Bill's Media Releases

Doorstop: Tuggeranong - Labor’s commitment to TAFE; Abbott Government’s cuts to skills and education





SUBJECT/S: Labor’s commitment to TAFE; Abbott Government’s cuts to skills and education; Abbott Government’s cuts to schools and hospitals; Australian Labor Party; Tony Abbott’s ASIO photo op; ABC’s Q&A program.


GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: It’s great to be here this morning with Bill and Sharon to talk to all these fantastic apprentices and work experience students, work experience students from St Mary MacKillop College, just up the road here, who are taking advantage of Labor’s investment in the trade training centre at that school and then they’re segwaying here into an apprenticeship and off to CIT. So it’s great to be here to meet with the apprentices and to hear the stories of the workers through the course of their career, early on going and getting an apprenticeship and then keep upgrading their skills throughout the course of their career. So I’ll now handover the Bill, thanks for being here Bill, everyone’s really appreciated you being here and Sharon and over to you.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Gai. It’s great to be here at the Action workshop, the bus workshop here, meeting apprentices and skilled tradesman who keep the buses of Canberra on the roads. What I also know is that what we see here is taking place all over Australia. There’s a lot of good tradespeople go to work every day, they’re delivering services which I think for a lot of Australians they never get to see and what they’re also doing here is they’re training apprentices, there’s a dozen apprentices here. It is vitally important for the Australia of the next 10 years that we keep training apprentices. The Labor Party is going to make the support of TAFE, backing TAFE up an election issue. The Abbott Government has cut $2 billion already from training since they got in, training and vocational ed, including a billion dollars from apprenticeships. If we want our buses to drive on the roads in the future, if we want our cars, if we want our building industry, we’re going to need apprentices being trained. The right policies for the future is Labor’s idea to train more apprentices and we encourage parents who are talking to their kids about their future to look at apprenticeships. There are great stories here and I encourage the media to talk to some of the individual apprentices and what’s also great is some of the apprentices here are mature age. They’re skilling and re-skilling, training and re-training, this is a great story. Labor is committing to make sure that a portion of our funding, which we give the States for training, goes to TAFE. That's our guarantee because we want young people today and older workers today to train and re-train. This country needs apprentices and Labor’s backing them up. I’ll hand over to Sharon just to talk a bit further about Labor's training policies and then we can talk about all other issues.


SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks, Bill. Look, yesterday we were at the Canberra Institute of Technology and now we are visiting in this great workplace Action Buses, some of the apprentices who are undertaking training there and the thing they said to us yesterday and that we’re seeing today is that to give high quality training that keeps pace with technological change, you need to have a really strong public provider in the TAFE system out there. Sadly over recent years we have seen across State Governments the heart being cut out of TAFE. Only yesterday New South Wales in the last 12 months, the number of people enrolled at TAFE has dropped 30,000 in one State.


So we are determined, and Bill made a really important commitment last night, that a Labor Government would work with the States and Territories to make sure TAFE is strong and has the future that it needs. If you talk to some of the older tradesmen here as we’ve just done, they are passionate about TAFE. Out in communities and workplaces like this, you will find that people understand the absolute value of our public TAFE system and that’s why our commitment is so important, compared to the Government who’s now toying with the idea of just walking away from the sector all together and just lumping it back on the States. So this is really critically important and I think you can see that in the stories we’ve heard today.


SHORTEN: Thanks Sharon, any questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you now concede that you won the ALP leadership based on a lie of knifing a Prime Minister?


SHORTEN: What I’ve said is that I made a mistake in that radio interview and I regret that. It was very difficult times, as you are all aware. The Labor Party was bitterly divided and certainly I didn't want to put any more fuel on that fire. In terms of what actually happened, I did speak to Kevin Rudd on the night of the 19th. He did ask me for support. I most certainly did not commit on that night to support Kevin Rudd. But they were tough times and what the Labor Party has learned since then is the fundamental importance of being united and we are united.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you’re anticipating an early election and you’ve said you’d like it to be to be fought in Labor’s areas such as TAFE and education. But if there is an early election how worried are you about attacks on your trustworthiness and how hard they might hit home with the public?


SHORTEN: Well we know the Budget that Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey brought down in May is not fit to last 12 months. We’re seeing very disappointing growth figures. We’ve seen lower than expected real wages growth. So this Budget that the Government’s brought down won't last 12 months so that's why I think there’s every chance there’ll be an early election and in terms of the issues in that election, the issues are going to be do we have enough apprentices for the future? Are we educating our young people for the jobs of the future? Are we getting enough funding for our hospitals and schools? For us it's about jobs, health and education. They will be the issues that this election is fought on.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you have made such – you’ve played on the fact that Tony Abbott can't be trusted because he has broken his promises, done what he said he wasn't going to do. How can you be trusted when you’ve now admitted that you misled, you lied to Neil Mitchell on 3AW?


