MONDAY, 16 MAY 2016

SUBJECT/S: Automotive manufacturing; Penalty rates; Vote Compass.    


MICHAEL BRISSENEDEN, HOST: Car industry workers struggling to find a new job will receive support from a Labor Government under a new jobs package. Opposition leader Bill Shorten is kicking off week two of the election campaign in Geelong, where he will commit $59 million to a manufacturing jobs package. He's also vowing to work with the Victorian and South Australian Governments to deliver new jobs in the areas worst affected by the death of the motor vehicle industry. The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will start the week in Western Australia, where the focus will be on ship building. For more I'm joined live in our Melbourne studio by Victorian Senator and Shadow Minister for Innovation and Industry, Kim Carr. Senator Carr, welcome to the program.


BRISSENDEN: Well, it's all very well providing money for a transition for these workers but what are they going to transition too?

CARR: We want to ensure that there are ongoing employment opportunities in manufacturing. We want to be able to attract new investment to our advanced manufacturing companies. We want to be able to assist existing automotive companies develop new contracts internationally. We want to be able to ensure that what's left of the Australian automotive industry is able to survive in very challenging times. We want to be able to provide assistance to the nearly 200,000 Australians who face a perilous future because the Abbott and Turnbull governments goaded the automotive industry out of Australia. 

BRISSENDEN: Sure, but both governments, both sides of politics over the years have decided that the motor vehicle industry shouldn't been attracting the same sort of government assistance it has in the past, haven't they?

CARR: No that's not true, that's just not true. We very strongly supported the automotive industry and we were able to see the automotive industry advance in this country when around the world it was in retreat. We were able to attract new investment to advance manufacturing in Australia, whereas this Government - the conservative Government - has chosen to drive this industry out of Australia.

BRISSENDEN: But is it true that nearly half of all Victoria's car industry suppliers have yet to diversify into other industries? That suggests that they're not moving as fast as you say they could or should?

CARR: Well, what I can say is that many firms are diversifying. There will be an automotive industry in this country despite the very, very best efforts of Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull. There will be companies that are able to secure international contacts. If we take Ford for instance, Ford will have at least 60 of their suppliers continue in operation after they shut down and one-third of those have already secured international contracts. What we want to do is to stand should-to-shoulder with the working people of this country who absolutely require their government to be able to work with them to secure future jobs, high-skilled, high-wage jobs.

BRISSENDEN: But you don't?

CARR: You simply cannot wash our hands of this issue. There will be up to 200,000 Australians facing a bleak future and we have a responsibility to ensure that we can avoid an economic and social catastrophe.

BRISSENDEN: But you don't think the transition can happen without some sort of government assistance?

CARR: Well, round the world that's the case. What we know is that by international standards our support is quite modest, but we do know how important it is to secure future high-skilled, high-wage jobs in advanced manufacturing. Conservative governments around the world understand that - the United Kingdom Government understands that. Governments throughout Europe understand that. Governments through-out Asia understand that.

Only in Australia do you face this sort of argument that we have ability to wash our hands of this question. We simply cannot allow so many Australians to be left in the lurch and they require their governments to stand with them and secure future economic prosperity. We simply can't allow fanning out money to those that are screen jockeys and those that of course rely on multi-national tax avoidance to be able to secure the support of government. We need to be able to work with people to secure blue-collar jobs as well as those that are on the top end of town.

BRISSENDEN: Can I take you to another area of workplace relations? You've got the Green's leader Richard Di Natale campaigning in Grayndler in Inner-Sydney today which is Anthony Albanese's seat. He says the Greens would legislate to protect penalty rates. Now Bill Shorten has already said he'd accept the decision of the Fair Work Commission which is currently deliberating on penalty rates.

CARR: We have a bit of confidence in the Fair Work Commission and we want to be able to see what they actually decide. We want to be able to secure penalty rates for Australians. We know how important penalty rates are for ordinary families to be able to secure a decent living standard. We are the party that actually defends penalty rates. It's the conservatives that want to push back and make sure that people lose their penalty rates. 

BRISSENDEN: But if the Fair Work Commission decides that it's the right thing to cut penalty rates for Sundays, for instance, a Labor Government would support that?

