WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Visit to Queensland; manufacturing; climate change; Labor’s policy agenda; industrial relations; insecure work; a Future Made in Australia; electric vehicles; net zero by 2050; Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan.
JANE HUNTER, TRITIUM CEO: Thanks for coming everyone. It's really fantastic to have you here today. This is Tritium factory. We've also got an R&D and test facility two minutes across the road here in Murarrie. And we're so pleased to have with us here today our local member, Terri Butler, Jim Chalmers and, of course, the Opposition Leader, Mr Albanese. Thanks so much for joining us here today. And this is a phenomenal story about an Australian company that exports 90 per cent of our products overseas and sells 10 per cent in here in Australia and New Zealand and creates jobs here in Australia. So, we've got 100 jobs here in this factory and more to come. We've got 90 engineers across the road and 250 jobs locally and 350 globally. Terri, I will hand over to you.
TERRI BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well, thanks. It’s so great to be here at Tritium just based in my electorate of Griffith. It's always wonderful to visit and see what's happening here with this local success story that's creating Australian jobs. And, of course, if you care about secure Australian jobs, Anthony Albanese and Labor are on your side. So it's also wonderful to welcome to the electorate our really wonderful Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, and our Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers. Let me just say to the company, thanks so much for having us. It's been wonderful.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks Terri. And thanks to Tritium for having us at your place again today. Really a remarkable Australian success story. And what it tells us really is this, the type of jobs that we create in this country will go a long way to determining what kind of recovery we have from the deepest, most damaging recession in almost a century. We still have in this country two million people who can't find a job or enough work. And we've still got stagnant wages. Places like Tritium, they are a part of the solution to this jobs challenge that we have in this country. We want to see more secure, well-paid jobs with fairer conditions. And Australia really has a choice right now as we come out of this recession and into the recovery. We've really got two options. Under Anthony and Labor, more secure jobs with better pay and fairer conditions. Or, under the Liberals and Nationals, more cuts to pay, more cuts to super and less secure work. So the country's got a choice that they have to make about the future of our economy, how we recover, what kind of recovery we have from this recession and whether or not we can have secure, well-paid jobs and fairer conditions at the core of that recovery. We're on the side of people who want to work hard and get ahead and provide for their families. And we don't want to see people left behind. That's why secure jobs, better pay, fairer conditions are so important to us here in Queensland and around the country. There are opportunities in Queensland for working families to grasp. But what they really need is a Federal Government on their side. They don't have one of those right now. We're working very, very hard to change that. And that's why it's been so terrific to have Anthony Albanese here this week in Queensland, talking to workers, talking to businesses about how we create those jobs that we want to make this the kind of recovery where people can get ahead and not left behind.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Jim. And it has been terrific to be here in Queensland this week talking about job security, talking about better wages and talking about fairer conditions for working people. This company based here in Queensland is a great Australian success story. And I want to thank Jane and Trevor and their team for welcoming us at Tritium today. This is a company that I mentioned in my Budget Reply last year when I spoke about a Future Made in Australia. What this company shows is that we can be the best in the world, not just compete with the rest of the world. We can create high value jobs in manufacturing right here. This company has shown leadership and, over 20 years, is now the world leader. We're exporting EV technology to Europe, to the United States and North America, to the world. And what they have produced here through research, development, right through to manufacturing, the best product in the world. They have, with their liquid cooling technology, a unique product, a product that's better than anything produced in Europe or in North America. It shows how good Australia can be if we commercialise our science, if we commercialise the capacity of our innovation. But we haven't always been good at it. This company is. And what we need to do is to replicate that. If we do that, then we will be a successful country into the 21st century. I said also in my Budget Reply, we can be a renewable energy superpower. Here in Queensland there's enormous prospects for jobs growth. And that's been the focus of my visit here, telling Queenslanders that I'm on your side, telling Queensland workers when it comes to job security that I'm on your side, telling Queensland businesses, like the one here today, I'm on your side. I want to back business to create jobs. Good, secure jobs. That's what's happening here. This company is growing, growing substantially. And what we need to do is to make sure that we replicate that right around the country so that we have a growing economy, so that we have secure jobs with good wages, good conditions. So that here, for example, the 91 people who are engineers working at this one company, for example, right through to the people assembling the product here and then exporting it to the world. This is a great national asset. And you can be very proud of what you've achieved here. This is a bit of vision. It also shows first mover advantage. We can't just sit back and say the world isn't changing. We need to be prepared to engage with business, make sure that we take advantage of the opportunities that are there. Here in Queensland, that's happening. And that's a great thing. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: How can you help a company like this, directly help a company like this?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact that there's 90 per cent of their product being exported is a great success story. But, of course, it also says something about the failure here in Australia to take up the opportunities that are there. Every car manufacturer in the world isn't looking at the internal combustion engine, they're looking at new technology. That's just a fact. And we need to embrace it. We spoke upstairs about when price parity will come in, for example, with electric vehicles compared with petrol engines. That's expected to be around about 2022. Technology, whether it's the phone that is in your hand now or the sort of cameras that are filming this press conference, whether it be electric vehicles, a Harley-Davidson motorbike, electric charged. If you said that 10 years ago, or indeed if you said that during the last election campaign with the sort of ridiculous scare campaign run by the Coalition, then you would have been shocked by this. But the fact is that human ingenuity advances our quality of life. The trick is to make sure that working conditions go with that so that everyone has inclusive growth, so that we all benefit, so that we don't create more inequality in society. That's why we need industrial relations reform that keeps up with the changes in technology, that keeps up with the way that we live our lives, so that everyone has a stake in our growth as an economy, everyone has a stake in an Australia that is looking towards the future, taking advantage of the opportunities, being the best in the world. This company shows we can be the best in the world. Because this company is the best in the world right now.
JOURNALIST: There's been talk of emissions targets. Labor's committed to a net emissions by 2050. Would Labor, if elected, commit to legislating that target as it's been done in New Zealand?
ALBANESE: Well, you can't have a target unless it is legislated. Unless it is legislated, it's an aspiration, it's a theory. And it's quite absurd, frankly, the debate, or the so-called debate, that some of the media are engaging in at the moment. I keep getting questions about the detail of the Coalition's target that isn't there. They don't have one. The National Farmers' Federation have one. The Business Council of Australia have one. Every state and territory have one. The rest of the world, all our major trading partners, have one. Everyone except for the Coalition. Scott Morrison is increasingly isolated on this issue. And when you look at the crab walk away from his climate denialism, then what we have is just all smirk and mirrors. Until there's actually a bit of substance, then we don't have anything to respond to when it comes to the Coalition policy. And he should be held to account for the fact that we are falling behind and that they've been prepared to play politics such as they have with these issues rather than actually tell the truth to the Australian people about what we need to do to be successful economy and create jobs in the future.
JOURNALIST: It's clear that you think that framing the election around industrial reform will give you the best chance of victory. On emissions, would you consider subsidising electric vehicles if elected?
ALBANESE: Well, in my opening statement I spoke about the fact that we're going to have price parity. The question isn't that. The question is whether down the track any government is going to subsidise petrol vehicles. Because you're going to have price parity by 2022. The world is changing. And one of the areas in which it's changing is the fact that every producer of motor vehicles, and we don't have producers here because the Coalition Government basically told them to go away, is what they did. They told them to go away. This Government, led by Scott Morrison, told car manufacturers, essentially dared them, to leave. The fact is that where there is auto-manufacturing, whether it be in Germany, or France, or Japan, or Korea, they are looking at new technology. And Australia needs to recognise that. This company recognises that. They've got ahead of the curve. They've got first mover advantage. And they're a great success.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor look at subsidising the purchase of these cars in line with solar?
ALBANESE: Well, you don't need to subsidise. Very soon, 2022, which is when the next election is due, by the way, we will have price parity. Part of the problem here, of course, is that the cheaper EVs aren't available because there's not a market, because we've had a Government that have been prepared to run scare campaigns rather than actually look at how we roll out EV charging stations. Life is occurring in Europe with charging stations built right here in Brisbane.
JOURNALIST: Just on your IR changes that you are talking about tonight, the Federal Court judges have labelled the CFMEU as one of the most recidivist rule-breaking organisations in the land. Do you think by scrapping the ABCC, you're just aiding them to break the law more?
ALBANESE: Well, you have answered your own question. Federal Court judges uphold the law. The law should be upheld whenever it's broken by any business, by any union or anyone else.
