07 March 2018

SUBJECT/S: Adani, Gig economy
KIERAN GILBERT: Lets go to Ed Husic now, the Shadow Minister for Employment Services. On the broader issue of certainty as Jackson touched on there, and I guess the frustration among some of your colleagues Mr Husic is that Bill Shorten says that it doesnt stack up environmentally but the environmental approvals given to this particular project have been upheld by none less than the full bench of the Federal Court. Thats the problem here isnt it, that your colleagues are worried about the risk, well the sovereign risk of having the alternative Prime Minister of the country raising environmental problems when they have already jumped those various hurdles?
ED HUSIC: Well K.G. I always know Im in for a tough fight interview when you start referring to me as Mr Husic. So Mr Gilbert Ill answer your question in this way: we have been quite clear, we have said for some time, the project has got to stack up environmentally and economically. We have also said that we will not, we are not in favour of providing tax payer subsidies to support the project. And we have also said we will not be tearing up contracts because that, understandably, brings on the whole concern about sovereign risk.
We do think that there are still some environmental approvals that need to be undertaken. I understand off the top of my head that there are about four different approvals that are required. One in particular in relation to water management. Weve got to go through that process, but you know, there will be people, and Bill has said, he is not a fan of the project. But we understand coming to the part of your question, that a lot of the approvals have been granted, this has all been done, unless there is something that was provided in that approval process that, you know, clearly was misleading, wrong and would have misdirected the approval process, you know, barring that, you know those approvals stand.
GILBERT: Because as your colleagues, a number of them put to me privately, they had to argue to Mr shorten, away from a tougher position, Im out right banning and revoking of the license because of this issue. He had to be convinced not to go harder. And despite that deliberation in the shadow cabinet his rhetoric has gone harder. That is the frustration.
HUSIC: You know, can I just be absolutely frank, I wasnt part of those discussions. I dont know what was said, youve got those quotes. All I can point you to, as a lot of my colleagues have said publicly, some of the points Ive just made a few moments ago. There is definitely, I think even though, and you noticed in your package a few moments ago, people wondering whether or not this project Kieran would actually go ahead. Because the biggest area of uncertainty is why the company has not been able to get backing, financial backing to make this project a reality. There is no doubt, particularly in that part of Northern Queensland
GILBERT: If Bill shorten stuck to the lines, the argument that youre making, if he, if Bill shorten stop to the argument you are making with the discipline with which youre doing it, then itd be fine. But hes gone on to say that he is basically opposed to this, out right opposed to this project. Its a lot further than that initial statement that had the caveats about sovereign risk. Do you get Margaret Strelows concern, the Rockhampton Mayor, that this creates uncertainty, both here and internationally. You might say youre not going to rip up the contracts, but at the same time he is saying he opposes the project.
HUSIC: Okay two things, I suppose dealing with the Mayors comments, I think, and Im a big fan of that Mayor, and met with her in the middle of last year, I dont agree with that persay. I think the biggest driver of an certainty in this is the company not being able to get everything stacked up. That can get the finance to support the project from happening. The second thing is we can all have individual views, I mean who am I to lecture people about individual views?
I for example, have a very strong view that we are locking down $10 billion of infrastructure funding on one project in New South Wales on the second airport. Our broader parties supports it. We can have individual views, I think modern democracy, modern parliamentary democracies can afford to have people with strong views its an issue of how you unite around things you know, going into the future.
GILBERT: Im just saying that if youre the Leader you cant be freelance as one person put it to Fairfax media this morning. That Shorten is freelancing as another individual said to me yesterday hes on a frolic of his own against the party position.
HUSIC: Aint a commentator, aint gonna be able, you know, you got those quotes, all I can say is that from my perspective, and from a lot of the perspectives of people across the party, we have a solid position and those points Ive expressed. This projects got to stack up. The biggest thing too is Kieran longer term we know that are 30,000 people looking for work from Rockhampton to the northern most point of Queensland. This one project, despite the fact that it promised stacks of jobs, ultimately is going to create, what 1500 jobs weve got to find, the challenge is finding work beyond that.
Thats why weve made announcements In the last few weeks, big infrastructure projects for Northern Queensland which we think will help improve or strengthen the local economies, drive job growth, and theyre the things people are calling out for. Be at the duplication of the Yappoon to Rockhampton Road network be at the Rookwood weir decision we made, be at the widening of the channel at the Port of Townsville. I mean, these are big things that will help local economies, so weve been focused on longer term aims of boosting jobs in that part of the country.
