Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Labor’s positive plan for Startups and innovation; Labor’s plan for more graduates, not $100,000 degrees






SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plan for Startups and innovation; Labor’s plan for more graduates, not $100,000 degrees; Jobs; Nauru; TPP deal; Turnbull Liberal Government’s attack on penalty rates

ED HUSIC, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE SHADOW TREASURER: G'day everyone and thank you for joining us here today at an impressive facility, the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Accelerator Program that is really transforming ideas into reality and making a huge difference to the longer term success, particularly of our economy, of jobs, of changing the way that communities operate and we can be proud that these guys here are in part helping lead the nation in terms of innovation and creating a space for start-ups. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and also Shadow Higher Education, Industry and Innovation Minister Kim Carr and I have had a quick tour and also had a chance to meet with a number of start-ups that if their work, and you know, you can see the prospect of this when it takes off it will have not only enormous appeal here in Australia but global reach as well. And so it's been exciting to be able to spend some time with start-ups and also talk about some of the things that we're doing to encourage in particular, through our Startup Year initiative and being able to provide support for start-ups that want to stay on a year longer at university and get their business off the ground, the impact that we have in terms of trying to encourage more students to go into STEM and be able to build up the skills base of the country, and to be able to also change the culture that supports the success that we can see from here, and we wanted to also speak with you about that and other things, and I might invite Bill to talk through some of what we've seen today and why we think that in particular having the right policy settings are important for our longer term national success that will be built off the back of some the great ideas that we see in start-ups here today.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:  Good morning everyone, it's great to be here at the Melbourne Accelerator Program. If Labor wins the next election, and I get the privilege to be the Prime Minister, I want to be known as the Prime Minister for jobs, for new jobs, and the Melbourne Accelerator Program is going to be the source of lots of exciting new jobs for Australians. When people say that the world is a hard place and how can Australia compete, I'd invite Australians to come and visit the Melbourne Accelerator Program. What we see here is some of the cleverest minds, not only in Australia but in the world, creating and giving birth to new businesses which will put Australia at the front of the queue. Australians are capable of competing with the rest of the world. We've got literally hundreds of thousands of bright, young Australians graduating every year from school and going on to TAFE and university.

Labor announced two weeks ago a bold new idea to take what we see at the Melbourne Accelerator Program, where you get bright kids who finish their degrees, to get an extra chance to turn a good idea that they've been thinking about while they're at university with their friends, into potentially new listed company on the stock exchange.

So today, Labor is making clear again that we're on the sides of inventing new jobs for the future, through backing in our bright young talent. So for the young people and their families thinking about what they should do in secondary school and university, I'd encourage them to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What Labor will do is make it easier for our kids to go to university, we'll make it easier for them to be able to afford to go to university and we're certainly going to make it possible to be a clever inventor, to make sure that good ideas can turn into great Australian companies. Labor is firmly on the side of high-skilled, well paid jobs for the future.

But it is important that we emphasise that Labor believes in high-skilled, well paid jobs for the future. I'm very disappointed that today Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants to look at lowering people's penalty rates. The real future for Australia is to move up the curve in terms of technology and skills, not to try and compete with the rest of the world on cutting people's wages. We'll never win that competition in the race to the bottom. The future is in places like the Melbourne Accelerator Program, backing in high-skilled, high wage jobs for the future. Labor has policies to make sure that more young people can back in their clever ideas, so that we can compete with the rest of the world for the jobs of the future in technology and science. I'd like to ask my colleague Kim Carr to talk further about Labor's pro jobs, pro young people, pro higher education policies.

SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: Thank you very much Bill. I was the first Minister for Innovation in the Commonwealth of Australia. Labor has long understood the links between our universities and building a modern economy. And this centre here today highlights that very experience. Within 5 kilometres of this spot there are probably 30,000 people working in science, technology and engineering. There are people that are able to advance this country, build the jobs for the future, but they can't do it unless we have strong university system which underpins their work. Labor has announced policies that show that the Government's plan, the Government's plan that remains in place of $100,000 degrees, to cut university funding, is unfair and unnecessary. What we've been able to show is that you don't need to follow the policy of deregulation, you are able to turn your back on the proposition that the only university reform that counts is making students pay more. That's the current Government's approach, that's the approach I see in the Financial Review, and a number of other circles in this country still today.

Labor is about ensuring that there is a commitment from the Commonwealth to fund universities properly, to ensure that we're able to build into our future job needs, a more responsive university system to allow centres like this one to succeed and build and apply the jobs of the future to everyday life.

SHORTEN: Thanks everyone, are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns about the TPP deal reached overnight?

