Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Queenstown - Abbott Government’s broken promise on jobs


SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s broken promise on jobs; Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians; Iraq; Clive Palmer; Renewable Energy Target.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here in Queenstown, affectionately known as Queenie, on the West Coast of Tasmania. I’m accompanied by our Shadow Minister for Regional Affairs Julie Collins and also Senator Anne Urquhart who helps represent northern Tasmania and West Coast Tasmania in the Parliament of Australia.  Today we’ve been talking to small business, to leaders of the local community how to make sure that this amazing special part of Australia has a viable and sustainable future. Like millions of Australians who visit Tasmania, when you visit special, historical, resilient towns like Queenstown you get a glimpse of the way that Australia was and indeed I believe the way that small towns in Australia can be going forward. It’s clear that this is a resilient community, there are opportunities here still in mining, in aquaculture, in tourism. There is still plenty to be done here which means that people don’t have to leave this region to find good work. But it's important that the Abbott Government doesn't neglect the regions of Australia, doesn’t neglect Tasmania. The number one issue here is jobs and the related issue of training. So whilst I believe that the West Coast of Tassie has the resilient population and a strong future, it is appropriate that the Federal Government doesn't leave all the hard decisions and hard work to the local communities and state governments. I might pass over to my colleague, Julie Collins, to talk further about Tasmania and what the Abbott Government hasn't been doing in this region.


JULIE COLLINS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT & LOCAL GOVERNMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT SERVICES: Thanks Bill. What we know about the West Coast of Tasmania, as Bill has said, is that it is a resilient community, but every now and then regional communities do need a hand-up. They do need support from governments, and it's about time that the Abbott Government and the local member, Mr Whitely, stood up for Queenstown and actually provided some support to those workers who’ve been stood down from their jobs at the mine and to the local community who really needs employment. We’ve seen Labor when we were in Government support local industry, support the aquaculture expansion at Macquarie Harbour, support the railway, support local communities to create jobs locally for locals, to stay here in this community. It is so important, and it’s important that the Abbott Government and the State Hodgman Government support this community and listen to this community about what is required here to give them the jobs that they so need.


SHORTEN: Thanks very much.


JOURNALIST: What is actually required here to do that do you think?


SHORTEN: Well, it all starts with jobs and training. So I think that it doesn't require a lot of financial intervention, but it clearly requires a plan. As I said in my introduction, this is an amazing part of the world to come and visit. I would certainly recommend to all Australians to put a visit to the West Coast on your next holiday plans. And of course, it's not just Queenstown, its Tullah, its Rosebery and its Zeehan. There are many small parts and small towns in this region which are well worth a visit. The scenery's amazing, the hospitality outstanding and the people are the way that Australians, I believe, see themselves. But when it comes to jobs, what we’ve got to do is make sure that our young people and even not so young have the ability to retrain. 350 people have lost their jobs at the Henty and Mount Lyell mines. Whilst there’s every chance that the mining will continue or start up again, some of these workforces require displaced workers; require training so they can move into aquaculture. We need the Government to provide certainty about renewable energy. Local farmers are exercising entrepreneurial qualities and ‘give it a go’ attitudes which should be supported by the Abbott Government. They want to build 33 wind turbines to catch what is one of the world’s most remarkable wind traps on the coastline of Western Tasmania. Yet the Abbott Government is messing around and providing uncertainty and holding up the future for jobs for people who are otherwise unemployed and don’t have opportunities. So it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs.


JOURNALIST: The Government says it will help but it's waiting for some solid recommendations from a state-based taskforce. Is that a sensible move?


