CHRIS UHLMANN: And we're joined now by the Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten - welcome.
BILL SHORTEN: Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS UHLMANN: How could the Prime Minister or anyone in the union movement have been surprised by the Roy Hill deal?
BILL SHORTEN: Let's be very clear. The Government's policy across all of its ministers is that if there are jobs in Australia and the mining boom, we're determined to spread the benefits of the mining boom so Australians should get first crack at these jobs. But in addition, the fact of the matter is that there are some Australians who might not want to work in the Pilbara, or that there's going to be so many jobs required at key points in the project that there will be a temporary need for some guest workers. But we are determined that Australians should get the jobs, Australians should get the training, and we're determined if we have guest workers - as happens in all economies around the world - then we want to make sure those people don't get ripped off and they've got their safety and they will be paid properly.
CHRIS UHLMANN: I'm trying to establish how the Prime Minister could have been surprised by this when the decision was made in May last year that there would be enterprise migration agreements, and it's been widely known that Gina Rinehart would be the first cab off the rank?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, in the Budget it was spoken a year ago, about the theory of EMAs - which would be for jobs over $2 billion where there was a concern there would be an urgent need for workers - that there would be the opportunity for companies to apply for an EMA. But the first enterprise migration agreement to get down to the detail has been the one which was just announced at the end of last week, and the Prime Minister, Minister Bowen, indeed many in the Government engaged in the process at the end of last week, we've made it very clear: jobs for Australians first. We want to make sure that those jobs occur in Australia - but let's be realistic, if there is an overflow of demand, and the market's been properly investigated in Australia, genuine efforts have been made to employ Australians, then you may need to use guest workers temporarily.
CHRIS UHLMANN: But I'm trying to work out how the Government could look anything but dysfunctional or inept, given this has been a long time in the pipeline and it seems the Government's is so surprised it has to do some retrofitting even down to today, announcing a caucus committee.
BILL SHORTEN: No, I'm not buying the argument that the Government had got this wrong. Certainly there was discussion in the caucus; a pretty sensitive matter, because there are Australians doing it tough in the south east part of Australia, in other parts of Australia - and I know scaffolders and riggers and crane drivers and dogmen and a whole range of people who would like an opportunity to work up in the mines, and I want to make sure that they get looked after first. So the Government isn't surprised. The Labor Government stands for Australian workers to get those opportunities, but the mining boom is big and we don't want to miss the opportunity to get a project because there's a shortage of labour. So, what we're doing is we're demonstrating we can spread the benefits of the mining boom; we're also making sure that industry is able to get the jobs built.
CHRIS UHLMANN: 4,000 workers have lost their jobs with Hastie's collapse. Do you think those workers will head west?
BILL SHORTEN: First of all with the Hastie collapse, I've been monitoring this pretty closely. In the refrigeration services part of the business, upwards of 500 people, the prospects for them look reasonable. For some of the operations, for about 1,800 of the people, their jobs look reasonably secure - although you can't absolutely guarantee that. But you're right - there's been another 2,000 people who... there is a big question mark over what's happened to them. These are skilled workers. I have no doubt that for many of them, just so long as we make sure they get their entitlements, many of them will find work quickly; and some of the businesses that they're working in, the job still needs to be done the sites they're on, so I think they will be better off...
CHRIS UHLMANN: Isn't part of the problem though is that people won't move to these resource projects?
BILL SHORTEN: One of the challenges, I think, is making sure that community infrastructure gets built in the Pilbara and Kimberleys and other areas, these mineral provinces. One upon a time, mining companies would spend a lot of money in the communities themselves. Now we intend to rely on fly-in, fly-out. To use a bit of a stereotype, if Dad's got a job in the mines working a two-week roster, it can be very challenging on the family who's left at home, but the schools and the infrastructure aren't in some of these areas. So I think that, one, the mining boom's good, but two, we've got to make sure Australians... it's as easy as possible for them to go and work there.
CHRIS UHLMANN: On another matter, we broadcast last night that the Vice President of Fair Work Australia, Michael Lawler, made a personal complaint to police about the Health Services Union - which of course was being investigated by Fair Work Australia. Do you think that's proper?
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I've got some initial advice from my department today. They say that the letter and in the circumstances it has been reported that there isn't a matter for me to take up.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Is there anything at all that can be done?
BILL SHORTEN: In terms of the advice I've received, the view is there's nothing here to warrant me to make any intervention.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you think it's proper?
BILL SHORTEN: In my job as the Minister for Industrial Relations, I'm determined to see the HSU matter is resolved in the best interests of the members. My opinions as to the wisdom or otherwise of individual actions is not as relevant as me carrying out my tasks professionally.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Finally, the President of Fair Work Australia said yesterday even he thinks the organisation needs to be recast - perhaps the industrial arm and the administrative arm split. Do you agree with that?
BILL SHORTEN: I appointed President Ross, or the Government did, I've got a high opinion of his analysis and capacity. I'm certainly... I've certainly asked the department to give me a view upon his... what he's suggested. If the department, and the advice I receive, is positive I'll certainly be talking to the relevant Senate legislative and constitutional committee, so I wouldn't rule out what he's said at all.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Bill Shorten, thank you.
BILL SHORTEN: Good evening.
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