THURSDAY, 02 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plan for George Town; $100,000 degrees; Labor’s $150 million commitment to boost jobs and education in Tasmania; manufacturing; company tax cuts; Greens/Liberal deals.
JOURNALIST: Senator Carr is the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Industry. He’s a Victorian Senator, obviously from the Labor Party and he joins me in the studio now. Senator Carr g’day, how are you going?
SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDSUTRY: Good morning Brian.
JOURNALIST: Let’s talk about what’s actually happening today. What are you releasing today for George Town then we’ll get on to the more broad discussion.
CARR: We are committed to providing opportunities for more jobs and the projects we are supporting today in York Cove, the precinct plan, the silt management plan and the economic development plan, are about building opportunities for jobs. We are also of course committed to the university.
JOURNALIST: And we’ll talk about that in a minute.
CARR: These projects in York Cove are really about building the infrastructure, improving the infrastructure, so we can improve job opportunities for the district.
JOURNALIST: Okay so a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ worth of further investment in George Town. I understand you and Ross Hart and Senator Helen Polley will be heading up there after this.
CARR: That’s right. We’re here to support Ross’ campaign obviously and we want people to be able to deliver on these projects because we think the issues around jobs and around education are just so important to providing people with the economic opportunities they need to enjoy the prosperity that this country undoubtedly has. The real problem is at the moment that there are some regions in the country that are being left behind. We know some people do well, but a lot of people miss out. So the Government’s got a real role here to stand shoulder to shoulder with people and provide those opportunities so that people can lift their living standards and enjoy decent wages and decent living standards.
JOURNALIST: Let’s see if I can just rattle through your portfolio areas one by one really. Higher Education, let’s start there. The big issue here in the Northern half of the state is the proposed moves of the University of Tasmania campuses in both Launceston and Burnie. The State Government is right behind it, the State Opposition’s right behind it. The Federal Opposition, Kim Carr, the Labor Party your party has said they’ll stump up the $150 million required to get the project up and running. Curiously though there’s sort of crickets from the Government on this. We’ve had some motherhood statements, “stand by”, “watch this space” and “we’ll be making announcements in this space in the coming weeks” etc. etc. Given the position of Tasmania’s only frontbencher you would think there’d be a bit of leverage there. Government frontbencher I’m talking about.
CARR: Well the university is a big area in this country and the Minister is very quiet on these questions. Their whole idea is to actually propose budget cuts, for $100,000 degrees for fee deregulation, to actually limit opportunities for most people. We are saying that education is absolutely at the center of our view that you have to be able to transform opportunities for this country. So I support this project very strongly. It’s probably the largest single commitment we’ll make to a special project across the country. This is a pilot project which has national lessons for us.
JOURNALIST: Now this is an angle we’ve not really explored before. We’ve talked about all the local benefits and obviously the education, the health outcomes, the economic outcomes that flow from lower education standards, specifically here in Tasmania. But what you’re suggesting is that this could be a model that could be rolled out in other areas. When you say a model though, are you talking about a building model or is it the process by which one attains education?
CARR: The idea is that the universities and TAFE should work better together. That state governments and the Commonwealth Government should be able to work more effectively together. That we should build pathways, particularly for areas which have less than perfect education attainment levels. In this part of Tasmania we know that there are less people actually engaged in higher education, there are less jobs, there are of course lower levels of skills and we need to lift that. We need to change that. This is not a pattern that is unique just to Northern Tasmania. This is a problem in areas which have been badly affected by the decline in manufacturing, the decline in job opportunities, particularly for blue collar families. So we want to be able to provide some real assistance and we want to make sure it works. This is a pilot which we will use and take lessons from for the rest of the country. So in the South East of Melbourne, in New South Wales in areas where there used to be large heavy industry where we’re now seeing a decline, we’re seeing it in Western Australia, we’re seeing it in Queensland. This is a national problem that we’ve got areas of economic neglect and economic disadvantage, and what can the Government do to assist people. I take the view that the Government has a responsibility here. Not something you walk away from.
