Bill's Transcripts

Transcript of press conference in the Senate Courtyard of Parliament House

Read or listen to my press conference in the Senate Courtyard, Parliament House (12/12/2011 at 2:10pm)

Press conference at Parliament House

Subjects: cabinet reshuffle, new industrial relations portfolio



Bill Shorten:

(inaudible) ... I’d like to acknowledge the significant work done by our Prime Minister in terms of her work setting up the system we have today for industrial relations.

Personally, it’s very early days. I haven’t been sworn in yet, but I’d just like to state now for the record that my personal philosophy to industrial relations and employment is consistent with that of the whole government is that of a moderate view point of seeking a fair balance for people at work and making sure there is opportunity for all. Finally, I might also add, that I am pleased that the Prime Minister has seen fit to keep some of my existing work as Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. I’ll just take questions now.

Question:

Going in to this role, what would you like to see changed?

Bill Shorten:

As I haven’t even been sworn in yet I think it would be absolutely premature to start getting in to the detail of changes or otherwise of the system. I am aware that the Government has committed to review the Act and certainly that process will continue with the work started by my predecessor Senator Evans. But not even been sworn in yet it is premature for me to say what I would change. But let me be clear, there is a very stark contrast to the Government’s approach to workplace relations and that of the Opposition. The Government believes very strongly in not only creating jobs but in ensuring that the jobs that are created are good quality jobs where people get a fair go all round at work, both employer and employee, both independent contractor, small business, large business, union member and non-union member .

Question:

Tony Abbott often portrays you as a faceless man. Why do you deserve this job?

 

Bill Shorten:

It’s a bit rich of Mr Abbott to talk about these things. Tony Abbott is the faceless man of industrial relations and he has faceless policies. But we all know that they exist, we all know that he’d like to turn back the clock and we all know that the only matter of contention in the Liberal party is when they’re going to announce they want o go back to Work Choices , not if they should go back to Work Choices.

Question:

You are becoming pretty recognisable. Do you think you’ll ever be able to shake that title?

Bill Shorten:

Tony Abbott only ever has negative things to say about people. I think Australians in 2012 want a contest of ideas. I think Australians are organising their lives to take advantage of life in the Asia-Pacific century, to take advantage of longer life, to take advantage of the fact that they don’t just exist to work, that they have a life outside of work, they are taking advantage of the fact that they want to retire with some measure of decency. These are the issues that matter – not Tony Abbott’s mindless, negative name calling.

Question:

Would you like to lead the party one day?

Bill Shorten:

Look we’ve just moved to this issue of the re-shuffle. I am absolutely stoked that our Prime Minister has given me this privilege. I completely and utterly support our Prime Minister.

Question:

Do you see this as reward for your support of Julia Gillard?

Bill Shorten:

I think that what we are seeing is, as the Prime Minister said she is committed to making sure Australia is prepared for the future.  Now if you look at the line up she’s gone through at great length at the press conference, a lot of her material speaks for herself and it doesn’t need me to supplement it, but in the specific areas of responsibility which she has allocated to me, let’s be clear: Australians are living longer than ever before. Australians don’t get up in the morning consumed by some of the arcane arguments of industrial relations, they want to make sure that they are earning enough money, that they can afford a decent lifestyle. Australians who go to work want to make sure they earn enough money so they can afford to retire.  Australians who go to work every day want to make sure that they are not just living to work and that they have a life outside of work.  These are the issues of the future work place and a lot of the current debate that Tony Abbott and the Liberal Coalition want to make as issues are just not the issues that a lot of Australians are focused on for their future.

Question:

What’s the logic of keeping financial services and workplace relations together? They are two very different areas, why are they together?

Bill Shorten:

Well in fact the Prime Minster has given me responsibility for superannuation and financial services, and employment. Financial Services is the fourth largest industry in Australia, it is a significant employer in Australia right now and it will be a significant and growing employer in the future.  Not all that covers industrial relations is smoke stack and overalls, though they are a legitimate part of the Australian workforce. It is also important, just as the Prime Minister said in her press conference, that people don’t work for 40 years and retire poor.  It’s important we have a fair and efficient financial services system that is capable of managing the wealth and retirement savings of Australians efficiently and equitably in the interests of Australians so they have enough money to retire upon. It’s also true that with our reforms of superannuation that have passed through the House of Representatives, that it is important that we increase compulsory savings from 9 – 12%. There is an inextricable link between the success and the operation of our financial services sector, our superannuation system, and indeed our workplace and employment systems.