SHORTEN: Well first of all the Federal Government isn't involved in the local taskforce. This is a Government who - it's all care and no responsibility. They say all the things that matter but they don't actually turn up when the going gets hard. You know, there’s $16 million going to Cadbury, but what are the Government proposing to do here? I think people in the North-West, people on the West Coast, can reasonably say why is it that the Abbott Government, when they wanted our votes they are prepared to promise us no cuts to education, no cuts to training, no changes to pensions, but as soon as they get elected they’ve been missing and now you've got a region which is resilient. But just, the people of West Coast Tasmania and the companies here have paid lots of taxes to Canberra over the years, I think it is appropriate that there’s jobs and training support here, clear policy decisions which encourage investment.


JOURNALIST: What sort of jobs, what sort of training, specifically, are you talking about?


SHORTEN: Well I think that there's opportunities in terms of people getting training in tourism, in customer service, in aquaculture. There will be labourers and operators in the mines who can do more trades training. It doesn't require a Rhodes Scholar to work out that what people need is to be as multi-skilled as possible. This is a resilient community, you spend five minutes with any person here, these are not people who sit down on their bottom and say the world is too hard. They want to give everything a go, they’re a tight-knit community and that’s why the story here is not all bad, but it is a difficult time and people, it's not a question of promulgating bad news, it's just every level of government needs to roll up their sleeves and back in people who’ve always backed in everyone else.


JOURNALIST: Who have you been speaking with here so far this morning?


SHORTEN: We have met with the local Mayor, Robyn Gerrity, local small business people, representatives of the workforce and we'll be doing a community forum in a very short while. I might ask Julie to add a little bit further about some of the ideas in terms of this part of Tasmania.


COLLINS: Thanks Bill. Something the Federal Government could do almost immediately is to reinstate the local employment coordinator for northern Tasmania. They axed the employment coordinators across the country. Geelong got theirs back but of course northern Tasmania has not had our local employment coordinator reinstated. The Federal Government could do that straightaway. It could also provide stream three services to those people that have lost their jobs immediately. Those stream three services have been provided in other parts of the country where large number of workers have lost their jobs, such as this, and the Federal Government could provide those services immediately. So there are things the Federal Government can do and should do immediately, and of course people here in Queenstown and on the West Coast deserve the same support that the people in Geelong do when their industries shutdown and Mr Whiteley and Tony Abbott should be standing up for the West Coast and should reinstate the employment coordinator now.


JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, when do you think a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition should be held?


SHORTEN: It's more important to succeed on getting constitutional recognition of our first Australians than rushing it. It's important on one hand, that Aboriginal Australians feel the changes are meaningful and speak to their lives and their hopes and dreams for the future of this country. It's also important that we bring all Australians along in the process of change. We have got an experts report which has made recommendations, there is more work going on, there is another meeting in Adelaide today. So constitutional recognition of our first Australians is an important issue, but rather than rush and get it wrong, we should take our time and get it right. It needs to be bipartisan, it needs to be meaningful, and needs to be something which all Australians can get behind and say at last, we are going to let our constitution catch up to the world we live in.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says he's not in favour of a clause banning racial discrimination. Would you be happy if that was left out?


SHORTEN: Well, the Prime Minister’s entitled to his view and we'll negotiate. For me what matters, ultimately, is not what I think or what Tony Abbott thinks, it's what Australians think. It's also what our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders think. So for me that's the test I set. I will work with Tony Abbott, this issue should be beyond politics.


JOURNALIST: How united is the Labor Party on military action in Iraq given the comments of Melissa Parke?


SHORTEN: The Labor Party is united. I understand the anxiety of Australians about the commitment of Australian Defence Forces into harmful and dangerous situations. So I think expressing anxiety is entirely legitimate. But what I also know - sorry, I'll just take a little longer on this - what I also know is that from the briefings that I have had from Australia's best intelligence service experts, and our security experts, is that the organisations, the terrorist organisations in northern Iraq do present a danger, not only to the people living in that country, a genocide danger, a danger of mass-violence, terror and crime, they do represent a danger to Australia's security too. So I don't see any alternative but to standing up and protecting Australia. Labor's made it really clear; we don't support sending up formed-up combat units to fight on the ground directly against IS but if the Iraqi national Government, in pursuit of protecting innocent civilians, through the United States, is requesting some Australian assistance, I think that's appropriate for both our security and also the humanitarian principles which have underpinned Labor's response so far.


