SATURDAY, 29 AUGUST 2015
SUBJECT/S: Federal Labor’s $170million commitment to infrastructure and jobs in the West; Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton’s Australian Border Farce; GST; CHAFTA
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everyone. It is great to be at Western Australian Labor’s State Conference at Ascot racecourse. I'm here today with Matt Keogh, Labor’s excellent candidate for the upcoming Canning by-election. Labor understands at the start of this by-election that it's triggered by the unfortunate passing of Don Randall and again I wish to just relay to his family and friends how sorry we are that he has passed.
Of course now the Canning by-election’s underway and today Labor announced at the State Conference a down payment on a plan for jobs after the mining boom in Western Australia. We really believe that Mr Abbott's Liberals haven't done enough to generate new jobs in Western Australia after the mining boom. So Labor has proposed road projects worth $170 million which are going to not only be great for the community in terms of improving commutes and safety but also go to generate 1,700-plus jobs as well as $600 million, it's estimated by local councils into the local economy.
Labor believes that creating jobs and building confidence for small business is the work of what a Federal Government should do. Matt Keogh made the case very strongly to our Labor colleagues in Canberra about the value of these projects and so I'm pleased to say that Labor, if we are elected at the next election, will commit to these valuable road projects and we call upon Mr Abbott and his Liberals to match what we are doing in the interests of the voters of Canning because jobs is the major issue in Western Australia.
There’s an extra 30,000 people since Mr Abbott got elected who are now unemployed, this isn’t good enough. We see high levels of youth unemployment, in fact one in four of every Australian, amongst every Australian who’s joined the unemployment queues in Australia has been from Western Australia.
So we need a plan for jobs and Labor’s stepping up to that challenge. It is most important that the Canning by-election focuses on the jobs of people who live in Canning and people in Western Australia, not the job of Mr Abbott. Now I’m going to ask Matt to say a few words describing a bit about the projects which we are supporting and how it’s going to help to drive jobs and better lifestyle for people living in the south-east corridor, south of Perth.
MATTHEW KEOGH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CANNING: Thank you, Bill. It's great to have Bill here in WA and to be out on the campaign trail with Bill. The projects of fixing the railway crossing at Denny Avenue and the upgrade of Armadale Road are crucial projects for the people of Canning. As a local to that area I know these problems very well and our former member, the late Don Randall was also a great champion of these projects. I was very happy to take these projects to Bill and to the leadership team in the Labor Party and explain to them their critical importance and it's been great to have Bill come along here today and throw Labor's Federal leadership behind these projects and commit to funding parts of these projects from a Federal level, because it's so important to the people of Canning we have those projects.
Throughout the area of Armadale, Piara Waters, Harrisdale, Haynes, these are huge growth areas and corridors and they need to have key connectivity into the city and to the West, to the jobs growth areas on our coast. The upgrade of the Armadale Road project and the connection to North Lake road are going to provide that connectivity and also provide a reduction in congestion so people can get to their jobs and get home to their families quicker and safer.
The Denny Avenue railway crossing has been a blight that’s been acknowledged by Governments for at least 15 years and changes of Government have meant that that project’s stalled to install a new grade separation crossing in that area to make it safe. At the moment you’ve got two and there is going to be three traffic lighted intersections plus a rail crossing in a 200m stretch of road. Its incredible dangerous, there are near misses all the time, there are frequent accidents and there has been a recent fatality. To have the Federal Labor Party committing to funding fixing that problem for the people of Kelmscott and the people of Canning is so vitally important and it's been great to be able to bring that project forward.
JOURNALIST: Just on that local issue the Liberals say apparently your promising $25 million to fix Denny Avenue, it’s about a $50 million job? Correct?
KEOGH: The costing, as I understand it, is based on when the project was lasted costed and now we’ve got a Federal commitment to some of those funds. So I call on the Liberals to come and stump up for at least matching that commitment.
JOURNALIST: How often do you drive those roads, it would seem quicker from Mount Lawley to use Tonkin highway?
KEOGH: So Denny Avenue is a critical –
JOURNALIST: How often do you drive?
KEOGH: Denny Avenue? All the time. When I've been out visiting my family, it’s a critical road in the middle of Kelmscott which is where my family is and it's just down the road from where my grandparents grew up. You don't need to be a genius to see the problems on that road, Armadale Road all the time as well. Obviously now that I'm back in the electorate, I'm using those roads frequently. But growing up there, visiting my family, everyone who is in that area knows how important these road projects are.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Do you have any plans or what do you make of the – have they misused Border Force? Has the Federal Government misused Border Force by involving them in that operation that was supposed to have taken place this weekend and can you give any guarantees or promises to demilitarise that organisation?