Question:

How long ago did Julia Gillard discuss this promotion with you? Was it during the ALP National Conference? Also, do you see this promotion as recognition of the work you did during the Qantas dispute?  And lastly, are you happy to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme handed over to Jenny Macklin?

Bill Shorten:

Pardon me, I’m just trying to make sure I recall of those questions.  I’m not going to go into every blow-by-blow discussion I’ve had with our Prime Minister, suffice to say these discussions triggering this press conference are very recent indeed.  More broadly than that, in terms of disability and it’s been allocated as the title of the portfolio. I think it is an absolute black letter day for disability that it is now attached to the title of a Cabinet Minister of Jenny Macklin’s status. I think you’ll find that people in the disabilities sector and people with disabilities will be pleased that disabilities is being recognised as a Cabinet portfolio status issue, and indeed along with a significant announcement about aged acre and mental health for Minister Mark Butler going into Cabinet . People with disability will be very pleased to see the growing recognition of disabilities on the national political stage. Minister Macklin has always had carriage since the last election of promoting the National Disability Insurance Scheme and I will continue to work with her in the area of insurance, which is part of Financial Services. And it’s all of the Government who are committed to the promotion of a better deal for people with disabilities.

Question:

Is it your understanding that at least two ministers refused to go and that’s why we are left with a 22 member Cabinet? And do you think that a 22-member Cabinet is unwieldy?

Bill Shorten:

First of all there was second question between the first and third question that I got asked before, although I can’t quite remember what that was.

Question:

Are you being rewarded for your work during the Qantas dispute?

Bill Shorten:

No, not at all. The people who organised the Qantas grounding was the Qantas management. To say that this was some of Government strategy would be allocating responsibility where it doesn’t lie. Minister Evans, Minister Albanese, plenty of people were involved in making sure we got Qantas plans flying again. We actually saw the Fair Work Australia and the new legislation work as it was meant to work. So the Qantas grounding was not of the Government’s making. It was in our opinion a mistake. Having said that, it was the Government who managed to get the planes flying again through the success of our applications.

In terms of size of Cabinet and all those other sorts of things you are driving at, I think the Prime Minister answered all of those issues. I am certainly not privy to any of the dialogue. What I do know is that for the areas of responsibility that the Prime Minister has indicated at the press conference some 30 minutes ago, it is a great privilege to be serving in the Gillard Cabinet, it is a great privilege to be serving alongside 21 others in this Cabinet, it’s a great privilege to be able to ensure we maintain fairness in the workplace, a fair go all round, it’ a great privilege to be able to work in financial services and superannuation and employment.

Question:

How do you think the Cabinet meetings will be with you and Kevin Rudd around the table?

Bill Shorten:

If you are just looking for arguments which aren’t there, I haven’t been in Cabinet, but I’m sure it will work every well.

Question:

You spoke about employees, do you have a message for employers today?

Bill Shorten:

My view is very clear about Australian business: you can’t have employees without employers.  I do not have a catastrophic view of industrial relations. I don’t have a view that being Industrial Relations Minister is all about fire fighting. I know from personal experience of doing thousands of enterprise agreements, having been an employer myself of people, having sat on investment boards of pension boards and superannuation funds, having been a Parliamentary Secretary and Minister in this Government, most Australians go to work and are happy at work and most employers are happy with their employees . You cannot have a workforce without employers and we need employers to be doing well, and of course there are many different forms of employment:  there is direct employment, there is the very important world of independent contracting, some businesses are large and some are small.  I have a lot of respect for people who risk their capital and give up their weekends to running businesses, managing businesses, and I have great respect for employees. I do not believe it is too difficult to be pro employer and pro employee at the same time.

Question:

If IR becomes a big debate next year as many expect it will be, how are you going to avoid that leading to a neglect of Financial Services? How much of your time can you devote to IR and how much of your time can you devote to Financial Services?

