Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop - Bendigo - Labour force figures


SUBJECT/S:  Labour force figures; Superannuation; ALP


BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon everyone. It’s great to be here in Bendigo with Labor’s candidate for the Federal seat of Bendigo, Lisa Chesters.

 I’m just going to make a few initial remarks about the unemployment numbers which have just been released and then I’d be happy to take questions on any matters to do with federal politics.

 The unemployment numbers have come out in the last hour. There’s some good Christmas news for hardworking Australians.

 Unemployment, defying market expectations, has fallen in Australia to 5.2 per cent.

 This is better than expected news. Whilst there are significant pockets of disadvantage and there are areas which are experiencing unemployment, across Australia this Christmas as Australians approach the great festival of the year, they can say to themselves, ‘we’ve worked hard this year’.

 While the rest of the world is experiencing significant global volatility, in Australia, we have unemployment of 5.2 per cent and we see that something like 18,000 part-time jobs have been created.

 There has been 844,000 jobs created whilst Federal Labor has been in power and indeed since the carbon price has been introduced, 50,000 jobs have been created.

 One disappointing note is that in the state of Victoria, there has been some slight increase in unemployment.

 Happy to take any questions.

 JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd describes the Labor Party as sick and its cure is reform. What do you say to that?

 BILL SHORTEN: Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I would say that there are more reasons to be positive about Labor than to be negative. And we’ve just seen the most important issue that a Labor Government can do is make sure whilst it’s in charge of matters that we see the creation of jobs.

 Across the rest of the world, we have seen in the modern industrialised nations, the shedding of literally millions of jobs. 

 Yet, in Australia, courtesy of the hard work of Australians, we’ve seen 844,000 jobs created since the end of 2007. I think that any fair-minded observer would say that a Labor government which is presiding over the creation of jobs is getting on with the business of Labor.

 JOURNALIST: Do you see those job figures replicated across regional Victoria?

 BILL SHORTEN: As we know, in regional Victoria, it’s mixed news. But I think in Bendigo the news is better than worse. When we have a look at what is happening in Bendigo we’ve seen the ongoing rise and rise of the services industry. Be it education services, health services, financial services. We’re here today at Bendigo Bank – we also see some strength in various construction projects. There is more good news than bad news in Bendigo and I think that as Bendigo embraces being a modern and diverse city and region, that we see that people are looking to Bendigo and some of the good news which is coming from this part of the world.

 JOURNALIST: Bendigo Bank’s profits dropped more than $130 million in the past year – is that a concern?

 BILL SHORTEN: I think that global financial services have experienced significant headwinds but I think there is lot of towns in Australia who wish that they had a Bendigo Bank. When you look at the merger with the Adelaide Bank, which was a very big deal, we see that that seems to have gone very well. There are 1,100 people working in Bendigo right now courtesy of Bendigo Bank.  Their community banking approach is popular. There are not too many postcodes in Australia who are unhappy to know that they might get a community bank, Bendigo style, within their postcode.

 JOURNALIST: Bendigo’s Mayor said she wanted to raise the Vision Super issue with you while you are in town. Where are things at on that front? Is there any prospect of resolution on the councils’ point of view on that issue?

 BILL SHORTEN: I am the Minister for Superannuation in Australia. Superannuation is one of Australia’s remarkable achievements. The fact is we have the personal account balances of Australians increasing so that they have more money when they retire.

 Within the superannuation system there is a debate about what they call defined-benefit funds and are they are adequately funded? I am, like most Australians, now in an accumulation fund. In other words, what we earn each month all gets put into our account.

 In the case of some parts of local government they created their superannuation schemes even before there was accumulation superannuation.

 In other words people would be given a certain amount when they retire. In the case of local government, what we’ve seen is councils agreeing to wage increases for people who are eligible for a defined benefit pension when they retire. I’m not sure that the councils have kept pace with putting money aside for the pensions for when people retire.

 The Vision Super issue is not the issue that confronts most superannuation funds. We will talk to local government about their concerns. The prudential regulators want to be comfortable that there is sufficient funds put aside in superannuation funds for when people retire and call upon their funds. So I think there is a challenge here for local government in terms of how they fund their contributions to superannuation. I think there is also a policy piece, does the State Government want to support local government or not? We’ll keep working through all the issues with both mayors and councils and the appropriate superannuation bodies.

 JOURNALIST: Is there any prospect of a law change so the fund does have to be (inaudible)

 BILL SHORTEN: Well we’ve got one of the best regulated superannuation systems in the world. The matters about how the independent regulator APRA  - the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority conduct themselves …we’re going to leave to APRA. We hear what the local councils are saying but in my experience, most solutions generally start at home.     

 JOURNALIST: Councils are facing upwards of $10 million. Is that fair to be lumped with that shortfall?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well, I think the issue there is how the councils got to this shortfall. They have been signing off on arrangements for some of their employees, some of their employees who are on defined benefit arrangements. When they give them pay rises, they also need to put aside something for when these people retire after years of service.

 We’ll work these issues through. We’ve got a well regulated superannuation system but not all the solutions involve Canberra paying for the decisions made by people in other parts of Australia.

 JOURNALIST: John Faulkner is also urging reform. Is Labor genuinely going to embark on any reform?

 BILL SHORTEN: My starting place here is that the Labor Party can always do better. We can always do better on how we engage people in modern politics. But my other proposition is that Labor is doing better than worse. I cannot be part of saying that everything about Labor is not working because I don’t believe that.

 So yes, I embrace what Senator Faulkner is saying about the need to constantly reform ourselves.

 But what I also would put, is this is a Labor Government getting on with the business of promoting and standing for true Labor values.  What I mean for example is the creation of jobs. What I mean is the support for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. What I mean is increasing people’s superannuation benefits so that they have more money when they retire. What I mean about true Labor values is making sure that we have better funded schools. What I mean about true Labor values is making sure that we have a strong economy.

 So yes, by all means, we need to make sure that the party structures are appealing and reaching out to people. But by the same token, I am a glass-half-full person and I think that this is a Labor government getting on with the issues which are important to mainstream Australia.

 JOURNALIST:  So is the part of Labor that’s not working is that the New South Wales part of Labor? Does there need to be big change there?

 BILL SHORTEN: The last thing that people from New South Wales want is advice from Victorians on how to run their branch of the Labor Party. Clearly there are some issues there. That will be up, as we’re seeing, for people in New South Wales Labor to debate their future.

 I am a representative in the national Parliament of the Labor Party. I believe that the Labor Party is getting more things right than wrong and if you look at today’s falling unemployment; when you look at two weeks ago, the introduction of a National Disability Insurance Scheme legislation in the Parliament; when you look at ensuring that people get a fair go at work…this is a Labor government who hasn’t forgotten where it comes from.

 Thanks very much everyone.


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Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804