THURSDAY, 3 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: manufacturing in Australia; Labor’s plan for apprentices; marriage equality; Liberal Party division.
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: G'day everyone. Thanks for coming, I just want to start by thanking the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre for having us here today and particularly Shayne La Combre, the CEO of the facility and Earl Setches, the Secretary of the Plumbers Union for having us here today and all the tradies and apprentices that have shown us around and shown us the facilities. It's a wonderful facility, it's the second time I've been here. I'm the local member, the Federal Member for Wills which includes Brunswick, Coburg and Pascoe and all this area in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. So having a facility like this in my electorate is just wonderful because the amount of wonderful work that's done by the apprentices here is so important for our economy. And the tradies that come out of here really make an enormous contribution to our economy.
Everyone deserves an education, it doesn't always have to be a university education it can be an education as an apprentice to be a tradie and that's such an important part of our future. And that's why Labor leader Bill Shorten and the Labor opposition is so committed to making places available for apprentices going forward. So with that, I want to hand over to Senator Kim Carr who is also here, and thank him for coming along as well as Bill for being in the electorate. Over to you Kim.
SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH: Thank you very much, Peter. It's great to be able to be with the plumbing centre again, today this is an important centre which highlights the simple proposition that blue collar workers are entitled to have the very best skills and opportunities to be part of the innovation agenda for this country.
I'd like to say something about the Academy of Science report into climate change modelling. Today the Academy has drawn our attention to the extraordinary vandalism that has been inflicted upon the CSIRO as a result of the budget cuts that occurred to the CSIRO, $115 million has been taken out of the CSIRO. We've seen hundreds of scientists lost across the Government as a result of budget cuts. And the consequences of that have been that this country is not able to fulfil its international obligations in regard to climate change modelling. This is particularly important given that Australia plays such a critical role in the Southern Hemisphere climate change modelling, and the Academy has called for the appointment of 77 scientists over the next four years, 29 this year, to make up for the gaps that have now been developed as a result of the Government's decisions to reduce the budget for science in this country. Across the Budget, $2 billion has been taken out of innovation programs, $2 billion. That has lasting impacts, lasting consequences, and we're seeing that today with the Academy of Science report. An extraordinary tragedy for this country.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Kim. And good morning everybody. I would like to thank the plumbing centre here, the cooperative approach between the master plumbers, employers, the plumbers' union, which has seen hundreds of apprentices being trained, adult apprentices, women apprentices. What we see here is an industry who's not waiting for leadership from Canberra to get on and train our people for the jobs of the future. But the problem is across Australia at the moment, not even that the Government is divided, it's that the Government has no leadership. And nowhere is the lack of leadership clearer than in vocational education in Australia.
In the last four years of the Liberal Government, over 130,000 vocational education positions, traineeships, apprenticeships, have disappeared. What I was able to do today, talking to 50 or 60 apprentices, plumbers, is give them the promise that a Labor government would put apprenticeships and vocational education at the centre of our strategy to grow jobs.
See there are two clear contrasts today. One, the spectacle of a Government divided, showing no leadership. The other of an Opposition in touch, talking to blue collar workers, talking about reinvigorating the trades and apprenticeships in this country. Only Labor has a plan for climate change, for the plumbing industry, for apprenticeships in this country. We're getting on with the job while the Government is getting on with the job of fighting itself. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, today ICAC released its findings that three former New South Wales Labor ministers, namely Tony Kelly, Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi, engaged in serious corrupt conduct in relation to the Australian Water Holdings company. What do you make of those findings against former Labor ministers?
SHORTEN: Whilst I haven't read the report which you said was released today, let me be very clear: the Labor Party has no time for corruption. It doesn't matter if it's politicians, unions, employers or banks, for example, we want to make sure there is no place for corruption, zero tolerance. No doubt the matters that you've referred to will take their processes through the courts. But let's be very straight: this country and none of the political parties in it should have any time for corruption, wherever it shows its head, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Will next Tuesday seek to bring on its same-sex marriage Bill as the first order of business in Parliament?
SHORTEN: Well, I think most Australians are sick of marriage equality being a political football. We just say the Parliament should get on and vote on it. but clearly this is causing great division in the Liberal Party. Can I just talk a little bit about marriage equality? It should just be legislated or it should just have a vote in Parliament at the very least. We should just get on with it. Marriage equality and the division within the Government is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Right across the whole of Australia, across a range of industries, what we are seeing is a Prime Minister who either won't lead or can't lead. What this nation needs is not more political infighting. It needs leadership. Labor's prepared, for example today, to show our leadership in terms of apprenticeships and restoring the position of trades within our economic plans for this country. The Government simply should just get on with it. The more they duck and weave, the more it reminds people what they really hate about politics.
What I think Australians really dislike about politics is that they know their politicians believe in things, but the politicians are sometimes too timid, too weak, to back in their beliefs. I think this nation just would say to Malcolm Turnbull, "if you really think that marriage equality should happen, why don't you just have a vote in Parliament and let's get on with it?"