SHORTEN: Well there’s plenty in your question. I fly to Melbourne early yesterday morning and Mr Abbott goes and wrecks my confidence in my hometown as soon as I leave the State. What on earth were Mr Abbott and Mr Dutton thinking saying they’re going to have some sort of strike force of uniformed federal public servants, accosting like a dragnet in the streets of Melbourne in some sort of a quasi-police state where they’re just asking people to show their papers? You don't have to be a Liberal voter or Labor voter to think this is a dumb idea. And what staggers me now, is that for the last 24 hours – I mean, everyone in Australia when they hear this idea would think what is going on. It's sort of a like a uniformed version of the Prince Philip decision and now what we find for the last 24 hours, is you cannot find a Coalition Minister relevant, Mr Dutton or Mr Abbott to explain what's gone on. Here is my prediction, they’re going to throw another poor old uniformed person under the bus, so to speak, to try and take the rap. This is what you have ministers and prime ministers for. In terms of the future, we do believe fundamentally that there should be the laws about visas, people working on visas should be maintained and should be upheld and complied with, no question. But whether or not you need some sort of paramilitary sort of squad sweeping through the streets of Melbourne, Mr Abbott and Mr Dutton, they just live in another world to the rest of us. I actually think it's pretty insulting what they’ve done.
JOURNALIST: The uniformed head of that organisation blamed a low-level press release for the whole debacle. Can it just be dismissed in that way?
SHORTEN: Well what do you think? Here we go again. This is a Government who, if there is a bunch of flowers to be handed out, they are at the front of the queue to receive the bouquet of flowers. But as soon as they’re in trouble, they find some poor old middle-level person to pour all the blame upon. We all know that Mr Abbott and Mr Dutton want to keep putting out press releases about what they’re doing and now as soon as you’ve got a dumb idea - the only thing dumber than this idea was if it had actually gone ahead. And now what they’re trying to do is blame the poor old middle-level people or someone low in the food chain and try to blame them. Why doesn't Mr Dutton and Mr Abbott do their day job, explain to Australians and Melburnians, why did they pick Melbourne to have these uniformed people running around in, what were they going to do?
Are they going to start stopping people in the street and demanding identity papers? If there is a good explanation, I can't think of one and the fact that the Government has gone into a sort of foetal position and won't come out and say what they’re doing, I just think just speaks volumes about the lack of leadership in this country. Why aren't they talking about jobs? Why aren't they talking about better healthcare? Why aren't they talking about schools? Why aren't they talking about unemployment? But you know, they want to see your papers under the clocks at Flinders Street, just ridiculous.
JOURNALIST: The Border Force Commissioner though did say that the Ministers office had nothing to do with that statement so what exactly do you want to hear from Peter Dutton?
SHORTEN: Well what is Mr Dutton’s job? When Border Force is doing something he likes, they’re all there with 10 flags and uniforms and they’re up for the press conference. As soon as something goes wrong, they put on that T-shirt, I’m not with them. Mr Dutton needs to do his day job, this is a government who only want to turn up when it’s good news but when the going gets tough they get going.
JOURNALIST: Should the Victorian Commander who approved that statement lose his job?
SHORTEN: I'm not about to start having a witch-hunt on people, middle level in organisations. The blame starts at the top. Leadership’s about taking the bad news as well as the good news. Mr Dutton and Tony Abbott, Mr Abbott and their Liberals should do a press conference, stop blaming the people in uniforms for what goes wrong and start taking some responsibility which I think is one of the most catastrophically silly ideas I've seen this Government do and believe me they’ve done a few haven’t they?
JOURNALIST: You weren’t too critical of the plan at first blush yesterday though were you?
SHORTEN: Well, remember I said I’d got up early and come across, I'm down in Armadale, to be honest I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'm sure, by the way, that regardless of one's politics, when you first heard about this, you would have gone what? But truly, how dumb is this Government some days when they just do stunts like this. What I said yesterday is, of course we stand on the side of law and order and I did actually flag before I’d even seen the full extent of the rolling catastrophe, that I hope this isn't just some sort of press release. I did question yesterday why on earth there is some blitz to catch our people who might be breaking the law, do you telegraph it first? Buts as more facts have come to light yesterday I don't think there’s a single Victorian indeed a single Australian whose jaw just didn't hit the ground and say, hey hang on we’re all for law and order, we support our police, we support our security agencies, but this idea, as yet not fully fleshed out and they haven't explained to us that you’ve got people, large scale inspections of people's papers. Well I don't want to live in a police state and if that’s what they were going to do, that’s actually a very serious breach of faith with the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Will you commit to changing the distribution of GST monies for the people of Canning?
SHORTEN: Well you don't do a GST distribution based upon an electorate. What we will do, what we will do is we will commit not to increase the GST and we will commit not to extend it to school fees and healthcare products and fresh food. What we will commit to do is to not view that the future for Australia is simply by raising taxes and the GST –
JOURNALIST: This is about the distribution, not about the –
SHORTEN: Well I answered that first part. You asked me was I going to do a different commitment for Canning in terms of the GST.
