SUBJECTS: Whakaari/White Island eruption; Queensland jobs; manufacturing jobs; National Rail Manufacturing strategy; ACCC digital platforms inquiry; nuclear power; renewable energy; UK election.
BRUCE SAUNDERS, STATE MEMBER FOR MARYBOROUGH: Well, good morning and welcome to the Downer Manufacturing plant here in Maryborough and it’s great to have the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese here, better known here in this area as Albo and across Australia. It’s great to have Albo here to talk to the workers and talk about the great rail plan that the Australian Labor Party federally have. It mirrors what the Queensland Government rail plan is to keep manufacturing plants like this alive in Australia and because I’m very biased when I say that the best trains in Australia, if not the world, are produced here in this manufacturing plant. And I’d just like now to welcome Albo to the Downer facility and get him to say a few words.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much Bruce. Firstly I just wanted to express my condolences to the family of the six Australians who have now been identified of the eight fatalities so far as a result of the New Zealand disaster. It’s difficult to lose a loved one at any time, just before Christmas makes it particularly difficult and I think all Australia’s sympathies goes to those families. May I say also that I want to pay tribute to the skills and bravery of those who have been involved in the aftermath of this disaster.
It is very pleasing to be here at Downer. Just a week ago they celebrated 150 years of manufacturing right here in Maryborough. What we have here is Australian jobs creating trains for Australians to travel on. And it’s something that can’t be taken for granted because one of the things this workshop is doing is retrofitting, fixing up the mistakes that were made, when we contracted out under the coalition State Government to India, to build trains. Even though it can be done right here in Queensland. We need to keep Australian jobs in Australia wherever possible and this plant has been doing that for 150 years. The fact that trains that aren’t fit for purpose now have to be retrofitted shows that the short termism that looks at cost cutting and sending jobs overseas ends up costing more as well as costing Australian jobs.
What we need is a National Rail Manufacturing strategy and we will take one to the next election, working with State and Territory Governments so that we smooth out the manufacturing cycle. That will enable investment from companies like Downer and others in rail to make sure that jobs are created in a consistent way and it will also assist them to boost in terms of apprentices because they will have that certainty of those long term contracts smoothing out the cycle and getting away from boom and bust.
I met with all the workers today, Ken. Ken has worked here for 45 years and his father worked here for 50 years. It just shows companies and businesses such as this here in Maryborough aren’t just about the trains, the steel, the natural assets that go into building trains, it’s about people. And the people here today were very welcoming, it was a great honour to meet people. We had the delegates from the unions here behind us as well, and they were certainly very conscious about the fact that Scott Morrison shoved through the Parliament, without a single word of debate, anti-union legislation just last week. I’d say to Scott Morrison, how about you come to a plant like this and actually talk to some workers about how important unions have been in terms of occupational health and safety, in terms of wages and conditions for working people here in regional Queensland. Here in Queensland, we have a Labor Government that’s committed to manufacturing jobs. I say to the Federal Government, you need to get onboard with creating manufacturing jobs right here in Queensland as well.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] are you satisfied with the Government’s response to the report into the interim platforms in particular claims for a voluntary code of conduct [inaudible]
ALBANESE: Well once again we have a Government that attacks working people and has very different attitudes towards the rights of trade unions and civil organisations than it does with corporate Australia. Here we have them saying “Oh please can you do the right thing?” They’ve got a report. They know that these issues have been around for a long while. And this Government doesn’t deal with future issues. Technology is making a huge difference to the worksites right around the country. To the way that we live our life, the way we work, the way we have our recreational activity, and the digital economy is moving far faster than this Government that’s stuck in neutral. It needs to actually respond with proper regulation.
JOURNALIST: Are you impressed with what you see here today Anthony?
ALBANESE: Oh look, this is, this is terrific. This is jobs being created right here, you have a range of apprentices, there are up to 17 per cen of jobs here are apprentices, training Australians for skill for the future. Good paid jobs, secure jobs. That’s what we want to do in regional Australia in particular. Regional Australia has a big advantage over our capital cities, which is that the overheads are less, so when we look a high value manufacturing, I see a real future for it in regional Queensland and the Federal Government should concentrate on that. What we have currently is Federal members around this region that seemed to be obsessed with nuclear power plants. Well I’d say to them, where will the nuclear power plants go? Because they need to be near water. How much will they cost? What is the construction time? How many emissions will be created during construction as well due to the nature of those power plants? This Government does not have a proper energy policy and this nuclear fantasy is just its latest thought bubble to avoid having a proper energy policy which would see clean energy expand because its renewables that are the cheapest form of energy right now in Australia.
JOURNALIST: So what was your response to their [inaudible] that there should be a nuclear power [inaudible]
ALBANESE: Well nuclear power does not stack up here in Australia. What it is is ideologically even ten years, people come up with this idea rather than actually listening to the market because what the markets are saying, and companies are saying, is that they want to invest in renewables. But they want that investment certainty to be able to do so. It’s what I heard throughout Queensland, it’s what we heard a Boyne Smelter, up in Gladstone, just yesterday is that renewables is the cheapest form of new energy. Combined with batteries, what we have is reliability is being looked after, the technology is getting better and better, it’s getting cheaper and cheaper. Nuclear power has never overcome the dangers that we have seen played out around the world time after time and this is a fantasy from the Government in order to avoid the real decisions that are needed of having a national energy policy that drives down emissions, drives down prices, and creates jobs.
JOURNALIST: Does this latest enquiry [inaudible] into the use of nuclear power [inaudible]
ALBANESE: Well they’re talking now as a result of this enquiry of actually spending more money promoting nuclear power. This is ideological from a Government that’s dominated by its right wing, holding it back from sensible common sense plans going forward. Australians are voting with their roofs, they’re putting solar panels on their roofs. They’re installing batteries. At the same time as the Government seems incapable of putting together an energy policy. This Government is defined by what it’s against not what it’s for and they were against our policy but they haven’t been able to settle on a policy, they’ve torn down two Prime Ministers, in Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. They’re now in their seventh year and still don’t have a policy.
JOURNALIST: On another matter, the UK exit polls the opinion polls say the Boris Johnson [inaudible] party would win the UK election. Why do you think that Labour has failed to win over the British voters?
ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and see what the outcomes are. The last exit poll I saw was in May and as I was told as I travelled to election night, I was told that Labor would have a, an absolute majority, so we’ll wait and see, and with voluntary voting in the UK as well will determine it. But essentially UK elections are a matter for the United Kingdom. I do know that they have had a difficult time, and they will have a difficult time going ahead with Brexit, with talk of a breakup of the union. These are challenging times but it’s up to the people of the UK to determine what form their Government takes.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.