Bill's Transcripts

DOORSTOP - BRISBANE - Kingston Early Learning Centre

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

BRISBANE

THURSDAY 9 MAY 2013

SUBJECTS: WORKPLACE RELATIONS, LABOUR FORCE FIGURES

 

BILL SHORTEN:  (audio break) Today, Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party have at long last, released their workplace relations policy.

 Everybody knows that Tony Abbott and Liberals cannot be trusted on workplace relations. Today they have released a policy which is short on detail in a lot of areas, but disturbingly, is proposing to put individual contracts right back up the charts in workplace relations.

 Tony Abbott’s extreme workplace relations policies should send a shiver up the spine of every Australian worker.

 In the policies that they have released today they have taken 38 pages to give not a lot of detail.

 And as we know when it comes to Liberal Party governments, the devil is always in the detail.

 Once upon a time the Liberal Party when they were last in government said they could be trusted with their promises not to hurt Australian workers.  And we know that with Work Choices they did hurt Australian workers. How can we trust them now?

 Their document today offers no real guarantees that people won’t lose conditions. Their document today does not say a whole lot of detail which Australians need to know about. For instance, will child care workers keep the improved conditions that Labor is supporting them with?

 But what is concerning is that today, the Liberal Party has said they want to add teeth to individual contracts in Australia. They want to put individual contracts right in the centre of Australia’s workplace relations. Individual contracts were last in the centre of Australia’s workplace relations when we had Work Choices.

 Individual contracts when the Liberals were in power - it meant that you couldn’t guarantee what your starting time was. Your penalty rates were under threat. Your shift rates were under threat. It also indicated that during Work Choices your job security was undermined.

 The Liberal Party is saying ‘we’ve learnt the lessons of Work Choices’ but as recently as 2008 and 2009 Tony Abbott was saying that Work Choices was good law, was good policy. Now what they are saying is ‘we won’t give you the detail on a lot of what we are talking about. We’ll do it after the election’.

 Well one thing they have made very clear today and it should send a shiver up the spine of every Australian worker. Not a lot of detail from the Liberals expect they have signalled their plan to make it easier for Australians to be signed up to unfair individual contracts and that’s bad news for Australian workers, Australian families.

 Happy to take questions.

REPORTER:  Don’t these individual contracts already exist though under Labor’s Fair Work Act?

 BILL SHORTEN:  Oh come on. The Liberal Party loves- they love individual contracts like ducks take to water.  We saw what happened in Work Choices. They said ‘Oh you can trust us; we’ll put protections around them.’

 And then what happened is we saw story after story, victim after victim. Cutting penalty rates, cutting shift rates; changing people’s start times; no notice on rosters. The Liberal Party cannot be trusted on workplace relations.

 In terms of what they are proposing they’ve started to say that individual arrangements have to be in place longer before people can change their minds. They want to make it mandatory, even if you’ve had another set of conditions, that individual arrangements can override them. So this is bad news for Australian workers. Not a lot of detail but the detail that is there should send a shiver up the spine of every Australian worker.

 REPORTER: Does the economy need this flexibility at the moment?

 BILL SHORTEN: Today we have got the unemployment numbers out and the markets have been surprised. Unemployment in Australia has fallen to 5.5 per cent. There has been 50,000 new jobs created in Australia, 34,500 new jobs were full-time for men and women. We’ve got more Australian men, more Australian women working full-time than ever in the history of Australia. 961,000 jobs created since Labor came to power five years ago. The economy and jobs are working with the current laws. The Liberal Party just wants to hand all the power back; take all the power away from Australian working people. 

 REPORTER: Tony Abbott said that penalty rates will remain the domain of the Commission…that must be pleasing to you.

 BILL SHORTEN: If Tony Abbott says, on workplace relations, that it was raining outside, my advice is go out and check. What he also said on penalty rates is he said that he would help fund the case and prepare the arguments to cut penalty rates.

