Bill's Transcripts

Interview with Steve Vizard on MTR Radio

Read or listen to my interview with Steve Vizard on MTR Radio

Interview with Steve Vizard, MTR morning show

Subjecta: cabinet reshuffle, new industrial relations portfolio

 

Steve Vizard

Big cabinet reshuffle yesterday, lots of winners and a couple of losers. Looks like everyone is in now. We’ve got one of the largest Cabinets in recent Australian history, hovering around 22. The Rudd Ministry had around 21. Under the Hawke Ministry there were about 13. Under the Barton – this is going back to Federation – there were nine. I guess you could make the case that there’s more to manage, but that many? You’d be really annoyed if you were in Federal Politics and you weren’t in Cabinet.

One of the beneficiaries of the reshuffle is the Minister for – get this – Employment, Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation. Fortunately none of those are too big (not). Bill Shorten’s on the line. Bill, g’day, how are you?

Bill Shorten

Good morning Steve. How are you?

Steve Vizard

Congratulations.

Bill Shorten

Thanks very much.

Steve Vizard

That is one hell of a workload. Surely that’s too much for any one individual to bite off?

Bill Shorten

I don’t think so, no. There are a lot of people that work in those departments providing advice. My area in terms of industrial relations and workplace relations is part of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Something like five Ministers work on different parts of the game.  Financial
Services and Superannuation was what I was already doing.  I think what we need to understand is that in a modern, sophisticated economy there’s a lot going on. The demands on Government are more intense than ever. On one hand, people don’t want to be paying any more tax than they have to, and they don’t want any more regulation than what is absolutely necessary, but on the other hand all Australians expect their issues to be receiving public policy attention. So I think the job is a privilege, and it’s a lot of hard work, but I also think it’s part of the expectations the Australian community to have the leadership of the nation focussed on the future.

Steve Vizard

Practically, there are a couple of good appointments in this, but the optics of it are, and certainly how it’s been portrayed in much of the mainstream media today, is this is jobs for the boys. This is Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, is in fact, as The Age puts it, rewarding her henchmen. Why shouldn’t the public
see it as exactly that?

Bill Shorten

Sometimes some newspapers have to get out of always looking at the negative in everything.  First of all it’s certainly not jobs for the boys. We’ve got our first female Attorney-General ever, since Sir Edmund Barton’s days.  We’ve got more women in Cabinet than ever before, and we’ve got six women Ministers. So in fact amongst the people who had promotions in terms of responsibilities, it’s been more women than ever. So I don’t think its jobs for the boys.

The other point being made about some people who have been supporters of the Prime Minister, I think we should remember that at the last election the Australian Labor Party won 72 seats and the Prime Minister managed to negotiate a government with four independents. We’ve now seen the Labor speaker come back to the fold and there is an independent speaker. What is happening is the whole Government ultimately supports Labor being in office and getting on with the job of the future, getting on with protecting and creating jobs. I don’t think this is about individuals; it’s about a team effort.

Susie O’Brien

Bill, Susie O’Brien here. How are you?

Bill Shorten

Hi Susie. How are you?

Susie O’Brien

Bill and I know each other from my days at the Herald Sun when I was the industrial reporter and he was head of the Australian Workers Union.  Do you see your union background as being a bit of a negative in dealing with the employment side of your new portfolio?  Is that something you’re going to have to be conscious of?

Bill Shorten

Why would it be a negative? My background is with the Australian Workers Union, and before that I was a lawyer, some would see that as a negative.  In my job at the Australian Workers Union I would stand on the boards of shearing sheds, off shore oil rigs, underground mines, hospital wards in Brisbane. I think it gives me an appreciation of the remarkable things that Australians do every day.  Also, I concluded well over 1000 enterprise agreements with employers, all bar a very few were done very amicably. I suspect I know more employers than half the Liberal Party do, so time will tell.

The other thing, some people say ‘oh it’s a union member in a job’. I think you’ll find that some people who produce the newspaper you write or produce the news we listen to are members of unions. People often forget that Lech Walesa, the guy who led Poland out of the tyranny of Communist dictatorship, was a union leader.  In fact, Ronald Reagan, and no one says he is some kind of closet leftie, the late Ronald Reagan before he went into the American Parliament, was the Union Secretary of the Screen Actors Guild of America.

