Bill's Transcripts





27 AUGUST 2013





Subjects: Eric Abetz’s hands-in-your-pocket approach to IR; Coalition’s buy the boats plan; Coalition’s stop the trains plan; Garden Island; News Corp.



DAVID SPEERS: What exactly are you worried about? Because Tony Abbott has been pretty low-key on the issue of industrial relations.


BILL SHORTEN: Well, despite the best efforts of the Coalition to hide their workplace relations plans until after the election, Eric Abetz’s comment - he’s the Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations - he said he would intervene if elected and get the Fair Work Commission to review wage agreements, where employees and employers negotiate wage rises which are higher than a couple of percent, which is the inflation rate.


There’s a lot of workers who are confused and say: what would Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz know about our daily tasks in the construction sector, or in nursing? Why is it that a Coalition Government gets upset about us getting a 3 per cent or 4 per cent pay rise yet says nothing about CEO salaries in this country? So people are very concerned about the threat of interference in their wages agreements. And this is a real concern. It’s a bizarre intervention from the Coalition. But it just shows that they’re never happy when workers are happy in terms of getting pay rises.


The other big issue which a lot of people have expressed concern to me about is skills and training. People know that not everyone in Australia – not every child wants to go to university. But there are good, meaningful, rewarding careers in trades, many trades, for young people. That’s why a lot of workers have expressed concerns to us about the Coalition’s intention to not continue with further trades training centres in Australian schools. I mean, they’ve all noticed that the Coalition say that they want to provide loans to apprentices, but they already know that the current Government already provides loans to apprentices, plus a $5,500 allowance for their tools.
So training’s an issue which worries employees, as does the Coalition’s track record on workplace relations and their stated intention to do something about workers getting decent pay rises.


SPEERS: Just to pick up on that point there, about the Coalition and what Eric Abetz has said. As you quote there, he’s saying have the Fair Work Commission review those pay rises. So it’s not really Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz they’d have to worry about, it’s the Fair Work Commission.


SHORTEN: Hang on. I didn’t come down in the last shower. Nor did the nine or ten million Australians who are employees in Australia. What business is it of the Coalition to start proposing legislative mechanisms which would allow the independent umpire to start interfering in negotiations between employees and employers? I’d have a little bit more respect for the Coalition if they said they would get someone independent to start interfering with executive remuneration that CEOs pay themselves. Why is it that the Coalition only ever seem to get antsy or worked up about building workers getting a better pay rise, or resource workers, but you never hear them ever talk about CEO salaries? This is classic Coalition politics.


They - their definition of enterprise bargaining - is that the employees are the bargain, and the employer is the enterprise, and that’s the way it should be. No equality in negotiations. The other thing which has been taxing the minds of Queensland workers is they think it is just bizarre, this proposal that the taxes they pay will be shipped off to South East Asia to buy second hand fishing boats. I mean, any Australian schoolchild knows that Indonesia is an archipelago made up of many hundreds of islands. Most ordinary people who don’t pretend to be the Coalition sort of brains trust, they think it is just ridiculous that all of a sudden in Indonesia fishermen will be able to trade in their second hand boat courtesy of the Coalition using taxpayer dollars. They think it’s ridiculous.


SPEERS: I’m not sure how you segued into the Coalition’s fishing boats policy –


SHORTEN: Don’t you think it’s ridiculous?


SPEERS: Can I ask you about Labor’s policy here –


SHORTEN: No, but it’s being raised with me. It’s been raised.


SPEERS: I’m sure it has. Can I ask you about Labor’s policies? Now, we’ve had in recent days and I know that you keep putting pressure on Tony Abbott to release his policy costings. We have heard from Kevin Rudd now, plans for a big tax cut in the Northern Territory, plans for a high-speed rail network, and today, possibly shifting naval assets that would cost at least $6 billion. All of these outside the forward estimates period but with big bucks attached to them. How responsible is this?


