FRIDAY, 8 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Cost of living and stagnant wages; Labor’s plan for jobs; Parliament House cyber security; temporary work visas; Kerryn Phelps’ amendments; NAB resignation; Tim Wilson’s abuse of Parliament; Hakeem Al-Araibi
KRISTINA KENEALLY, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: It's great to be here at Liberty OneSteel today, with Bill Shorten, Labor leader, Jason Clare, our trade spokesperson, and Chris Gambian, the Labor candidate for Banks, and I want to thank Neil and Mark and Shane for facilitating our visit today, giving us a tour and giving us the opportunity particularly to speak to the workers here.
We are in an economy that is not working for everyone. Well, it's working for the top end of town, but not working for ordinary working people. We know that everything's going up except people's wages, and Bill has been taking the opportunity to go around and meet with working people right across Australia and talk to them about Labor's positive plans, our fair go plan, our action plan to ensure that we build an economy that works for all. So I'm delighted to welcome Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Kristina, and I'm here with Senator Keneally and my Shadow Trade Minister who will be in charge of stopping unfair dumping of imported product in Australia, Jason Clare. And Chris Gambian, Labor's candidate for Banks - a local boy, born and bred, committed to Australian jobs.
Today I had a chance to see a manufacturing facility which deserves more help from Canberra than the one million manufacturing workers and small businesses are getting from the current government. Labor's got an exciting plan to crack down on the unfair dumping, of cheap imported products undermining Australian jobs and Australian quality. We're also very committed to making sure that when the Commonwealth of Australia spends precious and important taxpayer money on badly needed rail and road infrastructure, that we make sure that we prioritise using Australian steel in everything that requires steel.
But the other message I had today for the workforce of Arrium and the working people right across Australia, is that within 100 days at the most, Australians will be voting on a range of important issues and there is no issue any more important than the growing gulf between cost of living and flagging wages in this country. What is happening is that the growing gulf between rising cost of living and slow wages growth, it's hurting millions of Australians – they’re dipping into their household savings.
This government has no wages policy and wherever I travel in Australia, and here was no exception in South Western Sydney, everything is going up except people's wages. Labor wants to see that change. So when people have a black and white choice at the election, there's no more black and white issue than wages and wages policy.
We want to close the gap between rising cost of living and low wages growth. This government wants to increase the gap. Few things hurt Australians as much as a Coalition Government determined to keep wages low in this country, but within 100 days Labor can change that, and make sure that this economy starts working the interests of working and middle class Australians, not just the very top end of town.
I'd like to ask Chris our candidate to say a few words and I'll take any questions people have.
CHRIS GAMBIAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BANKS: Thanks Bill and thanks everybody it's great to welcome you back to Revesby and to see some of the great work and some of the great workers that make this area and our nation's economy strong.
Scarcely a day goes by in this election campaign that I don't meet a family or a young person who talks about their personal struggle to make ends meet and to get by. This economy is not working for everyday people, whether it's young people trying to get their first job, or trying to get into university or pay their bills by working weekends in hospitality. Young people have got nothing from this Government and really no prospects from what this Government is offering. For businesses like this one that want to do the right thing by their workforce, from families, where both parents are working trying to get by with child care and the cost of funding schools, or to older people who are trying to get by on the pension and try to make ends meet. This economy is not working for the people that have made this country strong and people that will continue to make this country strong.
So it's great to know that within the next hundred days, we're going to have the opportunity to elect a Prime Minister and a government that actually believes in working people and believes in the strength of the real economy. Thanks very much.
SHORTEN: Thanks Chris. Are there any questions for my colleagues or I?
JOURNALIST: The Morrison Government has a jobs target. What is Labor's jobs target and where do you think jobs will be coming from in the next couple of years?
SHORTEN: First of all with the government's jobs target we think that is a reasonable goal for both sides of politics, although I do note that the jobs growth that the government's promised, they were unclear was it full time or part time jobs. But I believe, and most economists and business analysts will forecast, that in the next five years a government should be able to be in charge where we add an extra 1.25 million jobs. So I think that is a reasonable proposition and that's based on the forecasts of economists. In terms of where jobs come from in the future, I think this is more important issue than just part time jobs per say. We need more jobs which have better trained workforces. The jobs of the future, in many cases, are going to require a university qualification or TAFE qualification.
