Press Conference – Gladstone – Tuesday 23 April 2019




SUBJECTS: Future of manufacturing, gas pipeline, protecting local workers, Adani product, wages, workplace relations, climate change, electric vehicles, small business, Scott Morrison failure to rule out a death tax.
ZAC BEERS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FLYNN: Thanks everyone for coming along, it’s great to be here in Gladstone today and I am joined by Labor’s fantastic team. We’ve got Bill Shorten, Labor’s Opposition Leader and potentially the next Prime Minister of Australia; Brendan O’Connor, Shayne Neumann and Jason Clare all here today as well to talk about some really important announcements for Australia and in particular this region. Today we are going to be talking about Labor’s commitment to the future of manufacturing in this country. The future of the energy debate when it comes to gas and making sure we get the investment right for infrastructure because we know how important it is for the east coast of Australia and for manufacturing to make sure we have good cheap supply of gas and today’s announcement is about Labor putting money on the table and making a commitment to make that happen. We are also going to be talking about Labor’s commitment when it comes to cracking down on 457s and making sure that overseas labour isn’t used to undercut local workers and isn’t used to undercut local jobs. Labor’s got a plan for the future here in Central Queensland and right across the country. We have announced the Advanced Manufacturing Fund, $1 billion to make sure we look after manufacturing into the future, $1.1 billion for the National Hydrogen Plan which includes a research centre right here in Gladstone to make sure Gladstone is ground zero for hydrogen, the energy of tomorrow. And today’s announcement coupled with that, part of our plan for the future here in central Queensland to make sure we have the jobs of tomorrow, workers have got good secure employment. Only Labor will deliver these things. And I’ll hand to Bill Shorten to talk more about today’s announcements. 
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks. That was Zac Beers, Labor’s candidate here in Flynn, very energetic.
Good to be here at Gladstone Port and the message we have for the people of Gladstone is that the Liberals cut wages, they cut penalty rates and they send jobs overseas. By contrast, Labor will protect penalty rates, stand up for workers and make sure that locals get the opportunity to get the jobs.
My colleagues are here today and they’ll take detailed questions on what we’re announcing but the short summary of our propositions today is first of all, we need to reform the temporary work visa system of guest workers coming in from overseas. I’m not sure if most Australians realise but there’s 1.6 million people currently in Australia with visas which give them work rights. Surely some of those jobs could go to Australians. Now we are always going to have skilled migration, we are always going to have temporary workers in this country.
But we should be a country who doesn’t have a temporary worker filling a skills shortage one day longer than it takes to train an Australian. This is at the heart of our story. 457 visas, when they were started, were a good idea for Australian business.
Now 457s means that locals are missing out on jobs. So what we want to do is put some more transparency, we want to make sure short-term skilled migration doesn’t just become an excuse for cheap labour, exploitation of guest workers and locals missing out.
That is why we’re outlining today our fantastic package to provide training and apprenticeships in Queensland, and not just Queensland but right across Australia. We’ve got a $1 billion package to make sure that Australians get the chance to be trained for the jobs for the future.
But our proposal to look after workers in Queensland and look after jobs right around Australia doesn’t just stop at reforming the temporary work visa problems. What we also want to do is get more investment flowing in northern Australia. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has been an abject failure. It is incredible that not one cent of a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, promised by the Liberals six years ago, not one cent has been spent in Queensland. 
Perhaps even more significantly the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has probably spent more money on salaries for people who work for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund than it has on building infrastructure in northern Australia. This has simply got to stop.
So Labor today is proposing new changes to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, especially to unlock the opportunities of tourism with $1 billion of the $5 billion going to tourism infrastructure and another $1.5 billion to support the biggest single investment in new pipelines in Australia so we can get gas flowing from where it is under the ground in Australia to help keep the manufacturing jobs of South-East Australia and Darwin and Queensland going. A lot of Australians pull me up in the street and say it is incredible that for a country that has so much gas in the ground, why Australia pays such high gas prices and that’s undermining Australian jobs. I would like to hand over to Jason Clare to very briefly talk about our Northern Australia announcement and then we will be into questions.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE, INVESTMENT, RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks very much Bill. It is great to be here with Zac who would be a fantastic Member of Parliament and Member for Flynn if he’s fortunate enough to win this seat at the next election. As Bill said, the NAIF has been a massive failure. It really should have been called the No Actual Infrastructure Fund because it hasn’t built any infrastructure in four years.
