Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Doorstop at Nurses Stop Work Meeting, 22 February 2012

SUBJECT/S: Nurses Stop Work Meeting


BILL SHORTEN:     ...asking the parties to the long-running nurses dispute inVictoria to look at a circuit-breaker.  That's the health employers, the State Government and the Nurses Union. 

The Federal Government's constrained in being able to directly intervene in the dispute by the law.  But we certainly believe that it is probably time for the nurses' dispute, which is at a stalemate, to be fair, needs to have some form of arbitration.

We believe that a private arbitration agreed between the parties would be a circuit-breaker.  We certainly don't want anyone taking any unprotected industrial action.  We certainly don't want this talk of resignations to be anymore than just talk.  We are not picking a view about what is the outcome of the arbitration.  We accept the State Government's the employer.  They've got to do what they've got to do in terms of their interests. 

But, I think the Victorians want to see a resolution to the nurses' dispute and I don't think it's beyond the capacity of all of the players in this dispute to be able to sit down, put their case and have a simple and speedy private arbitration.

REPORTER:   Are you aware they've got...

REPORTER:  Did Fair Work Australia make a ruling concerning nurse/patient ratios or not?

BILL SHORTEN:  Our view is that the legal opinion on this is divided.  We would - we think private arbitration offers the speediest resolution.  It's the quickest path.

REPORTER:  The private arbitration that you've called for is something the nurses have called for for months, what sort of difference do you think your intervention will make?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, if they get that this is a problem in Delhi and if they can get that it's a problem in Festival Hall and if people in Victoria get there's a problem trying to resolve matters with the nurses, then Mr Baillieu should get it too.

Private arbitration means that no-one has to compromise their position, that they submit it in front of an independent third party who can be agreed by everyone and let's get on with it.

REPORTER:  How would you characterise the State Government's handling of the dispute so far?

BILL SHORTEN: I don't think it's wise of me to start politicising, or retrospectively analysing all of the arguments that have occurred thus far.  All I know is there's a long-running dispute, that there is a significant morale problem with the nurses ofVictoria. 

I don't have a view about what an arbitrated outcome looks like.  I do have a view that at a certain point, enough's enough and that smart, intelligent people of good-will should be able to get around the table and fix this matter.

REPORTER:  Can you just run us through again, the discussions....

REPORTER:  [Inaudible] why get involved in it if the Federal Government's constrained?

BILL SHORTEN:    Ah, because at some point you've just got to stand up.  At some point you've got to recognise this dispute has no visible means of solution.  I think it is important, the leadership has shown Mr Baillieu has the power.  Now, I think he should exercise some responsibility.

I - the Victorian Government's capable, along with the nurses and employers, of resolving this.  I think they're a lot closer on some issues than [inaudible] public positioning.  There are smart people in the Government, this is capable of resolution.

REPORTER:   What are you offering in terms of the support from Fair Work Australia - you mentioned it before?

BILL SHORTEN:     Ah well, we could offer a senior deputy president who's one of the long-serving members of the Fair Work Australia tribunal, capable of getting people out of corners, into the middle.  Also capable of adjudicating competing claims.

REPORTER:   As a Labor minister, is this your party policy through intervention?

BILL SHORTEN:     No.  If this was a Labour Government inVictoria with a long-running nurses' dispute, we'd say the same thing.

REPORTER:  [Inaudible] appropriate for the Federal Government and to becoming involved in an area that's really traditionally an area concerning state governments?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well, let me be precise.  Whether or not there are nurse/patient ratios, what the patient [inaudible], that is appropriately a matter for the state and its employees to work through. 

But where you've got a long-running dispute - and this clearly passes the test of being a long-running dispute - with a significant portion of the workforce, it is appropriate to just ring the bell and declare it's time.  It's time to either negotiate it, sit down fix it, or indeed arbitrate it.  Because there's too many good people in the health system who just want better leadership than they're seeing at the moment.

REPORTER:   Isn't this [inaudible]?  I mean, if there's some reason that ratios can't be considered as part of - as it falls to an arbitration situation, do you need to look at changing rules - the laws?

BILL SHORTEN:  Changing the Constitution?  Yeah, I think rather than just look at changing the Constitution which is [inaudible] own time consuming controversial process, I just think in this matter, it's as old asAustralia.  If you've got two groups of people who simply can't agree and their argument is having an impact on other people, then it's time to bring in an independent umpire to adjudicate.

REPORTER:  The Australian's reporting that Julia Gillard's considering sacking Kevin Rudd today.  Do you know of that?

BILL SHORTEN:     No, I haven't read that report.

REPORTER:  Okay then.  Well, do you think that she should sack Kevin Rudd?

BILL SHORTEN: I think that Julia Gillard is doing an outstanding job as our prime minister.  I've said at two earlier doorstops today and I said on Q&A, Monday nights ABC, that I completely support the Prime Minister's leadership. 

The leadership speculation is damaging, it is distracting.  Here we are with a nurses' dispute and there's a question on leadership.

What I believe to be the case is that the Prime Minister has the authority and the support to make decisions to end the leadership speculation and the Caucus will support her timing and her calls.

REPORTER:  So, she could end it by sacking Kevin Rudd...

MALE: One more question.

REPORTER: that what you're saying?

BILL SHORTEN:  No, I'm not saying that at all.  I'm just making it perfectly clear that the vast majority of the Caucus support our Prime Minister. 

Although, it's been famously said that it's lonely at the top in leadership.  From Edward Barton [inaudible], our first prime minister, right through to Julia Gillard, I'm sure they all have lonely times making leadership decisions, but what I can also say is that she is not alone and that the Caucus support her.

REPORTER:  What should Kevin Rudd do?

BILL SHORTEN:   Ah, we did say final questions.  In terms of the Foreign Minister, he's the Foreign Minister.  I think he makes a very good foreign minister.

REPORTER:  Isn't this...

BILL SHORTEN:  Thank you.

REPORTER:  ...ultimately about patient and resident care?

BILL SHORTEN:  Sure it is.  Thanks.