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Read all the latest news from Brendan O'Connor MP


May 10, 2019

SUBJECTS: Central Queensland Jobs Plan.
RUSSELL ROBERTSON LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: We are here in Rockhampton at the old Aurizon Centre making an announcement with the Shadow Minister, Brendan O’Connor, for Employment and the State Secretary of the AMWU, Rohan Webb.
It’s exciting to be part of this announcement about making an Advanced Manufacturing Hub here in Rockhampton and upskilling local people and giving the younger people the opportunity to take on skills and that has been lost over the number of years here in Rockhampton.
It’s an exciting ability that through this election campaign Labor has made some great commitments here in Rockhampton, and the greater CQ, through Capricornia, about jobs and making sure that we can train people for the future in future skills and abilities and a more modern style of economy with a stronger manufacturing base. So, Rockhampton’s been a strong manufacturing base for years. So there has been a great connection here in Rocky to this site and it’s great to be part of a rejuvenation and advanced skills training forward into the future.
I’m going to pass over now to Brendan to let Brendan provide some more details around this announcement. Brendan.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thank very much Russell. Great to be in Rockhampton. It’s fantastic to be in Central Queensland talking about jobs. And that’s what this election is about – which major party is going to look after working people. Whether it is about providing secure work, whether it is about ensuring people get a real wage increase. We know that Scott Morrison voted eight times to cut penalty rates.
We are standing outside an iconic railway workshop of Rockhampton. It’s been derelict and unused and therefore people are not being employed, and that’s a crying shame. For that reason Federal Labor, a Shorten Labor Government, if elected, will acquire the land off Aurizon, work with the Queensland Government, work with local government work with the private sector to create an advanced manufacturing hub. Now, this place is absolutely appropriate and absolutely strategically placed to ensure that we can have secure blue collar jobs of the future. That is secure, skilled, blue collar jobs of the future.
Labor wants manufacturing to not just survive, but thrive. We watched the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government preside over the death of the car making industry in this country. We saw them goad the carmakers to leave our shores and the following day they made decisions to leave. Well, Labor has a different view.
Labor wants to see a skilled country, and a country where manufacturing is growing. And it can happen and it can happen in Central Queensland. That’s why we are here today. Firstly to say, if elected we will be engaging, negotiating with Aurizon, acquiring this land, working with other levels of government, working with the private sector to ensure that we create a manufacturing hub.
Now, that will complement the decision made by the state Queensland Government to work with Central Queensland University to also work in this field. We can work together on these issues if we are proactive. What we’ve seen instead is, of course, an unused iconic workshop.
Now, I was here in 2017, two years ago. And I met with apprentices that were losing their apprenticeships. And I met with workers who were losing their jobs We have two workers here today who had secure jobs for decades. Well now, young people in Rockhampton and Central Queensland cannot find work. And if they do find work they can’t find secure work.
We’ve seen this government rip 130,000 apprenticeships out of the system, so people are not being skilled up. No wonder youth unemployment is so high in Rockhampton. No wonder it’s so high across the country. That’s why it’s is important we make these types of decisions to use taxpayers money to invest and leverage the opportunities we have. Now let’s just think about this, this region has, of course, the mining sector which requires manufacturing and maintenance. This region has the hydrogen hub proposal for Gladstone which will require manufacturing and maintenance.
This region, this area, central Queensland has defence capabilities, and has military exercises which will allow us to leverage that large investment in defence for manufacturing and maintenance. It is absolutely vital we see real secure jobs in Rockhampton. This decision today will ensure that. Only of, course, if a Shorten Labor Government is elected. But really, of the two major parties we are the ones looking at building and enlivening manufacturing to ensure we see growth in that sector.
But on top of that, and this is really a critical point, on top of that we want to see not just jobs, and you hear the Prime Minister talk about job growth, we want to see people have real job. We want to see people have permanent jobs. We don’t want to see the overuse and misuse of 457 visas. We don’t want to see the overuse and misuse of casualisation and the overuse and misuse of labour hire. Whereas Scott Morrison is a big supporter of 457 visas. In fact he has always been the biggest supporter of 457 visas in the parliament.
He has also been allowing the casualisation of the workforce. Never mind what Senator Canavan said. Senator Canavan lied to the local media and the local community when he said he fixed casualisation. It’s an utter lie. The legislation was never debated or passed the parliament. And yet the government continues to say, the Liberals continue to say these things were done – not true.