This was first announced four years ago next month. The government, the LNP announced an infrastructure fund four years ago and they still haven’t spent a cent on infrastructure from it in the last four years here in Queensland. They have only actually spent about $15 million on infrastructure across the north and you’re right, Bill, they’ve spent more on salaries for the staff and for the Board than they have spent on infrastructure. So no wonder the people of North Queensland and the people of Northern Australia are disappointed with it. Lots of big promises when it was first announced they described it as the Snowy Mountains Scheme for the north that was going to build this infrastructure and create jobs and it just hasn’t.
We need to get it working. We need to make sure it is building the infrastructure that the north needs, that will create jobs. And a big part of that is gas pipeline infrastructure and what we’re saying today is that we will allocate up to $1.5 billion to build gas pipeline infrastructure from the Betaloo Basin in the NT up to Darwin as well as from the Betaloo to the east coast. And gas pipeline infrastructure from the Galilee Basin to connect in with the Queensland gas pipeline network that goes into here at Gladstone and gas pipeline infrastructure from the Bowen Basin into the same pipeline network that feeds the facilities here. And gas, not just for exports, gas for domestic manufacturers.
Gas for companies here on the east coast but also gas that is going to create more jobs up in Darwin. The potential to create a big manufacturing powerhouse in Darwin off the back of that gas and potentially other fuels coming out of the Betaloo Basin. This is a big project, it’s a series of projects, potentially 2,000km to 3,000km of pipeline, $5 billion worth of infrastructure, of pipelines all up that will create thousands and thousands of jobs. Jobs in constructing the pipeline and laying it out, but also jobs once it is finished. As I said jobs in Darwin but also jobs here in Gladstone, like at the Orica facility that relies on affordable gas and for all the manufacturers up and down the eastern seaboard. And to be honest this is the sort of thing that this lazy incompetent government should have done years ago. They have known about it, they’ve done nothing to make this happen. They’ve just let the NAIF sit there idly. It has been a massive wasted opportunity. As a result, we haven’t had infrastructure built creating jobs here in north Queensland and right across the north.
JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, yesterday, repeatedly, you refused to rule out reviewing the environmental approvals – the federal environmental approvals for Adani. Can you be fair dinkum with us and with voters and tell us do you rule out reviewing those approvals?
SHORTEN: I have no plans to review the approvals. But if we want to be fair dinkum, let’s be fair dinkum and let’s tell the voters the truth here, all of us. First of all if I’m Prime Minister I will adhere to the law of the land. I’m not going to be intimidated or bullied by environmental activists or big mining companies. For me it is all about the best science, the law of the land and not creating sovereign risk.
JOURNALIST: So well on that, Mr. Shorten, in the past you have said you don’t support Adani, you said you’re sceptical of it, and the CFMEU has issued this pledge which several of your candidates, including Mr. Beers have either signed or said they’re going to sign. It’s calling on you not to do anything to stand in the way of this project. So will do you anything to stand in the way of the project?
SHORTEN: It doesn’t matter if it’s a union who comes to me or a business, an environmental activist. What I’ll do if Prime Minister, is I’ll work with all of those interests, but I’m not going to be the servant of any of those interests. We will adhere to the science, we will adhere to the law, we won’t create sovereign risk.
But what we’re also doing today, is we are refusing to let the debate about sustainable quality jobs in Australia be dumbed down to one project. For the record, Queensland currently exports 220 million tonnes of coal. For the record, under a state Labor government, in the last few years 30 resources projects have been approved. For the record, we’re going to make Gladstone ground zero for hydrogen expansion and development in Australia. For the record, we’re going to invest in a new network of pipelines to provide cheap energy for manufacturing around Australia. 
