Anika Wells doorstop in Brisbane

TUESDAY, 15 MAY 2018

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to scrap upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students; by-elections; asylum seekers; Gaza protest deaths; increased AFP powers at airports.

ANIKA WELLS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LILLEY: Good afternoon, everyone. It's really good to be here with you all. My name is Anika Wells and I am Labor's new candidate for the seat of Lilley which is the federal electorate right in the heart of Brisbane's north side. And it is my honour today to welcome our Labor leader, Bill Shorten, to our part of the world although I do acknowledge he has been here so many times now, he probably gave the driver directions rather than the other way around. We are here at the Bracken Ridge campus of Brisbane North TAFE and we are here for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, we north-siders have long memories and we remember when it was campuses like this one that were earmarked for sale by the last LNP state government. That was in 2012 and in the five years since then, under a Federal Liberal Government, we've seen more than $3 billion ripped out of the TAFE and training system. So we thought, as the new north-side Labor team here today, we would take this opportunity to make very clear that if Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal ministers want to come choofing around here, darkening our doorstop and threatening our TAFEs, they will find a firewall of Labor women standing here ready to stop them.

Now the second thing we are here today to talk about is good news, which is what Bill Shorten would do as Prime Minister for our TAFE system if we are elected to government: Scrapping upfront fees for 100,000 places is really good news for us on the north-side. Because what it gives our kids is certainty and security. It means that they can plan for a TAFE, for a trade, for a traineeship and for a quality job at the end of it.

Now my 15 month old is a little bit young to be settling her tertiary preferences just yet but I want that when that time comes, she has every opportunity available to her and I am running to make sure that her and all of her tiny peers, have those opportunities right here at home on Brisbane's north-side.

So with that, I'd like to introduce the man that I am campaigning to make sure is our next Prime Minister, the man who can deliver this great TAFE package for us, Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Anika and you can see why Wayne Swan, the current member for Lilley, was so keen to see Anika Wells step up to fill his shoes in. I am here on Brisbane's north-side at the Bracken Ridge campus of the Brisbane North TAFE. I am here with Anika Wells, Labor's new candidate for Lilley and also with Corinne Mulholland, Labor's candidate for the seat of Petrie. It is great to be here with as many women candidates for the Labor Party as the LNP is putting forward in the whole of Queensland - but that's actually not the fundamental purpose of my visit today.

I am here because only Labor can be trusted to restore TAFE in this country. We believe that Australia's future must be a future where we are a nation of tradies as much as a nation of university graduates. That's why we want to reverse the trend to privatisation, which has been a hallmark of the LNP years in Canberra, in vocational education. There has been a real disastrous loss of apprenticeships under the current LNP Government in Canberra. 

Specifically, there are about 420,000 apprenticeships and like positions when the LNP came in, now it's about 280,000. What that means in the great state of Queensland alone is that something like there are 26,000 fewer apprenticeships. We want parents to be able to talk to their teenage kids and say that they are able to go to university or they're able to do an apprenticeship - that's the chance my parents gave my brother and I. And I want to see every Queensland young person have that chance, go to university by all means if that's what you want to do, but also have the opportunity to go to TAFE. We do not see TAFE as a poor cousin of university education in this country. 

So what I was pleased to announce last Thursday night is that if Labor is elected at the next federal election - whenever that is - we're going to fund the upfront fee costs for 100,000 apprenticeships. That's fantastic news for a whole lot of adults contemplating retraining or, indeed, a whole lot of kids who might be thinking about finishing school and going to get an apprenticeship. 

We're sending an unequivocal message to the parents of Australian teenagers, to teenagers themselves and of course to adults who want to retrain: going to TAFE and getting an apprenticeship is a live option. And Labor's going to help with your cost of living because we're going to prioritise the funding of upfront fees of 100,000 apprenticeships over the first three years of a Labor Government. 

To illustrate what this practically means, if you're doing a Cert III in Carpentry, this upfront fee offer by Labor means we will help you pay $1,600. Now as you all know, apprentice wages are lower than normal wages so it is very hard to make ends meet. Not having to pay this $1,600 means that we can help encourage more people into carpentry. If you're doing a Cert II in the electrical area, the upfront fee price that we're offering to pay is about $900. All this helps cost of living, all of this helps encourage people on low wages to be able to contemplate getting an apprenticeship. And once you’ve got a trade, it is a passport to your future. 

