Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop Interview Darwin


23 MAY 2013


SUBJECT/S: Remote Jobs and Communities Program announcement, Ford, National Plan for School Improvement

BILL SHORTEN:             I’d like to acknowledge elders both past and present, also, other Indigenous representatives who are here today.

                                           Minister Snowdon and Minister Julie Collins couldn't be here, but they've done a lot of work on what we're announcing and so I'd like to acknowledge them.

                                           Also, I'd like to say I've got with me Nova Peris and Luke Gosling who are some of Labor's representatives in the upcoming election, and they're both very hard working people committed to the betterment of employment opportunities for everyone in the Territory, including people who live in remote locations.

                                           We're here today to announce the next package of good news arising out of our $1.5 billion commitment to remote employment and jobs opportunities. We're announcing today, as some of you would be aware, another seven areas where people, where the providers for remote jobs and training and opportunities will be working from.

                                           The reason why we're announcing this today is, this process started back in 2011 with some of my predecessors, but we know that there is more we can do to assist regional people living in remote Australia gain employment opportunities.  We listened very carefully in the review to what people had to say to us about what was and wasn't working.

                                           We listened to twelve-hundred people. There were 42 consultations, plenty of written advice received as well.

                                           One recurring theme which came through loud and clear to the Commonwealth Government about what needs to be done is that everyone should have the opportunity to contribute in a local community.

                                           Another theme is that local people should get the opportunities for local jobs. It's no secret that the Northern Territory is one of the go ahead jurisdictions of Australia with overall low unemployment rates, but within that various parts of the Northern Territory community are not receiving the same opportunities as others to benefit in the boom which is the Northern Territory.

                                           We also heard very clearly that having four different types of employment service was creating confusion and complexity, frustration. Where employment providers wanted to be helping people find work and keep work, instead they were required to do too much red tape. So that's what we've tried to simplify with that issue, too.

                                           Also, I think most importantly we picked up in the review that everyone in the Territory wants to see young people get more opportunities than they currently have. And that especially goes for people living and aspiring to live and work in remote communities.

                                           So what we're trying to do and what we believe we'll do with the seven successful providers today for the range of areas being announced, is we want to finish off this perception of training for training's sake. We want to deal with this problem of a perception that employment service providers are fly-in/fly-out workers and where communities do not feel in control of their own outcomes.

                                           In particular, we wanted to tackle this issue of better opportunities for young people. Our leadership call for young people, the opportunity for young people up to the age of 24, to see specific and tailored support we think will provide real opportunities in creating not only employment for 12,000 young people, but also provide, I think, the basis for greater and better leadership into the future for our communities in the Northern Territory.

                                           It's this theme of community that I'd like to conclude my announcement on.

                                           We believe that our remote community jobs program is all about providing community control and community outcomes. We understand that people don't want to, if they can avoid it, leave the communities where they live to find opportunities.

                                           We understand with our community development fund that the community is the best place to make the decisions to create jobs where jobs don't exist, to decide the priorities of local communities rather than have people elsewhere decide for them what should be done.

                                           So today's announcement is going to see hundreds of millions of dollars more to support, we believe, far better outcomes for jobs and people living in the communities of the Northern Territory. 

                                           In particular, we are excited at the idea of local control. We're excited by the idea of communities controlling their own destinies. We're excited by the idea of training up future leaders to find employment, to get the skills, the literacy, the numeracy, the support so that people can fulfil their innate potential which they’re born with and not be lost through the process of a lack of a system which doesn't get that individuals come first.

                                           So congratulations to all the providers here. It is a good outcome. When you think about all the hard work you've done, you should take some sustenance from the fact that you've been successful. It's been a competitive process and that people think for the seven areas which are being covered today and the seven service providers that you will provide the best hope for another generation of young people in particular to get their start in life.

                                           So it's a heavy obligation but it's one that the Commonwealth Government will walk alongside you with as you accomplish this journey to empower literally thousands of people across the Territory. So congratulations. Well done. At this point, I'm happy to take questions.

REPORTER:                    Great. Well, I've got a question in regards to Ford.

BILL SHORTEN:             Okay, if there are any questions just on this announcement then I'm happy to go to anything else.

REPORTER:                    How will the system work in practice Minister?

BILL SHORTEN:             Well, what we've done and we've got some notes to give you, is that we've got seven service providers who will provide a one-stop-shop across seven regions. There are 59 areas all together. What I'm announcing today is seven regions and about two-hundred-million plus dollars be rolled out. The theory is and the practice will be that instead of having people getting support under JSAs or Disability Employment, all the other categories which exist, it's going to be possible for service providers to combine the offering and then talk to people in communities about finding them work in their communities, what is appropriate training.

