Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Fyshwick - National TAFE Day; Abbott Government’s cuts to skills and education





SUBJECT/S: National TAFE Day; Abbott Government’s cuts to skills and education; Abbott Government’s cuts to schools and hospitals; National security; Tony Abbott’s royal commission; Labor Party


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be at Canberra Institute of Technology with hard working local Member of Parliament Gai Brodtmann and our Shadow Spokesperson for Skills and TAFE. It’s great to be here because today is National TAFE Day. It’s the one day in the year where we can draw breath and recognise how important TAFE is to our future.


Labor always backs TAFE, Liberals always abandon TAFE.


Under Labor, from 2007 we had 1.2 million people in the TAFE system and when we left office it got up to 1.5 million people. We need skills for the jobs of the future. We need more young people interested in taking up an apprenticeship, falling in love with a trade, starting their business and setting themselves up for life and providing services that all Australians need. But the Abbott Government's cut $2 billion out of training and vocational education since they came to power. Over a billion dollars taken away from making sure our apprentices get the best start in life. Labor intends to make TAFE, backing TAFE up, not abandoning TAFE, one of the election issues coming up and I'd now like to encourage and ask Sharon Bird to say some words about Labor's commitment to TAFE and apprenticeships and jobs of the future for our young people and our mature age people who are retraining.


SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks, Bill and I can thank CIT and the teachers and apprentices who’ve welcomed us here today. Some amazing stories that you see across TAFEs and across apprentice centres across this country of young people getting a start in apprenticeships, mature age people retraining and the Government has done absolutely nothing to support them in that endeavour. In fact they’ve cut a billion dollars of support away from them.


Today's National TAFE Day, it is appalling that on this day we discover that the Abbott Government has a serious consideration in its Federation Green Paper to walk away from national responsibility for the vocational, education and training of the future. This is a critical contributor, as Bill said, to the jobs of the future, it is absolutely critical to growth, productivity and participation in this country and for the Abbott Government to even consider abandoning and therefore creating another $1.8 billion cut out of the sector is a disgrace and I think on National TAFE Day it's a double insult to the hard working teachers and the really dedicated students we’ve met today. Thanks Bill.


SHORTEN: Thanks very much Sharon and are there any questions on TAFE or any other matters?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you’ve now changed your position on $8 billion worth of Budget measures. You’ve moved on Gonski, we’re not seeing a commitment on that extra two years and we’re not seeing a commitment to reverse the pension changes. Is this an indication that you've been playing politics too negative and how can people trust you?


SHORTEN: Well Ursula, there's about five questions in that but let's unpack them to begin with. Labor has made some compromises because Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey are just wrecking the Budget. In 2014, they said that the deficit would be $17 billion and now it's blown out to $35 billion. We’ve seen that the Government tried to take Australians hostage with regard to - if we didn't support their increase in fuel excise - that money that was raised would go to oil companies. So this Government is mishandling the Australian economy. Confidence is down, unemployment’s up, and their deficit is blowing out. This forces us to make decisions, compromises in the national interest. In regard to the part of your question about education funding in Australia, let me be really clear. Labor believes in needs-based funding. We believe that the principles of the Gonski Review are the right principles to properly fund education for our young people in the future. It is very clear that we’ve got a Government who’s addicted to breaking their promises and the closer we get to an election the more we see Tony Abbott making statements which we know he would break if he was to win the next election and schools is at the heart of that. Australian parents, Australian teachers and indeed Australian kids expect the Government to be fair dinkum about education funding yet Tony Abbott is cutting $30 billion from schools. We’ve seen the Federation Green Paper, which the Government doesn't know if it wants to own or disown, proposing that at one level that we should have means testing for parents who send their children to government schools. Labor's position about the future of education funding is also very clear. We always do better than the Liberals when it comes to funding education in Australia. Closer to the election we’ll outline our policies and we’ll outline our financial commitments. I know one thing - when it comes to trusting Tony Abbott on education, you can't. He said before the last election no cuts to education, that’s what we’ve seen, $30 billion worth of cuts. His record on education is appalling.


JOURNALIST: Are you playing negative politics though? Are you playing negative politics?


SHORTEN: Well I think that we all know that Tony Abbott's the Olympic gold medal winner when it comes to negative politics. It can't be really negative can it be when we are supporting and compromising $8 billion of savings to the bottom line. That just doesn't pass the sort of logic test. But beyond that, it is important that we have proper funding for our education system and for our schools and that our kids get the best start in life. What frustrates me is before the last election Mr Abbott said that they were on a unity ticket with Labor on education funding and we’ve seen every day since Mr Abbott got people to vote for him, tricked people into voting for him, that what's happened now is he won't keep his promise on education funding. Ursula you watch Question Time, you see every day when the Opposition asks questions about the $30 billion worth of cuts in education which have been outlined in two successive Budgets by Mr Abbott, he denies that the cuts have even happened, it defies belief.


JOURNALIST: On citizenship laws, will Labor vote for them?


