Friday, 31 January 2014

Research highlights Abbott’s folly

Jan 30, 2014

Media Release

Anthony Albanese MP.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport

THE folly of Tony Abbott’s refusal to invest in public transport has been underlined by new research that finds investing in urban passenger rail would be the most cost-effective way to ease traffic congestion in Brisbane and Perth.
A study released today by the Australasian Railway Association finds that investing in passenger rail to attack congestion in Brisbane would be 57 per cent cheaper than investing in roads.
The study finds that for Perth, a rail solution would be 38 per cent cheaper than building more roads.
Labor believes in a properly integrated transport system incorporating all modes of transport – roads, railways, light rail and ferries.
But Mr Abbott refuses to invest a cent into urban rail and will fund only roads.
He has already axed fully funded Labor investments in Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link and the Melbourne Metro – decisions that will worsen traffic gridlock and inhibit economic and jobs growth in these cities.
It’s time Mr Abbott got over his senseless antipathy toward public transport and showed some leadership.
A forward-looking, holistic approach to urban transport will make life easier for residents while also boosting urban efficiency.
If Mr Abbott is serious about lifting economic growth and creating jobs, he must understand that transport – in all its forms – is a critical driver of economic productivity.
However, he seems more interested in attacking the ABC than he is in addressing issues that really matter to Australians, like public transport, health and education.
NOTE: A link to the Australasian Railways Association research can be found at:

Tony Abbott cabinet rejects $25m assistance plea from SPC Ardmona

Extract from The Guardian website:

Prime minister says parent company Coca-Cola Amatil has the resources to back company without need for taxpayer support

Tony Abbott has drawn a line in the sand concerning questions of industry assistance after his government rejected a plea from food processing company SPC Ardmona for a $25m grant to retool and modernise its business in Shepparton.
The rejection of SPC’s request came after a three-hour discussion by the federal cabinet on Thursday. Going into the talks, senior ministers were divided, and Liberal backbencher Sharman Stone – whose Murray constituency covers the factory – was campaigning publicly for the government to give SPC the cash.
Abbott used a press conference following the cabinet meeting to assert a definitional stance on “corporate welfare”.
Companies would not get handouts from the Coalition for costs they should be meeting for themselves. The prime minister said it was up to government to provide the policy conditions in which businesses could flourish, but it was up to businesses themselves to lead and fund their own transformations.
The industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, who stood up for SPC in the government’s internal deliberations, publicly echoed the prime minister’s line.
“This is a clear delineation of where this government thinks it needs to go with industry policy,” Macfarlane said on Thursday.
It fell to Macfarlane in the press conference to actually confirm the specific decision on SPC that Abbott had only hinted at in his opening remarks. It was the industry minister who said the request had been knocked back.
SPC – Australia’s last remaining fruit and vegetable processor – warned last year it would be forced to close if the government refused to proceed with the $25m grant promised by the former Labor government.
SPC’s parent company, Coca Cola Amatil, in a statement issued after the cabinet deliberations, said it was disappointed with the decision. It would now review SPC’s value, and write down assets including brands and goodwill, and make a further statement on the operation late in February.
Peter Kelly, managing director of SPC Ardmona said the decision would be a shock to food manufacturers in Australia. “This is an unexpected and extremely disappointing decision by the Coalition, particularly after the enormous support we have received for our business plans from the local community and beyond,” he said.
He issued a stark warning about the period ahead: “To build a sustainable and profitable business in Australia you need to innovate; to innovate you need to invest. Without investment some of Australia’s best loved packaged fruit and vegetables brands may disappear and consumers won’t have a choice to buy clean, green Australian packaged grown fruit at retailers.”
The two companies warned the federal knockback would put in jeopardy assistance from the Victorian government. It said its current investment plans were dependent on both the federal and state grants proceeding.
Coca-Cola Amatil group managing director Terry Davis said: “The government decision is disappointing in light of the fact that SPC Ardmona had presented to both the federal and Victorian governments a solid business case for a one-off co-investment of $25m each with CCA committing to a significant and much greater investment of more than $90m.”
The federal opposition blasted the decision. “By failing to support SPC Ardmona’s request for co-investment the government has effectively signed the death warrant on Australia’s last fresh fruit cannery, ensuring the destruction of thousands of jobs,” said the acting Labor leader, Tanya Plibersek.
“SPC Ardmona is an Australian icon that has prospered and employed generations of Australians for close to a century.”
Abbott attempted to put the ball back squarely in Coca Cola Amatil’s court. The parent company, Abbott reasoned, had the resources to stand behind the fruit processor, and was already in the process of transforming the business.
The prime minister rebuffed arguments from Stone about the negative impact on non-intervention in the Shepparton region. “Shepparton will continue to be a very dynamic town,” Abbott said.
Abbott pointed to a “necessary restructure” at the company to ensure its business remained viable, including the renegotiation of an enterprise agreement he said was overly generous. He said the government was supportive of that restructure.
The prime minister said companies protected jobs when they successfully restructured their businesses in line with prevailing economic conditions – and the government’s hands-off stance was aimed at maximising jobs in the long term.
Anticipating blowback over job losses, Abbott offered the following rationale. “This is a government which is committed to trying to maximise employment for the future. The best way to ensure that is the case is for business to lead the restructuring necessary to ensure companies like this have a future.”
Stone, in backing her local manufacturer, had raised the obvious contradiction between the Coalition positioning itself post-election as antithetical to corporate welfare, and promising chocolate maker Cadbury a bailout in Tasmania prior to the election.
Stone pointed out that Cadbury’s parent, like Coca Cola Amatil, was well resourced and profitable.
But Abbott claimed the two cases were “fundamentally different". He said SPC had asked for cash for activities that were part of the normal costs of running a business, whereas the grant for Cadbury was designed to boost Tasmanian tourism.
The Cadbury handout, he said, was “a pre-election commitment and an investment in tourism”.
Stone told the ABC after the cabinet decision that she was “shocked" and had a “sick feeling in the stomach”.
The Liberal backbencher objected to how Tony Abbott had framed the issue when announcing the decision. She said the transformational challenge facing SPC had nothing to do with workplace relations. “This is about cheap imported fruit. How can you compete?”
She said she was “praying” that the companies would stand behind the processing plant when the situation was clarified ultimately in late February. SPC workers who lost their jobs would not find re-employment in Shepparton, and would end up on welfare, Stone said. 

Abbott’s Davos Moment

Extract from The Global Mail website: 

You have one chance to speak to the world’s most powerful people. What do you say?

Picture the scene: A classroom in some little town, a bunch of kids in their middle years of schooling. A special visitor is coming today, the assistant manager of the local bank, to explain how the world economy works.
He speaks in short sentences and anodyne generalities.
An open-market economy is a good thing, he says, because “markets are the proven answer to the problem of scarcity”.
Markets mean trade, and trade requires profit, he says.
“And profit is not a dirty word – because success in business is something to be proud of,” says the assistant manager.
“A certain level of government spending is necessary and good,” he says.
But not too much, or you stifle economic growth.
“No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity,” intones the assistant manager, parroting a line he heard sometime during an election campaign.
He goes on, stating the bleeding obvious: “You can’t spend what you haven’t got.”
Furthermore: “You don’t address debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit.”
The assistant manager just keeps on rolling out the platitudes, albeit in an increasingly ideological vein.
“You can’t have strong communities without strong economies to sustain them, and you can’t have strong economies without profitable private businesses.
“Stronger economic growth is the key to addressing almost every global problem.
“Stronger growth requires lower, simpler and fairer taxes that don’t stifle business creativity.
“And stronger growth requires getting government spending under control so that taxes can come down; and reducing regulation so that productivity can rise.”