SHORTEN: I think it's ridiculous to say that the particular circumstances of Labor's internal brawl, that terrible time, which the Labor Party went through and take from that particular circumstances the rest of your question. But the truth is in the last election, the Government now, the then Opposition, did make promises not to cut pensions, which they have done. They promised not to cut education which they have now done. They have promised not to cut health which they’ve done. Australians will look at the issues and they’ll look at who has got the best plan for the future and we welcome a contest in Australian politics about the best plan for the future.


JOURNALIST: How are you assuring your colleagues that your position now is not untenable?


SHORTEN: My colleagues and I are united. We are united by the desire to see Australia not have Tony Abbott re-elected as Prime Minister. We’re also united about positive things. See walking around this workshop is like a breath of fresh air frankly, because it reminds you after a day or a week in Parliament, that there are apprentices who are actually backing themselves in. They don't get paid a lot of money to be an apprentice. Some of their other friends are out there earning more money in the short-term but they’re backing themselves in for the future. It's great also when you walk around here and you talk to some of the older tradesmen. These are tradesmen who fundamentally believe in manufacturing, they fundamentally believe in giving young people a go. This is where the real world is and what Labor’s going to do is we’re going to back up apprentices and training with all of our capacity.


JOURNALIST: Will you now concede a new ballot in relation to the ALP leadership, given that people weren’t aware of this lie when they voted for you?


SHORTEN: People we’re well aware of the internal instability and the terrible rack and ruin that the division was causing. Now I do regret the mistake I made and the words I used. I was motivated by not wanting to cause even greater heartache and concern, which was then already going on in the Labor Party. But I acknowledge I made that mistake. But what I also know is that the Labor Party is united in terms of fighting Mr Abbott's cuts to the pension, his cuts to healthcare, his cuts to hospitals. But it's not just being against Mr Abbott, we also believe in a better Australia in the next decade.


That's why we want to make sure that we’ve got better roads and rail, public transport, smart energy grids and a better NBN. We’re most committed as well to ensuring that small businesses are encouraged to innovate. We want to make sure that we have enough kids learning science, that we’ve got enough teachers qualified to teach science. For us the battleground of the next election is who can outline the best economic and social program for the future of Australia. We’ve started that process and again today I add another limb to that by wholeheartedly committing to the proper funding of TAFE and supporting the development of our apprentices, both young ones and mature age.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you say you regret your actions, you made a mistake. Can you guarantee that from here on in, you will not mislead the media and as a result the public on anything from this day forward?


SHORTEN: I guarantee that when I'm asked about internal party matters, I won't give the sort of answer I gave. You can rest assured, I am kicking myself in hindsight. If people ask about internal party matters, there are far better answers to give than the one I gave and we’ve certainly learned that lesson. We’ve also learnt the lesson from that time period about disunity. Australians mark political parties down if they’re disunited. We are not disunited.


JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Abbott has an obligation to personally travel to Paris and negotiate the next international climate change agreement?


SHORTEN: I think it would be good if Mr Abbott attended the climate change discussions in Paris. I don't expect him to, he’s a climate sceptic. But how we handle the future of the planet is a matter which all countries should be involved in. Australia can't afford to pull up the drawbridge, ignore climate change and not want to work with other nations.  I think Australia has a strong story to tell in the future on climate change, especially the important role renewable energy will play, so I would hope that Mr Abbott would attend Paris, but I'm not holding my breath.


JOURNALIST:  Will Labor support the Greens amendments on the immigration legislation being put to the Senate?


SHORTEN: We haven't seen those amendments. I made a very clear speech yesterday afternoon where we said on one hand we regret that the Government only notified us literally at a quarter past 7 the night before that they needed Labor's votes. But on the other hand, what we are committed to is making sure that  genuine refugees do not come to Australia via that most dangerous stretch of water between Java and Christmas Island. The safety of people is fundamental. We support regional processing. The Government has given us a promise this is not an extension of existing policy and it is not empowering new conduct. The Labor Party had a really good discussion about this yesterday.

But I also have to say do any of you remember when the High Court overruled Labor's first regional re-settlement program with Malaysia, and that when Prime Minister Gillard wrote to Mr Abbott and said would he assist rectify the problems that had been created by the High Court decision, and he effectively said it's your mess, you fix it. Yesterday I decided that I would not be like Tony Abbott. I think that the rejection of the Malaysia agreement was a low point in Australian politics. You know, we had the now Treasurer crying crocodile tears saying there is no way you let a 13-year-old be unaccompanied and sent somewhere. We had the Liberals working with the Greens to defeat our proposals then. In exactly the same circumstances Mr Abbott has asked me and the Labor Party to give him the sort of support he did not extend to us. But for us, we will do that. Because we think that the safety of people, the integrity of our regional re-settlement program is more important than partisan politics. But what I do hope – and we didn't ask for anything back in return for it from Mr Abbott, but what I hope, and you will be the best judge of this as you watch Question Time in the future; that the Government will stop politicising the plight of refugees, genuine refugees and other people, stop using the attacks on Labor and let's use this opportunity, this unusual opportunity that we work together and we take the issue out of politics and into proper leadership.