We’re not going to put all our eggs in one basket. And what we’re going to do, is make sure that the rules are followed. And talking of the rules, what on earth is Mr Morrison doing by not launching a judicial inquiry into the growing scandal around the allocation of $80 million to Eastern Australia Agricultural Services. He should stop running and hiding, stop backing up ministers where we have no line of sight in the decisions that have been made. Every day goes by, the suspicions grow, but I put Mr Morrison on notice. It won’t be good enough if you just want to have some administrative tick box review. I believe that unless the department provides all of the paper work, not with a big black Texta marking out all the interesting details, but the fair dinkum paperwork, without the redactions, without the secret squirrel business which this government loves. It should be a judicial inquiry where you have got the power to compel witnesses and you have got the power to get to the bottom. Not some sort of administrative review, which you want to have when you actually don’t want to have a review, but you you’re just seen to have a review.
JOURNALIST: If you become the Prime Minister, will the CFMEU be allowed to enforce closed shops on construction sites, no ticket no work?
SHORTEN: No. And let’s just be clear on that. No. We think that the problem in Australia is that everything is going up except your wages. And we want to see enterprise bargaining resuscitated.
We want to see a crackdown on dodgy labour hire. We welcome temporary skilled guest labour in this country but not when it becomes an excuse for not training Australians and for employing people in exploitative cheap labour arrangements which undermine the jobs security and lead to a very poor experience for guest workers.
JOURNALIST: Could the resurrection of Clive Palmer cost you the election? 
SHORTEN: Listen I’m not going to get – sorry, there’s only one person who has ever been resurrected and I’m not going to compare Clive Palmer to him. The point about it is, I’m not going to get distracted by Clive Palmer. If you want better health care in this country, vote Labor. If you want to get wages moving in this country again, vote Labor. If you want the pensioners to get a better deal, vote Labor. If you want to tackle the cost of living, vote Labor. If you want to make sure your three and four year olds get quality child care and it is not exorbitantly expensive, vote Labor. That’s our game, the primary vote. 
JOURNALIST: On George Christensen, what do you think he was doing in the Philippines for 294 days? 
SHORTEN: I think that is one of the questions of the ages. The member for Manila, but Jason’s been our representative in northern Australia so I might get him to talk further.
CLARE: Well I’ll tell you what he wasn’t doing, he wasn’t doing his job. This bloke has to be the laziest politician in Australia. Two hundred and ninety four days overseas on holidays in the last four years. That’s two hundred and ninety four days where he’s not doing his job. That’s what I call lazy. And not just lazy, at the same time all of this was happening, he was putting ads in the local paper in Gladstone, after Cyclone Debbie, creating the false impression that he was actually there doing his job. So he’s not just lazy, he was deceptive. I don’t know about you, but if you take two hundred and ninety four days off on holidays, in the last four years, I don’t think you deserve to keep your job. I bet the blokes behind us, if they took two hundred and ninety four days off in four years, their boss wouldn’t keep them on, and then create the false impression they were actually at work, and lie to the boss, because that’s what he’s done, he’s lied to the people of Dawson. What I think would be just is if the people of Dawson, in a couple of weeks’ time, send George Christensen on a permanent holiday, because that’s what he deserves. 
JOURNALIST: LNP candidate Gerard Rennick has been caught spreading conspiracy theories about climate change and some curious ideas about your preschool policy. What action, if any, should be taken against the candidate, and can you guarantee you would also apply that same standard to any of your candidates caught in a similar situation?
SHORTEN: To the best of my knowledge, no Labor candidate believes three year old child care is a political conspiracy. To the best of my knowledge, no Labor candidate is a supporting a 12 per cent corporate tax rate, which is a massive tax cut for the big end of town. And certainly no Labor candidate believes that the Bureau of Meteorology is engaged in some conspiracy to hide the facts on climate change. The LNP has got a factory at an undisclosed location where they can find candidates so out of touch with the real world it is remarkable. Now what sort of serious policies is Mr. Morrison offering Australia when they’re running a candidate in a winnable position who believes that the Bureau of Meteorology’s engaged in a conspiracy to not tell the truth on climate change? This is the problem with the LNP, they’re divided, they’re chaotic, they are held together by sticky tape and rubber bands. Mr Morrison should distance himself from the madness of some of the views we are seeing from some of the LNP but he can’t, can he? Because he is a captive of the hard right of the Liberal Party and he’s never satisfactorily explained why Malcolm Turnbull is still not Prime Minister of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask Mr Beers a question about the Adani project. Mr Shorten saying that he has no plans to review approvals is hardly ruling a review out. What do you think of that and is this hurting the chances of you winning the seat?

