, people going to work every day. To be fair the Government just needs to explain what they're doing. Why does the Government think that Australians are stupid and think that they don't need to be taken into the confidence of the Government about what's going on? I mean, when this Government wants to damage each other, when the Ministers want each other's jobs they'll stop and hold a press conference or ring up their favourite journalist, but when it comes to important matters, being straight with the use of taxpayers money or indeed fast tracking small business legislation, this Government's entirely distracted.


JOURNALIST: On the issue of the small business legislation, was this just a stunt on your part given that the Senate isn't sitting this week? It can still be brought up before June 30th.


SHORTEN: I don't know if you saw the Question Time where Tony Abbott challenged Labor to help fast track this legislation. Remember he loves to give a lecture, I mean he's never so comfortable as when he's the Leader of the Opposition and he challenged us to agree with him. It was dishonest of him because I shook hands with him the morning after the Budget, it was on television, it was in the ABC studio, and I said, listen I don't like what you're doing in health and education but the small business stuff looks good.


So we've had a very clear support for small business and remember Tony Abbott making a hero of himself in Question Time, loves to sort of stand up there and yell at the Opposition and, you know, will you agree with small business reform? And we said yes and today we said, bring it on. The question is why is this Government so distracted, so slow-footed that when Labor votes to fast-track a better deal for small business the Government's united against opposing fast tracking. The Government's got some explaining to do to small business. If they're in such a hurry to help small business, why were they so slow today?


JOURNALIST: But they’d still have to wait, given that the Senate isn't sitting.


SHORTEN: First of all, you saw Tony Abbott say, when will Labor get this legislation through? The House of Reps, they could of had it through an hour ago. I think the Government's got some explaining to do. Sorry, there's just a student journalist here today.


JOURNALIST: Hi, I’m Nelson [inaudible] from Dickson College. I’d just like to say most of us at Dickson want to go to university and what would Labor's response be to the proposed increase in university fees in the future?


SHORTEN: We really oppose Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott's plans to create $100,000 degrees. We want you to go to university. We want you to get the skills. We want you to be the best that you can be. Labor understands and hears the voice of young Australians. We don't want to price Australians out of going to university. We believe that it's how hard you work and the marks you get which is what gets you to university, not how much money your parents have. That's why Labor in particular in the area of what the students here are studying, science, technology, engineering and maths, not only are we saying that we oppose what Christopher Pyne’s doing about make it harder for kids to go to university by $100,000 degrees, we're actually going forward and further and better. We’re proposing that 100,000 students get their HECS written off if they successfully complete their degrees because we want the workforce of the future to be as smart and adaptable as their parents expect Governments to support them.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Malcolm Turnbull has implied that stripping citizenship from Australians who aren't dual nationals is a bridge too far. I know you haven't seen any legislation or anything like that but what do you think of that as an idea?


SHORTEN: What do I think about Malcolm Turnbull disagreeing with Tony Abbott?


JOURNALIST: No, about the citizenship.


SHORTEN: Okay, well in terms of the dual national proposal we need to see the legislation. These provisions exist where dual nationals in time of war operate for enemy states against Australia and so if there's a pragmatic extension to dual nationals which helps maintain our national security, in-principle we will certainly think about it very constructively. In terms of Malcolm Turnbull and the legislation, there's two points to make, isn't it.


This is a Government who talks about national security but clearly they're divided within their ranks. It wasn't a leak that Fairfax paper got a couple of, a few days ago, it was a whole transcript of the debates and the arguments in the Government. Now Governments have disagreements but the issue is this is national security. If this Government has Ministers who are so keen to undermine each other that they'll use national security as a football then that's worrying for the long-term for Australia's national security.


The other issue I'd say here is the Government wants us to debate national security, just like in small business they're always goading us, what do you think, what do you think, we just want to see the legislation and I'd submit the record of my leadership, being constructive and consistent on national security. The Government always wants to, I think, politicise issues, and what we want to do is take the long-term national interest.


Thanks, everyone. See you in Parliament.