SHORTEN: Well we're waiting to see the detail but Labor has clear principles when it comes to trade liberalisation. Labor believes that trade liberalisation or getting trade agreements with other countries can work in Australia's long term interests. We just want to make sure that all Australians benefit. We want to make sure for instance with the agreement which has been announced overnight that it doesn't force up the cost of medicines and pharmaceuticals for Australians. Having said that though we'll look at the detail, but if it's a deal which is good for Australians well then we're really pleased. It builds on the work that Labor's done in the past and we believe in making sure that Australia can compete well with the rest of the world.

JOURNALIST: There's mounting pressure even within your own ranks to support the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Are you still ruling out signing on?

No I don't think the assumption underneath your questions correct. I addressed 2000 Chinese-Australians and visitors last night at the Opera House and what I said there is that Labor supports a China Free Trade Agreement, but we want to make sure that the laws surrounding the China Free Trade Agreement are clear and look after all Australians. I don't buy this proposition that the Liberals are advancing that in life there are some winners and everyone else can be a loser. Labor stands for standing up for everyone not just the very well off, and not just some interests in some sectors. So Labor wants to make sure that there are proper safeguards so that Australians get first chance at work which is coming up in Australia. Now this is not too difficult to work through, I'm sure that with goodwill from the Liberals we can work through the concerns that we have. But Labor makes no apology for standing up for Australian jobs. We always have and we always will. That's why we're at the Melbourne Accelerator Program today. Labor believes in jobs, more jobs, creating jobs and maintaining jobs. Labor also believes that the jobs that we create in Australia and maintain in Australia should be good paying jobs. We don't believe in the low road of deregulating the labour market, the 7 Eleven world where you see people, temporary migrants being ripped off shamelessly. What we believe in is making sure that when people go to work they get paid properly, and we also want to make sure that we've got good policies in TAFE and higher education and secondary schools, so that young people get the chance to pursue their interest and the jobs of the future. We're here today reminding everyone that Labor believes in a Startup Year, providing our clever, young engineers and science and computing and mathematics students with the chance to start-up businesses. We believe in a Startup Year, we don't believe in a pay cut year which is what Malcolm Turnbull was talking about today on 3AW.

Does Labor have any concerns over Nauru now being an open detention centre? Can security be guaranteed?

We want to make sure that people who are indirectly in the care of Australia through Nauru are treated properly. Labor is like a lot of Australians, we've been shocked at some of the revelations of mistreatment and criminal conduct and reports of this. Labor will want to hear more from Minister Peter Dutton because we believe that on one hand while it's important we have regional resettlement, we also want to make sure that people, even indirectly in Australia's care, are treated safely and humanely.

JOURNALIST: The Government's currently reviewing its higher education reforms and we've already heard a little bit from your higher education spokesman’s. What changes do you think they should make?

SHORTEN: I think that Malcolm Turnbull should just borrow Labor’s policy, We’ve got the best policy, everyone knows that. We are proposing a funding guarantee, a minimum funding guarantee which will restore all the dreadful cuts that the Liberals are putting into higher education. See our vision for higher education is pretty straightforward. We want to put downward pressure on the price of going to university. We want to increase the quality of the university experience and ensure more students complete, we want to make sure that research is well funded and we want to make sure that people who come from backgrounds where there their families have had less chance to go to university get to university. What we believe is that it should be a young persons marks or a mature age student's work experience which determines whether they get to go to university or TAFE, not how much money they have. We think the Liberals should stop mucking around with higher education, trying to turn it into some extreme right-wing experiment, increasing prices and decreasing access. We don't mind if Malcolm Turnbull borrows Labor's policies because what higher education and TAFE need in this country is a Government who is on their side, not a Government making it harder for young people and mature age people to skill and reskill.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about universities churning out too many students into professions that aren't going to lead to jobs?

SHORTEN: Well I will ask my colleague Kim Carr to further sum implement this answer. But let’s really clear we believe and we set a goal when we were previously in Government, we would like to see 40 in every 100 Australians at least have a university degree. Due to Labor's hard work, we think we are getting close to that. But we are concerned that people from a less well-off background, people from regional Australia, indigenous Australians are getting less access to university than other parts of the population. We really believe in Labor, that it should be how hard you work, how well you do, determines your chance to get to university not how much money your parents have got and if we want to talk about churn and we want to talk about those issues, we do want to see universities pull up their socks. We believe with billions of dollars of taxpayer money being paid to universities, we want to make sure universities are focusing on quality. It’s not good enough to enrol a student and then throw up your hands and not worry about what happens. When you give young people a chance, is you see the companies of the future being invented on the floor above us. Some of those ideas we saw today will end up making, I think, marvellous contributions to the economy of Australia, to the quality and are the quality of life of Australians.

