FRIDAY, 4 MAY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to build more trains in Australia and protect local jobs; Labor’s investment in TAFE; Education; Live exports; Labor’s candidate for Perth.
TIM WATTS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GELLIBRAND: Well good morning and welcome to Downer Railways in Newport. My name is Tim Watts, I'm the local Member for Gellibrand. I'm really thrilled to welcome Bill Shorten and Kim Carr here for this national rail industry policy announcement.
I'm really happy about this announcement today because for far too often since I was elected as a Member of Parliament for Melbourne's west, I've had to front press conferences talking about thousands of job losses in my community. It has made me furious to front press conferences, about the 1500 jobs lost at the Williamstown shipyards just down the road, the 2500 manufacturing jobs lost at the Toyota Altona plant. And these jobs have been lost because under the Abbott/Turnbull Government's, we've had a government that just doesn't care about manufacturing jobs, that hasn't prioritised Australian made.
Well that is going to change if the Australian public elect a Shorten Labor Government. We've got a century long heritage of rail manufacturing history in Newport. We've built rail carriages, we've built rail tracks here for 100 years, and I'm really proud that a future Shorten Labor Government will ensure that we don't just have a history of manufacturing rail in Newport, but we've got a future. And to tell you the details of this announcement, I'm going to hand over to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tim, and good morning everybody. It's great to be at the Newport Railway Yards. My family in years gone past used to work here. But I want to make sure that kids in the future can grow up and work in the Australian railway industry. Australia is a railway nation, Australia is a tradie nation, Australia is a manufacturing nation, and at the heart of our strategy to back in rail, is Labor's National Rail plan.
We are going to set up a National Rail Innovation Council; we are going to have a rail supplier advocate to help small businesses right along the supply chain be able to bid for important work, and of course we are going to put teeth into our policy. A Labor Government if we are elected will make sure the states and territories of this nation, when they are expending taxpayer money, actually have to buy and will be encouraged to buy Australian made, and to factor in Australian manufacturing and Australian trades people in their long-term decisions.
Now I said in my opening that Australia is a railway nation. It is estimated by the Railway Industry Association that within the next 20 years alone, there is $100 billion of expenditure, private and public, to be outlaid on Australian railways and Australian rolling stock. And I want to see the lion’s share of this work go to Australian manufacturing. This railway expenditure is twice that of our naval submarines, so I think that we have got a very large critical mass which can invest in ongoing, continuous full-time work.
I think a lot of Australians will be surprised to know that even now, we have 5000 people working directly in railway construction, and another 7000 working in the supply chain. But very worryingly in recent years, we have lost 3000 full-time, blue-collared jobs already. We have got to draw a line in the sand, we have got to recognise that as a large country which depends upon rail, when we spend money on rail, taxpayer money and private money, we want to see most of that money spent at home in Australia. We want to encourage apprentices to come through the ranks, men and women to be able to come up and work in exciting, fulfilling, well-paid jobs.
Australia is railway nation, we are a tradie nation and our National Rail Plan ensures that made in Australia is a future goal, not just something you see in a museum, and Labor is here to back Australian railways. I would now like to ask my Industry spokesperson, Senator Kim Carr to talk further about our exciting plans to restore Australia as a railway nation.
SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH: Thank you Bill. $100 billion. $100 billion will be spent in this country over the next two decades, according to the best industry advice that we have available. We believe that Australia can design, build and sustain our trains. We believe that our enormous quantities of freight that's moved, our resources can be moved on Australian made rolling stock, on Australian made railway lines and signalling equipment. We believe that the 11,000 extra carriages that we need in this country to move the increasing numbers of people using our railway lines can be built in Australia. We believe that we can develop a national, consistent approach to ensuring that the order books for our nation's manufacturing companies are able to be planned into the future, so that the investment that companies are able to make can be worked out on an ongoing basis. That the training arrangements can be made on an ongoing basis. That companies do not have to look at this industry as a feast or famine proposition.
We believe that a National Innovation Council provides an opportunity for the industry to come together and work out the problems on an ongoing basis by direct access to government, and to ensure that we sort out the difficulties in such a way that we can secure the future of investment and jobs in Australia, given that there is $100 billion worth of taxpayers money going into this industry over the next two decades.
SHORTEN: Thanks Kim. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: How are you going to provide the skilled workers, for this sort of industry with TAFE enrolments going down? We saw the Victorian Government provide free TAFE courses, but the whole industry - vocational training rates have dropped.
