TUESDAY, 14 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for good jobs through apprenticeships; GST; Constitutional recognition; media access for offshore facilities; Liberal Party donations; health funding; renewable energy.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. It's great to be at EMC, Emergency Made Clean. This company is a real success story. I came here one and a half years ago and there were eight people, now there is 64. They are delivering jobs of the future and employing apprenticeships. In many ways, this remarkable company and its remarkable staff join the dots of the Labor story in this election about jobs. It's a combination of backing renewable energy, making sure you have great access to world class NBN, it’s also about making sure we stand up for apprenticeships and a strong TAFE system.
So today I and Sharon Bird are very keen to announce extra expansion for the training of pre-apprentice positions and for assisting mature age workers to take up apprenticeships in relevant occupations. In the last three years under the Liberal Government, there has been 120,000 apprenticeships lost. I don’t think most Australians realise that we are in danger of losing our apprenticeship system in Australia. There is a crisis. Now more than ever, we need to back in apprenticeships. Under the Liberals they simply don't care about apprenticeships. Under Labor, we do care about apprenticeships, and we are willing to show leadership. You cannot be a party of jobs unless you are a party of apprenticeships. You cannot be serious about jobs unless you are serious about apprenticeships and Labor is most definitely serious about apprenticeships, TAFE and our training system for apprentices. That's why Labor is going to increas e by 10,000 the number of pre-apprenticeship training spots and we are going to provide another 5000 mature age workers with a chance to take up an interest in an apprenticeship. For me it's all about jobs, but it's about practical decisions which help deliver jobs. Australian apprenticeships are actually great at two levels - they benefit the apprentice, the individual, but they benefit industry. We cannot afford another three years of Liberal neglect on apprenticeships because we may well have nothing left at the end of that time.
I should also say before I hand over to Sharon and Jason to talk about aspects of today's great news on apprenticeships, that our pre-poll starts right across Australia. It is estimated perhaps between 30-40 per cent of Australians may vote between now and 2 July. I will be down at Tim Hammond’s pre-poll position. Tim Hammond is Labor’s candidate for Perth. This election is clearly, as I've said from day one, is a matter of choices, and now Australians start to choose. They can choose Mr Turnbull's $50 billion tax giveaway to large companies, banks and foreign shareholders, or they can choose Labor's great plans for jobs, for education, for Medicare. Today I'll be saying to people at the pre-poll, vote Labor if you want to protect Medicare, vote Labor if you want a royal commissions into our banking sector, vote Labor if you want to make sure we have well-funded childcare, vote Lab or if you want to make sure our schools are well resourced, that kids can go to TAFE and university, and mature age workers can get a chance to re-train. Vote Labor if you want to promote Australian jobs and Australian apprenticeships. Thank you very much. Now I would like to hand over to Sharon and then Jason.
SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks, Bill. Look, I want to start today by thanking the very many apprentices, employers, and unions across Australia who have taken time over the last two years to talk to me about what we need to do to support our wonderful, internationally recognised apprenticeship system. It was clear in the first Abbott Budget when you saw the axe taken to apprentice programs, a billion dollars cut out and the implications of that flow through over the two years with the loss, as Bill said, of over 120,000 apprenticeship in training opportunities. So one of the things that a lot of employers have said to me is that they are keen to take on an apprentice but often they find the person is not ready for an apprenticeship. For one reason or another they've missed out on skills or have a vague idea about what the apprenticeship is but don't understand it in detail.
For employers it's a big ask to put somebody on and disappointing, as happens too often, if after a couple of months they say this is not for me and not what I want to be doing. I've seen good programs run in places where people go along and get in effect a trade taste of program. They do some training around work-ready skills and what the workplace will be like, but they also have a taste of a variety of trades within an industry sector. In fact Bill and I, last week in Brisbane, met a great group of young women who were doing a range of trades in the construction sector. They were doing plastering, tiling and painting. We met an apprentice who had come directly out of that program, a young woman in her second year. These are really important programs for giving all of those young people an opportunity to assess what they should be doing, what would be a good career for them, but they also give the employer confidence that when they put them on that they really understand what it is they're undertaking and they're ready to go.
