ABC BALLARAT AND SOUTHWEST VICTORIA MORNINGS WITH STEVE MARTIN
TUESDAY, 21 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: Anthony Albanese’s vision statement on Australia beyond coronavirus; Australian manufacturing and infrastructure investment; return to schools.
STEVE MARTIN: Things are starting that slow return to normal. Something that’s also returning to a bit of normal is politics. The federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, made a speech yesterday talking about how he believes Australia should look after COVID-19 and when things do get pretty much back to normal. I think most of us expect that they won’t return to what we had before for some time yet, but Anthony Albanese is focusing on things such as nation building projects, and also JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments. Catherine King is the Federal Member for Ballarat and also of course the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and Catherine King is our guest this morning. Catherine King, good morning to you.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good morning. Good to be with you.
MARTIN: First off, can I just ask because as a parent and with the home-schooling stuff, what’s your instant reaction to this news about a return to school in the next couple of weeks?
KING: Well, I think it’s good to start have some dates. I think like most of us who have a primary school aged child, with home schooling and working and other caring responsibilities, I’m not going to say it’s been easy. There’s lots of great things about it, but it’s bloody hard frankly I think most parents would agree. You feel like you can’t please anyone and you’re pulled in a hundred and one different directions. I’m up here in Canberra this week, so my husband’s at home doing it by himself, doing a sterling job. I think having a date is really good. How it’s going to work, obviously, the schools are going to contact us . I’m just really pleased. My little boy’s in grade 6, I’m pleased that he gets the opportunity to be back with his mates before the end of the term, his birthday will be during that time, and I see how they are missing just having that interaction and I think that that will fill me with joy seeing them back and seeing each other. It’s been such a huge experience for them all and for all of us as well. So I think having a date is great. The same as with all of this, we have to be incredibly adaptable and kind over this period of time, and I think we’ve all had to struggle with that and I just hope having a date helps people. I’d love it to be sooner but that’s the reality of these things.
MARTIN: Catherine King, let’s talk politics. Is it time to ramp up the political arguments again? Because there has been a sense of bipartisanship through much of this thus far.
KING: Well, I think what Anthony did yesterday is start to point to things that we have learned. The first case of COVID-19 started back in November and we’ve had remarkable changes happening in 6 months, in such a short period of time, but we’ve learned some things. We’ve learned that too many people are employed as casuals. We knew already that JobSeeker, or the new Newstart payment, is not enough for people to live on. We know that manufacturing is stuffed basically. We should be having more Australian manufactured products, we need to concentrate more on jobs. So we’ve learned some things, and yesterday what Anthony was saying was let’s take those lessons, let’s take it as an opportunity to reset the way in which we actually live and work in Australia. There’s massive opportunities for us in doing that, and now is a really good time for governments and for oppositions to actually start thinking about that and start laying some of that out. So that’s what Anthony was doing yesterday and challenging the Government as we should do in Opposition to start thinking about what that plan is coming out.
MARTIN: Alright Catherine King, let me put this to you, insecure work because of casualisation has been raised for years and NewStart being too low has been raised for years, the lack or the demise of manufacturing in Australia has been raised for years. Even if political parties agree with the premise of what I’ve just said, both sides of politics have failed to deal with it in a meaningful way. Do you think that’s likely now?
KING: I think that’s the challenge, that’s the challenge for us as politicians and people who represent communities across the country to actually start to think about that. Why is it that when we have major infrastructure projects that we don’t have local content rules, so you actually have to be able to ensure that people locally get the benefits of the jobs from those infrastructure projects? Some states do have that, but most don’t. Why is it that when you have a major infrastructure project that it’s not linked to having Australian apprenticeships as part of increased training opportunities? This is an opportunity to reset some of that thinking and to really start to embed how do we grow Australian jobs through this massive investment that governments make, whether it’s through construction payments or other government services. How do we actually grow the economy here in Australia with Australian jobs? And that’s the challenge for us. We haven’t been in government for the last seven years, I think that we would have done things a little bit differently in terms of the coronavirus payment and things like that, but we’re not in government. So what we’re trying to do is push the proposition and challenge the Government to start to think about those issues. We were frustrated obviously before coronavirus. The economy was in trouble, the Government didn’t have a plan for the economy. We’d seen debt double, we’d seen a whole lot of indicators saying there’s a problem and now we’re saying look, you’ve got to have a plan to get us out of this. But let’s not just have business as usual, let’s actually have a plan to make things better.
MARTIN: Can I ask you this then? Because generally those things you listed about content rules and local apprenticeships and local jobs and training. The reason we don’t have it is because of cost. Do you think people are willing to pay more, whether that be for goods for something that’s locally manufactured in Australia, or perhaps having to pay more in tax to have local content rules for major infrastructure projects? Because I’ve never heard anyone say they want to pay more tax.
KING: I think there’s a couple of things there. One is it doesn’t always cost more in terms of infrastructure projects and you’ve seen that in the case of Victoria where there are local content rules. In those circumstances, what it’s done is it’s forced some of the big overseas companies to come in and, because you still have to pay Australian wages if people are working on sites here, to negotiate with local small and medium construction companies to actually participate in those projects. So it doesn’t always cost more. But equally, what’s the cost of not doing it? And I think that’s what we’ve been seeing. We’ve seen an increase in casualisation, we’ve seen wage stagnation, we’ve seen the loss of manufacturing and then our incapacity. The fact that we were not able to access personal protective equipment for our healthcare workers, until quite late in this crisis, is ridiculous. And you know, it’s been fantastic to see some of our local manufacturers come to the party with how they might we be able to manufacture some of these things here. There’s a cost associated with not doing that. Things like fuel security, we don’t actually have a 90 days’ supply in Australia, those sorts of I think have challenged us with what happens when global supply chains collapse. All of these things what we have to think about and then determine what is important and what it is it that we want to keep in Australia. I think this has provided us an opportunity as politicians to do that and to have that debate and conversation with Australian public about it.
MARTIN: Catherine King, thanks for your time.
KING: Really good to talk with you Steve.
TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC BALLARAT AND SOUTHWEST VICTORIA