THURSDAY, 21 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to create the jobs of the future: Investing in STEM; Labor’s plan for coding in schools; Budget 2015; Multinational Tax; Climate Change; Tony Abbott’s plan to increase the price of prescription drugs
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everyone. It’s fantastic just to have visited Google to look at the jobs of the future, to see some of Australia’s smartest young minds competing with the world and bringing great opportunity to Australia’s shores through working here and their inventiveness. I am here today with my shadow spokespeople on these matters including Jason Clare and Ed Husic.
Last Thursday, I declared that Labor believes that the next election should be fought about jobs; in particular policies which will see jobs in the future come to Australia – high-skilled job, smart jobs. That is why last Thursday night, I said and Labor believes that we should be teaching our children in schools how to code, computational thinking, the ability to use computers to understand and have the skills which will make them employable across the world in this country. I also proposed that we should be doing something about the shortage in science and engineering and computer graduates in this country. Currently, Australia is only educating 4,000 computer students at university level and undergraduate, each year Australian kids. That is simply not going to be enough for the future jobs which Australians want their children to have. We also want to have scholarships to help our teachers retrain and we want more support to make sure that our best and brightest scientific minds actually go back into teaching.
Labor proposed last Thursday night greater support for start-up an innovation and greater support for small business. Labor fundamentally believes that we need to be having a discussion in our Budget and nationally about the next 15 years not the next opinion poll. People want to know where the jobs of the future are coming from and only Labor has a plan for our young people to grasp the jobs of the future.
I might ask Jason Clare to add some further words in terms of this important area.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thanks Bill. Bill is right, this all about jobs, it’s about making sure our kids have is the skills they need for the jobs of the future. What we are seeing at the moment is a long-term decline in the number of low-skilled jobs and that is set to continue as well as an increase in high skilled job, particularly a need by employers for people with science, technology, engineers and maths skills. 75 per cent of the jobs being created right now require STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and maths skills – and we are not producing enough people with those skills. We have seen over the last 10 years two-thirds decline in the number of students graduating with IT skills from our universities. Over the last 20 years there’s been a 30 per cent decline in the number of students studying advanced maths at our schools and compared to the rest of the world we are falling behind.
All of that will mean we either need to import more skilled workers into Australia or those jobs and all of that work goes overseas. Bill, that is why what you announced last week is so important, making sure that we have the work force for the future, with the skills that we need for the future, and that starts not at university, not at high school but at primary school, making sure our kids have got the skills they need. That is why teaching coding and computational think at primary school is so important. It’s what is happening in the UK, it is what’s happening in the US and it is what is happening in Asia. It was in the draft curriculum but Christopher Pyne took it out of the curriculum. Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey have said it needs to go back in but they have done nothing about it. Bill Shorten will make it happen. Labor will make this happen and in order to make sure that we have got the skilled work force we need for the jobs of the future, we need a Labor Government led by Bill Shorten to make it happen.
ED HUSIC, MEMBER FOR CHIFLEY: Thanks Bill and Jason, just building on that, Australia does have fantastic talent here. We saw it today here at Google. Google’s backed that talent in by recruiting a lot of skilled young Australians and bringing them in locally. But the other best sign of the talent we’ve got is 20,000 Australians living and working around Silicon Valley. That is a huge thumbs up for the skills that we have got but the thing is, it puts pressure on us locally because if we want to see our local digital economy grow and innovation drive economic activity, we need talent here. The type of things that Bill announced is putting in place the long-term investment that is required to make sure that if we want our economy to grow, we have got people here to drive it and we also need the money to back the ideas as well which is another component of what Bill spoke about in his Budget reply speech which has been so warmly received by the start-up sector because they know that on those two fronts, talent and capital, we have a big job to do. The Government’s not investing any energy, effort or resources into it and Labor is basically driving the agenda here because of the absence of leadership by the Abbott Government.
SHORTEN: Thanks Ed, thanks Jason. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister a short time ago said that Australia would not accept any of the Burmese refugees. Does Labor support that position?
SHORTEN: I haven’t seen precisely what the Prime Minister has said. But let me restate Labor’s principles in this matter – Labor supports regional resettlement, there is no change in that. We certainly do.
But where there is an unfolding humanitarian crisis in south-east Asia, Tony Abbott’s ‘not my problem approach’ is disappointing. There’s no doubt there’s terrible violence happening in parts which are affecting the Rohingya people. I believe this Government should at least engage with our South-East Asian neighbours but in terms of regional resettlement, Labor remains convinced that is the right way to go.
JOURNALIST: You’re against multinationals avoiding tax. Do you think Google has been rorting the Australian tax system and if so by how much?
SHORTEN: First of all, the person who has had the thought bubble about Google tax was Joe Hockey. Remember Joe Hockey who is proven to saying something one day and contradicting it the next day. He said he was going to have a Google tax, he was absolutely committed to that. Now he has dropped the Google tax. You will find it hard to find any reference from them on it. What Labor believes when it comes to multinationals is we believe in well-costed, sensible proposals consistent with global best practice. Labor does believe that multinationals should be paying their fair share in Australia but it’s only Labor who has put up a costed proposal, a real proposal to tackle the laws to make sure that no-one thinks that Australia’s tax laws are a soft touch. So when it comes to actually taking sensible costed policies, which are help the bottom line which will help Australian taxpayers, Labor’s got the only policies in place and all we get from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey is a thought bubble for the day, so hopefully they can move people along to forget they said something the next day.
JOURNALIST: How much do you think Google is rorting?
SHORTEN: Well you’re making the allegation that Google’s rorting. If you have any particular information that you think that a law is being broken, you know, that’s a matter for the tax office, I don’t have that same information that your question assumes. What I’m here about today is recognising that Google is helping Australian industry and Australian innovation, be put on the global map. The people I met working here today at Google are some of the smartest young minds in Australia. What I’m saying today is that the Labor Party is a party focused on the future, not just the next opinion poll. We’re about making sure that all Australian kids in the future have jobs, jobs and services, jobs in the computer industry, jobs in the advanced services and advanced manufacturing. All we hear from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey is short-term thinking about saving their own jobs, and they haven’t even got a costed proposal to deal with multinationals. If you look carefully at what they said about multinationals in the Budget, it was a series of asterisks, they don’t even know what they would collect.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor prepare to look at changes to the Citizenship Act. Today there’s a story in one of the papers suggesting that second generation Australians who are caught supporting a terror group could be stripped of their citizenship.
SHORTEN: Labor fundamentally wants to see a bipartisan approach when it comes to national security and that’s been our record. But we’re not going to start jumping off and making a running commentary on proposals we haven’t seen. Labor believes that anyone who’s gone overseas to fight in these conflicts has broken the law, and if they come back to Australia they should feel the full force of the law. When it comes to specific hypotheticals though, we’ll wait till we see the laws before forming our final position, but we’ll do so from the principals of ensuring our national security and the people who break the law should face the full force of the law.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott has spoken about Labor bringing back a carbon tax. Will you be doing that?
SHORTEN: Everyone knows that Tony Abbott wants to go back to what he perceives as his glory days, the 2013 Election, but the Labor Party’s moved on from there and Tony Abbott’s very frustrated by that. My colleague yesterday Chris Bowen made it clear that a mining tax is not on our agenda. We are not going to reintroduce the carbon tax that Tony Abbott wants to have a false argument about, we’re simply not going to do that. But when it comes to tackling climate change, unlike Tony Abbott, we’re not climate change sceptics. We think it’s real and we think that we do need to work hard to restrict the growth of our emissions and lower our emissions from carbon over time.
What we’re interested in is the future. We’re interested in what works. We are not going to be a political party who wants to stick their head in the stand and pretend that climate change is not real like large parts of Tony Abbott’s party. What Australians want is they want a plan for the future. We are articulating a plan for the smart jobs of the future so our kids get ahead. We have and will continue to articulate propositions around tackling climate change in the most effective way possible. But we’re not going to do is let Tony Abbott reduce everything to dumb it down to three word slogans. Australians want more from their politics than that, so when Tony Abbott just wants to say this or that he’s simply lying about what Labor’s going to. We’ve made it clear what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do and we’ll continue to roll out our policies before the next election.
JOURNALIST: But does that include a price on carbon, will that be part of your election platform?