Only Labor has a plan for casualisation. Only Labor has a plan to crack down on labour hire and 457 visas. And only Labor has real plans to invest in manufacturing. And this decision today if elected is critical for Rockhampton so that young people in this community, tradies, people that want to go into manufacturing, can see a future. They can see a pathway to a job that will mean that they’ve got some certainty. So it will mean if they get a job like that they will be able to pay the mortgage, pay the rent. They’ll be able to get home loan because they are secure at work.
I met a plumber just recently who said he worked for a labour hire company and even though he was a tradesman he could not get a home loan because the bank would not recognise any secure work because he was employed by a labour hire company. So it’s not just about jobs, it’s about real jobs and this investment, this announcement today will deliver that.
I’m going to hand over to Rohan who is the State Secretary of the AMWU and happy to take questions after that.
ROHAN WEBB AMWU QLD & NT - STATE SECRETARY: Well this is an exciting day for Rockhampton. This is what we see as a tangible delivery in regards to a Federal Labor government, if elected. Where’s Michelle Landry been recently? We haven’t seen the secure jobs within the regions.  We’ve seen the growth of labour hire, we’ve seen the growth of casualisation across the region. This investment in this facility here brings back to life an historic workplace which has trained generations of workers, not only in Central Queensland but across the state of Queensland.
What it has also been able to do is boost the economy while making sure people have got full time secure jobs, meaningful jobs, skilled jobs and safe jobs. What that does is allow people within the region to be able spend that money and emboldens the local economy. These workshops have sat idle for too long. What we’ve seen now, linked with the federal Labor opposition, what they’ve decided to do, link back in with the state Labor government where there has been a $10 million commitment to a manufacturing hub here in Rockhampton, this $15 million, this is real money, this is real delivery for working people in this region.
This means that people will have secure jobs for the future. There will be a centre of excellence in regards to manufacturing around rail, around defence, around mining and engineering services and this is what a government needs to do. It’s not a never-never plan, this is actually a tangible outcome that workers and the community of Rockhampton can actually see an outcome.
We’re happy to stand here today with Labor and back in behind Russ because what this is what we need to do in the region, deliver secure, safe, permanent jobs, not be put on the never-never plan about commitments that we may see down the track. This is a real outcome and we’re very proud to stand here today with this government and push this along to get these facilities back up and running.
O’CONNOR: OK, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Brendan, Aurizon have said they are actively looking for occupants for this area and you have probably seen the banners around as well, how confident are you that it will be a smooth acquisition?
O’CONNOR: Firstly Aurizon wants to do the right thing here. The fact is there have been many people that lost their jobs as a result of some of the decisions made. I’m advised that Aurizon wants to ensure that they engage with purchasers. The Commonwealth, if we are elected will be very well placed and we want to work with the Queensland Government and local government too.
I think it is up to Aurizon to do the right thing here and we’re very confident they will. I think they’d like to be seen to be part of a decision that leads to job growth in the region and I am therefore very confident that given the interest that they’ve shown in this idea and given what’s happened historically here in terms of job losses, I think they’re very much up to agreeing with this approach. It will be great for Rockhampton and I think Aurizon it will be in their interest too to see something good come out of this.
JOURNALIST: How much investment do you think you’ll need from the private sector?
O’CONNOR: Look I think it’s scalable. I think obviously we need sufficient investment but we’ve got a combination of ways to encourage investment. Firstly we’ve got the Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which is $1 billion that will allow for cheap loans for local manufacturers to invest here. We’ve got the local projects announcement too which means that anything to do with Commonwealth money means that local manufacturers will get part of the contracts for service.
We believe that if you work with all tiers of government and you partner with the private sector and you look at the opportunities within the region, as I say with the Gladstone hub proposal on hydrogen, the mining sector, the defence capability, the Rocky ring road, the $1 billion investment that Labor’s announcing there, I think those things mean that we are well placed to fill a demand and we can fill it locally, I mean strategically and geographically it makes sense.
This is the place, it’s got a great history but it’s also got a great future if we invest in the assets that exist and we leverage the opportunities around us. Right now we haven’t connected the dots, but a Shorten Labor Government would want to connect the dots - whether it’s working with Central Queensland University with their manufacturing hub, working with the private sector and working with other tiers of government.
JOURNALIST: Brendan, Labor’s statement included four specific industries which this facility would accommodate which was defence, renewables, hydro fuel and mining. Is it open to other industries as well?