GILBERT: What about the Labor challenge of having to deal with the Greens threat on the left flank, and then you have got to target a much broader middle ground at that general election, do you see any risks here for Labor?
HUSIC: I think theres always, you know, for parties, for broad parties, be it on the right, be at that centre right or the centre left, youll always have parties to the edges of you that will try and chip away at your base, at your vote. You know, this is just something that parties have to deal with, weve dealt with this previously, were dealing with it now. Being able to have strong local champions to speak up on issues that are important to that area is crucial for those, for parties to be able to get traction.
I think we do a good job internally of providing avenues for people to be able to stand up for their communities. So I think yeah, absolutely longer term there is always a challenge there but I think, frankly, were managing it quite well as we were shown just on the basis of past record.
GILBERT: Alan Tudge, the new Citizenship Minister is talking about, the front page of the Australian today, renewed focus on English language tests, your thoughts on this?
HUSIC: Well, I could give you a whole stack of political responses, Keiran, let me just point to one thing that a lot of people know is true. When you look at migrant communities, and you look at their children, and you look at their academic performance, some of the best performers in our schools come from migrant backgrounds. Where their parents have obviously had a very strong culture of, within their families, encouraging kids to do well in school and to do their best with in the broader community and theyve made terrific contributions.
So I think the proof has shown that, you know, we have been able to achieve that without some of the ideas that are being pushed by the Coalition. Alan Tudge is feeling a bit of deprivation, he used to be able to get away with a nice steady stream of drops to media outlets on welfare reform, he cant do that anymore, so hes decided to pick up this case. Its not about policy, its not about good ideas being pursued in the public interest, this is about politics by Alan Tudge.
GILBERT: Youre worried about ethnic separatism like in Europe? Thats what hes talking about. He is suggesting that we could follow the path of Europe with ethnic separatism , is the way it was put.
HUSIC: Yeah, and Im sure hes backed that up with a lot of evidence to reinforce his case. I mean as I said we have been able to see some success stories through, you know, some of the things Ive mentioned kids are doing well in school and making great contributions in the community. Weve been hailed as one of the great multicultural success stories, always gotta work on bringing communities together, obviously and making not just resting on our laurels. But I think this is a case, like I said, Alan Tudge missing a bit of the media spotlight, deciding to play politics and being very light on the whole issue of evidence driven the policy.
GILBERT: A few other quick ones before we go on the economy the KPMG analysis that suggests the Trump tax cuts if theyre not counted with the measures that the federal governments proposing here it will cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
HUSIC: Yes, I noticed that report this morning, good to see the of trickledown economics making a re-emergence through the rationale of that report. You know, I, like many of my colleagues, are very sceptical about obviously a lot of people who would benefit from these tax cuts in the corporate sector using their, using different vehicles to push the case. The reality is in a time where the budget is not as strong as we like it to be, and where people are being told they have to accept sacrifice, to hand over $65 billion in this way, when we have other needs to be met, it just doesnt stack up.
In terms of the business community, arguing in an environment where profitability is up, where dividend flows to shareholders is up, significantly, and where they havent seen their way to improve wages in that environment for us to believe that suddenly by handing over $65 billion in this way well see a change in behaviour. I think theyve got a bigger case to make as to why handing over at $65 billion will see them behave any differently to what they have previously. We want a stronger economy, we also got to balance out our fiscal responsibility.
GILBERT: On the way ages is she suggestion that the so-called gig economy, organisations like Uber are driving down wages, as someone who is focused on this area quite a bit in the digital economy, whats your view, is that true?
HUSIC: I think that while the tech sector has opened up new avenues to jobs emerging, there is a deep concern that some of those jobs, what happens when you get one of those jobs, how are you treated as a, are you even treated as an employee? What is your income flow like? And as we discussed on Sky a few weeks ago, you know, the expectation that people were to string together part time jobs that might emerge in a gig economy, and be able to make a living out of that I think a lot of people are reluctant to.
I think that the report that came out today with nine imminent economists being worried about the impact of the gig economy on wages is something that needs to be seriously looked at and their call for governments to think deeply about the regulatory framework to protect workers longer term; very important. A great Senate inquiry being chaired by Murray Watt right now is looking at these very questions and we hope that thatll guide policy makers into the future.
GILBERT: Appreciate your time as always Ed Husic, thanks for that.