SHORTEN: You're right; there is a real apprenticeship crisis in Australia. Since the Coalition got elected five years ago, there are about 140,000 fewer apprentices. This is a disaster. What Labor is going to do is start reinvesting in public TAFE. We actually think that the pendulum has swung too far for the privatisation of vocational education in this country. Now that's not to say that there aren't some very good not-for-profit and private sector for-profit providers, there are. But we've seen scandal after rort after dodgy outcome with a big trend towards privatisation.
So our first strategy to renew apprenticeships and make us again a tradie nation is to put public TAFE at the centre of everything we do. That's why Federal Labor, if I'm elected will make sure that at least two in every three dollars of vocational education expenditure goes to public TAFE. So that way TAFE is back where it always belonged. What we're also going to do is work with schools to encourage more pre-vocational apprenticeships. There are a lot of kids who are told, you've just got to university, and in fact they don't want to go to university and they're much more interested in doing trades related courses. One of our challenges in our schooling system is preparing kids for apprenticeships. So we're very interested in developing more proposals around pre-apprenticeship training. So that's what we're going to do about the school system and the TAFE system.
We're going to do a bit more than that though. For Commonwealth contracts we're going to say that if you want to spend Commonwealth money, we want to see one in every 10 people employed be apprentices. That puts some sugar on the table for small businesses to hire apprentices, because if they actually do that they'll find they'll get a bonus in terms of their ability to win Commonwealth contracts. But our plans for apprenticeship revival don't just stop there. We've also proposed creating a regional TAFE rebuilding fund, because in a lot of country towns a TAFE is fundamental to stopping the kids going to the big cities. But we haven't seen a lot of capital reinvestment in our regional TAFE, so we're going to do that as well.
Of course to top off all of those really good ideas, we're backing in reviving - sorry I shouldn't have said reviving, but rather revising, the 457 temporary visa system which this government's let run amuck. What we want to see is that where there is a genuine bona fide skill shortage that that skills shortage gets resolved within a matter of years. This nation currently has 1.6 million people working in Australia with visas which give them temporary work rights, 1.6 million. That's an awfully big number. That means our own young people are not getting the incentive to be trained because it's too easy for some employers not to give young Aussies a go, but just to borrow guest labour from overseas on a short term basis which doesn't help anyone. So you've got a plan there, back in apprenticeships, back in the Commonwealth policy to support apprenticeships, put public TAFE back in the main game and stop the reliance on temporary work visas from overseas.
JOURNALIST: Just on another education matter, Ministers are meeting in Adelaide today over curriculum, and there's growing calls for the government to scrap NAPLAN. Does NAPLAN need to be scrapped immediately?
SHORTEN: Well I think that there have been a lot of complaints made about NAPLAN, though it's important that we don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. As a parent of teenage kids and kids who have sat NAPLAN, I can see pluses but I can also see minuses. So I'd like to see on a bipartisan basis, people work towards seeing how we can improve it, deal with the concerns expressed by frontline teachers and parents, but not automatically junk the whole policy overnight.
JOURNALIST: Tim Hammond's seat in Perth, what do you make of reports that there's a push to install Louise Pratt as Labor's candidate?
SHORTEN: I think that there's a lot of talented people who would be interested to be Labor's flag bearer in the Federal seat of Perth. I acknowledge that Tim Hammond has made a very difficult decision, where he's prioritised his family in his particular circumstances, not an easy decision to make. In terms of his replacement the Labor Party in Western Australia will pick someone outstanding and just for the record Louise Pratt would be a very good candidate, I've seen Patrick Gorman's name mentioned, and no doubt there might be other very good candidates. One thing is for sure the Labor Party at this point in the political cycle is not lacking for volunteers and another thing I can guarantee in Perth whoever the talented person is that we pick, the issues in Perth are the issues across the nation. And we're going to see those issues tested next Tuesday night.
I think everyone would agree that the last four Coalition budgets, by most people’s evaluation have been dismal failures. Unfortunately it seems that budget number five seems to be taking the same approach. At the core of any budget and be it for the voters in Perth or the voters everywhere else across Australia, they want to see fairness. What the Liberal pointy heads don't realise is they think the budget is an end in itself, it's not. A budget is a way in which you enhance the opportunities in the community, where you use the scarce taxpayer dollars to ensure fairness. A budget with the wrong priorities or lacking in fairness is a bad budget and this is nowhere clearer than health and hospitals. I mean the fact of the matter is, as you saw us talking to the workers today and they are concerned about their cost of living and healthcare and families are amongst the most important priorities of all Australians. This budget will be a failure unless Mr Turnbull unfreezes Medicare straight away and reverses all of his cuts to hospitals. I mean otherwise we just take another step down the path towards an American style hospital system.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about live exports, the government has today called your ban reckless and ill informed. Why didn't you wait for the outcome of the review before making the ban?
