Transcript - ABC Tasmania - Statewide Drive





SUBJECTS: Matt Keogh’s visit to Hobart, Australian Maritime College, Small Business listening tour

LUCY BREADEN, HOST: Labor MP Matt Keogh is the Shadow Minister for Defence Industry and Shadow Minister Assisting for Small and Family Business. Good afternoon Matt Keogh, thanks so much for coming in.

MATT KEOGH MP: Good afternoon, it’s great to be with you.

BREADEN: Now you’re in Tasmania for a few reasons, flew in this morning. First reason, you’re in Tasmania to talk about the Defence Industry and the defence, innovation and design precinct that is earmarked for Launceston through the University of Tasmania. You had a briefing today, can you talk us through it because it’s probably something that our Launceston residents know a lot about, not so much down here in Hobart.

KEOGH: Full credit, the Australian Maritime College which is run through University of Tasmania and is located up in Launceston does a great job and they’ve got a good reputation around the country. Lots of people, since taking on the role of Defence Industry Shadow Minister, talk to me about it, but I really wanted to get a lot more detail about the work they are doing. One of the things that is very important for our Defence Industry going forward, I’m sure many people would have heard of the naval shipbuilding program. New submarines, new frigates, there’s a lot of work happening and about to happen but it’s also very important that with all that work we’re capturing a sovereign capability. That we’re not just getting a ship or getting a submarine, but we’re building our skills as a part of that so we’re able to continue to sustain these vessels, that we’re able to have a better capable defence industry in our nation and the Australian Naval College is critical to that. The Launceston Defence Maritime precinct that is being created, is funded through the federal government but I will say Labor was going to fund the same thing if we had been successful because we recognise the importance of it. And that skilled workforce, not just in trades but in engineering, in design – naval design, maritime design and indeed in non-maritime defence areas – whether it be in offshore structures for oil and gas or in the civil engineering space, it’s an area we need to build up a great deal of skilled workforce in Australia, and the work that will happen up in Launceston, will really enable that to happen, that’s currently happening at the Australian Marine College. What’s really important about it is it will allow people to not only study, but also research in ways that we currently can’t do in Australia. That we need to take offshore at the moment, they’ll be able to do more research in Australia to build our sovereign capability here.

BREADEN: And is that in Tasmania?

KEOGH: That’ll be in Tasmania! So that’ll be the only place, they’re working through the phasing of this at the moment but there are certain pieces of work that Navy need. In fact civil maritime environment need, for testing your designs for ships and other structures you’re putting in the water. We can’t do all of that work here in Australia at the moment. Being able to expand our domestic capability to do that is fantastic and that’s part of what they’re looking at doing up there.

BREADEN: Do you know how many jobs this would create?

KEOGH: I don’t have the number of jobs for the construction of the precinct itself but to give you an idea, just Navy shipbuilding in Australia is going to need around 15,000 jobs. And what we know is while the bulk of that work is going to happen in South Australia and Western Australia, the jobs are going to have to come from across the country and people are going to come across the country to the Australian Maritime Complex College to do this training, and we need to encourage more people to do it. So there’s a real economic benefit for all of Tasmania here, not just in respect of training Tasmanians, but also having the benefit of lots of students from around the country coming to train up on these very important skills for future defence capability of our nation.

BREADEN: I find it really interesting that our defence industry is growing, and at such a rapid rate.

KEOGH: Look the government has committed a lot of money into our defence capability, and that’s really important. And it’s really important because it’s not just about what capability does our defence force have access to – because you could go buy some of that stuff off the shelf – from Spain or from other countries. What’s important is we are developing a capability here. One of the things I’m very focused on as the Shadow Defence Industry Minister is making sure we develop a sovereign capability that’s not what we sometimes call Labor hire, “oh we can get someone in with these trades to go build a boat”, but we’re developing the capability to do design work, to do the servicing, to do the sustainment, to make sure we have a higher skilled workforce here in Australia – and critical to that is the Australian Maritime college here in Tasmania.

BREADEN: Obviously that will create more jobs into the future, you mentioned even an extra 15,000 jobs in one particular industry, is that going to flow onto more areas, like the Antarctic and maybe building new ships – they’re currently being built in other countries.

