Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Geelong - Labor’s positive plan for more graduates, not $100,000 degrees; Submarines






SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plan for more graduates, not $100,000 degrees; Submarines; China’s ETS; Trade union royal commission; Marriage Equality; Housing


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: (audio break) not just for the next election but for the next 15 and 20 years. Labor fundamentally believes in jobs. We believe in creating jobs, we believe in maintaining jobs. The job of a Government is to make sure that the jobs of Australians are protected and that they're created and that we can compete with the rest of the world. Geelong has been hard hit since the Liberals got into office, we have seen the car industry go, we have seen massive job losses at Shell, at Alcoa, Blue Circle cement to name a few. Geelong is really feeling the pressure of job losses. That’s why we need a Government in Canberra who has got policies to create jobs for the future and a lot of that starts in higher education.


On Monday, Labor announced policies which will mean that working class kids and their parents can be confident they can afford to go to university. Labor believes that when someone finishes university, they should finish with a quality degree, not a debt sentence. We understand that the $100,000 degrees, which are the inevitable outcome of the Liberal Party of Australia cutting money - they've cut over $150 million directly from Deakin plus another $20 million in research cuts. If you cut all this money in higher education and deregulate the prices of going to university, what happens is they will go up and up. Labor has proposed on Monday, well-funded policies which will mean we don't have to have $100,000 degrees, which means that a uni student can finish university with a quality degree, confident that they can compete with good skills in the job market of the future and they won't have some giant HECS debt, courtesy of the Liberal Government.


Labor is very committed to reversing the unfair cuts of the Liberal Party. We are very committed to making sure that kids from all backgrounds get the chance to go to university. We believe that it is your marks and how hard you work which should determine your future in life, not how rich your parents are. The modern Liberal Party is out of touch with the lives of young people. They just seem to want the prices of things to go up. They want to see a GST which forces up prices. They want to make it more expensive to go to university. They don't understand the world that you and I live in, in terms of making sure young people get a go in life. Labor again today is reinforcing our commitment to a student guarantee of funding, which is much more generous than the Liberal Party. We are putting downward pressure on the price of going to university. We are deliberately here in a regional campus because regional Australians, both young people and mature age, aren't getting the same access to university as their metropolitan cousins and we want to make sure they're not discouraged from going to university. Labor believes you should finish university with a quality degree, not a $100,000 HECS debt.


I might just ask Senator Carr to add a few more comments about Labor's policy to help young people do better in life.




What we have seen this week is the Labor Party is actually setting the agenda on innovation policy. It is not just in the question of higher education and that is incredibly important, but also in regards to start-ups. We have made announcements this week in regards to start-ups which builds upon the announcements that Bill has made in regards to science and engineering, teaching and schools, on top of what we have said on coding.  But in terms of providing support for science and engineering students at university. We are in the business of transforming this country and we know that our best talents are to be found within our universities and our education system. We have to prepare our students who are at school at the moment for the next 50 years. That’s what our policies are aimed to do, providing the foundations for life to transform this economy so that we know we have high quality, high skilled, high wage jobs and I think that has been indicated to you today, our commitment to this region, has been demonstrated by our long standing investment in this university and off the manufacturing industries in this region. Now we know how important it is to work with those industries to meet the challenges head-on. So where as the Liberals are taking $171 million out of this university, we are putting that money back, plus some, because we know how vital this university is to the economic prosperity of this region. We are looking forward to working with the universities to improving performance, to improving the return for the massive public investment that you will only see under a Labor Government.


SHORTEN: Thanks Kim. Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you mentioned regional universities; how will the policies you have announced this week specifically benefit regional students at Deakin?


SHORTEN: I’ll answer the first part and then I will ask Kim to supplement my answer.


There is currently a gap between the regions and cities in completion. There is a 6 per cent plus gap. In other words, more city kids are finishing university than country kids in the regions. What we want to do is focus universities on making sure not just that they enrol students, but that the students get a good teaching experience and that therefore they finish with quality degrees. What we are doing with the extra resources we're allocating from the taxpayer to higher education is we will be asking universities to focus a lot more on the quality of the experience. Do you know it is over $14 billion of taxpayer money goes to universities. This is a really important expenditure but the taxpayer and parents and indeed the students have a right to know they are getting a quality experience. I don't think anyone could be under any doubt, talking to some of the medical students and staff that I was lucky enough to talk to upstairs, there is some really motivated kids. One of the great things about the Deakin medical school, is I understand 25 per cent of their students come from the regions and they will be doing clinical work in regional medical facilities as well. We will allocate funding to universities but we expect them to address the challenges of improving the completion rate of the regions.


