Browsing articles in "Media Releases"
Nov 12, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

FEDERAL OPPOSITION LAUNCHES INNOVATION INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP TO SUPPORT AUSTRALIAN STARTUPS

Building new investment alliances with the superannuation sector to support Australian startups and early stage innovation will be the focus of a new initiative launched by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten today.

 

Called the Innovation Investment Partnership, the Federal Opposition has today brought together peak organisations from the superannuation, venture capital and startup sectors in an effort to identify barriers holding back investment in Australian-based venture capital funds and early-stage enterprises.

 

The Federal Opposition was represented by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his Parliamentary Secretary (Assisting with Digital Innovation and Startups) Ed Husic, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, Shadow Industry and Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr and Shadow Financial Services Minister Jim Chalmers.

 

The Innovation Investment Partnership was announced in late September 2015 as part of Labor’s second wave of policy initiatives designed to promote the growth of startups in Australia.

 

Besides tackling skills shortages, regulatory and procurement reform, Labor believes more needs to be done to improve capital flows to support Australia’s startups.

 

At the meeting, participants confirmed that poor access to capital has been identified as one of the reasons behind Australia’s low rate of startup formation.

 

During widespread industry consultations, the Federal Opposition was told by venture capital and startup groups that they were keen to explore ways to tap into Australia’s $2 trillion savings pool and spur on innovation and job growth.

 

Today’s roundtable:

 

  • Identified access to capital as a major barrier to innovation in Australia

 

  • Said there was need for policy consistency to give confidence and certainty to invest

 

  • Listed regulatory and market barriers that hindered the ability of super funds and self-managed super funds to invest in venture capital funds

 

  • Proposed pursuing improved means of supporting translation funding to assist with the commercialisation of Australia’s world-leading research

 

  • Targeted ways to minimise VC management fees, which super funds identified as a significant deterrent to investment

 

  • Called for an examination of options for the Medical Research Future Fund to invest a small proportion of its portfolio towards research commercialisation and the establishment of medical research-specific venture capital

 

  • Strongly argued for maintaining the Research and Development Tax Incentive, which the Turnbull Liberal Government has already cut back – and is trying to cut further.

 

The meeting also heard wide support for the Innovation Investment Fund that Labor maintained in Government, which co-invested with private sector investors in venture capital funds to grow early-stage companies to commercialise Australian research.

 

While the Abbott-Turnbull Government abolished the fund, Labor has committed to reinstating a similar concept through a $500 million Smart Investment Fund, which we will further develop in consultation with the sector.

 

The Innovation Investment Partnership is just one of a range of policy initiatives forming Labor’s plan to get Australia started, including:

 

  • Give every child in Australia the opportunity to learn coding and computational thinking in school;

 

  • Establish a National Coding in Schools centre (NCIS) where business and industry can connect with teachers;

 

  • Establish a STEM teacher training fund to support 25,000 primary and secondary school teachers over five years to undertake professional development in STEM disciplines;

 

  • Encourage STEM graduates to teach, by offering 25,000 Teach STEM scholarships over five years, to address the shortage of qualified teachers. Recipients will get $5,000 when they commence a teaching degree and $10,000 when they complete their first year of teaching;

 

  • Provide 100,000 STEM Award Degrees – 20,000 a year for five years – which will provide a financial incentive for students to enrol in and complete a STEM undergraduate degree, in recognition of the significant public benefit of growing Australia’s STEM capacity. STEM Award Degree recipients will have their HECS debt written off upon graduation;

 

  • Offer a Startup Year at university to young Australians looking to start their own enterprise;

 

  • Through visa reform, attract the best entrepreneurial talent from around the world and help build Australia’s growing startup economy through two new visa categories;

 

More information about Labor’s plan to support startups and create the jobs of the future is available at www.futuresmartaustralia.org

 

THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

Nov 12, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

LABOR’S CLEAN UP: CLEANING SERVICES GUIDELINES TO BE REINSTATED

A Shorten Labor Government will reinstate the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, which were callously and heartlessly abolished by the Abbott-Turnbull Government.

 

The Guidelines will ensure better wages and conditions for cleaners working in Commonwealth buildings by requiring those companies who tender for Commonwealth cleaning contracts to pay cleaners modestly above the award wage.

