RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Part of Bill Shorten’s Shadow Cabinet he looks at innovation, industry science and research, Senator Kim Carr Labor Senator for Victoria. Good Afternoon.  

SENATOR KIM CARR: Good afternoon.

EPSTEIN: Do you like the sound of what the Government has proposed?

CARR: It is quite clear that the Minister has made it abundantly clear that this is a rebadging exercise.

EPSTEIN:  But they have taken a whole lot of professions away. 

CARR: They have said they have, we will wait and see the detail of it. The Minister has been very light on detail this afternoon, but we will have to wait and see at the Senate estimates what are the exact arrangements that are being entered into.

There is no doubt that there has been a need to reform the arrangements in regards to 457 visas. The Labor party has called for that for some time. But it is not just the 457 visas, there is the backpacker visas,  student visas,  there are a whole range of visas that are being used and being exploited by unscrupulous employers and found that people are being brought to this country and under the most atrocious conditions, exploited in very dramatic ways with very little redress other than being thrown out of the country and of course that’s just not satisfactory.

So we will  wait and see what the detail is, I’m not satisfied from what the Minister said that they are not doing anything other than a political exercise in appealing to some of the most xenophobic elements in the county and hence Pauline Hanson is able to claim this is her policy.

EPSTEIN: Can I ask, the advertising. The Minister says that there will be mandatory labour market testing, do you think that will work?

CARR: There are some measures here you would have to say are an improvement, you would to say the cross-referencing with tax records and other things are an improvement, and things that we have been calling for some time for. Now a lot of this was highlighted in John Azarias’ review of the 457 visas and the Governments had the review for a very long time

EPSTEIN: That’s good perhaps there acting on their review.    

CARR: Some aspects of this they have had for well over 12 months,  and many of these measure don’t come in till next year so we will have a chance to look at the detail, I’m not satisfied though  that the fundamental questions about providing sufficient support for the training of workers in this country is being address by this proposition, I’m not satisfied for instance in the Azaria review where there was a recommendation for a training levy for people who want to use the importation of workers under these types of programs being implement. I’m not satisfied that the Government is fair-dinkum about dealing with exploitation of foreign workers.  What we are seeing today is a great deal of rhetoric, obviously market driven rhetoric, the polling has clearly demonstrated to the Government what their problem is.

EPSTEIN:  I’m happy to get onto polling and the inter matters, if I can just ask you on one other brief area. Tomorrow the Prime Minister is once again going to meet with a whole lot of gas – people who provide gas in this country and export it as well there is a proposal from industry that somehow the Government encourage them to keep more of their gas here and satisfy their international contracts by buying stuff on the international market, can the Government do that?

CARR: Yes of course, and what’s happening is the major employer organisations in manufacturing,  the major unions in manufacturing and the Labor Party are saying of course that Government can take much stronger action to encourage voluntary swaps, in terms of contract negotiations.

EPSTEIN: One thing that I’m not clear on, firstly no one really knows what’s in the contracts.  How does a government for a multinational company to keep more gas here?

CARR:  What you can say to these companies is you operate under a social licence. This is Australian resources, they belong to the Australian people, you cannot plunder the Australian people’s resource, and gouge prices, so that we’re finding people faced with unemployment, factories closing, because the Government has failed to deal with this issue. On 2 March this year the Treasury department told the Senate estimates committee that the Government had done nothing on domestic gas supply.

This is a problem the Government has only just discovered, and they’ve got a responsibility to face up to the crisis that the Prime Minister has only just discovered.

Epstein: All the gas expansion, or a lot of the gas expansion, the billions of dollars spent on those facilities in Queensland – that happened under a federal Labor Government. It’s partly your fault, isn’t it?

CARR: There’s been a failure of the political system here, I acknowledge.

EPSTEIN: [Labor’s] Resources Minister could have done something about it.

CARR: There was also an EIS put together, an impact statement about a range of matters, which said they wouldn’t use the domestic supply of gas to fund these export contracts. Those things are now happening, which they said weren’t going to happen.

The Government has a responsibility in terms of the public interest here, the national interest, to ensure that we look to the Australian people’s welfare. We’ve got a crisis we’re facing this winter – not something in the future, this winter – and the Government has a responsibility to face up to it.

EPSTEIN: I shouldn’t ask a Labor politician this but I will. Does it actually matter what Tony Abbott says? It doesn’t stop the Government coming up with ideas, it doesn’t stop the Government proposing different things that they can do, does it?

CARR: Tony Abbott knows exactly what he’s doing here. He’s demonstrated once again how good he is at arguing a case in opposition. He’s not very good at government, but he did this when he was in opposition to Labor and he’s doing it again now in opposition to Malcolm Turnbull.

He’s tapping into the Australian people’s concerns about the failure of the political system to respond to their needs. People are very disappointed with what’s happening in Canberra. People are disillusioned, they’re alienated, they feel as if the political system has let them down, and Tony Abbott is trying to tap into that as part of his campaign against Malcolm Turnbull.

We have a responsibility as politicians to respond to people’s anxieties and concerns, and to demonstrate that the political system can work a lot better than it currently does.

EPSTEIN: Maybe governments have factored into the system “OK, there’s going to be former prime ministers, they like to rabble-rouse, but that’s just the way politics is”. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

CARR: A political party at war with itself is not long for government.

Epstein: But they’re not at war with themselves. It’s one person.

CARR: I don’t think that’s true. What Tony Abbott is reflecting is a broader malaise within the Liberal Party. We are facing a political culture at the moment in which we’re seeing a lot of people very, very anxious about the failure of the political system to respond to their needs, and I think Tony Abbott is not speaking just for himself in this regard. He’s speaking to a number of people within the Liberal Party. This Government is clearly in profound trouble. It’s not just in polling, although they’ve lost 10 polls in a row and Mr Turnbull said that that was one of his measures of success. But there’s also a much deeper concern with the public about the way in which the system is able to deal with contemporary problems, and this gas issue is one of those things.

People have an expectation that governments will ensure that the lights stay on. They have an expectation that they can find secure, rewarding and well-paid employment. They have an expectation that their kids can go to a decent school, that they can have access to a hospital, that all those basic services will be provided.

But the agenda in recent times with privatisation and deregulation, and the general sense that you’re on your own, has resulted in people saying “Look, we’re not happy. We’re not happy at all with the way in politics works in this country at the moment.”

EPSTEIN: Senator Kim Carr, thanks for coming in.

CARR: Thank you.

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