SHORTEN: We all know that under Tony Abbott’s Direct Action policies, your taxes, the taxes you pay – I hate to break it to you – are paying a price for carbon right now. So when Tony Abbott says that somehow he’s not doing a price on carbon – what do you think the hundreds of millions of dollars, the billions of dollars he’s spending on the big polluters not to pollute, where do you think that’s coming from? That’s coming from taxpayers, there is a price on carbon. The joke is in, Tony Abbott would like to pretend there isn’t. If Tony Abbott is paying our taxes to large polluters to make them, to encourage them not to pollute as much carbon into the atmosphere as they’ve been doing, that means you’re paying a price on carbon.
But what we’ve made very clear is we won’t go back to the high fixed price system, we will not do that. And we’ve made it clear also on his other scare campaigns, his other scare campaigns, because at the end of the day that’s all Tony Abbott offers Australians – fear. He wants Australians afraid of the future. He wants Australians to think that it’s all too hard, the rest of the world. Well the Labor Party’s different to that. We’re going to stand up for the jobs of the future, we’re going to take real action on climate change.
And if you want to talk about damage done to the mining industry, has anyone heard of Tony Abbott’s iron ore inquiry today? Last Friday, you know, he’s having a paly chat with Alan Jones and I think Alan Jones asked him about the iron ore inquiry or matters to that effect, and there’s Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia says last Friday, oh yes, I think an iron ore inquiry, you know it’s a great idea, great idea. That’s what he was saying, now today he’s in complete retreat on that because it’s a dumb idea Tony Abbott. The idea that he can, you know, try and pick favourites in the iron ore industry in Australia, damage our international reputation. Tony Abbott only ever thinks about the next sentence, the next grab, the next opinion poll and he’s certainly not thinking about the future of Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: So just to clarify, Labor would consider a floating price on carbon, a market, some sort of market based mechanism?
SHORTEN: Labor is a party who believes in markets but just to clarify, if you want to do something about climate change you’d vote Labor at the next election. You certainly wouldn’t trust this current mob, they don’t even believe in it, at least large parts of the Liberal party don’t even believe in it, and in the meantime, they’re paying your taxes to big polluters, that’s a price on carbon.
JOURNALIST: The Government’s pushing on with plans to raise the price of medicines. Will you be helping them get those changes through Parliament?
SHORTEN: Well there’s a fair bit in that question. One specific proposition which is in the Parliament, and that’s the most straight forward to answer, because we see what the Liberals are doing, is they want to increase the price of prescription drugs and that proposal’s in the Senate. We will not be doing that. We do not want to see extra pressures on the cost of living of families. I mean this Budget, this Budget of Tony Abbott, there’s $2 billion of hidden cuts to health and aged care in this Budget. Labor says that we will vote for what is fair, we will vote for things to create jobs in the future, but we will not vote for things that are unfair. The Liberal Party in the last couple of weeks has discovered the word fairness, they’re throwing it around like it’s going out of fashion, but they don’t understand what fairness means. If Tony Abbott really gets fairness, he’ll drop his unfair changes to family payments, he’ll drop his $100,000 degrees. He’ll drop his price increases to prescription drugs currently in the Senate. That’s fairness.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of these focus groups that have been done in the Herald suggesting that both you and Tony Abbott lack leadership qualities when it comes to voters thinking?
SHORTEN: Well I think what’s important and I think what voters, and you don’t need a focus group to tell you this, what voters want is they want a plan for the future. They want to hear both political parties outline what they think’s important in the future, important to Australians, and then they want to know what you’re going to do about getting there. We’ve articulated the start of a plan for the jobs of the future. The truth of the matter is, whilst there will be a shortage of unskilled jobs in the world in the next 10 and 15 years, there will be not be shortage of skilled jobs. The challenge therefore is to make sure that Australians have the skills that they need, young Australians and Australians already working, have the skills to adapt to change. Australians are interested in housing affordability, they’re interested in climate change, they’re interested in making sure that they’ve got good infrastructure in their cities. Australia’s are a lot smarter than Tony Abbott’s last Budget gives them credit for. Australians want to know what the plan for the future is and that’s what we’re doing by being here at Google today, we are talking about the jobs of the future.
JOURNALIST: But voters seem to be suggesting in these polls that Labor and you as Leader would not bring a level of stability to Government?