JOURNALIST: The Industry portfolio has always been an interesting one and always here in Tasmania we’ve suffered manufacturing industry losses as you know over many, many years, Caterpillar closing up in Burnie etc. What do you see, as a person who has been wallowing in this industry area professionally…
CARR: Wallowing is not a word that immediately comes to mind.
JOURNALIST: As a politician, you know what I mean. You’ve been operating in this space. How do we transition? What do we transition to?
CARR: I’m passionate about this because it’s so important to ensuring equality in this country. This is one of the key areas about making sure we actually do have a fair go in this country. And blue collar workers in particular deserve the support of government. So what can we do? We can assist industry. We can assist industry by attracting new investment for new jobs, new technology and new markets. We can assist industry by developing not just the skills of wo rkers, but the skills of management. We can assist industry by developing research and development opportunities, so we get the new sciences applied to everyday problems. We can assist industry by making sure industry has access to trade opportunities, by making sure we’re there with the companies. That’s why we had things like Enterprise Connect, to build on the skills of an individual firm. For example in the Bass area we provided support for 400 separate companies when we were in government. We provided support through Commercialisation Australia to assist companies get access when they’ve got a new idea a nd a new technology and they want to apply that on the job. We can provide the sort of assistance we saw, for instance, with the automotive industry, because this used to be an important part of the country. This is a government that has driven the automotive industry out of Australia. Lots and lots of people, even in Tasmania, were involved in the automotive industry. Those jobs are being moved offshore. We can’t allow that type of action to follow without any response.
JOURNALIST: But we were played for suckers by the motoring industry surely? They realised they were on a really good thing and they could pad it out and pad it out with lots and lots of taxpayer money and they ended up shutting up shop and going anyway.
CARR: No. They were driven out. They were driven out by a conservative government that said that they would prefer for other aspects of government activity to take precedence, a priority question.
JOURNALIST: Yeah but the Government made a reasonable decision to stop handing hundreds of millions of dollars to an industry that was clearly on the decline and clearly going to pack up at some stage.
CARR: Well let me put it to you this way. Around the world every government, in England for instance that had this problem that said they saw an industry in decline after Margaret Thatcher, all the parties came together and said they had to invest in the automotive industry because it was so important to the future of England. England is now a leading export manufacturer in Europe. In the United States the Government invests heavily in industry support because they know how important it is. I’m saying that manufacturing is critical. The automotive industry and the loss of it is going to leave a really serious hole in our manufacturing capability. By international standards we were providing support for less than the price of a footy ticket. Less than the price of a footy ticket compared to the hundreds of dollars that were provided by governments around the world and conservative governments around the world. We took the view that we could without this industry – this is the Government that has taken this attitude. I think that is wrong. We’ve got to be able to ensure that the Government is now able to step in. We’re going to spend a lot more money on social security than we ever would have spent in terms of support for industry because of the short-sightedness of this attitude that manufacturing was someone else’s problem.
JOURNALIST: Senator Carr, surely if we’re going to amp up the number of jobs available to Tasmanians, we are going to need investment, we are going to need companies that see a profit, see an upside from operating here in Tasmania. Why isn’t a corporate tax cut going to be able to help create some of those jobs, and that is a policy of the Government?
CARR: Well of course this is a $50 billion promise which goes to the very big end of the company structure by and large…over a decade, but it’s still $50 billion. And with $50 billion we think we can spend the money more effectively in other areas.
JOURNALIST: But if we want to create jobs we have to create an environment where businesses want to operate in a particular area to employ local people. If we haven’t got that environment right we can pump all sorts of money into job programs, all sorts of education programs, health programs, you name it we can do whatever. But if you haven’t got the private investments setting up business in states to employ people it’s a waste of money and time isn’t it?