 

We want to lift Australians up not talk them down, we want to improve their standard of living not add to the cost of living with a 15 per cent GST on everything. We want to better their wages not cut them, we to want better their skills not degrade them.

 

Labor wants to advance Australia by ensuring Australians have a decent job.

 

A decent job provides a fair income and good conditions, is secure, safe and free from discrimination.
Despite the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, personally promising that abolishing the Guidelines would not affect cleaners’ pay –

 

“I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that no cleaner’s pay is reduced. No cleaner’s pay is reduced.”

 

TONY ABBOTT – QUESTION TIME – 16 JUNE 2014

 

– cleaners across Commonwealth buildings are having their pay cut by up to $6,000 annually.

 

Labor has continually called on the Abbott-Turnbull Government to reinstate the Guidelines, they have failed to so it’s time for Labor to mop up Malcolm Turnbull’s mess.

 

The decision to abolish the Guidelines is just one of a string of Abbott-Turnbull Government attacks on low paid workers, including a plan to put a 15 per cent GST on everything, a cowardly raid on the retirement savings of 3.6 million low income earners by scrapping Labor’s Low Income Super Contribution, delaying the rise in super from 9 to 12 per cent and slashing penalty rates.

 

In view of the history of underpayment, exploitation and unsafe work practices in the cleaning industry, the former Labor Government identified this sector as requiring special attention to promote fairness, bargaining, freedom of association and other workplace rights. Our view has not changed.

Cleaners do a fantastic job, and they deserve respect and fair wages and conditions. They’ll get them under a Shorten Labor Government.

THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2015


MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

ERIN SMITH – 0458 950 010

Nov 11, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

REMEMBRANCE DAY

Today, November 11, 2015 marks the 97th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War.

Each year on this day Australians observe one minute’s silence at 11 am.

We pay our respects to the honoured memory of all those who have served in our country’s defence force.

Young men who lost their lives, 100 years ago, in a desperate scramble through heavy enemy fire, up impossibly steep cliffs in a part of the world most had never even heard of.

We remember the thousands interred beneath white crosses amid red poppies in the foreign fields of the Western Front, those buried at sea in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the North Sea.

We acknowledge every generation of service,  through swirling sand and unforgiving mud.  In the skies over Europe and in the jungle dark of Malaya, New Guinea and Vietnam.

In the biting winter of Korea and the baking sun of Afghanistan and in the cause of peace in Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific.

On Remembrance Day, Australians of all ages will join in saying the words of a promise at the very heart of who we are:

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning.

We will remember them.

Remembrance Day marks with historic precision the end of a dreadful conflict. But for those who come home, having served our country in war, there is never such a neat demarcation.

The return to life in Australia, the journey from battlefield to towns and suburbs, can be a difficult one. For those who serve and for the people who love and care for them.

This is why our words of gratitude for service must always be matched by deeds of practical resolve and meaningful support.

Australia must keep our promises, including to a new generation of Diggers, returning to civilian life after Australia’s longest war.

We encourage all Australians to attend a commemoration ceremony in their local community, and to pause for a minute of silence to remember those who have served in our Defence Force and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Remembrance Day plays an important part this year, for the Centenary of Anzac.

More information on commemoration events and services can be found at http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au

WEDNESDAY, 11 NOVEMBER 2015

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

KATE HANNS 0423 974 363

Nov 11, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

AN AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC, WITH AN AUSTRALIAN HEAD OF STATE

Prince Charles is always welcome in Australia, but I hope when he next visits, he will be greeted by an Australian head of state.

 

It has been 15 years since John Howard – as the now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull put it – “broke the nation’s heart” in defeating the republic referendum. Since that moment, those who support an Australian republic have been waiting for another opportunity to vote for an overdue change in our national identity.

 

I believe that chance has now come.

 

Australia has leaders on both sides of politics who believe Australia is confident and imaginative enough to restart this stalled national project. I have made clear that if Labor is elected at the next election, we will aim to make the next decade Australia’s first with a head of state who is one of us.

 

But both Malcolm Turnbull and I both support a republic, so why wait?

 

With the republic there will always be people who say this is an idea that can wait for a better time, at a later date. It’s not a new argument – or a strong one.

