Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Labor’s plan to create the jobs of the future; Labor’s plan for coding in schools




MONDAY, 18 MAY 2015


SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to create the jobs of the future; Labor’s plan for coding in schools; Budget 2015; Child care; Inquiry into iron ore; RET deal; Pharmacy Guild agreement; Indigenous recognition in the Constitution.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s fantastic to be at one of Australia’s best primary schools, Essendon North Primary School. On Thursday night in my Budget reply speech, I outlined on behalf of the Labor Party a plan for jobs in the 2020s and the 2030s. Right now in Australia, we're undergoing a period of great change and parents want to know what sort of jobs their kids will have. What I said on Thursday night was that we’ve got to teach our children coding, the language of the computer age, the language of the 21st century. There are jobs now which won’t exist in the future, and there will be new jobs in the future which haven't yet been invented. But we need to do is make sure that our children get the best start in life through being equipped with the skills of the future. I was just in a grade 5 class here where the kids there are making movies, doing things unimaginable even a few years ago. And of course it turns out that their parents go to the kids for help when working out how to download apps. But I'm ambitious for Australia and Australia's children. I don't want our children just playing on apps invented overseas. I want Australians to design, create and operate the apps and the computers and the machines of the future. That's why Tony Abbott should immediately take up my idea to make sure that every child in Australia – not just at some schools, but every child in Australia at every school, learns to code, and we'll work with the States and curriculum authorities so that we give our children a fighting chance to get jobs in the future and compete with the rest of the world. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: The polls seem to suggest that voters largely support the Budget. Have you got it wrong in opposing some of the key measures?


SHORTEN: No, the Budget was a missed opportunity. It doesn't do anything about the fundamentals. It was a political document, but it wasn’t a plan for the future or an economic plan for Australia . It was all about saving Tony Abbott's job, but it wasn’t about the jobs for the future. Under the Budget, spending is up, taxes are up, debt's up; the only thing which isn't up is a plan for the future.


JOURNALIST: I guess when it comes to something like child care, are you in fact standing in the way of a policy that voters would like to see come in?


SHORTEN: Well, the Government can't help themselves – they suffer from the disease of trickiness. On the one hand they're talking about child care, which is important. But what they're doing is making promises to parents – or some parents of 3 and 4 year-olds,  but they're robbing parents of 6, 7 and 8 year olds by taking away family payments for those. This is a government who's addicted to the politics, they're addicted to the headline, but they're not planning for the future. Families on $60,000 a year who’ve got children at school and their parents are working should be receiving some support, they shouldn't be suffering the unfair cuts of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.


JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott has overtaken you as preferred PM. Do you need to rethink your strategy?


SHORTEN: What concerns me is the lack of a plan for the future by the Abbott Government. What concerns me is that they're not talking about what our children should be learning in schools. The truth is that when a child completes Year 12, that teacher, their last teacher in Year 12, will be the last person who will be actively planning that child's career, and it will be up to the children and the adults of the future to be more adaptable. I will keep talking about the jobs of the future because that's what I believe in. I believe that a government should be setting up the future, not just playing politics today.


JOURNALIST: So you're not concerned about those polls out today?


SHORTEN: I'm concerned that Tony Abbott doesn't have a plan for the future. I think Australians know that in budgets, there's giveaways and there's different issues. But I think most Australians also understand – where will the jobs of the future come from? I proposed on Thursday night taking the politics out of the building of roads and rail and tunnels so we can have generational decisions. I've proposed, and Labor's proposing, that we make sure that our children get the best start in life by being taught the subjects in school that they will need when they grow up as adults. I have also proposed we become a lot more of a start-up nation, that we, in a lot more ways, start supporting our small business to have their new ideas and to build and make things in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Would Labor support an inquiry into the iron ore market?


SHORTEN: We're watching this very carefully, this debate. There's no question in my mind that the price of iron ore has slumped greatly, and of course Tuesday's Budget didn't address it. So now what the Abbott Government’s doing is not having a plan to help incentivise investment in our cities and towns after the mining boom's over, instead they seem to want to get into some sort of finger pointing competition between the iron ore companies. We'll look at the terms of reference carefully. But when you start mucking around with the way that iron ore is sold in Australia and dug up in Australia, what we see here is that we'll send a message of instability to our Asian customers. I think the Government needs to be careful that they’re not putting politics ahead of common sense in the long term. The other big issue of course which the Government is not talking about is jobs in Western Australia and jobs affected by the loss of the mining industry. That's why we need a real program of infrastructure, so that a lot of the people who've lost their jobs in mining and related services can get new jobs building the infrastructure that the cities of Australia desperately need.


