WEDNESDAY, 27 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $1.5 million investment in Holmesglen TAFE; One Nation; Energy policy; NDIS; Michael Daley’s comments; George Christensen.
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $1.5 million investment in Holmesglen TAFE; One Nation; Energy policy; NDIS; Michael Daley’s comments; George Christensen.
FIONA MCLEOD, CANDIDATE FOR HIGGINS: Thank you for being here. It's a great delight to welcome back again Bill Shorten to the wonderful seat of Higgins. And we're here this morning talking trade and apprentices at the fabulous Holmesglen TAFE, there is around 40 trades being taught here and many more across TAFEs across Australia.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks. That was Fiona McLeod Labor's candidate for Higgins and I'm accompanied also by Jennifer Yang, Labor's candidate for Chisholm.
I'm here at Holmesglen TAFE to pay a bit of respect to the Australian tradespeople. Holmesglen TAFE does a great job as one of the pre-eminent TAFE training facilities in the nation. The kids here and indeed the adults here who are studying, they're doing the right thing by the country. They're bettering themselves, they're getting trades which will carry them right through their adult working lives. But trades and apprenticeships are under attack under the current Federal Government.
Don't worry about what this government says in the next five weeks before the election. Worry about what they've done in the last five and a half years since they got elected. They have a shocking record on vocational education. The number of apprenticeships in Australia has fallen. It was 420,000 before the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government. Now it's south of 280,000 and declining. We are a tradie nation - 1.6 million Aussies have a trade qualification - but the average age of our tradespeople is going up and we're not replacing the tradies. So Labor is determined to repair some of the cuts that have been made. We're determined to get more people thinking that apprenticeships are a viable option.
I say to adults thinking of retraining, I say to parents wanting to put the option of apprenticeship on the table for their teenage children, vote Labor in five and a half weeks’ time, six weeks’ time. Vote Labor because we're going to pay for 100,000 apprenticeships - the upfront fees. We're going to require that wherever there is a Commonwealth construction project ,or Commonwealth money that 1 in 10 of the people employed are apprentices which encourages great small businesses to put apprentices on. We've set up a $100 million regional TAFE construction fund to make sure that our young people are getting the greatest opportunity to learn on 21st century equipment taught by great TAFE teachers. Today for example, we're announcing $1.5 million for Holmesglen TAFE, so this very good facility can get the upgrades it needs and deserves.
We are determined to make sure that Australia is yet again a tradie nation. Labor is the party of TAFE. Labor is the party of apprenticeships and we're going to help with the cost of living pressures on apprentices and those who want to do a trade.
We're happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: You talked a lot about Australian tradies - there's a lot of international tradies here getting a qualification but they say they can't work, as they can't get apprenticeships afterwards. Are we doing enough for these people who come into our country to learn a trade and fill a gap in the skill shortage?
SHORTEN: Well, international students are a very important part of Australia's economic future. We should be training people all around the world. But what we've also got to do is train locals as well. So our policies have no impact on the international students who are coming here. But what I need to do is remedy the crisis in trades training which the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments have created in Australian apprenticeships. But let's call it as it really is - talk to anyone who works in the TAFE system, the TAFE teachers, the people who work in TAFE. They have been battered from pillar to post - funding cuts, privatisation - really we owe a debt of gratitude, not just to the people doing their apprenticeships but to the people who are teaching them. That's why, we've said that we're going to reverse the privatisation of public TAFE in Australia. We're going to reverse the privatisation of vocational education in Australia. We're going to say that at least two in every three dollars that the Commonwealth spends on vocational education, needs to be spent in public TAFE. So that's our plan. International students still absolutely welcome. My priority of course will be to make sure that we're giving our own people the best opportunity to pursue a trades future.
JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that no one in Labor has ever offered to influence Australia's laws while speaking to a lobbyist about political donations?
SHORTEN: Not that I'm aware of. But I think your question goes to that amazing footage last night - I don't know many of you stayed up and watched it, but it was compelling television. This video footage of these One Nation leaders travelling to America reminded me of that old show, Minder, on British TV - the British TV show, we had Arthur and Terry, they were always on the make. That was Arthur and Terry out there, in America representing Australian politics, and what a joke. Saying that they've got the proverbials of the government in one hand and for 10 or 20 million dollars they'll deliver eight Senate seats. One Nation is a circus and anyone who watched that video footage last night, you almost had to have your fingers over your eyes but you're peeking through still to watch the train crash which is extreme right wing politics in this country. Anyone who watched that video footage last night of two leaders of One Nation basically selling Australia's gun laws to the highest bidders, the National Rifle Association of America - anyone who watched that footage would know that you should put One Nation last.
