Bill's Transcripts

3AW Neil Mitchell

3AW Neil Mitchell
06 July 2012

Subjects: Woolworths/Coles, Carbon Price, IR, Asylum Seekers, Electricity Prices

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Now, left and right, Bill Shorten Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey Shadow Treasurer.  Gentleman, good morning.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Good morning, Joe.  Good morning, Neil.

 JOE HOCKEY:        Good morning.  Good morning.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Now, Bill Shorten, and you first perhaps.  There's a lot of tension on this supermarket business today.  We've got the allegations of false labelling by Coles and now corporate bullying by Woolies.  I've spoken to Nick Xenophon earlier about the need for something to be done here.  Do you think, well one, are you concerned about it? Second, can the government do anything?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Yes and yes.  I am concerned about it.  If you get a few complaints, well you know, maybe it's in the eye of the beholder but when you've got this sort of coverage, clearly there's a real anxiety amongst some suppliers.  The ACCC chairman, Rod Sims - and the ACCC is the watchdog who has the power to investigate complaints and enforce competition laws - he's asking the suppliers to come forward confidentially with complaints. 

 I get that people are worried that if they speak out about feeling they're not getting well treated by a large company that they may suffer retribution, but the ACCC chairman has said to suppliers, come forward confidentially.  I mean we do need some evidence.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Joe Hockey, and what about this labelling, the case we've got of, you know, we import bread from Ireland, bake it again and say this is locally made?

 JOE HOCKEY:        Well, that's right.  I mean you've got to be very - as a corporation, you've got to be very careful that you comply with the competition laws and you don't engage in any misleading and deceptive conduct.  So there are enormous powers already in relation to that.  But, as my friend Bruce Billson just reminded me, as if I needed reminding, we're going to have a root and branch review of the competition laws to make sure that they're contemporary. 

 Because the market is always changing, we want to ensure that market participants are not engaging in anti-competitive behaviour or, at the end of the day, trying to close down greater competition in particular fields of endeavour.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay.  The carbon tax debate this week.  Are you winning, Bill Shorten?

 BILL SHORTEN:     I think as time moves on people are going to realise that there's been a lot fear-mongering needlessly.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Is it still a mozzie bite, do you reckon?

 BILL SHORTEN:     I'm sure there are people who are concerned but, again, talking about the ACCC, we saw that incident where someone within the Brumby's food chain had put an email out saying just up your prices and blame the carbon tax and now everyone's backing away from that.  I believe that people and families are getting support.  Industry's getting support and we are, for the first time, tackling carbon pollution.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Do you agree, if people are concerned and I agree they are, that what Craig Emerson did with his song-and-dance routine, his other stunts, was just offensive?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Listen, I've got a rule never to sing in public.  The only song I know is happy birthday and I'm not very good at that.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah, but was it offensive, what he did?

 BILL SHORTEN:     No, I think it's a sense of humour but having said that, for me, it's the issue of I leave - now, if Peter Garrett had sung, maybe that would've attracted more support.  I don't know.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Joe Hockey, do you reckon you're winning?

 JOE HOCKEY:        Well, I think the public have seen through it and the interesting thing that I got back all week - and I've been on the road meeting with businesses - is that they still haven't been told by their electricity suppliers how much their bills are going to go up, so they don't know what to pass through to their customers yet.  So I think this has got a long way to go.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Just - would you agree, Bill Shorten, that Julia Gillard's fighting for her political life here?

 BILL SHORTEN:     I think all members of parliament at all times are only as good as their next election so you've got to make sure that you're delivering every day.  I think she is.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah, but I'm talking about before the election.  If she doesn't perform well in the next month or two months, she's gone?

 BILL SHORTEN:     I think the issues in Australia have little to do with a debate about personalities and a lot more to do with what's in the long-term interest of Australia, what's in the best interest of people.  I continue to support Julia Gillard.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Joe Hockey?

 JOE HOCKEY:        Gee, that wasn't too emphatic.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Oh, Joe.  Joe, don't - you know.  I learnt to do - listen, you guys are the mirror people.  You're going to have a look into the Woolworths issues and I'm saying let's deal with it right now.  Like, let's not - that's a real issue.  You know. 