JOURNALIST: What is Labor's attitude towards the postal vote?
SHORTEN: Far be it for me to ignore the words of our Prime Minister, but he, in fact, has described a postal vote in the past as, and I quote specifically from the words of M. Turnbull:
"Flies in of Australian democratic values".
I have some further quotes. Mr Turnbull has never been shy of turning a phrase. He says:
"We're very, very concerned... "
He was talking about a postal ballot in the past, and he said, and I quote:
"We're very, very concerned that because of the novelty of the ballot people will put it in the bin, that they're not going to be able to work it out."
He goes on, and he attacks the government of the day, which was a Liberal government, some things don't change. He goes on and quotes:
"The Government has persisted in a method of voting which is calculated to disenfranchise people, and particularly young people."
So, Mr Turnbull has variously called this a dog's breakfast, aimed at flying in the face of Australian democratic values, it's aimed at disenfranchising young people.
Malcolm Turnbull was right when he said it then, and that's why I think he's wrong to push a postal vote now. Again, why would we spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, printing up voting forms, sending out the envelopes, you know, paying for the stamps as they come back in? This is a very expensive way to do nothing.
Everyone knows that the postal vote is another delaying mechanism from the dinosaurs of the right wing of the Liberal Party. But even worse, and it goes back to what I said earlier, everyone knows what Mr Turnbull really thinks, that he supports marriage equality. But what they hate is that he's too weak to do anything about it.
Why do we have a Prime Minister who won't put his authority on the line to get done the things that need to get done? We'll work with Mr Turnbull, we'll work with those Liberals who just want to get on with it. That's what we're on about and we will keep being constructive. Because what this nation wants, even more than the resolution of marriage equality, is they want leadership. That's why I'm here today, saying that we're going to back in more apprenticeships. That's why I'm saying that we're going to put more priority not into cutting funding for TAFE training and vocational education, but restoring funding.
That's what Labor does. We want to help encourage young people who are considering when they're leaving school to take up an apprenticeship, we want to encourage the adult apprentices to actually change and reskill. That's what Labor is about: looking after ordinary, working and middle-class people.
JOURNALIST: Have any members of your leadership team had discussions with Liberal MPs about bring on a Liberal Private Members Bill on same-sex marriage next week?
SHORTEN: Not that I'm aware of, and might I just say, the Liberal Party is getting itself really tied up in a knot over this matter. I actually think it's a bit weird how hard some conservative Liberals are fighting against marriage equality. Why are they so obsessed about other people's relationships?
JOURNALIST: Do you think a postal vote would invoke the same divisive debate as a plebiscite?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, why do we take the long and expensive way when there's a shorter, cheaper way to resolve the issue? Secondly, Australians want us to talk about their jobs. They want us to talk about how we can have a fairer tax system. They want us to talk about how we restore their penalty rates. They want to work out how their kids can buy their first home as adults. They want us to take real action on climate change so the power prices stop going up and up. I think most Australians are sick and tired of the circus in Canberra, and what they're really sick and tired of isn't even the debate about marriage equality, they're sick and tired of having leaders who follow, who won't lead. They're sick and tired of leaders who won't risk their authority for anything other than their own job, and they're sick and tired of leaders who know what needs to be done but are too scared of their own party to even say it. Perhaps I might take one more question.
JOURNALIST: The unions and other organisations use postal - the Australian Electoral Commission's postal system for their own elections - important elections, so why can't the Government do it on same-sex marriage?
SHORTEN: Well, the only way that you can have an election in a union is by having a process of postal voting or turn up voting. So, they're the set methods. But the other 20 ways that would change the Marriage Act is by a vote in Parliament. Why do gay people have to have a different law making process to everyone else? We've changed the Marriage Act 20 times. We didn't need to have a plebiscite. When we introduced divorce laws, we didn't need to have a plebiscite. Everyone knows why the Liberal Party want to have a plebiscite is because they want to drag out and delay marriage equality. Why should we have a different law-making system so that some people can get married than any other law making system we've ever applied to the Marriage Act? Why should people who love each other have to have that relationship go through an opinion poll of the whole of Australia, when the rest of us got married, we didn't have to do that. So, I think it is unfair. The way we make laws in this country is Parliament votes. Yet when it comes to this, everyone is saying it's got to be a different standard. I think it's double standards and hypocritical.
And no less a person than Mr Turnbull, before he became Prime Minister, described the postal ballot as a process for making change as flying in the face of democratic Australian values. He called it a dog's breakfast. He said it would disenfranchise Australians. Everyone knows that Malcolm Turnbull is only considering a postal vote because he's lost control of his party. What we say is let's just get on with it. Let's make marriage equality a reality. Let's get back to our old-fashioned concept in Australian politics called leadership, Mr Turnbull.