That's why Labor is committed to properly funding our schools. We want to make sure that the kids coming out of the school system have got the best education possible to prepare them for the jobs of the future. And when we also talk about preparing our young people for jobs in the future, it's important that we give people a chance to get to university. Labor's got exciting policies which will ensure that an extra 200,000 Australians get a chance to go to university over the next ten years. We're also going to put a lot more money into TAFE and technical training. It's a real concern that under this current government the number of apprentices has fallen so dramatically - north of 400,000 apprentices before this government came in, and now it's under 300,000. This is a disaster. Our population has gone up, the number of apprentices we've got have gone down. So Labor's got an exciting policy to make sure that we put more money into vocational education, and we're also going to pay the upfront fees, in the first three years alone, of 100,000 apprentices.
So what we're going to do is give Australians the best possible chance to be well trained for the jobs of the future. And when we talk about jobs in the future my vision of Australia is not that you either work in a bank or quarry or a mine. They are important sectors of the economy, but I'm interested in how we value add our raw materials here in Australia. I think Australians are sick of the view that we just ship our raw materials overseas and then we buy it back at greatly inflated prices because someone else somewhere else has manufactured it and turned it into products we use. This Arrium business is a sign of what we can do if we back manufacturing in this country. So I'm bullish about the future of manufacturing under a Labor Government. I'm also very optimistic that we can do a lot more in health services because as we grow older people are going to need care and attention. So I see that as being important. The other exciting thing which I'd say is that we are going to back construction heavily. Residential construction is an engine room of the Australian economy. Labor's committed to building 250,000 houses, social housing, in the next ten years and what that will do is that'll mean there's a regular pipeline of work, and when you put that on top of Labor's vision for better public transport in our cities, with much better rail infrastructure, and of course a very important program of road construction and regional Australia and our cities and suburbs, it's a bright future under Labor for jobs. We'll make sure that whenever a job comes up that people are able to have the skills to do it. And finally when it comes to jobs, we don't think that the jobs of the future should all be minimum wage very low jobs. We think that - we want to see more permanent well-paid jobs. That's what we're going to restore penalty rates as soon as we get elected for 700,000 Australians in retail and hospitality.
JOURNALIST: Just a quick change of topic. Do you have any more information on the parliamentary security breach and how were you affected?
SHORTEN: I think the Parliament - I've had some briefings on it. I'm satisfied from what I've heard initially that our security agencies and the President and the Speaker have moved in the right way to make sure that our parliamentary networks are secure. It is a wakeup call, it's not just Parliament House. I mean, in Parliament at least has resources to protect if people try and hack into our systems. But what I was thinking about this morning is we see the extent of the security necessary to restore the integrity of the system, is are we doing enough in this country for small and medium businesses to help protect them? They don't have the budget of the Parliament of Australia. If I'm Prime Minister, I'm going to invest a lot more in the cyber security of our small and medium sized enterprises.
Of course the other thing which this is a wakeup call for is data. We give a lot of our data to the big international, multinational technology companies and online platforms. It's very important that I think we do more to protect our data. That's why I think the government in its sort of rushed and botched roll-out of My Health Record shows that, they've got to join the dots in this government. What happened today in Parliament is all part of a bigger picture. The internet is fantastic but there are people out there in the cyber world who want to do Australians, and Australian businesses, and Australian security harm, and I think this government needs to ramp up the priority it's paying on cyber security. Just because you can't see who your enemy is because they're on the internet, doesn't mean they're not your enemy.
JOURNALIST: The ABC understands security agencies are investigating whether China was behind the breach, how concerned are you to learn that?
SHORTEN: I wouldn't want to comment about ongoing investigations -
JOURNALIST: Is it concerning to you though?
