FRIDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government abandons manufacturing jobs; Jobs plan for Geelong and Australia; Abbott Government attack On Medicare; GP Tax; Abbott Government inquiry into workplace laws; Manus Island; Ukraine.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here in Geelong with my collogue Daniel Andrews, with shadow ministers Kim Carr and of course shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, and hardworking local member for Corio Richard Marles, shadow minister for immigration, and also Lisa Neville the member for Bellarine and Ian Trezise, all hard working state local members.
Geelong is at a crossroads. Geelong and its region has been hard hit by the bad news of job losses at Alcoa. This has triggered the ongoing work of Labor to talk about how do we make sure there are good jobs in the future in this region. Labor’s been meeting with representatives from the affected workplaces, from community leaders, local government and state representatives. I believe it is now time for Tony Abbott to have a jobs plan for the Geelong region and a jobs plan for Australia. The Abbott Government’s been in power for nearly six months, and all we see from the Abbott Government when it comes to all of the job losses is a sort of shoulder shrugging fatalism that there’s nothing that can be done to help save Australian jobs. There’s a lot of good people in Geelong with a lot good ideas about the future of Geelong. It’s time for the Abbott Government to start fighting for Australian jobs, for keeping Australian jobs and to help create new, good Australian jobs. I might hand over to my colleague, Daniel Andrews.
DANIEL ANDREWS, LEADER OF THE VICTORIAN OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much Bill and it is a great pleasure to be here on a day when Shell has reconfirmed their long term presence in the local Geelong economy. That is great news, and it’s welcomed by everyone. It has been a tough week though, a tough period of time for the Geelong community, and I think our focus needs to move to what are the answers to some of these questions? What are the opportunities that are within these challenges? Where are these new jobs coming from? Labor in Victoria has a comprehensive jobs plan, it includes Geelong and today I'm proud to announce that we will add to that comprehensive vision for jobs in Geelong by creating a new team, a defence jobs unit. It will be located here in this great city, in Geelong, for Geelong, but also for the broader Victorian community.
We know there are billions of dollars of defence contracts that will need to be filled over the next decade. I am determined to make sure that Victoria, under a Labor Government, gets a fair share of those contracts, and a fair share of the new jobs, the high-tech, high-skill, highly paid jobs that can come from that industry. That's why we're going to create this unit, five million dollars, the best of industry, the best of the public sector, to put the best bids in to win that work, and then off that platform, look to the world to see whether we can meet the defence infrastructure challenges and the needs of our friends from right around the world. This is a good fit for the skills base in this local community, engineering, the heavy manufacturing, all of the skills that Geelong has, and with additional work can continue to apply in our national interest.
It's not just about talking about the problems, you've got to have those solutions and I think working hard to build a bigger defence industry in Victoria and Geelong is critically important, critically important, and that's why we've made these announcements today. The final thing I will say is a fairer share of defence contracts and all the jobs, the prosperity, the security that can come from that, it won't happen by accident. It will only happen through hard work and under Victorian Labor, we'll do the work to make sure we have a strong future in this great city and right across our state.
SHORTEN: We're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: What's the message you're getting from the Geelong community today?
SHORTEN: The Geelong community has received quite a few blows in recent times, but they're on their feet, they're fighting back. We want to see the Abbott Government to start fighting for Geelong jobs and Australian jobs, just like Geelong people are fighting for Geelong jobs and Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: What’s your reaction to the announcement by Shell today?
SHORTEN: Early reports are promising that there will be jobs saved at the refinery. Good news is always welcome. The refinery, the Shell workforce, do a great job but we'll have to wait to see as more detail emerges in the day as to what, if any, job losses there are, but at last some good news for one group of workers in Geelong. But what this highlights is we can still make things in Australia. The Abbott Government needs to show the same initiative that the Shell management have shown, the Shell workforce have shown, and Geelong people are showing. We can keep jobs in Australia, Mr Abbott. It’s time you got on the winning team of jobs for Australia.
JOURNALIST: What should have happened in the city in this week in response to what happened at Alcoa?
SHORTEN: Well, the Abbott Government should have come down here to speak to the workforce and to speak to representatives. Why is it that Tony Abbott thinks that a jobs strategy for Geelong involves turning up to an office in Melbourne? That's not how you win jobs. Picture opportunities do not create a single job. The Abbott Government, before the election, you couldn't get between them and a camera and a high-viz vest. Now, they're missing in action. You don't save jobs by sitting in an office having your picture taken with other Liberal politicians. You've got to get out and talk to real people, be in touch with the real issues and demonstrate that even if you can't save every particular job, at least you care enough to start fighting for them. The Abbott Government must immediately provide a package of up to $100 million which will help the retraining of people in Geelong, and in manufacturing, but not just manufacturing, Telstra, and other agencies where people have lost their jobs. The Abbott Government’s got to help start the real retraining of people for whom otherwise they will have long periods of unemployment.
JOURNALIST: That's what you would have done?
SHORTEN: We came down here. We're not even the Government and we came down to see people, to see how they were going, to hear their ideas. You don’t solve a problem until you start admitting there is one. How on earth can the Abbott Government cure the problem of unemployment if they don't admit that it’s a problem?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on Medicare, the Government’s talking about making changes to Medicare, isn’t it fair enough for people who can pay more for their healthcare do so?