Why won't Mr Morrison put One Nation last? Why is it that the more, the worse the facts come out about the leaders of One Nation raising 10 and 20 million dollars, or trying to, from American gun lobbies to influence the Australian lawmaking process - why is it that the worse the facts get about One Nation, Mr Morrison is determined to do nothing about them. I mean really. Mr Morrison said yesterday in a big sermon on the mount he said "oh one nation's abhorrent" but Mr Morrison are you going to put them last? "Oh no I won't do that."
How abhorrent does a political party's conduct have to be before Mr Morrison will put the nation's interests ahead of the political interest of the government.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, Labor has announced that they'll be preferencing One Nation last on how to vote cards, will you also be telling One Nation not to preference you above the Coalition in Queensland?
SHORTEN: Listen One Nation know what we think. Sorry we are going to put them last, and like-minded parties full stop. You know, and I know One Nation wants to preference the government. But they're essentially saying to the current government if we don't get your preferences then we will punish you. Well One Nation frequently threatens to put Labor below the Coalition. That's up to them. I don't care what they do. Just remember that video footage - if you ever want to talk about how this country should not be run, turn on that footage of these One Nation characters. On a racing term they’d be called colourful identities, colourful racing identities - they've travelled to America, showing values and views when they thought that no one could see them which are really not the values and views of Australian politics. You've got to ask yourself, what more does Mr Morrison need? He says they're abhorrent. You saw that video footage. It's incredible. I couldn't have written this stuff. And I don't think anyone here could have imagined it - selling out the Liberal Party's greatest pride and joy of the last 30 years, John Howard's gun laws, saying they've got the government by the proverbials and then saying for 10 or 20 million dollars I'll get you eight senators who will do what the gun lobby wants.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to Pauline Hanson's conspiracy theory that Port Arthur was a conspiracy to deprive Australians of their guns?
SHORTEN: I just think that's – has she said that? Really? Oh lord. That's just, people died there. That was a shocking, shocking act of evil. I have no time for that view. What we need to get out of Australian politics is the extremism.
I get that Mr Morrison doesn't like all my policies, I certainly don't think he's been good for apprenticeships but I don't equate him with One Nation. But what he's doing, every day he lies down and you know just as supine in front of One nation he's tainting the Liberal brand. We don't need the extremists.
The vast bulk of the Australian people are either a bit to the right or a bit to the left. Most of them are not extremists. I've spent my whole life standing up against extremism in the left and extremism in the right. I need the Liberal Party to go back to being the Liberal Party they once were. The Liberal Party once upon a time would have known what to do, they wouldn't have needed a focus group. They wouldn't need advice from the Queensland Nationals, they would have just said this is right, or this is wrong. Mr Morrison needs to be the person that the Liberal Party once were and put One Nation and like-minded parties last.
JOURNALIST: If One Nation are that bad why should a government accept their vote in the Senate? A Coalition or a Labor Government for that matter?
SHORTEN: They'd get elected, the challenge is not to have them elected. I mean part of this problem really goes back to Mr Turnbull doesn't it when he wrecked the voting system in the Senate where he created optional preferential voting which meant that small parties didn't even need to get the votes they used to have to get, to get in.
So what we see is the fracturing of consensus. There's a reason why people don't like Australian politics and are disillusioned because they think politicians carry on like those two characters did in America "we'll scrap these laws, give us $10 million or $20 million". Politics should be better than that, I'm not saying Labor gets it right all the time, I'm not saying the Liberals don't get it right, but I've just got to say to the Liberal Party, this is a case where you either put the nation's interest first or your interests in a couple of seats.
JOURNALIST: But is there a moral question there? If they're not good enough to be worthy of any support in an election setting but morally can a government accept their vote once parliament is sitting?
SHORTEN: For us that's a bit of a hypothetical, they vote 90 per cent of the time with the government. So I tell you what we don't get a lot of votes from One Nation but that's not the issue here is it. The issue here is that you've seen two leaders, you know, Senator Hanson's right hand man and her left hand man - this Steve Dickson who I'm not sure was a household name certainly is now, he's their number one candidate for the Senate. Going to America saying "G'day how are you? Listen you can get eight Senators in Australia if you give us $10 million or $20 million".