O’CONNOR: It is but I just called out the key areas that I think we’d be looking at and Robbo might have another supplement to this answer, but I think of course there are others but these are some of the key industries that will allow for the demand for manufacturing and advanced manufacturing. I think as a result of that, this decision, this plan has been thought through, it’s been one that has been properly considered and it makes perfect sense to us. And I think the locals will welcome this because what’s happening is people get casual work but they’ve got no guaranteed hours. They are looking for a career path or a trade to get into and yet they don’t have those opportunities. There is no point getting an apprenticeship if you don’t have future work, so we have to help to create the environment. It’s not the government doing it on its own, it’s doing it with the private sector working with those sectors of the economy.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is announcing this morning $30 million for a mining school here in CQ. They’ll no doubt be chatting about Labor’s Just Transition Authority comparison to an announcement like that, what would this do for the mining industry locally, that perhaps the Coalition couldn’t?
O’CONNOR: In terms of this announcement we’re making today, I think we can invest, of course in engineers and in the tertiary education for the mining sector. In fact we’ve made announcements in that regard nationally. Look, I haven’t seen the detail and I don’t really want to, you know, dismiss an idea if it’s a good idea. As Bill Shorten said, if they come up with a good idea, we’ll look at it for sure. 
The difference though I would say is, that this is about jobs. This is about creating high-skilled manufacturing jobs and that’s a little different from setting up something with a university that might allow for future qualified people. This is about getting trades people back in permanent, secure work and showing that there is a career path in manufacturing. So if you get a trade, you can use that trade purposefully in a workplace, which we’d like to bring back and really it’s a great loss.
I mean, this is an iconic sight, this is very well known not just in Rocky but around the country as a historic workshop and why shouldn’t we, being mindful of the heritage because there is heritage listed dwellings here, why can’t we get this going again? I think, it will be a great boom to the economy of Rockhampton and a great opportunity for young people and workers generally who’ve been displaced because of structural changes to our economy. So, I’m not going to dismiss the Prime Minister’s announcement, I haven’t seen the details. I only say the difference is we’re focusing on jobs today.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible)
WEBB: I think what the big difference here is in regards to the Coalition and what they’ve announced today in regards to the university, that’s great for the high-end. But, what we’re talking about today in this facility, is from the high-end in regards to tertiary and university educated people to production. What we’ve heard from the Federal Coalition is, it’s about the high-end. We’re actually talking about, with this facility here, design, concept, all the rest and actually turning it into production, which is real jobs, meaningful jobs and secure jobs. That’s the big difference today about this announcement, in compared to what the Federal Coalition are announcing.
O’CONNOR: And just on the other question, we support any project that complies with the law and if that project complies with the law, then we’ll back it. We support mining, we support coal mining. Coal mining, and coal in fact will be a part of the energy mix forevermore into the future for Australia. It’s an important part of our energy security plan. And I speak to minors often, and I’ve got a minor behind me, which I think should add to this answer.
But frankly, we want to see projects get up, but they need to comply with the law, that’s any project. And, in fact there’s has been many coal mine applications recently approved, and they’ve been recently approved and we support them. But, what you can’t have is one set of laws for one project and not one for another. But, I’m the Shadow Employment Minister; I’ll just make this point. My job, if we’re elected, is to see that we get jobs in the regions and I’m a very strong supporter of projects if they stack up. And, if that stacks up, that’ll be fantastic. But not just to get jobs, to get jobs that are for the locals rather than 457 workers, not just casual jobs but permanent jobs.
Now, you got a Prime Minister that voted eight times to cut penalty rates. He has no regard for the fact that he has presided over the lowest wage growth in Australia on record. So, he’s got no interest in wages going up, he’s got one policy on secure employment. So, it’s not just about projects, it’s about hospitality and retail workers in Rocky not having their penalty rates cut. It’s about people getting a decent standard of living, so when we talk about jobs, let’s broaden that out and talk about jobs, good jobs, secure jobs and jobs where wages are growing in real terms. 
ROBERTSON: So, what we’ve constantly seen is, this myth that the LNP keep trying to regenerate. I’ve made a strong commitment to the Galilee Basin and the Adani project that’s inside it. But what we’re seeing constantly is the silver bullet approach the LNP have got. They’ve got nothing else, they’ve got no vision and they’ve got no ideas for permanent work. They keep waving this one flag. There are $25 billion worth of projects happening inside the Bowen Basin, we hear nothing about that.