KEOGH: Absolutely it will, and one of my other Shadow Portfolios is related to resources and I mentioned, as I’m sure people will know, whether it’s the Bass Strait or the North West Shelf of Western Australia, there is a lot of structures that have got to go into the water for offshore oil and gas. The work that they do at the Maritime College also goes into that civil engineering space in the marine environment so these skills are actually vital to a range of industries for Australia. I think what this actually presents is an opportunity. I think we talk a lot about how people our age and young people coming out of school today will go through multiple different career paths and have different jobs over their lifetime – but actually in this industry. If you become a trained engineer in maritime engineering, you might change jobs or projects but you might stay in that job for the next 40 years. We’ve got such a pipeline of work – whether it’s in naval shipbuilding, offshore oil and gas or related industries, this is a way that people can get a good, steady job. Frankly they could get work all around the world. What I heard today is of the cohort going through the maritime college at the moment, the entire graduating year already have their jobs lined up. They’re all ready to go. We actually need more people coming into the sector and the real work of government now is making sure we’ve got more students doing STEM subjects and wanting to go and do these sorts of courses when they leave school. That’s a challenge for governments across the country, to be encouraging more students to be studying STEM subjects in high school.

BREADEN: And how do you think we address that?

KEOGH: Well I think a big part of what we do is actually before high school – it’s in primary school. What we need to do is put more female maths and science teachers into the classroom to encourage more women into those areas, because what we’re seeing is lots of girls have great interest in maths and science in primary school and then they drop off when they hit high school. Part of that is they don’t have good role models in the classroom, but also we need to look at ways to better engage industry, to put those role models in front of girls in school to say these are great careers for women. Don’t think this is a men only job, this is a male dominated area but we need to get more women down these pathways and more girls in school to have that interest, because there’s great jobs for them, because there’s great jobs for everyone.

BREADEN: I hear that a lot actually through other interviews we do on Drive. It’s 19 past 5, Lucy Breaden here with you on state wide drive and my guest is Matt Keogh, and he’s the Shadow Minister for Defence Industry and Shadow Minister Assisting for Small and Family Business. One of the second reasons you’re here is to talk about small business issues, how we’re faring here in Tasmania. What’s it looking like? What have you been up to in that regard?

KEOGH: I caught up with the Tasmanian Small Business council today which was a really useful engagement. Look, we just lost an election, frankly, as the Labor party, we’re pretty clear that what we need to do is listen, and we had Anthony Albanese out today giving a vision statement around where we see concern in the economy generally in Australia as something we’re concentrating on but part of my role, working with Brendan O’Connor who is the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Small and Family Business, we’re getting out and listening to business. In particular small and family business saying ok what was it that we took to the election that you really liked? What didn’t you like? What are the things that work for you and what are the things that get in the way for you? Whether that’s Federal, State, Local Government. Talking to the council today, one thing I found interesting was one of the concerns they raised was the lack of skilled workforce available to them here in Tasmania and they identified breakdowns with the TAFE and vocational education and training areas which is a real problem. We’re seeing this around the country because there has been this defunding and a lack of fair training nationally across the board and that’s quite a big problem, and they identified that as a problem here in Tasmania as well. We spoke about the potential to do things to help micro businesses. So businesses that at the moment might only be one person and looking at “ok how do I take on my first ever employee and how do I do that” in a way that is de-risked and doesn’t leave them exposed if that doesn’t quite work out, because it’s something that’s completely new to them. I think what we’re seeing, especially with start-up businesses, is the people that start these businesses know the thing that they do very well, but they aren’t necessarily the greatest business manager that knows all the ins and outs of a business too. That’s something I’ve heard across the country as well – how do we support business with the business administration component, so they can get up to speed and grow their business successfully and safely. We don’t want to see people with wages ripped off, we don’t want to see super not being paid. There’s a lot of regulation there, for really good reasons, but there’s probably a role there where we can help those micro businesses comply but also grow at the same time.

BREADEN: What about spending? Did they feel confident that we are spending enough in their shops and online at a Tasmanian level?

