Bill's Transcripts

Interview with ABC Ballarat

COMPERE: The Office of the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; that is Bill Shorten. And the minister has made some decisions apparently for workers at the CMI. Now, this is the car parts maker that went into liquidation, forced the closure of Ford for several days and eventually went into, well, I think it's in liquidation now. And some employees have been sacked.

Bill Shorten is the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Minister, good morning.

BILL SHORTEN: Good morning.

COMPERE: What have you decided to do for these employees?

BILL SHORTEN: Well it's terrible that some people at CMI have lost their jobs. The company makes car components for the automotive industry and it has a number of plants across Australia, including one in Ballarat. An administrator has been appointed.

We've got some laws which the Labor Government has strongly supported, which is that, when a company goes into liquidation, we can fast-track people receiving some entitlements through the government. Now that can be very important. If you've lost your job and you're not sure where your next job's coming from, your family cash-flow just takes a giant hit. And it's important then, when companies get into financial distress, that they still honour their commitments to their workers. Sometimes companies find that hard to do and so the government steps in to help mine the gap.

Now, the company's not formally in liquidation. But where a company indicates that it is most likely that it is going into liquidation, I do have a discretion - and Catherine King, the local member for Ballarat, certainly has been saying, Bill, when you can do this and use your discretion, please do. And so that's the decision we've been making this morning.

COMPERE: Okay. So staff who have been made redundant will have access to the GEERS scheme, as it's known, General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme. It's been around for a few years. How many employees, Bill Shorten, as you're understanding, will have this early access?

BILL SHORTEN: Well I understand that sixteen people have been made redundant. And the other thing to note here is that these people get caught in a trap not of their own making. They were made redundant at the end of last month. But a black letter reading of the law says that you can't access anything until the company goes into liquidation. But the company hasn't gone into liquidation.

So there's fellow citizens of Ballarat who had no income, no entitlements, which they have accrued over the years. And they're not sure when they get their money. What we're able to do though is that, if the minister believes there's a clear case that all the signs are heading towards liquidation, then you can step in and intervene. And I've been able to do that, which is good.

COMPERE: Alright. Have you stepped in and intervened in a case like this previously in your role as Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations? Because I've spoken many times about the GEERS scheme, when companies have gone bust in all sorts of parts of Australia. And it can take months and months for employees to be able to use this scheme to get back some money.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, no. I haven't. I was able to help out a number of automotive components. I've only been the minister for the last four months. But this is new ground.

COMPERE: Okay. Are you aware of any other ministers that have done it early like this, like you've done, Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: I'd have to go and check the history books and find out what's happened but - because I've been out there and in my former job I was an organiser in the components industry for the AWU. I know that, when you've got no money and you go home that night, the bills, the banks, it's hard. And if there's anything we can do to avoid that, within the letter of the law, we should.

COMPERE: Bill Shorten, I'm sure that news will be welcomed by those employees. Thank you for your time this morning.

BILL SHORTEN: It's a pleasure.

COMPERE:  Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. And good news for those employees who have lost their jobs through CMI. And it's happened very quickly in this instance. I will let you read into that as you wish. It could be, it could be that the minister has done this simply because of the lobbying and the urgency and the need for it and the times we're in.

But often anything that governments do at the moment, particularly the Federal Government does, is seen in the prism of politics. But it's about the good news message. So I'll leave that decision up to you as to how you interpret it. The bare bones of it though is that it is good news for those workers who have missed out on those entitlements.