That is such a cynical, crass act that the Liberal Party just needs to say hey we're not part of this show. Because the longer you hang out with them the harder it becomes to distinguish yourself from them. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
JOURNALIST: There have been times when the ACTU and I think sometimes possibly activist groups have said put the LNP last. They certainly did that in Queensland in Longman. It's a very simple message obviously but it doesn't mean putting One Nation last. Would you be disappointed if the unions used that language now? Put the LNP last?
SHORTEN: The unions are independent of us. Having said that you know my clear view and I've stated it to union leaders is yes, I know that traditionally you say you put the LNP last, but I think One Nation's performance in recent times and that Fraser Anning, I think they have to be put last.
And I will say this again, I would rather see Labor's preferences go to the LNP first rather than to the One Nation Party and that might not always be in my interests and maybe One Nation the political leadership will seek to punish me for this. Well, I'll have to put up with that because at the end of the day I'm a student of history. When you allow the extremists in the room, when you tolerate the hate speech, when you turn a blind eye to that political you know, selling out of Australia then you're not upholding the standards, you're actually part of the problem.
JOURNALIST: George Christensen spent a lot of time outside the country, more time in the Philippines I think than he spent in parliament he concerned about his overseas trips?
SHORTEN: Listen, what he does in his own time is his own business. But I am concerned that an Australian politician, a member of the government from north Queensland spends 42 weeks in the last four years overseas. Like the Australian worker gets four weeks annual leave a year. Mr Christensen seems to have pioneered the 11 week annual leave condition in the Australian workplace.
That is not how politicians normally do it. What he does in the Philippines that's him but what worries me is what he's not doing in north Queensland. It sends a message that somehow everyone's you know out to lunch, they're not. I do think that he owes an explanation to the people of north Queensland and I do think Mr Morrison needs to spell out does he condone a member of his government taking 11 weeks off, or 70 days off, every year?
JOURNALIST: Will Labor be seeking to strengthen Australia's gun laws?
SHORTEN: We will always look at proposals to improve our gun laws. We don't have specific proposals but having said that, we're not about to weaken them.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of reports this week that Scott Morrison in 2014 proposed getting $9 billion for internment camps for people overstaying their visas and that sort of thing. Is that something that you think the Prime Minister of Australia should be promoting?
SHORTEN: No I don't, I was surprised like a lot of people to hear about that $9 billion on detention centres- internment facilities. But leave aside the policy, what that tells you is that this government is leaking on their current Prime Minister.
We didn't know this. The only way that story could have emerged to the light of day for everyone to learn about it, is that Mr Morrison's colleagues are telling stories about Mr Morrison. Yet again, as this Coalition Government limps towards the next federal election the Coalition Government of Mr Morrison, the Liberals are addicted to disunity. They can't kick the habit. They're just too busy fighting each other to worry about the people.
JOURNALIST: You've got the Budget next week do you expect to see income tax cuts in that Budget and what would a fair budget look like for you?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, we've got, Labor is offering nearly 10 million Australian workers bigger, better, fairer, tax cuts. A married couple under our tax cuts, Mum might be earning $65,000, Dad might be on $80,000, under Labor in our first year they'll get nearly$6,000 back in our first three years of office.
So that's bigger than anything the government is offering. So I think the government needs to look after working people, but if they're looking after working people it's not just tax cuts. I think they need to unfreeze Medicare Rebates so that the out-of-pocket costs of seeing a doctor decline. I think they need to have a wages policy reverse the penalty rates cuts, look after the workers, look after millions of Australian wage earners who have got wage stagnation. I also think they need to do more on energy policy to get the energy bills down that means embracing climate change and embracing real action on climate change.
So we'll look at the Budget for that but I think there is a question which Australians are entitled to ask themselves when they hear this Budget.
JOURNALIST: Should Morrison -
SHORTEN: - Sorry, this is the one question they need to hear. What is it that this government's going to miraculously do in the next six weeks that they didn't do in the last six years? And if it's such a good idea why didn't they do it in the last six years and why did they pursue corporate tax cuts for business, $80 billion, $17 billion for the big banks for the last three years and waste the nation's time?
JOURNALIST: Would Labor support another round of income tax cuts, so do you think that there's any justification for them?
SHORTEN: We'll need to see what numbers the government bring down in their Budget. What we've got to do is make sure that the budget's sustainable, we've got to make sure that we reverse the cuts to schools and hospitals. I think it is appropriate to look at tax cuts for our working people in this country but also we need to help reduce the national debt.
So there's a trifecta of priorities, look after the services so we've got a bright future and a good safety net. Look after working people with a better and fairer tax system and also make sure that our economy and our Budget can sustain whatever ups and downs that the world may throw at us.
