Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is urging people not to “dumb down” the jobs debate as he continues to fight off questions over his stance on the Adani coal mine.
Taking his election campaign to the regional Queensland seats of Flynn and Dawson on Tuesday, Mr Shorten promised to overhaul skilled worker visas so that locals get a look in.
The opposition leader wants to boost the minimum wages of foreign workers by 20 per cent so employers don’t overlook locals in favour of cheap overseas labour.
He also pledged to scrap a controversial $5 billion fund set up by the coalition government, redirecting the money to northern Australian gas pipelines.
But standing at the water’s edge of the Gladstone Port, it was his stance on the Adani mine that dominated.
Mr Shorten said he would not be “bullied” over the Carmichael mine by unions or green groups, but is refusing to say whether he will review its environmental approvals if Labor wins on May 18.
“If I am prime minister, I will adhere to the law of the land,” he told reporters.
“I’m not going to be intimidated or bullied by environmental activists or big mining companies. For me, it is all about the best science, the law of the land, and not creating sovereign risk.”
The opposition leader is also refusing to sign a petition circulated by the mining union in support of the Carmichael mine, despite the local Labor candidate adding his own name to the list.
The Adani mine is a major issue for voters in Dawson and Flynn – regions struggling with crippling levels of unemployment.
But Mr Shorten said Labor would not be putting all its eggs in one basket over the Galilee Basin project.
Attempting to pivot to his crack down on overseas workers, Mr Shorten said there were 1.6 million visa-holders in Australia with work rights.
“Surely some of those jobs could go to Australians.”
Mr Shorten insists he will not be distracted by the political comeback of Clive Palmer, whose preferences could determine several seats.
“There is only one person who has been resurrected and I won’t compare Clive Palmer to him,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten also struck out at an LNP Senate candidate caught peddling conspiracy theories about child care and climate change.
“The LNP has got a factory at an undisclosed location where they can find candidates so out of touch with the real world it is remarkable,” he said.
And Mr Shorten could not resist taking aim at Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen, who has spent 294 days in Manila over four years.
“That is one of the questions of the ages – the member for Manila,” he said.
Mr Shorten focused on his industrial relations and wages pitch while addressing workers at the port.
However, like his Easter penalty rates rallying cry to Luna Park workers whose loadings had not been cut, Mr Shorten acknowledged the port workers were paid quite well.
The employees threw a hearty sausage sizzle for Mr Shorten’s visit, but the opposition leader gave their trestle table a wide berth.
Fortunately, Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor was on hand to grab a sauced snag in bread.
And after listening to Mr Shorten’s 15 minute offering, the workers made short work of the spread.