Bill's Transcripts


10 MAY 2013
TIME 08:15AM


NEWSREADER: Tony Abbot yesterday released his industrial relations policy to a chorus of disappointment from business groups which see the plans as too timid.  But unions and the Labor Government are labelling the policy hardline and a return to the WorkChoices approach of John Howard.

Bill Shorten is the Minister for Industrial Relations.  He’s speaking to Marius Benson.

MARIUS BENSON: Bill Shorten, the policy Tony Abbott announced yesterday says no change to the Fair Work Act before the next election, any change to be recommended by the Productivity Commission, any change guaranteed no worker worse off; there’s nothing for anyone to worry about.

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah well, I don’t believe that.  Everybody knows that Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party are scared of workplace relations because their natural inclination is to reduce terms and conditions.  They released a document yesterday which was disturbingly light in detail with a lot of hidden intentions and smoke screens for most of it.  But they did flag that they intend to liberalise individual contracts. They want to talk about flexibility, not in the best interests of workers and employers, but they just want to make it easier to reduce conditions.

MARIUS BENSON: This natural inclination for the Coalition to reduce workers' pay and conditions, what’s the evidence for that?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, three clear unequivocal points.  First of all, Tony Abbott in his book Battlelines, in comments he’s made since he’s been in the Opposition, has said that he thought Work Choices was a good idea.  Now he says because there’s an election close, oh, I’ve changed my mind.  When will this man ever be held to account for what he actually does as opposed to what he says, most recently at a press conference? 

Secondly, their voting record in the Parliament about improving workers conditions, they always vote no.  They voted against supporting textile workers, they voted against supporting child care workers; they’ve criticised the idea that women working in the community services sector should get equal pay and they certainly are not interested in truck drivers having safe rates.  So it’s what they’ve always done when they’ve been in power.  It’s their voting record. 

But the third argument, anyone reading their document would be disappointed by a collection of clichés strung together and called a policy.  Their state colleagues, be it Barry O’Farrell sacking people, be it Campbell Newman reducing terms and conditions and contracting people out, be it the argument the Victorian Liberals have had with their employees who are teachers and nurses, whenever Liberals get into power - as everybody knows - they fight with their employees, they introduce Work Choices, they vote against improvements for workers in the Parliament.  That’s what they’ve been doing in Opposition.

So then we get to yesterday’s policy document, which would send a shiver up the spine of every Australian who goes to work, because on one hand they’re pretending that they’re not going to do anything.  On the other hand, though, we see peaking under the tent of their policy, individual contracts.  They want to make it easier for employers to for instance to pay people non-monetary benefits rather than pay them penalty rates.  That’s in their policy.  Non-monetary benefits could be if you’re working in the fast food industry you get burgers instead of penalty rates.

MARIUS BENSON: Are there any good elements in the policy announced yesterday?  For example, the targeting of corrupt union officials, that they should be subject to the same legal sanctions as corrupt company officials?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, the employer community and the government and unions have seen a tripling of penalties.  What they want to do is just attack.  They want to say that because of a few rogue union officials all trade unions should be effectively legislated against. 

Do you know in the time period in which there’s been some problems, and some unacceptable problems, by a few people in a trade union there’s been something like 354 company directors prosecuted. There’s 212 company directors and senior managers serving - being convicted and serving penalties. 

I mean, Labor is sophisticated.  We understand that when you get malefactors in the corporate and business community, they should be punished but we don’t think that therefore all companies in Australia, all business in Australia, should be tarred with the same brush.  But when it comes to attacking unions, the federal right wing extreme Liberals just return to type.

They don’t like unions because unions criticise them.  They don’t like workplace relations because they just want to deregulate the labour market, and they certainly loved individual contracts which reduced people’s conditions. 

MARIUS BENSON: Bill Shorten, thanks very much.

BILL SHORTEN: Thank you Marius.

NEWSREADER: That’s Bill Shorten, the Minister for Industrial Relations, speaking there to Marius Benson.

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