JOURNALIST: How quickly will your support for this mission evaporate, though, if it's not clearly defined?


SHORTEN: Well, I think there is fairly clear definition of the objectives of this. First of all, we want to see that it's about preventing mass population murder in northern Iraq. We want to see it stem the flow of foreign fighters from Australia who in some misguided beliefs are going there and learning how to commit crimes and acts of violence. It is important that we constrain our operations to Iraq where the Government has asked us to intervene. Certainly we don't see that anything is going to be solved by sending battalions of Australian troops to fight on the ground over there. We'll keep working through with the Government. Let me be really clear, going back to the earlier question, as well. When it comes to terrorism we are all in this together, both Labor and Liberal and national security is upper most consideration for us when we consider these matters.


JOURNALIST: Have you got a limit in mind for the number of troops that can be deployed?


SHORTEN: I'm not going to put a limit but I think I have been really clear about the nature of our engagement. I think as we are having a humanitarian debate it's also worth recognising that through this longer conflict in Syria and now more recently in northern Iraq, there are millions of refugees throughout the Middle East. There are over a million people in Lebanon, there’s a million refugees in Jordan. What we see here is a humanitarian crisis which has been going for some time. So I've certainly believed - and I'll be talking to my colleagues about whether or not Australia can take some more refugees. Our humanitarian is assistance shouldn’t just take the form of aeroplanes; it should take the form I think of more foreign aid to help people who are dislocated by these evil acts and also possibly refugees in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Given Melissa Parke's comments, though, are you concerned that other backbenchers could break ranks?




JOURNALIST: Will you be disciplining other MPs if they speak out and don't support Labor?


SHORTEN: Let's be really clear here, I get why some people say what they say. But I also know that the IS organisation would actively not just cause harm in northern Iraq, or would bring its twisted version of violence and crime to Australian shores. So I believe that most Australians, nearly all Australians, don't want to send our troops in harm’s way but definitely the same proportion of Australians don't want to see us stand by and do nothing and then later on regret that we failed to act.


JOURNALIST: Can I ask about Clive Palmer, he has attended 19 out of 202 parliamentary votes. What do you think about that?


SHORTEN: That's a matter for Clive Palmer.


JOURNALIST: Do you think it's acceptable?


SHORTEN: It's a matter for Clive Palmer. My view is if you want to get the best representation possible you should vote Labor at the next election.


JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Robyn Gerrity about the importance of the Renewable Energy Target to the region?


SHORTEN: Full credit to the Mayor of the West Coast, Robyn Gerrity. She raised it with us. It beggars belief that you have got up to 200 jobs just waiting to role - 33 wind turbines in one of the windiest areas in Australia. The community want them, they don't share Joe Hockey's view that somehow wind farms are sick making. The locals want the jobs, they want the wind farms but what they need is a Government in Canberra who understands that renewable energy is not some green plot; instead it’s a sensible part of our energy mix and sustainable energy mix going forward. I'll be carrying the message back to Canberra even if the local Tasmanian Liberals won’t. The Government should take their hands off the renewable energy scheme, stop wrecking investment and jobs and hope for the future of this most remarkable part of Australia.


JOURNALIST: The United States is taking out its first air strikes on Iraq today, how do you feel about that?


SHORTEN: I take no satisfaction in that, but, on the other hand, we need to oppose and stop Islamic State, the terrorist organisation. We are lucky in Australia,  a lot of the troubles in the rest of the world pass us by. Certainly, though, based on the briefings that I have received, I and the Labor leadership have formed the view that we at this - that this problem is not going to simply pass us by. I reject the proposition that doing nothing somehow makes us safer, it does not.


Thanks everyone, cheers.