CARR: You’ve got to first of all have the money available to fund your education and to fund your hospitals, to be able to fund the infrastructure that underpins…
JOURNALIST: Well that’s why we want a budget surplus so you’re able to do that kind of thing. If a government has a budget surplus they can amp up spending on those sorts of issues. Exactly the same thing the State Government has done here.
CARR: You will not fund these measures by spending money on the very wealthy, providing support to the banks to be able to have a tax cut. People over $80,000…
JOURNALIST: Banks employ people, I mean we don’t like them too much but they employ lots of people.
CARR: I’m not against employment of people or big business I’m just saying the priority, the question of priority. This is a Government that is cutting support for research and development for companies. This is a Government that has undermined some $2 billion in innovation programs. This is the money that they are using to feed these tax cuts for the very wealthy. That’s what I am saying is a problem. Everyone knows how beneficial personally tax cuts can be, the question is can we afford them when we need to do all these other things, including supporting innovation policies?
JOURNALIST: Isn’t that an investment as well? You are investing in companies setting up employing people who ultimately pay tax. They then have an income to go out and spend stuff which generates GST revenue that flows back to the states. I mean that is economic activity. That is genuine economic activity.
CARR: Brian it would be really good if they paid tax.
JOURNALIST: Why? Are you suggesting that there are companies in Tasmania that don’t pay tax?
CARR: We have seen plenty of evidence. We have seen evidence that many multi-national companies not paying tax. So there has got to be a real approach, a serious approach, to ensure they pay their fair share, but I am also saying to you that in terms of the choices that we make, then governments do have to set priorities. If you want to support higher education, if you want to support hospitals, if you want to support schools programs, and we have put $37 billion behind our schools program then of course you have to be able to pay for it. So we’re saying the priority is in these other areas not in providing a tax cut, particularly for these very large firms and we cannot masquerade this as a small business measure. This is not a smal l business measure this is actually a Government who is anxious to preserve their support base. We see a lot of these areas where priorities are made by political parties and that is what the electorate will make a judgement on, isn’t it? The priorities that politicians make about their welfare.
JOURNALIST: Or is it a case of the people making a decision based on how they view the leader? Do you think Bill Shorten can actually win this election?
CARR: Yes, absolutely, no doubt about it and what’s more he has demonstrated just how strong a leader he is.
JOURNALIST: Because the party was getting ready to roll him. At the beginning of the Turnbull thing, I have spoken off the record to very senior Labor players who have said we were absolutely devastated when Turnbull took over. We were terrified we were going to get obliterated and yes there was potentially a huge amount of pressure on the leadership of Bill Shorten. He sat in that chair and I put exactly that case to him on the air and he wouldn’t look at me while I was suggesting that. So he knew what was happening, he knew it was on, he knew that his job was under threat.
CARR: I regard myself as a person of some experience and these questions in terms of the role I play in the Labor Party as a member of the National Executive. It’s rubbish. That’s media speculation and clearly…
JOURNALIST: You would have gone into an election with Malcolm Turnbull still at 58 per cent approval rating and what a two-party preferred leader…
CARR: He’s not.
JOURNALIST: But he was.
CARR: But you see anyone that knew anything about politics knew that just because we had a new suit in town that talked in these clichés wasn’t going to hold up in any critical examination and that is what has happened. Change is often a good thing but it is like the greatest glittering toy in the baby pen. People will try to pick it up and they will drop it after a very short period of time and this is what has happened. Malcolm Turnbull is a hollow man. Malcolm Turnbull uses these fantastic slogans which he said he would never do. He is a man that appeals to the very wealthy and the very inner city. He is not a man that actually appeals to the bulk of Australians in the circumstances where they’re facing acute economic difficulties and need the support of government to actually achieve the prosperity that they are entitled to.
We always knew that. I have always been a very strong supporter of Shorten’s and so the talk that we heard was nonsense, it was a bit of media talk. It had no substance to it and I see it from time to time. It doesn’t make it true. The fact is that Shorten’s position is strong because of his actual commitment to ordinary folks. He is out there talking to ordinary folks about their ordinary concerns, everyday concerns and it won’t change anything by appealing to the use of the term, like innovation, when you know that the budget has been so badly cut, when the government has so seriously undermined the capacity of our universities, so seriously undermined our TAFE system, so seriously undermined our school system. You can’t have an innovation system unless you are actually prepared to invest in it and that is what we say. It’s about priorities not just about a few glittering phrases.