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Well, speaking of looking into…

 BILL SHORTEN:     And you guys have got more fights going on in [inaudible] than they've got in the Middle East, between Clive Palmer and everyone and, you know, let's not distract with the small stuff when we've got big issues out there.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Well, I can tell you, the word is around Canberra again that you've done a deal with Kevin Rudd to be treasurer and deputy to him.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah, well, until people put their names to rumours, I'd treat them with the seriousness that unsourced rumours have.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Is that…

 BILL SHORTEN:     Is there someone, Neil, who's got a name to that?

 NEIL MITCHELL:    I doubt it very much.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Okay, well you know, again, I know that today I'll be meeting with state Liberal governments and state Labor governments about industrial relations.  Now I think there's massive issues which affect the workplace.  What we're seeing out of state Liberal governments with the way they're treating their public servants is a sign of what the federal Liberals would do if they ever came out of hiding on their workplace relations policy and that's a real issue.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    So I take that as a denial on the Kevin Rudd suggestion?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah.


 BILL SHORTEN:     Yes, absolutely.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Alright.  Speaking of looking into things, the asylum seekers panel and now we've got another group set up that doesn't include the Opposition.  Is that - well, is that reasonable, Joe Hockey, given the Opposition seems to refuse to budge on asylum seekers?

 JOE HOCKEY:        Well, no, we haven't refused to budge.  We've actually come some way and we offered the Government more than a hundred and forty different countries to process applications.  The Government just rejected it, so.  We also offered a deal with the Independents and the Greens that we would increase the refugee intake through the front door as part of the compromise of getting a tougher approach to asylum seekers and the Government and the Greens and the Independents didn't want that.  So, we've made a number of offers and, sadly, no one's picked them up.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Bill Shorten?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well, first of all, we have invited the Liberals to be part of a group of cross-party MPs and that - let me reiterate that we haven't excluded them.  I've just seen a press release…

 JOE HOCKEY:        You haven't invited us.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well, okay…

 JOE HOCKEY:        You haven't…

 BILL SHORTEN:     You guys are sensitive…

 JOE HOCKEY:        You haven't included Neil Mitchell either, have you?

 BILL SHORTEN:     No, you guys are sensitive petals when it comes to invitations so let me do it again, Joe, very clearly on radio.  The Government is absolutely open to accepting Mr Abbott's nomination to this group.  So there's an invitation.  Because quite often the Libs say we're not invited to this, we're not invited to that. 

 I'll give you another invitation, Joe.  Can we have a debate about workplace relations anywhere, anytime, chaired by Neil Mitchell? You can stack the audience.  You can make it the Melbourne Club, the Australia Club, wherever your backers are, any place, any time.  There's an invitation to debate.  All you have to do is bring along your workplace relations policies.  It could be a casual affair.  You don't have to wear a suit.  Just bring your policies.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Joe Hockey? I think that's…

 JOE HOCKEY:        Every time you start a topic, Neil, and Bill doesn't like it, he changes topics, you know.

 BILL SHORTEN:     No, no.  Okay…

 JOE HOCKEY:        We’ve talked about Commonwealth/state relations…

 BILL SHORTEN:     I did answer that earlier.

 JOE HOCKEY:        Now we're talking about public debates or workplace relations.

 BILL SHORTEN:     No, you're not talking about that.

 JOE HOCKEY:        It's quite interesting because it's quite revealing about where Bill's mind is at the moment and…

 BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah, I've got - when you're a minister and your portfolio, you're right, your mind is there.  But on the people smuggling issues and the Libs say they've compromised, they've said that they will - are happy to have offshore processing in countries that are signatories to the HR, the Human Rights - you know, sorry, the High Commission, the UN treaties.  It's interesting.  He says there's a hundred and forty countries, we can go anywhere.  Iran is a signatory to that.  So is Somalia.  Yet the United States is not a signatory. 

