Bill's Transcripts

Radio Interview: ABC Hobart- Tony Abbott’s debt sentence for uni students; youth unemployment; Renewable Energy Target.


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s debt sentence for uni students; youth unemployment; Renewable Energy Target.

LOUISE ANDREWS: Joining me this afternoon is Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten, good afternoon.


ANDREWS: In Opposition without the numbers what can you do to help people in Tasmania when it comes to higher education?

SHORTEN: We can fight as hard as we possibly can in the Parliament of Australia to make sure that the University of Tasmania doesn’t lose a $113 million. We will also, and I think we’re successfully running a campaign to stop the Government doubling the interest rate on university debts that students currently are going to get under Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne.


ANDREWS: It’s a complex issue for Tasmania because we do have a single institution which means students looking to study either look interstate or there compelled to meet the costs and the charges that are imposed on them by the institution. Do we have I guess the special status that we perhaps see in ourselves when it comes to tertiary education?

SHORTEN: I think the University of Tasmania punches above its weight. Quite frequently, if you look at the research rankings it’s just outside the G8, it’s either ninth or tenth competing with say Newcastle University.  But at the other end you’ve got fantastic, lovely participation numbers, what I mean by that is people who are the first in their family to go to the university. So I think that UTAS does a pretty good job, obviously though if you take $113 million out of their funding base either courses are cancelled, or fees go up or research is cut. You know, no nation ever slashed its education budget cut to greatness.


ANDREWS: We also have an issue with not just retention in the latter years of high school in Tasmanian but even in skills enhancement and educating young people. If young people do need to move interstate where costs of education are additional through accommodation and so on, we run the risk of further falling behind in Tasmania. How can you in Opposition assist, I guess, with Tasmanians where this is an issue?

SHORTEN: Well, when Tasmanians look at the national Parliament you’ve got the Government, and Tony Abbott’s prescription is that people can move away from Tasmania, or you’ve got Eric Abetz who came up with a novel solution where more unemployed people can go and pick potatoes. Or you’ve got Labor, Labor is committed to the transformative power of education, we want better funding in the early years before children go to school. We believe in needs-based funding in primary and secondary school, and we believe in a well-funded higher education sector. To get the jobs of the future, and by that I mean good jobs, well-paying jobs, high-skilled jobs, it’s not Tasmania competing with the mainland of Australia, it’s Australia competing with the rest of the world. You can only do that with a well-educated workforce, and of course the Government before the last election said that there would be no cuts to education, they clearly lied to every Tasmanian.


ANDREWS: You’re in the north-west at the moment, which is one of the hardest hit areas, not just in Tasmania but in Australia when it comes to particularly youth unemployment. You’re heading down to the West Coast tomorrow, what are the stories people are telling you Bill Shorten?


SHORTEN: It’s a really serious problem. When you think about the national figure for youth unemployment, it’s about 13 per cent. In the north-west, it’s 19 in every 100 are unemployed. If families, if people don’t get the experience of work early on in life, you’re setting them up for a lifetime of poverty. So I’m very perturbed that the Government, the Federal Government seems very out of touch about unemployment. And I see these sort of arrogant comments from Liberal MPs where they basically tell us to toughen up.

I’ve got a quite here from the local Liberal MP, Brett Whitley is his name, and he said that, this is young job seekers need an extra prod, and he’s referring to the fact that the Abbott Government wants to leave all people under 30 who are unemployed, are not receiving any income for six months. What young people don’t need is a lecture from patronising people who are out of touch. What need is to be able to get a trade or go to university or go on to find a job. That’s what really matters.

ANDREWS: Talking to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on 936 ABC Hobart. Do they talk to you about issues that affect them daily, local issues, bread and butter issues or are they touching on the bigger picture as well, such as Australia’s commitment to send troops to Iraq?

SHORTEN: I haven’t had a lot of people stop me in the street about the commitment to Iraq. I think there are people concerned if there’s anyone in that specific conflict, they might come back here and seek to commit crime or violence here through the skills they’ve learned there. But in terms of what people are talking to me about in Burnie, they don’t want their university campus to close, it’s the Budget. They are concerned, where will the kids get the jobs? I’ve just been meeting with wind power people who are concerned that the Federal Government’s plans, doing monkey business with Renewable Energy Targets and creating investor uncertainty. I think there a lot of people in the Tasmanian north-west who think that the Abbott Government’s just out of touch.

ANDREWS: You’re heading down to the West Coast tomorrow, that’s the area the state has put a taskforce together, the Federal Government I think it’s fair to say leaving in the hands of the state government largely, what can you tell the workers form the Mount Lyell mine tomorrow when you meet them?


SHORTEN: Well it’s tough, the first thing I can tell them is that I care about what’s happening to them, that’s why I’m visiting. I’ve been to Queenstown before, periodically when I represented mining workers. These are highly skilled people who’ve made their living and their choices for their families based around the continuation of these mines. So the first thing I can say is that we know you’re here and we know that you’re going through very tough circumstances. The second thing we can do is push harder to get these people opportunities to retrain and see what jobs there are in the north-west, that’s not easy. The third thing we can do is keep pushing for new construction projects and infrastructure investments, so that people can get work without having to leave Tasmania, and then when metal prices go up again, well then the mining becomes a viable option again.


ANDREWS: Just on another issue too, your quotes today in the Guardian as saying that the Opposition is prepared to negotiate over the RET, that’s been a crucial issue for Tasmania with our Energy Minister heading to Canberra to discuss it. What would negotiations mean in terms of the Government’s plans?


SHORTEN: Well I’m just shocked at how the Abbott Government has mishandled the renewable energy industry in Australia. For a year there’s been a cloud over the renewable energy industry; it’s worth billions of dollars in future investment, thousands of jobs. So the first thing in the negotiation, I think the Government has to commit to having a Renewable Energy Target. They commissioned a report by a chap named Warburton where they proposed two options; one was just to get rid of it altogether and the other was to emasculate it to a point where you wouldn’t bother turning up to invest in it.


So if they want bipartisanship, they need to move away from this almost paranoia that because renewable energy is an issue that Labor talks about, that somehow they feel the need to bang it on the head with a stick. This government is paranoid, they view everything as politics. For me it doesn’t matter if it’s Liberal or Labor, for me what matters in terms of renewable energy is, is there a target which will create sufficient incentive for investors, both domestic and overseas, to invest in our industry.  The West Coast of Tasmania is just wind heaven,  if you’re looking for wind, that’s where you go. The next nearest land mass is 11,000 kilometres away, a straight line to the West Cost of Tasmania. It is just made for renewable energy. I just don’t know why the Federal Government can’t work it out. Just have a look at the map, look at the geography of it.


ANDREWS: I’ll leave it there, Bill Shorten thanks for your time this afternoon.


SHORTEN: My pleasure to chat to you, have a lovely day.


ANDREWS: Thank you, you too. Bill Shorten the Opposition Leader in Tasmania.