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SUBJECT/S: Jobs automation & training, Kim Beazley appointment to Governor of WA, Labor’s private health reforms

GARETH PARKER: Our regular guest every second Wednesday is the Member for Perth, also the Shadow Minister Assisting the Minister for Resources which is topical given who we just spoke to, Chris Salisbury from Rio Tinto.

Tim Hammond good morning.


PARKER: Thanks for your time today. Let’s just pick up on the discussion I just had with Chris Salisbury, because I am keen to get your perspective.

Obviously as a WA MP mining is always going to be front and centre of the issues that come across your desk, with your Shadow Portfolio responsibilities I just outlined, that is even more so.

That question I just put to Chris Salisbury about convincing a sceptical public that automation is in the interests of the broad spectrum of the population and employment.

Where do you sit on all of that?

HAMMOND: It’s a really important topic to raise because I reckon it is the hot-button issue going forward in terms of the future of work for the next 10-15 years.

There’s that famous statistic that in 20 years’ time 40 per cent of the jobs we now have just won’t exist and I reckon as a community, and as a society, we have got one of two choices.

We can either pretend it is not going to happen, in which case we are going to be worse off, or we can look at ways to embrace this brave new world that is automation – we’re seeing it already.

But it does require a couple of pretty important steps to be taken both by industry but also by government.

Firstly; we have got to acknowledge that it is coming and it is coming quickly. That means making sure that we have got confidence of the workforce knowing that there are going to be jobs phased out but there have to be new opportunities there to try and create a seamless transition.

Without wanting to completely pump the tyres up unashamedly of a couple of members of my own team who are all over this, look at some of the published writing from Ed Husic, Jim Chalmers, all about tackling this issue of the future of work. We’ve got to be having the conversation now.

But what that does mean is making sure those current workers who are in that 40-50 year old age bracket, who are either truck drivers or train drivers, they need a seamless transition and that means proper support and training so we don’t have a drop off in wages and conditions.

But it also means, and it’s terrific that you are having this chat with the scientists Barry Marshall and Co later on, we also have to again ensure our kids are learning the STEM technologies they need.

So they’re coding, so they’re getting ahead of the curve, trying to keep those industries here. That’s what it kind of needs and that’s why it is good we are having this conversation now.

PARKER: In a sense I’m more relaxed about the kids because the kids are going to learn because that’s what kids do.

The bright kids will get good opportunities, for kids who aren’t suited academically hopefully there is still a pipeline to a good, well-paying job.

But, you put your finger on it. It is the people in their 40s and 50s that have been in the work force for 20 or 30 years but are well short of retirement age. Especially in the context, as we all know, we have to work later and longer.

The worry is that those people are discarded before their time. 

HAMMOND: And this is where is comes back to the obligation of industry – in my view – followed by the obligation of government to provide good training and support.

Industry needs to look these men and women in the eyes and say we are going to take every possible, reasonable step, even if it costs us money to make sure that you are transitioned into stable employment.

We cannot leave them high and dry.

But it also means we have got to fund in a fair dinkum way our training sector so they have also got somewhere to go.

They are the issues that are keeping guys like Ed Husic and Jim Chalmers and Brendan O’Connor up at night because they know we cannot afford to leave those people behind – for the sake of them and for the sake of our community generally.

PARKER: The training system, I think, is not working anywhere near as well as it should at the moment. People in industry that we’ve spoken to on this program have used words like “crisis” I don’t know whether that is over blown or not.

But certainly if you look at, for example, the number of apprenticeships and traineeships that have been taken up in the past five or six years they have really fallen off a cliff. That is a danger sign.

But I do wonder as well if there needs to be honest discussions with people to say that a qualification is not something you get between the ages of 18 and 22.   

HAMMOND: Absolutely.

PARKER: It is something you have got to keep going back to, maybe three, four or even five times throughout your working life.

HAMMOND: This notion of organic retraining has to be supported with meaningful training opportunities. And again, to the Premier’s credit he came out before the election to say he was going to freeze TAFE fees to make it more accessible to get into TAFE.