JOURNALIST: But the ABCC has been integral to keeping them to account. Will you replace it with another organisation to perform that role?
ALBANESE: The ABCC have been involved in things like telling people they can't have stickers on their hard hats. That's what the ABCC have been involved with. That's what they've been involved with. The Federal Court that you quoted in your first question, you quoted Federal Court judges, you're right. The law applies. Courts have a role. When anyone breaks the law, then they should be subject to the full force of the law. I think it's very hard to argue that I've been anything but firm when it comes to inappropriate behaviour by anyone, including people in the trade union movement.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, what are your thoughts on the findings of the World Health Organization regarding the Wuhan report and the origins of COVID?
ALBANESE: I haven't seen the findings, just to be straight with you about it. We supported the World Health Organization being the body that should investigate. It is appropriate that that's occurred. And it is appropriate that people be held to account for what's happened, not just as a matter of looking back but as a matter of looking forward so that we make sure this doesn't happen again.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Australian Government is right in its job to lead the way into this investigation?
ALBANESE: I think there was always going to be an investigation into an outbreak that has seen millions of people lose their life and our entire world turned upside down.
JOURNALIST: Do you think we'll be able to rebuild our relationship with China now that this is kind of behind us?
ALBANESE: Well, we've had a constructive relationship with China in the past under Labor and Coalition governments. I proposed, a short time ago I wrote to Scott Morrison, and proposed that the Australian Government use the human capacity at our disposal in the form of Kevin Rudd and John Howard. We have an economic interest in repairing the relationship because jobs depend on them.
JOURNALIST: Expressions of interest began for Federal Labor seats on Monday night. Our former Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad, might be throwing her hat in the ring. What do you think of that?
ALBANESE: I've had no discussions with Jackie or anyone else about that process. It's not surprising that expressions of interest will be asked for. We will go through those processes. We will have candidates in the field. And I'm very confident that here in Queensland we will have an outstanding team. We've already got the quality. And two of them are standing behind me. What we need in Queensland is the quantity joining our caucus. And I've been here for the past week. I'll be back in Queensland time and time again campaigning with Queenslanders on the ground. I look forward to when we have candidates. But what I know is that I won't just come when there's a state election campaign, like Scott Morrison did, to raise money to do fundraisers, to campaign against Annastacia Palaszczuk and criticise Queenslanders for wanting to stay safe. That's what happened last year, including Scott Morrison choosing a fundraiser over having a National Cabinet meeting. What I will do is speak to Queenslanders each and every day. In Bundaberg yesterday, I enjoyed having a walk around that great regional town with Tom Smith, the newly elected local member. I was in Hervey Bay, I was in Maryborough, I've been in Cairns. I don't have my own plane, so I got to come back from Brisbane and go out again. But that's a good thing. I look forward to engaging. I love getting out and about and talking to people. Now we're not allowed to shake hands. But I don't have to worry about greeting people when I do a street walk or out and about. I take it as it comes. But the reception, can I say, has been extremely positive.
JOURNALIST: And will you visit a coal mine when you come back? It's a resource state and hires a lot of jobs.
ALBANESE: You'll see my itinerary. I'll be back in all sorts of workplaces and talk to all sorts of workers. I respect workers in Queensland, no matter where they work and what they do.
JOURNALIST: Back on industrial relations, with your proposed changes, are you expecting that some of the services might cost more?
ALBANESE: What I'm expecting is that the costs that is there now won't continue to be there. I'll tell you what the cost that is there now is. The cost that is there now is people being forced to work under conditions that are third world. A drive-down whereby people don't have a floor on what they are paid. Where workers, for example, bidding for NDIS contracts, someone says, 'I'll do that job for 100 bucks'. Someone else bids, 'I'll do it for 90'. Someone else says, 'I'll do it for 80'. Sound familiar? Work Choices. That's what Work Choices was. People bidding, individuals against each other, for work without a floor. What we're proposing is to have basic conditions that Australians know and understand they deserve. Minimum rates, decent things like leave and other things that Australian workers take for granted. The nature of our work has changed. And all Australians benefit from being able to get in a car through Uber, or get food delivered through the many food delivery services, get a job done at home through Airtasker. That shouldn't come at the cost of having people work under conditions which simply aren't liveable. And there's another issue as well, which is the cost of human lives. We actually saw lives lost. Why were lives lost at the end of last year? Because an algorithm tells you that you've got to get on your bike and you've got eight minutes to go from A to B when any sensible safe ride might take you 15. But that's how much you're going to get paid for it. That sort of pressure that is on these workers has literally led to the loss of lives last year. We're a better country than that. We're a fairer country than that. And I make no apologies for making sure that we deliver a change that reflects the modern economy.
