Transcript of interview with Graham Mabury, 6PR Nightline, 17 January 2012

18 January 2012

Please read or listen to my interview on 6PR Nightline.

Shorten audio - Perth 6PR

SUBJECT/S: young parents program, Liberals likening Australian economy to Iceland and Ireland

GRAHAM MABURY: Having spent some years of my life  - many years ago mind you - working with homeless young people and thereafter on advisory committees to government on matters of juvenile justice, the one conviction that remained with me was that the single most effective device to cut the issues is a job and the ability to maintain a job. And so I'm interested to note that Building Australia's Future Workforce, the Federal
Government program, is now putting about just a little over $10 million a year - $47 million over four years - into the helping-teenage-parents measure.

I'm delighted to say the Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation joins us, the Honourable Bill Shorten. Minister thanks for your time. Welcome to Nightline.

BILL SHORTEN: Good evening.

GRAHAM MABURY: Now, the - this idea, helping teenage parents, give us the background to it. From whence has it come?

BILL SHORTEN: What we do now affects not just people now in Australia but ten, 20 and 30 years' time. And one thing which we certainly expect teenagers now is, in ten and 20, 30 years' time, is that if they've had a child, at the moment the system isn't very supportive. I'm not into moral judgments, having a baby is a great outcome at any age, but we've got to make sure that the teenage parent and the little baby gets support. Because if you have to drop out of school and you don't even get to year 12 or an equivalent trades qualification, you are going to be behind the eight ball for the rest of your life. So we're proposing that over the next four years, 4,000 teenage parents will get individualised support to make sure that they and their children get a better start in life than they might otherwise expect.

GRAHAM MABURY: I guess it's a measure with a capacity to have a double benefit because, obviously, the outcomes for the child are dependent on the outcomes for the parent.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, there's an old saying, isn't there, that everything is well in the world if mum's going okay. That applies at any age. We've picked ten areas where there is a high proportion of teenage parents and what we want to do is, the Centrelink authorities will write to each of the people we have on the books, so please come in for an interview. They're going to work out a plan with them, a plan for them to go to school, or, perhaps just had the baby, maybe that's not appropriate, but to get childcare. We just don't want people dropping between the cracks.

The other thing of course is - and I've learned this myself in recent years becoming a parent - it's not easy to be parent. There's a lot of things where people can tell you about it beforehand, but you do learn a lot on the job don't you. So it's a matter of making sure that the child has got ready for school when that child turns five and six as well.

GRAHAM MABURY: One of those ten areas is here in WA, in Kwinana, the young people who get to participate, they're going to have - that initial interview will set up a case management structure that they'll get individualised care?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, that's right. What I can say to you is that since the trial started fifteen, sixteen days ago, some 42 parents in the Kwinana local government have been sent a letter advising of the launch of the measure, most have received follow-up calls, interviews commenced nationally yesterday. We've got perhaps ten booked so far this week in Kwinana. More interviews will occur over the coming weeks.

What will happen is that they will be required to attend six monthly support and engagement interviews with the Department of Human Services. This starts when the child is six months old and will continue till the parent attains year 12 or equivalent, or the youngest child turns six. We want the trial to be tailored to respond to local circumstances, the individual needs of the parents. Individual plans for the parents. It will be mandatory to do these plans - to have a plan, I should say. But a fair bit of flexibility in making sure that it suits the family needs.

Some teenage parents get a lot of support from their partner, from their immediate family, from
schools. But others, maybe dad shoots through, it's all a bit too much and maybe the parents do or don't support the young person. In most cases it seems to go okay, but sometimes it can be pretty rough. We just want to make sure there are tailored plans for each person.

GRAHAM MABURY:  Minister, let me address another area of - it will give you a chance to comment on another area of your responsibility. There's been some claims by the Federal Opposition that our financial sector is comparable to Iceland, or Ireland and that the surplus is in serious doubt. You're on the record as saying, no, the surplus is still the plan and that our banks may be in for a tough time, but they're okay.

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, you know, that's a pretty fair summary. I mean, what Ireland, Iceland and Australia have in common is we're, geographically we're islands. That's about where the similarity stops. Iceland has an economy of $11 billion. We're an economy of $1.3 trillion. Iceland has unemployment of 13.6 percent; we're under five and a half percent. Iceland is - its economy has contracted in the last two years. The same goes for our friends in Ireland. We've grown in the last two years. This idea that somehow we're this small whaling nation - comparable to a whaling nation in the middle of the North Atlantic just - this is nonsense. It's just a headline-grabbing line. I think the Opposition would be better off not trying to always scare people.

Now, Europe, and some of the problems in Europe, are serious. We very much watch the status of our banks. Our banks are amongst the best in the world. I mean, Australia shouldn't be complacent. I visit the West on a regular basis. I know not everyone's benefiting from the mining boom. I know there's impact on housing prices and on services. I know there are job losses in banking. But banking and financial services have added 13,500 jobs since November 2007. I think banks globally are in for a tough time but, you know, they will rebound. I still believe that our banking sector will grow over the next five years.

I mean, it's the Opposition's job to oppose, but sometimes, you know, why not stick to the facts.

GRAHAM MABURY: In terms of facts, JP Morgan says Australia's vulnerable to recession in 2012 as the global economy deals with the worsening European sovereign debt. Does that impinge on what you're saying at all?

BILL SHORTEN: What impinges upon what we do is inability of governments in some jurisdictions in Europe to reign in their debt. But what the Opposition here is, that they say that debt - government debt in Australia - there's government debt overseas, therefore it's all the same, which is not true. If you imagine a national economy is like your household income. The nation of Australia generates a $100,000. Let's pick Ireland, they generate a $100,000. Their net government debt, or their mortgage, is $98,000, 98 percent. Ours is 8.9 percent, or $8,900.

You know, the trouble is it shows you the relative strength. Our future's tied with Asia. The minerals boom's not going to last forever. But even as other nations come on line, the demand for volumes for what we dig out of the dirt is still pretty high, because India's going to keep growing as well. Our challenge is to make sure we've got good infrastructure. Our challenge is to make sure people have skills. And the best job security we can offer someone is to make sure we give them as much training and skills as possible so they can move from job to job, as some jobs go and some jobs come.

GRAHAM MABURY: Finally Minister, your employment-and-workplace relations obviously, your responsibility, returning to the scheme, the $47,000 for teenage parents. How serious an issue is exploitation of vulnerable workers, including young people in the Australian workplace?

BILL SHORTEN: We do need an adequate safety net. We don't want to be the first generation of Australians who hands on inferior conditions to our kids. And most employers do the right thing. Okay, let me be clear. And it's always difficult. Where do you draw the line in a system where you regulate against the scallywags or, you don't want to discourage initiative? We don't want small-business people acting to fill in heaps of paperwork every Sunday when they'd rather be with their family. But by the same token, I think that we've got the balance reasonably okay.

I don't want my kids working for fourteen bucks an hour on a Sunday. You know, I don't want to be ripped off. I think if mum is a nurse - sorry to use a bit of a stereotype - if she's got a regular roster, I don't want that to be able to be changed at a whim. Now people have got to make ends meet and I just think we're smart enough as a nation to not go the low road of cutting people's rosters and shifts and penalty rates just to make a quick dollar, when I think we can do better by getting the most out of people.

GRAHAM MABURY: Listen Minister, we really appreciate your time, sparing us some time this evening for our Nightline audience. Bill Shorten, thank you.

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