 

Some people said the National Disability Insurance Scheme could wait.

 

Some people said an apology would just be empty symbolism.

 

Some people called universal super a “con-job”; Medicare, unworkable; the minimum wage, unaffordable.

 

They were wrong then, they are still wrong.

 

Constitutional change is not beyond modern Australia. Our courts can interpret it, our parliament can offer it. But only we can make our constitution truly Australian, truly ours.

 

To be fair, Malcolm Turnbull has already listened to Labor’s call to abolish Tony Abbott’s cultural cringe on knights and dames, but he’s been missing in action on the republic debate.

 

It is not too long before Australians will have the opportunity to make right a two-century-old wrong and extend constitutional recognition to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This will be an uplifting moment for all Australians. And also a moment of contemplation of our place as a vibrant, modern, prosperous, multicultural society living in the most economically dynamic time and place in human history.

 

Our constitution should mirror these qualities. It should exist not as a passive, archaic, formality but a reflection and projection of who we are as Australians.

 

In the 21st century we no longer hide behind the walls of fortress Australia, seeing ourselves as an outpost of empire, fearfully perched on the edge of Asia. We no longer take a narrow, race-based notion of citizenship. We celebrate diversity, we are grateful to count people from every nation, culture, tradition and faith as our own.

 

We should go to our region and the world proudly independent – declaring that we are no longer going to borrow a monarch from another country on the other side of the world.

 

Our constitution came into being as an act of the British parliament – 114 years later, our nation has changed, our place in the world has changed, and our constitution should change with it.

 

The republic debate is a chance for all of us to bring our constitution home, to vote our national birth certificate into existence as an Australian document, for our times.

 

An expression of the sovereign will of all Australians, where, unlike in 1901, the voices of women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be heard.

 

What a day it will be when all of us, confident in our Australian identity, are  able to declare to the world we are running the place ourselves.

 

An Australian republic, with an Australian head of state. That’s what I hope greets Charles Windsor’s first visit to Australia as king.

 

This opinion piece was first published on the Age’s website on Tuesday, 10 November 2015

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

Nov 10, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Kelvin Thomson  

Today, I pay tribute to Kelvin Thomson and his record of service to the Labor Party and the people of Wills.

 

Kelvin is a long serving and widely-respected member of Labor’s caucus, having won his seat 19 years ago in 1996.

 

But his service to our party extends for much longer, having first been elected as a Labor representative to the Coburg Council nearly 35 years ago

 

He’s known in Victoria as a formidable campaigner and a fierce advocate for the rights and conditions of working people.

 

A passionate advocate of renewable energy, of action on climate change and protecting the environment.

 

He has campaigned hard to protect skilled visa workers and international students from exploitation and has never been far from debates about our population.

 

It says a lot about the strength of Kelvin that he can suffer a serious heart attack, undergo double bypass surgery and be back in the Parliament within a matter of weeks.

 

Sometimes politics can change people – but not Kelvin.

 

He has remained his own man, true to the ideals and values that called him to public life more than three decades ago.

 

Kelvin Thomson leaves the Parliament as he served it: on his terms and with his head held high.

 

We wish him and his family all the very best for the future.

 

TUESDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2015

 

MEDIA CONTACT:  LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

Nov 10, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

TURNBULL’S BIG FAIL ON FAIRNESS FOR FAMILIES

Labor will oppose the Liberal Government’s unfair cuts to low and middle income families and fight its plans to introduce a new $1,000 baby bonus.

 

In particular, our position will protect grandparent carers and single parent families from the Government’s harsh cuts.

 

It’s both fair and fiscally responsible.

 

In Parliament, Labor will fight to protect:

 

  • Grandparents carers and single parents with children aged 13 years and over, who are facing cuts to their Family Tax Benefit Part B of around $1700 a year;
  • Grandparent carers and single parents who face their FTB-B being cut when their children turn 16; and
  • 5 million families on low and middle incomes who are facing the abolition of their Family Tax Benefit supplements, including 500,000 families on incomes of less than $50,000.

 

Malcolm Turnbull says fairness means the burden should be “borne by the best able to pay it.”

 

But these harsh cuts fail that fairness test – they will hurt millions of low and middle income families and should be rejected.

