Bill's Transcripts

DOORSTOP - Cakery Bakery, Erindale


Cakery Bakery, Erindale, ACT
5 June 2013

SUBJECT/S: Bullying, Asbestos 

BILL SHORTEN:     It's great to be at Cakery Bakery at Erindale. I'm accompanied by Federal Labor representatives, Gai Brodtmann and Senator Kate Lundy.

We're here today to have a look at how a small business is going, to see the hard work that Australia's bakers do.  But also we're here to make the point that Australian workplaces need to make sure that they have fair regulation in them.

We know that the Federal Coalition have policies in mind in Australia's workplaces which will be distinctly unfair for Australia's workers and unhelpful for Australia's employers, both big and small businesses.

We should never forget that it was the Liberal Party of Australia, the conservatives, many of the current front bench of the Opposition were in the Cabinet that introduced WorkChoices.  The Opposition said when they were in government, before the 2004 election, they would never ever introduce unfair workplace laws, then they did.

They said in 2005 that they would provide legal protection so that no one could be hurt by their unfair laws.  They wasted a hundred and twenty million dollars in a massive lie campaign on television.  Well, we know what happened when the Coalition's unfair laws came in.  They had at the centre of their workplace relations unfair individual contracts. 

100 per cent, 100 out of every 100 unfair individual contracts that were created by the Liberal Party, or the conservatives, while they were in power, took away at least one basic condition.  64 in every 100 contracts that were signed under the Liberal government, the conservatives, took away penalty rates.  63 per cent took away leave loading, 40 per cent took away rest breaks.

At the heart of the Liberal Party, which they don't want to talk about in their small target approach to this election, lies a deep desire to bring in unfair workplace relations.

It is telling that in the Opposition Leader's book, Battlelines, which he wants everyone to buy a second edition of, that there is a chapter called Unfinished Business.  And in that chapter called Unfinished Business, the Leader of the Opposition says that WorkChoices wasn't all bad.

Now what happened is that less than a month ago, on May the 9th, the Opposition released its so called workplace relations policy.  They said in that workplace relations policy that they would stamp out workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying is a real scourge. It's costing Australian businesses, small business and big businesses, between six and $30 billion a year.  But of course there's a tragic human cost.  Many people give up their jobs and are forced out of work because of bullying and I know of some cases where indeed the victim has eventually tragically taken their own life.

Workplace bullying is a real and is a clear and present danger in Australian workplaces.  The Federal Government will be seeking to vote today, to put in laws implementing the recommendations of the Parliament to provide individuals who've been bullied in the workplace with an immediate right of recourse so they can prevent the bullying so that relationships in the workplace can go back to the way they should be.

For about 25 days the Opposition said in their policy that they would support the Government's anti-workplace bullying measures.  But yesterday, long before there's even been an election, the Opposition has returned to their WorkChoices unfair individual contracts DNA and yesterday the Opposition has announced that they will not support the workplace bullying measures that the Government's putting to the vote at Parliament today.

The Opposition cannot be trusted on matters to do with workplace relations.  If they can't even stand up against the workplace bullies, what chance do Australians have if they were to form a government.  We call upon, and in fact we demand, that the Opposition back the victims of workplace bullying against the bullies.

We demand that the Opposition today forget their DNA about supporting unfair workplace relations, where employers have all the power and employees have none at all, and we demand that they support our workplace bullying measures, unchanged, and we think that if they can't even back us on workplace bullying - I mean if you can't even be against workplace bullying in Australia, what sort of government will you be for all employees of Australia, and all businesses of Australia, on all other workplace relations matter.

I'm happy to take questions.

REPORTER:              Isn't your problem the independents who have blocked part of the changes overnight?

BILL SHORTEN:       No, not at all.  What happened is that we put a range of changes towards, up for consideration.  Independents expressed support for doing something on workplace bullying.  They expressed support for doing something on making sure that people have the right to request more flexible working arrangements, so long as it's consistent with the needs of the business.

Now the Opposition said that they would support this and the independents have said to us listen, the Opposition's supporting this so we also thinks it's a good idea, so those measures are very much alive.

But the Opposition has never seen, never missed an opportunity to be low rent and when they heard the independents say that they'd like to see the Opposition agree with measures, the Opposition have slammed the Opposition policy vehicle into reverse, burning rubber tyres as they reverse away from commitments they made to the Government in the last few days.

You do not need an opinion poll to work out that workplace bullying is bad.  You do not need to be told by the independents that workplace bullying is bad.  You shouldn't even need to be told by the victims of workplace bullying that workplace bullying is bad.

If the Opposition has a shred of moral conscience, they will stand up alongside the Government and the independents on workplace bullying.  We will test today or tomorrow, the Opposition bona fides.  You cannot be sort of for or against workplace bullying.  You either are against it or you're for it and the Opposition has to stand up and say we're against workplace bullying or we're for it.

There's no middle ground.  There's no small target.  There's no Battlelines book to deny that you've ever written.  This is a straight forward issue of right and wrong.

This is not an issue of right and left, this is an issue of right and wrong and the Opposition will be forever ashamed, I believe, if they won't back the Government to tackle the scourge of workplace bullying.

REPORTER:              Will the Gillard Government heed the warnings of unions and halt the progress of the NBN to deal with the asbestos row?

BILL SHORTEN:       We are completely committed to dealing with the issue of asbestos.  As much as the Opposition just want to say that - the Opposition, in many years, has never said anything on asbestos.  Let us be clear.  They have said nothing.

But when they see asbestos problems to do with the Telstra remediation of communication pits, all of a sudden the Opposition decides that because it's an NBN related issue, they're going to be champions on asbestos.

The Opposition are fakes, they're hypocrites.  You know the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, has never given a speech on asbestos in his whole career in Parliament until this week.  Never asked a question, I should say.

REPORTER:              But what about the unions? 

BILL SHORTEN:       I'll come to that but just don't be so quick to let the Opposition off the fact that they're being hypocrites.  The Opposition, this Mr Turnbull, he says that there's no asbestos crisis in Australia.  He said that on Lateline.  What is he thinking?  700 people will die this year of asbestos related diseases.

That number of people dying tells me there is a crisis.  It tells me that you need to do things.  Now in terms of making sure that NBN, Telstra, or indeed anyone else who's disturbing asbestos in our environment, should do so safely, goes without saying.

We, unlike the Opposition, don't hate the trade unions because they tell you things you don't want to hear.  We, unlike the Opposition, want to act on asbestos.  It's only this Government ever since the history of federation, since the development of asbestos in this country, this killer disease, we're the only ones who've created a national plan.  We're the only ones who've created an asbestos agency. 

We will work wherever there are reports of asbestos exposure.  We will work with the state and territories.  We will work with Telstra, who's accepted full responsibility.  We will work with NBN.  We will make sure the contractors know what they're doing.  We will work with the Opposition.

Do you know what's disappointing?  The Opposition's had a lot to say with their crocodile tears on asbestos, that's the front bench. There's certainly backbenchers who are more genuine on the topic.  We will work with them.  We've invited Mr Turnbull to come and talk to us about his concerns about asbestos, he hasn't done it.

He can talk to the press but he can't talk to the Government.  That's not a constructive attitude.  I say to the Opposition, the rubbish has to stop.  We need to get on with fighting asbestos.  We need to make sure places are safe.  We don't need to scare the whole population but nor can we ignore asbestos and nor should it just be viewed as an issue through NBN.

Asbestos is in a lot of homes in Australia.  This weekend there'll be home renovators who will go and start doing work on their sheds, tearing down stuff, they mightn't know there's asbestos there but they do need to acquaint themselves with this issue.

Asbestos is above politics and it's above the day to day 24 hour news cycle.

REPORTER:              I understand you're passionate about dealing with asbestos.

BILL SHORTEN:       Thank you for that.

REPORTER:              That's alright but then in regards to the actual NBN, the calls from unions to halt construction to, you know, make sure that it's safe for workers.  Is that something the Gillard Government will consider?

BILL SHORTEN:       I have no problem at all, and I support the view that you should not work where it is not safe to do so.  That has been my view for 25 years.  Unlike the Liberal Party who've lately discovered workplace safety as some sort of interest. 

Because as you know as well as I do, if the NBN wasn't involved in any of these issues, we would continue to have radio silence from the conservative Opposition front bench on workplace safety.

But to specifically answer your point, there is no doubt in my mind that where people think it is not safe to work, they shouldn't.  And this is not just a matter for asbestos, this is not just a matter for Telstra or the NBN.  I would say this to all Australians who go to work today, because some will get injured, if you think it is genuinely not safe for you to do your work then you need to say hey, this isn't safe.

There is no wage in Australia worth receiving which would see you go home less safely than the state in which you attended work.

REPORTER:              Joel Fitzgibbon yesterday lambasted the talking points in regards to news poll and today Doug Cameron says he doesn't read the talking points, if I can quote, some kid in the PMO.  Is it time to get rid of the spin doctors?

BILL SHORTEN:       What I believe is that there are important issues in Australia.  I believe that what Australians want is authentic responses which go to the issues in the daily lives that people are living.

I would say to you that if you want to look at what's genuine and authentic, have a look at what the Prime Minister has done on trying to get better schools in Australia.  When will some state conservative governments and the Federal Opposition realise that schools deserve to be better funded.

Federal Labor is making the promise to every parent of every child in Australia, that Labor has a plan and it's got the promises and will fund it to make sure their kids get the best go in life.  That's authentic, that's not spin.

If you don't want spin then have a look at what we've done with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  If you don't want spin then it's about time that the Liberal Party drop their proposal to introduce a brand new, great new big tax on the superannuation of low income earners.

Did you realise there are 40 000 people in the food trades industry that'll earn less than $37,000?  If Tony Abbott's elected, every bakery worker who earns less than $37 000 will be paying 15 per cent extra on their superannuation. 

If you're sick of spin and you want the truth, the truth is that Tony Abbott isn't interested in the same way that Labor is in better schools.  It's Labor who's driven a National Disability Insurance Scheme.  It's Labor who's increased the tax free threshold for low paid people from $6,000 to $18,000 and it's the Liberals who want to bring back a 15 per cent tax on low paid workers on their super.

It's the Liberals who are choking like chickens on tackling workplace bullying.  None of that's spin and the Liberal Party, the fact that they won't tackle workplace bullying in a manner recommended by a Federal Parliamentary enquiry that to me is reprehensible.

REPORTER:              But surely, it's the Labor MP's who are showing this sort of disrespect.

BILL SHORTEN:       I tell you what, Labor voters want Labor MP's to stop fighting amongst themselves and get on with the real issues and I also know that real issues, if you want to talk real issues, you can't top spending more money on schools so kids have got more choices and a better start.

You can't top a National Disability Insurance Scheme.  You can't be in favour of a new 15 per cent tax on low paid workers and you've certainly got to say if the Liberal Party think workplace bullying is not an issue, that it doesn't deserve action, well they don't deserve to be the government of Australia.

Thanks very much everyone.  You guys are like recovering addicts when you want to talk about leadership issues.  Why is it that we're talking about workplace bullying and I can't get a question out of some of you on that?

Can I tell you something about workplace bullying?  It's more important to a lot more people than some of the questions that you've been trying to raise about spin and otherwise.  Thank you.