TUESDAY, 17 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to extend the Bruce Highway; Far North Queensland Infrastructure; labour hire & casualisation in the region; Budget; cyber-attack; NBN; Greens proposal on marijuana; Banking Royal Commission.
ELIDA FAITH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Thank you everybody for coming out today, on this beautiful Far North Queensland day. My name is Elida Faith, I am the Labor Candidate for Leichhardt and I am very excited to be able to welcome Bill Shorten, the Opposition Leader here today, and also we have with us Jason Clare, who's the Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, and also we have Brendan O'Connor who is the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and so I'm going to hand you straight over to Bill, thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Elida, and I just want to congratulate Elida Faith for being our candidate in Leichhardt. She is a local with significant experience of being a community advocate, and my goodness Cairns and Leichhardt need a strong community advocate with a lot of energy. I think it's long overdue in Leichhardt to have a change. And one of the reasons I think it's long overdue to have a change in Leichhardt is because valuable infrastructure has not been getting built under the current LNP Turnbull Government.
And today I'm really excited to be announcing that if Labor is elected at the next national election, and if Elida is elected as the next Member for Leichhardt, we will do the long overdue extension of the national highway from Comport and Draper Street, right through to Airport Avenue - the next stage. This is going to help improve the roads, it's going to help with extra funding for intersections, it's long overdue work which is further investment in Cairns.
Cairns is an exciting city but it is prone to the ups and downs of the economy, and what this region needs is some of the taxes paid by people who live in the region being spent in the region. So this $40 million exciting road announcement is exactly what the region wants, it's on top of what we've said for the Wangetti Trail and boosting tourism, and it's part of an exciting package of propositions where we're going to demonstrate to the people of Cairns and the region, that Labor's got their back.
What I would now like to do is invite our Shadow Spokesman for Northern Australia, Jason Clare, to talk further about this fantastic announcement. What I would also like to do is then invite Brandan O'Connor our Shadow Spokesperson on Workplace Relations to talk about a very important forum I'm holding here this afternoon, which is to listen to workers and their representatives about how we can ensure that we have better quality jobs, that casualised and itinerant labour and labour hire workers are being unfairly exploited.
Then we're happy to take questions.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks Bill, it's great to be back in Cairns with Bill Shorten and to be here with Brandan and with Elida, our candidate for Leichhardt. This is a great announcement, it's also a common sense announcement. It's going to mean more local jobs, it's going to take trucks off local roads, and it's going to make it easier to get to the airport. It's the sort of thing that the local community has been calling for, for a long long time, and if Bill Shorten and Labor win the next election -
Just in case you missed that, it's the sort of thing the local community have been calling for, for a long time, and if Bill Shorten and Labor win the next election, then it will happen. It's the latest in a number of infrastructure projects that we've announced up and down the coast, along central and North Queensland. We've also announced we'll widen the Port in Townsville. We've announced we'll build the Rookwood Weir. We've announced that we'd build the flood levy for Rockhampton. We'd build the next stage of the Gladstone Port Access Road, and we'd build the next stage of the Mackay ring road. So we've announced a series of infrastructure projects that we would build to get Northern Australia moving.
Contrast that with Malcolm Turnbull and his disorganised, divided Government. They announced the Northern Australia Fund 1071 days ago; almost three years ago. A $5 billion fund to develop Northern Australia, and guess how much money they've allocated to North Queensland since then? The answer is zero. Nothing. That tells you everything you need to know about the failure that this Turnbull Liberal/National Government is.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thanks Bill and Jason, it's good to be here and again, as Jason's just outlined, Labor is about investing in infrastructure to provide opportunities for Queensland, Far North Queensland and indeed opportunities for jobs. But Labor is also about ensuring that when we invest to create and provide the environment in which businesses can employ people, we make sure that those jobs are decent jobs and quality jobs.
