Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Opposition Leader discusses ALP mature age workers policy; and electorate visits.

Download PDFDownload PDF



FRIDAY, 9 JULY O4 *E&OE ** Subjects: Mature Age Workers Policy, Electorate Visits

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, thank you very much for taking our call.

LATHAM: Good day, Paul; how are you going?

JOURNALIST: Good to talk to you again, I am very well. First off, let’s have a look at the visit. What is on the agenda today? You are going to Tomago Aluminium, I believe?

LATHAM: Yes, and talking about our policies for mature age workers, which we launched on the Central Coast yesterday. It is very important to have extra training and work opportunities for people over the age of 45. It is one of the stubborn issues in the employment market and we put out a whole range of initiatives to help with the training, the job security, how we respond to retrenchments on a large scale to ensure that if anyone of that age falls out of work they can rebound as quickly as possible and get back into a good job.

JOURNALIST: So banging the drum further at Tomago, basically.

LATHAM: Well, trying to provide assistance. The Hunter’s had some experiences in the past with people at a mature age being laid off, and we need rapid response from government assistance programs, retraining initiatives, to make sure that at 45, 50, 55 years of age people aren’t thrown on the scrap heap; they’ve still got a lot to offer in the work force and we’ve got to give them up to date skills to make that possible.

JOURNALIST: Retraining, we’ve seen that tried in the past with limited success. It is an incredibly entrenched problem to solve the unemployment for skilled workers but, once you get over a certain age limit, it is more an education campaign for employers we need; isn’t it?

LATHAM: Yes, and that is part of our policy - a Training Partnerships Fund. That if employers are putting money into training of mature age staff, we will match it dollar for dollar up to $1250 that will assist 7,000 mature age

workers, costing close to $10 million over four years. So it has a real prevention measure; keep training people at a mature age so that if the technologies change they can get the new skills and the prospects of being laid off are diminished. It is good to have a rapid response if something goes wrong but it is even better to have prevention in the first place by giving people the work place skills, and working with employers to make sure that extra training is available for people over the age of 45.

JOURNALIST: I know I have only got you for a moment, Mr Latham, so, if you wouldn’t mind, can we move on to other issues, broader issues. The news today is that two former Prime Ministers, Paul Keating and Malcolm Fraser, are having a spray about the United States’ interference in Australian politics. The Prime Minister’s response to that is, hang about, Mark Latham himself has had a go at the American President in very personal terms. Is this another case of him not being able to take what he dishes out? How do you respond to that?

LATHAM: That was some time ago in the lead up to the Iraq war. We are now talking about looming election campaigns in both countries and the convention is to stay out of each other’s politics. We respect the great American democracy and they are going to have their election campaign and [inaudible]

JOURNALIST: So it is a matter of timing? It was okay then -

LATHAM: It is a matter of the election cycle as opposed to specific debates, what, at the beginning of last year, and also running commentary. I mean, this is not a one-off; this has been running commentary. Whether it comes from the left or right wing of American politics, it is more appropriate to leave the Australian democracy to sort out voting intentions and election outcomes, as we will do later this year.

JOURNALIST: John Howard seems to be getting a bit of momentum to this campaign that Mark Latham can dish it out but he can’t take it. How are you going to convince the electorate that he is wrong there?

LATHAM: I’ve said consistently and right through this week, in particular, that people can criticise me, abuse me, whatever, but let’s deal in something better than rumour and let’s leave family out of it. So I’ve never said people should lay off me; far from it. You expect, as a public figure, to get all of the criticism and abuse that I get from the Howard Government on a regular basis, but I’ve just tried to clear up a few rumours and hopefully we can deal with facts.

JOURNALIST: That emotional press conference you gave is getting mixed reviews, if you want to put it in those terms, whether it was a wise thing to do

and whether in fact you didn’t stir the pot even further just by giving more publicity to those rumours that many, even commentators, hadn’t heard of. In hindsight, do you think it was a wise move to give that press conference?

LATHAM: I was there to clear the air and certainly the press gallery journalists had lots of questions to ask about all of those matters so that was the purpose. They could ask their questions and I gave my answers and for the rest of the week I’ve been working on positive policy announcements - mature age workers, the public housing investment plan, talking about the future, but it is very hard to do that if you’re working in a rumour mill. I cleared the air and, if those journalists knew nothing, I can tell you one thing, Paul, they asked lots of questions about those issues that I raised. There was no shortage of questions firing out from the floor. If you look through the transcript of the press conference you will see that as a fact.

JOURNALIST: You are visiting Paterson, a marginal electorate, you have been in Dobell, which is another marginal electorate, is this an election that is going to be fought again, as we’ve seen the trend substantially if not exclusively, in the marginal seats?

LATHAM: There are important things for me to be done in all seats and we campaign in the Hunter and the Central Coast trying to do good things. I mean, whether you live in Paterson or Newcastle or the seat of the Charlton or Shortland, everyone has got an interest in the regional status of funding for the

Newcastle University, reversing the 25 per cent HECS increase. Everyone has an interest in restoring bulk-billing rates and saving Medicare in this region, so they are the policies that Labor advances, along with the announcement yesterday about mature age workers. No matter where you live in the Hunter, people have

got an interest in that.

JOURNALIST: It is shaping up to be a very long campaign. I mean, we haven’t even started yet - theoretically we haven’t started - although, we have been going for a while others would say. When do reckon the election is going to be? What is your feeling on the issue?

LATHAM: Paul, you will have to ask Mr Howard. He never rings me to say, Mark, guess what -

JOURNALIST: If it is in December, we’re in July, the latest thing he said is the election is not going to be til late in the year and it seems like it is going to be beyond August. Gee, the campaign is going to go on forever!

LATHAM: Yes, well, that would be the Prime Minister’s choice. It is up to him.