 

At a time when the Government wants to jack up the GST, these harsh cuts will be a ‘double whammy’ hit on families on low and middle incomes.

 

Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts will hurt single parents and grandparent carers, some of whom will be $4,700 a year worse off after 1 July 2016.

 

More than 130,000 single parents will be affected by changes to FTB-B and over 600,000 single parents will be impacted by cuts to end-of-year supplements.

 

Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts will also hurt millions of low-income families.

 

1.5 million families will lose their end of year supplements – around 500,000 of these families are on family incomes of less than $50,000 a year.

 

Labor will also oppose Malcolm Turnbull’s $1,000 FTB-B payment for families with a child under one, saving the Budget $380 million.

 

This new baby bonus was all about Malcolm Turnbull buying off the National Party to get the top job.  Australians shouldn’t have to pay the price for this Liberal/National deal.

 

If ever there was a demonstration of how out of touch Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals are with the lives of Australian families, this is it.

 

Labor has demonstrated that we are not opposed to fair and reasonable changes to family payments – but it should not be at the expense of families who can least afford it.

 

In Government, Labor means tested and then abolished the Baby Bonus. We have already supported approximately $2 billion in savings from the family payments system since the 2013 election.

 

We will not oppose the Liberal’s changes to Family Tax Benefit B for couple families, a saving of more than $500 million.

 

Labor has always believed in means testing, and we will continue to investigate fair ways of ensuring our Family Tax Benefits system remains targeted to those who need it most.

 

But we will not be supporting these unfair cuts to low income families, single parents and grandparent carers; these are the very people the system is designed to support.

 

Labor will not compromise when it comes to fairness – we will keep fighting for Australian families.

 

TUESDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2015


MEDIA CONTACT: 

                                  

 

LABOR’S POSITION

 

MEASURE POSITION
Cease FTB-B for couple families with children 13 years or over Support
Reduce FTB-B to $1000 per year for single parent and grandparent carers with children 13 years or over and cease FTB-B for single parents with children over 16 Oppose
Increase rate of FTB-B by $1000 for families with children under 1 Oppose
Increase FTB-A, Youth Allowance and DSP Child allowances for under 18s living at home by $10 per fortnight Oppose
Phase out FTB Supplements Oppose

 

 

THE IMPACT OF TURNBULL’S CUTS

 

Sole parent with and two children in high school

 

They gain: They lose:
·         $525 from the fortnightly increase to FTB-A

 

·         $1,712 in SchoolKids Bonus

·         $1,806 in FTB-A and B end of year supplements

·         $1,785 in FTB-B (as their base payment is reduced to $1,000 per year)

In total they are more than $4,700 worse off per year.

 

Couple, both working, combined income of $80,000, 2 high school age children

 

They gain: They lose:
·         $525 from the fortnightly increase to FTB-A

 

·         $1,712 in SchoolKids Bonus

·         $1,452 in FTB-A end of year supplements

In total they are worse off by around $2,639 per year.

 

 

 

Nov 4, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

LABOR WILL DELIVER A NEW TOWNSVILLE STADIUM

LABOR WILL DELIVER A NEW TOWNSVILLE STADIUM

A Shorten Labor Government will provide $100 million to build a new Townsville Stadium in partnership with the Queensland Labor Government.

Construction of the project is expected to support over 700 jobs in the region, and make a significant boost to the local economy.

For too long, football fans have been watching their Rugby League and other sport at sub-standard facilities compared to football stadiums in southern Queensland and New South Wales.

Labor will change this.

North Queensland and the City of Townsville need a first class sports stadium so that it can compete on the national stage.

Townsville continues to grow as a key northern Australia hub, critical to the economy of Far North Queensland.

Modern community infrastructure is critical to local economics, particularly in regional centres, helping to drive economic growth and local jobs.

North Queensland is proud Rugby League territory, and the North Queensland Cowboys’ success in winning the 2015 National Rugby League Premiership demonstrates its sporting strength.

A world class footy team deserves world class facilities.

The 1300SMILES Stadium has undergone improvements over the last 20 years to meet minimum standards to host the North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL – but the bare minimum is not good enough.

There’s no doubt the stadium is ageing, with very poor roof coverage, and will be reaching the end of its useful life within the next decade.

There is a need for either substantial re-development of the current stadium, rebuilding on the current site or re-locating a new stadium to closer to the city.

