08 June 2017

FRIDAY, 9 JUNE 2017 

SUBJECT/S: Release of the Finkel review; climate change, energy and jobs; COAG; UK Election; National Security.

ROD SCOTT, SELECTRONIC CEO: My name is Rod Scott, the CEO of Selectronic. And it's great that you guys could come here today and for Bill and for Kim to join us.  

It's been really good and we appreciate that we've been able to show Australian technology and innovation in manufacturing. Today of course is an exciting day with the Finkel Review being finally released, and we hope that from that, that some really good policy will come out that's able to allow business to have surety and a really good, solid understanding of where we are going in the future. Policy, there's different variations on which way it may look exactly, but from a business point of view, if we can plan then we can create jobs for the future and that's what it is about. It's about the environment and it's about jobs for our kids in the future as well.  

In fact, the opportunity now in Australia because we have so much - not just us, but so many other companies, that have so much ability to really contribute to the energy storage industry, that there is a really big opportunity with the growth as you know to really allow those jobs to replace all of the other jobs that have been lost in other areas.  

So it is certainly new jobs for the new energy future which we are excited about, so we are optimistic here.  

Over to you, Bill. Thank you 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Rod, and that's the leader of Selectronics, it's a successful Australian business employing 35 people directly and indeed, providing jobs for a lot more people indirectly.  

Labor wants to see the crisis in our energy system and the lack of action on climate change; we want to see the last 10 years of climate change wars finished. So whilst we haven't yet seen the Finkel report, we believe that if we can get right the problems in our energy market, and the lack of climate policy, that's going to do wonders for Australian jobs, doing something about prices of electricity and also making sure that we take real action on climate change. 

So how to handle the lack of climate policy in this country, and the Finkel report will be the Prime Minister's biggest test since he rolled Tony Abbott. What the Australian people want to see is that their interests are being put first, not the factions of the Liberal Party.  

The Labor Party is prepared to carefully consider the Finkel report, and we are prepared to put the national interest and even compromise on some of the gold-standard changes we think need to be made just so we can stop arguing about climate change and do something to restore investor certainty for jobs, and doing something about the wholesale electricity prices. 

But in return for bipartisan support, Mr Turnbull is going to have to be fair dinkum. He is going to have to stand up to the cave dwellers of the right wing of his party and face them down. But I am prepared to work with him constructively upon seeing the report to make sure that at last, we can exert downward pressure on electricity prices. That we can do something about carbon pollution, that we can provide investor certainty so that people can make investments in our energy market going forward. And all of this is going to help business and consumers.  

The ball is now in Mr Turnbull's court. He has to be fair dinkum. We have to have a price signal, which means that investors can invest in forms of energy generation so we can get on and start taking control of energy prices and tackling climate change. I'd just like to get my Shadow spokesperson for Industry to talk a little bit further, then we'd be able happy to take questions. 

KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH: Well, thank you Bill. Well thank you very much for having us here today. Selectronic is an example of an Australian company that's doing very well building industry capability in Australia. Developing a supply chain in Australia, 83 percent of the componentry that goes in to the inverters manufactured here comes from Australian firms, Australian product. This is an example of the success story of Australian manufacturing. It is so important for this country to maintain our manufacturing capabilities and one of the key issues there is the question of energy policy. And energy policy has been an example of where the political system has failed, failed for far too long.

What we are saying on behalf of the people of Australia is that the political system now has to respond appropriately. We have to be able to ensure that manufacturers can look forward to the future with confidence. They have to be able to ensure they have reliability of supply of their electricity, of their energy at affordable prices. So that we can ensure that we can attract new investment, that we can build for the future, a cleaner, a richer, a fairer Australia in which all Australians get to share in the prosperity and that's what we're doing here at this company and that's what we are doing in so many manufacturing companies across this country. We have a situation where we are seeing electricity prices going up to four times over the last couple of years. It simply isn't good enough for a country which has the richness of resources that we have. We simply can't have the circumstance where we allow the prices to keep going up with the government failing to respond to the needs of the Australian people. Thank you very much.  

SHORTEN: Thank you. Are there any questions? 

JOURNALIST: Should a business like this be entitled to more government subsidies to be more competitive overseas? 

SHORTEN: I think what a business like this is entitled to is policy certainty. All of the experts, from business to the regulators to the scientists, they all say that the single greatest pressure on rising electricity prices is lack of policy certainty. Now we have got an opportunity and Labor is willing to step up to the plate - as the Australian people expect us to do by the way, and if this report and the Government responds favourably and it sets a price signal on pollution, well then it provides the investment certainty. That's what businesses like this want. This is a business capable of standing on its own two feet. It’s a long standing family business. But what it's done, is its competing with the best in the world. We manufacture in this country the software design, the installation, the quality in all circumstances, in all environments, for all scale. What this business deserves, and every business in Australia, and every person looking for a job in Australia, what they deserve is policy certainty. If we finally get a price signal on carbon pollution, what we then get is the ability for people to make investment decisions on new forms of energy and new forms of investment. That is good for the environment, it is good for jobs and it is also good for electricity prices. 