Part of this announcement today with the 10,000 apprenticeship placement program being run through our TAFE system, is that we will also have an incentive to employers of an additional $1000 incentive payment to take those people on when they've finished their course. And put another 10,000 young people on a really great path to a good career and a good job. The second announcement we're making also reflects what people have told me. I've just met an apprentice here today, he's a mature age apprentice who has done a career change. It's really common now, and the reality is that many people in areas across the country where there's significant restructuring happening in industry, you've got people who have got years if not decades of great skills and knowledge working as trades assistants or production workers, and then when they get retrenched, they'd really like to retrain into a trades career.< /span>
So what this program does is feed into that an opportunity for them to have their skills and knowledge assessed, so we have a good idea of what they're already capable of doing, to talk to them about where the emerging opportunities are, great facilities like we're at today, and to get them the apprenticeship that would match that and set them up for those jobs on a fast track. And we did this in the previous Labor government, we ran a pilot exactly doing this, retraining workers. Most of them were able retrain within 18 months. That's an important thing for mature age people because they're probably paying rent and mortgages and they have families. A 4-year apprenticeship can be an impost, able to do that in a shorter time period is a good initiative. There will be 5000 of those positions targeted across areas that really need that support. I know it will be really well subscribed by mature age worker s who are really keen to get into the new fields.
Labor is backing apprenticeships and our announcement last year of leveraging infrastructure to have one in ten of those jobs be an apprenticeship and making sure the pipeline works for those apprenticeships for young people and for mature workers who are being restructured. I think it is a fantastic indication that we are serious about trades training. We understand innovation, jobs and growth actually mean something for people in the trades and vocational areas which has been completely neglected by this government. They've done nothing new in it but reduce funding and take money out each time. That is failing a whole lot of not just young people, but mature age people as well.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you. Fast broadband creates jobs. We saw that yesterday in Western Sydney. See that today in Western Australia. For many businesses broadband is now as important as electricity is. Imagine if you are running a business and you don't have access to electricity. For many businesses not having access to broadband is exactly the same thing. It makes it harder to do business. Malcolm Turnbull promised at the last election that everyone in Australia, all businesses in Australia, would have access to the NBN by the end of in year. The sad fact is he's failed miserably. Less than 20 per cent of Australia has access to the NBN right now. Here in the seat of Cowan, you will find that the rollout of Malcolm Turnbull's second-rate fibre to the node hasn't started yet. In the seat of Hasluck, only a handful of people have access at all. In the seat of Swan,&n bsp;people who live in Ascott, more than 10,000 residences and businesses there again don't have access to the NBN.
Malcolm Turnbull has failed the people of Perth, failed the people of Western Australia and failed the people of Australia miserably on the NBN. But there is a silver lining here because the announcement we made yesterday that we would roll out fibre to the home to up to two million more homes and businesses, means that tens of thousands of premises in those electorates and electorates like them in Australia now stand to get fibre to the home, instead of Malcolm Turnbull's slower copper version of the NBN, if Bill Shorten and Labor win the election on 2nd July.
SHORTEN: Thanks Jason, any questions? I might go local first.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's been a difference of opinion between the Premier and the Prime Minister today on how GST is carved up. The Premier says that the Government alone can just decide to make a change to how GST is distributed and the Prime Minister says it requires an agreement among the states. What's your understanding as to how that works? Do you agree that WA is getting a raw deal on GST and what would you do to fix that?
SHORTEN: Thank you for the three questions, mate. Firstly I don't know what the disagreements are between Colin Barnett and Malcolm Turnbull, but I have no doubt that Malcolm Turnbull doesn't want to be seen with Colin Barnett, because there are issues here in Western Australia which show Liberal neglect, both at the state and the national level. In terms of the GST allocation, it is far preferable to do it through the agreement of the states, but if the Federal Government wanted to do something, well, I can see what Colin Barnett is saying as well. So really, in the case of the blame game, here we have a Liberal Prime Minister and a Liberal Premier trying to blame each other. I think the truth is they're both right in that they're both at fault here.