Labor supports a new stadium in Townsville CBD, which has a number of benefits:

  • Close proximity to transport and hospitality facilities
  • Expanded capacity above the current 26,500
  • First class sporting facilities
  • Construction can run concurrently to the operation of the current stadium, ensuring no home games are lost and fixtures can continue to be played at 1300SMILES Stadium.
  • The surrounding grounds of the stadium would facilitate a precinct approach for both event and non-event days, creating an exciting new space in Townsville.
  • The new Northern Stand of the stadium would have a permanent lower bowl and that would allow for a possible expansion of the facility to a 30,000 seats stadium in the future.

 

Townsville Enterprise, a group comprising the Council, local businesses and stakeholders has been actively seeking funding commitments from both the State and Federal Governments and Opposition to replace the ageing stadium.

Labor expects stadium construction to commence by early 2018, with the ground complete for the 2020 NRL season.

This project will be an important boost to the local community, and Labor will work with the Queensland Labor Government and the Council to encourage as much of the work is sourced locally as possible.

Labor’s commitment of $100 million is dollar for dollar with the Queensland Government’s commitment, to ensure that this important project gets off the ground.

This government funding is expected to attract a further $50 million from the Council and the National Rugby League.

Our commitment is contingent on the business case for the project being endorsed and agreed by all relevant parties.

Only a Shorten Labor Government will deliver the Townsville stadium that Townsville deserves.

WEDNESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT 02 6277 4053

Nov 4, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

REMARKS TO WELCOME RECEPTION HOSTED BY KIRIBATI PRESIDENT, ANOTE TONG

STATE HOUSE, KIRIBATI


TUESDAY, 3 NOVEMBER 2015

 

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

Mr President, thank you for hosting me, my deputy and my shadow minister for immigration who many of you know.

It is a privilege to be in beautiful Kiribati.

Yours is a remarkable country – the only one to extend across all four hemispheres, with an exclusive economic zone larger than India’s.

Your people see the sun rise on each new day before anyone else on earth.

And you are among the first to see the threats and damage of climate change.

For Kiribati, climate change is not an economic debate – or an environmental one, it goes far beyond that.

It is a clear and present danger to your homes and communities, to your many islands and atolls less than 2 metres above sea level.

Now I’d read about this, I’d seen that fact written down.

But driving here from the airport, seeing how narrow this land is…

You gain a deeper sense of how much is at stake, how grave the danger is and how urgent it is for all of us to work together to tackle climate change.

Mr President, this is where your leadership has been so important.

You have stood up for your home, for your people and for island nations like yours around the globe.

You continue to open the eyes of the world to the real and immediate consequences of climate change.

We thank you for that and we look forward to discussing what more we can do to support your efforts.

Australia’s relationship with the Pacific region is very important to all of us in the Labor Party.

The Pacific doesn’t stop at the equator – and neither should Australia’s role.

True friendship isn’t about saying nice things at the right time.

It’s about standing up for your friends and helping them when they’re in trouble.

Australia has to do more of this in the Pacific.

The most recent declaration from the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby called on us to work together to “amplify the voice of the Pacific”.

Australia should play a leadership role in this.

We should use our voice to tell the world what is happening here in the Pacific.

It is why we helped bring Ban Ki-Moon here to see what was happening.

Your story, the story of your country can help the whole world face up to the challenge of climate change – and accept responsibility for a response that will help those most in need, first of all.

This is one of the reasons my friends and I are here – we want to help raise awareness and build a case for international action.

Mr President, a few months ago, you asked the Prime Minister of Australia to come and see for himself the reality of climate change.

I couldn’t come as the Prime Minister – this time.

But in bringing Labor’s leadership team, I hope you see how much your cause means to us.

In Opposition – and in Government – Labor will always take the challenge of climate seriously.

And we will always seek to fulfil our responsibility, as a member of the Pacific family.

Your nation will always have a place in the hearts and minds of Australians.

Thank you for your hospitality.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

Nov 1, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

PACIFIC ISLANDS VISIT

Today, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten will travel to the Pacific Islands with the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Tanya Plibersek, and the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Richard Marles.

 

The dangerous consequences of climate change is no more evident than in the Pacific region.

