Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

ABC News Breakfast Saturday 3 October

October 03, 2020



SUBJECTS: Manufacturing sector; Aged Care Royal Commission report; Budget; and Jobs plan.

HOST: Let's bring in our politician panel now. Labor MP Andrew Giles joins us from Melbourne, and we are also joined by Darren Chester, who is the Minister
for Defence Personnel and Veterans' Affairs. Welcome to you both. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We have this $1.5 Billion injection into the
manufacturing sector, something like 80,000 jobs will be created over the next ten years or so. That basically boils down to about 8000 jobs a year. Darren Chester, if I could start with you, is that enough, 8000 jobs a year?

DARREN CHESTER, MEMBER FOR GIPPSLAND: What you will see in the budget next week is our overall economic plan. It will involve the manufacturing sector; one of the things that everyone has realised during this coronavirus pandemic is the need for our sovereign capacity to make stuff, to build stuff, to improve and to make sure that we have rigorous supply chains in place. So things that we thought would be easy to supply in Australia, you could import them, have been more difficult than we expected and so there are some changes need to be made. So I think next weeks budget is going to be very important one for the manufacturing sector, and the focus on jobs, but also on things like skills and training, on infrastructure. We need to get this projects to market, the energy we are going to need, the reliable energy we are going to need to deliver those jobs in our community, so it is a very important budget for us. And obviously probably the most important budget since World War II…

HOST: We seem to have lost Darren Chester therefore a little while; we will try restore communications with him.

HOST: But we go to Andrew Giles, Andrew is manufacturing where these jobs of the future, which we do need, is that where it is at?

ANDREW GILES, MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: Well it is really important and I do agree with one thing that Darren said, that we have recognised through the pandemic that we need to build our capacity in so many areas of the economy. The pandemic has been an x-ray, as many have said, on many weaknesses in our economy and our society. It is pretty galling from the government that goaded the car industry out of here, I mean I was in Parliament five years ago when Joe Hockey effectively dared the auto manufacturers to leave, to be talking about manufacturing jobs now. And so this is an announcement that is too late. And I think it is also too little. Most experts say it is not nearly enough.

HOST: 8000 jobs a year that is what they are predicting. The jobs, though, are going to be in manufacturing. How sustainable do you think these jobs are given that global manufacturing sector has now basically depending on AI?

GILES: Now there are big challenges in manufacturing and we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting the right manufacturing jobs. Those jobs that are critical to our national interest, but also the jobs of the future. I guess that is why it is really concerning at what we are seeing now; I think what can only be described as a plan for a plan rather than a real jobs plan. And of course that is not just about manufacturing, it is about jobs across the board. In Labor, we have been calling for a jobs plan from this government since at least May and there is very little evidence in this budget plan now, with 400,000 more Australians likely to lose their jobs before the end of the year. It is just not good enough.

HOST: We are hoping to get Darren Chester back, but we will stick with you for a moment. As you are saying, this is an extremely important budget, what have you got your eye on in it?

GILES: Well it is about jobs, we are in extraordinary circumstances. The worst recession in 100 years. And the responsibility of government, of national government, falls through that and fundamentally that is about making sure that we have a secure plan for the future. It is about leaving no-one behind. Going to the budget I am really concerned about the cuts to JobSeeker which are making it so hard for families to survive. I am concerned about the tapering off and cuts to JobKeeper. And again concerned about the failure to have a plan for jobs. Manufacturing jobs are really important, but one thing that makes this recession different from any previous one, is that the job losses have been concentrated amongst women rather than men in the service sector. This is something that the government has to start recognising and start attending to and I really would love to see a plan to support the service sector, retail, and jobs for women, and more generally support for women's economic participation in the budget.

HOST: I believe we have just established communication with Darren Chester. Just checking that you can actually hear us? We know that you are very busy promoting regional Victoria. Some beautiful pictures coming out of your background there.

CHESTER: You’re not going to believe this guys my iPad is shutdown because it is too hot.

HOST: There you go. We need to start manufacturing Apple products here in Australia, perhaps, Darren Chester. We are starting to talk about the budget, now, and we were talking about how there is a lot of what has been flagged, basically a boost to the manufacturing sector, a cut to income tax as well. What are you specifically looking out for?

