Doorstop at Springwood Central State School

19 May 2015

TUESDAY, 19 MAY 2015

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to create the jobs of the future; Labor’s plan for coding in schools; Budget 2015; Immigration; National security; Iron ore; Minimum wage; Queensland Government.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at Springwood Central School meeting the really bright children of a great school. The kids here are learning to code, this is the language, the new language of the 21st century. Last Thursday night the Labor Party that I lead broke the mould in terms of Budget Reply speeches. What we started to speak about was ideas for the future. After the hoax of Tony Abbott’s Budget, which was just about saving his own job and not about the future jobs of Australia, on Thursday night I declared that if a Labor Government was elected we would make sure that all children would have the chance to learn coding in the 21st century. Coding is the computer language where kids learn about programing and logic. It is really important that we give our young children the best start in the future. There will be jobs around in the next 20 years which haven’t even been thought about now and there’s other jobs which because of the digital age and the change of computers, the impact the internet’s having will change fundamentally. So what that means is when a child completes year 12 their year 12 teacher may well be their last career manager they will have and after that our children have to be adaptable. So Labor outlined an ambitious program to make sure that our children are going to be prepared for the jobs of the future. There’s no more important task for government. I might ask my colleague Jim Chalmers to talk about the special work that this quite amazing school, ahead of the curve, is doing to give the children enrolled at Springwood the best chance possible.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Bill, welcome back to Rankin. Can I thank as well the remarkable teachers and students of Springwood Central here in the electorate. It is a tribute to this school that when at the urging of my colleague Tim Watts, the member for Gellibrand, I emailed every school in my electorate last year and told them about Code Club and it was Springwood Central that came back first. It’s a tribute to them that they are one of only nine schools in Queensland doing this program and the only government school doing this program. So I congratulate them on the effort that they’re putting in after hours, the effort that Celeste Graham the relevant teacher and Sarah Fraser the principal, are putting in to ensure that these kids get the best possible chance to succeed in the economy of the future.

If there’s one thing above all else that will determine whether this generation of kids succeeds in the modern market economy, it’s their ability to grasp technological change.  That means mastering the skills and the language which is central to that technological change which will determine and characterise their lives. One simple fact: in the next 10 years around the world there’ll be 100 million more unskilled workers than unskilled jobs, at the same time as there’ll be 40 million more skilled jobs than skilled workers. For a country like ours and for a community like mine this is our big chance. This is our big chance to teach and train these kids, and kids right around the country, to speak the language and understand the skills of the technological era that will define the economy throughout their lifetimes. I grew up in this community, I grew up in Springwood, in this suburb and I know how important it is that we give kids that opportunity, that chance, that hope, to get a good job when they finish school and be successful participants in the modern economy in Australia.

There’s an American author called Tyler Cowen who warned that our economy risks being divided into two camps: those who are good at working with machines; and those who are replaced by them. With the crucial announcements that Bill Shorten made on Thursday night Labor’s making a choice on behalf of these kids and this community and communities right around the country. We want our kids good at working with machines, we don’t want them replaced by them.  The sum total of the effort that goes in in this room – and rooms like it in our neighbourhoods and communities right around the country – will determine if our economy rises or falls in the most dynamic region on the planet. It’s that simple, it’s that stark, it’s that important and that’s why Bill’s announcements on teaching coding and computational thinking are so important to the future of Australia.

SHORTEN: Thanks Jim. Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just a question about Nauru, are we failing asylum seekers in Nauru?

SHORTEN: The Government has a culture of secrecy about the way it’s treating people in the regional resettlement camps in Nauru. I do think the Government just needs to come clean and tell people what’s going on. They’ve got reports from the Human Rights Commission and other bodies which I think the Government needs to start dealing with rather than ignoring. However Labor is completely supported to our approach on regional resettlement and there’s no question in my mind that the Government needs to come clean with Australians about what’s going on and what changes need to be made to make sure people are safe within our care.

JOURNALIST: Should Australia be taking a lead role in the rescue of the Rohingya refuges?

SHORTEN: Well I believe that Labor has always had a good record in terms of accepting refuges into Australia as part of our immigration intake. But there’s no question that the solution to the discrimination of the treatment of Rohingya peoples in Myanmar to make sure that we are part of a regional approach. Australia on its own can’t solve these matters but the Labor Party that I lead strongly believes that we should always have a strong commitment to taking refugees as part of our immigration intake.

JOURNALIST: Should we send ships?

SHORTEN: In terms of the rescue, well look we’d have to see what the regions doing. We’ll certainly ask for an update from the Government.  

