Subjects: Future of manufacturing in Australia; National Broadband Network; Opinion polls; Asylum seeker policy; Constitutional recognition of local government; Labor Party reform; Royal Baby
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I am very pleased to be here today with Paul Bastian, the National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
I’ve just addressed their national council, and the AMWU, as representatives of the manufacturing workforce including the vehicle division, printing, right throughout the manufacturing sector, represents workers on the shop floor.
Australia needs a future in manufacturing. Labor believes that the jobs and economic growth generated by manufacturing need to have a bright future.
In order to do that, we need to ensure that there is Government support and that we work with businesses and with employees on developing that growth for Australian manufacturing.
Australia must continue to be a country that makes things.
We need to be a diverse economy that supports jobs, particularly as they change. We know that there has been a lot of pressure due to the high Australian dollar on Australian manufacturing.
So in part manufacturing has been under pressure due to the success of the Australian economy. In order to ensure that that growth occurs, it doesn’t mean standing still, it means taking opportunities which innovation brings.
Opportunities such as will occur through the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network that will ensure Australian manufacturing businesses can engage, not just with other businesses throughout the Australian economy, but can engage and compete globally.
We know that Australia has always been a generator of great ideas. We need to make sure that we add value, that we retain that value here in Australia and that we secure the benefit that can come from mobilising those ideas into reality. And part of that is the National Broadband Network.
That is why, since I have taken on this portfolio, I’ve met with companies such as Keech in Bendigo, and a company I met with just in the last week in Rosebery in Sydney where I launched, along with the Australian Industry Group, the NBN support for Australian manufacturing kit.
What that is is a $500,000 grant to AIG to work with small and medium enterprises so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that high speed broadband will bring to their businesses.
Australian manufacturing has changed. These days you’re as likely to see a computer as you are any other form of equipment on the shop floor.
What that means is that the NBN will play a critical role, not just in terms of downloads but more importantly in terms of uploads of files that are required, particularly for complex manufacturing tasks.
Today is an opportunity to talk to people who work on the shop floor, who actually deliver things for the Australian economy, who are proud trade unionists, who are proud of the work and contribution that they make for the national economy.
PAUL BASTIAN: Thanks Anthony. For us it is pretty simple in manufacturing.
We have over a million workers and families who work and depend on manufacturing in this country.
We were very pleased to see the Prime Minister, when taking office, recognise how important it is to have a diverse economy, underpinned by a viable growing manufacturing sector.
We have been doing it tough in manufacturing and when manufacturing is doing it tough, what you need is a Government that is prepared to intervene in the market, and put the right policies in place to help our manufacturing sector transition to a high economy.
We have seen that with the Labor Government, who has put $1 billion on the table for the Australian Jobs plan.
We have to contrast that with the Opposition who is prepared to cut $500 million out of the auto sector, has no vision or plan that we can discern for manufacturing, and is prepared to let the market rip rather than help its manufacturing sector transition to a high cost economy.
The focus of late has been on simply cutting workers’ wages and conditions. That is the low road.
That leads us down a dead-end path.
The Prime Minister rightly recognised that the way to lift productivity in this country, the way to boost manufacturing in this country is for investments in skills, training, education, work force development, work place organisation, innovation, but most importantly engaging your workforce to help you solve the problems and to build the innovation we need to have a strong viable manufacturing sector in this country.
That is the difference our members face. It is a pretty easy choice in my view.
If we are talking about jobs and about the future of manufacturing, only Labor will deliver that for our members, the one million workers in manufacturing and their families.
QUESTION: I want to clear up, because you said the Internet speeds would be close to 1000Mbps. Isn’t it closer to 100?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it is 1000Mbps. It is 1000Mbps under the NBN, it is 1000.
What the alternative ‘fraudband’ plan is, is 25Mbps guaranteed, perhaps up to 100Mbps, and no mention of upload speeds, which under the NBN is 400Mbps.
That is absolutely critical in terms of the difference for whether it is possible in manufacturing in particular to send complex files.
Nowadays Keech engineering, when I met with them in Bendigo, if they want to order a new screw from the United States, from a supplier, these days rather than that being mailed through, it is a file that comes through. It is a file that comes through.
It is something that I don’t think the conservatives understand.
The people who work on the shop floor in there, the AMWU members, they understand it, the employers understand it, the Australian Industry Group understands it, and that is why we need this approach.
This morning I have been out at Strathfield turning on the NBN to homes and businesses in Strathfield and Homebush. There is a lot of small to medium enterprises, particularly around the Homebush area, that will benefit enormously from the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.
QUESTION: Labor’s support has slipped in the polls. Is the honeymoon over?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Labor is in a competitive position in the polls. Whether polls go up a point or down a point is neither here nor there.
What we are focused on is the national interest.
We are focused on our plan for the future, our plan that recognises that we need a Government that can unite Australia, not divide Australia. A Government that is prepared to work with unions and employers in the national interest.
Tomorrow I will be at another meeting with the ACTU and the Business Council of Australia, together with the leadership group of the Government, again sitting down and talking through how we can improve competitiveness of the Australian economy.
That’s the way forward.
The Opposition just have a plan to say no to everything, and in particular, even over the issue that we’ve seen in terms of dealing with the asylum seeker issue and stopping the tragedies that have occurred at sea, is Tony Abbott out there – not acting in the national interest, but trying to act in his own political interest.
He’s consciously trying to undermine the message that the Government is sending to people smugglers to desist from their trade that has resulted in too many tragedies with loss of life at sea.
And too much risk being taken by naval and customs personnel engaged to the north and north-west of the Australian coastline.
Tony Abbott’s irresponsible actions show yet again that he is simply unfit to be the Prime Minister of this nation.
And as we go towards the election later this year, I am very confident that what is starting to occur – which is Tony Abbott starting to be held to account for his policies, including ripping $500 million from the Australian auto industry and the loss of jobs that would create – will continue to occur.
A party with a plan for the future versus an Opposition with just relentless negativity.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister has flagged more policy changes before the election [inaudible]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: If the Prime Minister flags them and I announce them, then they wouldn’t be flagged anymore. Good try.
QUESTION: Are you comfortable with the PNG and asylum seeker policy?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m absolutely comfortable with ensuring that people do not die at sea.
I’m absolutely comfortable with a policy that is aimed at doing this; aimed at stopping people getting on boats. Aimed at ensuring that the 20,000 people who are found to be refugees, and giving consideration to potentially moving that up to 27,000, who have been shown to be genuine refugees who are today sitting in camps in the region, in Africa or in other parts of the world and can come to Australia and make a new life.
Without risking their lives and without having to engage with people smugglers. That is the objective here.
The objective isn’t that people who come by boat will be settled in PNG. The end objective is that people don’t come by boats; that is the objective. And in order to deal with the refugee question we need to address those issues.
QUESTION: On the local government referendum, will that be held on the same day as an election?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course it depends when the election is held. The Government is committed to this.
And I’m conscious of someone from a network who asked me last week about the local government referendum and when it could be held. And they tweeted out that I had announced that the election wouldn’t be held before a certain date.
They then had to correct their error. So I want to be very clear.
The election will be held on a Saturday. It will be held in accordance with the Constitution, and therefore there are a number of dates on which it could be held.
The local government referendum cannot be held before 14 September.
QUESTION: You said during your speech that you’d like to see more party reform. What changes would you like to see?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I am on the record since I was on the organisational review committee chaired by Bob Hogg in 1989 that reported to the 1991 conference, the centenary conference of the great Australian Labor Party.
So you can find speeches of mine that go back decades, and they are pretty consistent; they are about empowering members.
They are about giving members votes in areas such delegates to conferences, and other areas that we have implemented. The national presidency, of course we implemented successfully a few years ago.
We’ve had, in terms of a trial pre-elections here in New South Wales, there have been some community pre-selections trialled.
New South Wales branch have said they will trial a number of those in the lead up to the next state election. I think that’s a worthy thing of consideration.
But we did a pretty big reform yesterday. Now any further reforms will be a matter for the ALP national conference.
What we want to do – and young people in particular demand – is the party must reform so that it’s not a matter of every third Wednesday of the month going to a hall in Marrickville, hearing a report from a local councillor, and that’s where the engagement stops.
What we need to do is use social media, use new forms to encourage participation of the membership. The membership demands that. They want more from their membership than just handing out how to votes.
And in being able to have a vote for the leader of the Labor Party, that is a very historic reform and is consistent with what’s happening in parties of the left and the right all around the world, and increasingly I think that direct democracy is a very important component of party reform.
But there will be a debate that takes place. That debate will take place after the election about any further reforms.
Our task is to get through the election and to ensure that the reform agenda of the Labor Government – including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s absolute commitment that there is a future for Australian manufacturing – all of that is further reason why it is worthy to campaign for the re-election of the Labor Government later this year.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. Caucus is a master of its own destiny. Caucus has made an overwhelming decision yesterday and it is something that has been spoken about for some time.
As I said this was suggested as part of the review way back in 1991.
What we’ve had is enormous support. We have had over 1500 new members – 400 in Victoria, over 1000 between Queensland and New South Wales and membership in WA is increasing substantially as well – so we’ve had people joining the Labor Party.
We’ve had people re-joining the Labor Party, saying ‘you value our membership, that sends a signal to us that we want to participate’.
QUESTION: Do you have a message for the baby Prince?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s a fantastic day. The greatest day of my life was when my son was born, and all best wishes go to Prince William and the Duchess, Kate.
They would be very excited and I think it is a great day regardless of what your position is. I’m very much a republican. But that should not stop anyone from celebrating today. It’s a great day for them and their family.
Australians have a great deal of affection for the Royal Family, particularly Queen Elizabeth, and that is as it should be.
This is a celebration of an event in England that we can all be much happier about than we were by a couple of recent test matches.
So there is enough good news coming from England. We want to now see some good news for Australia in the final three tests.
Thanks very much.