There is a very clear choice in Australia: I have chosen to look after 100,000 people to do apprenticeships. Mr Turnbull is choosing to look after the four big banks and give them $17 billion in corporate tax cut. The reason why Labor can afford to provide the apprenticeship positions we can is because we are not giving corporate tax cuts to the big end of town. 

We're happy to take any questions that people might have.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the UK Home Office has confirmed Susan Lamb has renounced her citizenship. It only took six days. Why didn't she do this months ago? Hasn't she mislead the public?

SHORTEN: Let me answer a few of those propositions. First of all, it is correct and Susan Lamb has informed me, that she is not a UK citizen and she is eligible to be Labor's flag-bearer in the upcoming by election in Longman - that's good news. 

I am pleased that on this occasion, the UK was able to process her application so quickly. And before the election, Susan Lamb did everything she could to provide the information that the UK Home Office requested. On this occasion, the UK Home Office has been more flexible and we're happy that she has now got no cloud over her eligibility to serve in the Parliament. 

And I tell you what the next by-election in Longman will be –  I was at the Caboolture Sports Club last night, it's not going to be section 44 of the Constitution, it's going to be what we do to look after the Caboolture Hospital. It is going to be what we do to reverse the cuts that Mr Turnbull has made to the Caboolture Hospital. It is going to be talking about how we will provide a better NBN to parts of the Longman electorate who have had a second-class NBN from this current government. It is about making sure the schools in Longman are properly funded. Susan Lamb and I can make these promises because we're not giving $80 billion away to the top end of town. So I look forward to this by-election. It's not one we sought but it is one we are prepared to fight.

JOURNALIST: How critical is that by-election to you? If you can't win in Longman now, what does that mean for places like Lilley and Petrie at the next election?

SHORTEN: You can see by yourself - and we are going to hear from Corrine in a moment - you can see by the calibre of the candidates, it is not just Susan Lamb in Longman. But by Anika's presentation now, I am sure she made a good impression on you and Corrine Mulholland is wowing people where ever she goes when they get to meet her and know what she stands for. 

What is critical in Longman is not Labor or Liberal,  it is what sort of country we want to be. What is critical in Longman is not Mr Turnbull and myself. What is critical is are schools properly funded? Can we reduce waiting list for elective surgery in our hospitals? Can we make sure that pensioners just get their $14-a-fortnight energy supplement? What is critical in Longman is do they get a miserly $10 a week from Mr Morrison, the people who earn less than $125,000 a year, or will they be able to get Labor's almost double tax cut for nearly tens of thousands of people in Longman. That's what is critical, the cost of living and needs of everyday Aussies.

JOURNALIST: You convinced the Home Office to process her application without all the paper work, why wasn't that done from the start?

SHORTEN: I do appreciate that last time around, they required Susan Lamb's parents' marriage certificate. This time round they didn't. But where the story ends is that Susan Lamb is eligible beyond any doubt to run in the by-election for Longman and she will be an excellent standard-bearer. Her story is a great story. She’s raised four children in that electorate, she has been an education aide. She is not someone who has had an easy life but she is someone who wants to give back to her community. And she has got a powerful passion to improve the health resources, the hospital resources at Caboolture, to make sure there are the proper road linkages in the electorate, to make sure that we have Cross-River Rail which will of course mean that more people can use public transport from the northern suburbs of Brisbane. And she's also got a powerful passion for education.

JOURNALIST: Israeli soldiers have killed 58 Palestinians and wounded an estimated 2,800 others. Do you condemn the Israeli response to the protests?

SHORTEN: I think it's dreadful what we've seen. In particular, when you see the death of children, no good comes of that, no good comes of that at all - that's a disaster. So we are urging restraint from Israel. We also support a two-state solution, and we believe that aggression from any party puts back the cause of peace. It doesn't promote it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Australia should move its embassy to Jerusalem?

SHORTEN: No, I don't.