                                           If the community has projects which they want to get up, which will then employ people or to assist people be able to take advantage of jobs which are not in their immediate community, they can provide the search function to help people perhaps expand their horizons if that's what they want to do.

                                           So it's being able to go to a community, deal with one agency and get the answers you need rather than having to engage in a program by program search which frankly is inefficient and can lead to a lot of people becoming disillusioned with the process.

REPORTER:                    Will there be enough jobs out in remote communities for people to take up in the first place?

BILL SHORTEN:             Well, this is one of the challenges. I understand the question. What we understand and what we believe is that to begin with there are a range of job opportunities in the Northern Territory. The fact of the matter is that the Northern Territory has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Australia. But when you look at some of the remote communities, those jobs aren't in those particular communities which we also understand. So that's why we're providing money for community development which will also help create jobs, we believe.

                                           We want communities to make decisions about how they get their funds going so that they can help generate some of the work which will then soak up some of the opportunity and provide people with much needed work experience.

                                           So it's a combination of helping people find work that is there. But also helping create more community infrastructure as decided by communities which will help provide opportunities for people to work.

REPORTER:                    So you'd be creating jobs that would work towards servicing the community and improving the community? That's what...

BILL SHORTEN:             Yes, the Community Development Fund, which is a significant fund, will be available for groups to apply for and I've got no doubt that one of the focuses for successful projects under the Community Development Fund will be the employment aspect. Also, community needs. But what I know is that no matter how well intentioned someone is in Canberra or somewhere else, community will generally always have a better idea about its immediate priorities than people who are not living in that community.

REPORTER:                    On Ford, did the announcement shock you today?

BILL SHORTEN:             The Ford announcement comes as a great disappointment. I live in Melbourne. I know people who have worked at Ford in the past and I know people in the automotive components industry. I drive a Ford Territory. I like it. I'm really pleased that the company told their workforce first. You know, in this modern age where everything's a story, everything's a leak, as someone who's represented workers for many years, I'm really pleased that the bad news was at least heard from the company to the employees rather than via third parties.

                                           But it is bad news. What I also know is that this company is at least - there's a right way and a wrong way to give bad news when it comes to losing jobs. It's never good news. But giving people notice of change, as hard as it is, is always better than giving people no notice of change. So for today, my thoughts are with the employees, the Federal Government will provide the absolute support possible. I know other Ministers and the Prime Minister have talked about a package of assistance for these particular employees who are affected.

                                           What I also know is that we want to do this the best in the world. There's no doubt that the car industry globally is doing it tough. There's no doubt that our high currency is a significant issue in terms of the competitiveness of parts of our automotive industry.

                                           But it is important, in amongst this bad news for hundreds of Ford workers today, we don’t give up on the Australian car industry too. And, what I can again say and stress, as I know other government colleagues are doing, is that we want to make sure that these highly skilled automotive workers get the best lead time for those who want to keep in the workforce, to help them be retrained and help them find other jobs because the Australian economy can't afford to lose people of the calibre of the car industry workers at Ford in Geelong and in Broadmeadows.

REPORTER:                    Over the past twelve years, two successive federal governments have spent over a billion dollars trying to keep Ford going in Australia.  Was that money well spent?

BILL SHORTEN:             The car industry is, and remains, a very important driver of both jobs in Australia, research in Australia and small business in Australia. It is right that governments support our automotive industry because the automotive industry has a multiplier effect of jobs well and beyond the immediate direct employers and employees of a car company. It also drives research and development. 

                                           And there are a lot of small businesses who benefit from being various suppliers in the automotive component value chain for motor vehicles in Australia. So I believe that it is right to support our automotive industry. But I also recognise that today's news is - it's cold comfort to say that we need to keep supporting our car industry. But clearly there are still thousands of people who work in the automotive industry. 

                                           And today's news will come as a shock. And the last thing that both the employees of the components companies supplying Ford need to hear and, indeed, other automotive industry employees, is that a government says it's too hard to manufacture in Australia. I certainly don’t believe it is. This government doesn't believe it's too hard to make things here.

                                           But today's news is certainly terrible news for the employees who are affected. And the Government's mission will be to assist those employees deal with the process of change over the next three-and-a-half years.

REPORTER:                    When that money was given to help the manufacturing industry, were there no guarantees sought to see that this wouldn’t happen, that jobs wouldn’t be lost anyway?