JOURNALIST: For Western Australia, for Western Australia.
SHORTEN: Okay, if you’re talking more generally about the Grants Commission process, we are always up for making sure that all of the correct factors are put into the calculation of the Grants Commission process. But what we can't do and I don't think you’re suggesting it either, to be fair, is have politicians meddle with something which should be independent and transparent. But I am aware of the growing dissatisfaction in Western Australia, a sense that through the resources boom in the good years they’ve been helping to contribute to the national good, and they have. And now times are a bit tougher, where’s all the support coming back from across from the East to help the West when they need a hand. That’s why we’ve put a down payment today, putting money in to help create jobs. There’s a lot of skilled construction and engineering workers, white collar and blue collar in the West. You know and I know that the FIFO’s dried up, that it’s a lot harder. What we are doing is giving a chance for a whole lot of men and women who live in these suburbs to be able get back to work.
JOURNALIST: So that’s a simple no, you won't be looking at changing the distribution of the GST?
SHORTEN: Again, you and I know that that’s done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission and I don't think, I don’t think that politicians making promises about that in a by-election would pass the credibility test. Only earlier this week and I'm sure you’ve covered it, Joe Hockey has a thought bubble as he is prone to do about cutting income taxes. And then the first question came to him, which you would have asked if you had been at that press conference, Mr Hockey, how do you intend to pay for these income tax cuts, and then there is the big long silence which often accompanies a lot of explanations by Mr Hockey about taxes
JOURNALIST: So a cap or a floor in the distribution of GST is off the table under a future Labor Government?
SHORTEN: Now you’re asking me to talk about the GST distribution again. When I make it clear, two or three points I have. One, I don't think that the deal that the West has been getting is fair and I'm conscious that in the mining boom at the peak of it, the West was helping contribute to the wellbeing of the whole nation. So I do get that point and I share that principle underlying what you’re saying. But two, I don't think politicians just making stuff, promising sort of fictitious tax cuts or allocations in the by-election passes the credibility test. And three, I do believe the criteria the Commonwealth Grants Commission use needs to be fair and I think your point there goes to that and we’re always open to looking at those matters.
JOURNALIST: Are you and the union movement comfortable when it comes to, in each other’s company, when it comes to the free trade agreement with China?
SHORTEN: Well I'm a free trader. I do believe that trade liberalisation has improved prosperity for Australia. For me, what I stand for is more goods being produced in Australia, more services being produced and more jobs. That's who I am, that’s what I believe. Now I believe trade contributes to that and trade agreements do. But I do think the critics of this free trade agreement have got a point when it comes to maintaining and protecting Labor standards. I don't believe this Government has given enough thought, and why would they, they are not the party of the workers, they haven't given enough thought to making sure that for projects over $150 million investment, that Australians can get first crack at these jobs.
I don't believe they’ve given enough thought to some of the Labor standards and the skills and accreditation of people coming to this country. Now the Government, as soon as you criticise this Government, they immediately call you every name under the sun. Well that's not the way politics should be done in this country. I said in my speech to ALP State Conference here that Australians are dissatisfied with politics as usual, he said, she said, tit-for-tat, Labor has an idea, Liberal doesn't like it, Liberal has an idea, we sort of go the other way. What we want is a better discussion. But this free trade agreement is not one which Labor can just simply sign up to with a blank cheque because we do have real concerns. Now we’re up for negotiations. You in the media expect politicians to behave like adults, that when we have a disagreement you expect us to sit down and negotiate our concerns. Now I'm prepared to do that, the question is, is Mr Abbott so arrogant and so stubborn and unwilling to admit he is wrong that he can't see points which independent experts have said are real legitimate concerns.
JOURNALIST: Andrew Robb has warned that China will walk away from it if Labor doesn’t agree to it by the end of the year, do you agree that that deadline has to be met?
SHORTEN: Andrew Robb doesn't want to admit that he got it wrong in terms of some of the detail. They’ll be plenty of negotiations, I will put that down to political pressure on Labor, just too simply roll over and just agree with the Liberals with whatever they want. For me it's not about what Liberals say or indeed what individuals in the union movement say. It's about Australian jobs. Now I cannot deceive myself and say that I am totally satisfied with all the terms and the way this agreement would be enacted. I just can't. What sort of person would I be as offering myself as an alternative Prime Minister of Australia if I would close my eyes and pretend that things are okay when I really in all conscious don’t think that they are. But we’ll work through these issues. The doomsday threats of Mr Robb don't help anything. Again, the big question is, is there anyone in the Abbott Government who’s capable of negotiating or do they always have to have it 100 per cent their way. That's a question. I don't know what the answer will be.
Thanks everyone, have a nice day.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053