SHORTEN: Cyber security is concerning. Now I just say that I'm satisfied with the level of communication I had with the parliamentary departments and the Speaker. But cyber security is a big issue. And I know that this is a government who is very focused on their own internal problems at the moment, but I worry that as our cyber enemies have grown in complexity and skill and cleverness, we've got a government who's been distracted from cyber security. But in particular, it's the protection of personal data and it's also helping small business harden up their security around cyber security. I think they are gaps in the current government's policies.
JOURNALIST: Just back on jobs. What is your view on the Government fast tracking visas for skilled migrants who are willing to live in regional areas?
SHORTEN: It's part of a bigger population discussion the nation has to have. We'll take the view of the experts about what is the right number for immigration. There's no point in bringing people into crowded cities if our infrastructure is not keeping up. So a big part of dealing with immigration is making sure that we've got the proper infrastructure to deal with it. It's only Labor who has got a proper plan for public transport in our national cities. It's only Labor who has got a proper plan to make sure our schools and our roads are properly funded.
In terms of moving new Australians to the regions, we are up for that discussion and we think there are some regional communities who are keen to get more people. But it's just common sense and we want to make sure though that our infrastructure is coping with the people we bring in.
I will say though on a temporary visas and temporary skilled labour: I don't think that we should be getting people from overseas for a day longer than it takes to train in Australia to do a skills shortage. That's why it's very important to double down on TAFE. I think the pendulum of privatisation has swung too far to privatisation in the case of vocational training. And I certainly want to put public TAFE back at the centre of our plans to train the workforce of the future rather than just relying upon overseas guest labour.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on the Kerryn Phelps' bill. Why did it take you 4 days to accept this security briefing?
SHORTEN: Why has it taken this Government five years to deal with the issue? Why is this Government only sitting for 10 days in eight months? This is a work-shy government. They couldn't work in an iron lung some of these ministers. So we'll take a briefing. In the four days which the Government wrote a fairly aggressive letter, who cares, what they say doesn't really distract me, when they're being nasty. I've been in Townsville visiting the floods, I've been Huonville to see the damage which those bushfires are doing there. I do think if there's middle ground, we should try and find it. Labor's supporting the Phelps' amendments. This is all about making sure that people in our care, no matter what the circumstances, receive appropriate medical quality care. That's what's driving us. We'll hear what the Government has to say.
So let's forget the Government's free character assessment of Labor and let's just get on with the issues. We'll take the briefing from the Department early next week and we'll obviously, always listen to the facts.
JOURNALIST: And what do you make of the Home Affairs Department referring the leak of information to the AFP for investigation?
SHORTEN: It's hard for the Opposition to get information out of the Government but if you want to leak it, this Government leaks like a sieve. I think the Home Affairs Department has got questions to answer. How is it that national security secrets find their way into journalists' hands from the Home Affairs Department. I mean this is a government sort of leaking on the Government. Mind you, this isn't the Minister for Home Affairs' first mistake. I still think his biggest mistake was blowing up the Government last year in getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull. And if they're gonna have an inquiry, I wouldn't mind getting an answer out the Government why Malcolm Turnbull is not Prime Minister?
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Phelps' bill needs more work or will you we be supporting it immediately once you have those briefings?
SHORTEN: We will hear what the Government has to say. We think that the Phelps' bill is worth supporting. We do believe fundamentally that people in Australia's care, no matter what the circumstances, should receive quality medical care. And if that means coming to Australia, that's what should happen. We treat other people like this, I think that should be the rule. So we will clearly hear what the Government has to say.
JOURNALIST: On the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission, do you think that Ken Henry and Andrew Thorburn made the right decisions to announce they'll leave the NAB?
SHORTEN: Well that's for them to answer. Labor prosecuted the case for the Banking Royal Commission for the best part of two years before the Government and the banks finally surrendered. You know, I remember the CEO of NAB telling me he didn't see the need for the Royal Commission and I disagreed. Well, the facts have come out. I think the banks behaviour has been scandalous.