 

That is why in the lead up to the Paris Summit on climate change we will be visiting our partners in the Pacific to see first-hand the impacts of dangerous climate change and call on stronger action by our government.

 

We will be travelling to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, Majuro in the Marshall Islands and Tarawa in Kiribati.

 

We will be highlighting and assessing the impact of climate change in our region ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference which will be held in Paris later this year.

 

Pacific leaders have consistently identified climate change as the greatest threat to their livelihoods, food production, housing, security and well-being.

 

This is a serious problem that demands serious attention.

 

According to the World Bank, of the top 20 countries with the highest average annual losses to GDP from disasters, eight are Pacific Island countries.

 

As a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Australian Government needs recognise the significant  challenges facing Pacific Island countries and territories, and work with local communities and national governments to support a global response.

 

For countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands as well as individual islands within Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands, climate change is a threat to survival.

 

All of the land area of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, and 97 per cent of the land area of Kiribati, is less than five metres above sea level.

 

We have a responsibility to act by taking serious action on climate change, not adopt weak policies that are designed to appease the far-right of the Liberal-National parties.

 

The leaders of the Pacific Island nations deserve Australia’s action, not insults.

 

A recent Oxfam report noted that in Kiribati, in February 2015, one of the nation’s four hospitals were flooded, a critical causeway connecting two parts of the capital was damaged, food crops damaged, and already scarce freshwater supplies contaminated.

 

A very high proportion of Pacific communities— almost 90 per cent in Papua New Guinea, and around 80 per cent in the Solomon Islands – live in rural and remote areas making them especially susceptible to shifting rainfall patterns, degradation of marine ecosystems through ocean warming and acidification, and other impacts of climate change.

 

Significantly, evidence shows that women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and by disasters.

 

SUNDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2015

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

DAN DORAN 0427 464 350

LIDIJA IVANOVSKI 0427 051 563

Oct 30, 2015
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

ADDRESS TO THE VICTORIAN EMPLOYERS’ CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY

PARK HYATT, MELBOURNE

 

THURSDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2015

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

** ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS OMITTED **

Good afternoon everyone

Every business begins with a personal story, so I thought I would start on a personal note today.

My Dad started his working life doing a fitter-and-turner apprenticeship in a Newcastle-upon-Tyne shipyard.

Then he was a seafarer, for 20 years, and came ashore when my twin brother and I were born.

He was always union.

But toward the end of his career he rose to become a manager on the Melbourne Dockyards –where the Polly Woodside resides now.

I remember him coming home with the spreadsheets and the slide rule – trying to crunch the numbers on staff, hiring, payroll tax.

Grumbling about red tape and bureaucracy.

It’s ironic that the problems my Dad confronted in the 1970s…are still at the top of the list for small business, in 2015.

Above all though, my Dad believed in helping run a business that would give people work.

He was committed to find opportunities for people, particularly those down on their luck or in need of a second chance.

He was determined to be a good employer.

And when I was a union rep, I learned, over two decades that one of the great agents for improving welfare of employees is the good employer.

Perhaps that is something Labor doesn’t say enough.

The good employer who invests in the long term security of the company,  invests in the long term welfare of employees.

An employer who pays reasonable wages, provides a safe working environment, continuity of work and fair conditions was, is and always will be an important catalyst for lifting living standards.

And if a union weakened good employers they would ultimately weaken the job security of their members.

This was not a philosophy of the weakest trade union leaders but the strongest.

I worked with employers, if I had not it would be a measure of weakness.

When we have co-operation in Australia’s workplaces – that’s a mark of strength.

No-one can be Prime Minister without understanding and appreciating the role of business in the process of producing wealth.

Not just for the business, but for all Australians.

So I will always value our relationship, the opportunities forums like VECCI provide to engage in an honest exchange of ideas.

Australia’s best moments have come when people work together to face the big debates, with our eyes open and all the facts on the table.

Because creating the jobs and prosperity of the future demands that we be honest about the economy of the present.

Not talking it down, but not pretending everything is as we wish it to be.

It’s true – our fundamentals are sound and our foundations are strong.

The test of this moment, is whether we can put  our hard-earned advantages to use.

Because for the past two years, our economy has been more mediocre than the sum of the parts should indicate.