JOURNALIST: The Australian Council of Social Services wants to tax the superannuation of retirees. Is it something Labor would do?
ALBANESE: We'll develop our own policy.
JOURNALIST: Given the gig economy workers are (inaudible), should we avoid using the technology like food delivery services?
ALBANESE: We're not against the technology. And we're not against people using the technology. Technology can make our lives more convenient. We understand that. But what we just need to do is to keep up the industrial relations system so that we get the benefits without people being in a situation that we saw lead to deaths on our roads. It's not complex, we should be able to do it. We're a better country than having two systems, people who work here, permanent jobs, good jobs, quality jobs that are satisfying. The workers here are really proud of what they achieve, from the CEO to the chairman of the board, down to the assembly worker on the factory line. They're proud of what they do, they can see it. But we need to make sure that we don't have that on the one hand and then a whole other class of Australians who are in insecure work, who aren't paid enough to be able to pay their rent, to be able to buy food and the essentials of life, that aren't paid enough to be able to plan a family and a future for themselves. And that's the danger that we're in. Growing inequality is not a good thing for the country. It undermines social cohesion. And it's something that should be addressed. And the industrial relations system and secure work, better wages and fairer conditions are what we're about.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about Greg Hunt posting a vaccine announcement featuring the Liberal Party logo?
ALBANESE: Well, it's again an abuse. It's an abuse. The vaccine is something that isn't a Liberal Party vaccine. See, if the Liberal Party is paying for vaccines, then they can post with Liberal Party logos on it. But if it's the Australian taxpayer then, quite frankly, it's an abuse. It's completely inappropriate. It's a breach of ministerial standards. And it's an outrage.
JOURNALIST: On the emissions legislation, if I can go back to it, you said it's important. Would you legislate it immediately? Would it be a priority like President Biden has done in the US?
ALBANESE: President Biden and the rest of the world have shown. Obviously, we will, when we come to Government, I'm not about saying on day one. The US system, of course, the President can sign a document and it becomes law and then it has to be ratified. It's a different system. Here in Australia, what we do and what I would do as Prime Minister is be measured, is consult, is issue drafts and go through it with people. You can't do things in day one in Australia. We could ratify the Kyoto Protocol on day one, and we did in 2007. And that was a very good thing that we did. Once again, I'll say this, as Prime Minister in a Labor Government, I wouldn't be excluded from an international conference the way that Scott Morrison was last year. I wouldn't be isolated sitting out there with the, quite frankly, absurd arguments which in Australia, I know, get some debate. The rest of the world looks at the sort of level of the debate that is happening here in Australia and just shakes their head. Because good action on climate change is also good economic policy. It's about creating jobs. It's about creating opportunity while we drive down emissions and lower energy prices. This company here is adapting to what we need to do and taking enormous advantage out of it. And this success story can be replicated right around the country.
JOURNALIST: How easy would it be for a coal miner to get a job in a place like this?
ALBANESE: I'm sure that a coal miner, in terms of their job, will continue to be a coal miner. That's a fact. But there are a range of jobs that will grow both in our cities and in our regions. I visited with Bob Katter, a couple of years ago now, his area looking at Big Kennedy, Little Kennedy, going to Hughenden. Go to a pub in Hughenden, as far away from west end as you could possibly get and talk to them about what they think about renewables. When they see renewables, they see jobs, their jobs.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). And if so, how can you do that without hurting the agriculture industry.
ALBANESE: The NFF support net zero by 2050. The NFF, last time I looked, represented farmers. The peak farming organisation is supporting net zero by 2050. Just like Australian Industry Group that would be the representative of this business here. Just like the Business Council of Australia is. Just like every state and territory government, BHP, just like Santos, just like Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank. The only group that aren't are the Coalition and the odd section of the media. Thanks very much.