CARR: We are spending $14 billion a year on our university system in this country. We think that’s appropriate. In fact, we want to spend more money on our universities. We think Government's plans to cut 20 per cent is unjustifiable. We also say that we have got to make sure that more people are actually successful at university. It is one thing to enrol, it is another thing to ensure that a student is successful. So we are saying to the universities, we want you to be more responsive to your local communities. We want you to acknowledge that there are national priorities. We need more engineers in this country. We need more women in engineering. We’ve got to make sure that our university system doesn't just enrol people, we’re got to make sure our university system is ensuring that students are successful. The answer to that is not a tick and flick pass everyone approach. It is about being tough and being high qualities, making sure you maintain high standards. That is why we want to restore funding to the regulators and we want to have a higher education commission amongst its many tasks will be to ensure that the quality of our university education is improved and the people that go to university get a better deal when they are there.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider, Mr Shorten, giving lower income earners a greater tax break in exchange for lowering penalty rates?

SHORTEN: I am glad you have asked specifically about penalty rates and I’ll come to the tax issue in a moment. Let me be really straight with the Australian people about penalty rates. Labor believes that people who get penalty rates are not people who are doing the wrong thing. We think it is appropriate that if you work weekends, if you work after hours, you should be well remunerated. One way you get well paid is through penalty rates. People who get penalty rates earn $40, $50, $60, $70,000 dollars a year. These people are the ones who service our ambulances when we have an emergency, they’re in the hospitals, they’re in a whole range of vital services from firefighters, right through to police. They’re also the people who work in retail and hospitality and right across manufacturing industries. There is an argument run by the top 1 per cent of income earners in this country that the future of this country depends upon people who are less well off taking a pay cut. They are simply wrong.

Tony Abbott said on 3AW, that WorkChoices was dead, buried and cremated. Malcolm Turnbull today has gone on 3AW and given WorkChoices the kiss of life. He’s come back and said "we should cut penalty rates so long as people aren't worse off". Malcolm Turnbull, what planet do you live on? It is really out of touch to say that if you cut someone’s pay, that somehow you are going to be better off. No you're not. Why is it in this country that some people believe the only reform for this country to go ahead is for millions of ordinary Australians to take a pay cut? That is not Labor's way. We think the way you go ahead in this country isn’t by cutting peoples' penalty rates and providing some sort of tax break, what we believe needs to be done is give people the skills that they can compete in the job market and get jobs which may pay them better and which can increase the productivity of enterprises. What matters in this country is not a race to the bottom, cutting the wages of people who already are working hard and not earning a lot of money. The secret of success for Australia is by cooperative work places, by making sure our children in secondary school, like the group from Geelong here, are getting the best education possible, making sure they get the chance to go to TAFE and university and aren't discouraged by the high fees. To make sure their university and TAFE experiences are rewarding and then make sure that in places like the Melbourne Accelerator Program and indeed Labor wants to replicate this and give 2000 bright young inventors and entrepreneurs the chance to back in their ideas. The way we do best in Australia is we back in the education of Australians, not cutting the pay rates of Australians.

JOURNALIST: You made some comments yesterday linking penalty rates to affording private schools. Do you think a private school education is something everyone should aspire to?

SHORTEN: I appreciate the question because I want to talk a bit further about penalty rates. With penalty rates, its somehow a myth that presumes the only people who get penalty rates are fifth year dental students working at a JB Hi-Fi on a Sunday and somehow the people who get penalty rates don't deserve them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is if you work in hospitality and retail, your wages are among, on average, amongst the lowest in Australia in a whole range of industries. If you take away penalty rates from a group of people who work hard and don't earn a lot of money, you are just pushing them into poverty. But the other fact about penalty rates is that there is a myth that somehow the only people who get penalty rates are people who serve coffee on a Sunday morning. The truth of the matter is a lot of Australians depend upon penalty rates and they depend upon the penalty rates to be able to afford the things in life which give them a chance to have some aspiration and hope. I was referring to the local Catholic schools, the primary schools in my electorate where a lot of the parents there, both of them are working, both of them need the penalty rates. I can think of parents who work in aged care facilities on the night shift. They don't get to see their kids because they are earning enough money to pay the modest school fees of a Catholic school or to be able to afford the second-hand second car so that both mum and dad can get to work. Penalty rates in many cases - and this was my point yesterday, it’s been my point my whole working life and I will take Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals on every time - is penalty rates for a lot of people make the difference between a quality of life and just working to make ends meet and Labor will make sure people get properly treated in Australian work places.