  • Unemployment is too high.
  • Growth is too slow.
  • Insecurity at work is too common.
  • Wages are stagnant

Inequality –something we pride ourselves as being against – is at a 75 year high.

It is tougher than ever before for young people to find a job or put together a deposit for a house.

And none of this is helped by a Federal Government which gives the green light to the banks to arbitrarily raise their interest rates.

Australia’s banks are doing well and I don’t for a second think this is a bad thing.

But what is galling to families with a mortgage and businesses with loans is when the banks put up their rates without offering a decent justification –

It is just not good enough to have a Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australia swing in behind the banks to explain it away.

Australian families and small businesses need a Government that will stick up for them, not just for the banks.

Good governments have a responsibility to explain where growth will come from next year, and the year after that – and to plan for it.

Too often in politics, we dumb-down the debate.

People hear Labor talk about unemployment, and then the government say hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created in the past two years…

They wonder why 800,000 of their fellow Australians are in the unemployment queue.

And more than a million Australians would like more work, but can’t find it.

Older Australians, especially 55 plus, are being discouraged from finding work.

Good governments have a responsibility to plan for the creation of good jobs – and sustaining good jobs.

Jobs with a sense of security and the opportunity for people to further themselves.

Everyone acknowledges our economy is in transition.

We all know the mining investment boom is tapering.

We know Asia’s middle class is growing

And we understand that digital disruption is occurring and a boom in services is underway.

Identifying these shifts is the easy part.

But as change gathers pace, more and more Australians are asking where they fit in.

Wondering how they can find a place in our changing, modernising global economy.

I had the opportunity on Saturday evening to talk to Geoff, from the Williamstown dockyard – been there thirty years.

He’s sixty. He’s worked hard as a storeman, he’s a good worker. But he’s out of work.

We’re not very good in this country at helping Australians who are sixty, re-train and re-skill.

I was speaking to people from Australian Vinyls at Altona. That business is closing. These two chaps were multi-skilled operators, from a lean structure. They’re good decision-makers. But they don’t know what they’re going to do next.

We need to be better at helping Australians manage change in the economy, giving them a sense of where they fit in.

The people I just referred to are parents – and grandparents – and they’re wondering about the jobs their kids will do as well.

It’s not the job of government to run businesses. But it is up to government to manage the economic transition, to invest in productive capacity and to foster confidence.

It’s why Labor worked hard to negotiate stronger safeguards to ensure we can get the full benefit of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement.

We wanted to make sure our export businesses got greater market access – without undermining Australian jobs, pay and conditions.

Because a major part of a successful free trade agreement is ensuring Australians believe in the benefits of trade liberalisation.

Making the ChAFTA work for Australia also depends on ensuring our small and medium export businesses can access Chinese markets.

For government, this means better co-ordinating  of promotion and marketing.

And AusTrade in particular working with representative organisations and chambers such as yours to make this work.

It is the job of government to ensure the Australian people are equipped to share in the opportunities of change – and to be productive, adaptive agents for prosperity.

This is why, under my leadership, some of the key economic levers Labor sees for growth are:

  • Education – in the early years, schools, TAFE and universities.
  • Technology and science, central to growing our economy.
  • Productive infrastructure
  • And the equal treatment of women, not just as a matter of justice but delivering an economic dividend.

Fiscal policy is important, monetary policy is important.

But these other features, these measures are essential too.

Just on the equal treatment of women, the biggest change in our national wealth in the past generation has been driven by the increased participation of women in work.

We haven’t got there yet on the equal treatment of women, but if we do, we will be the richest nation in the world.

I want Australians to be drivers, not passengers on the journey of change.

We must boost our productivity: in healthcare, in our education sector, in superannuation funds, in knowledge-based capital, in transport and infrastructure.

This means backing-in your businesses – as engines of productivity and job-creation.

And learning from your businesses.

Because you didn’t get where you are by standing still in a time of rapid change.

You never took the view that the world was too hard to compete in.

And neither should government, nor should Australia.

We should be ambitious for our country to compete and win in the world, to succeed on our terms.

And we should embrace new thinking, new ideas and new solutions.

SMALL BUSINESS INCORPORATION

This must include taking a fresh look at small business formation.