In terms of how we properly fund and give Western Australia a square deal, it's only the Labor Party who’s proposing to fund Perth Metronet, to deal with the real public transport congestion issues, rather than the discredited Perth freight link proposition. It’s only Federal Labor who’s fronting up to say to the parents of Western Australia, we want every child in every school to be able to get the proper funding and resources to ensure they get the best start in life. It's only Federal Labor, coming here, talking about providing certainty for the renewable energy industry, which means that really successful companies like EMC can go even further, better and faster and employ more people, especially engineers and blue-collar workers. It's only Labor who’s fronting up to Western Australians and saying that we will make sure we put the investment in your healthcare system so tha t healthcare outcomes for people of Western Australia are comparable to every part of the federation. We will take a consultative approach on all issues when it comes to state-federal relations and we will absolutely work with the state government of whatever political persuasion to make sure they get a fair deal. What we will also do in the meantime, is properly invest in the infrastructure, the education, the healthcare, jobs and renewable energy which I think this state could be a real leader in, in the future.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister said that your comments about the treaty are disappointing and that they also add a level of uncertainty and they put the process around constitutional referendum at risk. What do you make of those comments and what exactly are you calling for when saying there needs to be a debate about having a treaty?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all Mr Turnbull's comments are complete rubbish. Yet again he wants to talk about Labor because he’s got no plans of his own. But I want to be really serious here about constitutional recognition. I worked with Tony Abbott on constitutional recognition and I've worked with Malcolm Turnbull on constitutional recognition. I believe that our nation’s birth certificate, our constitution, should reflect and include our first Australians, anything less than that is unacceptable. I offer bipartisanship to Mr Turnbull. Next year is the 50th anniversary since the 1967 referendum, which achieved long overdue change and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 50 years on, this nation I believe is ready to recognise our first Australians in the constitution and make that necessary reform.
So, we say to Malcolm Turnbull, whenever and wherever you want to meet, whenever and where ever we can work out what the question should be, whenever and where ever, ideally next year, which is the 50th anniversary, we can conclude the matter of constitutional recognition. Mr Turnbull shouldn't politicise this issue and furthermore, going to the second part of your question, this nation has been grappling with the equal treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders since 1788. We haven't got it right yet. The fact that your skin colour is a more likely predictor in parts of Australia of whether or not you will get a custodial sentence or not is unacceptable. And I don’t think most Australians are aware of that or think that should be the case.
For too long there's been the wars between whether should you have symbolic recognition or should you have practical reconciliation. I actually think both are important. I thought that when Kevin Rudd did the apology, I thought that was excellent. I think constitutional recognition is another very important step in reform. But what I'm not going to do is ignore the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I don’t know how much effort Mr Turnbull has put into constitutional recognition of our First Australians, but in my journey of understanding on these issues, there’s a lot of younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who say that’s all fine and good Bill, constitutional recognition and reform, but what about the real problems, the other problems that we encounter? And certainly, I’ve been taking a lot of good advice from the father of reconciliation amongst others, Sen ator Pat Dodson, about how we can have a better post-constitutional reform process, a settlement to finally ensure that we are on a genuine path to ensure that Aboriginal Australians enjoy that same outcomes as non-Aboriginal Australians and I will be up for that conversation.
But I know, through getting out and about with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and many other people interested in the betterment and equal treatment of our First Australians, that just simply pretending the constitutional recognition reform, what have you, on its own is the answer to all the problems, it isn't. It is a necessary prerequisite but it is not the whole solution and that's why I'll keep listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, in that, though, the one important thing you haven't said is do you support a treaty?
