TUESDAY, 17 JULY 2017
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to tackle unfair labour hire practices and protect workers; Trevor Ruthenberg; AEMO report; Long by-election; US/Russia meeting.
JO BRISKEY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BONNER: G'day, my name is Jo Briskey, I am the Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Bonner which is where we are here today, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be here today and with Bill. What a fantastic announcement that's going to make such a significant difference in the lives of families right across the electorate of Bonner, especially here at the Port of Brisbane, and right through the communities from the bay to the motorway here in Bonner. So I'd like to welcome Bill to Bonner, and I'll pass over to Bill to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Jo and thanks to ACFS for having us here, and the Transport Workers Union. I'm accompanied today by my Workplace Relations spokesperson Brendan O'Connor and Assistant Shadow Minister Lisa Chesters and of course, Labor's fantastic candidate for Bonner Jo Briskey.
Today is an important day because Labor is fundamentally committed to getting the wages of Australians moving again, to improving the job security of everyday Australians, and tackling the scourge of insecure and casualised employment in Australia. Labor has a very simple principle which we apply to the use of labour hire in Australian workplaces. If you have two people working side by side with each other, two people of the same skills and the same experience, doing the same job, you should get the same pay.
So I'm pleased to announce today that an incoming Labor Government will legislate the principle same job, same pay. We think this is a very sensible proposition and one which good employers and Australian workers will be happy to see written in black and white in the law. Labour hire has become a prevalent form of employment in many Australian workplaces. The problem is that all too often labour hire employees are taken advantage of by dodge labour hire business practices. I mean, the research is in and there has been study after study which shows that labour hire workers have a higher risk of unemployment, they have a greater exposure to workplace injury, they have less chance of returning to work, if in fact they are injured. They often don't get redundancy, they have no unfair dismissal rights, they frequently have less training and they frequently have lower pay than the people they work alongside.
And this is actually a problem for them and their families - the idea that a significant proportion of the Australian population has to wait until they get the text the night before to find out if they've got hours of work the next day. You can't build a family or start a living around that sort of employment circumstances, it's just simply too precarious. And there's lots of good things about America, but one of them which I don't want to see Australia go down the path of, is a more Americanised system of work, where you've got a permanent underclass of Australian workers who don't have any job security. If you don't have proper job security and proper pay, it's very hard to get a car loan or a home loan. It's very hard for your family to be able to make solid decisions and get a really decent go in life. So Labor is proposing today that if we get elected we will legislate, same job, same pay.
Now what I'd like to do briefly is ask Brendan O'Connor, my shadow spokesperson to talk further about the details of this and some further propositions we're going to do to look after every day Australian workers and the good employers who shouldn't be undercut by the scallywags in the industry.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thanks very much Bill. Well, as Bill has already outlined this is a very important policy because it's going to really address the problem with job security in this country and it's going to make sure that Australians get a pay rise. Wherever you go around this great country, when you speak with workers they say we want a pay rise, just a decent, fair pay rise and we want to be more secure at work.
Well this announcement by Labor will ensure that labour hire workers will be given the same opportunities and provided the same pay and conditions as direct employees, and that's absolutely critical. Now we've seen the Reserve Bank Governor talk about wage stagnation and there's a number of reasons for that. One of them is the misuse and overuse of certain forms of employment and that includes labour hire. It's also the misuse of casualisation and the over use of temporary workers. We see that each and every day. Well this decision, this announcement today and indeed this policy if Labor is elected, will ensure that labour hire workers will get treated equally at work. It will ensure that they are not exploited. It will also mean that their fellow workers who are directly employed are not undermined and it will also mean as importantly, employers who are doing the right thing in paying their labour hire staff, or making sure their labour hire staff are being paid the same, are not being disadvantaged in a competitive sense, against employers who choose not to do that.