JOURNALIST: With this announcement today at TAFE, can you outline exactly which courses will get funding under this, and guarantee that we won’t see a return to the old VET FEE-HELP policy that saw costs blow out to $2.9 billion, poor-quality students who had an 8 per cent completion rate like at TAFE New South Wales and TAFE offering courses like Diploma of Clinical Aromatherapy, Reflexology and a Diploma of Fashion Products and Markets?

SHORTEN: I've heard the Liberal attack on TAFE, you know they try and pretend that somehow TAFE is inferior. I think there's a fair bit of snobbery in the modern Liberal Party. I think the way they've put in a sneaky cut of $270 million to TAFE, is they just don't think TAFE is not as good as university. Well, I am different. I actually think that TAFE is as good as university. We need tradies just like we need arts graduates. In terms of the problems which you describe, many of which have happened on the Coalition’s watch, part of the reason why we've seen a blowout in vocational education, and some of the shonky courses which have been the source of public exposure, is that we went too far in the privatisation of vocational educational training. If you just put the profit motive ahead of people you will see abuses - we've seen it in banking, we've seen it in TAFE, we're even seeing the energy companies gouging prices. So I think privatisation of vocational educational went too far the wrong way. 

Labor has committed that if we are elected, at least $2 in every $3 of federal tax payer money will be spent on our TAFE systems, on our public TAFE.  We've made it very clear that on Commonwealth infrastructure projects, we will require at least one in every 10 employees be an apprentice. We've proposed setting up a $100 million regional TAFE fund to help renew ageing infrastructure in TAFE.  The Liberals don't get TAFE - they never have, they never will. That's why we're proposing, instead of giving big banks a $17 billion handout, we’re proposing to fund the upfront fees of 100,000 TAFE places. In terms of the occupations and the courses which you specified, we will work with State authorities to understand where the skills gaps are. But I make no apology for saying that we should not be importing temporary skilled labour from overseas one day longer than it takes to train-up an Australian to do that job.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor place any time limit on how long asylum seekers are held at Nauru and Manus Island?

SHORTEN: No, I think the more positive approach - so the answer to that is no. The more positive approach we would adopt is putting energy into regional resettlement. We've said absolutely, and we send this message clearly to the people smugglers and some of those in the government who want to encourage the people smugglers by saying that Labor has a different view to the Liberals. We'll turn back the boats. That policy is a policy which I think has demonstrated that it saves lives and we recognise that and we will work with that. What I have never accepted is that you have to keep people in indefinite detention in Manus and Nauru as a deterrent to people smugglers. The obligation is that we do settle these people regionally, that they're not stuck in these facilities indefinitely. We certainly think that the government needs to put more effort in. Although I want to acknowledge here, that I think I the government is doing the right thing with the American arrangements.

JOURNALIST: And have you spoken to people in regional communities and would they welcome that proposal?

SHORTEN: I think people in regional communities are up for bringing migrants to their towns. I think that in our big cities where you're seeing strained infrastructure and congestion, people want to see a better plan in terms of dealing with those issues. But there’s no doubt that there are plenty of country communities with lots of success stories of migrants moving to the country and really making a qualitative difference.

JOURNALIST: When does Labor want these five by-elections to be held? Are you in favour of that Super Saturday (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: It's up to the Speaker. I'm a little surprised the dates haven't been set already. When John Alexander pulled the pin, when Barnaby Joyce had to go and face the people, they got on with it pretty quickly. Anyway, no doubt all will be revealed by the Government and the Speaker and the Electoral Commission. 

JOURNALIST: So you haven't spoken to them? 

SHORTEN: We want to move on with it. I think that's the case.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Speaker is waiting until the LNP have preselected their candidate in Longman?

SHORTEN: No, I'm not going to impugn the motives of the Speaker. I think he does a good job.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see the reintroduction of the Safe Schools program? 