SHORTEN: I am up for the conversation on a treaty, absolutely, but what I'm not going to do is impose paternalistic top-down solutions. The truth of the matter is, I encourage you to have conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people who are concerned about the welfare of their families and just understand the constitutional reform, dealing with some of the clauses in our constitution to finally recognise the presence of our First Australians, that is fundamentally important, but let me tell you if you're not aware, there is a level of cynicism amongst parts of the Australian community that somehow constitutional reform in and of itself will deliver all the other outcomes. It is very important and Mr Turnbull knows better than to throw rocks and try to muddy up the issues. He knows and he should know better, that there's complete bipartisanship in terms of reform to the constitu tion but what he also perhaps needs to understand is we need to close the gap in life expectancy. We need close the gap in terms of incarceration rates. We need to close the gap in terms of education, housing and employment. And so, I for one am not going to tell Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people what they're allowed to talk about, what they're allowed to put on the agenda. The way I would govern this country is to listen to all people and then harness the good will of this nation and make sure that at last we can achieve equal treatment for all Australians regardless of the colour of their skin.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says the media ban for offshore detention centres is determined by the Nauruan and PNG Governments. If that’s the case, how would you propose to let journalists access those centres?
SHORTEN: They are sovereign nations but what I'm interested in if I was the Australian Prime Minister, is making sure that Australian people know what's going on. I actually trust the Australian people to tell them what's going on. This is a Government addicted to secrecy. I see that Mr Morrison, who is the Treasurer, talking about this issue - I see his colleague the Finance Minister talking about this issue, Senator Cormann. Let us be really clear here, we're not going to fall for the same old Liberals with the same old lies about Labor's determination, if we win the election on July 2, to defeat and deter the people smugglers and criminal syndicates whose actions lead to drownings at sea. A Labor Government I lead will continue offshore processing, full stop. What I'm also not going to do is treat the Australian people as some sort of group of people from whom the truth must be kept at all cost s. If the security experts have a particular view about something that needs to be in the public domain or not, I'm going to listen to the security experts. What I'm not going to do is as the leader of a sovereign nation deny Australians their right to know and deny you the ability for you to do your job because I think this country works best when there's as much information as sensibly can be had on the public table. That’s how you get the best policy.
JOURNALIST: On that, would there be any kind of restrictions on what could be reported or photographed at places like Manus and Nauru?
SHORTEN: Again, I believe in the Australian media's right to report and I believe in the Australian people's right to know. In terms of restrictions, obviously we have to work through with the Government of the jurisdiction, obviously, that's just respectful. But also if there's a security issue or a privacy issue for individuals, we respect that too but this is a debate triggered by a question yesterday about whistle blowers and about the general right of the Australian media so I'll give you my general principle. You have a right to report what's going on and the Australian people have a right to know. A Government I lead will not be addicted to secrecy. We're not interested in covering up the facts or the problems of the NBN. We're not interested in telling people that everything to do with detention centres and offshore processing is a matter which you can’t report or Austra lians can’t know. I will be guided as you sensibly would expect by the best advice of our security experts but I will govern with the principle of the Australian public’s right to know.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to the original treaty issue, Tammy can I get your view, do you think the Labor Government should engage in a treaty process and do you think that should happen in the next term of Parliament?
SHORTEN: I'm going to hand over to Tammy in a second, I should have done it at the start, we've got a number of Labor candidates here, Tammy Solonec is running in the seat of Swan and we've got some Labor Senators from Western Australia here too, and I should have acknowledged Sue Lines and Louise Pratt as well. Tammy.
TAMMY SOLONEC, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR SWAN: The important thing is to maintain bipartisanship support for constitutional reform and what conversations happen after that will be conversations for all of us.
JOURNALIST: So do you personally support a treaty process?
SOLONEC: I support conversations.