SHORTEN: Well I think that I have to say the government's approach is one of delay and dodgyness. I mean these problems didn't happen overnight. Animal welfare has been put on the back burner by the Coalition-Turnbull Government for the last five years. I think all Australians, conservative or progressive, city or country were upset to see the images of those sheep and the way they were treated. You've got to ask yourself, is an industry viable if it depends upon treating animals so cruelly. An industry is not viable which business model relies upon cruelty. There are a lot of farmers I know who were deeply distressed by those images. What the government is doing is not dealing with the issue. Now, they want to look tough, and if they have got tougher penalties on shonky exporters fine, we're up for that. See, when the government has a good idea, we don’t immediately bag them, but I think they have to face up. Do they really think that live sheep export is going to be in a decade's time, do they really think it is viable. Shouldn't we be value-adding and creating more jobs in processing. But one thing the Labor Party will do is, any changes that are made we will do with farmers for the betterment of farming, not just as a reaction to a television story.
JOURNALIST: So you are saying that you do support the tough new penalties?
SHORTEN: I am saying that where the government has a good idea, we will work with them. But why is it that when Labor states the obvious; that this is an industry in decline, it's an industry where its business model in some cases depends upon cruelty, why won't the government say what millions of Australians think - it is just not sustainable long-term. What Labor will do, is we will work with farmers, we will work to transition, we will work to create better jobs in processing. I think that is where the sweet spot of the future is.
JOURNALIST Can I ask you about immigration? The Shadow Immigration Minister says Labor doesn't have a specific limit proposed for off-shore processing on Manus and Nauru. Why should people be held indefinitely offshore but not onshore?
SHORTEN: We don't want to start the boats again. It is clear that if you say to anyone that comes here by boat smugglers and criminal syndicates by boat, that people will drown at sea. It is just wrong to have a policy which you know will lead to fatal and deadly consequences for large numbers of people. So we are not going to start the boats again and we are not going to put the people smugglers back into business. But there is legitimate concern right across the community, saying that this government seems to treat the only alternative to stopping the boats is having people in indefinite detention in Manus and Nauru. We don't think you have to be that tough, that cruel in order to get the policy outcomes you want. What Labor will do is we will put life back into regional resettlement. And it may surprise some of you to hear me say this but I congratulate the government, congratulate the Prime Minister for making sure we implement the resettlement deal with the United States. But I would ask them to publicly put back on the table the New Zealand deal, which would help again alleviate some of the problems we are seeing. Indefinite detention shouldn't be the outcome of stopping the people smugglers.
JOURNALIST: Just on the industry group-ACTU joint campaign resisting cuts to the migration intake. Is the campaign necessary and should there be consideration of any cut to the rate, particularly in light of what Gladys Berejiklian said last night?
SHORTEN: Well, we welcome the contribution of people to a public debate about immigration. I think a lot of Australians feel they are not allowed to talk about it, I say they are. But let me also say immigration has been good for Australia. All of us except our First Australians came from somewhere else. But it is important that we make sure that when we bring people to this country, we do it in an orderly manner, we do it in a way where the people who come here respect our values and our laws. I think though, that some of the challenges which cause people irritation; flat wages, lack of available housing, overcrowded infrastructure, that is not a problem immigration, that is a problem of a lack of planning in this country. If you want to have better wages, vote Labor so we can have a better wages system. If you want to have access for first home buyers to be able to afford their houses, vote Labor and we can scrap negative gearing. If you want to have better infrastructure, vote Labor and we will help fix up our public transport, as well as our roads. And if we want to do something about not having sufficient opportunities for Australians in the employment situation, perhaps we need to revisit not the 150,000-170,000 people who come here as permanent immigrants, but the 1.6 million people here on temporary work visas. Let's train our own people, that is a good plan.
JOURNALIST: Reports today of staff losing their jobs at the Environment Department, particularly in the area of addressing the extinction rate. Is this putting Australian's threatened species at risk?
SHORTEN: I am concerned that the Turnbull Government is asleep at the wheel when it comes to protecting Australia's endangered species. The people who are losing their jobs are the ones who monitor the risk and monitor what is happening with our endangered species. It is entirely possible, because of these cruel cuts, that we will actually not even know when species become extinct. There's up to 400 Australian animals on the various endangered species list, including as I understand it the northern hairy-nosed wombat. Why on earth does the government want to be asleep at the wheel when we should be protecting such important Australian animals. We have got to make sure we protect endangered species from extinction. It is important that we measure what is happening. This government is putting environmental issues so far to the backburner, it is not funny.