BILL SHORTEN:             I think it's impossible, even when you work with anyone, to get a guarantee that everyone has the same job for life. I think that is impossible. But what I do also know is that, if it hadn’t been for the sort of assistance which Labor has provided to manufacturing, we'd be having a lot more bad news a lot more quickly. I think that the Labor Government is right to support our steel industry, to support our aluminium industry and to support our automotive industry. But, nonetheless, today's news is very bad news for those who are directly affected.

REPORTER:                    You said that the industry has a multiplier effect, so that means with 1200 staff going, how many workers does that mean do you think, in reality, will lose jobs?

BILL SHORTEN:             Well, first of all you have to see if there are alternative contracts which come up. A lot of components suppliers work for more than one car company. But there's no doubt that, as we have done, we need to support our automotive supply industry to find new contracts. We need to make sure that we support Australian content. We need to make sure that we continue to encourage innovation, research and design.

                                           Australian engineers, Australian drafts people, Australian technical people, Australian trades people are amongst the best in the world.  What I do know is that with these automotive component workers who've received news that they probably didn’t want to receive in the case of many of them, that what we will do is keep helping them find new work because these people who work at Ford are very employable. They're skilled. They're process operators. They're used to working in teams. They're used to making decisions and exercising discretion which is highly productive. So we'll keep working with them.

                                           Again, I'd say that today's Ford news is shocking news for those who are directly affected. But we cannot afford to have a debate which says that Australia cannot manufacture or compete because I think that would be a premature surrender of literally the Australian manufacturing industry. And Labor's not up for giving in.

REPORTER:                    What does this say about the Australian economy?

BILL SHORTEN:             Well, the Australian economy, it shows how diverse it is because, at the same time as there's been this bad news in the car industry at Ford, we've seen 960,000 new jobs created in the last five years. The Australian economy is a lot more diverse than it was twenty or thirty years ago. In 1960, thirty in every hundred Australians was working in manufacturing. Now it's eight in every hundred.

                                           The reality is that we're a services economy. We're good at construction. We're good at mining. We're good at health care and aged care. We are a sophisticated economy. And Australians, pound for pound, are amongst the best employees in the world. So, again, whilst this is bad news for people of Ford Broadmeadows and North Geelong, and I've been in touch with local representatives already myself as Employment Minister, we will stand by them to find new work.

                                           And we will make sure that we keep supporting manufacturing in Australia, even with the challenge of the high currency.

REPORTER:                    So what will it take for the government to see manufacturing as a sunset industry? How many people, how many factories have to close? How many jobs have to go offshore before the government says, you know what? Maybe we should put our money towards something with a future?

BILL SHORTEN:             Well, the Australian Labor Government will continue to support manufacturing. It is important. In amongst this flurry of bad news to recognise that 900,000 Australians work in manufacturing. The argument that we should give up on hundreds of thousands of Australians because we receive legitimately bad news which affects some, would be a complete mistake and a complete misreading of the future of manufacturing.

                                           On the other hand, the best thing we can do for Australians in the future is to make sure they get the best education possible. That is why it is important that Labor's plan for school improvement is supported. The Liberal Premier of New South Wales thinks it's a good idea. He's chosen the future children of New South Wales over party politics.

                                           And, if we want to make sure that Australians can cope with changing jobs and changing industries in the future, we owe it to the next generation, the future of Australia, to give them the best education. That is why our school improvement plan, which will see every child in the Northern Territory literally receiving the equivalent of hundreds of dollars more in terms of resources in their schools.

                                           You can't give up on the next generation in education.

                                           And, if you think that there's a challenge in changing industry in Australia, which there is, surely doesn’t the Ford decision underline the importance of giving our kids the best skills in the future so that they can find the jobs of the future when change, as it always does, happens?

REPORTER:                    [inaudible], can I just ask what your thoughts are on the Territory government refusing to sign up to the Gonski education reforms?

BILL SHORTEN:             I'm not here to be partisan. What I'd just say is, if Barry O'Farrell, who's a conservative politician, spent his whole life in conservative politics, says a choice between backing in Tony Abbott's anti-education views or picking the kids - Premier O'Farrell's a Liberal - he's chosen the children over party politics. 

                                           All I'd do is invite the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory to back the kids and their parents over party politics. There are plenty of other issues that the CLP can disagree with Labor. Let's not use the future of our kids' education as a political football when, in fact, the stakes are just too high.

                                           Thanks very much.