The point of the Economic Forum is to gather big people to consider big ideas. And Abbott’s audience in Davos heard not one thought-provoking utterance.

The class is now getting restive. Up the back a couple of the smarter kids, used to having more sophisticated conversation about politics and economics at the family dinner table, are whispering.
“Does this bloke think we’re simple or something?” says one.
“Either that, or he is,” snickers the other.
Now, let’s leave our imaginary scene, and go to the reality of this glib recitation. It was was not made to a group of Year Nine economics students by an assistant bank manager.
It was made to some of the world’s most important decision makers, gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott.
One can only guess at what the other attendees made of it.
Do you think Bill Gates, the world’s most successful entrepreneur, needed to hear the news that “profits are good”?
One doubts it. He might, however, have wondered at Abbott when he spoke about a “moral order” based on people learning “to honour their agreements and live in justice and charity with their neighbours”.
Charity? When Gates, the world’s biggest charitable giver, was in Australia in 2013, he lobbied for this rich country to increase its aid program to meet international benchmarks. Instead he has seen the Abbott government slash $650 million from this year’s aid budget.
As for honouring agreements, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, another Davos attendee, might well have wondered at how that sits with the Australian government’s apparent contempt for the refugee convention.
One suspects that Roberto AzevĂȘdo, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was not bowled over by Abbott’s news that “trade between countries increases wealth.”
He might, however, be keener to hear from British PM David Cameron, who comes to the meeting intent on discussing remedies for one of the unwelcome consequences of free trade, the offshoring of jobs.
He might also have thought Abbott a more substantive person had he even mentioned the need, acknowledged by the WTO, OECD and others, to address the shortcomings of the dispute-resolution processes within free-trade agreements, and their increasing abuse by corporations and, in particular, tobacco companies. Australia is, after all, currently defending one such abusive claim, made by Philip Morris against our cigarette plain-packaging laws.
And the many and varied economists present, such as, say, Dani Rodrik, a professor of social sciences at Princeton University, might have liked to hear at least some acknowledgement of the downside of globalisation – such as increased income inequality.

Do you think Bill Gates, the world’s most successful entrepreneur, needed to hear the news that “profits are good”?

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, would no doubt have been alive to the subtext of Abbott’s boast that his government is “streamlining environmental approvals and have already ticked off new projects worth over $400 billion”.
That is to say, his government is facilitating the mining of vast new coal deposits, which will inevitably result in greater climate change, not to mention threaten the Great Barrier Reef.
Other guests who have concerns for the environment, for example, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the the United Nations Environment Program, might also have had qualms over Abbott’s categorical pronouncement that “stronger economic growth is the key to addressing almost every global problem”.
The many and varied econocrats present, who had observed Australia’s successful, Keynesian response to the Global Financial Crisis – and who overwhelmingly congratulated us on it – must have been bemused by Abbott’s sudden descent into party-political criticism of it.
And were probably puzzled by his spruiking of other purely domestic policy matters including his personal favourite: the exceedingly generous paid-parental-leave scheme.
The point of the annual Economic Forum is to gather big people to consider big ideas. More than 30 heads of state are there, among the more than 2,600 global movers and shakers. And this Davos audience heard not one thought-provoking utterance from Australia’s Prime Minister in his 20-minute speech (simultaneously interpreted “in all languages”, according to the program), which purported to set out Australia’s agenda for the upcoming G20 meeting, which we are hosting.
Then again, one should consider the likelihood that Abbott did not consider the Davos crowd to be his real audience, and that instead his address was directed at those parts of the domestic audience who, like this government, think in slogans.
I am trying hard not to envision Bill Gates listening to Abbott’s speech and nudging the guy next to him – the Davos seating plan shows that to be Joe Cerrell, managing director, global policy and advocacy for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – and whispering:
“Does this bloke think we’re simple or something?”
And Cerrell’s reply: “Either that, or he is.”

Thursday, 30 January 2014

ABC, SBS review: Federal Government to launch efficiency study

Extract from ABC News website:

Updated 21 minutes ago
The Federal Government is set to launch a study into the efficiency of the operations of the ABC and SBS.
In a statement, the Department of Communications says it will examine operational costs as well as products and services in order to "increase efficiency and reduce expense".
The decision comes a day after Prime Minister Tony Abbott claimed the broadcaster was unpatriotic in its coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks and asylum seeker abuse claims.
Mr Peter Lewis, formerly a chief finance officer at Seven West Media Limited, will assist the department in its work.
In a statement, the Coalition Government says "it is a routine responsibility... to ensure that the ABC and SBS use public resources as efficiently as possible".
"The objective is to ensure ABC and SBS fulfil their charter responsibilities at least cost to the community, and keep pace with rapidly changing practices in the broadcasting sector," it added.
The study will not review the broadcasters' charters, or their editorial and programming decisions.
Mr Abbott has also questioned the ABC's newly established Fact Check unit, saying he wanted the corporation to focus on straight news gathering and reporting.
The Department will deliver its final report in April.

More to come.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Pete Seeger: Iconic US folk singer and activist dies in New York aged 94

Extract from the ABC News website:

Legendary American folk singer Pete Seeger, known for renditions of songs like If I Had A Hammer and Where Have All The Flowers Gone, has died at the age of 94, US media reported.
Seeger passed away in New York after being hospitalised for a week.
He is also known for popularising the hymn of the civil rights movement, We Shall Overcome.
His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the New York Times reported.
Seeger played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo.
He sang topical songs often mirroring the concerns of the American left, children's tunes, as well as anthems and often urged his audience to sing along.
Folk-rock band The Byrds had a number-one hit with a version of Seeger's song Turn! Turn! Turn! in 1965.
Seeger sang for the labour movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s.
He also intoned for environmental and anti-war causes in the 1970s and beyond.
He was a mentor to folk and topical singers in the '50s and '60s, among them Bob Dylan and Don McLean.
Bruce Springsteen drew on Seeger's work in his 2006 album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, from Seeger's repertoire of traditional music about turbulent American life.

At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Seeger's 90th birthday, Springsteen introduced him as "a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along", The Times said.

Solidarity Forever
Which side are you on
Talking Union
Union Maid

Newman Govt ‘weighs down’ Qld economy: Deloitte

Media Release

Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the respected Deloitte Access Economics Business Outlook has confirmed that the Queensland economy is still being ‘weighed down’ by the Newman Government’s program of cutting, slashing and selling.

Mr Pitt said the report, released today, was a sad indictment on the LNP’s management of the economy.
“The LNP promised Queensland economic progress, instead after almost two years in office they’re delivering lower growth and ABS figures have repeatedly confirmed they have not created a single additional full-time job for Queensland,” Mr Pitt said.
“This new Deloitte report is clear when it says that the Newman Government’s cuts, combined with cutbacks in the coal industry, were a ‘major negative for the State’s growth last financial year’."
“According to Deloitte it was only substantial gas development, especially in LNG, that allowed for growth to continue accelerating last financial year."

“These are projects initiated by the previous Government, not the LNP. So far the only major project the LNP can lay claim to is its indulgent new Executive Building in the Brisbane CBD."

“The Auditor-General has already shown the Executive Building and the LNP’s asset sale of seven office blocks to justify it will cost Queenslanders $2.6 billion over 10-15 years at the end of which taxpayers will not even own the building."

“Treasurer Tim Nicholls and the LNP have delivered lower economic growth, higher unemployment, and increased pressure on families through major electricity price increases, insurance tax grabs and new and increased fire levies."

“Despite saying they had concrete plans that would cut the cost of living, household bills are higher after two years of the LNP Government."

“The Newman Government’s failure on job creation is significant in that context because you can’t fight the cost of living if you don’t have a job."