CHESTER: What I am really looking forward to seeing is the Government’s plan around infrastructure in particular, obviously we got a $100 billion plan over the next ten years to drive infrastructure. One of the challenges is to make sure once the announcement are made the work actually gets delivered on the ground. We will work with state and local government counterparts to really instil a sense of urgency to get those projects delivered. The bureaucracy has very big role to play in this recovery and the private sector has done it pretty tough lately and all our bureaucrats have managed to keep their jobs, which is great, but they got to have to have that same sense of urgency to rebuild the economy. I think that is a big challenge for us. Yes, big announcements are important, but we need to see the project start.

HOST: So when projects are announced they are a ten year plan. They have to be long-term plans for jobs in that respect but that also gains the criticism
that these spending promises are out in the never never. What can be done immediately and what are you looking for in this budget that will have an immediate effect, as things are changing so rapidly?

CHESTER: What I am looking forward to and obviously I live in an area which is very dependent on the visitor economy. I’m very interested to see, what we can deliver in terms of the domestic tourism economy. Obviously in the current environment, things like cruise ships, family holidays to Bali or Europe are not going to go ahead next year. We need to make sure we are building our domestic economy here in regional Australia, but also our cities. And if it is safe to do so, we need to open borders to get people travelling to regional Australia where they can, it helps create jobs obviously, but also gives people the chance to explore their own country and understand a bit more our great nation.

HOST: Andrew Giles, the Federal Government is also extending its home loans guarantee to provide or to make it easier for first-time buyers to purchase a home. This will of course in turn is going to help the construction industry and that of course is one of the biggest employers in Australia. Obviously this is something that Labor would welcome?

GILES: It is something that we have called for since May. In that regard it is welcome. But the cap continues to be a concern as does the failure of the government to look to social housing. That is something that we have been calling for some time. It was obviously a big feature of Labor response to the global financial crisis, not just keeping people working, but giving more people access to housing and jobs.

HOST: We have the recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission. The interim report to include extra funding for providers to hire staff so that aged care residents can have more visitors. That sounds like a simple solution, would you say? We'll go to first, Darren Chester.

CHESTER: The first thing I would say to the tens of thousands of aged care workers who are caring for our most vulnerable people during these difficult times. Thank you for the work you are doing. There are some problems in aged care. The royal commission interim report has found there are some issues that need to be addressed. But the vast majority of people that I know who work in the aged care sector are doing the right thing every day. The first six recommendations were tabled this week and the aged care Minister has indicated that the government will implement all of those recommendations and I think that is the right thing to do. But looking forward, we do need to understand that our care workforce is a workforce that is so important to us across the age sector, disability sector, and veterans’ affairs. We need to value
that workforce, we need to keep investing in the skills to develop that workforce and making sure that we are looking after our most vulnerable Australians.

HOST: Would that include secure jobs for the people working there?

CHESTER: I think that is a fundamental conversation that the Attorney General has been having now with industry and with the unions to try and find agreed ground where we can forward with some reforms that regularise that workforce. I think that is an important initiative.

HOST: Andrew Giles, you know, this interim report came out and many have said that the aged care Minister got off quite lightly in light of this particular report. Did he?

GILES: Well he has been missing in action throughout and the government has not had a plan for aged care. The report is a pretty damning indictment, I think, of a broken system. I do echo Darren's remarks about the workforce there, their efforts need to be recognised, but in doing so we need to recognise that insecure models of work have caused so many of the problems that have been exposed during this crisis with very tragic results and it is the responsibility of national government to make sure that older Australians have the opportunity to live dignified lives in their later years. That is not happening now. We're leaving people behind. It is incumbent upon the Minister to stop being missing in action, step up to the plate, ensure that the regulator is doing its job, and making sure the older Australians can enjoy what they are entitled to enjoy in their later years.

HOST: And that is where we will have to leave our discussion. Andrew Giles, thank you for joining us today. Darren Chester, thank you also. Very strong arms there keeping your phone up. So thank you very much Gentlemen

GILES: Thank you.

CHESTER: Thanks guys, all the best. Go out and explore regional Australia.

GILES: When you let me Darren.

CHESTER: Andrew I got the beer in fridge waiting for you whenever you’re ready.

GILES: Looking forward to that mate.