Transcript: Media Event at St Albans Station with Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten MP

NATALIE SULEYMAN: Good afternoon to you all. My name is Natalie Suleyman and I’m the local State Member for St Albans. I’m here today at Main Road level crossing. What a fantastic investment we’ve seen from the Andrews Labor Government delivering on our election commitment to remove both Main Road and Furlong Road level crossing. I’m joined today by the Federal Labor Leader and of course, our local Member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, and of course Dianne Dejanovi, the mother of, unfortunately, the last person, Christian who died at this level crossing.

So I might pass on Bill Shorten for a few words. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Thanks very much Natalie. It’s great to be here with Natalie Suleyman, the State Labor Member for St Albans, and also my friend Dianne whose son, Christian, died at this level crossing. And in many ways, talking to the workers building this level crossing, this great separation, they got a lot out of meeting Dianne, because it reminds people that this important infrastructure, this job creating infrastructure, will also help save lives in the future too. So it’s great to be here with you, Dianne.

It’s been a busy week. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Australia. So it’s great to be back in my own electorate at St Albans, but talking about the same issues that I did in the Latrobe Valley on Monday, talking to power workers, talking about jobs, creating jobs, sustaining jobs, creating Australian jobs, sustaining Australian jobs.

On Tuesday, I was in Townsville, on Wednesday in Mackay, and yesterday I was in Sydney. Every day we’ve been talking about Labor’s commitment to improve the training and apprenticeship opportunities for young Australians, and every day this week we have been talking about closing the loopholes, closing the loop holes on the visa rorts to make sure that Australian workers are getting first priority when it comes to jobs in Australia.

Now Mr Turnbull has been critical this week, saying that somehow talking about putting Australian jobs first is not good economics. Well, he should travel with me and talk to working class and middle class Australians right across this marvellous country. They want their parliamentarians, their political leaders, to stand up for Australian jobs.

Labor’s talking about putting Aussie jobs first. Malcolm Turnbull is talking about putting the jobs of big business and big banks first, with a Donald Trump-style $50 billion corporate tax cut.

Last night, Mr Turnbull caught up with some of his friends from the big business end of town, and he decided to start talking about fairness, gave one of his trademark lectures to explain to everyone else in Australia what Malcolm Turnbull thinks is fair. Well, Mr Turnbull doesn’t understand fairness. Fairness is not cutting Medicare. Fairness is not complaining about the wages of construction workers. Fairness is not giving a $50 billion tax cut to big business. Mr Turnbull is seriously out of touch. He need to stand up for Australian jobs. He needs to work constructively with me to make sure that in Australia, we build Australian, we buy Australian and we employ Australian.

Happy to take questions, thank you.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says it is hard to avoid winners and losers in the short-term when dealing with economic reform. Is that acceptable as long as everyone benefits from long-term changes?

SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull, when he talks about winners and losers, he understands what he is talking about. Under Mr Turnbull, if you’re a millionaire, you will get a $17,000 tax cut. Under Mr Turnbull, if you’ve got a billion dollar business, you’re going to get a tax cut from Mr Turnbull. They’re Mr Turnbull’s winners: big banks, multinationals and millionaires. The problem is when Mr Turnbull talks about losers, that’s everyone else. His problem is that when he proposes who are losers, you talk about cutting Medicare, cutting wages and cutting family payments, and not standing up for Australian jobs.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Australia would become uncompetitive on the world stage if the UK and the US cut their company, cut their company tax cuts more than what the Federal Government’s proposing?

SHORTEN: I do not want Mr Turnbull to take Australia down the American path of low wages and a broken health care system. That may be Mr Turnbull’s vision for Australia, to become more like America. I believe in a different Australia. I believe in an Australia where young people can get an apprenticeship in a relevant trade. I believe in an Australia where it is your Medicare card, not your credit card. which affords you proper quality health care. I believe in an Australia where we look after working and middle class families. I believe in an Australia where the rising tide should lift all boats, not just the yachts.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Peter Dutton’s comments about Malcolm Fraser, he said that he made mistakes in his migration program?

SHORTEN: Well I have to say, Immigration has been part of the success of the Australian development. We’ve always got to make sure we get the balance right, we’ve got to get the right mix of skilled migrants and family reunion. But I think that Mr Dutton is trying to distract, having some discussion about bagging a former Liberal Prime Minister. What Mr Dutton and Mr Turnbull need to do is concentrate on Australian jobs. They are currently overseeing a temporary visa system which brings cheap labour in from overseas –

That’s running on time, that train.