KEOGH: Look interestingly there was a discussion on some of the impacts on increasing house prices here in Hobart in particular and increasing house prices across Tasmania. That can be seen as a positive in terms of what’s happening with the economy here in Tasmania but they did share the general concern that we’re seeing across the country and that’s that there is a lack of demand. People aren’t spending money. If you don’t have money in your pocket you can’t spend it. If you’re worried that you owe too much on your mortgage and you get some extra money – people are using it to pay down debt. That is a concern that we’re hearing across the board. Anthony Albanese spoke about that today in his speech up in Queensland, talking about the need to really get productivity going again. To make sure we do see the economy grow and the government at the moment seems to not really have a plan to do anything about these things and we need Government to really start doing something about it. We’re hearing that from small business from all around the country, they want to see those things delivered on and that’s part of what we heard that today. But part of that is looking at different things we can do to help enable business along the way as well. Another part of it is access to credit. Every time I speak to small business organisations they talk about how their members feel how difficult it is for businesses to get funding out of the banks for example. The banks keep saying oh no we want to lend money, but when I come and speak to small business, they say we’re finding it difficult to get access to credit so we can expand our business. And we want to see businesses expand right now.

BREADEN: Lucy Breaden here with you on state wide drive. It’s 23 past 5. Federal Labor MP Matt Keogh is my guest. Now the Energy Ministers are meeting today at COAG. Did the cost of electricity come up? Anything to do with energy policy?

KEOGH: I understand they’re meeting in Perth which means they’re 3 hours behind all of us. I’m from Perth so I’m very familiar with this problem everybody. Electricity prices is undoubtedly coming up, it’s one of the critical issues from the east coast point of view is energy security. There’s big concern to make sure we have the capacity not to have black outs on the east coast of Australia right now and looking at what firming capacity can be done to make sure these problems don’t arise and I think undoubtedly one thing that’s being raised by state ministers we’re seeing across the board is the lack of coherent energy policy from the federal government. That’s what’s leading us down the pathway of seeing a lack of clear pathways for energy producers to make sure we don’t have these blackout problems and it creates these spikes in prices that we’re seeing for customers. One thing we’re hearing around the country from everybody is “can we please do something about power prices” but if there’s no firm policy, no clear articulation of that from the federal government then it makes it very difficult.

BREADEN: Lucy Breaden with you on State wide drive, Matthew Keogh is my guest, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry and Shadow Minister Assisting for Small and Family Business. He’s in Tasmania talking about a few bits and pieces. He had a briefing today on the Defence, Innovation and Design Precinct for Launceston and catching up as well with the small business council, the Tasmanian Small Business Council. Just to see and talk about some of their issues. You did mention though one of the things you were talking about was Labor’s election loss recently, what Labor can do differently.  Certainly Labor has done a bit of soul searching in that time and into that. What is it that you’ve been doing today in Tasmania? Is it mostly talking and listening to people and hearing how you could possibly win them over at the next election?

KEOGH: It’s absolutely about listening and understanding. I think one of the things people would expect – we don’t want to be focused on ourselves, we want to be really focused on what the Australian people want. But I think what’s important is if we’d woken up the day after the Federal Election and said “oh that was a bit bad, we’ll do the whole thing the same next time”, that’s not credible. People do want to see that we’re listening to them and we’re changing to adapt to a circumstance where clearly we weren’t in the right place at the last election. But we do need to focus on moving forward. Being here today, being able to engage with small business representatives, being able to engage with our university sector and our defence industry is important about understanding people, about where they are. I’m from Western Australia, Western Australia is a very different part of the Commonwealth, and so is Tasmania. Quite frankly so is each state and each city. If we were to try and generate small business policy from me sitting in Perth or when I’m in Canberra and not being out listening to people and understanding the things they confront. As I mentioned before, some of the things small business raised with me today are the same as what was raised with me when I was on the central coast of New South Wales, when I was in Darwin, when I’ve been in Melbourne or when I’ve been in Perth. Some of the things, being able to help microbusinesses get their first employee. What we can do in that space – no one’s raised that with me before. That would help businesses across the country. And I don’t know the exact answer for that yet, but having it raised with me, gives me something to work with and that’s about responding to, in this case, small and family business – where they are. If we’re not where people are, and where business is, then we’re not going to be the best party that the country needs, as I think, should be the next Government.

BREADEN: Matt Keogh we’ll leave it there. Enjoy Tasmania!

KEOGH: It’s been great to be with you, thank you so much.