Interview on ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast with Ali Clarke and David Bevan

Topics: Future frigates and jobs in South Australia, Australia Day, citizenship, media laws and the ABC




Ali Clarke: It’s 24 minutes to 9 and it is time for Super Wednesday. So it’s a good morning to Mark Butler, Labor Member for Port Adelaide and Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler, Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia and Education Minister and also Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for SA and Spokesperson on Communications, Finance and Trade


David Bevan:    Good morning to you all. Let’s start with Mark Butler who’s the Member for Port Adelaide. A lot of people down in your area and right across the city but particularly down at the Port would have been hoping to get a slice of the action with the future frigates. Now according to our news, South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon says a leaked tender document has confirmed Australian workers are at risk of being excluded from the Federal Government’s future frigates project. Mark Butler your thoughts on this?


Mark Butler:     Well this is an extraordinary revelation on the front page of the Advertiser this morning. I thought we had pretty clear assurances from the Federal Government that after Tony Abbott frankly played with our ship building industry and really issued a very significant threat to offshore it to Japan, that our frigates, our submarines, our offshore patrol vessels would all be built in Australia by Australian workers. But the tender documents that are on the front page of the Advertiser today say quite differently and I think it’s really important that over the course of today the Government come clean and make very clear what assurances there are in these documents that will require the builder of the frigates, whoever that might end up being, the builder of the submarines and the OPVs, to require them to employ Australian workers. Because if you look at the document you don’t know who is going to build them. Are they going to be overseas visa workers, 457 visa workers? I mean who is going to build these things?


David Bevan:    Is the sticking point whether or not the ASC is employed? Because Christopher Pyne again on ABC news is saying that it’s impossible for the Government to mandate that the workforce at the ASC be required to be employed by the bidders. So, so long as they are Australian workers does it really matter and would it be impossible to require that the ASC be involved?


Mark Butler:     Well we want the workforce down at Port Adelaide to be employed to build these ships and the submarines for that matter. They have built up an extraordinary suite of skills over the last 30 years that workforce and those skills should be employed in the national interest. Now if there’s some fine technical difference between whether or not they’re employed by the ASC or what will happen to ASC management, it is important the Government clarify that because they were given assurances down there, very clear assurances by Malcolm Turnbull, that no matter who won the 2016 election, the shipbuilding program for Australia, the naval shipbuilding program, would be implemented by Australian workers and that’s all in doubt today.


Ali Clarke: Simon Birmingham, your response?


Simon Birmingham:     This story is one of the most ridiculous beat ups I have ever seen. Let me by crystal clear – the nine future frigates, in addition to the submarines, in addition to a couple of the offshore patrol vessels, will all be built in Australia, in Adelaide, at Port Adelaide. They will generate, in relation to future frigates, around 2000 direct jobs. They will be people, living, working in South Australia. I am quite sure they will be South Australians. This story really is just a beat up.


David Bevan:    But how can you be sure of that if the tender documents don’t require the ASC to be involved or don’t specify Australian workers?


Simon Birmingham:     They have to be built in Adelaide. So if you are going to be building ships in Adelaide you’re going to be employing people in South Australia to do the job.


David Bevan:    But is it open, as Mark Butler suggests, to bring in workers from overseas?


Simon Birmingham:     Well overwhelmingly no. I mean clearly..


David Bevan:    What’s stopping them?


Simon Birmingham:     Well essentially Australian workplace laws. Now, any business can under exceptional circumstances, under the circumstances where they prove there is a labour shortage, seek to bring in people under certain visa conditions but of course they won’t be able to prove that here because there is an existing workforce in place. So, when Christopher Pyne says the ASC workers will be at the front of the queue, well of course they’ll be at the front of the queue, they’ll be the ones, the skilled workforce, filling those jobs.


Mark Butler:     Well if I can respond to that. Part of the concern I think Australian workers have is that this Government has shown a willingness to trade off those protections in their free trade arrangements. Now the Government is pursuing a free trade arrangement with Britain. What assurances if Britain wins the frigates program can this Government give that they’re not going to suspend those protections against 457 visas in the way they have in other free trade agreements with the British.