“When Labor left office, growth was at 4% and unemployment at 5.5%. Today, under the LNP, growth is around 3% and unemployment near 6% despite the Premier promising to have it heading to 4%."

“The facts don’t lie. The LNP promised Queenslanders economic nirvana when in Opposition, but haven’t come close to delivering in Government.”


Media Release

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says regional Queensland communities will be hit hard if senior medical officers quit the public hospital system in the face of the Newman Government’s WorkChoices-style employment contracts.

“This is yet another example of the heavy-handed and arrogant approach of the Newman Government,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Health Minister Springborg should not be flying overseas this week. He should stay home and sort out this mess."

“Senior medical officers and visiting medical officers are essential to keep our public health system going, yet the LNP is recklessly risking forcing them out of the system with its heavy-handed individual employment contracts."

“SMOs and VMOs have said these contracts are unfair and unjust and many will prefer to leave the public hospital system rather than sign."

“That will have drastic impacts on patient care and safety as well as the calibre of future hospital staff given the role SMOs and VMOs play in training young medical professionals."

”It will also have more impact on regional communities because of the relative lack of alternative medical practitioners to fill vacant positions compared with Brisbane."

“It is further evidence of how the LNP doesn’t care about regional Queensland.”

Ms Palaszczuk said it had been the doctors themselves who had made the comparison with the former Howard Government’s unfair WorkChoices employment contracts.

“The contracts being forced on SMOs and VMOs enable their work conditions to be varied at the stroke of a pen after they sign,” she said.

“Doctors can have their work hours and wages varied after they sign a contract and the government can also change the key performance indicators they must meet."

“The LNP contracts also remove their access to the independent industrial umpire, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, and give the government the right to unilaterally sack SMOs.”

Small and medium businesses locked out of ‘direct action’, Coalition warned

Extract from The Guardian website:

Coalition’s emissions reduction fund is 'unlikely to be able to be accessed by small to medium enterprises for building upgrades and energy efficiency', according to Senate submission

The Abbott government has been told its signature "direct action" climate policy could lock small business out of funding to improve energy efficiency, and create broader risks for the economy in terms of growth, technological innovation and job creation.
The Coalition has also been warned explicitly that the success or otherwise of direct action is “co-dependent” on what other policies and regulations remain in place – particularly the renewable energy target (RET) that the prime minister has signalled could be wound back, or scrapped altogether.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – a financing body the Coalition wants to scrap along with Labor’s clean energy policy – has used its submission to a Senate inquiry into direct action to argue that successful greenhouse abatement requires both policy and regulatory certainty, and the right incentives to ensure emissions are reduced at the lowest possible cost.
The $10bn “green bank” says the proposed design of the Coalition’s emissions reduction fund – the centrepiece of direct action – “must address the challenges experienced by abatement project developers in obtaining upfront finance to implement abatement projects.”
“In particular, the proposed five-year forward contracts will be insufficient and may need to be for longer than five years’ duration to be effective in attracting the necessary finance for abatement projects,” it says.
The emissions reduction fund is due to start buying abatement from July this year.
The CEFC says the fund as foreshadowed is “unlikely to be able to be accessed by small to medium enterprises for building upgrades and energy efficiency” and this means the economy could forgo benefits including competitiveness, technological development, innovation and jobs growth.
It also says the efficacy of direct action in meeting its stated objectives depends on whether or not the large-scale renewable energy target and the small scale renewable energy schemes remain in place.
If the renewable energy target is gutted or goes, the government may not be able to deliver its own policy, it says. “It is possible that the removal or substantial downscaling of the RET may revive the profitability of more carbon intensive forms of energy, and make the direct action task harder," the submission says.
Abbott signalled before Christmas that the RET could be wound back or the scheme scrapped altogether.
Opponents of the RET inside the Coalition party room have long contended that it drives up power prices. Maurice Newman, a key business adviser to Abbott, is another trenchant critic.
The Coalition promised pre-election to review the target. In sending a broad signal that it could be wound back, the prime minister said his government was focused on reducing electricity prices.
The CEFC also points out in its submission that the new government’s plan to abolish it is not cost-free. Treasury’s economic forecasts put the cost of carbon price repeal at more than $7bn.
“The policy intent to abolish the CEFC is estimated to cause a loss to the budget of between $125m and $186m per annum once the corporation’s investment base reaches $5bn – that is half of its $10bn funding allocation,” the green bank says.
The CEFC says it could still play a significant role in meeting the objective of lowering carbon pollution if it was allowed to fulfil its mandate. “There is significant abatement opportunity that will be lost without the CEFC as there are real market barriers otherwise unaddressed,” it says.

Jobs at risk in regional Queensland under Abbott

The Abbott Government must rule out job losses in Cairns after revelations the Australian Tax Office is set to close offices in regional Queensland.
 Cairns is among the offices named and is understood to employ around seven staff. Another Northern Queensland office is also set for the chopping block with six Mackay staff at risk.
Queensland Senator Jan McLucas said the Abbott Government must clear up the record and rule out job losses in regional Queensland.
"Cairns cannot afford for more jobs to go," Senator McLucas said.
"We have lost hundreds of workers from our region over the last 18 months.
"That means hundreds of pay packets that are no longer being spent at local shops, restaurants and other traders; this hurts our economy."
Senator McLucas called on the Abbott Government not to follow the path of the Newman Government and gut the public service in the Far North.
"We need more jobs and investment in Cairns, not less," Senator McLucas said.
"The Member for Leichhardt has made a lot of noise about moving public servants to North Queensland; axing federal government jobs from the ATO in Cairns flies completely in the face of his comments.
"We're still waiting for the staff that he promised for Cairns as part of the Northern Australia Committee."

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Australian Industry Group fails to back Coalition's Direct Action climate policy

Extract from The Guardian website:

Business group declines to say whether it thinks Coalition's plan will meet global targets on emissions reductions

A major business group has declined to say whether it thinks the Abbott government’s Direct Action climate policy will meet global targets on emissions reductions and whether it can actually reduce emissions in a cost effective manner.
The Australian Industry Group says the Coalition’s flagship environmental policy, which has been around for two election cycles, is still very much “under development” and firm conclusions on its efficacy must wait “further articulation of the policy”.
It has used a submission to a Senate inquiry into the policy to criticise the centrepiece of the Direct Action plan – the emissions reduction fund – saying the fund has “several challenges to overcome in order to achieve the government’s emissions reduction goals at least cost to Australia”.
The business group contends the government needs to consider allowing access to international abatement options critical “for reducing the costs and risks of Australian emissions reduction ambitions”.
International emissions credits should be incorporated in the policy, and the AiG adds the government should be the purchaser of international carbon credits.
The emissions reduction fund proposed in Direct Action is focused on domestic abatement in order to meet Australia’s stated target of cutting pollution by 5% by 2020 – an approach business says is too expensive.
In another notable submission to the Senate inquiry, the Climate Change Authority – an independent advisory body which the Abbott government proposes to abolish as part of its climate policy overhaul – does not mince its words.
The authority’s chair, former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, has previously argued the 5% target is insufficient to stave off the dangerous effects of climate change and he repeats that argument in his submission to the Senate inquiry.
Fraser says major political parties in Australia profess to accept climate science but produce policies falling short of the challenge. “For acceptance of the science to mean more than lip service, however, it has to be backed by policy measures commensurate with the challenges identified by climate scientists,” he says.
“Real acceptance of the science would be accompanied by concerted action now and into the future to reduce the risks of dangerous warming of the planet over the decades ahead,” he says.
Fraser argues in the submission that the global dimension of the climate challenge is not served by high per capita emitters like Australia “sitting on the sidelines, waiting for others to make the running”.
He backs the argument that international abatement options should be part of the policy mix and reasons that appropriate responses should include both market and non-market mechanisms.
Fraser says the authority has not studied Direct Action closely because it has been occupied with other priorities and much of the policy remains ambiguous. “Even the label ‘direct’ is not without ambiguity: the implication seems to be that ‘direct’ action is in some way superior to ‘indirect’ action but the dividing line can be blurred.”
“Is a price on carbon, for example, less direct [and less effective] than planting more trees?” Fraser asks.
He says it is entirely the new government’s prerogative to abolish agencies such as the authority. “That said, it is puzzling – particularly given the complexities and far-reaching ramifications of climate change – that any government should choose to deny itself access to informed and balanced advice from an independent body like the Climate Change Authority.”

