SATURDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2020
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thank you very much for coming. Well today we saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Adelaide - flying in with much fanfare for yet another photo op. But as always, very little on the follow up.
The very facility he declared open today, declared ready, is set to build ships which we're now told are going to be delayed by two years, a two year delay, which would mean hundreds of jobs lost here in South Australia.
Nothing on full-cycle docking, nothing for the hundreds of workers who are depending on full-cycle docking continuing here in South Australia. And another announcement without any follow up. Where are the local content requirements?
You might remember Christopher Pyne telling South Australians - telling Australians - that he was going to have 90% local content for the submarines project. Then it was 60%. And now you know what it is? ‘We're going to try.’ And we've seen an announcement supposedly from the Defence Minister about a week ago that got media here in Adelaide saying that we're going to make sure that they had local jobs here, local content associated with the submarines project. We're still waiting. South Australians and Australians are still waiting.
And all of this comes at the cost of jobs. It comes at the cost of jobs at a time when Australia is in this dreadful recession, and when we know that 1.4 million Australian are likely to be unemployed by Christmas.
I want to also respond briefly to Mr Morrison's speech to the UN General Assembly earlier today, Australian time. Mr Morrison is right to point to the risks of vaccine nationalism, he’s right to point to the importance of the world sharing a vaccine for COVID-19, when it is found. But he has to do more than say that. He has to do more than say that in a speech.
He needs to pick up the phone and convince his friend, Mr Trump, President Trump, that the US should make the same commitment, and should also join the facility which the nations of the world have put in place to enable that sharing to occur. So on vaccine nationalism Mr Morrison needs to convince President Trump to do the right thing. To make the same commitment other countries have made to share the vaccine, and he should be pressing the Chinese authorities as well - as the two nations who have not made these commitments, of course, are the United States and China.
As you can see I'm here with my friend and colleague the Member for Hindmarsh, Mark Butler, whose electorate covers the shipyard we're discussing and who represents many of the workers employed there in the Federal Parliament so I'll turn now to mark to make some comments.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE AND ENERGY: Thank you, Penny. South Australia was holding its breath today for some delivery by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and yet again all we got were announcements and some media stunts. Today Scott Morrison had the opportunity to guarantee that the full-cycle docking submarine maintenance work that has been performed here in Adelaide for decades, would stay here and not be shifted to Perth. He had the opportunity to give that job security to 700 South Australian families. Instead today's visit was a slap in the face to 700 South Australian workers and their families whose future has been hanging by a thread because of Scott Morrison's refusal to guarantee their jobs. And that is an utter betrayal of the South Australian economy.
WONG: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Senator, can we start with some more questions around the UN General Assembly. Do you believe the Prime Minister's comments on the COVID inquiry will further offend China and might lead to increased tensions?
WONG: In relation to the inquiry, the Opposition has been very clear, as Anthony Albanese has said, we think it is entirely unremarkable that the world would want to ensure we know how COVID-19 came to be, how it became to be this one in 100 year pandemic. So an inquiry is a rational response to that and that is demonstrated by the number of nations who ultimately agreed to an inquiry. I have been critical in the past of Minister Payne's decision to make that announcement domestically before she'd locked in sufficient diplomatic support, but leaving that aside, we support the inquiry and I think the number of nations at the United Nations that also supported the inquiry including China, demonstrate that it's an important thing to do. I
JOURNALIST: Would it be an opportune time for the Prime Minister to register Australia's concerns about activities in the South China Sea?
WONG: The Government and the Opposition have a very clear position on this and it's a position that consistently Australia has articulated which is, we support the United Nations Law of the Sea, we support its application, we support it being utilised to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea, or anywhere.
JOURNALIST: Just the same, the omission of any reference to that, does that trigger any concern?
WONG: Well you really need to ask the Prime Minister that I can say that consistently, regardless of whose interests are in play, Australia's position continuous to be - as is Indonesia’s - that the Law of the Sea should apply to any disputes in relation to the South China Sea or in other maritime areas.
JOURNALIST: Senator, on the Prime Minister's visit to South Australia. Do you think he might be trying to use this visit to convince other states to open up their borders and when would you like to see some of the other border restrictions in Australia eased.
WONG: The first thing I'd like to see is the Prime Minister come up with a plan for jobs rather than getting into fights with state premiers. When you've got a recession that Australia is facing, when you have a million Australians unemployed, more to come by Christmas, I'd like to see and I'm sure Australians would like to see a Prime Minister interested in making sure they have a job. And we’re speaking on a weekend where we’ve got reductions to JobSeeker that were implemented on Friday, we've got reductions to JobKeeper on Monday. This is not a plan for jobs. So I’d say to the Prime Minister, people aren't interested in you having fights with premiers over borders. People are interested in what in what is your plan for jobs, Mr Morrison. Jobs, that's what matters.