 So I just - the Libs are being a bit disingenuous here.  We don't think Nauru's the best idea.  They don't think Malaysia's the best idea.  But I think for the sake of compromise we should look at both of those options.  I certainly don't agree with the Greens that we should just have onshore processing because, clearly, one of the factors, which is encouraging people to hop into dangerous boats and risk human life and that principle's above all else, is the promise that if you can get to Australia you'll stay here.  So that's why people are risking their lives.  We are willing to compromise and that's the issue of substance.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay, Joe Hockey?

 JOE HOCKEY:        Well, we also want temporary protection visas because it was the temporary protection visas that ensured that even if they got here, they weren't guaranteed permanent residency, and, in fact, if matters settled in their home countries they could be sent back.  So that's - temporary protection visas are very much the core of the way to stop the boats and the Government refuses to reintroduce temporary protection visas.

 BILL SHORTEN:     No, we haven't ruled that out.  We've said that we would investigate that in the spirit of compromise.

 JOE HOCKEY:        Investigate it?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well, hang on.  Yeah, we would - we did say that.  The only thing we've ruled out categorically is Mr Abbott's turn-back-the-boats where they say that get the Australian service personnel, navy personnel, to tow back boats into Indonesian waters, turn them back into Indonesian waters who, by the way, are not signatory to the UN conventions which the Liberals now say are so important.  Anyway, we're prepared for compromise.  But on that other matter where Joe says I always ask him about workplace relations, that's because we can never get their policy. 

 I've procured a copy of the Liberal Party's confidential, not-for-distribution notes on employment and workplace relations and I can see why they don't want to have a debate on it. They've got - what they have is in italics, you know, the question which the journalist may ask and then they've got the Liberal answer.  And I love this question.  It's, you are on record attacking Labor's workplace relations laws.  How can we trust you when you say that you now support the Fair Work Act?  So at least they know that they've got a trust issue here.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay.  Righto.  Do you want to reply to that, Joe Hockey, or not?

 JOE HOCKEY:        Not really.  It's - you know, Bill's spending more time talking about us than he is about the country.  So workplace relations, that affects everyone.

NEIL MITCHELL:    All right.  Well, let's get down to something that really affects everybody, electricity prices.  Financial Review reports today that AGL's talking about significant changing - monthly bills, increase in prices at times of high load.  They talk about a death spiral for electricity industry.  Is it that serious?  How high will it - how much will electricity prices jump over the next couple of years?  And in fairness they're saying it's not all carbon tax.  Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN:     Well, there is that challenge of electricity prices, and in fairness it's not all the carbon price.  The Treasury modelling, which has been backed up by regulators which they have in most states other than Victoria's shown that our predictions about the impact of carbon on electricity prices are right.  But we're also dealing with - and that's in the order of about ten per cent for the first year that the carbon price…

NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah, but with all these other impacts there's the electricity bills that look like they're going to increase far more significantly than we thought.

BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah, but - okay, well, let's unpack why that is, why there's an increase.  There's been a lack…

NEIL MITCHELL:    That doesn't help us pay them.

BILL SHORTEN:     No, I know, I know.  That's why we're, at least with our propositions, providing support for families in terms of that.  But you and I both know, Neil, that when the Libs in Victoria privatised the SEC the various - well, the various people who subsequently purchased the generating units and the distribution have not sufficiently, until recently, addressed reinvesting in poles and wires.

NEIL SHORTEN:    Righto.  Joe Hockey, your - what will you do or what could you do on electricity bills?

JOE HOCKEY:        Well, the first thing is we're going to abolish the carbon tax.  That's the starting point and every increase in electricity prices after this year, there's going to be an increase on top of the carbon tax.  And the carbon tax is according to the government's policy at, you know, 9:21 on Friday morning is that the carbon tax will keep increasing.  But you can't be sure about that.

I'd say to you the - it is - there is something wrong about the fact that we are the 10th biggest energy producer in the world and yet for everyday Australians the costs of energy are going higher and higher.  Now, there's a combination of things.  It's partly poles and wires, Bill's right.  And that's right across the country so let's get out of the, you know, blaming people. 