 So when Mr Abbott says that he won’t touch penalty rates, I point to his track record. I point to the track record of state Liberal governments who have cut conditions, who have sacked people and also his words very recently where he said that he would support the case to change penalty rates. 

 REPORTER: What about the fact that he is saying that he’ll seek an electoral mandate before he makes any major changes beyond what he is proposing?

 BILL SHORTEN: Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party are seeking an electoral mandate for a blank cheque. They will not reveal the detail. The only thing they have said today is that they want to put individual contracts right back in the centre of the workplace relations system. They can’t be trusted.

 They couldn’t be trusted when they were in power on Work Choices. They can’t be trusted now and the fact that they have given such little detail other than the indication that they want to push for individual contracts, unfair contracts which cut conditions with inadequate protections. That should send a shiver up the spine of every Australian worker.

 REPORTER: If there is a landslide in the election and this is easily pushed through, do you think you will feel responsible for sending the country back to Work Choices?

BILL SHORTEN:  The best way to stop Work Choices coming back is to not vote for Tony Abbott’s policies at the election. The election hasn’t been held yet. What matters is that Australians get to see the detail. When it comes to the Liberal Party, everybody knows the devil is in the detail. We should be very alarmed at the lack of detail on much of what they are talking about.

 We should also be alarmed at the one area which they have flagged which is new, which is pushing individual contracts. They haven’t learnt from the past, they are repeat offenders. They can’t be trusted. And they will undermine the sort of job security and basic conditions which is the difference between Australians going to work and having a good life and having an insecure life.

 REPORTER: Do you think small business should still vote for the Labor Party? Or will this benefit them?

 BILL SHORTEN: Oh look. There is nothing good here for small business. In fact their workplace relations policy is an attempt to be a small target. There is nothing for workers; workers are the customers of small business. There are no particular promises for small business. What the Liberal Party are flagging today with Tony Abbott is that they are desperate to go back to Work Choices.

 They’re desperate not to be found out that they want to go back to Work Choices yet they have let the cat out of the bag by flagging that they want to create more so-called flexibility to allow the greater spread of unfair individual contracts in Australian workplaces.

 REPORTER: But as the economy starts to lag over the next few years or so, surely this is the direction for flexibility that we need to be heading towards?  

 BILL SHORTEN: Australia is a good country. It’s a great country. Our currency is strong; our productivity has grown for the last seven quarters in terms of what the Australian workforce is doing. Unemployment has fallen. We see nearly a million new jobs created in the last five years.

 What Australians need in the future is detail and they need confidence. Today’s Liberal Party policy is a smokescreen, it provides insufficient detail and what detail it does provide should send a shiver up the spine of ordinary Australian workers because it’s putting individual contracts right back into the middle of industrial relations and Australian workplaces and that’s bad for people’s job security and conditions.

 REPORTER:  Can I just ask about employment, the unemployment figures out today?

 BILL SHORTEN:  Sure.

 REPORTER: The analysts say that the numbers are quite volatile and the yet the labour market remains quite weak. Do you share the concern that those gains won’t be sustained?

 BILL SHORTEN:  There is no question that employment numbers are volatile. But let’s call it as it is. This was better news than the markets were expecting. It’s certainty good news for 50,000 Australians who found work. More Australians are participating in the workforce than they were a month ago. So it is better news than worse news. There are areas which are doing it hard. There is volatility.

 In Queensland it’s disappointing to see that only a few thousand jobs have been created since the arrival of the Newman government. Participation rates in Queensland since the Newman Government were elected have fallen from 67 in every 100 Queenslanders to 65.8 in every 100 Queenslanders who are looking for work or found work. So the news is not unmitigated good news.

 But let’s face it Australia is still the best country in the world. We are doing better than most of the rest of the first-world and it’s still easier and better to find a job in Australia than nearly any other country in the world.  And that’s good news by my book.

 Thank you.

 

ENDS.