Michelle Landry doesn’t back permanent jobs; she still hasn’t apologised for her appalling comments to the Blackwater community. She still hasn’t apologised for her atrocious behaviour to the Oaky North when a multi- national company tried to starve them out. This is a member that doesn’t back workers. She only backs multi-nationals and we constantly see this where she stand up for billionaires but won’t back her local community. So now it’s time for the local community to make a decision, send a coalminer to Canberra and stop having a member that backs multi-nationals.
O’CONNOR: Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Yes, I’ve got one for Russell. This campaign’s been defined by Labor seemingly you know, leading the way with investment into infrastructure and now with investment into the mining sector and LNP shortly follows with similar announcements. Is that a coincidence or what’s going on there?
ROBERTSON: I think what we’re constantly seeing a government in free fall. They’re just chaos. They’ve got no vision. They’ve got no plan that’s why we saw the Deputy PM fly in and then fly out, not stay overnight. There’s no vision for CQ. With Brendan O’Connor and various shadow ministers, we’ve shown the Labor Party has a commitment to CQ with permanent jobs, infrastructure, health. We’ve made some great announcements and again what we’re seeing is the LNP follow behind.
They’ve got no idea what they’re doing, it’s just chaotic. We know that Michelle Landry backs Barnaby Joyce and not Michael McCormack. They’re lost, they don’t know what to do so they’re following our lead and we’re more than happy to lead and we’re than happy to take government on May 18 if the voters want us.
O’CONNOR: And I just want to make one final point if I can because it would be remiss of me being here not to make this point. As we’ve seen recently, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has chosen to enter into an unholy alliance and a tawdry deal with Clive Palmer. Now, what we need to know from Scott Morrison is what deal has he done and what has he promised Clive Palmer for those preferences?
What we do know is because Pauline Hanson told us, Clive Palmer wanted the $80 billion tax cut to multi-nationals and big business and banks pass the parliament and he was lobbying her. No doubt, he’s lobbying Scott Morrison too. Now just remember this, Scott Morrison spent three years trying to get the $80 billion tax giveaway to big business through the parliament and he wants us to believe he doesn’t have a plan to do that if elected. Well frankly he’s got a plan, one thing we know about Scott Morrison is, he’s a man of conviction when it comes to giving tax giveaways to big business.
Now what deal has he done with Clive Palmer? He should be upfront with the Australian people. There’s no way that Clive Palmer’s done something for nothing. We know that about Clive Palmer. And what we do need to know is what is it that’s been extracted from Scott Morrison and the Liberals because of this tawdry deal because if they go ahead with the$80 billion tax giveaway to big business and multi-nationals that means schools in Rockhampton will lose services, hospitals in this region in Central Queensland will lose services, will lose nurses, will lose infrastructure investment. These are the choices we have to make in the election.
What’s happening here, Scott Morrison 's in town today, he’s in Rockhampton today, he had not been upfront with e the people of Rockhampton. He won’t tell them what deal he’s done with Clive Palmer. Clive Palmer’s left a mess in his wake. I’ve spoken to the workers at Townsville. There’s still workers who are owed $7million because of the QNI collapse and the other $64 million that was paid to them was paid by the taxpayer. That is still owed to the taxpayer. That is still owed that $64million, meanwhile, Clive Palmer’s spending about $64 million on his own campaign talking about himself and yet Scott Morrison was willing to enter into this agreement with Clive Palmer, he needs to answer these questions. He’s got eight days. He needs to tell the Australian people, be upfront and honest, Scott, and tell the Australian people, what deal you’ve done with Clive Palmer. Any further questions?
JOURNALIST: Just one more for Russ. Russ we heard this morning from the AEC that we’ve already had thousands of people vote in pre-polling here in Capricornia. Are you surprised that so many people have gotten in early?
ROBERTSON:  No I think that’s been the trend over the years. I’ve been on pre-polling booths for a while. It’s been very positive. People are happy and excited to get to the polls and we all love a democracy sausage on the Saturday but it’s great to see people being participants in this great democracy.
JOURNALIST:  Do you think that maybe saving up announcements for later on in the Election campaign might not be doing the trick you think it is?
ROBERTSON:  Well there’s no tricks, I think we’ve always got a strong vision for CQ that’s what the manufacturing hub’s about to make sure we show our commitment to CQ. And again it’s the dynamics of the modern election with a long pre-poll.
O’CONNOR: Thanks everyone.