JOURNALIST: Is your own integrity going to be a problem in the lead up to the next election? Is this an issue Labor now has to deal with?


SHORTEN: No that’s ridiculous. What I say is that the interview with Neil Mitchell was done in the heat of the worst period of internal division for the Labor Party in decades. They were particular circumstances. But I certainly regret the answer I gave and I made a mistake.


JOURNALIST: Given your previous answer about not misleading the media and the Australian people, have any of your parliamentary colleagues mentioned the fact to you - mentioned this to you and said that they are unhappy about you admitting that you lied to Neil Mitchell?


SHORTEN: There is a couple of questions in that. Are they unhappy that I admit that I made a mistake? No.


JOURNALIST: Have they come to you and said that they’re unhappy about this?




JOURNALIST: Does Tony Abbott need to explain himself over the ASIO maps saga?


SHORTEN: That was remarkable yesterday. I saw some of the photos myself and some of the images. If Tony Abbott wants to have a photo opportunity promoting his credentials on national security for the nightly news, it's up to him that he does it properly. I think it is a problem that official information, which wouldn't normally be available to the public has become made available merely because of Mr Abbott’s desire to have a photo opportunity. I’d also ask Mr Abbott please do not blame ASIO and the hard working security professionals because you wanted to have a photo opportunity at their office. I think it's Mr Abbott who has to explain his conduct, not ASIO.


JOURNALIST: Don’t you have faith that the ASIO officials would have only brought out maps that that knew were okay to be photographed?


SHORTEN: We better get the answers to that hadn’t we? Clearly there’s an issue, clearly ASIO says this was official information. I don't know how you’ve gone getting access to these maps on any other occasion and if they provide them to the media as the course of normal business, but if they don't provide this information in the normal course of business, it wouldn't be available to you if you rang them up and said could I please have these maps. You have to ask yourself why was it allowed to happen?


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) the Liberal Party using terrorism fears to spruik for donations?


SHORTEN: Yes that’s very unsavoury, I was staggered frankly. We’re working with the Government on national security, you see that yourself. I don't think it is right in any fashion appropriate for the Liberal Party to be using national security to try and raise money against the Labor Party. It sends all the wrong messages about is national security an important issue or is it just  a party political matter and political opportunity for the Liberal Party.


JOURNALIST: Sorry just to clarify, could you have won the ALP leadership had you not lied?


SHORTEN: I did win the ALP election.


JOURNALIST: Would you have won it if you hadn't lied?


SHORTEN: In terms of this I make it really clear, Ursula. It was an interview in the heat of the most difficult period that the Labor Party was going through in many decades. I made a mistake, absolutely I made a mistake, and I regret that. But what I also know is that I'm motivated not to at that time, to inflame the debate in the Labor Party. But there’s a lesson learned here about using other words to answer questions.


JOURNALIST: You’ve just said yesterday that you decided you were going to be different from Tony Abbott. Will you be different from Tony Abbott and make a concrete commitment to reinstating the Gonski funding for schools?


SHORTEN: I make a concrete commitment that if you believe in the proper needs-based funding of your children in Australian schools, the Labor Party will always do better than the Liberal Party.


JOURNALIST: That’s not a commitment to money?


SHORTEN: Gonski is about a number of matters isn’t it? It was a report  which was, I think quite a new development in the role of federal funding for schools. It moved the funding system to a basis of need and there was a number of criteria for need. We support those principles. Then when you get to the issue of the dollars behind that, Labor has a much better track record both in Government when we win elections in terms of funding it. I can't give you the final answer about the final dollar before the next election. But what I can promise you and through you to the parents, the teachers and the children of Australia, is that the Labor Party is fundamentally committed to needs-based education.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of Kevin Andrew’s decision to boycott the ABC's 'Q&A' program and will you continue to appear on the show?


SHORTEN: I think the ABC did make a big mistake in terms of that last show, in allowing that person to be in the audience. I think they did make a mistake. But I wouldn't want to see the show shut down, I wouldn’t want to see the ABC punished forever and a day. I would be more than prepared to go on 'Q&A'. Last question thank you.


JOURNALIST: You’ve just tried to move a censure motion regarding this ASIO maps issue. Do you think you are trying to politicise the issue of national security and would you admit that is a bit of a stunt to try and pin the Government on this?


SHORTEN: First of all, the issue that you’re asking about, the ASIO maps issue is Tony Abbott wanted to do a photo opportunity at ASIO and they have made a blunder. Now I feel for ASIO. They probably got a call from the Prime Minister saying that they you know - let's do a photo op down here and now ASIO has got to carry the can because the Prime Minister wanted a photo opportunity on national security. We’ve got a whole Parliament House, there is plenty of spare flags around for the Prime Minister if he wants to do something on national security. I do not think that it was right that it was done there, and if this information is of the official nature which we’re led to believe in some of your reports, I think that's a problem. Thanks everyone, see you later today.