Mr Dutton’s trying to distract from the story of this week, which is that he’s overseeing a visa system where people coming from overseas are exploited and ripped off, as we’ve seen reported in the media, and where Australian tradespeople tradespeople, unemployed Australians, are not getting the work opportunities that they should. In Australia, we shouldn’t be seeing a whole lot of guest workers coming in, doing the work of carpenters, doing the work of construction welders, doing the work of nurses in Australia. We’ve got Australians who can do that.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton are seriously out of touch. Why is it they won’t fight for Australian jobs?

JOURNALIST: Two union officials were arrested in Sydney last night in relation to some fraud offences. Would you say that this shows that there a corruption problem in the unions?

SHORTEN: I don’t know anything about that. But what I would say, so I haven’t seen that report, what I would say, is that Labor has zero tolerance for corruption, wherever it occurs. Unions, politics and big business.

But of course, what we need the Turnbull Government to do is start looking at not just unions but have a look at the conduct of big banks. I do not understand why Mr Turnbull is resisting having a Royal Commission into the conduct of banks and financial services.

We’ve seen tens of thousands of our fellow Australians repeatedly ripped off and let down. Mr Turnbull needs to make sure that when he is zealous about the law, he needs to be upholding the law, not just in terms of workers but in terms of big banks as well.

JOURNALIST: Are you still worried though that fraud is an issue within the union movement?

SHORTEN: Again, we’ve got zero tolerance for corruption. It makes me sick in the guts when we see it in unions, it makes me sick in the guts when I see it in the banks, and when I see it in any aspect of life. We don’t need to have anything other than zero tolerance. But I’ve got to say again to the Government, why are you so keen not to have a Royal Commission into the banks?

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government’s announced an inquiry into gang violence and particularly looking at Melbourne, there seems to be a bit wave of particularly young people involved in gang violence and a wave of crime. What are your thoughts on having this inquiry and do you think that there’s potential that this inquiry could lead to basically targeting or marginalising particular ethnic groups?

SHORTEN: Well I actually think there is an issue and I do support the federal inquiry, and Australians should be reassured that Liberal and Labor want to see a crackdown on gang crime. So I support what the Government is doing there. In terms of whether or not you categorise a whole ethnic group and cast aspersions on everyone, well you wouldn’t do that. I don’t think the Liberals are proposing that either. But I do recognise that ordinary people do feel scared. And that sometimes in the media we have a debate about the offender but not enough about the victim. And we’ve got to stand up and speak up for victims who have experienced the trauma of crime. That’s why this inquiry is important and whatever we can do to help the victims of crime is fundamental to keeping our community safe.

JOURNALIST: The former Deputy Defence Chief Peter Jennings says that the United States will now expect Australia to do more in the South China Sea, do you think that is acceptable?

SHORTEN: Well, there has been a lot of talk about what the American election means. I’m not going to start jumping at shadows. The American alliance between America and Australia has lasted 70 years. What I think is important out of the American election is, of course, understanding what happens when people feel that the political system is not working in the interests of ordinary people.

That is why we have taken the opportunity of the American election to repeat everything we have been saying before then about standing up for blue collar jobs, construction jobs, engineering jobs. There is nothing inappropriate or wrong, despite what Mr Turnbull says, in me fighting for Australian jobs and Australian workers getting priority for Australian jobs.

There is a problem in our visa system where we get overseas labour coming in, they’re getting exploited. They’re getting paid below proper pay rates and we’ve got unemployed Australians capable of doing the tasks. The mining boom, when everyone had a job, that was great four or five years ago. But that’s over now and Mr Turnbull has to realise that that is over, and now what we need to do is have a new set of rules which looks after Australian workers.

And yes, I am going say Australian blue collar workers, and Australian white collar workers. Engineers, manufacturing workers, construction workers, welders, carpenters, all of the important trades which this nation needs, jobs which can give our young people with apprenticeships greater hope.

Mr Turnbull’s got to start fighting for Australian jobs, not just the top end of town.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to businesses though who are struggling to find people to do some of these jobs in particular industries, they do find it quite difficult and they rely on people coming in from overseas to do these jobs. What do you say to those businesses?

SHORTEN: If a business is struggling to find an Australian carpenter, they’re not trying hard enough. If a business is struggling to find an Australian welder, they’re not trying hard enough. These people are here and ready to do the work. I’m not saying you never bring in people from overseas. Obviously if there’s bona fide skilled shortages, well then we’ve got to get the job done, no question. But what we also need to do is if Australian companies can’t find anyone in Australia to do the work, then we need to start training up our young people to be able to do the work.

One thing is for sure, the current visa system, presided by Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton, allocates over one million people from overseas with work rights in Australia. That’s right, over one million people currently from overseas have got permission to work here temporarily. When we have got so many of our Australian young unemployed, when we’ve got blue collar workers displaced by the mining boom not able to find work, something has to give.

I think it is what Australians expect of their parliamentarians. They expect us to buy Australian, to build Australian and to employ Australian. And that’s the Labor way.

Thanks everybody.

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