The second thing is - because it hasn't been properly invested in.  Second thing is the renewable energy targets which have helped to push up the price of electricity and that's - you know, that's something that we all need to think long and hard about.  And then the third aspect is, of course, the carbon tax and we're going to get rid of that.

NEIL MITCHELL:    And that's the only thing you can do anything about?

JOE HOCKEY:        Well, no, I think we need to explore more better opportunities for, you know, clean coal and that's something we originally invested in government.  But obviously, you know, the Government's - this government's set up an institute to look at it.  We actually set up a research program to try and find a solution.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Now, I know you both need to get away.  Just finally, Bill Shorten, are you going to refuse your pay rise?

BILL SHORTEN:     No, it's set by an independent tribunal.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Joe Hockey, are you going to refuse your pay rise?

JOE HOCKEY:        But, Neil, just on what…

BILL SHORTEN:     Have you refused a pay rise, Neil?



NEIL MITCHELL:    I'm not paid by the public.

BILL SHORTEN:     Well, you know, it's the same principle for everyone.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Or by a tribunal I set up.

BILL SHORTEN:     But, Neil, okay, but let's just - see the process - what I think was a smart thing that we've done was that there are some people won't be happy with politicians unless they're camping under a tent and hitchhiking [inaudible].

NEIL MITCHELL:    It's a bad - by any definition it's a bad law …

BILL SHORTEN:     No, no, no, but it's a pretty easy shot to take.  All I'm saying…

NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah, well tell that to the blokes on service pensions getting, you know, 23 cents a week.

BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah, I agree.  Neil, I hadn't finished.  My point is about this process is it's set by someone independent…

NEIL MITCHELL:    Which you approved.


NEIL MITCHELL:    Jointly approved.

BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah [inaudible] handing it away like it's - you're far better off in these matters - there's never going to be a right time to ever get a - deal with that matter.

NEIL MITCHELL:    All right.  Well, you'd be - you'd agree with that, Joe Hockey?

JOE HOCKEY:        Yeah, but you know what's happened, Neil, in the past, is that when they have pressure from Neil Mitchell they turn around and say, yeah, we'll waive the pay rise and then you have an independent tribunal turn around and say, God, they're underpaid, you've got to have catch-up and then you have catch-up and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon and says you've got to stop it.  So, you know…

NEIL MITCHELL:    And at the same time you're all calling for restraint.

JOE HOCKEY:        Well, yes, you're calling for expenditure restraint from government and we've got to live within our means…

NEIL MITCHELL:    Well, who pays your salary?

JOE HOCKEY:        Okay, well, I'm happy to disclose my salary if you disclose yours, Neil.  I mean, who really give - what - mine away.

NEIL MITCHELL:    That's a silly trick and you know it.  You know it.  And we'll get…

JOE HOCKEY:        No, well, why?  Because every journo I deal with seems to earn more than me and yet none of them are running the country.

NEIL MITCHELL:    Well, neither are you, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY:        No, I'm hoping to.  I'm working on it.

NEIL MITCHELL:    I think we're running the country in [inaudible].  Thank you for your time, Joe Hockey.

BILL SHORTEN:     But Neil, just on that - you gave Joe the word on the electricity prices…

NEIL MITCHELL:    Yes, yes, yes, yes.

BILL SHORTEN:     …the fact of the matter is that the Libs say they want to act on climate change but they won't say how and under their miraculous world they can do something on climate change and there's no cost at all to anyone.

JOE HOCKEY:        Come on, Bill. 

BILL SHORTEN:     I just want to just say - I just want to - it's Friday, it's not April Fools' Day.  They want to act on climate change and they say they can do it for free, well, you know, I've got a bridge to sell you just at the end of the Yarra.


JOE HOCKEY:        I want you to have a happy weekend, Bill,

BILL SHORTEN:     Same to you Joe, but you could make me really happy by agreeing to have a workplace relations debate.

NEIL MITCHELL:    You can both go and spend your big pay rise on a slap-up dinner.



JOE HOCKEY:        You can shout, Bill, you can shout.  Put it on the 3AW card. 

  Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Sam Casey 0421 697 660