JOURNALIST: There were three Aussie Jihadis trying to come home at the moment, should the Government be helping them to do that?

SHORTEN: Well first of all let me just state the principle that Australians shouldn’t be going overseas to fight in these causes or these battles. We’ll get an update about the national security and about what’s happened with these people reported in the media in the last couple of hours.

JOURNALIST: I guess our justice system is based on belief in rehabilitation and shouldn’t that apply to everybody?

SHORTEN: Well fundamentally we believe in rehabilitation, there’s the law of the land and we’ll seek a briefing from the Government.

JOURNALIST: What sort of punishment do you think though they should receive if they were to come home? A jail term?

SHORTEN: There are laws in place, I’m not going to play judge and jury and again we’ll ask the Government to update us with what’s happening with these matters that have just been coming through in the last couple of hours.

JOURNALIST: What’s your repose to comments from the Queensland Government’s too close to the unions?

SHORTEN: I don’t happen to believe that. I think that there’s been a chance of Government and the Queensland Government that been elected is embarking on rebuilding confidence in Queensland, I think they’re doing a good job.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s appropriate though that public servants would recruit for unions?

SHORTEN: I believe in freedom of association, people have a right to be in a union or not to be in a union.

JOURNALIST: So if you came to government would you be doing the same?

SHORTEN: In terms of Queensland public servants?

JOURNALIST: No, in terms of unions.

SHORTEN: I believe in freedom of association, I believe that people have a right to join a union if they choose to do so. Unlike the Government who really dislikes unions, I don’t share that prejudice against unions.

JOURNALIST: Would you back an inquiry, sorry a parliamentary inquiry into iron ore prices?

SHORTEN: The Governments in a world of pain on this iron ore inquiry because they’re sending out mixed messages. First of all, we haven’t seen the terms of reference, the Government should put out the terms of reference. Secondly, we’ve seen since this debate’s arisen in recent days a real cloud over our sovereign risk and reliability as an export partner and a trading partner. The Government’s let this debate run on far too long. For me what’s most important about the decline of the iron ore industry in terms of prices is the jobs. For me everything is about jobs. How do we make sure, through government policy, have the best possible impact about creating and maintaining jobs. You know, there’s one big topic which was neglected by Joe Hockey at the Budget; it’s about the future, it’s about jobs. On this iron ore issue there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s been a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs both not only directly in the iron ore companies but contractors and service companies. What we need to do is see Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey talk about the jobs that have been lost and the miners who’ve lost their jobs. But when it comes to the rest of the matters they should just put the terms of reference on the table and they should be careful that they’re allowing our international reputation to drift dangerously.

JOURNALIST: Just back on the refuges, do you think that Australia has set the precedent for managing asylum seeker boats in the region?

SHORTEN: Well, I’m not about to tell other nations how to run their matters. Labor is the one who fundamentally believed in regional resettlement. We believe that you need to stop the people smugglers from enlisting people to go to sea and then potentially drowning and dying. But when it comes to regional resettlement, Labor is very committed to that. Of course we believe that we should have an important priority not to demonise refugees as well. Refugees have always been part of Australia’s population growth and part of our immigration plans and we should continue to do that too.

JOURNALIST: Do you support the ACTU’s push for a $27 a week increase for Australian workers on the minimum wage given what business groups are saying? They’re saying that it’s unaffordable.  

SHORTEN: Well first of all, when it comes to the minimum wage Labor does believe strongly in a minimum wage. I don’t believe that having a minimum wage is a problem for jobs. On the contrary it means that people who go to work every day have enough money to spend and are not part of the working poor that we see in America and other parts of the world. In terms of the process of the minimum wage the Labor Party’s put in a submission but we haven’t put a particular number to it, we’ll leave that to the independent umpire to determine.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, sorry, do you agree with the Transport Workers Union secretary calling for migrant workers to be included in the next federal election?

SHORTEN: I think Australian citizens should be given a vote but I know that the TWUs concerned to make sure that guest workers that come into this country are not exploited. What Tony Sheldon and the Transport Workers Union are doing is drawing attention to the fact, just as the Four Corners show did more recently, is that some people who come here to work on temporary visas are simply getting ripped off. We don’t want Australia’s international reputation to be damaged by the idea that some people who come and work here are getting ripped off. The other proposition of course is that we want Australians to get first chance at the jobs. I don’t trust the Government when it comes to people’s work and conditions, I don’t trust them the way they treat migrant workers, I don’t trust them when it comes to the minimum wage. And certainly when we’ve seen the collapse in iron ore this Government has done nothing about helping the tens of thousands of people who’ve lost their jobs.

Thanks very much everyone.