And as Bill as already outlined, today we have a roundtable to listen to workers about the problems associated with labour hire and casualisation. Now, there are many forms of employment in our labour maket and they're legitimate. But the misuse and overuse of casualisation and labour hire is of concern to Labor. And that's why we're listening to workers in this region, and we're listening around the country. It's why Federal Labor has launched a website to invite workers to talk to us about the concerns they have about their insecure work; about the fact that they can't find enough work to make ends meet; about the fact that they won't speak up on getting a pay rise or health and safety issues because they're fearful of not getting any work in the future. So
for that reason, the roundtable today that will of course involve Bill and Jason and Elida and myself is to listen to workers so that we can properly respond.
We have a growing problem in this country with respect to the labour market. Too many people are finding difficulty making ends meet because they can't find enough work. We have over 700,000 unemployed in this country and 1.1 million extra Australians who cannot find enough work. And at the same time, we have too many people without any guaranteed hours at all. They can't find - because of that they can't get a home loan, they can't get a car loan even, and we need to do better. So this roundtable today is very important for us to understand fully, the problems in this area, but also indeed in Far North Queensland, and also across the nation so we can respond. We've already made clear we're going to have a licensing regime, nationally for labour hire. We need to make sure there is a - that labour hire treats its workforce fairly.
And indeed, I want to congratulate the Queensland Government, whose own labour hire licensing scheme was launched this week. Because they've had to fill a void, a void left by the Federal Liberal Government and Malcolm Turnbull, who has a callous disregard for workers who are precariously employed. So I congratulate them and I congratulate the other jurisdictions that are examining this same issue. But we need a national licensing scheme and only a Shorten Labor Government will deliver that, and we need to do other things too, and that's why we're here today. To listen to workers about their plight and make sure that we have the right policies so that when we invest in infrastructure, when we create the opportunities for employment growth, we make sure that those jobs are decent jobs. They're jobs that people can actually go to work feeling safe, get a decent income - a fair days work for a fair days pay. Come home safely and also be able to pay the bills and look after their family.
SHORTEN: Thanks Brendan, are there any questions on this announcement or any other matters.
JOURNALIST: Yes Mr Shorten. If I could ask about the roads, how much consultation and (inaudible) has been done with the State Government and why halt the road to the airport?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the only way you can really do good infrastructure in Australia is when the different levels of government work together State and Federal. So we have been consulting with the Queensland Government, and I should just give a plug to Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier Palaszczuk, she's been doing a great job for regional Queensland. She understands that there's more to Queensland than South East Queensland and Brisbane, and when you look at the developments that they've been doing and the sort of proposals that we're making, this is all about helping Cairns. Cairns is a very successful area. But what it needs is a government in Canberra who doesn't forget Cairns in the hard times. This road is long overdue, and in terms of why here - well once we build it to here, then we can build it to the next destination. So this is not the end of the matter but I think most sensible people if they think, is there a plan on the table to help provide better roads and upgrade intersections which will deal with truck movements, which will provide real jobs and make it easier to get to the airport. It really does pass the common sense test doesn't it.
JOURNALIST: Has the State Government promised to cough up the rest of the money?
SHORTEN: I hope so and they've got their budget to bring down. But what the Queensland Government knows and what Queenslanders know is they've got a friend in me and Federal Labor and Elida Faith locally. We are prepared to find the money. We are prepared to use scarce taxpayer dollars for important priorities, and one of the ways that we can fund this road, it's because Elida Faith supports building local roads and local jobs, not handing away $65 billion in corporate tax giveaways to the top end of town like the current Member of Parliament.
JOURNALIST: How much are you asking from the State Government?
SHORTEN: 50-50, $40 million each.
JOURNALIST: Has the State Minister written to the Federal Government to request an amendment to the Act to extend the Bruce Highway?
SHORTEN: I've seen some discussion from the local Federal Member, Mr Entsch, who is sort of a bit grumpy that Labor has taken the initiative. I mean let's go to the heart of the matter. This road has needed to be built for a long time. Warren Entsch can't convince Mr Turnbull to fund it, and so he's one of those characters these days who is at the skinny edge of their political career, he's been around for a long time. Rather than find the energy to back in a sensible proposal, he's trying to find problems with it. I promise you that if we're elected, we'll get the road built, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what do you make of the news potentially 400 Australian businesses have been targeted by Russian hackers?
