Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Williamstown



SUBJECT/S: Abandonment of the Australian ship building industry; Air Warfare Destroyer program; Foreign affairs.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone. I am here with our shadow defence team including Senator Stephen Conroy and David Feeney. Also, we have Tim Watts the local member of the Parliament for Gellibrand.


Today, thousands of Australian ship building jobs have been torpedoed by the Abbott Government. Tony Abbott is more interested in fighting for his own job than he is for fighting for Australian jobs. We have a reckless decision by the Abbott Liberal Government which puts our ship building capacity at risk in the future and our defence capability.


This did not need to occur. Labor has a clear plan for building war ships in Australia and when the Liberal Government tell us that there is no way to avoid this decision, they are lying. Before the election, on August 9 in Newcastle, the current Defence Minister said to the Australian people, when he was Opposition spokesperson, that he didn't like it when Australian Defence jobs went overseas. Yet, when they get into government, Tony Abbott and his team just tell lies to the Australian people.


There are thousands of ship building jobs which have now got a question mark over their future. We are now not building Australian war ships in Australia. This is a dreadful mistake which sells out the future of Australian jobs. Tony Abbott, just as he has done with the car industry, now he is doing with the ship building industry, Tony Abbott sells out Australian jobs.


JOURNALIST: Don't taxpayers also have a right to expect their money is being spent efficiently and the program is behind schedule and over budget?


SHORTEN: First of all, the Australian taxpayer is still going to pay for new war ships. The problem is it will be jobs in Korea or Spain, not Australia. Australian taxpayers want to make sure their tax dollars are being spent in the most efficient way and also onshore. We are an island nation. Under the Abbott Government, we are offshoring our ship building capacity. This decision did not need to be the case.


Also, when it comes to the record of Australian ship building, Williamstown where we are has been building ships since 1858. We can continue to build ships in Australia, we have a high-tech, highly skilled work force. I might ask my colleague, the Shadow Minister of Defence to further add to – this pack of Liberal lies when they say they had no choice, they absolutely had a choice. The Australian Government keeps selling out Australian jobs. They are more worried about their own jobs than Aussie jobs.


STEPHEN CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: The claims made yesterday by David Johnston need to be seen for what they are. They were a cover for the announcement today that they are exporting Australian jobs to Korea and to Spain. What we have seen with the announcement this morning is David Johnston say one thing before the election, he is opposed to these jobs going offshore, and yet his first significant announcement in the ship building area is do exactly that – send Australian jobs to Korea, send Australian jobs to Spain.


So what we proposed in the election campaign was to bring forward $1.5 billion worth of spending and, nine months ago, we'd have got this process underway. We wouldn't have had the threat of the job losses that we have got right now, the future loss of skills. This will have a knock-on effect for our ship building industry. We will see jobs lost here. We will then see those skills not be able to brought to bear in the future to build the frigate. So jobs in Australia are going to be in a domino effect, knocked over because of this decision. It threatens any Australian capacity to build the frigate, and it undermines the capability to build the submarines that we need in the future. This isn’t just an announcement about today and job losses today, this will have a domino effect into the future on these jobs and these jobs around Australia.


JOURNALIST: Specifically, do you agree that the Air Warfare project is over budget and late for delivery?


CONROY: David’s got a lot more experience on this one so I might pass over to David, he was Parliamentary Secretary and has extensive knowledge of this plan.


DAVID FEENEY, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Thanks very much. In terms of the Air Warfare Destroyer program and the announcements yesterday, I think we can see it for what it is. The Johnston announcement around the Air Warfare Destroyer was exaggerating the problems around that program for the purposes of what we’ve seen in today’s announcement. What we –


JOURNALIST: But there were problems –


FEENEY: There have been challenges in the program from the very beginning. But we know two things: the first thing we know is that program is still within its overall budget and fiscal envelope. That program is not yet calling for additional monies. The second thing we know is the announcement around the Air Warfare Destroyer program was built around a report the Government is keeping secret. So a lot of the detail that you are searching for remains a secret and we don’t know.


But when the Air Warfare Destroyer project was launched, as we see born out in the recent ANAO report, there was a public policy decision made that we would pay a premium for those destroyers, because we knew that it would get the ship building industry in this country on its feet, and at a world class standard. A constant work flow of ship building would keep that industry going.


Today that work flow has been killed. And that means that not only are these ship building jobs in dire threat, but it means that the very idea of having a constant ship building program in this country, and sustaining the skills and the capital so that it was at world class standards being cut short by this Government. This Government has now left the ship building industry with no future, after all of us had gone to such effort to make the industry was at world class standards.


JOURNALIST: It’s also two years late though, is it not?


FEENEY: Well the program has been re-baselined on several occasions, but the fact that that Destroyer is going to be a year late is well known. The point is those destroyers are being delivered, as far as we know, within the overall fiscal envelope. And the point is those Destroyers are not a justification for killing the industry stone dead and for jettisoning thousands of Australian jobs that taxpayers have brought into being.


CONROY: And this two year line should be seen for what it is. We proposed a solution before the election that would have seen the jobs protected because we started nine months ago. We didn’t wait nine months to kill the industry. We put forward the proposal $1.5 billion to do that supply ships that he’s now sending overseas. We were going to be building them here, he’s sending them overseas, and nine months ago we were solving this problem. But he’s waited nine months to kill the industry.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask you, the Government claims that Labor should have been replenishing these supply ships years ago and this problem never would have happened.


SHORTEN: There you go, Tony Abbott again blaming everyone else for the fact that he lied before the election, and they break promises. This has been a dreadful week for the Government. We do not accept Tony Abbott should undermine the job security of thousands of skilled naval dock yard workers. They did nothing for the car industry, now we have lost the car industry.


This Abbott Government is a repeat offender on Australian jobs. They have never seen an Australian job they'll fight for except their own and we should be building war ships in Australia. The Abbott Government lacks the vision for the future of blue collar jobs in this country. If the taxpayer money is going to be spent, Labor wants that money spent in Australia where it can be – Tony Abbott shouldn't be the best friend of Korean or Spanish dock yard workers. He should be the best friend of Australian naval ship builders.


JOURNALIST: The point remains should Labor have replaced the supply ships years ago?


SHORTEN: If Labor was in power now, we would be building these ships in Australia. Tony Abbott is in power, jobs go overseas. If Labor was in charge, jobs would be in Australia. That's the fact.


JOURNALIST: On another issue, are you comfortable with the Government's decision to drop ‘occupied territories’ as the word to describe Israeli settlements?


SHORTEN: On this matter, we take our foreign affairs very seriously. We believe the Government should always do things through consultation and working through the issues. Middle Eastern issues are very complex but we think the Government should step through these processes rather than pull surprises on people.


JOURNALIST: So are you comfortable or not?


SHORTEN: It is more a process issue for the Government. Our Prime Minister is trying to fix up the relationship they have damaged with Indonesia. I think when it comes to diplomacy and international relations, the fewer surprises and the more thought-out positions, that's what we require.


JOURNALIST: We still didn't get a position from you. Are you comfortable?


SHORTEN: I am not comfortable with the process this Government is adopting and I am not going to get caught up in second-guessing the outcomes when I'm not convinced the process has been the correct process.


JOURNALIST: Do you expect a backlash from other countries?


SHORTEN: Again, this is a Government that I think has had plenty of trips and stumbles on the international stage. Our Prime Minister is overseas. The trick here is to work on building the best set of relationships rather than springing surprises.


Thank you.