Letters to Editor: February 2, 1895.

Brisbane, February 2, 1895.

Mail Bag.

WANTED - ( to prepare the way for Socialism in our Time);
One Adult One Vote.
Land tax.
State Tax.
Shops and factories Act.
Eight hours day where practicable.
Referendum and Initiative.
Taxation of every person according to ability to pay.
The State to find work for unemployed.
The state to fix a minimum wage.
Free Railways. Free administration of Justice.

The WORKER does not hold itself responsible for the opinions of its correspondents.

SEMAPHONE - Toc blue.
TIM SWIVELLER – Not too bad; not to good.
H.C. Says it is quite true there is no justice in Adavale.
TIN TIN – No quotations lately appearing in the Sydney prints.
H. - “A blockhead can find more faults than a wise man can mend.”
B.E. - He's hardly worth the mention. Promotion is his aim all the time.
G.R., Jinghi Jinghi, near Dalby. - See our advertising rates, first column, page 2.
J.L., Gympie. - Yours is a very interesting criticism. Shall note your suggestion re breaking new ground.
CORRESPONDENT in St. Louis, MA. - A torn envelope addressed to this journal, arrived lately with the contents abstracted.
F.D. Has it on good authority that the squatters propose to raise the wages of the regular station hands and import cheap labour from somewhere. We know nothing about the proposal.
D.T. - You prefer country life to city life, but every man is not going to hermitize himself for mere bread and potatoes on a selection. Another thing; Why should men have to pay one fifth of the total crop top any other man, as rent, if land should be held in common.
F.D. - There's the true revolutionary Anarchist ring about this:
And if no other way is open,
If peaceful means will always fail,
Why then, my lads, we'll have to drop 'em,
And fight old Tozer tooth and nail.
You'll get yourself into trouble into writing “verse” of this character.

Ed. WORKER – As one who seeks the welfare of humanity, I was very much pleased to see that the members of the Hughenden Branch of the A.W.U. have recommended discouragement of the use of intoxicants among its members and officials. This, I consider, is a step in the right direction, as if that were generally adopted it would make our voting power more solid, and the men would be better able to help in time of strike, &c. - Anti – Beer.

Ed. WORKER – I have been instructed by the men on Dillalah to contradict the report going the rounds to the effect that the wages on that station have been reduced to 13s. per week. I am glad to be able to say that the wages are not cut there, for they are low enough now, all will admit, I believe. The man who will spread a report like that without first finding out the truth of it is in my opinion a cowardly person, and as far as I can find out holds a high position and resides very near Dillalah – J. D. Smith

Ed. WORKER – I thought Queensland was in a bad way as regards a working man getting a living, but I find things a deal worse down here. The wages amongst farmers are very low, from eight shillings to one pound per week (the latter exceptional) and found: sixteen hours a day. The working men take very little interest in politics; they would not walk across a one-chain road to vote. I rouse on them and tell them it is good enough for them. No doubt when they do wake up they will make things hum. I will have to be re-christened and go west again for the next July fog – Gro. Tasker Rochester.

Ed. WORKER – Re your “Middleman” cartoon of the 12th inst. Emile Souvestre, a French author, also draws him (the middle man) very faithfully in the following words (I translate closely); “. . . one of those merchants to whom they have given the name naturalist,because they have put all creation under glass (cases) to sell by retail. . . . . In truth, this man had a special ability to profit by the labour of others. He was incapable of doing anything himself. His words were a net in which people were caught before they knew it. For the remainder, friend of himself alone, regarding the producer as an enemy, and the buyer as his conquest, he exploited both with that inflexible persistence which avarice teachers.” - The Cad.

Ed. WORKER – The police-magistrate in Cairns refused to allow persons 21 years of age to have their names on the electoral roll. His reasons were that they had to be in the district six months after becoming of age. - E. H. Bulcock, Secretary Cairns P.P.A. [The qualification clause in the Elections Act states that every man of the age of 21 years shall be entitled to be entered on the roll of electors provided that at the time of making his claim he “is resident in the electoral district, and during the six months then next preceding has resided therein.” It does not say “every man must be 21 years and 6 months old” before being entitled to have his name placed on the roll. - Ed.]

Ed. WORKER – A great deal of surprise is manifested here at seeing the Pleystone Mill mentioned as being under the S. W. G. Act, as it was generally supposed to be run by a local syndicate on the same lines as Habana and Fairleigh and other estates. There has been no meeting of shareholders, nor election of directors, chairman or secretary, as was the case with other central mill companies in this district. It is evident there has been some influence at work in order to get this company registered under the above Act: perhaps this may account for the change of front of our junior member on the payment of members question. Almost the only vote he has given against the Government was for the Payment of Members Bill, but when he saw the Government was taking it to heart, like a good boy he climbed down and voted with his masters, and the Mercury ( of which he is part proprietor) excuses his action by stating that he was too conscientious to lost the Treasury for the sake of his own pocket. His troubles about the Treasury! If he does not get the bawbees in the shape of increased payment, he will get them in the shape of profits on the Pleystone Mill, as it is understood that he is chief engineer in this connection. Information on the above is wanted by – Onlooker, Mackay.

Ed. WORKER – In a recent issue of the WORKER a letter signed “Carrie Honey” advances the idea that we want propagandist lecturers on unionism, and suggests that instead of using the word “scab,” or one equally offensive, that all unionists drop its use altogether, and comments unkindly on a supposed larrikin calling a scab by it. Now if that writer had read up her subject before she wrote she would have found a convincing argument; re propagandist union lecturers in the fact that 95 per cent of the scabs in 1891 were at one time unionists – men who in 1891 worked every possible point they knew in the interests of unionism, many of them having been in positions, and about 30 per cent of them having been delegates at time of scabbing or at some time previous. In face of this to coolly tell us that we want men to lecture on the advantages of unionism to those men – men, she says, whose ignorance makes them what they are – argues, to put it mildly, that she has no experience of what she is writing about. Her next point re the word “scab” leaves only one conclusion – either she has had the word applied personally to herself or to some one that she takes a considerable interest in with reason, or she would not class it as an insult and speak slightingly of the larrikin who, thought he might be a gaol bird, respects the opinion of white men too much to be a scab. As for judging a unionist by his every day morals, as she says does, or his Sunday morals, for that matter, is on a par with the (to her) ignorance of scabs. The average Socialist passes everything to plump for the for the brotherhood of men. But the staunch unionist (what is left of him) means to build a hell for scabs and rats before he enters into brotherhood with the world generally. - John C., Aramac.