SHORTEN: Doesn't this just show that a busy airport needs the roads to match the busyness. Listen, it's very serious that 400 Australian companies could have been the target of Russian cyber hacking. Can I just make clear to Australian businesses that just because we're an island, doesn't mean that we're immune from cyber espionage and hacking, which we see all around the world. I have no doubt that along with a number of other countries, there will be cyber hacking operations in Russia and its satellite countries which are trying to compromise information in Australia. The lesson out of this is we cannot take our cyber security for granted and that we need to see redoubled efforts to make sure that we're looking after not only government institutions, but we're also assisting business both big and small, strengthen their protections against the modern day scourge of cyber hacking.
JOURNALIST: And your thoughts on the push to legalise cannabis?
SHORTEN: Yes, I've seen that the Green political party has re-announced a policy that they've had for a while. So the first thing I have to say about the Greens political party push is that this has been their policy for a fair while. They also have a policy to legalise MDMA or ecstasy, so this is not news. What I would say is that I'm sure as the Green political party know, much of the responsibility for this issue lies at state and territory levels, which leads me to think that perhaps the Greens are trying to do the equivalent of political click bait, they're looking for a headline.
For me and Labor, our priority is to look at the medicinal use of cannabis. Long before we get to the debate about recreational drug users, what we need to see here is how we make it easier for people who need palliative care, people who have terminal illness. Parents who have children with a great deal of pain, and making sure that they can access medicinal or therapeutic cannabis. My priority is to look after the families and the sufferers with great pain, and how do we make sure there are not unnecessary regulatory road blocks to the use of therapeutic cannabis. We have no plans to legalise recreational drug use, be it cannabis or MDMA or any other Greens policy.
Sorry, you were next and then come to you, sorry.
JOURNALIST: Bill Morrow is speaking at the press club about the NBN today. Labor said it won't be ripping up the copper, but what can you promise a Shorten Government would do to improve the NBN?
SHORTEN: I think that NBN is one of great sources of frustration for Australians, in particular in the regions, but not just the regions. Mr Turnbull unfortunately, through a lack of vision short changed Australia by putting in too much copper into the system. What he's done is given us 20th century technology in the 21st century. Labor's plan would be to use more fibre as we roll out further parts of the NBN. What we should do is use the best technology first. That will mean that it lasts longer and will increase the value of the NBN corporation and it will provide better service for Australians.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just back on medicinal cannabis, would you support the application of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain patients and PTSD sufferers?
SHORTEN: I do think that there is a role for the therapeutic uses of medicinal cannabis. Part of the problem is that for instance, Canada has had a licensing system in place and nearly 300,000 Canadians access it. The government here has dragged its feet and there would be barely 100 or 200 people using it. I think that the issue of alleviating pain is one which should be between the treating doctors and the patients. I think where we've got a current situation where some parents are seeking to get medicinal cannabis for their kids who are in a great deal of pain, perhaps in illustrations such as you use, parents should not be made criminals because they want to alleviate the pain of their children. So I think that we do need to look at how we can remove some of the road blocks in the medicinal use of cannabis, but again we have no plans to extend it beyond that.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says he isn't going to be Santa this budget despite the Acting PM saying he would be. Are you expecting the Treasurer to throw the kitchen sink at families to buy the next election?