JOURNALIST: So would you support a Senate inquiry into the price of iron ore?


SHORTEN: We need to see the terms of reference. I'm very wary of the Government playing politics and damaging the reputation of Australia's mining industry overseas. For me the biggest and most important question isn't the finger pointing at the executive level between the iron ore companies, the most important question is jobs, jobs, jobs. What are we doing to help the people who've lost their jobs in mining and the related services to get a new start – and I think that should be through infrastructure and building long term projects to help our cities become better places to live.


JOURNALIST: You mentioned there the perception overseas. What do you think will be the reaction overseas if there is a Senate inquiry?


SHORTEN: Well, I think the reaction overseas will be mixed. It will be confusion – just as we're seeing the Liberal Party’s divided on it. Even over the weekend, you know, the Abbott Government's trying to project that they're all united. This Budget was all about saving Tony Abbott's job. But the ink is not even dry on the Budget and the Liberal Party are out there attacking each other again about this iron ore inquiry. For people working in the iron ore industry who've lost their jobs in the mining industry, they want to know where their next job is coming from. That’s why on Thursday night, we skipped the politics and just got on with – let’s have generational infrastructure, so people can make long term plans and jobs, and let's make sure that our kids are getting the skills that they need so that they can grab the jobs of the future where we compete with the rest of the world.


JOURNALIST: It took a while, but a deal on the RET has been struck. What are your thoughts on that?


SHORTEN: Well Labor's always been up for the renewable energy industry. Unlike Tony Abbott, we're not climate change sceptics. We haven’t had to be dragged kicking ans screaming to the table to do a deal on renewable energy. Both parties went to the last election in 2013 and said we support a target on renewable energy. Then Tony Abbott's broken his word. But in order to save his own job he has come to the party and taken up Labor's offer of a new target for renewable energy. So we do want to see solar power, wind power being part of the energy future of Australia.


JOURNALIST: Do you have any thoughts on the recent Pharmacy Guild deal that's been struck?


SHORTEN: Well, the comments today seem positive. We're all about making sure that medicine is affordable for sick people. But if the Government's so keen to have affordable medicine, they should drop their cuts to what they're doing in the pharmacy industry which are currently in the Senate, which will increase the cost of prescription medicine to sick Australians.


JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the Indigenous referendum poll? It says that 75 per cent of Australians would support Indigenous Australians being included in the Constitution. What do you make of that reaction?


SHORTEN: I've been very supportive that our Constitution, which is the nation's birth certificate, should include all Australians, include Indigenous Australians. I believe it's too important an issue to just be caught up in Labor versus Liberal. I have offered the hand of friendship to do work with Tony Abbott on Indigenous recognition. I believe that we should be doing that as a matter of priority. I think that Australians are a generous people, and recognise that we should be supporting Indigenous Australians being recognised in our Constitution.


JOURNALIST: When would you expect the wording to be finalised, and what would you like to see?


SHORTEN: Well I have written to Tony Abbott and spoken to him on a number of occasions. I think the best way forward is to get Indigenous people in the same room with the Prime Minister and myself, let's talk through the next steps. For politics to be successful in this country, you have to include the voices of people outside of Canberra in the decision making. And so that's what I think is fundamental to Indigenous recognition. Any other last questions?


JOURNALIST: Why hasn't that meeting with the Prime Minister and Indigenous groups been held as yet?


SHORTEN: Well we've been asking for it from last October. I'm a patient person, we will get there, I believe we will have this meeting. Of course though I have to get the Prime Minister there, and you know, I think progress is promising there.


JOURNALIST: When are you expecting that meeting might be held?


SHORTEN: We have to finalise this with the Prime Minister. But when it comes to Indigenous recognition, what's important is that we should recognise all Australians in our Constitution. It's long overdue, and I believe that with goodwill from the conservative side of politics to match that of the Labor Party, that we can make some progress, but it's important that we ensure that the voices of the community are heard as we prepare an agreed change to the Constitution which we can put to the people of Australia.


JOURNALIST: So is it the Prime Minister who's I guess stalling on this meeting or -


SHORTEN: I believe that Indigenous recognition's the priority. If I can get Tony Abbott to the meeting I will be happy. And I think this is something where we should work together, because recognising Indigenous Australians is a bipartisan political task and I'm optimistic we can accomplish that. Thanks everyone, have a nice day.