The other thing which is important is in a range of regional universities, you get a greater proportion of students being mature aged students. As anyone knows who has returned back to university, I’ve done it, plenty have had to do it, is of course, the older you get, your financial obligations get more complex, don’t they? They don't get simpler. You have got the mortgages and you have got kids. When you change from one career or one occupation to do another, you perhaps have to take a dip in your income. That is why the Liberal policy of deregulating university pricing, of cutting universities, was going to create a big hurdle for people, mature aged people in the regions in particular, from returning to university to change their studies and get the jobs of the future. Labor is actually in touch with how people are living their lives, we understand there is no such thing as a job for life. We understand that in life, you will have to become a student and a student again, you will have to skill and reskill. Just as some of those PhD students are doing subsequent studies upstairs. In order to do that we have got to make sure that the Government don't send out a message to mature age Australians that don't bother changing your studies or your skills, because it is too expensive.


Labor has got common sense plans, because we think if you properly fund the unis, more mature aged people, more people from the regions are going to say "Actually, I can afford to go to university" because for us, what the price of something is will always ultimately influence who gets to benefit.


CARR: Thank you, Bill.


Let's take the medical students at this university. Under the arrangements that we are embedding, the student will pay $54,000 for their degree, that is their contribution towards their higher education. Under the Government's proposals, they would be paying up to $150,000 per student. Because the deregulation of university fees means that this university simply can't afford, cannot afford to maintain the old arrangements, they would have to go to increasing fees for individual students. That is why we say no to $100,000 degrees. That is the first big gain. What we do know, is that in a situation, for instance, down at Warrnambool here, the campus here at Warrnambool, this university is under enormous pressure and one of the first groups of people that walk away from the university system when they're under financial pressure is mature age students. It is regional students and mature age students that will most likely withdraw from the education system. We are providing the basis for them to continue and we are providing the financial support so a university such as this can maintain its breadth of reach across this State. That is why this university has excelled in terms of its research contribution but also its capacity - it is now 52,000 people attend this university. This university has grown in leaps and bounds but it has done so by maintaining a commitment to quality and we want to work in partnership with Deakin University and universities like that, to secure the future for people no matter what their age, but particularly for young people.


JOURNALIST: Do you welcome Japan’s plan to build submarines in Australia?


SHORTEN: Labor has always been committed to building submarines in Australia. Before the last election, Liberal and Labor both promised that the submarines should be built in Australia. Then we have seen two years of back-sliding, of weasel words from the Liberals – ‘when we meant built in Australia’, the Liberals meant, ‘we sort of had fingers crossed behind our backs and don't hold us to it’.


Now what has happened is that because of Labor's staunch opposition to building our largest piece of defence infrastructure in a generation outside of Australia, the message is finally getting out. I don't mind who is the person who gets picked, so long as they have the best cost and best quality, be it Japan, be it Germany, be it France. I didn't do any shady deals on the margins of the G20 like the Liberals might have done and never told us about.


For me, what matters is value for taxpayers, is jobs in Australia and the defence of Australia.


We should have a submarine building industry in Australia, we should have a shipbuilding industry in Australia and the Liberals have wasted two years and the only reason why the message is getting out is because the Liberals are worried about their own jobs. They have never been worried about submarine construction workers' jobs ever.


JOURNALIST: Would you be happy for Japan to get that contract to build subs in Australia?


SHORTEN: Cost, quality, national security, ability to maintain. Taxpayers pay their taxes to the Government and they want to make sure that the taxes that they have worked hard to earn which get paid to Canberra are spent wisely. The Labor Party is on the side of the taxpayers seeing taxes being spent wisely. But the rest of the world, they don't go around spending all their taxes overseas, they expect on something as big as defence infrastructure that we should be saying to the people who are going to win these contracts: by the way, part of the requirement is that you build these submarines in Australia. The Liberals somehow think that is an unreasonable test to put on our defence industry, that we spend some of the big dollars in Australia. I don't. I believe we can have a defence industry in Australia; in Geelong, in Adelaide, in Williamstown, in Newcastle, right through Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland and Western Australia.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible question)


SHORTEN: The difference between me and the Liberals is in my case, what you see is what you get. I have always wanted the submarines built in Australia. The Government tried to say somehow asking the submarines being built in Australia meant you were anti-one country or another. What is rubbish. I just happen to be pro-Australian.


JOURNALIST: China is reportedly planning a cap in trade program from 2017- what do you think about that?


SHORTEN: I think that is a really pleasing development. What has just been reported right now, as we speak, is that China and America are talking about having an emissions trading scheme. That is a way of putting a price on carbon pollution which doesn't involve paying billions of dollars of taxpayer money to big polluters. China already has a version of an emissions trading scheme across seven regions of China. Now the news is coming out today and it is pretty exciting, I will be honest – pretty exciting, that they are now looking at having a national scheme. This is the world's fastest growing economy.


For two years, the Liberal Party of Australia – and some conservative commentators in the media – have been pouring scorn upon Labor and saying "What would Labor know, they are crazy, we shouldn't have an emissions trading scheme". Labor has stuck to its guns and the tide is turning on real action on climate change. Real action on climate change is Labor’s policies. If China thinks that the sort of policies Labor's recommending are a good idea, if the Americans are going down the same path and if Labor is going in lock step with rest of the world, why is Malcolm Turnbull the only person who is chasing after Tony Abbott's discredited schemes?