Bill Shorten:

This Government has done a great deal already in the area of Financial Services. We’re implementing the Johnson Committee’s report in terms of we’re making Australia a hub for international investment. In each Budget since Labor was elected in 2007 we have seen new initiatives to encourage financial services. We are putting through a raft of reforms to increase the amount of money our financial services industry handles in Australia. If we pass the 9-12% superannuation legislation through the Senate, not only will literally 8.5 million Australian employees have more money to retire upon, it’s something like $100,000 extra for a 30 year old working today, but we’ll also see the increase in Australia’s savings pool by an extra half a trillion dollars by 2035. This is a Government that is doing more to create the financial services industry in Australia than any conservative government. Let’s not forget the conservatives were against 3% superannuation, they were against superannuation going to 9%, and they voted against the increase from 9–12%. Our opponents voted against us abolishing the aged discrimination for employees over 70 to get superannuation. Our opponents have not even indicated if they are going to support the tax concession for 3.6 million Australians who earn less than $37,000 dollars a year.  Believe me, in a beauty pageant for financial services, the other mob are not even on the catwalk.

Question:

It’s two big portfolio areas. How do you manage not neglecting either one?

Bill Shorten:

I’ll refer you to the first part of my answer. If that answer shows any lack of interest or neglect of financial services, I am happy to give you the slightly longer version of that answer. I think that anyone who has been covering the work we’ve been doing in financial services in the last 15 months knows we are intimately involved in it, the whole Government is, but in addition let’s go to industrial relations. We’ve got to move beyond the old black and white TV picture of industrial relations that is people wearing top hats on one side of the argument and people wearing cloth caps on the other side. Most people go to work and do not have an argument with their employer. Most people go to work and what they seek is not to live to work but to have a life outside of work. Most Australians so to school and university and TAFE now know that they will have more than one job in their life. It is only the Labor Government who understands the full value of workplace relations. In contrast is Tony Abbott. The only industrial relations policies they have is to be negative, to try and have the old fashioned arguments about where the pendulum regulation should sit and that’s it. We believe in fairness in the workplace. We don’t believe you should have to choose between flexibility and fairness and that you can actually have both.

Question:

If the Government is doing so well, why isn’t it being reflected in the polling? It looks like the Coalition is going to win in a landslide at this point.

Bill Shorten:

Polls go up, polls go down. What I think I’ve conveyed in the last ten minutes is we are a Government that is focussed on the future.  The world doesn’t know Australia are living. We need to ensure we are creating jobs – there have been 774,000 jobs created since Labor was elected in 2007.  We know this is the Asia-Pacific century. We understand that our services sector is important. We understand that having fair work places, and dealing with the issues of work-life balance, the future organisation of work and making sure that people have a say, women aren’t discriminated against and are paid equally, that people with disabilities get an opportunity to..

Question:

That’s not getting through the voters obviously.

Bill Shorten:

Well I have to say to you that I think you can have all the polls that you like, what matters is what we do every day and every month, and what we will do is break this cycle of relentless negativity that the Opposition is pushing . I have no doubt that our agenda for the work place, financial services, our vision for retirement savings, at the end of the day Australians want a positive view of the future, not just this constant negativity.

Question:

The Prime Minister said she’d been thinking of a reshuffle for quite some time. When was the first you heard about it and why do you think now is a good time for a reshuffle?

Bill Shorten:

I refer you to my earlier answer. The Prime Minister spoke to me very recently. Beyond that, the Prime Minister has answered that question and there’s nothing else I can add to it.

Question:

There’s been a lot of talk about low productivity outcomes. Have you had any initial thoughts on how you are going to boost productivity in workplaces?

Bill Shorten:

Well it’s a day and a half before I’m even sworn in. I’d like to leave something for the second press conference. But in terms of my general philosophy I can be very clear. In my experience one should always be suspicious of the extremes and in my experience of workplaces, and I’ve been on the boards of shearing sheds right though to underground mines, to oil rigs to hospitals, what I know is that work is an important part of people’s lives but it’s not the only part of their life. I want to make sure people have good work-life balance. I want to make sure people have safe jobs. We have to make sure people have a balance between work and home. But in addition, we want to make sure employers are achieving prosperity, we want to make sure the economic essentials are right so Australians can grow and prosper and we can create more jobs.

Thanks very much.