JOURNALIST: Just with regards to the changes to JobKeeper, what concerns do you have about the perverse outcomes that this wind back might lead to over the coming weeks and months?
WONG: I think anybody looking at the current economic figures, looking at the outlook from here until December, looking at the last national accounts - any rational person would say, ‘this is not the time to be withdrawing support’. But that is precisely what the Morrison Government is doing.
JOURNALIST: Just a couple for Mark if you don’t mind.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's possible to lower emissions, without cutting jobs?
BUTLER: The best way to lower emissions is to transition our energy system to renewable energy. There are currently renewable energy projects that have planning approval, that if they're unable to proceed with an energy policy nationally would create 50,000 jobs. We know that Australia has enormous opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower, not only creating jobs in renewable energy itself but underpinning a comparative advantage for energy intensive manufacturing.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister, named you today in his speech saying Mark Butler doesn't consider gas as part of Australia's future industrial plans in manufacturing and the like. How do you take that comment?
BUTLER: Well for five years now, I and the rest of the Labor Party have been calling for action by this Government to solve the deep gas crisis that has emerged during their time. For five years we've seen gas prices triple. We've seen manufacturers shut down because of that price shock. And we've seen manufacturing and the Australian Labor Party call for drastic action around export controls to stop so much of our gas being sold overseas - the ACCC says often at cheaper prices than Australian manufacturers pay for our own gas. So we've been calling for drastic action for export controls that would lower prices for Australian manufacturing, and we've got nothing from this Government over that time. And last week, all we got from Scott Morrison was some announcement about more reviews on prices. We know prices were out of control. We don't need more reviews about that. And a voluntary industry led code of conduct that I'm sure I had the gas industry executives quivering in their boots, while manufacturing is facing the threat of more closures.
JOURNALIST: Just in that space, Mark, is gas the answer to protecting our manufacturing sector as the Prime Minister claims?
BUTLER: Gas is critical for parts of the manufacturing sector. That's why we have been so clear in our calls for years now for government action to lower gas prices and to ensure security of supply rather than saying so much of our gas shipped overseas.
I'm not going to take a lecture on gas from a Prime Minister who during his prime ministership, and as Treasurer, has done nothing to lower gas prices for
JOURNALIST: Senator, thank you Mark, just a couple more briefly to you if you don't mind. On the future frigate program. I did put it to the boss of BAE Systems this morning, had there been a slippage in the timeline and are we looking at a second “valley of death” and she denied that we were. What's your response to that?
WONG: Well, all we’ve seen from this Government is slippages. We've seen continued delays in defence projects across the board. We’ve seen supply ships go offshore. We've seen delays and cost blowouts and most importantly, we have not seen a commitment to local content. We have not seen a commitment to full-cycle docking. So, if the Government is guaranteeing that the frigate program is as it should be, if the timetable is secure, I look forward to the Prime Minister giving that commitment and guarantee to South Australians. I note, he did not give that guarantee today. What he did tell people was that the full-cycle docking jobs weren't a priority. I think he said, these aren't a priority. This isn't a priority. Giving them a guarantee isn’t a priority. Well I can tell you for the workers employed on FCD, it's a pretty big priority and it's a big priority for South Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that as this process continues and as you know, we know that this was before NSC in December, and we were expecting a decision earlier in the year. Do you think the longer we go without again decision actually makes South Australia, more likely as the home for full-cycle docking?
WONG: I'd say the delay means more uncertainty, and living with the risk of losing your job is a pretty stressful thing for those workers and their families, but Mark may have something to add.
BUTLER: Well, to come here really, to come to Adelaide and visit the Osborne shipyard without giving 700 workers and their families some certainty, after being hanging by a thread for more than twelve months is a slap in the face to those workers, this is a piece of work that is worth about $400 million to the South Australian economy, an economy that has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. It is time to end this and to deliver certainty not only importantly to those 700 workers and their families, but to the South Australian economy.
JOURNALIST: Thank you and Senator one more just looking ahead towards the Federal Budget. There's some suggestion the budget could include a third cash handout for pensioners later this year. Is that something Labor would welcome?
WONG: We've been calling for the Government to stop the freeze on the pension. I mean, under this Government the pension has been frozen. So, Mr Morrison has to fix that.