SUBJECTS: Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund, wages, citizenship.





SUBJECTS: Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund, wages, citizenship.

LEON COMPTON, ABC TASMANIA: Kim Carr is the Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and is in Tasmania at the moment. Kim Carr, good morning to you.

SENATOR KIM CARR: Good morning.

COMPTON: Thank you for coming in this morning. You are in Tasmania at the moment to talk more about an advanced manufacturing fund that Labor has announced that it will set up if elected. What are the opportunities that will create for advanced manufacturing, of which there is much in Tasmania?

CARR: We want to be able to provide assistance to small and medium size enterprises to get access to finance because the banks are letting people down, letting companies down and are letting workers down.

They are letting Australians down because they are not providing access to finance for people who want to expand, diversify, develop new economic opportunities.

So we believe that the government should step in, provide assistance to firms. The fund will have an independent board and should have the capacity to provide finance just as we do with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which has worked very, very well, produced a good return for government but also a great return for the Australian people.


COMPTON: How is this not picking winners? The idea that government will be responsible for identifying sectors and maybe even propping up industries that in an ordinary free capital market would struggle to survive? 

CARR: We know that if you leave these things to the market then whole sectors of the economy will miss out. We know that it’s appropriate to provide assistance to farmers during drought, we know that it’s important to have a balanced economy so that prosperity is shared across the country.

Now over the last five years we have seen a decline in manufacturing employment of over seven per cent in Tasmania, particularly in regional areas. We know that the jobs that are being created as a result of technological change are really been concentrated in the inner cities and these are for very concentrated groups of people and not necessarily for the population at large.

So we need a balanced economy and a society that is able to provide the economic opportunities and prosperity for all. And that is why the government has got a role to play to work with industry, to ensure that we have the new technologies in the economy but at the same time the economic opportunities so that blue-collar workers get to share in the prosperity that we know that nations such as  Australia enjoy.

Brian Mitchell, the Member for Lyons will today be discussing opportunities in the paper industry, at the pulp mill…

COMPTON: You’ll be going to Norske Skog?

CARR: We are going there because we want to talk to people about the opportunities there are to build economic capacity in this state and not just rely upon people saying we will go where we can make the most money as quickly as possible and a handbasket for those who are left behind.

COMPTON: Norske is a global multinational company. What would you be offering them in the future?

CARR: We know that there are companies we need to attract to the Australian economy to have the best opportunities for Australia. So we are not just confining our interest to small and medium-sized enterprises, we also want to be able to provide assistance to large companies, as we do at the moment through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

But we want to be able to protect these companies from unfair dumping products, which we have seen in the paper industry. We know that’s happening in the steel industry and we know it’s happening in aluminium.

These are the types of industries that Tasmania needs. We know that Tasmania has enormous opportunities, particularly with its concentration on renewable energy which is now providing baseload power, which is unusual in terms of renewable energy, so we want to be able to take advantage of the capabilities that the Tasmanian economy is able to provide and provide some leadership for the rest of Australia.

COMPTON: The Treasurer has written to business figures and said that they need to be out lobbying for corporate tax cuts if they want to see them achieved. Do you support corporate tax cuts from 30 per cent down to 25 for big business at the moment?

CARR: We think that there are higher priorities at the moment like providing the type of investment support that’s needed to secure the future of the country. Because what we do know is that many of these companies we are talking about aren’t paying very much in tax at the moment because they are able to shift money around the world so they don’t get the full scrutiny of the Australian Taxation Office.

So we think there probably are higher priorities in regards to the budgetary support that should be provided.

COMPTON: Can we talk about one thing that could be a higher priority, that is lifting wages for workers across the board. My memory of the recent forecasts looking over the forward estimates is for continued low wages growth. If you are elected how will you change that and lift worker wages?

CARR: We have said that in regards to penalty rates we will intervene directly because we think that the recent decisions were unfair. We think that what is happening there is having an effect on the economy at large. Consumer confidence is falling, retail confidence is falling. We know that profits are up quite high, yet wages have remained essentially static. And in Tasmania wages have remained pretty much the same for the past four or five years.

COMPTON: Is that because immigration is too high?

CARR: No. In fact immigration to this state is not particularly high at all. But it does point to something: the claim that if you reduce wages you get an improvement in the overall economic performance is not necessarily correct. Textbook economists would try to tell you that if squeeze working people you get a better result for the economy as a whole – that’s not the case at all. 

What we know though is that if you improve people’s capacity to spend you will improve economic confidence and we think it’s only fair – it’s a basic question of social justice. 

We know that with energy prices going up so much across the country, with families paying over $3000 a year at the moment with increased costs in gas and electricity, it’s only reasonable that we look towards ways of improving the take-home pay of working families.

COMPTON: Do you acknowledge that Justine Keay is going to have citizenship issues placed before the High Court?

CARR: The legal opinions we have from Ray Finkelstein, a former Federal Court Judge, very prominent barrister and former Solicitor General in Victoria, and backed up by other QCs in Victoria, is that the position that the High Court has taken is that if you take all reasonable steps to secure your renunciation of foreign citizenship it is the appropriate course. It’s the action that’s been in place since 1988.

COMPTON:  But the High Court surprised everybody. Does the matter need to be heard in front of the High Court?

CARR:  No. Our advice is that since the Australia Act of 1988 and the High Court decision of 1992, where we saw the by-elections in Wills, that the High Court has taken a position that all reasonable steps should be taken to renounce foreign citizenship. That is the position that Justine took, and we should not be held to ransom because of the bureaucratic procedures of a foreign power, in this case the United Kingdom. And what we do know is that the legal opinions that we have is from very prominent QCs and a former Federal Court Judge to support that position.

COMPTON: Kim Carr, good to see you in the studio and thank you for coming in this morning.

CARR: Thank you very much indeed

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