Ed. WORKER – I read in the Observer of last Saturday, the 26th inst, of a number of workers being at the Gardens one day when an old gentleman passing by doled out two bob each to them, &c. Now this is very pretty reading before it is analysed. The said old gentleman told the gardener if he wanted any more “bobs” to come up to Government House to him for them. One of the chaps (workers, I suppose) said “Why, it is the old Guv'nor!” “Blow me if it isn't,” said another. Now, sir, the workers always use slang expressions and bad grammar when they address one another, at least to they are always represented by the capitalistic press. Their language is so inferior to their superiors, the Fat Men – Jack Annear and Mat Battersby to wit. And the Observer goes on to say the workers cheered for the generous Governor. Poor deluded fools. Any of these said workers, if in receipt of £3000 and perks per annum, wrung from the people's hard earnings, could afford to dole a few bobs now and again, but where the generosity comes in I for one can't see. After all they were only getting back their own. They say the Governor is a kind-hearted man, but I must say he has, in my opinion, a curious way of showing it. I take it for granted he is a good Christian and believes in the Bible. In that Book I read that “When thou givest charity let not thy right hand know what thy left giveth” - or something of that sort. I will swear it says nothing about pointing to Government Houses. “Charity,” thou covereth a multitude of sins at the present day. I do not know which is the worst, the man who gives or the man who receives. Away with Charity! The workers want none of it; they only want Justice and their rights. And if the Governor would help them to obtain a modicum of these it would be more honour and glory to him than to give all his wealth in charity. - Tasman.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, SUBJECTS: Childcare; Abbott Government’s broken promises; Asylum seekers; Whaling.



BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here with Labor’s talented candidate for Griffith, Terri Butler. It’s also great to be visiting this really great childcare centre with lovely children and hard-working staff, with Labor’s spokesperson for childcare, Kate Ellis. I think today, visiting this childcare centre with Terri Butler, reminds us very clearly that the Abbott Government said one thing before the election on childcare, but after the election they’ve broken their promises. Before the election, the Abbott Government was signed up to a better deal for childcare workers. I think everyone in Australia knows that childcare workers commit not just intellectually and physically every day, they commit emotionally. They’re given charge of our most precious resource in our country, our children. And they do a great job all across Australia. After the election, the Abbott Government’s walked away from arrangements that was to see better conditions for childcare workers across Australia. Before the election, the Abbott Government said when they were in Opposition, that there would be no tampering with childcare benefits, with childcare rebate. Now what they say is that a means test is on the table and it’s up for consideration. There is no topic that the Abbott Government before the election has not been prepared to walk away from their promises and break them after the election. But childcare is surely amongst the most serious issues of broken promises for the Abbott Government. I’d like to ask my colleague Terri Butler to say a few words from the local perspective.

TERRI BUTLER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GRIFFITH: It’s great to be here at one of the great childcare centres of our electorate. Childcare is such an important service. It’s important to our kids, and it’s important to allow working parents to get back into the workforce, and as a nation we need that. Labor has always prioritised childcare. Labor has always been the party of making childcare more affordable and more accessible, and Labor has always valued the work that childcare workers do. It’s been so lovely to meet the staff here, you can see the dedication just looking at them and how happy the kids are. So thanks very much for having us here.

SHORTEN: Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Marriage counselling, is that something the ALP will be giving its support on?

SHORTEN: Oh, the Abbott Government. Marriage counselling is a nice idea. But really, when you’re cutting the Schoolkids Bonus, when you’re seeing childcare workers’ promises being unfunded and childcare workers not getting properly paid, you know, where are the priorities of the Abbott Government? On one hand, they’ll take away from working parents and the Schoolkids Bonus, they’ll talk about a GP tax, making it more expensive for families to take their kids to the doctor, or they’ll take away from conditions in the childcare industry. So I think this is a government who doesn’t quite appreciate that cost of living can put pressure on marriages. Breaking promises which the ordinary Australians not getting a square deal from, educating their children, the health of their children, the childcare of their children. This is a government whose priorities, in my opinion, are all wrong.

JOURNALIST: So where would you [inaudible]?

SHORTEN: Well first of all I’d say to the Abbott Government, why not go back to what you said before the election? They said there would be no cuts in education and health, or defence. Perhaps the first thing they could do with this $20 million is say ‘alright, we’re actually going to keep our promise that we made to voters before the election in order to get them to vote for us at the election’. I would say to the Abbott Government, stick to your promises, don’t break your promises, understand that Australians are trying to make ends meet, understand that cost of living is an issue in every household, and if you haven’t got the cost of living right, that’s what puts pressure on marriages.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

SHORTEN: I can say that the Abbott Government said before the election that they would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. Now they’re full of nasty surprises and pathetic excuses. Why should a talented woman working here only be paid $17 an hour, when she has in her responsibility the wellbeing of our most precious resource, our kids. The staff here work weekends, they put in extra work, these are not people who are looking for some special deal, they just want a fair deal. And why on earth should people in the electorate of Griffith have to face the prospect of paying co-payment or paying extra taxes to go to the GP when their kids are sick or their older relatives aren’t doing so well? You know, we will judge the Abbott Government by the promises they break, and they seem to have shown an addiction to breaking promises.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that there should be an independent investigation into claims that the Navy mistreated asylum seekers?

SHORTEN: Well our relationship with Indonesia is important. It’s important that we’ve got a strong, sensible relationship with Indonesia. Clearly the Abbott Government policies are causing real friction in our relationship with Indonesia. The reports are very concerning, but I would also say this about our Navy. They do an extremely tough job and they’re being asked to implement the Abbott Government’s political agenda which is extremely difficult to do. So I don’t like seeing our Navy getting caught up implementing the Abbott Government’s extreme policies. And furthermore, it’s the Abbott Government who are just not being straight with people. Before the election, Tony Abbott said in Brisbane, in Griffith, he said before the election that if it’s a good week about boats, or if it’s a bad week about boats, or if it’s an in-between week about boats, they will tell the people the truth and the whole truth. That promise, like childcare, like the Schoolkids Bonus, like a whole lot of things, has been just thrown out the window now they’ve been elected.

JOURNALIST: Should Australia send a delegation of officials to Indonesia to help with the investigation?

SHORTEN: Again, I’m going to let the official avenues who resolve these matters, resolve these matters. I don’t like seeing the Navy being cast in the position of being a political football. To their families at home, concerned about how their loved ones are going on water at sea, let’s be very clear, the Opposition doesn’t see them as a political issue. What I see as an issue is that the Abbott Government seems to have clearly got the relationship with Indonesia the wrong way around, and we hope they can get it back on track. And they also clearly are not interested in keeping their promises about being transparent and open with the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think that people in the Navy could have harmed asylum seekers?

SHORTEN: I’m not going to start speculating about the Navy, they do a good job. What I do know is the Abbott Government is creating this problem because they’re just not telling people what is going on. On one hand the Abbott Government sends our Navy to do difficult work, but then they won’t even be upfront about what’s going on. The Abbott Government’s hiding behind uniforms, military uniforms, and not being upfront about what’s really going on.

JOURNALIST: What message should the Prime Minister be sending to Indonesia and what guarantees, if any, should he be making in regards to this issue?

SHORTEN: Well, our relationship with Indonesia is important. We’ve got trained professionals in foreign affairs, we’ve got trained professionals in the military, we’ve got trained professionals in immigration. I think what the Abbott Government should do is take the politics out of our relationship with Indonesia and just get on with being upfront and straight with the Australian people. The Australian people can take being told the truth, about our relationships with Indonesia and about what’s happening on our borders. The best thing you can do if you want to avoid the Navy getting caught up in all sorts of debates and blame games, is for the Government to be straight with the Australian people. Our men and women in uniforms have got a difficult job to do, they shouldn’t and can’t be expected to go out and explain everything that they’re doing, that’s the job of Minister Morrison and the Abbott Government. It’s not enough for the Abbott Government to take a holiday and to leave the military to have to explain the Abbott Government’s policies.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

SHORTEN: I think it’s cocky of the Prime Minister to dare Holden to leave this country and take thousands of jobs. I think it’s cocky of the Prime Minister to say to thousands of childcare workers ‘I don’t think you’re worth more money’. I think it’s cocky of the Prime Minister to introduce, or to float the idea of a GP tax for the voters of Griffith, and break your promises from before the election to after the election.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister decided not to raise whaling with the Japanese Prime Minister in Davos. Do you think that’s a reasonable approach given that there’s a court case ongoing?

