TUESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Visit to Queensland; manufacturing; Queensland tourism industry; COVID-19 affecting tourism sector; climate change; JobKeeper; Labor’s policy agenda; industrial relations; insecure work; COVID vaccine rollout; ports; Aussies stranded overseas.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM, LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: It is great to be back in Maryborough with the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese. It is great to have the Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and two fantastic state MPs in Bruce Saunders and Adrian Tantari and Mayor Seymour who's just standing over the back. This is the second time I've been here with Anthony Albanese. And it's always impressive to see the number of apprentices that have got work here, the effort that the state government and the state member have put in. You can just begin to imagine what could happen with a place like this if you had a Federal Government that was as committed to manufacturing and rail manufacturing as the state government was. And it's so pleasing that Anthony Albanese, as Federal Labor Leader, has put that as a really important plank of his plans for the future. As part of that effort in Queensland, we've also got the Shadow Treasurer with us today. Jim's the senior Shadow out of Queensland. And I'd now like to introduce him to say a few words as well. Thanks, Jim.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Senator Chisholm. Look, this place here is what we're all about. Secure, well-paid jobs and apprenticeships in every corner of Australia. That's what Labor under Anthony Albanese is all about. We are on the side of people who want to work hard, provide for their families and get ahead. And that's what Downer here in Maryborough is all about as well. If we want the national economy to recover strongly, then regional Queensland needs to be a big part of that story. If we want a future made in Australia, then regional Queensland needs to get a slice of the action. There is no decent recovery in this country unless we get those secure and well-paid jobs. It's not a recovery if all we're getting is more of that insecure work, all of that precarious work and stagnant wages, which has defined the last eight years under this Liberal National Government. So we're on the side of people who want to work hard, get ahead and provide for their loved ones. We want to see more secure, well-paid jobs. It beggars belief, frankly, in an economy which is defined by insecure work and stagnant wages, that Scott Morrison wants to cut people's pay and make work less secure. That's what the contest is going to be all about here in regional Queensland and all around Australia. We are on the side of workers like these. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg and those characters, they want to see people paid less with less secure work. And we won't cop that.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Jim. And it is great to be back here in Maryborough. And it's been a great privilege today to talk to the workers here at the Downer EDI site. Workers who have secure, well-paid jobs. What a secure, well-paid job does is enables you to get a mortgage, it enables you to plan to have a family, it enables you to have that certainty in life that is so important for people. But increasingly we're seeing this as being the exception here in Australia. Increasingly we're seeing a rise in insecure work, in casual work, in the use of labour hire to undercut wages. What we see here is generations of workers who've worked at this site that has proudly produced rail manufacturing for more than 150 years. So the welcome that we've received here today and talking to those workers has once again reinforced my strong view that what we need to do is to have secure work at the heart of what the next Labor Government stands for. We are on the workers' side here when it comes to secure work. What this Government has proposed is to get rid of the Better Off Overall Test in its industrial relations legislation. That's because they don't want workers to be better off overall. It's a pretty simple equation. What they've done is preside over a further increase in casualisation of work and more insecure work. Now, they want to cut wages, they want to cut superannuation, as well as cutting JobKeeper and cutting JobSeeker. Well, Australia deserves better. Australia deserves a Government where we are on their side. The side of working Australians getting secure work, just like the Australians who work at this site do. And in particular, the 42 apprentices who work on this site, that is skills for Australia. And it's so short-sighted that Coalition Governments have consistently offshored manufacturing, bought trains overseas that with every single case, whether it be New South Wales, or whether it Queensland, have had to come back here and be retrofitted because they're not fit-for-purpose. That's not on. It doesn't make sense. We need to prioritise Australian jobs and Australian skills. Happy to take questions.
ALBANESE: Well, the Government have made commitments about the rollout of the COVID vaccine. They said that it would commence in mid-February. We're pretty close to mid-February right now. And what we know is that they do have to be held to account for the commitments that they made. But this is a Government that's always big on promises, big on advertising, big on marketing. Not always good on delivery. But we will be holding them to account.
ALBANESE: Well, the Government hasn't committed, of course, anything. It's quite preposterous that this Government's having a debate about what should be excluded from a target that they haven't adopted. This Government is falling behind the rest of the world. All of our major trading partners have adopted net zero emissions by 2050. They've done that because it's good for jobs as well as good for lowering emissions and lowering energy prices.
ALBANESE: Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This is Scotty from marketing creeping his way, bit by bit, to a target that he hasn't adopted. One of the problems with this Government is that Scott Morrison is all about smirk and mirrors. There's no actual target being adopted. And now there's a debate and conflict within his backbench over what might happen sometime in the future. This Government itself has made statements, whether it's Scott Morrison, or Angus Taylor, that the world would end if they adopted Labor's target which we have, a net zero emissions by 2050. It is typical of this Government that are always following, never leading. What they should be doing is providing leadership on these issues. Because what we know is it'll be good for jobs, good for lowering energy prices, as well as at the same time lowering emissions.
ALBANESE: Well, that's not a decision for me. That's a commercial decision that they have made.
ALBANESE: Well, this is a Government that has always been prepared to attack business when they don't like decisions that business have made, attack workers each and every day. These are commercial decisions. Newcastle Port plays a very important role in our national economy. I'm a big supporter of our port structures. And indeed, the former Labor Government had a national port strategy, one that's been abandoned by this Government.
ALBANESE: Well, what we know is that communities like Hervey Bay are doing it tough. The tourism sector is doing it tough in particular. So, whether it's Cairns or the Fraser Coast, and other parts of the beautiful state of Queensland, what tourism operators have said to me is they need support. We know that the revenues, that they had have dropped substantially. And yet the Government is prematurely withdrawing support. This is about jobs. And the reason why wage subsidies were a good idea and Labor advanced them, even when Scott Morrison said they were dangerous, is that wage subsidies keep those connections between an employer and their employees. And if you go into places like Hervey Bay, and other parts of Queensland that are so dependent upon the tourism sector, what you see is that the tourist boats that would normally be out there on the seas, travelling customers, producing jobs and economic activity, are tied up at the dock. What we need is a Government, a Federal Government, that actually supports the tourism sector, particularly here in Queensland. And what we had yesterday was Dan Tehan make a visit to Cairns and come empty-handed. No promises, no commitments. He came to hear that there's been a downturn in the tourism industry. Well, he didn't have to visit to know that. And what we have is that Scott Morrison would appear to only visit regional Queensland when there's a state election on and he wants to tell Queenslanders what to do in terms of Annastacia Palaszczuk when she was keeping Queenslanders safe. So, I think that the Government really needs to recognise what's happening here in Queensland and provide support. One more.
ALBANESE: Well, we need to develop long-term solutions. We need to engage with industry to ensure that a workforce is available. One of the things we don't have at the moment in Australia is proper workforce planning. And that was one of the first commitments that I made in Perth was to create Jobs and Skills Australia. Identify what jobs will be needed, when they'll be needed, how we make sure there's a workforce that's ready to do those tasks. If we do that, then Australia will be very prosperous in the future. At the same time, of course, the national Government is responsible for bringing Australians home. And there remain 40,000 Australians who are stranded overseas. And that's having a major impact on their lives. But it's also a big handbrake on our economy. Thanks very much.