SHORTEN: Can I also just say, just as a bit of background because not all of you will know about Tammy. Tammy is a proud Aboriginal woman from Derby but she’s also been someone who's written and researched a lot of issues to do with a better deal for Indigenous Australians.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten can I just ask you about the Liberal Party and their donor/software company Parakeelia, do you think it’s appropriate for taxpayer funds to be used to buy this software and can you rule out that the ALP doesn’t have a similar arrangement?
SHORTEN: The matters of how the ALP purchases its software are a matter of record. I think the issue of Parakeelia is its connections with the Liberal Party, I just wish the Liberal Party would get on with donation reform. Let's call it as it is today people. The truth of the matter is the Liberal Party should stop hanging on to the ban that says you can't know who donates money unless they donate north of $13,000. If I'm elected we're just going to clean up this transparency issue. I want to make it the case that if you donate more than $1,000, the identity of the donor should be revealed. I think many Australians are sick and tired of the way the Liberals wash their money through various foundations and it's hard to identify the source of the funding. I think we need to scrap anonymous donations over $50 full stop, so I think Australians reasonably expect the highest possible level of transparency. We're not going to move to elections which are all public funded so there is a role for private funding but what I know is the best antiseptic towards dodgy dealings and public disquiet and cynicism is lower the donations cap in terms of what amount above which you have to reveal the identity of the donor and I think $1,000 is eminently reasonable.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, an Imam currently preaching in Australia it has been revealed was recently in Orlando speaking out against homosexuality. Should he have been allowed into the country and should his visa now be reviewed?
SHORTEN: If this is the fellow for whom has been attributed two or three years ago gave a speech talking about homophobia but indeed killing people who are gay, I don't know how on earth that fellow got a visa. Let's just call it straight. We've got a Character Test in our visas. I don't see, if this person is here and he's said these things and, you know, they're proving he said them and linking them to this person, is important evidence. But if that's the case, regardless of Orlando, which was just a complete tragedy all of its own right. I do not know how this fellow got a visa. I think the Government needs to get on to it quick smart and this person, in my opinion, is not welcome in Australia holding those abhorrent views.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on health funding, you have made a commitment over four years but how about over 10 years? Will you make a commitment to growth funding and in the absence of a commitment from both major parties, isn't it true both major parties are shirking one of the most crucial and important budget questions that we are facing?
SHORTEN Not at all. The fact of the matter is, it is not just both major parties but even the Greens, and I don’t often use them as evidence of much, are adopting the same approach. What we're doing with health funding is we're proposing better funding for hospitals, dealing with waiting lists, making sure that people waiting at home right now have got some hope, that after July 2, if Labor's elected, they'll get a quicker call from the hospital to say we can get on with your elective surgery so they're out of their pain and uncertainty. So our package is a good package and clearly superior to the Liberal Party's, but what we've also proposed is in the next four years we'll work with states so once we negotiate a new agreement - and that's the same logic my opponents are using - then you can accurately forecast what the expenditure will be. I'm optimistic that because we 're spending this extra resource on hospitals now we may not need to spend as much as maybe forecast in the future because what we're about is contributing to the 50 per cent efficient price of hospitals. Now, we've seen in the previous agreement when Labor was in power that we've seen reforms which actually put downward pressure on the cost of running our hospitals. I might also remind you Labor has got other health care policies which are going to exert downward pressure on the health care system. And first and foremost, we're not going to privatise any part of Medicare. Imagine if they privatise the payment system in Medicare? Imagine if you have multiple payers in the system? What will happen is that every dollar we spend in health care has to be topped up to find extra money for profit for shareholders in many cases of overseas companies. That's one way we are making sure we've got a great health cost profile over 10 years. Secondly, we'r e not going to freeze GP rebates to 2020 which means we're helping save bulk billing. Thirdly, we've decided to scrap the price hike for the cost of medicine. When you add up all of this, our staunch defence of protecting Medicare, our better and more reform-based hospital funding, I think that Australians can have great confidence that a Labor Government is going to set down the foundations for a better health care picture in the future than if we re-elect the Turnbull Government.