SHORTEN: The Prime Minister, before the election, talked tough about whaling. They were going to send a ship to the Southern Ocean, the Prime Minister was going to be the whales’ best friend. Now what happens once he gets into power, gets overseas, starts rubbing shoulders with other people including the head of Japan, dead silence. Tony Abbott should be the same leader overseas that he is in Australia. It’s no good talking big back home but when you go on the international stage, not raising the issue of whaling. It’s a legitimate issue and if Tony Abbott’s got this great relationship with Japan, why wouldn’t he raise issues that you can raise with friends?

JOURNALIST: What should Australia be doing in relation to Japanese whaling?

SHORTEN: I think first of all the Australian Government should keep its election promise. Again, send a ship, don’t just send aeroplanes, send a ship to monitor the activities and make it clear about Australia’s interest in this matter. It is not good enough for the Abbott Government to be engaged in a chase for votes before the election, and develop amnesia when you’re talking to the Japanese Prime Minister after the election. Thanks everyone, nice to see you all.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, SUBJECT/S: Griffith by-election; LNP health cuts; Asylum seekers; Australia’s relationship with Indonesia; Abbott Government’s cuts to payments; Tony Abbott airbrushed from Griffith campaign material; Asbestos; Inflation figures.



BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon, everyone. Great to be at Princess Alexandra Hospital with Labor candidate for Griffith Terri Butler. Great to talk to 60 or 70 health workers, the people who keep this system going; nurses, radiographers, orderlies, cleaners, catering staff. What we see here is real concern from the local people and the local health workforce that the Abbott Government has just got its own unannounced, hidden strategy to cut healthcare. In Queensland the damage done by the LNP and Campbell Newman, to the health system, the job losses, the bed closures, has left a whole lot of Queenslanders reeling with shock.

Now we see the Abbott Government, supported by their local candidate, flagging a new GP tax to go to the doctor. What this is about is this is proposed by people who want to take away the universal nature of our health system, they want to increase the cost of living for ordinary southsiders, Queenslanders and Australians to go to the doctor. The people working in the hospital tell me they think that if the GP tax comes in they’ll see a deluge of people passing the GPs, going straight to the hospitals. That worries them. They see people opting not to take their kids or their older relatives to the doctor because it costs too much in the future. It is now at this by-election that we draw a line in the sand about defending our healthcare system. It is also important that we have local representatives who will speak up on local issues in the national Parliament. And there’s nothing more local than making sure that a mum can take her sick child to the doctor when they need to, or making sure that an older relative gets that constant care that they require in their older years of life. I’d like to hand over to Terri Butler to say a few words about the campaign so far and this gathering today.

TERRI BUTLER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GRIFFITH: We’re here because people are concerned about costs, they’re concerned about the cost of living, they’re concerned about the impact that the GP tax will have on their cost of living and they’re concerned particularly about cuts to healthcare. Here at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on the southside we’ve seen 68 bed closures under Campbell Newman. When there were cuts to health services, to health funding here under Campbell Newman, Bill Glasson didn’t stand up for the people who live here. Bill Glasson defended those cuts. As recently as a couple of days ago he’s laughed it off as though it was only a few jobs that have gone here in Griffith. Well, that’s not the feedback that we’re getting on the ground and we’re talking to healthcare workers. People here deserve someone who will stand up for them, who will be a strong voice. Bill Glasson’s already shown he will not do that. He will be a rubber stamp for Tony Abbott and for Campbell Newman. But I will be a strong voice for this community and I will be a strong voice against the LNP cuts. Thanks very much.

SHORTEN: Happy to take questions, thank you.

JOURNALIST: Just on the issue of the asylum seekers, do you think navy personnel may have been involved in mistreatment of asylum seekers?

SHORTEN: I’m very concerned that our relationship with Indonesia seems to go from bad to worse under the Abbott Government. It’s important to have a strong relationship with Indonesia and indeed, when it comes to this latest issue, the reports are very concerning. But I also want to put on the record that our naval personnel, our servicemen and women, do an extremely tough job. Their extremely tough job is being made even tougher by the Abbott Government’s policies.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that navy personnel could have mistreated asylum seekers though?

SHORTEN: What I think is important is that we keep a strong relationship Indonesia, that we don’t damage the relationship with our nearest neighbour by foolish policies. The reports are very concerning, but I want to put on the record that our armed forces, in this case our naval personnel, do an extremely tough job and their tough job is being made even harder by the policies of the Abbott Government.

JOURNALIST: Do you think an investigation should be launched until [inaudible] ?

SHORTEN: The armed forces and the appropriate authorities will have their processes, but I want to make clear what I think is the real issue here. We should have a strong relationship with our neighbour Indonesia. We are damaging that relationship, and I don’t think anyone can seriously dispute that. We’re putting the Abbott Government boats policy at the centre of our relationship with Indonesia. In terms of the reports today, they are concerning, they are concerning. But what I’d also say is that our military personnel, and to their families in Australia who are worried about them as they’re representing our national interests on water or overseas, I say to you too: Labor respects the extremely tough job that our naval and military personnel have to do. But we think their tough job is made extremely hard by the Abbott Government’s policies, which I think need to be addressed especially in terms of transparency.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Abbott Government’s putting our naval personnel in danger with their asylum seeker policies?

SHORTEN: I think when it comes to the priorities that need to be dealt with, a strong relationship with your neighbours is always a sensible idea. Trying to get on with your neighbours and not go out of your way to cause an argument with your neighbours is just common sense, doesn’t matter where you are. But what is also important here is that whilst the reports are very concerning, and they are very concerning, that we also stand up and recognise that our military personnel have an extremely tough job and their tough job is being made even harder by the Abbott Government’s policies.

JOURNALIST: Are you satisfied with the terms of reference of the investigation into why our naval ships went into Indonesian waters?

SHORTEN: Well again, I think that the Abbott Government should stop making secrecy to the Australian public the defining basis of our relationship with Indonesia. What I think’s important is a strong and sensible relationship with our neighbours. What I also think is important is that we’ve seen our personnel, there’s been all sorts of reports about what they have or haven’t done. I think they have an extremely tough job and I think that the Abbott Government needs to stop making policies which make their hard job even harder.

JOURNALIST: Human Rights Watch has criticised both major parties of accusing them of scaremongering during the last election campaign. Were you trying to appear tougher than the Coalition Opposition?

SHORTEN: No, I don’t accept the proposition about Labor. I think the challenge is that we have a Government in place who promised to be open and transparent. They said in Brisbane, in the electorate of Griffith on the 9th of August, they said, Tony Abbott said if it’s a good week or if it’s a bad week, or if it’s an in-between week, we’ll be up-front with the Australian people. Well what happened to that broken promise, Tony Abbott? Not a lot of up-front, a lot of hiding, a lot of lack of detail. It is ridiculous that we can find out more about what’s happening with Australian policy through the Indonesian press than we can through our own Government and, you know, the rubbish has to stop. And in the meantime our service personnel, who do a tough job, are being caught up in these policies which I don’t think is fair.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept this criticism, though, by the Human Rights Commission?

SHORTEN: I believe that Labor’s policy which saw regional resettlement at the centre of it was beginning to show success. It is a difficult issue. What I don’t accept is that the Abbott Government’s approach on boats – remember, they were going to buy boats, now they’re giving boats away, now they’re hiding boats and now they’re hiding the Minister. This is rubbish, it’s silly. It’s time for the Government to keep its promises, stop breaking its promises and start being a Government, not an Opposition in Government.