But doesn't this highlight the fact that two senior bankers have now been forced to resign, highlights what I think the Government's been doing wrong since day one. The problem is the Government has tried to bury this issue of a Banking Royal Commission ever since we raised it. And now they're doing everything they can to stop parliament from even discussing the Royal Commission. We believe the Parliament should sit for an additional two weeks to discuss this Royal Commission. And yet again, just as the Government voted 26 times to stop the Banking Royal Commission - 26 times they said nothing to see here, they ran their protection racket because the Liberal Party of Australia is the political arm of big banks, they ran their protection racket. Well, we beat them then and we got the Banking Royal Commission, I think the Government's now gone next level when they won't even let the Parliament sit for longer than two weeks before an election because they don't want to talk about the Banking Royal Commission. It seems like they haven't got the message at all.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect the other leaders to resign and do you think they should?
SHORTEN: Well I don't know what every bank's done, but I think that Australians expect there to be real accountability. I think there was a little sigh of disappointment after the Hayne Royal Commission hit the deck but the next day, the banks were all hunkering down, nothing to see here, move along please. The Government was saying we'll do a go slow, we don't need to have Parliament sit. Why is it that the Liberal Party and the banks somehow seem to think that community attitudes don't apply to them?
So, it remains to be seen what washes out. I think if no one out of the banks goes to jail, if no one gets prosecuted or charged, I think Australians would say there's been a cover-up.
Now, we want to make sure that the Parliament does its bit to restore faith in our banking sector.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor be taking action in parliament next week to shut down the franking credits inquiry?
SHORTEN: This tainted inquiry has been dodgy from day one - and it's just gone from bad to worse. I think it is breathtaking that the Liberal politicians are colluding with their friends in the banking and investment community to protect existing business models. This is a government who will do everything they can to keep the status quo. And what they're doing is they're working with vested interests and fund managers to organise sittings of Parliament.
A parliamentary committee is an extension of the Parliament. The idea that the Liberal Party have such a little respect for the Parliament of Australia that they will coordinate hearings of the Parliament to coincide with investor road shows from unhappy fund managers just shows you the new levels to which the once proud Liberal Party has sunk.
And I think other Liberal politicians need to come clean. Was the Member for Goldstein acting as a lone gunman - organising with friends of his in the business community to set up parliamentary hearings? Or did other ministers know what was going on? We will pursue this matter.
It's a tainted inquiry and it just shows you that when to push comes to shove, the Liberal Party will always look after protecting business models of the financial sector.
JOURNALIST: Is the Government doing enough to secure the race - the release, pardon me, of Hakeem Al-Araibi?
SHORTEN: I don't want to jump to judge the Government negatively on that. This man should be released. He should be returned to Australia but these are difficult issues when you're dealing with another sovereign nation so I'm not going to automatically criticise the Government here. We need to work together to get this man back to the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
JOURNALIST: And what lengths would a Labor government go to secure his release because the court process could drag into the Federal election?
SHORTEN: We would do whatever it takes but I'm not convinced that that's not also the Government's attitude. So I'm not going to criticise them there but they have our support. And the Australian people should always recognise that if you're caught up in this set of circumstances overseas, if I'm Prime Minister, we will do whatever it takes to bring you home.
JOURNALIST: The Closing the Gap report on Indigenous well-being will be released next week. What do you hope to see in that and what is your message to the Government?
SHORTEN: I hope that we see progress. What I would like to see the Government do is commit to properly funding remote housing for our first Australians. I'd like to see them do more in the field of education. I think there's more than we can do to improve the health outcomes and of course, there's more we can do to train up young Aboriginal nurses and doctors and trainees.
We'll work with the Government but what we will also do is work with our first nations people. The best way to close the gap between first Australians and other Australians is to listen to the voices of our First Australians. But let's see what the report says. I worry that the progress isn't what it should be.
And to Australians who say 'oh, why do we talk about first Australians'. I just say - they're not getting anything special out of this country. In many ways, the numbers, the statistics about their lives are not acceptable. And when one group of Australians is doing it really tough, that means all Australians are indirectly affected.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, have you accepted an offer for a briefing -
JOURNALIST: on the security implications of the Phelps' bill.
SHORTEN: The Government's written to us. We've said we're happy to be briefed.
Thank you, everybody - and thanks Arrium.