As you know, more and more small businesses are moving towards becoming companies, to gain the legal protection of limited liability.

Incorporation also helps promote asset protection, retaining profits for working capital, access to capital gains tax discounts, succession planning and income distribution.

But in every conversation I have with Australian small businesses and medium enterprises, I’m quickly reminded that our current system requires a series of very complex and unwieldy structures to make this happen.

Setting these structures up takes time and money from business owners who are already time-poor and often challenged by cash-flow.

And maintaining these structures is even more expensive and even more time-consuming.

Only Italy, in the OECD, has more of its citizens go to tax agents to help negotiate the tax system. We have a delightfully complicated system.

Now, instead of accepting this as an inevitable shortcoming of our system, instead of viewing this as an intractable problem, the way of the world, we should focus on finding a solution.

A solution that helps more small businesses access the benefits of incorporation – without imposing the ongoing expense and complexity of new red tape

I’ve been speaking with small business people about improving Australia’s current complicated and expensive arrangements, with another stream of incorporation, one that provides a single, simplified structure, tailored for small business.

A structure that delivers maximum advantage with minimum hassle.

When the United States wrestled with a similar question, they chose to change their corporate structure to create a specific class of corporations for small business.

This sort of differentiated approach is driven by the recognition that compliance measures should be tailored to match the size of your business.

I think it’s an instructive example, something we can learn from and apply.

And the more Australian small businesses I talk to about this solution, the more convinced I become.

I’m not saying this change is easy – or straightforward.

But I have asked my new Shadow Minister for Small Business, Michelle Rowland, to kick-start a more formal round of consultations with small business people like you, with representative organisations like yours, and with the legal profession and accounting bodies like CPA Australia.

I think we can turn this idea with merit, into a policy that delivers benefit.

And just as importantly, from an initiative like this we can build a new, co-ordinated focus on small business policy.

INFRASTRUCTURE

We need to bring new thinking to infrastructure too.

Right now, congestion in our cities and the disconnect between our regions is bad news for every Australian business.

It slows the movement of your goods and the provision of your services to customers, adding to your cost base.

This all hurts productivity at work – and our quality of life outside work.

And the traditional Commonwealth grant funding approach cannot guarantee the scale of the work required to solve this problem.

The old way and the old budgetary process will not do.

We can’t expect State Governments to simply do more, with less.

And yet by 2025, Australia’s superannuation savings will be $4 trillion – some of this money should be put to work on nation-building.

This is why Labor has announced our plans to empower Infrastructure Australia, an independent body, free from short-termism.

Moving beyond the ‘gotcha’ argument about debt, understanding the difference between borrowing for recurrent expenditure and productivity-generating infrastructure.

This is why we’ve announced a $10 billion financing facility to help incentivise private sector investment.

Clearing away the stumbling blocks which stand in the way of good infrastructure projects being financed and taken to market.

Including one of the biggest hurdles: short-term, petty political bickering.

Making the gold standard of infrastructure projects whether they’ve been to Infrastructure Australia, and whether they stack up.

For Labor, this is partly about recognising the limitations on government.

And adopting a commercially-rigorous, business-like approach to decision-making.

It’s the same as sending the right market signals on the move to renewable energy.

Not mandating a solar panel on every roof, but recognising that 15,000 Australian small businesses have already installed the technology, embracing the opportunity to take control of their power bills.

And more and more businesses will take up this chance as the cost of battery and storage technology continues to drop.

This is the Modern Labor view: government as an economic enabler, a creator and a supporter of markets.

Where once we sought to row, now we want to help steer.

It’s not about ideology.

For me, the big game in town is the middle.

Not the extremes of left or right.

Growing our economy, by growing our middle class.

Creating the comfort and confidence for small business to hire more people and create more jobs.

Helping more Australians become more self-sufficient, through the opportunity of work.

And of course, creating the wealth which allows us to support a decent safety net for those genuinely less well-off.

That’s what drives me.

Getting the best out of people.

For me it’s not what school you go to, or postcode you live in.

It’s about how we ensure the great middle of Australia can back themselves in, pay their taxes, send their kids to school, pay their mortgage.

This is where businesses come in.

Well-run businesses, good employers, are some of the heroes of economic progress in this country.

And you are central to our prosperity in the future.

Thanks very much.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053

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