11 October 2018

SUBJECTS: Population, temporary worker visas, infrastructure investment, internet and data regulation.
TOM CONNELL: Labor frontbencher Ed Husic is here in the studio with me for more. Ed Husic, thanks for your time.
CONNELL: Weve heard this before from Bill Shorten about 1.6 million workers in Australia on temporary visas, I should say, with work rights. What are we talking about specifically though? And what would Labor do? Limit the hours of some of those people, that they can work?
HUSIC: Well what were wanting to do is get more local people, weve got 700,000 Australians out of work, we have record underemployment, we want to be able to get jobs for people that are looking for work and ensure that work is more secure for those that are in work. And being able to make that happen is really important. And if youve got, obviously 1.6 nearly 2 million people here on temporary work visas, its about getting the balance right as well. So there is something to be said about taking a hard look at that and ensuring that more people get jobs who are looking for work that are here already.
CONNELL: So take a look at it, what does it mean for the biggest increase in this category, student visa? Because a lot of them if you said you cant work any more, they might not come here. And we know this is worth billions to the Australian economy.
HUSIC: And I said a few moments ago, weve got to get the balance right and youve got to be mindful of, in particular, some categories where that may have an impact. But again, we are talking about this in the context of a government announcement or a series of proposed, possible changes that they might make in the way they get people living in the country. And this is an important thing to consider because of labour markets themselves, where they sit, urban, regional, whether or not the jobs exist. And if jobs exist where its hard to get people into work how we are getting the balance right between locals being able to get work versus temporary work visas.
CONNELL: When we talk about those temporary work visas, is there any one category that strikes you as one that needs some reform? That isnt good for the economy, that people need to be restricted from working?
HUSIC: Well, again we have an area, particularly in my digital economy arena where we are relying a lot on people coming in from overseas to perform functions because the investment hasnt been made in skills development here by the Government in known skills shortages. That is why Labor has said we will set up the Australian Skills Authority to be able to go: ok who can we build skills up with in investment in education through TAFE or uni locally. And then having a balance there about who we bring in via temporary work visas or bringing in particular, again Labor has said bringing in a SMART visa targeting tech in particular to make sure we have the balance ring on local v international expertise.
CONNELL: Im going to move on to another couple of topics with you, but lets listen briefly to see if youre on the same page as Anthony Albanese. Hes talking about the same topic right now. Hes giving a news conference in Queensland.
[cuts to press conference with Albanese]
ALBANESE: 25 million people in July and we know that that is some two decades earlier than what was anticipated in Peter Costellos first intergenerational report. Urban congestion, population distribution, are issues which are challenges for our national economy. We know that urban congestion will cost, for example, according to Infrastructure Australia, some $53 billion by 2031 if it is not addressed. We also know that in terms of population distribution the concentration of new migrants moving to Sydney and Melbourne has placed a lot of pressure on liveability in those cities and also in southeast Queensland. But good policy should require a response that goes over many terms and goes beyond one political party being in office. Thats why Bill Shortens suggestion to Scott Morrison should have been taken up, to look at settlement policy, to look at urban congestion, to look at infrastructure issues. To look at issues including labour market issues, and whether were doing enough to ensure that when jobs are available, whether in regional Australia or in our capital cities, theyre filled first by Australians, where that is possible. And that training for future job opportunities is ensuring that young Australians can fulfil the jobs of the future. I find it somewhat ironic that a government that when it came into office cut funding for the Brisbane Cross River Rail project, which it still refuses to fund
[cuts back to studio]
CONNELL: Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese. Now the other part about this of course is the congestion side of things. Is Sydney just about full?
HUSIC: Well I notice that Alan Tudge says that this is a congestion-busting, this is the phrase that they use all time, move. Which is instead of actually getting the movement issues addressed in our big cities they just move people outside of them. In my part of western Sydney, just bear this in mind, theres $10 billion already going into Sydney, but none of it is going on congestion-busting. Its going on one project the airport. Theres no new motorway investment, no investment to basically de-clog public transport in our area, to improve access to public transport in our area. The Government needs to looks seriously at what investment it is making in urban infrastructure that will get people moving, instead of just going oh well if we move people out into other areas and create new problems beyond the major cities and then just dust off their hands. Thats not a fair dinkum approach.