So this is a very important policy announcement for those workers, and I want to add and Bill has asked me to add the other element of this policy, which is to regulate labour hire. Now we've already seen State Labor governments seek to fill the void left by Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals in regulating labour hire. We have bottom feeders, we have rogue employers in this industry that are undermining standards of employment. In fact they're basically putting people at risk too often by endangering them without sufficient health and safety regulations and indeed without paying them properly. So we will regulate, we will expect licences to be issued to labour hire companies and labour hire companies who do not comply with the law, whether it's paying superannuation, whether it's complying with health and safety regulations, whether it's paying conditions of employment, they will not get their licences or if they breach fundamentally those requirements they will have their licences revoked. We want a national scheme. It's very good of the State governments to seek to bring in a scheme for their jurisdiction but having spoken to the ministers of those governments, they agree with Federal Labor that we need a national scheme and today's announcement will certainly ensure that if we elect a Shorten Labor Government we will see that happen.
We have not seen any movement by the government and by Malcolm Turnbull to address job insecurity and ensuring that Australians get a decent pay rise. Malcom Turnbull is on the record saying he believes wages should be as low as possible. He doesn't believe in a fair days pay for a fair days work, it will only be Labor that will provide that and for that reason, this is critical policy for working people around this country.
SHORTEN: Thanks Brendan, thanks Jo. Are there any questions on this or on any other matters?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, are you happy that this medal controversy has taken the focus off yourself?
SHORTEN: Listen, I have my own views about whether or not it was an honest mistake but I'm going to - I think I'm going to leave that to the voters of Longman to work out what they think about it. My concern is more Mr Trevor Ruthenberg's record as a Campbell Newman Member of Parliament. Queenslanders haven't forgotten that Campbell Newman did his best to wreck the essential services of this state. Terrible cuts to hospitals and all the jobs lost in the Queensland health system and the hospital system, which meant a worse deal for patients and their families. Mr Ruthenberg's record as a person who always voted for every cut that Campbell Newman wanted, I think that's probably the most worrying issue for the voters of Longman.
JOURNALIST: So you don't accept that it was an honest mistake?
SHORTEN: No listen, I'm going to leave that to the voters of Longman. In my experience, most people know what they got their military medals for.
JOURNALIST: Just on President Trump's visit with Putin. How concerned are you about the conviviality of the meeting that we saw?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to start trying to second guess everything that President Trump does, that's longer than I think this press conference. But in terms of Putin, the head of Russia, I don't trust him. Both Malcolm Turnbull and I are on the same page there, as I was with Tony Abbott. I have never been satisfied that President Putin has ever satisfactorily told the truth to the families of the victims of the Malaysian flight which was shot down over eastern Ukraine where Australians were killed.
JOURNALIST: The Government is seizing on a report from AEMO saying that coal is essential to maintaining cheap and reliable energy, and warning against early closure of power plants. Do you support keeping them running?
SHORTEN: I think there seems to be a report where everyone seems to like something in it. Let me just go to what I think the AEMO report actually does say. It says that renewable energy is the future. It essentially supports Labor's policy to prioritise renewable energy as being the future of low cost energy in Australia. Now Labor has always said that coal and coal-fired power stations are going to be a part of the foreseeable future of Australia's energy mix. But Labor has said that we need to set a goal of 50 per cent by 2030. What this report doesn't say, is that we should be engaging in expensive investment in coal-fired power stations, or new coal-fired power stations beyond their technical operating life, beyond the end of their technical operating life. So I think that the message is clear and a lot of policy does reflect what Labor has been saying; renewable energy zones around Australia; recognising that storage and renewable energy is going to be the solution to lower cost energy in the future. What I don't want to see done with this report, is it sacrificed again on the altar of the civil war within the Liberal Party by various factions of the Liberal Party arguing about what it means for investing in new coal-fired power stations. It's black and white, there is nothing in this report which says that we should be investing in new, expensive coal-fired power stations. Coal as it is, is going to be part of the energy mix going forward; tick, that's what Labor said. But it is all about renewable energy, the future is renewable energy, and Labor has got policies to help get us to a lower cost energy, with a better climate and more jobs in renewable energy.
