TUESDAY, 17 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Penalty rates; Labor is the only party that has stood up for penalty rates; Labor will not enter a coalition with the Greens
LEON BYNER (HOST): Just out of an aircraft from Melbourne is Bill Shorten, Opposition Leader, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Leon.
BYNER: Bill, one of the things that your side is doing to differentiate themselves from the Coalition is you're promising, in effect, to keep penalty rates as they are and yet, you know as well as I do that it’s the Fair Work Commission that will decide this. If the Fair Work Commission brought down a decision which changed those penalties, what would you do?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Labor's put in an argument to defend penalty rates to the Commission. I'm very confident that the Fair Work Commission, based on the evidence I've seen and based on my 25 years of workplace relations, standing up for people, that we're going to win the argument.
BYNER: By that you mean, you think it'll be status quo?
SHORTEN: Yeah. The case hasn't been made to slash penalty rates in this country. Although Mr Turnbull has 61 of his Members of Parliament and candidates, and indeed Senator Nick Xenophon has followed up in this area too, who believe in cutting penalty rates. The best defence workers have is a strong independent umpire. The worse thing that could happen is a Liberal Government who would seek to support the case against penalty rates.
BYNER: The situation is we won't know what the outcome is until after the election. Do you think it’s unfortunate that we don't know before the 2nd July?
SHORTEN: Well we actually do know what a Liberal Government would do and we do know what I would do, if we get elected. If the Liberals get elected, there are 61, this is not just one or two MPs, there are 61 Liberal candidates and Members of Parliament from the Coalition, Mr Turnbull's party, who have said they want to cut penalty rates. We've got the fact that Mr Turnbull, if he was re-elected, he voted for Work Choices. Whereas, put it up against our record of always standing up for the low paid, the people who do the unsociable hours, the time away from the family on the weekend, the late nights. No, Labor's got a much better track record of standing up for workers.
BYNER: But Bill, if we get back to the point that your advertising is telling people that you'll preserve these rates when really, it’s the Fair Work Commission that may or may not and if they change or they don't, what then? What will you do?
SHORTEN: First of all, our advertising, saying that we will support and protect penalty rates is based on a history of 120 years. We are the brand for protecting penalty rates. I've put in a submission from Opposition. This is the first time any Opposition has ever made a submission on a review of penalty rates, and if we get the privilege to form a government after July the 2nd, we will do the same, but we will be in the stronger position of being the Government. When I was the Minister for Workplace Relations, I put in a parameter in the legislation, giving the directions to the Fair Work Commission to bear in mind the nature of compensating people for working these irregular hours away from the family.
BYNER: But Bill, the practicality is that it will be the Fair Work Commission that will decide this and if they don't support your argument, you're going to respect their decision and not do any more?
SHORTEN: You're going into hypotheticals. I have to say Leon, I’ve got 120 years of workplace relation history in this country. I've got my own experience over the last 25 years. Our case for defending penalty rates is strong. The evidence hasn't been provided. And I have to say that it was the independent umpire who actually has been the tribunal who's adjudicated and created penalty rates right back 100 years ago, from post the Second World War to much more recent times. The independent umpire is what keeps the best protection for the low paid and workers and what you'd have with a Labor government is our focus and our policy to help protect low paid workers, the people who go to work every day and rely on penalty rates.
BYNER: So, Bill, you're not prepared to commit what you will do if the decision of Fair Work, which is independent, goes the way you don't want?
SHORTEN: Leon, I'm not prepared to concede that the right wing, the Turnbull-istas, the people who want to cut penalty rates. I'm not prepared to concede that they have evidence and science on their side. I'm not conceding that ground at all. And furthermore, what I can point to is what we've done on everything from creating support for low paid workers to get a tax cut so they can have more in their superannuation, for example. In my experience, strengthening and protecting the independent umpire has proven to be the tried and tested method. And what I would do, if I was privileged to be Prime Minister, is use the power of the office to support and stand on the side of voters who are less well-off, and paid less in our community.
BYNER: Now Bill, unions of course and the Greens are rounding on you and asking you to look at other mechanisms to ensure that Sunday penalties are protected, because they're not as confident as you that the umpire will give the decision that you think they will, so would you engage in any of that?
SHORTEN: Well, Leon, I’ve never got stuck in a traffic jam behind a car load of Greens going to stand up for workers in my 25 years. So what the Greens are doing, they didn’t even make a submission on penalty rates, so they’ve got this concern during the election but they didn’t even bother to do the homework, sharpen the pencil, and make a submission to the hearing. And furthermore, they are dangerously naive, when they are proposing giving the government of the day the power to start giving the tick to penalty rates, exclusively or not. Because how can they guarantee with their one vote out of 150 in the House of Representatives, that a Turnbull bunch of conservatives, well we've already got 61 of their people on the record saying "cut penalty rates", all they are doing is loading the gun, for a future conservative government, if there is one, to cut penalty rates. The best protect ion for our low paid workers is our system of conciliation and arbitration. Imagine being someone who doesn’t have lots and lots of lawyers, or the big end of town, or the big banks, or foreign multinationals, because you need an independent umpire and I have to say, the weight of experience of the whole conciliation arbitration system, is that combined with a strong Labor government, making sure that we keep the conservatives out, is the best protection that millions of Australians have, in terms of their penalty rates, their shift allowance, the minimum wage.
BYNER: So you will abide by the umpire's decision whatever that is?
SHORTEN: Well I've made it clear that we support the role of the independent umpire, but what I’m also going to say is that that is the best protection, and you know I know a thing or two about industrial relations. In my 25 year career of standing up for workers, workers conditions are best achieved and upheld by the independent umpire, and Labor isn’t just saying that, we've put our money where our mouth is. We've made a submission, which no-one's done from Opposition, prior to my time, because we actually, we nail our colours to the mast, we think that penalty rates are a good thing. Unlike Mr Turnbull, I mean I’m not going to let Turnbull and his crew off the hook here Leon. They’ve got 61 of their MPs and candidates who are explicitly saying they want to cut penalty rates. That bears examination.
BYNER: They're also accusing you of doing a deal with the Greens to get into power if that's what it takes with a hung Parliament.
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull has been quite dishonest through this campaign about that. Either someone is lying to him or he's being dishonest himself. We've made it perfectly clear that we will not form a coalition with the Greens, full stop.
BYNER: So it's back to the polls?
SHORTEN: Well let's try and win the election first Leon.
BYNER: Absolutely - I'm only saying this because there's a history of this in the election before last, so I just want to clarify this once and for all, so you would rather go to the polls again than do a deal with the Greens?
SHORTEN: Leon, there's a third option, I’d rather win. We've got positive plans for Australia, from Aussie jobs, which we're here today talking about in Adelaide, with AdeLINK, supporting the automotive components industry, right through to real action on renewable energy, properly funding our schools, defending Medicare, standing up for low paid workers. I think our propositions are very good for Australia, so I’ve made it perfectly clear we will not form a coalition with the Greens, and Mr Turnbull knows that, he's clearly decided that he wants to say these things, he can say it as often as he wants, but it is not true in any details whatsoever. And more important than that, the Prime Minister knows it's not true.