CARR: And we'll look at the results of any Commission's decision. However, we need to be able to be certain about this. We have supported penalty rates. We have made submissions to the Fair Work Commission and let's wait for their response.

BRISSENDEN: Well, if their response is that they should cut penalty rates on Sunday, would you support that?

CARR: Well, we'll see what's actually put before the Parliament.

BRISSENDEN: Well, Bill Shorten's already said that he would accept the decision. 

CARR: He will support the Commission's findings but we want to be able to look at the future after that.

BRISSENDEN: So it's not clear if you would support it or not?

CARR: We'll wait to see what legislation is actually before the Parliament at that time. But we want to defend penalty rates. We have made a submission to the Commission along those lines and we do not resolve from our support for penalty rates for Australian workers. 

BRISSENDEN: But would you intervene to oppose cuts to penalty rates?

CARR: We'll wait and see whether or not the Commission actually comes down with that position.

BRISSENDEN: But my point is that Bill Shorten says that he would support the decision, whatever decision the Fair Work Commission made? Is that not the case?

CARR: All of my experience with the Labor Party is that our defence of penalty rates is absolute and I expect that to continue.

BRISSENDEN: Okay. This is the campaign; we've had one week of the campaign. There's seven weeks of this campaign to go. How do you think it's going?

CARR: I think that we're now on day eight of Mr Turnbull's 55-day campaign. I'm not altogether certain how many Australians have actually engaged as yet. I believe that we're making it very clear that we can fight this election from Labor's point of view on positive policies. My expectation is that we'll be highly competitive and my hope is that as we move forward in this campaign we'll have a proper discussion about the future directions of this country. 

Particularly in regard to being able to ensure we have proper services in health and education and in terms of climate change. That we're able to develop a country in this that we can to be proud of and that actually deals with the challenges that this society is facing. 

BRISSENDEN: Right, there are seven weeks to go but here's an indication of how at least quite a number of voters are feeling from the ABC's Vote Compass, which is a tool that tracks voter sentiment. Now, 150,000 people have answered a series of questions on leader's trustworthiness and competence. Just have a quick listen to this - Simon Jackman an academic from Sydney University and a member of the Vote Compass board. He explains what Vote Compass has found here.

SIMON JACKMAN, MEMBER OF VOTE COMPASS BOARD: The striking feature in this data is the healthy lead Malcolm Turnbull has over his opponent Bill Shorten on both trustworthiness and competence - a good point or so on a 10-point scale. That's a big lead in data like this and one that I think is going to play a big role going down the road towards the election itself.

FORD: Is this telling us that this is the way it's going to go?

JACKMAN: I don't know if it's telling us that but it is going to be. I think if I was on the receiving end, if I was in Malcolm Turnbull's tent, I'd be making a lot of these data that here's an area where you've got a clear advantage over your opponent.

FORD: Should Bill Shorten be worried?

JACKMAN: Yeah, I think so. He's been the Opposition leader for a long time. It's been a rocky road for Malcolm Turnbull and still Turnbull enjoys this lead and a pretty compelling lead as these data go on these two important traits - trustworthiness and competence. 

BRISSENDEN: So Kim Carr, does that worry you? Should Labor be worried that with seven weeks to go you're still a long way behind Malcolm Turnbull in this area?

CARR: I wouldn't take much notice of this. Bill Shorten is out there talking to people day after day. We are engaging with the Australian people on the issues that concern them. I'm very confident that we'll be very competitive in this election. The ABC has a self-selecting mechanism for this Vote Compass.

I'm not altogether certain of the quality of the science behind these conclusions. I wouldn't necessarily rely on this. Our task is to actually talk directly to the Australian people not rely upon surveys where people dial-in. It's a question of who can dial the fastest in many of these types of arrangements.

BRISSENDEN: Apparently it is corrected for that, I'm told?

CARR: Well, I'm told many things about these surveys but the normal margin of error would probably account for the differences that you're seeing here. I wouldn't worry too much about it. What we want to see is the Australian people being able to be provided with real alternatives about the future of their welfare, about the conditions this country faces and the solutions to those problems.

BRISSENDEN: Okay, Senator Carr, we'll leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us. 

CARR: Thank you.

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