BEERS: When we talk about projects like Adani, our position has always been clear. If it stacks up environmentally and financially, it should go ahead. In relation to coal mining more broadly though the real issues that are hurting Central Queensland, the real issues that are hurting Flynn, are the issues in the industrial relations landscape.
We talk about issues like casualisation, like the misuse of labour hire, like a broken industrial relations system that is skewed to the employer side so far that workers can’t get a pay rise. Those are the issues that people in central Queensland are worried about and those are the issues that coal miners here in Flynn are worried about.
So when we talk about this issue, and I appreciate there is a fixation on it, Labor’s position has been very clear for a long time. When I am talking to people in Flynn what they’re worried about is a secure job, being able to put food on the table, being able to feed their family and make sure that when they wake up in the morning they still have a job to go to. Those are the issues I’m focussed on and those are the issues that matter to people here in the Flynn.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I have a question for you and also a question for Mr Beers as well.

SHORTEN: Oh, two questions, OK.
JOURNALIST: Related. So you are confirming that you are not going to sign this CFMEU pledge to not stand in the way of Adani. I just want to get clarity on that. And Mr Beers, you did sign this pledge. Why did you do that, and should Bill Shorten sign it?

SHORTEN: First of all on the pledge, no I am not going to sign it. But you can deduce from that nothing other than I am not going to sign a pledge. We’re very clear. For us, resources projects have to stack up scientifically and they have to stack up without requiring taxpayer money. That’s how we think. That is our policy.
But I, for one, am happy if I’ve got local candidates who are backing the strong views of their community. To be fair to Zac at this stage in his career he is not running for Prime Minister, although he has got excellent talent as I think you are already seeing. I’m running for Prime Minister of Australia. The thing which is really annoying Australians is short term politics. You go this way and that way. Well that is not for me. What we will do is adhere to the law, no sovereign risk, back the science.

BEERS: In relation to the pledge, I’m not sure how many people have actually read the pledge. But it talks about the very issues I just spoke about. It talks about our commitment to support mining projects that stack up environmentally and financially.
It talks about our commitment to end the misuse of casual labour and the misuse of labour hire and make sure we restore fairness to the industrial relations landscape. So these are issues that are at the heart of our values here in central Queensland. So I have no issue signing the pledge. And Bill’s position has been clear on this stuff all along, so he doesn’t need to reiterate that.
From my perspective I signed that pledge because it reflects the views of the people that I represent. I will fight every day to make sure that workers in central Queensland start getting a fair go. When we stand up, taking on multinationals like Glencore. The LNP, let’s be clear, when workers that were locked out at Oaky North went down to Canberra, the LNP laughed and mocked those workers, workers that were locked out of their workplace. I’ll stand up for those sorts of workers every day of the week to make sure they start getting a fair go and the pledged I signed reflects that values.

JOURNALIST: The ACTU wants to see the minimum wage rise by $50 a week. Is that the sort of increase you want to see?