SHORTEN: We haven't been briefed on the citizenship laws yet. They’ve just been introduced into Parliament in the last hour. I am scheduled to have a briefing later this morning when I return from the Canberra Institute of Technology to Parliament. We’ve got very clear principles; we’ve been the one consistent proposition in this citizenship law debate. We have said that we will do whatever is necessary to fight terror abroad and at home. We’ve said that we support the principle of the extension of denying Australian citizenship to dual citizens if they take up arms against Australia. But what's been frustrating for Labor, I think for some Liberal Cabinet ministers and for Australians is that Mr Abbott's Government has spent 18 months talking about these laws. 18 months. And we heard them say as recently as the last couple of weeks that the Minister would make the decision and there would be no judicial or legal oversight. And now we said, well that sounds problematic. Now the Government and Mr Abbott have had to back down. I just wish the Government wouldn't play politics with these national security laws. At last let's have a look at them because what matters in national security is having laws that actually work. Mr Abbott does no favours to the national security of this nation if he puts forward laws which simply don’t work.


JOURNALIST: Should they be retrospective those citizenship laws?


SHORTEN: Well we’ll have to see what the details of the laws are and we’re getting that briefing later this morning.


JOURNALIST: Richard Marles sounded open to it this morning speaking on doors, that’s Labor's position it's open to them being retrospective?


SHORTEN: Well to the extent that Mr Marles has said that we wait to see the laws and what’s in them and we have an open mind of course.


JOURNALIST: What do you think should happen to Tara Nettleton and her children?


SHORTEN: I am particularly concerned about the children here. These children are victims of child abuse. Let us be really clear. Those shocking images, unimaginable images of a parent standing by their child in the middle of that war zone and those atrocities, I do not as a parent understand how on earth anyone, no matter how twisted their own views, would subject their children to that sort of trauma, that sort of child abuse. Also as a parent though I know that with these children to return they were going to need a lot of working through what they’ve seen and done. As a parent I wouldn't feel comfortable with these children just simply reinserting in a playground with my children or anyone else's children. But I also recognise that the sins of the father should not be visited and treated as the sins of the children and we just need to work through this issue intelligently. We will take the advice of the security agencies and that’s what Australians want.


JOURNALIST: Yesterday you said that, to your party room you expect an election potentially this year. What makes you believe that that will occur?


SHORTEN: Has anyone has a good look at that Budget in recent days? This is a Budget which is like one of those cartoon vehicles where the tyres are falling off, the wind screen wipers don't work, the steam is coming out of the radiator. This Budget is not set to last 12 months. It doesn’t deal with the long-term issues of confidence, it does nothing to deal with the question of infrastructure and making our cities work, it doesn't have a plan to help us transition from the mining boom to the non-mining boom which we’re now are experiencing. This Budget does nothing to deal with long-term unemployment, there's been 188,000 Australians now who have been unemployed for longer than 12 months. We’ve got real wages growth, very low, heading towards lows not seen since the early 1990s and the difficult economic times are there. So I know that this Government does not believe it will bring down another Budget. So on that basis I am assuming that they are going to try and rush to the polls at some point this year because they know that the longer we see the examination and the evidence of their mismanagement of the economy, of confidence, of jobs then more Australians are going to be outraged at this Government.


JOURNALIST: If you think they’re going to rush to the polls this year, can you win as you’re facing the Royal Commission?


SHORTEN: It will be up to the Australian voters about which party they want to see handle the future but I know the party I lead is ready for an election whenever it is called. We will put forward, as we’ve been doing, a program for the economic future of this country over the next 10 years and beyond, but Labor is ready.


JOURNALIST: Julia Gillard on the carbon tax reversal nearly, well ended her, are you worried that in relation to the fuel tax that’s your Julia Gillard moment?


SHORTEN: No, I think what's happened is that Labor has compromised. We know that the Government before the last election promised no increase to taxes. Australians remember Mr Abbott as he was relentlessly pursuing your vote and everyone else's vote said there would be no changes to taxes. He’s introduced a petrol tax. We view that as a breach of promise but what we also recognise is that since he first introduced it in 2014 he's also doubled the deficit. We also recognise that they put in a mechanism which means that if we didn't agree to this in coming months all of the money raised would have gone to petrol companies and that’s unacceptable. Also what we’ve done is that there's been over a billion dollars, or nearly a billion dollars, in cuts to local government. So we’ve proposed to the Government that they put money into building roads, right across Australia and outer suburbs and our regions and we think that what we’ve done is offered long-term job stimulus, long-term confidence, helping the councils of Australia and what we are making sure is that where people drive they're seeing that money reinvested on their roads. I think it's a good compromise. Last question.


JOURNALIST: On 3AW Neil Mitchell this morning called you a liar for saying that you supported Julia Gillard when in fact you were talking to Kevin Rudd. Do you stand by those actions still?


SHORTEN: Well, we’ve seen the Killing Season and the debate about all of the history there and that's what it is. It is history. It is not my job as Leader of the Opposition to be the curator of the museum of Labor. What I‘m determined to do is work with my team to develop the best possible vision for Australia. What has happened in the past is exactly that, the past. I think all reasonable commentators would say that in the last two years the Labor Party has been much more united than it has for many years previously. That’s the first step of Labor's rebuilding of trust with the Australian community.


What I can also say to Australians is that the Labor Party is committed to making sure that we create jobs and maintain jobs in this country. We're committed to making sure that we have proper schools which are funded, proper hospitals which are funded. This will be some of the main battle grounds and when it comes to TAFE and the great young people here and mature age apprentices, Labor is backing TAFE, the Liberals are abandoning TAFE. Thanks everyone. See you in Question Time.