SHORTEN: If you’re worried about what’s happening beyond the forward estimates I’d have thought the first question you’d have raised with me is that Tony Abbott has crab walked away from saying that if elected the Coalition will have a surplus in the first year –


SPEERS: Bill Shorten, can we just focus on Labor’s policy here –


SHORTEN: He’s said he’ll do something in the next – well, it’s a comparison. When you fill out your ballot paper it’s not a question of whether or not you vote for Labor or nothing. It’s a comparison, and you asked me about Labor’s proposals for high-speed rail, which is a great, nation-building idea. I mean, why is it that Tony Abbott, who sees himself as a so-called, self-styled, allegedly infrastructure Prime Minister if elected - when he wants to stop the trains, stop the high-speed rail?


So what we will do is – we’re planning for the future. I think high-speed rail is a great idea. As for moving naval assets closer towards their theatre of operations, that’s sensible. And in terms of taking the long-term view, we all know, I know and you know and Australians know that on one hand the Coalition is on some sort of spend-a-thon, on the other they’re promising smaller government, which means the people will get squeezed in between the Coalition’s sort of Captain Whacky policies of boats in Indonesia and the other sort of crazy stuff they’re dreaming up to buy votes, and smaller government.


The people who get squeezed are the people who rely on healthcare services, who rely on better funding for schools, who rely on the trades training centres. I mean, the Opposition’s saying that they’ll only ever get to a surplus in a decade. In a decade.


SPEERS: But on today’s announcement –


SHORTEN: There are football teams on the bottom of league ladders who are more likely to win Grand Finals.


SPEERS: On today’s Garden Island announcement, though, even the Government’s own Defence White Paper, just a few months ago, said this was not the way to go. So when you talk about Captain Whacky ideas, this has been thrown out eleven days before an election. No idea how you’d pay for this. And no evidence to back up why it’s needed.


SHORTEN: David – you’re a, you know, if you want to talk about throwing policies out, eleven days out, why is it that we haven’t got the Coalition’s costings eleven days out?


SPEERS: I’m asking about Labor’s policy announcement today.


SHORTEN: In terms of the sensible proposition which would see – I’m comparing and contrasting with the conservative approach.
You are correctly saying, well, if you get a policy at a certain point in time, what’s the basis for it, and is it too close to an election?

Defence’s Force Posture Review which was released on May 3rd this year indicates the sense of moving our naval assets closer to their forward operations and their operating theatre.


SPEERS: Well, I’m not sure if you’ve read it, but it does say a supplementary base could be considered –


SHORTEN: New Zealand is unlikely to invade us –


SPEERS: – but in the short term, stick with Garden Island. That’s what the Defence Force Posture Review said.


SHORTEN: Sure – and what we are saying is we want to move our naval assets closer to the northern and western parts of Australia. We’re going to work, obviously, with the defence experts. We will work with the Chief of the Defence Force and the relevant experts. But moving our naval assets closer to their operational theatres does seem eminently sensible. But you are also raising the point that it’s eleven days out from an election.
It’s eleven days out from an election and the Coalition are playing hide and seek with their policies Where they hide them, the population of Australia seek them, and if we don’t catch them and find them in the next eleven days, the reward is the Coalition gets the Government of Australia. That is not a sound way to run in this election. And I make no apology, even on this show, for saying the Coalition should come clean with their views. And they should come clean with the cuts that they’re going to do to hospitals and schools. And we’re not going to give up on them until this election is conducted.


SPEERS: Just a final question, Bill Shorten. We’ve heard Kevin Rudd today, again, commenting and complaining about some of the News Corp coverage that Labor’s received. How do you feel about this issue? Do you feel unfairly treated?


SHORTEN: There are 15 million voters who will decide this election. It is clear that some of the newspaper outlets have taken a very early view, more in the style of North America or the UK about picking a side and then barracking for that view. At the end of the day, the voters will decide. I think that voters will be able to work out when someone’s being a cheer squad or not. In the meantime, what is important for me, what’s important for Australians is what will the Coalition do to continue schools funding. They’re not offering the same deal as us. What will they really do in workplace relations – because they’ve already said they’re unhappy with workers getting pay rises, and they want to second guess the arrangements employers and employees come to.

Eric Abetz, who’s now back in the witness protection program with their IR policies, said that lazy employers are handing out too much in the way of pay rises. Who’s Eric Abetz to start telling Australians how to run their businesses?


SPEERS: Alright, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, we’ll have to leave it there – but probably catch up with you before election day. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.




Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111