SUBJECTS: Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund, Energy crisis, Higher Education, UN Human Rights Council, Newspoll.

SENATOR KIM CARR: Today I would like to talk about the Labor party’s plans to provide $1 billion advanced manufacturing fund to support Australian jobs in manufacturing on the weekend we announced support for manufacturers. 


The two biggest issues facing Australian manufacturing at the moment are the price of energy and access to finance, the Labor party has a strong commitment to ensure support for Australian manufactures on both those matters.  We have made the policy clear in the week in which General Motors is shutting it’s Elizabeth plant, a decision that has been taken, that need not have been taken, a decision to shut down the motor vehicle manufacturing plant is force upon this country by the stupidity of this government when it came to office by hounding General Motors out of Australia.

We now have a situation where tens of thousands of jobs are put at risk and many of those supply chain companies are facing acute difficulties getting access to finance because there is a failure of the banking systems to support Australian manufacturing.


Now on top of that we have a government not have any idea deal with the rising cost of energy which is also placing jobs at risk and the Grocery Council of Australia today has highlighted the risk to grocery manufactures of the dangers of increasing energy prices. The Government talks a lot about the way in which the price of electricity has gone up in recent years which has accelerated dramatically under this government, but fails to point out what BlueScope pointed out just last week that the next two years BlueScope’s energy prices will gone up 93 per cent, that’s a 93 per cent increase in prices for BlueScope.  We are seeing the growing number of companies who are talking about job losses as a result of the government’s failure to deal with the energy crisis in this county. 

Now the combination of both those factors, the energy pricing and a failure to get access to finance is putting many, many Australian manufactures at great risk and this is a government that has put the Chief Scientist in an untenable position.  The Chief Scientist has been asked to come forward with a report, a specially commissioned report, told to come forward with the report on the future of Australian energy systems,  he has highlighted the fundamental failure of the market in energy in this country he has brought forward a credible plan in terms of the clean energy target and this government has abandoned him. 


This government has essentially turned its back on this key recommendation of the Chief Scientist and it has left him high and dry when it comes to looking to the future. The Chief Scientist has pointed out that under his plan energy cost will actually decrease by $160 a year, this government of course is in the process of completely capitulating to Tony Abbott and the extreme right wing of the Liberal party because it has no plan for the future of energy prices in this country, it has no plan for the future of manufacturing in this country.


This is a government that is in fact hostile to manufacturing because it is not able to deal with the problems of the country, it is not able to deal with national interest because it is so preoccupied with dealing with its internal problems and it’s crisis of leadership within the Liberal party itself and as a consequence the Australian people are looking in vain for this government to provide the security that they need to protect their jobs and protect their standards of living.                


JOURNALIST: What do you anticipate will come out of the Cabinet meeting today, will that be the end of the CET?


CARR: It is quite clear that the government is positioning itself to abandon the Chief Scientists report. A report that they have commissioned,  a report that the Chief Scientist has laboured on for some time, a report that has gathered support more broadly amongst industry players , across this parliament,  a report that has failed to attract the support of the right wing of the Liberal party.  I mean that is his major problem.


The political fix that the Chief Scientist was asked to come up with has failed to meet the criteria set by Tony Abbott and his friends and so the Prime Minster from the security of Sydney Harbour he is able to talk glibly about the future of energy prices, he’d never had to face the problem of meeting energy bills the way most Australians have. He has never had to face the real difficulty that manufactures are facing at the moment where their price of electricity has been up two and three times, where we are faced by the extraordinary power of these market dominating energy generators who are now saying to take it or leave it to our major manufactures, who are saying in turn they are being forced off shore.


Now just as our major automotive companies are being forced off shore, we’re exporting jobs this is a government that is not really about understanding the problems of ordinary Australians.  So yes, what we will see today is a government that is in the process of capitulating to Tony Abbott and his right wing mates in a bid desperately to try maintain some sort of internal arrangements within the Liberal party the sort of arrangements that lead the Prime Minster to get the mortgage on the Lodge which is now being extracted in full measure by the right wing of the Liberal party.


JOURNALIST: What do you expect on the debate on higher education this week and what will Labor’s strategy be opposing those changes? 


CARR: We made it quite clear, we don’t think that ordinary Australians should have to foot the bills that this government asking of them when it comes to higher education.


What this government is doing is trying to force people who are on ordinary average weekly earnings to pay increasing costs of education, we are now asking people to meet the costs of their higher education contributions. These will be cleaners; these are people who are on part time work being obliged to meet their repayments for their education well before their able to afford to do so. We have had a good education system in this country; we are a world leader in education this government is in the process of dismantling it.


Now we know the problems of privatisation, we know the problems of deregulation; we know what the cost is to the economy. Surely this government has learnt the lessons but I’m afraid they keep pressing on with these policies and it looks to me as if it is unlikely that they will attract the support of the Senate for those measures which I am very pleased to reflect upon and we will look forward to a Labor Government having to deal with the problems in terms of higher education system.


Just as we will have to look to a Labor Government to deal with the problem of energy pricing, just as we will have to look to a Labor Government to deal with the questions of the manufacturing sector in this country that is able to get access to finance and able to get the support from a national government that is committed to the future of an economy where everybody gets a fair go, an economy where people can look with confidence to the future.


Real wages now have been pressed for some time the price of energy has been out stripping that to some considerable degree and we know that people are not able to meet these sorts of cost on their households. 


JOURNALIST: Australia is due to be elected uncontested to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time today, at the same time as we are being grilled on our human right record when it come to asylum seeker policy and indigenous affairs.  Do those areas concern you? Are there human rights concerns that might delegitimise our claim to that seat?


CARR: I think we do have some real questions about the way in which people are being treated in these detention centres, the conditions of confinement should never ever be used as a mechanism as deterrents.  We have to ensure that we treat people decently and we have full respect for human rights I’m afraid that the present Immigration Minister – whatever you call him no matter how many uniforms he struts around with – will not change the fact that we have international treaty obligations and we should respect them.


JOURNALIST: At the same time what do you think it means for Australia to have a seat on that council?


CARR: Well of course it is important for us to engage internationally, it is very important for us to be part of an international system that does understand the importance of human rights but it also lifts the bar for us it means that we do have to take an increasing role in terms of making sure we are model citizens.


JOURNALIST: Just finally on the NewsPoll, can I get a comment on that?


CARR: The Prime Minister set the bar didn’t he? He said that the reason that they said they got rid of Tony Abbott was that there had been 30 NewsPolls in a row that had gone bad for the Abbott Administration, we are now on 21. So the Prime Minister has set that bar himself, we are now in the very nervous twenties for the Prime Minister.


Look the polls are so bad that even The Australian don’t try to hide how difficult it is for the government at the moment.  We have got a situation where the government is frankly not able to sustain proper national leadership because it is preoccupied. Now no matter how much government advertising they try to run in the week leading up to a polling period – which is very noticeable – no matter what they try to do in terms of manipulating the news cycle, the Australian people are making it very clear what their attitude is, you don’t really need a poll to determine that this is a Prime Minister that is out of touch, that is aloof, that is arrogant and clearly not able to do the job.  He is not a very good politician, he is not very good at his job and it is increasingly clear the Australian people are a wake up to him.

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