SHORTEN: Well, the good news for Australian voters is at the Budget Reply speech we gave we didn’t play the sort of political short-term games of the Budget. What we said is what matters is good infrastructure, what matters is giving our young people the skills for the future. What matters is building confidence in the Australian economy. We all know that Tony Abbott’s Budget’s built upon last year’s unfairness, rebadged this year. We know it’s built upon relying upon bracket creep whereby ordinary Australians incomes are lifted by inflation into higher tax brackets and then you have the lazy hand of inflation taking extra taxes, that’s what Joe Hockey’s secretly hoping for. And we also know that they’ve done nothing to address the long-term drivers of Australia’s future – jobs and skills.
JOURNALIST: You said voters have movedon, you just said voters have moved on from the election but this poll, this focus group rather would suggest otherwise. Are you saying that, you know, there’s not that stability in the past and is that haunting you?
SHORTEN: I give a lot of credit to the Australian voters. The Australians I meet want to know why Tony Abbott’s persisting with $100,000 degrees. They want to know why the Government’s persisting with cuts to family payments where people earning $60,000 a year are going to see family payments, where they have children, cut to up to $6,000 a year. They want to know why this Government has $2 billion in hidden cuts to health and aged care. At the same time they say where is the plan for the future? Well we’re saying there is a plan for the future. Let’s make sure our kids have got the skills they need so that when they leave school they can get the jobs of the future. We’re saying let’s do more to educate our children when they go to university, let’s do more to back up our teachers so they’ve got the skills they need. Let’s do more about our infrastructure and take the short-term politics out of it. Let’s drop this irrational prejudice of the Coalition and the Liberal’s against public transport in our large cities. The mining boom is over and what we need to do is make sure that we have advanced manufacturing, that we’re providing the services and the workforce for the service industries of the future. The debate in Australia and Australian politics shouldn’t be about saving Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey’s job. It should be who’s got the best plan for the future and that’s the competition which Labor is very, very keen to be in. Last question thanks.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten we’re at Google today and Google have been quite vocal about the Government’s anti-piracy website blocking regime which is, the legislation has been introduced before Parliament. I’m curious as to whether Labor will be supporting it and whether they support the idea of cracking down on piracy in principle?
SHORTEN: Well what I’ll do is I’ll also give, fortunately enough I’ve got some of my key spokespeople here on that topic, but just let me give a couple of basic points first. On one hand we want artists and actors to gain some benefit from their work and the piracy takes that away from the people who work in this industry, the actors and the artists and the producers and the technical people who produce our films. By the same token I think there’s a big challenge as well for the large production houses overseas to make sure that Australians see product in a timely fashion and at a reasonable cost. Labor will get the balance right because we’re in touch with what people actually want but we also respect the arguments against piracy and we’re determined to avoid piracy as well. But I might pass over to Jason and to Ed.
CLARE: Thanks Bill and thanks Ben, it’s an important question. The key way to reduce piracy is to make sure that content is available to Australians quicker and cheaper and that’s why I’ve always said that a key part of reducing piracy is about making sure that Australians can get what they want, when they want to watch it. So Netflix and Stan and Presto, things like Spotify and Pandora are all important, they’ll reduce the amount of piracy. Now specifically to the legislation, there’s a parliamentary committee that’s looking into this, we’re waiting for that report to finalise its recommendations. I expect it’s going to identify a number of problems in that legislation that are going to need to be considered and addressed so we’ll wait until we get that final report before we announce a final position.
HUSIC: Look, I’ve been on the record for a while saying that rights holders have lived under an old model where they’ve been able to slice up the world into regional fiefdoms and price and access accordingly. They’ve rightly focused on piracy but they also need to spend as much energy on developing a better way for Australians to get product at better prices. I think in terms of the bill itself, it’s important that we do say very clearly as a nation that piracy does cost artists, it costs them a lot of money and undermines the value that they’ve created in terms of their creative work. But at the same time what I think would be really good to see is that rights holders, as this bill’s being debated, make the very public declaration that when we are able to see headway in reducing piracy that there’ll also be a corresponding move to bring in products that are priced fairer and made more accessible.
SHORTEN: Alright thanks everyone, see you a bit later.