JOURNALIST: Did Labor leak the medal controversy to the media?
SHORTEN: I have no idea about that, no.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten, back to Trump, for Canberra. What approach would you take? I mean, you want people to vote for you as a Prime Minister, they deserve to know what your views are about Trump. And do you think he undermines US credibility from what we've seen overnight?
SHORTEN: The view which we would take is that the US/Australian alliance and relationship is stronger than individual personalities. We've got a lot in common with the democratic values of the United States. The United States has been important to Australia's foreign security, and of course, we're alliance partners through the ANZUS treaty. I'm not going to start diving into every aspect of American domestic politics, or indeed, trying to second guess body language in a meeting in Helsinki. But I also have to say, and it's with great regret, that President Putin has not been forthcoming, as he should have been, to explain to the families of murdered Australians what he knows and what role Russia had, and what role they had in supplying weapons to separatists in Eastern Ukraine, which saw the dreadful murder of so many Australians and people who lived in Australia, and of course, Malaysian citizens, Dutch citizens, innocent people in the skies above Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: Are you prepared to stoke your leadership on the result of Longman?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all by-elections come and by-elections go. We've got the best candidate in Longman, we've got the best policies. But Mr Turnbull didn't even bother running in Western Australia. That's amazing. I mean, when was the last time the Liberals didn't run in the seat of Perth? I think you'll find that very unusual. So if we're going to have debates about the sort of question you're asking, Mr Turnbull has already surrendered hasn't he, by not even turning up to two of the by-elections.
JOURNALIST: Is that a no or a yes?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear, I intend to lead Labor. But what we're going to do is - because we've got the best policies. The voters in Longman – you know, you guys want to talk about personalities, that's your choice. I want to talk about the issues which affect people. Caboolture Hospital has had a cut of $2.9 million. Labor wants to put in new chemotherapy treatment, eight extra chemo beds in Caboolture hospital so people don't have to make the drive elsewhere to be able to get cancer treatment. We want to propose an urgent care clinic on Bribie Island. What that will mean, is that the thousands of emergency department visits where people from Bribie and the areas near there, with their long drive to Caboolture hospital, there will be no need for that because because they can get urgent care in their own area, and that means that the emergency department at Caboolture can be used for life-threatening illnesses, and not for some of the illnesses they currently have to because there is a lack of health care in Bribie Island.
I mean, if you ask me what's most important about the by-elections, it's not the internal matters of political parties, it's about getting better health care for Queenslanders, better health care for people in Caboolture and surrounding areas - Bribie Island. And if Mr Turnbull thinks his policy of giving $17 billion to the banks are so good, I challenge him to a debate. I mean, he loves to say that we talk in Parliament but let's talk in front of the people. He doesn't have to talk in front of his backbench, let's talk in front of the real people, Malcolm. Let's you and I have a debate about our vision for health; my vision for health care and your vision for $17 billion for the big banks, and I'd love to hear what he's going to do for labour hire workers in Australia, because we have a plan, which is same job, same pay.
JOURNALIST: Back to energy, do you think the National Energy Guarantee will delivery reliable energy and reduce emissions?
SHORTEN: I think that there are some good points in the National Energy Guarantee, but I think that if Mr Turnbull really wanted to persuade the states rather than treat energy prices as a political football and the blame game, he should present the draft legislation which he put to the Parliament, he should present that to the state Premiers. Because sometimes what happens is Mr Turnbull starts at one point on energy, and then as his political party beat him up, he retreats and retreats and retreats. Whenever we've offered bipartisanship to Mr Turnbull, be it on a Clean Energy Target, the Chief Scientist report, when we've said we're willing to sit down and talk about the National Energy Guarantee, he walks away from dealing with Labor because he's spending all his time trying to appease the right wing knuckle draggers of his own party. That's not good energy policy.
Thanks everybody, I think we've covered that.