Bill's Transcripts

Radio: FIVEAA - Jobs; Iraq; the Mining Tax; Royal Baby






SUBJECT/S: Jobs; Iraq; the Mining Tax; Royal Baby



LEON BYNER, HOST: Welcome into FiveAA, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. Bill, nice to see you.




BYNER: You’re here because of the story I presume, that was broken yesterday, about the likelihood that subs are going to be made in Japan and that $20 billion is going to go offshore and support another country’s infrastructure.


SHORTEN: That’s right, I’d been planning to come to South Australia, to Osborne, to visit the ASC, the Submarine corporation anyway because Australia needs submarines, no question about that. Of course the visit now coincides, that the Federal Government is – I think unhelpfully – rushing towards buying off-the-shelf Japanese submarines, a massive taxpayer-funded decision and I’m worried that this Government’s rushing it through for reasons I can’t discern and it’s a broken promise. They clearly said before the election they wouldn't do this, they’d build in South Australia and there’s a lot of jobs and skills but also I’m worried they’re contracting out our national security in times of uncertainty.


BYNER: OK so they’re a year in, two years to go, you’re the alternative Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, do you guarantee that all shipbuilding and submarine work would be done in Australia?


SHORTEN: I believe that we should build our submarines in Australia, yes I do. In terms of all the ships, I think, in terms of the Navy supply ships, that’s the most recent decision to come up, that’s two big ships, many tens of thousands in weight when they’re built. I believe Australian companies should have the chance to compete for that contract.


BYNER: Yes but I’m asking you though – you’re critical of the way the Federal Government have behaved on this, I’m asking you the same question: do you guarantee that all ship building and sub work would be done in Australia?


SHORTEN: I believe that all submarines should be built in Australia, I believe the vast majority of our ships should. There’ll always be technical weapons systems and other devices which will have to be world’s best but I believe fundamentally in ship building. Something you might not know about me Leon, is my dad worked in ship repair and I saw what happened when we stopped doing civilian ship repair to a large scale in the Port of Melbourne, and we never got those skills back and it doesn't help our current account deficit.


BYNER: Given that you’ve got an intimate knowledge of the business, why then was there no decision on subs for six years when Labor was in Government?


SHORTEN: Well there was a lot of work done on that and there was a decision in May 2013 to go with an evolved Collins Class submarine. Without using too much jargon, some of the options which were contemplated were ‘do we buy European designed submarines’ which are more used for shallow waters of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. ‘Do we look at American nukes?’ We don’t have the industry to support that. There was the Japanese proposition, there was also a proposition to build an evolved or an updated Australian submarine and that was the model which I believe that the defence experts were coming towards after a long period of view in 2013. And both sides of politics promised this before the last election so this is not Labor after the event being smarty pants, the Liberals went down and said ‘We’ll do it’.


BYNER: Defence writers have often said that the Labor Government went in, had Defence spending the lowest since 1938, do you now regret that?


SHORTEN: I don’t accept the assumption of the question that Labor wasn’t fair dinkum in funding of defence. But if we want to talk about 1938, which for the historians amongst us, is the year before the second World War, I worry that the current Federal Government in times of international uncertainty is making some of the mistakes that were made in the 1930s. In the 1930’s, the Liberal Government, surprise surprise,  privatised the Commonwealth Steam Shipline, what that meant is that, and I’m sure the book keepers gave it the tick at the time, is that 1939, 1940, ’41, when we had hundreds of ships being sunk off the Australian shoreline, something that a lot of people forget, we had to hire third world boats, third world hulls, we didn’t have enough marine engineers for the Navy. So when you make a decision to short change our future and put all our eggs in a foreign country’s basket, create jobs in Japanese dockyards, we also I think, undermine our security.


BYNER: So let me get this right, you’re saying to Mr Abbott and the Coalition, “Buy the subs here, no matter what”, is that what you are saying?


SHORTEN: I’m saying build them here, spend the money here. Tony Abbott said he had a jobs plan when he got elected, 1 million new jobs, I just didn’t realise that those million new jobs were overseas.


BYNER: I want to ask you about the business and the mining tax. It’s been repealed – if you get into Government, and at the moment the polls say you’ve got a pretty reasonable chance, will you bring it back?


SHORTEN: The Mining Tax that was repealed, we won’t be bringing back. The principle though of a share in terms of profits going to Australians is a good principle. I think -


BYNER: So you’ll bring it back in another form?


SHORTEN: No, what I’m saying here is that there are lessons out of the Mining Tax, and there’s two and I’ll be brief Leon. One is, before you do anything, work with the states and work with industry. No surprises. The second principle I want to make here is this Government, when they repealed the Mining Tax, didn’t tell Australians before the last election that nearly nine million Aussies were going to have their superannuation frozen for 6 years. What do they expect people to retire on? This idea that somehow the Government have done the Australian people a favour is wrong. All they have done is the Aged pension receipts, the money, the taxes that will have to be paid to the Government to pay for increased aged pensions because people don’t have as much money to save privately, this is a disaster.


BYNER: If you get back into Government, you will have some kind of mining tax. It mightn’t be the same one it was, but you’ll have something like it?


SHORTEN: No, it is early days for me to start pronouncing these things. We’ve got another year and a half to two years. What I am saying is the principle that the natural wealth of this country should be fairly shared is a good principle but, I am also saying that, very clear, that long before we get to the issues of what we will and won’t do, we will work with the states -


BYNER: On QandA, Sam Dastyari said that the mining tax was a good thing and would like to see it back. You’re the Leader, and I thought it would be pretty appropriate to ask you -


SHORTEN: I get that, thank you.


BYNER: I also want to talk about the fact that we might be sending Australian troops to help train Iraqi soldiers. Would you support that?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to jump at shadows, there seem to be some well-placed leaks by the Government to certain journalists. The Opposition hasn’t been briefed. To put this in context, I do believe that the Islamic terrorist organisation IS, has an insatiable appetite for violence and in the name of religion, is doing really twisted, evil things to civilians and innocents everywhere. We do support taking a humanitarian and strong stand against them. But Labor has made it really clear that there is a line in the sand which is that sending formed up combat units is not going to add to the resolution of peace in that area. But less than that, humanitarian relief to the Kurds, we’re open for that discussion and we do so through the principle of the right to protect people and to make sure that there is an Iraqi national response.


BYNER: When you visit the shipbuilding facility today what do you hope to achieve?


SHORTEN: I hope to see if we can put pressure on the Government to go ‘Oh my goodness the community do care about the jobs, the community don’t want to see our national security being contracted out to a third party nation and we live in uncertain times’. I’m determined to have the argument. People say in Opposition you should just agree with the Government, don’t be a spoil sport. The decision not to build submarines in Australia is a spoil sport decision, it’s a broken promise. It is much more than a spoil sport decision, it is a fundamental broken promise. On May 08, 2013, the Liberal Defence spokesman stood in front of the ASC, Submarine corps. in South Australia, pursuing votes, as did Tony Abbott, and said ‘You can trust us to build these submarines here’. Well, clearly it can’t.


BYNER: The petrol companies around the world want to close our oil refineries here in Australia – saying they are uneconomical. From a National security prospective, that is a disaster.


SHORTEN: I’ve visited most the refineries in Australia. I use to be an organise and represent refinery workers. I, like you, am concerned to see refineries closing. I’m not sure it was sustainable for us to have eight smaller refineries as there were several years ago.


BYNER: Where do you draw the line though? Where do you put the line in the sand because if we don’t refine anything and rely on, look we don’t even store enough here. You know this Bill, we don’t even have 3 months’ worth. You talk about national security, you talk about being prepared as a nation, fantastic, we need fuel to do that?


SHORTEN: That is why I support us developing more of our resources here. In terms of refineries, I’m not sure that’s fundamental to what happens, in our nation security, but I can see the point you’re making. In terms of submarines, that is a no brainer. Australia is unlike any other country in the world, we are an island nation, we border Asia, we border the Pacific, we border the Indian Ocean and of course, we have Antarctica to our south. Submarines are one of the few devices in the modern world which can operate without being spotted by satellites, or have a much better chance of being spotted by satellites. They’re fundamental to our intelligence gathering, secure sea lanes capacity, the idea that Australia just gives up building submarines, to me it’s another decision by the Abbott Government to say the world’s too hard and they haven’t got a plan


BYNER: Ok, I know you have time poor issues here, the Royal family announcing a second bub. What do you think? Happy? Thrilled?


SHORTEN: I am happy for them, I’d be happy for any family who made this announcement – It’s a gift.


BYNER: Bill, good to see you. Do you seriously think you’ll achieve anything today?


SHORTEN: Yes I do.


BYNER: You do?


SHORTEN: Yes I do because people have got to think and believe that someone in politics actually will keep their word on something as fundamental as jobs. If we let the Government off the hook on this, that’s not right and it’s not good for South Australia. They shouldn’t contract out our jobs, they shouldn’t contract out our national security. This is a terrible mistake which future generations will pay the price of it. The bean counters may win an argument tomorrow, what worries me is the unpredictable world we live in. They mightn’t have read our bean counters reports.


BYNER: Bill, thanks for joining us.


SHORTEN: Thank you Leon.