JOURNALIST: The current Chief Executive of Mission Australia, Toby Hall, says our welfare system is broken. Do you concede that within the DSP and NewStart schemes that there are changes that could be made to streamline them to make them more efficient, or do you believe they are 100% perfect as is?

SHORTERN: I believe that the Abbott Government’s agenda when it comes to pensioners, carers, people with disabilities, unemployed people is a mean and tricky agenda. Does anyone remember the Abbott Government saying before the election that they were going to take the axe to people on the DSP or carers? I don’t think so. Yet again, Tony Abbott, one thing before an election, breaking his promise and another thing after the election. There are thousands of blind people on the DSP, there are tens of thousands of amputees, there are tens of thousands of people in wheelchairs. Why on earth does the Abbott Government think when they get into power the only way for Australia to have a bright future is to go after the most vulnerable in our society? So my answer to your question, the Abbott Government has the wrong priorities. Hands off the vulnerable, hands off the poor, hands off the people who don’t have a voice and if you want to start saving some money in the budget, climb down from your hill, climb down from your box and admit that the paid parental leave scheme is ridiculously over-expensive and that is a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

JOURNALIST: Is there any room for improvement in the DSP and NewStart?

SHORTEN: We believe that people with disabilities don’t get a fair go in the employment market. I believe that carers don’t get a fair go. I think if you want to help people engage in the benefits of jobs, have policies which support jobs, have policies which encourage the employment of people with disabilities. A lot of people on the DSP are older Australians. The truth of the matter is there’s too much prejudice, it’s unconscious prejudice, in our society against older jobseekers, especially if you’ve had compo claims. I think if we want to help people with disability and you want to decrease the number of people on the disability pension, help find them work, don’t punish them for their impairment.

JOURNALIST: They say that the Griffith by-election is going to be a report card on the Abbott Government and also Campbell Newman. Do you think that Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman will be appearing and campaigning much with the local candidate Bill Glasson?

SHORTEN: Campbell Newman, if he appears in the Griffith by-election it’ll just be an accident, caught in a traffic jam going somewhere else. I’ve got no doubt Tony Abbott might make a fleeting visit. It is remarkable that only four and a half months after the federal election Tony Abbott’s not even, as reported in the Courier Mail, not even on the how-to-vote card. They’re airbrushing. The Liberal Party and the LNP are trying to pretend, as they talk about a GP tax, as they talk about breaking promises, what they’re trying to do is pretend that this by-election has nothing to do with national politics. The issues are local in that people in this seat don’t want to see their hospitals overcrowded, they don’t want to see their people being sacked unnecessarily, they want to make sure that their cost of living doesn’t skyrocket because of a tax by the Abbott government on healthcare. So they’re the issues. And I’ve got no doubt that the fact that Tony Abbott’s not on the how-to-vote card, the fact that Campbell Newman will not be sighted or doing a lot of campaign events with the LNP candidate show you that they know – and their research tells them – that the harsh cuts in the health system, this Commission of Audit that the Federal Government’s proposing which will go after health conditions along with others, that’s why they’re trying to pretend this has got nothing to do with national politics.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on another issue, you’ve done a lot of work in the past on asbestos removal safe practices of asbestos. There’s been several cases of mismanagement of Telstra pits here in Queensland. Would you like to see Telstra establish a database of which pits do contain asbestos and which don’t? Because they don’t have any plans to, and should the government put in such measures?

SHORTEN: Asbestos is a silent killer. Asbestos will kill more Australians than died in World War I. It is a dreadful disease for which that there is no cure. I believe that in our community where asbestos exists, there should be the ability of the community to know where the asbestos is. It’s not an easy exercise, I get that, and the communication pits operated by Telstra have taken decades to accumulate, asbestos was only banned in the last couple of decades. But I do believe that Telstra does have a duty of care to make sure that communities are not needlessly scared about asbestos, and that where it is measured we do know that if those pits are ever interfered with in the future that it will be removed safely. I think it’s a duty of care to our community which companies who are aware of asbestos need to stand up and be measured on. So I do think more needs to be done.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about inflation? Inflation figures have come out today and they’re extremely high. Joe Hockey was critical in Opposition saying Labor hadn’t done enough to curtail cost of living. Do you think he should bear, or the Abbott Government should bear, some culpability for these figures?

SHORTEN: It’s a new year and the Abbott Government’s got to stop trying to blame previous governments for everything that’s happening under the Abbott Government watch. Cost of living is a real issue and one thing’s for sure, if people are feeling cost of living pressure, which they are, the answer does not make – it is not to make it more expensive to go to the doctor. The answer is not to make it more expensive. Why on earth with inflation going up and pressure on unemployment under a Coalition Government would the Abbott government be considering raising the cost of going to the doctor? It defies belief that they could be so out of touch, and it’s certainly a broken promise in that before the election the Abbott Government never spoke about increasing the cost of living and going to the doctor.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

SHORTEN: I’ll tell you what’s cocky,  Mr Abbott – it’s daring Holden to take thousands of jobs away from Australia. I’ll tell you what’s cocky, Mr Abbott – it’s proposing to increase the cost of living and the cost of healthcare in this country. I’ll tell you what’s cocky, Mr Abbott – it’s lying to the Australian people about the cuts you have got in store.

Thanks everyone, have a lovely afternoon, try and keep cool.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, SUBJECT/S: Griffith by-election; Jobs; Commission of Audit; Welfare cuts; Climate change policy.



JONATHAN GREEN: Bill Shorten joins you this morning from our Brisbane studios. Mr Shorten, welcome.


GREEN: Griffith, a very important contest.

SHORTEN: Well, it’s most important for the voters of Griffith that they have strong local representation. This is an issue which will be fought on – this is a by-election which will be fought on local issues, but of course local issues which are affected by the Abbott Government and the Newman Government. It’s very interesting that they’re hiding Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott in this by-election, as if they don’t want to remind people that when you vote LNP you get more Campbell Newman and more Tony Abbott.

GREEN: Tony Abbott is of course in Davos. I presume he will join the fray when he is back. But if the issues are fundamentally local, how do you explain your presence?

SHORTEN: Well, when I say the issues are local, what matters to people in Griffith, or indeed in any suburb or country town in Australia are the sort of battleground issues in this by-election. It’s Medicare, it’s the quality of healthcare. People in the rest of Australia may not be aware but the Newman Government really has slashed the health system in Queensland, there’s red hot anger. I have to say, spending the last 4 days up on the streets of Brisbane, you have to be here to appreciate the level of anger there is by ordinary Queenslanders against the LNP Government, and what they see with Tony Abbott is more broken promises. The Liberal Party before the federal election said there’s no way that health would be on the chopping block and now we have their Commission of Audit, which is a thinly-veiled smokescreen to justify lifting the GST, they’ve got the Commission of Audit saying everything is on the table including healthcare.

GREEN: Everything’s on the table, but nothing’s been decided. And I’m wondering –

SHORTEN: That’s a good point about nothing’s been decided. I don’t know if people are aware, but the Commission of Audit was due to report at the end of January. Then we’ve got this by-election on February 8th, now they’re delaying the Commission of Audit report to the Government until after the by-election.

GREEN: A coincidence, you think?

SHORTEN: No, I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

GREEN: What would a Labor candidate in the seat of Griffith, a Labor member in the seat of Griffith do about cuts being made to Queensland health by Campbell Newman?