Sarah Hanson-Young:  I think that’s a very good point and we know that that continues to happen across the board in in other areas as well. Look, I don’t buy this argument that it’s impossible for the Government to mandate, or to work out assurances that local workers will be employed. I mean this is the Government. It’s their project, it’s funded by the taxpayer, billions and billions of dollars. What I want to see and what the Greens want to see is a local employment target because we need to hold the Government to account on this. Mark is absolutely right, after every trade deal that has been done in recent time, protections and work arounds have been put in and unless we get it rock solid here on Australian turf, here in Adelaide that we have a number of people employed, that a target has to be met, we will see the Government crab walking away.


Ali Clarke:        It’s 18 minutes to 9 and you’re in the middle of Super Wednesday with Mark Butler, Labor Member for Port Adelaide, Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia and that was Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia.


From Australian workers to Australia Day, we’ve heard that it’s been dumped by a Victorian council which means that they won’t be doing citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, as it’s known, the 26th of January. The Prime Minister has expressed his disappointment. Simon Birmingham, yours?


Simon Birmingham:     Local government should stick to rates, roads and rubbish rather than getting involved in political activism.


Ali Clarke:        Mark Butler?


Mark Butler:     Well I think we can reconcile the challenges of celebrating what Australia has become, and we do that through Australia, with the need to make sure that we are sensitive about the European settlement of this continent, for them it was a process of dispossession in many cases widespread killings and I think over the past couple of decades in particular we’ve become much better at being sensitive to that and pursuing a process of reconciliation. But I don’t think there’s broad support for changing Australia Day. I don’t support changing Australia Day. But I’m very sensitive to the views that the first Australian people have about what happened back in 1788.


David Bevan:    How do you reconcile the two? It looks like you are playing to one base but trying to leave yourself with an escape clause.


Mark Butler:     Well I think that’s what we’ve been doing, particularly since the High Court…


David Bevan:    [Interrupting] So you’re playing one group off..


Mark Butler:     [Interrupting] No, I think we’ve been recognising that we can reconcile two different views over what’s happened to our nation over the past 200 years…


David Bevan:    [Interrupting] But how do you reconcile both groups with the same day?


Mark Butler:     Well I think we have to recognise that Australia Day has become very broadly recognised as the national day, and shifting from the 26th of January I think would be a very difficult exercise that would raise a whole lot of divisions unnecessarily. Instead I think what we’ve decided to do…


David Bevan:    [Interrupting] It’s got nothing to do with South Australia.


Mark Butler:     David, if I can just finish. I think instead what we’ve decided to do. Particularly since the High Court got rid of the fiction that Australia was some kind of terra nullius, or vacant land when the British arrived, is what we’ve tried to do is make sure there is a deep process of reconciliation that’s really started to accelerate in recent times with the statement from Uluru and we should focus on those things rather than I think what would be a very divisive debate about changing Australia Day.


Ali Clarke:        Sarah Hanson-Young? What do you think we should focus on then?


Sarah Hanson-Young:  Well I think we should focus on finding a way through this and I support the cause for finding a new date for Australia Day.


Ali Clarke:        So you agree with the council?


Sarah Hanson-Young:  I do and I think there is a growing chorus of Australians who are starting to think, well hang on a minute, can we come up with a date that is less divisive that reflects more of what Australia means to us, which is a united nation, which is a nation that acknowledges our history and looks toward the future. I mean most other nations celebrate their national day on the day they were federated, that would be January 1. But let me put this out there, during the discussions of this earlier this year there was a bit of a push for May 8. I’m still a big supporter of that.


Ali Clarke:        So given that though, are you in support that this local council has made the call in Victoria, and they will not be supporting Australia Day, they will remove Australia Day from all its offerings and promotions and they will not be holding citizenship ceremonies on that day.


Sarah Hanson-Young:  Look I think this is a, this was a unanimous decision of a local council, representing their local community and if that’s the decision they’ve made then I think that should be respected. But they are reflecting a growing call in the community to change the date because of the insidious, divisive hang up that we have from Australia Day being the day that this nation was invaded.


David Bevan:    Sarah Hanson-Young, should Barnaby Joyce resign as Prime Minister?


Sarah Hanson-Young:  Yes he should and he should do it quickly. I mean isn’t it ridiculous that we have one set of rules for everybody else and a different set of rules for Barnaby Joyce because he happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister in a Government that only holds a majority by one. I mean frankly is anyone surprised that Barnaby Joyce was too incompetent to do his paperwork? I’m not. He should fess up, stand down and if the court rules otherwise then he can re-stand for election and be elected but the fact that he sits there on the front bench as Deputy Prime Minister, basically turning his nose up at the Constitution. I think it’s a bad look for anyone.


David Bevan:    Well the Liberals were laughing at the Greens a few weeks ago. And now they are saying, Christopher Pyne said this on our program yesterday, maybe the Greens were too quick to resign, maybe they should have dug in.


Sarah Hanson-Young:  The Constitution is the Constitution, you may not like the rules but our members of Parliament acted with integrity. They fessed up, they knew they didn’t do their paperwork properly and they resigned. They did it with integrity and with honour and Barnaby Joyce is sitting there on the front bench doing the exact opposite.


Ali Clarke:        What’s wrong with the ABC Sarah Hanson-Young? Pauline Hanson wants our charter to be changed and for legislation to be changed around this. Why do you think One Nation supporters hate the ABC?


Sarah Hanson-Young:  Well I think Pauline Hanson has a personal grudge against the ABC and we know it’s been in her sights for quite some time, as is the SBS. Only a few months ago One Nation was saying they wouldn’t pass any Government bills unless the Government agreed to cut the ABC budget and now we have Malcolm Turnbull cuddling up to Pauline Hanson, cuddling up to One Nation to cut a deal which would undermine, fundamentally undermine, the independence of our public broadcasters and come with a big whack of funding cuts. People need to be really clear in their understanding. Pauline Hanson doesn’t believe that the ABC and SBS should be able to have online and demand services like iView and SBS on Demand. That is what is in their sights.


David Bevan:    Simon Birmingham, do you have any sympathy for what Pauline Hanson is suggesting for the ABC? Because a lot of people say too much money is thrown at the ABC and it’s getting into business that is best left to the private sector.


Simon Birmingham:     Well I don’t agree with Pauline’s comments and nor do the Government about cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the ABC budget. What Mitch Fifield did release yesterday was an agreement around making sure that the ABC truly reflects regional Australia, that the ABC board has to be representation from regional Australia and that we have some words in the ABC charter dealing with regional Australia. They’re some really important elements that have been discussed and they have been discussed for a long time particularly by National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie and they’ve come to the fore in relation to these discussions. Equally looking at ensuring that news content and coverage is fair and balanced, something that most people I think have commented and said yes well the charter already requires us to do that…


Sarah Hanson-Young:  This is a Trojan Horse.


Simon Birmingham:     Sarah, you’ve run a scare campaign all morning on jobs at Port Adelaide that are guaranteed to be there, on the ABC which will still continue to provide a valuable service but with a more explicit focus on management in relation to regional areas which in regional South Australia is very, very important.


Sarah Hanson-Young:  And less money to do it..


David Bevan:    Let’s just give the last word, let’s give the last word at your ABC to Mark Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide. Mark Butler do you have any sympathy for Pauline Hanson and her moves on the ABC and SBS?


Mark Butler:     No I don’t, this is a crusade against the ABC for ideological reasons.


David Bevan:    Well maybe the ABC needs to be challenged.


Mark Butler:     This is an ideological crusade and it’s pretty cheeky of Simon Birmingham to criticise One Nation for wanting cuts to ABC’s budget of hundreds of millions when they’ve cut the funding by $355 million after promising at the 2013 election that there would be no cuts to the ABC. The Government needs to stand up to One Nation on this. I mean I’m not really going to go into the motivations of Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts whose done an extraordinary press conference this morning about the ABC’s apparent bias on climate change, following up his conspiracy theories about the work of NASA and CSIRO and others, I’m not really going to spend time on them. I’m focussed on what the Government is going to do on the ABC and SBS. I mean this is a cherished couple of institutions for Australia and they really need to stand up..


David Bevan:    Are you talking about Ali and me, or the ABC and SBS?


Mark Butler:     Look, you are just a shining example of a broader, of broader..


Simon Birmingham:     You are cherished cherubs.


Ali Clarke:        Thank you


David Bevan:    We’re not going to talk in our next interview. You can just tell us how good we are. Mark Butler, thanks very much.


Mark Butler:     Thanks very much.


David Bevan:    Labor MP for Port Adelaide. Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia and Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for SA.