SHORTEN: In Australia, people should get the health care they need, not the health care they can afford. We should not go down the American road where your access to the health system depends upon how rich you are. Before the election Tony Abbott said that he wouldn’t touch Medicare, that they wouldn't cut healthcare. After the election we're seeing every trick in the book so that Tony Abbott can break his promise. Does anyone really think that Tony Abbott's Health Minister went off on a frolic of his own when he proposed a new tax? The Abbott Government keep flying kites to test community reaction, to justify breaking promises. Healthcare in Australia should not go to just the people who can afford it. I also notice that Treasurer Joe Hockey has been on his own frolic today, signaling that he has secret plans, that he’s open to propositions to tackle, to change the aged pension. For people approaching retirement and for people on the aged pension, the Abbott Government must come clean. Do they have a secret plan to change the rules around the aged pension or not? And if they don't, Joe Hockey, stop scaring people. Just be straight with them and tell them the truth.
JOURNALIST: On healthcare, would you welcome higher income earners making a greater contribution?
SHORTEN: Well, I’m not going to deal with the Abbott Government thought bubbles as they come up. I think the Abbott Government needs to be very clear. They’ve got this Commission of Audit handing down their first report, they delayed it past the Griffith by-election. I hope they don't try to delay it past the elections in Western Australia. The Abbott Government, said black and white, there’d be no cuts to healthcare. In order to have a discussion about the future of healthcare in this country, the Abbott Government must come clean. Do they have any secret plans to cut the standard of healthcare, to cut healthcare spending? That's the starting point for any discussion. The Abbott Government has got to come clean. Do they have any secret plans to cut health care spending in this country or to make Australians pay a lot more for their healthcare.
JOURNALIST: The Government stands by the fact that the Productivity Commission will only make recommendations for workplace relations, then take to the election, that is exactly what they took to the election isn’t it?
SHORTEN: The Abbott Government got caught with its hand in the industrial bickie tin when it emerges that they were ringing up SPC Ardmona, Australia's last fruit cannery and packaging centre in the Goulburn Valley, and the only way that the Abbott Government was going to help SPC Ardmona is if they could force SPC Ardmona to cut people's wages from $50,000 to $33,000 a year. The Abbott Government has no ideas about modern Australian workplaces. They should stop spending their time dividing the country. They should spend their time standing up for Australian jobs, creating new Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: Wasn't it Labor, though, that encouraged more workplace flexibility through the individual flexibility arrangements?
SHORTEN: Exactly. Labor has always been positive about having win-win in the Australian workplaces. Under Labor, real wages growth was moderate. We saw lower levels of unemployment than we see under the Abbott Government. Industrial disputation was very low. But the problem with the Abbott Government is they've never seen someone on a penalty rate or a reasonable wage that they wouldn't kick or try and cut their conditions. Australia's future involves a race to the top, not a race the bottom. What Geelong needs, what manufacturing workers need across Australia, what small to medium enterprises need, what the services industry need, is an Abbott Government who will fight for Australian jobs, not one who will give up, throw their hands in the air and say, ‘It's too hard to run this country, and there is nothing we can do.’
JOURNALIST: Members of the Government have suggested that Alcoa should give back the $40 million they got from Labor when it was in government, how you respond to that?
SHORTEN: Because of Labor, Alcoa's life as a functioning company in Geelong was extended by two to three years. In that time, hundreds of millions of dollars were paid in taxes, hundreds of millions of dollars was spent sustaining literally hundreds of small businesses in the region. Why is it that the Abbott Government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing? Why is it that the Abbott Government hasn't come down to see anyone in Geelong? Why is it that the Abbott Government is keen to blame Alcoa, keen to blame people, the workforce, make up reasons? It's time that the Abbott Government bought a mirror, looked into it and saw what the real problem with jobs in Australia is.
JOURNALIST: Richard Marles wants an independent inquiry into what happened at Manus Island, why’s that?
SHORTEN: Well, Richard Marles is here, he can tell you.
RICHARD MARLES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION: What we have seen at Manus Island over the last week is deeply concerning. We've had two serious incidents in two days. This is the third incident since Tony Abbott came to power. We are deeply concerned that a facility which was running under the Rudd and Gillard governments, a facility which under a different guise was running under the Howard Government, now under Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, appears to be melting down. And that's why we need a full, arms-length, independent inquiry about what is going on at Manus Island, about what this government is doing wrong at Manus Island, so that we can understand where to go from here and the Government can know what steps it needs to take to ensure that Manus Island doesn't fall over. Manus Island is utterly central to Australia's strategy in reducing the flow of boats from Indonesia and drownings at sea. Scott Morrison actually has to have this independent inquiry and in doing it, must ensure that the full inquiry and all the recommendations that come from it are made totally public.
JOURNALIST: Shouldn't Labor shoulder some of the blame at least?
MARLES: Well we don't shoulder the blame. What we say in relation to Manus Island is that it is the single most important piece of public policy which has seen a reduction in the flow of boats from Indonesia, and in the process which has seen a reduction in people dying at sea. Manus Island is absolutely fundamental to Australia's strategy in dealing with boats coming from Indonesia. It's why it's so important that it not be allowed to fall over. Now, what we don't understand is why this facility was able to operate under the Rudd, under the Gillard governments, in a different guise under the Howard Government, but it is melting down under the Abbott Government. We need to know what this government is doing wrong, and we need to understand how they're managing their relationship with Papua New Guinea and that's why we need a full inquiry.
JOURNALIST: Just finally, Mr Shorten, is there anything Australia can do to encourage a peaceful outcome in Kiev?
SHORTEN: I think Australians of Ukrainian background and indeed Australians who are following the matters in the Ukraine are very concerned with the increased tension – [broadcast ends].
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21 February 2014