JOURNALIST: How committed are you to a Clean Energy Target?  

SHORTEN: Well, as I said, we haven't seen the report. We're going to study it very carefully. But as I travel around Australia, as I visit manufacturing businesses here, as I talk to small businesses worried about electricity prices, as I talk to companies who are really doing it hard because of rising, out of control gas prices. What people want is they want us to put the nation first and forget the factions and the petty politics seconds. And we need to see what the report is. If Mr Turnbull wants bipartisanship and I am prepared to step up, he needs to be fair dinkum and face down the divisions in the Liberal Party. He needs to tell the climate sceptics, people who say we can do business as usual and ignore the future, he needs to face down Tony Abbott and the right wing of the Liberal Party and say righto, I can work with Labor, Labor is willing to work with me, let’s get on together and make it work for the nation.  

JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce says the Clean Energy Target should accommodate for new coal powered gas stations to be built across the country, is that a deal breaker for you? 

SHORTEN: We haven't seen the report. I suspect Barnaby Joyce is talking through his hat, his favourite method of communication. Let's be clear here, what we need to do is get on with making sure we reduce carbon emissions. You know, I worry that Senator Joyce wants to be one thing in Canberra and another thing when he travels out and about the place, tell the people the truth Barnaby. We need to have policy and investment certainty, you can't keep promising everything to everybody and hope that we are going to get the investment and the jobs that go with it.

The thing about having a fair dinkum policy on climate change is that it's good for the environment, it's good for electricity prices, it's good for investment and it's good for jobs and it's good for families. 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, it seems like there is a swing against the conservatives in the exit polls in the UK election. Do you have any response to the way that seems to be going? 

SHORTEN: Well it’s a fascinating election, the UK election. Obviously there are differences between the United Kingdom and Australia, so we don't know the result yet but one of the things which my counterpart, the Labour Leader in the United Kingdom did is he campaigned and his slogan was: 'for the many, not the few'. 

I think Mr Turnbull would be well advised to look at the popularity of that message in the context that he is giving a tax cut to a few millionaires and to a few multinationals and he's increasing taxes on the many. I think Mr Turnbull should look carefully at that message and understand that perhaps Australians also want to see policy which looks after most people, not just the top end of town. 

JOURNALIST: Do you have any reaction to the Saudi Soccer team refusing to observe a moment silence for the London victims? 

SHORTEN: Listen, I've seen the video of that. I don't know what happened but it shouldn't have happened and I certainly understand why people are angry about it. I understand that since then there has been an apology given. 

JOURNALIST: And just coming out of COAG today, are you confident that we are going to get the measures that we need to increase security across Australia following the incidents this week?  

SHORTEN: I think when it comes to fighting terrorism and extremism of the Islamic variety and or any other, I think we are all in this together and I think the states want to work with the Federal Government and I think that if there is lessons to be learned, and it's only been a couple of days since the tragedy in Brighton, all we've got to see is better information sharing. 

When you've got one part of the justice system and the protection system making decisions if they don't have all the information that someone else has, well that obviously mitigates against the best decisions being made to create a safer Australia. But I know that when it comes to fighting terrorism and extremism we are all in this together. You throw politics out the window and what we've got to do is listen to the security experts and do what they recommend are the safest thing to do to keep people safe. 

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the push from several states to have a federal prison built to house terrorists? 

SHORTEN: Well we haven't seen the details of that proposal, I'm not going to rule it out. I think one of the concerns which people see in some of our jails is that you get young people going in for some crimes and they are getting radicalised in gaol. So I think that we need to make sure we are quarantining the really bad terrorists and the people who've got evil intent towards this country, and they're not automatically wandering around with every other prisoner. So let's just have a look at the proposal. Not ruling it in, not ruling it out but again, I want to reassure Australians is that when it comes to national security and fighting terror I’m just interested in what works. Not interested in the slogans, not interested in the headlines - what people will get from me and my Labor team is that we will work with anyone who's fair dinkum about making Australia safer and denying these terrorists a foot hole in any part of our society. 

JOURNALIST: The Victorian Premier has been quite critical of Malcolm Turnbull's focus on parole laws and dealing with people who have a history of terrorism. What do you think?  

SHORTEN: Well again, I've seen what Premier Andrews said - I think Mr Turnbull perhaps leapt in a bit quickly to criticise the Victorian Government in the immediate aftermath and I think that sometimes, as much as people want to react emotionally, they expect our leaders to calmly assess the situation. What happened in Brighton was evil, but before we start playing the blame game it's always better to get the facts on the table. I think that Daniel Andrews has made a very sensible suggestion that if you've got one part of the system making decisions but they don't have all of the information that someone else, somewhere else in the government knows, well that communication problem must be fixed. Now I think Daniel Andrews is proposing some sensible measures to fix that problem, if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. And I think most Australians would say that if you've got someone who security agents think are on a watch list then other people who are dealing with them in the legal system should probably also know that. Thanks everybody.