SHORTEN: I will get Brendan to supplement the answer. We are not going to pick a final number but I will state this. The current adult wage for an adult is too low. It is too low. So we do want to see a rise. Under the Liberals we’re experiencing massive wage stagnation. The last thing this government wants to do is talk about wages. But this election is a referendum on the cost of living and of course wage stagnation.
Of course the ACTU wants to see a movement in the minimum wage and an improvement in the wages situation. Let me remind you of some numbers which Australian households know very well. And I want to say to the Australian people today – I understand the costs of child care have increased massively. I understand the cost of going to see the doctor, the out of pockets, has increased. I understand that energy prices have gone up. I understand that wages are standing still or going backwards in the case of cuts to penalty rates and other sectors of the economy. I understand that people are dipping into their household savings to make ends meet. That’s why Labor has a wages policy. It’s a gaping hole in the government’s re-election campaign that they do not have a wages policy. Mathias Cormann, the  
right-hand numbers man of Mr Morrison, the current Prime Minister, made it very clear that low wages are part of the economic architecture of this government. If you want to keep low wages in Australia and you want to keep wages stagnant and if you want to keep falling behind cost of living, then this government has got a plan for you but if you want to get ahead in life, this government hasn’t got a plan. Over to Brendan.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Just to supplement that answer by Bill. Look I think the ACTU have every right to put a case on behalf of workers in this country. We don’t agree with the amount that they have proposed because we believe that the independent umpire should, having listened to all the arguments, decide the outcome.
But what we have decided in relation to a living wage, firstly, is we’ve said we’ll elevate cost of living as a factor to be considered by the independent umpire because the last Fair Work decision on the National Wage Review last year, made clear that we have in this country, a relatively wealthy country, full-time workers that are still struggling to make ends meet. Actually below the poverty line in terms of income. That is unacceptable to Labor. That’s why we’ve made very clear we want to see a real wage increase and we want to see the minimum wage in this country be a living wage. Now, I think that’s very, very – I think it’s the right way to go. We fully respect the ACTU and, for that matter, employers to put their views. But we are clear on our view and that is a real wage increase.
We made a submission this year, a real wage increase for 2.2 million award employees, we want to see that. That’s why yesterday Bill made very clear that an incoming Labor Government, if we’re elected, if we’re lucky enough to be elected – and we want to be elected of course – will use the full weight and authority of the Commonwealth to make clear that it’s about time Australians got a real pay increase.

JOURNALIST: How do you expect small businesses to cope with the costs that you’re loading them up with, with these increases?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, we’ve always made clear that whatever outcome occurs should be after consultation and negotiation with business including small business.
You would think from the government’s hysteria about giving workers a wage rise this is the first time in the history of the nation there has ever been a wage rise. The problem is that in the past there used to be regular wage rises. Now it’s stalled. Small business survived in the past. Isn’t it about time we called out the sort of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Scott Morrison nonsense that if you give a worker a decent wage somehow it’s the end of our economy as we know it? Rubbish.
When it comes to small business let me just say this. We’re a much better deal for Australian small business. I noticed today the government’s reheated last year’s leftovers where they boldly told you all today a policy they announced last November and said, “Hey, presto, it’s new.” It’s not. They actually said it last year. They’re selling you last week’s newspaper as this week’s fish and chip wrappers. But what Labor is going to do is we’ve matched that policy last year, so that’s great, no difference there.
But we are billions of dollars better for small business because we are introducing the Australian Investment Guarantee. It means that any business in Australia, big or small, if they want to invest in productive new capital and technology, they can claim an extra 20 per cent on the first day they purchase it. Port buys a new crane, that’s an expensive undertaking. So they weigh up the cost-benefit. Under our proposals, 20 per cent extra you can deduct on tax. That’s worth $3.8 billion over the next four years.
Now we think that’s worth helping business in, including small business, because what we get, what the taxpayer gets for giving that deduction to business is that they see a productive investment. When you add that on, the fact that we have matched the government on lowering the tax rate for small business, we’ve matched the government on the instant asset write-off, and when you look how in different sectors, from dairy farmers to mechanics, we’ve got specifically calibrated policies to help small business. What we say to small business is don’t believe the government’s scare campaign, look at the detail of our promises. The other thing I would say in favour of modest and meaningful wage rises is what that actually means is that the customers of small business have more money to spend in the small businesses.