JOURNALIST: Your number crunchers, looking at the swings, the margins seat by seat, it’s going to be real tight isn’t it? It is going to be much tighter than most people think. There are a couple of wild cards in there, the Greens potentially picking up two maybe three lower house seats. Nick Xenophon potentially picking up three lower house seats and yet we are hearing from both sides that nobody is prepared to cut any kind of deal with the Greens to form government. You’ve said vigorously Labor has said under no circumstances will we cut any kind of deal in a minority government situation with the Greens. So where does that leave us, you effectively hand over government to Malcolm Turnbull?
CARR: No, that is not right. So what you’ve got here is, and I think your first assessment is a correct one. This will be a very close election. This is an election where Labor will be very competitive. We start as underdog we know that, we don’t try to hide that. The fact is that we can make significant numbers of seats because people are thoroughly disenchanted with the Government, we understand that.
JOURNALIST: I won’t argue that they are disenchanted with both sides of politics.
CARR: Well the point is that politics is volatile, I will accept that. Politics is volatile around the world, not just in this country and I think this election will be very close. We won’t be doing any deals with the Greens. The Greens are not the sort of people that you can do deals with, we have learnt our lesson in that regard.
JOURNALIST: We all learnt that lesson on your behalf.
CARR: We understand that that’s not the approach we take and we are not interested. The Greens are happy to do a deal with the Libs to knock off Labor Members of Parliament and then they say why don’t you put us in as Cabinet Ministers? Forget it, forget it. That’s not the approach. We will make it clear that after the election, that if it is close, they will have to make some choices too, won’t they, about who they support.
JOURNALIST: Richard Di Natale has made that perfectly clear that they are not going to support the Coalition.
CARR: Well they won’t get a deal….
JOURNALIST: But they are happy to do a deal with Labor?
CARR: Well they won’t get a deal.
JOURNALIST: So you’re sitting here saying that that’s not going to happen?
CARR: They won’t get a deal out of Labor because we are not interested in a coalition with anyone, we are interested in winning this election.
JOURNALIST: No, no, no a Coalition as in a Liberal/ National Government.
CARR: No that won’t happen either, a unity government…
JOURNALIST: Will you be handing it over?
JOURNALIST: If you don’t cut a deal with the Greens you potentially throw away the election?
CARR: They’ll have to make choices in those circumstances. I’m of the view that we will actually win a majority, that’s the first presumption I make.
JOURNALIST: That is a huge presumption at this stage.
CARR: Okay, but that is the nature of the political system. I make a presumption that we are going to get a majority. Now if that doesn’t work then people will make choices too on the floor of the Parliament. They make choices in that regard. We will not be doing deals with the Greens we have learnt our lesson from that. They are the people that opposed the establishment of a decent environmental policy because they did a deal with the Liberal party. They are the ones that have done a deal in regard to the electoral system with the Liberal party. They are the ones that have done a deal in regard to changing superannuation arrangements within the Parliament. The Greens are actually increasingly people that are really well off in the inner city areas. They have the best social conscious that money could buy. They are not people that a re overly committed to the same sort of approach that Labor is in terms of blue collar voters and in terms of jobs. They are not committed to ensuring that we have industrial development that this country desperately needs. They are not committed to the social policies that we are committed to. They have a very different political stratagem and they appeal to different people, particularly those who are quite well off in the inner cities.
JOURNALIST: Senator Carr time has beaten us unfortunately I appreciate you popping in to the studio. Good luck on the campaign and we will see how things pan out on July 2.
CARR: Brian thank you for the opportunity.
JOURNALIST: My pleasure. Senator Kim Carr, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation .