Bill's Transcripts

5AA Adelaide with Belinda Heggan

SUBJECT/S:  Discrimination, women in the workforce, pregnancy, working mothers, Darrell Lea administration

BELINDA HEGGAN:            Now there has been some concerning stories in the news of late
regarding pregnant women and mothers who are being forced to out of work, sidelined for promotions and even told their baby bump will offend customers, at one particular Melbourne pub. Can you believe it? A Melbourne barmaid was axed by her boss, who believed patrons didn’t want to be served by a pregnant women. So, as you can imagine the Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten was incensed when hearing about this latest story and he joins us now on the phone. Hello Minister how are you? 

BILL SHORTEN:       Good afternoon Belinda.

BELINDA HEGGAN:            I mean this is just incredible that this type of thing can happen in this day and age isn’t it?

BILL SHORTEN:       Listen if it hadn’t been proved to have happened I wouldn’t have believed it. First of all, pregnancy is a great thing and I don’t believe that customers give a toss. I think it underestimates most Australian’s that because someone is pregnant people can’t cope with it. Obviously you are cautious about what work you can do, but barring that, its fine. It’s just a reminder that we like to think sometimes that the workplace is all civilised and there is no need for regulations and then there is no need for unions and will have you. But the reality is that there are problems at work and discrimination does occur and we need strong regulation to ensure fair go all round.

BELINDA HEGGAN:            I was surprised to read that discrimination against mums and mums to be has prompted more than 500 of almost 700 complaints by women to the Equal Opportunity Commission in just three years. What are you and the Government hoping to do as a result of hearing about these numbers?

BILL SHORTEN:       Well first of all, we’ve put in place, we’ve restored the balance in the workplace with our fair work laws so hopefully we’ll see less of this happening in the future than has happened in the past. Secondly we think, we’ve made it easier for mums to be to work and balance family by introducing paid maternity leave. Did you know that 148,000 mums have now accessed the Government Scheme which we introduced last year, which pays a certain number of weeks minimum wage. We are sending a very clear message that pregnancy is something to be celebrated, it shouldn’t be, having kids shouldn’t be a bar to participating in the workforce. We want to be able to help people make ends meat so that they are not making a choice between job and family.

BELINDA HEGGAN:            Fantastic. We should all be encouraging women, whatever their choices are to be able to stay in the workplace. Because as you would know, times are tough at the moment, very few of us have the opportunity or have the choice not to work.

BILL SHORTEN:       Yeah the truth of the matter is, the number of women working is increasing, their participation rates, that’s what’s kept unemployment down. About 57 in every 100 women are engaged in full time or part time work. If Australia is to go ahead especially when the minerals boom needs us, we need to make workplaces’ future as family friendly as possible. Some people complain and say ‘This is another burden on business’. In the future, where we’re living longer, we’re going to have fewer Australians able to work so you want to make sure that to be an employer of choice that you do have family friendly conditions.

Also in my experience, and I employ a number of mum’s who work part time, they tend to be at least as well organised as the blokes, you know because they are frankly juggling more in way of responsibility. I generally find they get in, get the job done and balance everything so I think it is remarkable that there are still some, and certainly a minority of deadbeat employers who just haven’t worked out, we’re living in the 21st century.

BELINDA HEGGAN:            Yeah and I think I find most working mothers put in 150 per cent so that there is absolutely no perception that they’re letting their family life get in the way. But I mean let’s face it, this as you say is the 21st century, working women have been you know working mothers rather, have been working for quite some time and to single them out, I would have thought was quite par-say.

BILL SHORTEN:       And it does happen and so there is a bit of a debate sometimes in the media where it says that we should just de-regulate the labour market, we shouldn’t have safety laws because you can just, the problems with people getting exploited used to happen a hundred years ago but don’t happen now. The fact of the matter is that people still get bullied at work, they still get injured at work and we see cases of discrimination. I mean I think what’s caught everyone’s attention was this story about the Melbourne pub.

But there are a lot of older Australians who never get a chance to get a job interview because they look old and people can’t get over that. There’s plenty of Australians with disabilities who if given an opportunity to work make very good employees. I think we still, when it comes to the workplace, we need to understand that good workers come in all shapes and sizes and we shouldn’t just judge a book by its cover.

 BELINDA HEGGAN: Absolutely. Now Minister I was saddened to hear today news of the potential demise of Darrell Lea Confectionary. It’s been around for 85 years, it’s gone into voluntary administration, putting I think up to 700 jobs around the country at risk. What’s your latest understanding of that situation.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well as Minister for Employment we take insolvency issues pretty seriously. You’re right, Darrell Lea has been around making and selling chocolate since 1927. It’s an iconic brand; it’s clearly hit financial heavy water. I think there’s 63 shops where it’s sold and another 6 licensees. I think the issue with Darrell Lea is that the administrator who I’ve been speaking to want to try and sell the business as a going concern. At the moment the directors feel that it needs an administrator. There’s 700 people affected; there’s a factory in Sydney as well as people working in the shop. So I wouldn’t write Darrell Lea off but clearly there’s going to be some structuring needed according to the directors and the administrator. And the Federal Government will provide what assistance we’re called upon to make sure we can try and save the job.

 BELINDA HEGGAN: Fantastic. Is this just a sign of the times. I mean I report yesterday there’s quite a few businesses in            Adelaide who are finding times very tough.

 We spoke to the new chief executive of Business SA here who says Adelaide is by no means a pioneer in this but you know his contemporaries in the eastern seaboard are saying that times are very tough ... what’s your comment on that?

 BILL SHORTEN:     It depends where you are in the economy. Compared to the rest of the world our unemployment rate’s pretty low but to some extent the fact that we’ve been able to get through the global financial crisis has masked a lot of the difficulties that sections of the economy are feeling. What I mean by that is in some ways we’ve been able to sort of immunise Australia from some of the worst effects of what’s happening in Europe and elsewhere but when people do it tough it can get overlooked.

 If you’re in the mining sector you’re doing well, there’s no question, big growth rate. If you’re not in the mining sector, if you’re in  a sector affected by the high dollar — and that’s apparently one of several factors affecting Darrell Lea — then it is tougher. That’s why we’re fortunate I believe with the current economic policies of the Government that we’re spreading the mining boom through the mining tax, we’re putting in tax deductions for small business. Because different   parts of Australia and different sections of the economy are getting good outcomes at the moment. But it is tough for some, yep.

 BELINDA HEGGAN: Okay Bill Shorten thank you for your time today.


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