JOURNALIST:  Can I ask you a question about costs because costs have started to become a theme of the press conference. We don’t have an answer to the cost for small businesses when it comes to lifting wages because we don’t know how much you would like to lift wages. Small businesses and businesses at large don’t have an answer as to how much they are going to be hit to meet your emissions reduction target. When will we start to learn a little bit more about your electric vehicle target and the cost to households and businesses there?

SHORTEN: OK let’s go through each of those three points very briefly. There is a cost to Australian business when wage earners are experiencing wage stagnation. It means a decline in confidence. So there is an absolute negative cost. If working people in this country are not getting reasonable wage rises they stop spending money because they don’t have it. That is the cost, confidence.
Now you went on to talk about climate, as I thought you might. So Mr Warwick McKibbin – I don’t know if he is still in Africa on his safari, but he published an article in the Australian Financial Review today. And he makes it very clear that the debate about cost, a specific mythical number which I advised you of last week, he said it isn’t the main game.
What he said to do is you have got to compare the cost of not taking action on climate change in 2030 with the cost of taking climate action. And what he said is have a look at the detailed policies. Labor’s got policies. So let’s once and for all, and McKibbin himself, has put a stake into that argument. It’s the wrong question. Now we want to talk about electric – you asked three questions, I’ll just go to your third one and then I will share the joy with everyone else.
On electric vehicles we are not mandating. If you don’t want to buy an electric vehicle in 2030, don’t. But what we are saying is we know that the rest of the world are building more car models with electric engines. We know that they are not putting the same investment into internal combustion. So let’s just kill off this scare campaign once and for all. Labor doesn’t mind what car you drive. But what I do mind is if we have got a government, a climate-denying, stuck in the past, technophobic government afraid of new technology denying Australians new car models and cheaper options in terms of petrol and maintenance which we see from this.
And while we are on the issue of scare campaigns I want to call out the latest bit of rubbish from the government lie machine. And that is the so-called death tax. There is actually only one leader who has never ruled out a death tax and that is the current Prime Minister. We know that this fellow, the current Prime Minister, he loves to get on the high moral ground, but then what he does is he behaves in the exact opposite manner, with no skerrick of truth. Labor has never had any plan for a death tax under my leadership nor does it have any plan for a death tax. But what this fellow wants to do is he knows it is a lie, he is intentionally telling a lie, but the old ad man doesn’t care. So we will call out the ridiculous propaganda.
And the other thing is, the other scare campaign is the Greens. Look at the Greens running around saying they are going to tell Labor what to do. My party is 120 years old. We are the party who looks and focuses on working and middle class Australians. We are not going to take a lecture from the Green political party whoever since they have come on the scene has put the cause of environmental change back because they take it to the extreme margins. We are the only party focussed on getting a sustainable environment but making sure that working and middle class people don’t get left behind.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Greens, they want to end coal mining by 2030. Some in Queensland would say that is an extreme policy. Would you be willing to preference them below the Coalition?

SHORTEN: First of all it’s a silly policy and it’s a policy that isn’t going to happen. In terms of the Greens, what I say to them next time they catch a tram – trams run on steel. Steel is made through a process of using metallurgical coal. I don’t think they quite know sometimes where it all comes from. But that shouldn’t be used as an argument, that should not be used as an argument not to take action on climate change. And I do think that we need to actually move towards more renewable energy in our system.
We’ve got to deal with the fact that we have got a government who are climate deniers. And you have got some of the extreme Greens who think that you can, you know, change the world on just the click of a finger. Thanks everyone. I should say I am going to address the workers now. The port has been very good to get them to stop to listen to us. I’ve no doubt they have found this terribly informative and you are all welcome to come to the meeting which we are having with the workers. Thank you.