SHORTEN: The Safe Schools program is applied in different states, and some of it already exists. The way I approach the Safe School programs, and indeed other anti-bullying programs is keeping our kids safe should be paramount. There is a lot of work these days done about online safety. Although, the predators online are every parent's nightmare, because of social media, which is great but it can also be an evil too with bullying. So I think we're aware of it, even if I don't think we've got all the answers. But there's another practical problem I hear from parents every day. Their kids are getting bullied at school. So I do think that we need to do everything we can to keep our kids safe. There's a lot of parents who feel quite impotent and disempowered, because you've got stretched school resources. There's not a worse feeling in the world for a parent then the feeling you can't keep your child safe. I have to say, this is one of the reasons why I think the government is muddle-headed to cut $17 billion from schools because what I think is important, is if the schools have got the resources, then kids can get individual attention. So that's why I would ask the government to reconsider their sneaky $17 billion worth of cuts. 

If there are no more questions I just want to briefly talk about the energy companies. I think revelations have come out that the tax office has raised concerns with the Energy Regulator that big power companies are price gouging. I notice that Mr Turnbull says he'll have another review into this. I don't think Australians want another review, they want action. We've heard from Mr Turnbull periodically - he likes to boast that he's called the energy companies in, I think he says he has fixed energy price rises a number of times.  It's not enough for him to boast that he can pull them into line. The conduct of big energy companies gouging prices off everyday consumers is a test of Mr Turnbull's authority, it's a test of Mr Turnbull's sincerity. Every cent that consumers have been overcharged should be refunded. And this arrogant behaviour of large corporations treating consumers as mushrooms and keeping them in the dark, this has to stop. This is a test of Mr Turnbull's sincerity. No more cups of tea with the big energy companies - action now. Action speaks louder than words.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you one question, sorry, about the announcement the Prime Minister made this morning about increased powers for AFP officers at airports to check ID, is this something Labor supports?

SHORTEN: I think the government made a series of announcements around airport security and Labor has been calling for more work to be done on airport security. So we approach this in a constructive mindset. Having said that - and we want to be briefed by the government, they've announced it publicly, they haven't briefed us yet but I'm sure they'll get around to that. But I did notice that in the Budget, they allocated $50 million for improved airport security. Now, $50 million at first blush sounds like quite a bit. But when you look at what has to happen at all the regional airports in Western Australia and Queensland, I am worried that the government has underfunded the security promise, and it’s going to put the viability of some regional airports in danger. Anyone who travels in Queensland as I do, knows that regional airports can often be doing it quite hard to make ends meet. So it is important that whilst we promote the security of our airports, we don't punish the viability of regional airports, in particular, in Queensland and Western Australia. Thanks, everybody - and Corinne is just going to say a few words in closing. 

CORINNE MULHOLLAND, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PETRIE: Thank you, Bill. It is great to have you all here in the Federal Electorate of Petrie. What we know about Petrie is that we are a big, bold electorate and we're getting even bigger. In fact, we're home to some of the fastest growing suburbs in Australia. Those aren't my statistics, they're from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Norfolk is in particular the fastest growing community in Queensland. To pick up on one of the points that was raised before about the types of study that people are doing here, we have 10,000 homes going into this electorate every year, or thereabouts. That's construction, they're tradies, they're people who are doing electrical wiring, they're people who are making cabinets, they're building homes. They're not boutique courses. They're people who are delivering real homes that people live in and people rely on.

So our economy relies upon quality jobs and people who have quality skills. I'm proud to stand here as a Labor candidate fighting for our local TAFE here in Bracken Ridge. On the north side we know that we have lots of communities, people who live in Deception Bay, people who live in Redcliffe like myself, there are families who are struggling to make ends meet. They're making the really hard decisions about where they send their kids after school. Are their kids going to go on and do a TAFE course and will they find that $1,000 to get them in with that upfront fee? I'm so proud to stand here with my colleague Anika Wells, and our leader Bill Shorten, and delivering a great policy for for local people here, and young families here in Petrie. What we'll be doing is we'll be abolishing 100,000 places - upfront fees for 100,000 courses - and that's really important to the people who live here and rely upon good quality jobs. 

So the decision between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party couldn't be more stark. When I moved to this community people tell me they are sick of seeing our government give a free pass to the big business, while we scrimp and save to try  and get infrastructure delivered here and services delivered. So the decision couldn't be more stark between the Labor Party and Liberal Party for this upcoming election, and it's great to have Bill here. 

SHORTEN: Thanks everybody, see you soon.