Sep 1, 2015

Transcript of press conference, Marrickville

Subjects: Australian shipping industry; Workchoices on Water; Deyson Heydon; Border Farce; Four Corners; Labor Party  

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining us. This is a government that we know puts out talking points about jobs and growth. What we know though, is its practice particularly with regard to shipping, is about destroying Australian jobs and destroying the Australian shipping industry.

As an island continent we rely upon having a strong shipping industry. It’s important for our national security, for our environment as well as for our economy. And yet the government has legislation before the parliament that would see foreign ships being able to operate around our Australian coast on the domestic freight task on a free for all with no preference for Australian flagged ships whatsoever.

What’s worse, is that those foreign ships that are given a free for all would be allowed to pay foreign wages. Cheaper shipping costs from those countries which allow flags of convenience on the back of ships, but also cheaper labour costs.

If you want to take freight from Sydney to Melbourne, there are a few options that you have. If you go down the Hume Highway, you have to use an Australian registered truck. You must have an Australian truck driver and pay Australian wages and conditions. Under this proposed system the competitor going down the coast on the blue highway will have a foreign ship paying foreign wage and conditions. And because of that, it will be impossible for the Australian flagged ships to compete with the foreign ships.

This is unilateral economic disarmament.

There is no industrialised country in the world that allows this to happen. In the land of the free market, the United States, if you want to take freight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you not only have to have a US flagged shipped, with US seafarers on board, but the ship has to be built in the United States.

That’s because they understand the important connection between the domestic shipping industry, the merchant fleet and their national security issues. For an island continent such as us, to simply give up the Australian flag and instead have what Tony Abbott wants, which is a white flag on Australian jobs, is simply unacceptable.

The Senate inquiry has exposed this. In a submission from the Intercontinental Shipping Group to this inquiry, Peter Cadwallader, Chairman of the company, he says this:

“As a long-time member of the Liberal Party (nearly 50 years) I am aware that the focus of Coalition policy is jobs and growth. Both of these objectives will be sacrificed by this Bill in direct contradiction of Coalition policy. I therefore urge you to scrap this Bill in its current form.”

That is symptomatic of the submissions that are before this Senate inquiry. If they won’t listen to Australian shippers, they should at least listen to people, who in this gentleman’s case, have a 50 year association with the Liberal Party, and scrap this terrible legislation which would see the end of an important Australian industry and the end of Australian jobs.

REPORTER: Mark Dreyfus has said that Labor will petition the Governor General to remove Dyson Heydon. Doesn’t this further muddy the reputation of the Royal Commission given that he’s handed down his judgement?

ALBANESE: This is a Royal Commission that has been muddied by its own actions. A Royal Commission that’s been muddied by circumstances such as the different treatment of Kathy Jackson from other trade unionists who’ve appeared before the Royal Commission. A Royal Commission in which the Royal Commissioner took more than a week to decide if there was a perception of political bias before handing down his decision yesterday.

We know that it’s a political exercise – that’s been shown for Australians to see and that’s why the Senate proposition that will be dealt with next week asking for the Governor General to intervene is an appropriate response.

REPORTER: We’ve read today that Border Force is building to 6000-strong members and this would result in doubling the number of armed personnel. We’ve already seen by Friday’s reaction to the operation that was planned for Melbourne that Australians don’t like Border Force. Why is Labor supporting this?

ALBANESE: We’ll have a look at what propositions are there, but can I say this about last Friday. Friday was extraordinary. It’s now of course, an orphan. Tony Abbott says he didn’t know anything about it. Peter Dutton says his office didn’t read the detail about the action that was proposed on the Friday, and the head of Border Force says that it was a junior officer that was involved in this.

What Australians know is that national security is important, but it is also important that national security not become a political issue, that it not be used to try to create fear in the community. And this is a government that was a shambles on Friday. This is a Minister who today has tried to blame the media for what occurred on Friday.

What occurred on Friday was a spontaneous action from people responding to the idea that people would be searched at random. I mean, what would the basis of those searches be? Who would be picked out to ask for their visas or not? We know that the greatest numbers of visa overstayers in this country are actually from the United Kingdom.

REPORTER: Isn’t this a sign of things to come, and why isn’t Labor standing up against it?

ALBANESE: The government has said itself, and this is a government without peer when it comes to leaks, that they want a different national security announcement every week between now and the federal election.

National security shouldn’t be treated as a political exercise by the Cabinet of Australia. Issues should be dealt with on their merits. We will deal with issues on their merits but I believe it’s appropriate when something like Friday happens, it’s called out for what it is. That’s precisely what Labor has done and that’s what I did last Friday.

REPORTER: Four Corners last night exposed wage rorting at 7-11s. But it was said in that program that the Government already knows about it, Fair Work already knows about it and nothing’s been done. What is Labor going to do about this?

ALBANESE: Australians will be asking themselves about a Royal Commission that’s supposed to be looking into industrial relations. What is the Royal Commission doing about employers engaged in this sort of conduct?

It is outrageous that people would be exploited in such a way, that the Four Corners program has exposed, and it’s important that the Government take up these issues. Labor will be pursuing these issues, as we always do. It is an extraordinary proposition that people could be working in this country without being paid and having to stand outside these stores that are making a lot of money for a select few.

There is a fundamental difference between Labor and our political opponents. Our political opponents see workers and working people as fair game, that it’s not their role to provide protection for them.

Labor sees that the government has a role in making sure that our industrial relations system is fair and that people aren’t exploited. It shouldn’t have taken the Four Corners program to expose this exploitation.

REPORTER: There was another profile of you in the weekend papers talking up your leadership potential. Would you like Bill Shorten’s job?

ALBANESE: We went through a process after the 2013 election. Bill Shorten was selected as the Leader. One of the things that I’ve always done – I did under Kevin Rudd, I did under Julia Gillard and I’m doing under Bill Shorten is to support the team and to make sure that we move forward in a way that maximises the potential to defeat this rotten Abbott Government.

I would rather be a minister in the Shorten Labor Government than the Leader of the Opposition. That’s the bottom line and I made that clear once again in the article that appeared on Saturday. Thank you.