SHORTEN: There's more chance of Santa Claus actually reversing the cuts to hospitals and school funding and infrastructure than Scott Morrison. I think it is amazing that five minutes after the current Prime Minister is wheels up overseas, the Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer are now disagreeing with each other. It doesn't show a lot of respect for the Australian people when politicians cynically describe the taxpayer money they use as presents from Santa. Wrong, Mr McCormack, the Acting Prime Minister and Mr Morrison. The money that you spend in the budget is taxpayer money. You are not Santa Claus or any other mythical person. You have an obligation to spend taxpayer money in the best interests of the Australian people, not just simply to try and do something about your unpopularity. For me, the real test in the budget will be this. Have they reversed their funding cuts to hospitals; have they immediately reversed their Medicare freeze; are they going to reverse their $17 billion in cuts to schools, both Government and Catholic parish schools. Are they going to stop demanding that the working age increase to 70 before people can retire; are they going to properly fund infrastructure projects such as the one we're announcing today. This government is out of touch. The only measure which they seem keen on doing is giving away $65 billion to the top end of town. The best thing this government could do is put working and middle class people first and stop handing away $65 billion to the top end of town in an unaffordable tax giveaway which doesn't benefit ordinary people.
JOURNALIST: AMP has told the Banking Royal Commission that it has lost track of how many times it has misled ASIC. Was it a mistake to call for superannuation providers to be excluded from the inquiry?
SHORTEN: Labor are the champions of having the Royal Commission, let's not rewrite history here. Remember the day that we dragged Turnbull and Morrison kicking and screaming 18 months after we raised a Royal Commission. They looked like they were having a tantrum and they did say that day, and I remember very clearly having told me off for 18 months that there were no problems in the banking sector. They said a Royal Commission is not going to do anything. Yet, every day the Royal Commission has heard evidence, it's revealing greater wrongdoing than I think most people ever imagined was the case. This AMP scandal is just the latest chapter in a sad and sorry story of how the financial services sector, the top end of town, have let customers down.
JOURNALIST: Just on the road, do you have a deadline for when the construction might start?
SHORTEN: If I'm elected Prime Minister, and we have Elida Faith as our member, we want to get on with it straight away. Obviously it is contingent on striking an arrangement with the Queensland Government, but I think let's cut away all the rhetoric and all the rest of the long sentences. Cairns needs more jobs. What we need is better infrastructure. I'm a bit disappointed that Mr Entsch has just immediately come out, he's just a knocker, bagging a new idea for Cairns. I'd encourage everyone in Cairns, Liberal and Labor to get behind a very sensible extension to the National Highway. It will just mean jobs, it will mean a better tourism proposition and it will mean a better quality of life for people in Cairns. Perhaps any last local questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if I could redirect towards Warren Entsch and the Federal Government, specifically regional jobs and investment package for the Far North. Legal and ethical questions have been raised about a pharmaceutical company QRX receiving a $2.4 million grant when it was owned by the wife of Warren Entsch's former campaign adviser who was also chairman of the group that helped formulate the fund's criteria. Do you consider this a conflict of interest and what measures should the government take to make sure (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: I haven't followed this in close depth and I'm grateful to the Cairns Post for drawing it to my attention. We'll investigate this matter further, but for goodness sakes, I call upon the conservative Government in Canberra to back a National Integrity Commission. In 2018, there's a lot of people cheesed off by politics. They think that everyone in politics is just in it for themselves. That's why at the start of this year, in January, I said time's up, we have to have a National Integrity Commission, because unless the political people are willing to show that they're willing to undergo the same scrutiny as other walks of public life, then I think that people put question marks around us.
Labor supports a National Integrity Commission, Mr Entsch's party do not. If there are genuine concerns here, this is exactly why we need a National Integrity Commission. As for the specifics, I'm grateful for you drawing it to my attention and we'll examine this matter further. Because when it comes to the taxpayers, we've got the highest obligation to treat it fairly. It doesn't matter if it is the new Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer describing themselves as Santa Claus spending taxpayer money, or a politician doing favours for mates, and I'm not saying that is what has happened here. Whatever it is, we have got to restore the image of politics and the way you restore the image of politics is make your promises early and stick to them. Say what you mean and mean what you say and that's why Elida Faith I think offers the best chance for a renewed political system in Cairns and Leichhardt. It's time for a change, it's time for Elida. Thank you everybody, see you at other events