We all know that Malcolm Turnbull has sold out his views. If you had been asking this question in 2009 to me or Malcolm Turnbull we would have had the same position. The good news for Australia is I still have the same position and it is the same position as China, America and most of the world.


The only thing that has changed is that Malcolm Turnbull, in order to capture the Liberal Party and replace Mr Abbott, has had to sign up to a dirty deal to implement Tony Abbott's failed policies on climate change. This is great news for the world that China's proposing this, it’s great news for real action on climate change, it is great news for a global trading system in terms of climate change but Malcolm Turnbull is the only person who is chasing after Tony Abbott's failed schemes.


JOURNALIST: What is your view on revelations that CFMEU officials shredded several tonnes of documents subpoenaed by the trade union royal commission?


SHORTEN: Those revelations are incredibly disappointing and shocking. I’m not going to run a running commentary of every aspect of the evidence in this royal commission, but I'm happy again today, to repeat Labor's principled position: we have no time for criminality. It doesn't matter if the criminality is from a union rep or it is a pin stripe suit-wearing director in a boardroom of Australia. For us, we have zero tolerance.


JOURNALIST: It’s not a good look though, you’d agree?


SHORTEN: No, and that is probably why I gave you the previous answer I just gave you. I agree with you.


JOURNALIST: Your thoughts on Malcolm Turnbull's position on gay marriage and the plebiscite, do you believe he has just rolled over and adopted Tony Abbott's position?


SHORTEN: There is no doubt in my mind that you had asked Malcolm Turnbull before he became leader of the Liberal Party, he was all for the Parliament having a conscience vote. In fact, he rather eloquently rubbished the idea of a plebiscite.


But now he has got his hands on the prize, the leadership of the Liberal Party, Prime Minister of Australia. His previous views are so yesterday it is not funny. The truth of the matter is when it comes to marriage equality in this country, it is long overdue. The truth is that Tony Abbott proposed a plebiscite, not because he believes in marriage equality, because he wanted to delay it, he wanted to kick the can down the road, hope maybe something would come up as desperate people do and rescue him from having to deal with marriage equality. The truth is that Malcolm Turnbull sold out his views on marriage equality.


The real issue of a plebiscite is this: does Australia need to spend $160 million on an opinion poll to find out what Australians think? If it is not an opinion poll, if we have this plebiscite at some point in the future, is Malcolm Turnbull promising he will force his Liberal Party to vote for marriage equality if the plebiscite says yes? This is a very important question. If Malcolm Turnbull says that the plebiscite will bind the Liberal Party to the result that is one thing. But if Malcolm Turnbull won't guarantee that all his Liberal MPs will vote for marriage equality if the plebiscite gives marriage equality the tick, then why are we having the plebiscite to begin with? Malcolm Turnbull has to be straight with the Australian people. One, why not let the politicians exercise a vote according to their conscience? And two, why are we spending $160 million on a glorified opinion poll?


Let's face it, Liberal MPs are not committing to vote for marriage equality, even if the plebiscite says yes.


JOURNALIST: (inaudible)


SHORTEN: Labor did, while we were in Government, propose some new model schemes about how to help people down size their homes without paying some of the taxes that come with downsizing the home.


In terms of the interaction with the pensions policy, that is a much bigger question. It is true though that as people grow older in this country and we have an ageing population, we are going to need to look at how we are encouraging people to be able to look after themselves financially. Rather than necessarily adopt each part of the question or the policy behind the question you are saying, I think we should consider these other two measures. One, we should lift compulsory superannuation in this country so that people have more of their own resources to rely upon as they grow older. And two, I think it has been a mistake of Malcolm Turnbull not to have a Minister for the Aging. When you have got 20 per cent of the population in the next few years who will be over the age of 65, we need to take their issues more seriously than the priorities would appear of the current Government.


Last question thank you.


JOURNALIST: (inaudible)


SHORTEN: In terms of housing affordability, you're right, this is a big, big issue and there is plenty of moving parts. Labor and my colleagues, Chris Bowen and Jan McLucas have been working on this and have released a discussion paper on it. Labor recognises that some of the factors which go to housing afford ability are on what they call supply side: is the land there? In the cities of Australia, is the land available to build houses? Also, there’s issues in terms of State taxes and charges, stamp duties. I know the ACT Government is proposing some more interesting developments in terms of being flexible about stamp duties. There is also a challenge on the deposit side in terms of how do young people get the amount of money together to be able to afford a deposit. These are some of the issues we're looking at. Let’s be straight, there is no silver bullet on the question of housing affordability. There is no simple issue but Labor is certainly - we recognise if we have a buoyant domestic construction or domestic housing sector then that is good for jobs as well. We are looking at this through the ability of young people to enter the housing market and through the ability for the housing sector to generate new jobs.


Thanks everyone.