SHORTEN: Well Terri Butler is our candidate, she’s a lawyer, she’s got a very good professional reputation. She’s married, she’s raising 3 school-aged children. She’s in touch with the real world, paying the mortgage. She is capable of speaking up against silly decisions made by LNP at the state or national level. For instance, yesterday morning we saw the Abbott government, I don’t know, floating the balloon or talking about attacking pensions. We made it clear that age pensioners shouldn’t be anywhere near the chopping block and by yesterday afternoon the Government was in damage control trying to say they never meant that, even though their Commission of Audit said in the Senate last week everything’s on the table. So strong, determined opposition MPs speaking up, fighting for their local community can even change the actions of a large, powerful Abbott government.

GREEN: On that issue of welfare, that inquiry announced yesterday, and figures that the government announced from the department that showed the growth areas in welfare spending, and the key issue, the key area of growth was in the age pension. Why shouldn’t that be looked at?

SHORTEN: Well I think older Australians who have paid taxes their whole life, if they don’t have enough saved because compulsory superannuation – a Labor idea – was only implemented in the 90s and the 2000s, if people haven’t had the opportunity to save enough money, but they’ve paid taxes their whole life, why shouldn’t they have a modest payment free of the fear of Tony Abbott and his gang taking the axe to it. I mean, the other thing which the Abbott Government have said, and it’s interesting, they’ve been rushing out to say ‘if you’re on the age pension you’re ok, but if you’re a disability pension or a carer or unemployed, well watch out’. Well my experience, people with disabilities and their carers would give all the tea in China not to have the disability – but they do. So I think that this idea that the Abbott Government has for whatever financial ideology that they want to introduce into the government, that the idea that they go after the most vulnerable, the sick and the needy first, just shows that the Abbott government’s got its priorities all wrong. And I don’t know Jonathan, but I do not remember them saying before the election which was barely 4 months ago, ‘hey disability pensioner, hey carer pensioner, hey person on Newstart, we’re coming after your conditions’.

GREEN: It was your government last year that put single parents onto Newstart, and your government too that refused to adjust the level of that benefit, the level of which has very broadly seen to be leaving people in penury.

SHORTEN: Well I’m glad you’ve raised that. I think that the single mothers decision – the sole parents decision – probably was too hard. But I tell you what, if you think it was wrong, don’t we agree that two wrongs don’t make a right? And certainly, never in our wildest dreams did Labor think that restricting the rate of pension increase for carers pension and people on disabilities was the economic salvation of this nation. If the Abbott government’s fair dinkum, and they want to govern for all Australians and not just some sections of the Australian economy, why is it that they always start with people at the bottom of the tree, to slug and to hurt?

GREEN: Six minutes away from 8’clock on RN Summer Breakfast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten joins you. Significant, Mr Shorten, that there you are in Griffith, Kevin Rudd’s old seat. In that is all the signs we need perhaps of the great change since last year, of the great change within your party as well ?

SHORTEN: Well the Labor Party since the election has clearly heard the message that if the Labor Party just wants to talk about itself, and if we want to undermine each other, well then the Australian electorate will mark us down. What is also I think significantly different is that the Abbott Government before the election said there would be a unity ticket on education, then Christopher Pyne jumped head-first into causing a mess there and frankly no one in education sincerely believes the Abbott government is fair dinkum on the funding of schools now. We’ve seen before the election they promised no secrecy when it came to boats, where now getting information out of the Abbott Government is like trying to find a four-leaf clover, it’s just impossible. And now we’ve got this issue around pensions. I do not recall before the election the Abbott Government saying that they were going to go after disability pensioners and carers. I just don’t remember them saying that, and I followed this election pretty closely.

GREEN: You’ve said that earlier this week, that you can win back government within a term, that you can make Tony Abbott a one-term PM. He’s come back from the World Economic Forum in Davos accusing you of being cocky. Are you getting a bit ahead of yourself?

SHORTEN: Just how arrogant does Mr Abbott have to be? The only way he wouldn’t have had a go at me would be is if I said that there’s no way I can win the next election. It’s not cocky to disagree with Mr Abbott, it’s not wrong of me to say that Labor can form possibly an alternative government in this country. Is Mr Abbott so flushed with power from tackling pensioners, from the world stage at a Swiss resort talking with, rubbing shoulders with world leaders. It is not cocky of the opposition in Australia to say that they think they can win the next election. What really matters is not the name-calling Mr Abbott, it’s what are you going to do about jobs this year? What will you do to prevent our world quality health system from being undermined? It’s not wrong of the Opposition to say that they think they can win. What sort of opposition leader would I be if I said ‘oh no, Mr Abbott’s doing a great job’ ?

GREEN: And yet, if you did win, you would face some of the same issues that the Abbott government now faces around budget, around the structural issues around that budget, and probably have to take some of the tough choices that the Abbott Government will confront as a result of its Commission of Audit. Aren’t they right to be taking a good hard look at Commonwealth spending?

SHORTEN: You’ve always got to make sure that you’re getting value for taxpayer dollars. But Australia can take the high road, or the low road. The low road is cutting services, it’s going after millions of the most vulnerable in our community. Or the high road is being pro-jobs and pro-growth, pro-science, pro-innovation. Those are the jobs of the future.

GREEN: What do those things mean though, Bill Shorten? Pro-jobs, I mean surely everyone is pro-jobs. It’d be hard not to.

SHORTEN: It means having a car industry in Australia. I mean, how smart is it of the government, I mean they’re so consumed by their far-right wing economic textbooks that they would do nothing to save tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs. The federal government should realise that it’s a lot easier to have people in existing jobs than to have them go onto Newstart or the disability pension and then reduce the rate of the disability pension –

GREEN: Holden was going to close anyway, we knew that from Holden. Would you pay South Australia the $2.8 billion that it wants as compensation?

SHORTEN: What you would get with me is that someone would fight for the jobs every day. People just say Holden was going to close, if Holden was going to close and it was so obvious that it was going to close, why was the federal government so flat-footed to have a transitional package for the workforce? 29 other countries in the world have Holden car plants. Do you think that they’ve all said ‘oh it’s all too hard to make cars’? There are many first world countries, many of the world leaders that Mr Abbott is rubbing shoulders with, they would – they’re determined to hang onto their car industries. Why do we have a government in Canberra, an Abbott government who cares so little for our high-skilled manufacturing jobs, they just wave goodbye?

GREEN: Just finally Bill Shorten, you said that earlier in the week you don’t want to just be blankly oppositional. You want to talk policy and ideas. Does that mean you will give the government the tick for its repeal of the carbon tax?

SHORTEN: We’ve said that we would repeal the fixed price on carbon, but we’re not going to simply give a blank cheque to inaction on climate change. Labor will be guided by the best available science in the policies that we make. What interests me and my colleagues in the labour movement and the Labor party is what will Australia look like in 3 and 10 and 20 years’ time? We want decisions that Australian parliaments makes in 2014 to be about the long-term positive wellbeing of Australians and their families. We think that inaction on climate change, paying big polluters not to pollute, that’s just a cop out. Climate change is real and we can’t turn our backs on the science.

GREEN: And what about the mandate that this government has to enact its program?

SHORTEN: By all means, the government won the election, they got a majority of seats. But there is plenty of people who voted for Labor and what people want, I think, from a strong opposition, even some Liberal voters and I think most Australians actually, is that we have a debate about the matters which affect the nation. Should we have a real policy on climate change, should we be a country that still makes things? Should we be a country which navigates its way in the future without attacking the most vulnerable? So yes, we will be a positive opposition, not relentlessly negative like the government was when they were in opposition. But what we won’t do is betray the future just to placate Mr Abbott’s present conservative worldview.

GREEN: Bill Shorten, thanks for your time this morning.

SHORTEN: Have a nice year, thank you.

GREEN: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is in Brisbane to launch the ALP campaign in Griffith tonight.