JOURNALIST: Labor wants to boost super contributions to 12 percent. Is it a good idea considering that wage growth has stagnated?
SHORTEN: We think that we need to increase contributions so people don't retire poor. Of course, it's always up to what the economy can manage. Our number one priority of course is to reverse the cuts to penalty rates.
The reality is that most people who had their penalty rates arbitrarily cut in hospitality and retail earn $30,000 and $40,000 a year. This is the worst possible time to be cutting the spending power of working Australians. In the last four years, corporate profits have gone up 45 per cent but wages have only gone up eight per cent. When you look around the world our productivity growth in the last few years is second only to Denmark in the OECD but our wages growth is 27th. This country is not working in the interests of millions of wage earners, in the interests of small business, in the interests of farmers. What we've got to do is not just look after the top end of town as this Government's tried to do for the last three years with massive business tax cuts.
And of course, if they got re-elected they'll be back, those business tax cuts will be right back on the table. We've got to put the economy back in control of everyday Australians. That's why we're backing in TAFE so strongly today.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on the move by the PM to plunge $500 million on NDIS providers ahead of the Budget? The ABC understands that it will happen on Friday or Saturday.
SHORTEN: Well, Budgets are normally in May but this government knows it has to have an election so it's going to rush an early Budget and they're just going to hope this budget holds together by rubber bands and sticky tape and ice cream sticks for the next five weeks. They don't want scrutiny on this Budget. So what they're going to try and do is after five and a half years of wrecking the system they are going to pretend in the next five weeks they can magic up this money like a unicorn and make it all happy as if the last five and a half years didn't happen.
The NDIS is a great idea. People with profound and severe disabilities and their carers though need to be at the centre of the system. This government put a staff cap on the National Disability Insurance Authority workforce, which meant that not enough people were available to help people as we rolled out the scheme. I don't believe this Government's done enough to put people with disability and their carers at the centre of decision making. So, is it good that there's some more money put into the system? Of course, but what you've got to ask why are they doing this emergency patch up five weeks before an election.
This is a government who hasn't done enough on disability. They're hoping that carers of people with disability forget the last five and a half years in the next five and a half weeks.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor offer financial incentives to energy companies that slash their greenhouse gas emissions?
SHORTEN: We'll have more to say about our climate policy in the near future but just to remind you some of the good things that we're already doing, we've said that we want to move to 50 per cent renewables by 2030. We've said that we want to reduce our carbon pollution greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. We want to be at zero net emissions by 2050.
One of the ways, and I articulated it today, is that we want to also encourage the rollout of the use of access to renewable energy for households and small businesses. So we’re going to put some incentives in place to install batteries. We'll have more to say about the rest of our policies in the very near future.
JOURNALIST How is Labor going to address the concerns of Chinese Australians after Michael Daley's remarks in the New South Wales election campaign?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Michael Daley is no longer the leader of the New South Wales Labor Party. So I think he's stepped down, I think New South Wales Labor has shown that it didn't agree with the remarks and they shouldn't have been said. But beyond that going forward Labor has got an exciting set of propositions for all Australians including the Australian Chinese community. Jennifer Yang is one of my key advisers she's running in Chisholm. Labor is fielding more Chinese Australian candidates as part of our line up for election than we ever have before.
We've got a great candidate running in Menzies as well against the long-serving Kevin Andrews. So we're putting more candidates forward. We're also going to work on the provision of community language education for example. There's a whole range of benefits and of course when we give bigger, fairer, tax cuts that benefits all Australians including those of Chinese extraction. When we improve our school funding when we improve our hospital funding when we improve our Medicare funding, when we improve our action on climate change, when we improve our TAFE funding, when we lift the penalty rates of people who've had them cut. We have got a package which is good for all Australians including Chinese Australian citizens.
JOURNALIST: Could I put a question to Jennifer about Michael Daly's comments. I don't know whether you've commented about what Michael Daley was recorded to have said in New South Wales. I realise it's another State but does that cause any grief for you here in Victoria? Does it influence people's opinions of Labor and what's your response to what Michael Daley said?
YANG: Thank you for your question. I'm sure a lot of people feel disappointed to hear such comments but I also understand Mr Daley has apologised for his comments and I think now is a time that we move on from that.
But again, like Bill just said whenever we hear anything like this we should stand up and call it out and I'm glad he apologised for his comments. We, myself as well if I heard anything that this, especially any kind of extremist or hated comments I think it's up to anyone, all Australians to stand together, stand up, call it out.
I think that's the only way we can really unite our community together. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks everybody, lovely chat.