CONNELL: Is anything coming for your area from the Federal Labor party perhaps in the coming election?
HUSIC: Well one of the things I certainly as a parliamentarian in western Sydney am pushing for the investment in the M9 motorway that will run parallel to the M7, looking a new ways of opening up new corridors for public transport on existing motorways as well and the challenge of decongesting the western line of the Sydney railway network, which is huge. These are things that I think need to be seriously looked at. Obviously well look at the broader plan when it actually, the details get announced by the government and there is some value in boosting populations beyond our cities, but we dont want this to be a thought bubble with no serious or hard yakka behind it in making it a reality.
CONNELL: Okay. Now the Communications Minister has been saying were at a turning point in the online realm, I know youre very interested in this area, that it cant be an ungoverned space, do you agree?
HUSIC: Yes, the Communications Minister who gave a speech on Internet regulation and cant even get it up online, his own speech. It is an exciting time. You cant even find his speech online, which is interesting, you know, in and of itself.
CONNELL: Maybe theyre putting it up eventually; a few of these news conferences sometimes take a while to post.
HUSIC: Well, he certainly managed to, well it was a speech he delivered to the Sydney Institute last night. It was advertised in advance and it is some fairly big issues covered in it. Youd think that hed be able to work out the interweb to get it posted on there. But putting that aside, it hasnt been an ungoverned space per say, like, people have recognised that, you know, in the online world more and more issues like defamation for example, weve seen increasingly regulation dealing with it. And what were seeing here in the Government is catch up. I mean weve been arguing as a Labor opposition on issues like artificial intelligence, we need to get our act together. Weve been saying that for over a year. On the issue of data use by big players, social media giants, I mean Ive had interviews with David Speers where we talked about this earlier in the year, post Cambridge Analytica, getting this happening as well. Working out on data, for example, we have so many government bureaucracies involved in data, no strategy on maximising the value to the economy and community about the way data is used in this country. See very little of that. And some of the things where the Communications Minister could actually get his act together, safe harbours, for example, and internet. You know, he hasnt even been able to deliver on. But if they are talking about doing that and if they are talking more about recognising how to manage this issue, good on them, but boy its taken them a long time to get here.
CONNELL: Okay. There was a specific part of this put forward by Keith Pitt who said that he was concerned how anonymous you can be, for example, on Facebook and on Twitter. People can just start an account and just start flinging invective, basically. Would it be a good idea to make people actually, you know, you cant be anonymous in everyday life, that you cant be anonymous online on all these very major social media platforms?
HUSIC: Well the number of anonymous leaks that have come out of the Coalition party room its interesting to see a Coalition MP wanting less anonymity on online. But the reality is this is something that, you know, the internet has been grappling with for 30 years.
CONNELL: What do you think of that though? I mean, you quit Twitter because of a lot of these people, right?
HUSIC: I just figured it wasnt a place, I mean, the issue is
CONNELL: But the anonymity helps breed that real anger, surely?
HUSIC: Yes and no. I mean, this is the thing about online communities is, its been grappling for some time about the tone thats created, not just, I mean Twitter has amplified it, but its been something dealing with, for ages. You know, I would rather them work out for example, you know, other than having a sort of thought bubble that, Keith Pitts come up with on the Internet when hes discovered its existence. You know, dealing with, for example, how we treat data in the economy, the respect for data by government and business. The way that we can use data to better inform public policy and see better outcomes for people, make it work, make the tech work for people. Its a tool for people rather than an end in itself. These type of things, I think, you know, governments need to get their act together on it. And, and weve seen with this Government, it takes ages for them to move on these big issues.
CONNELL: Weve got to leave it there because another one of your colleagues is interrupting you. This is Mark Butler, Shadow Environment and Energy Minister.
HUSIC: Fantastic, hes always got a lot of good stuff to say.