JOURNALIST: You could, if you wanted, commit to restoring $1.3 billion the Government is planning to cut from the Arena program which would help firms like EMC. Why not do it?
SHORTEN: We've got to make tough decisions. I do believe that a Labor Government will provide certainty in the investment market for renewable energy which this sector is crying out for. Now I wish that I had a magic wand that could catch and replace every dollar the Liberals have cut . The three years of Liberal maladministration makes that too hard a task because we've got to have rigorous Budget discipline, we’ve got to make sure we can pay for our priorities. We undertake that we'll return to balance in four years. We undertake to have costed policies. We undertake to make sure that our savings measures are greater than our spending measures over the next decade and we also undertake to take real action on climate change. The truth of the matter is that this remarkable company here, EMC, really does join the dots of what Labor sees as a sustainable long-term economic plan for this country. What you see here is apprentices and adult apprentices. What you see here are people investing in renewable energy for the future and making the technological developments and capital expenditure. What you see here is the benefit of having a faster NBN. This is in many ways a microcosm of Labor's story for Australia. Blue collar jobs, advanced manufacturing, making sure that smart kids can afford to go to university and do engineering and mathematics so they can form the workforce of the future. Today we're announcing measures which help adults retrain. Everyone knows we should have been transitioning from the mining boom and everyday Australians are making that step. They just need a Government in Canberra to back them up. Perhaps a final question?
JOURNALIST: Thank you. Mr Shorten, back on Indigenous recognition, Tammy's previously said that it's the height of insensitivity and hypocrisy to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January, what do you think of that and, Tammy, do you still stand by those comments?
SHORTEN: Thank you for asking me first, Rachel. Labor has no plans to change Australia Day, the date of Australia Day, but might I also add and refer you to something earlier I said about Tammy. I run a political party where we welcome people's contributions and their diverse backgrounds. She is a very successful person and I think she's entitled as an Aboriginal Australian, as a woman from Derby, to have her views and I'm totally relaxed about that.
SOLONEC: I guess you've read the comment that I have said about Australia Day and they go back a long time. What we need to do is have conversations about this. It is exactly the same as the previous question that was asked of me. I think it's good for Australia to have conversations about these things.
SHORTEN: Sorry, I did promise the last question over here.
JOURNALIST: Finally, while we're talking about apprenticeships, the Coalition's PaTH program is effectively a pre-apprenticeship program also.
SHORTEN: It's been called other things.
JOURNALIST: It has been called other things. They're willing to pay young people $200 extra a week on top of Centrelink benefits. Why aren't you throwing any extra money at young people who want to train and skill up?
SHORTEN: We are. We are very sceptical that the Government's hastily cobbled-together propositions are anything more than a thought bubble designed to cover up the fact they have no real policy on apprenticeships. I tell you what we are going to do for young people, one we are going to make sure they're properly resourced at school no matter how well off their parents are, whenever they live, whatever their background. Another thing we'll do for young people is we're going to make sure the ones who want to go to university, that we keep downward pressure on the price of going to uni. For those wishing to become apprentices, we've just announced 10,000 spots to help prepare people so when they become apprentices they're ready for it. We're proposing a $1,000 subsidy for each employer who takes one of these people and gives them an apprenticeship. One of the big challenges in apprenticeships and young people would know this is that the wages are very low and sometimes there's a high churn factor. What we know is that these apprenticeship ready courses absolutely decrease the churn factor and mean that if you start an apprenticeship because you've had that 20 weeks of getting ready you're likely to complete your apprenticeship, so we are doing a range of things. I'll tell you some other things we're doing for young people as well. We're not going to give young people a 15 per cent GST and by the way, once they get through their 20s and early 30s, depending on how they're going financially, we'll make sure they get a level playing field to buy their first home. We’ve got policies for young people, the final thing about young people, we'll take action on climate change so that the next generation don't have to fix the problems Malcolm Turnbull was either too lazy or too scared to do as the Prime Minister of today. Thank you, everybody.