We need to be doing a lot more work Federally to support the TAFE industry and making sure we don’t get leakage into those private training sectors that are just letting consumers down. We know it is happening and we need to make sure it stops happening and provide meaningful training opportunities in a way that suits this organic notion of redeveloping talent, 

PARKER: Sure. Kim Beazley, everyone agrees that he is a good bloke, a smart bloke, a loyal servant of the country. His appointment as Governor yesterday received pubic bipartisan support.

Is there any reason to be a little bit sceptical of a Labor politician appointing a former Labor politician, especially one who is a Republican, to a position like that?

HAMMOND: My first declaration of interest is that I count Kim as a dear friend so my comments should be seen in that light.

I reckon the true test of that proposition is the reaction from the community. I mean, people aren’t silly and people aren’t mugs, they know when the appropriate appointment is being made of someone who is going to represent the interests of Western Australia.

The reason why someone like Kim Beazley draws such bipartisan support is because time and time again he has demonstrated a commitment to putting the country or the state first.

He did it as an ambassador in true bipartisan fashion and he has certainly done it for Western Australia and he really is in my view a true Statesman who has the ability to continue the wonderful work of Kerry Sanderson – and we should acknowledge her work in the role of Governor – continue her work as an advocate for Western Australia.

I think the community sees this appointment for what it is and that is the appointment of a truly great Western Australian who will keep the advocacy moving.

PARKER: It’s a long time since a former politician was appointed to either Governor of WA or Governor General of Australia. I think there are probably good reasons for that.

Is this a retrograde step in that respect – putting aside Kim Beazley’s qualities and characteristics which I tend to agree that there is broad base community support for.

In principle should be appointing politicians to what is a role that necessarily needs to be above politics?

HAMMOND:  I think it depends - and this is going to sound like a bit of a squib - but I think it really depends on the politician; it depends upon the calibre of the candidate.

And again, it has got to come back to an appointment that is in tune with community expectation.

I actually think it is a good thing, quite frankly, for the public to be seeing someone of the calibre of Kim Beazley - a former politician - rise above that notion of party politics.

I think it does the whole democratic process a world of good – we’ve got to see these candidates on their merit.

PARKER: Alright. If Bill Shorten wins the next election, which looks increasingly likely is Labor going to mess with private health insurance rebates?

HAMMOND: We’re not going to mess with them but we are going to reform them. We are not taking a backward step in relation to that.


HAMMOND: We’re doing two things fundamentally which will see a benefit for consumers in the private health system.

The first thing we have committed to do over two years is to cap increases in premiums at two per cent.

Now, what that would see if we were lucky enough to be in power now, it would see the recent rise on the 1st of April, Sunday just gone, which was at 3.95 per cent at a cost of over $1 billion to the Australian community, capped at 2 per cent.

The first thing is we will create some price confidence in the market but the second thing, and the most important thing is we will undertake something for the first time in 20 years – a root and branch Productivity Review of the entire industry to actually make sure we can restore the balance and give some consumer confidence into the private health sector so it does take pressure off the public system. 

PARKER: Totally support that second one; I think that’s a good idea. To the cap; the 2 per cent per annum cap, that doesn’t actually solve anything does it?

That doesn’t address a single thing about premiums going up. The likelihood is that in year three premiums will go up much more.

We’ve seen when there has been artificial caps placed on things like electricity prices here in Western Australia it is an inevitable consequence.

HAMMOND: I think it is important not to take one without the other and that’s why it’s so important to do them at the same time.

Firstly; mums and dads needs relief and they need immediate confidence in that market and something has to be done because under the watch of the current mob nothing is being done. 

PARKER: Well, there’s a lot being done there. For example renegotiating prices that are paid for things like prosthetics which drive cost.

This is really a conversation about cost drivers in the system which is about medical salaries, it’s about prices hospitals charge, there’s a whole bunch of things that are really the issue.

HAMMOND: And I fundamentally agree which is why we are backing in a root and branch review. But we also need to take some pressure out of the system for consumers who are just paying too much and otherwise leaving the system.

We need to do something immediate which is why we are putting the cap on but at the same time we are committing to overhaul the system.

PARKER: Ok, we’ll wait and see. Tim Hammond thanks for coming in. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks. 

HAMMOND: Great to be with you.



 Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra