28 January 2021

SUBJECTS: Labor’s Shadow Ministry reshuffle.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's go live to Sydney now and the newly appointed Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation Ed Husic. Thanks for your time Ed Husic. Were you pleased with the change? You welcomed it?
ED HUSIC, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION: Thanks Kieran. It's a huge change and I'm very grateful for the chance to be in an area that I have had a very long-term interest in. It's all about jobs, not just for now, but getting ready for the jobs that we think will emerge in the future. Strengthening the ways that businesses operate again not just now but looking down the track. We always need businesses to move with the times and be able to grow and provide even more employment for people.
So industry and innovation has got a big role to play there. But it is with a degree of sadness, leaving the agriculture and resources portfolios, because I absolutely loved my time, albeit a very short period of time in those areas. Because I have massive respect for the contribution that both agriculture and resources make to the nation and to its economy. I've been so grateful for the warmth that was extended to me by stakeholders in those industries. I think it's good for parliamentarians across the board to learn more about these vital sectors. I was super grateful for the chance to be able to spend some time with some terrific contributors to our economy.
GILBERT: When you look at this, your portfolio, the Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation and Richard Marles Shadow Minister for Reconstruction, Science and Jobs, there's a fair bit of overlap. How does that work in your mind?
HUSIC: I think if you look at the course of the last 12 months and the massive pressure that COVID has put on the economy. The fact that we've got 2 million people either unemployed or underemployed in the country, the fact that we need to rethink the way that we obtain products, goods and services. We've been relying, as people have observed, on just a few countries providing us with a lot of the goods that we require. What can we do in terms of boosting manufacturing and in particular, high end advanced manufacturing in this country? How much can we produce on Australian shores rather than offshoring a lot of economic activity and business activity?
So we do need a number of people across portfolios working together and so I welcome the chance to be able to do that. Particularly in terms of industry and applying new ways of doing things, and obviously, the innovation side of things has got an important role to play there. So it's a good chance to be able to connect with a number of people and work with a common view as to how we think the economy should shape itself up into the future and the type of jobs that we can generate. Secure and better paying jobs longer term.
GILBERT: Does it also risk overlapping responsibilities here as well, in terms of say you look at Richard Marles, it's very much economic focused. Does it dilute the authority of the Shadow Treasurer for example?
HUSIC: Not at all. I think if you see what Jim's doing in the Shadow Treasurer role in terms of not just holding the government to account but encouraging them to think differently about the way that they shape up economic policy. Especially with respect to the critical elements of the recovery process and the supports that have been put in place through the course of the pandemic, specifically JobKeeper. You've seen the type of work that Jim has undertaken there to make sure that the government doesn't arbitrarily remove a key support like JobKeeper just for the sake of meeting a headline as is the want of this government.
They'd rather chase the headlines than do the hard policy yards and ensure that there are supports there that keep the economy in a better or stronger position than prematurely withdrawing those supports. I think you've got Jim in that role and you've got a number of us thinking about what we can do to support industry now and into the future. It's not just in terms of the economy or industry, it's trade as well. All these have got to work together very closely and synchronise. I think you've got that opportunity there in the way that Anthony has thought through putting people on the front line working together. Because it is going to take a team approach given the challenge and the impact that COVID has had on our economy and also economies overseas that we trade and deal with.
GILBERT: Now I know you've just taken on this role, but as you mentioned earlier in the interview you've had a long-standing interest in the tech front.
HUSIC: Yeah.
GILBERT: So when it comes to these challenges with Google and Facebook, but Google today with the ACCC releasing this report on its advertising dominance. How do you see the way to sort of level the playing field here with these tech giants not just in news media but more broadly advertising as we see today?
HUSIC: I think the big thing that drives them and the reason they grow is because of their access to data and the way that's used. So I think everyday people are becoming a lot more alive and alerted to the fact that their data and the way that it's used, the way it's obtained, the way it might go to third parties and the way that it's forced or encouraged and accelerated the growth of these firms, that's a big issue. The way that the firm's might basically snuff out competition as well by acquiring them, that's a big issue in terms of competition law. Obviously in the area of the media and its long-term survival, that's very important. Though I've got some concerns about the way that the government's shaped up its response to this issue.
I think tech does a lot of great things in terms of enabling us to do things differently. But it's got a massive deflationary impact and it's probably had a big impact in terms of keeping wages low longer term and automation and the role of jobs. So there's a whole stack of things here that need to be thought of longer term. We want the benefits of tech, but not at the expense of the broader economy and being able to find the midway point is very crucial.
GILBERT: Indeed and I guess that's the whole issue about the next generation of jobs as well, that so many of our students today, universities and certainly those younger, will be entering fields that aren't even in existence yet.
HUSIC: Yes, I'm deeply concerned about the fact that we need to have very strong support for research and development in this country, because it's going to think through the new ways businesses operate into the future. So making sure that we have that support there is important and fortunately the government backed down on its insane proposal to get rid of the way in which the R&D tax incentive operated in this country. We do need to make sure that people are skilled up for work into the future as well. I am concerned that Australian Business relative to overseas counterparts don't invest in technology to the same level and we can't afford to be left behind. I am concerned that we don't have a national approach for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, that really are going to generate an economic bonanza for a lot of other countries.
They've understood full well Kieran that they need to invest in this space and we are just dragging our feet there. I mean, there are all these pieces that we do need to think through and we need to look after people that are affected by technological change in work right now. We need businesses and governments to think through that stuff as well and just not leave it as an afterthought as to what impact technology has on employment. There's a whole stack of stuff there that we do need to have a much broader and much more cohesive approach to the way that we deal with technology in the economy. I think that'll be a big focus, apart from the fact of what we do with respect to the impact of COVID on our economy. These are the type of things we need to think deeply about.
GILBERT: With the shift of Mark Butler to health and Chris Bowen of the right faction into climate and emissions, are you worried that will see voters, traditional Labor voters included, think that Labor has lost its commitment to dealing with climate change?
HUSIC: Absolutely not. I think someone like Chris Bowen, who thinks deeply about these issues, who recognises the importance and recognises the challenge, having been in an economic portfolio in times past, recognises the importance of us having a climate change response that not only deals with emissions, but generates jobs as well. This can be a jobs bonanza for the country if we get this right. It can also, by ensuring that we have some sort of coherent energy policy, which we don't have right now. Frankly we've had a government that has attempted over 20 times to bring in an energy policy.
Manufacturers need access to efficiently generated, competitively priced energy and Chris Bowen will get that. As Anthony described in his press conference, when you look at Mark Butler's background and the fact that he's thought deeply about it. Either he's been in the mental health portfolio previously, written extensively and thought extensively about the impact of ageing on Australian society in the economy and the fact that he will be able to move into that health portfolio quite easily is very important. I think the other thing, I might make this observation too Kieran, politicos who will look at this in very minute detail, compare and contrast.
The Morrison Government talked up that they'd do a big shuffle and it was a pipsqueaks reshuffle being very minor. People would have suggested that Anthony Albanese either mirror that or not take on big moves because reshuffles are very difficult to pull off and complicated things to manage. He has moved forward with confidence, with certainty and a determination to ensure that we've got a frontbench that can take it up to the government in what is being widely considered as a potential election year. I think the contrasts are pretty big and Albo's basically said nah we're going to put forward a team that we think will put us in a good place and will take the fight up to the government. So I think that reflects a lot on his confidence and strength in being able to put forward the reshuffle in the way that he has.
GILBERT: The newly appointed Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation, Ed Husic. Thank you talk to you soon.
HUSIC: Good on ya KG.