Steve Vizard

And did a fine job there too.

Bill Shorten

For me if you’re not in a union that’s fine, if you are in a union that’s fine. My job isn’t to be partisan. My job is to ensure people have good, well paid, secure, safe jobs, but by the same token you can’t have someone in a job unless there is someone willing to employ them. You can’t have a lot of the things that go on in the Australian economy without small business, and big business. You can’t have all that without independent contractors and Pay As You Go taxpayers. I’m pretty eclectic, Susie.

Steve Vizard

Some of the commentary around the elevation of new people to the Cabinet suggests there is an element of the Prime Minister being gutless in that she didn’t get rid of anyone. She couldn’t get rid of Attorney-General Robert McClelland. Peter Garrett she had a chat to. So she invited more people in and you’ve got this massive Cabinet of 22. Can I get your response to that?

Bill Shorten

Just to put a couple of facts straight: the Prime Minister was very clear in her press conference yesterday that the portrayal of those discussions was not accurate. When you have negotiations about changing people’s responsibilities, that is never easy. Both of you know that when you’ve had chats with fellow employees, or people you’re responsible for and you’ve got to change things, none of that is automatically easy. What’s motivated the Prime Minister is to make sure we get the best juice out of a range of people’s talents. Politics is about all the Members of Parliament – Labor, Liberal, National Party, or whatever, all people go into politics wanting to contribute as much as they can.  It is a process where you’ve got lots of people with strong will and lots of ideas. The opposition have said they are not going to change their front bench. But when Tony Abbott says he is not going to change his front bench, this is the Howard Government’s front bench from 2001. It’s like a time warp. At least Julia Gillard is willing to say ‘ok, time to give people different responsibilities’. I think it demonstrated her authority on the matter frankly.

Steve Vizard

A couple of quick ones. It looks like the Opposition are not going to allow a conscience vote on gay marriage. They’re going to have a collective vote, they are going to tow the party line and their philosophy for that is saying they went to the electorate with a particular line, we don’t think we ought to change that, unlike this Government. That’s a fair response isn’t it?

Bill Shorten

I supported Labor having a conscience vote on this matter. The Prime Minister is very clear that the Government is not going to propose any legislation to change the Marriage Act but she’s allowing a conscience vote. I’m surprised that Mr Abbott is not allowing a conscience vote. I think Australians like it when they see their Members of Parliament voting on matters of great importance and moral value. I think they like it when people can exercise their individual consciences. I think it’s difficult when we know there are Coalition MPs who have said that their conscience would have them vote for a change, not voting for a change. I mean the Prime Minister has made her own view clear. Sometimes not everything can be decided through the lens of Liberal or Labor. Some issues in life are more complicated than left or right, Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott.

Susie O’Brien

Bill, the pokies legislation, this is going to be a hairy one for the Government in the New Year. What’s your stance on that?

Bill Shorten

I support our Government’s commitment that we’ve made. I’ve got no doubt that we’ll work these issues through as we always do. One thing’s for sure: the best negotiator in the Parliament does not sit on the Opposition bench, since it’s Julia Gillard.

Susie O’Brien

Do you support $1 bets?

Bill Shorten

I’m going with the current Government policy of pre-commitment. Some in the gambling industry are saying $1 bets are worse. It sounds simpler. We’ll work through these issues in the New Year. It’s certainly an issue of priority. We all want to tackle problem gambling. People with good will, will be able to work this matter out.

Steve Vizard

You could get a part-time job during Parliamentary vacation as a valet parker? Sounds like there are a lot of car doors opening and closing.

Bill Shorten

No, no, I’m just at the normal drop-off. I’m flying Virgin to go to Canberra, and I just don’t want to get out and obscure the sound on this interview until some security guard moves us along, which they may well do in the next ten seconds.

Steve Vizard

Well done Bill. Congratulations on your appointment. I hope it goes well for you.

Bill Shorten

Thanks, lovely to talk to you too.