Bill's Transcripts



08:49 FRIDAY

10 MAY 2013



KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda.  Thanks for your company this morning.  More on the Coalition workplace policy now.  I spoke to the Workplace Minister, Bill Shorten, for his reaction from his electorate, Moonee Ponds in Melbourne, a bit earlier this morning.  I asked him, first of all, on the one hand, he’s saying that the Coalition is hiding its true intentions, but on the other, that it’s reopened the door to Work Choices and I asked him, surely, it can’t be both.

BILL SHORTEN: We all know that when the Liberal Government was last in power, they said, trust us.  They never talked about their policies.  They said, everyone will be okay.  They said, we’ll guarantee people, but in came individual contracts and what happened is these are individual contracts, which allowed - they were basically take it or leave it contracts.  The employer was able to say to an employee, you like your job here, don’t you?

If you do, sign this and down go the penalty rates, there go the shift rates, no roster protections, even starting times started to get changed around and today, or yesterday, I should say, and today, they’ve revealed a policy which says that individual flexibility agreements, which they want to turn into individual contracts, where it can be about all matters.  There’s no guarantee about the protection of the award or the agreement.  In fact, Kieran, their industrial relations policy should be called Pizza for Penalty Rates policy, because they are now proposing a concept that we thought was dead, buried and cremated.

They are proposing that if you work in a fast food business, that if your individual flexibility agreement says you can be paid pizzas to the value of what you would have been paid in cash, well, that would pass the Liberal test.  It’s just nonsense.  These guys are repeat offenders and they just - they won’t come clean.

KIERAN GILBERT: But Tony Abbott has said that these individual flexibility arrangements that you’ve referred to this morning are underpinned by the no worse off test, which your legislation has put in place.  He was repeating that - he was at pains to make that known yesterday that your legislation is underpinning his policy.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, he’s just wrong.  First of all, Tony Abbott has currently done a new edition of his book, Battlelines, so he’s getting some royalties.  Good luck to him, but in the book Battlelines, the book he’s now selling, he says that Work Choices wasn’t all bad.  So this is a guy who’s got serial form in terms of saying one thing and doing something else.  That’s what he did when he was last in charge of industrial relations.  That’s what he’s doing with his book compared to his policy yesterday, but don’t take my word for it.  Just have a look at the fine print.

They say that they are going to support a recommendation for individual arrangements which says that you could technically be no worse off - say, you’re owed $30 for doing a night shift delivering pizzas.  Well, under this bloke’s policy, if the owner says, well, you like your job, don’t you?  Here are three family sized capriosca pizzas, that would add up to $30.  I mean, under Tony Abbott’s, you could drive a Mack truck through, you know, smoke screen policy, anything goes.  These guys want to go back to anything goes.  The employee has no choice.  This idea that somehow every employee has equal power to their employer just doesn’t cut the mustard in the real world.

He’s proposing to make individual contracts so wide that an employer can offer nearly anything and say, well, that’s what you would have been paid, so like it or lump it.  It’s my way or the highway.  These guys, the Liberal Party, cannot be trusted.  We all know.  Like, let’s tell the truth here in Australia about politics.  These guys, the Liberal Party, want to be a small target, but they can’t help themselves, even when it comes to the detail of individual contracts, they want to take away the fair go for workers.

KIERAN GILBERT: It’s hardly a Work Choices revival, as you’re painting though.  He’s said he’ll send any changes to unfair dismissals, penalty rates to our Productivity Commission review and that that would - any proposals to put to a subsequent election, and as I said before, pointed out, he is saying that there will be this no worse off test, which you put in place in your own legislation.

BILL SHORTEN: No.  Kieran, he’s selling you a bill of goods.  Please, just because Tony Abbott repeats something often enough doesn’t make it true.  We’ve got protections for workers.  That’s one thing that Labor does do.  He is proposing, for instance, any example where you can have an individual contract and if you could get paid in non-monetary benefits, to the same level that you would have got in cash, well, that would pass the Liberal Party test.  I mean, these guys want to go back to a cargo cult where you get food for work.  This is - we ruled specifically out a couple of hair brain extreme ideas these guys are breathing oxygen into.  The point about it all is they say, give us a blank cheque.

The electoral mandate they’re seeking in workplace relations is, yeah, we’ll change things.  We don’t know want we want to do yet, so don’t ask us before the election.  We want to be a small target.  I mean, the point about it is on September the 14th, when people cast a ballot, there is a choice.  Everyone knows what we think about workplace relations.  These guys are saying, yeah, yeah, we’re going to give you a hint that we’re going to expand individual contracts.  Just trust us.  Well, they couldn’t be trusted last time.

Did you know, Kieran, every time in Parliament since 2007, there’s been a legislation mechanism to improve cooperation in the workplace, to improve productivity, to improve workers’ conditions and entitlements, to make their jobs secure, the Liberal Party vote no?  They voted no against legislation several times, so it’s not a question of just believing of what I say.  It’s a question of they want to expand individual contracts.

They want people to be able to be paid in non-monetary benefits.  I mean, Kieran, would you come and work for Sky if they just gave you free subscription to Foxtel?  I mean, it’s not - but of course, you’re capable of negotiating for yourself, but there are a lot of people who desperately need work and so they’re going to have these take it or leave it arrangements with no choice.

KIERAN GILBERT: That was Bill Shorten speaking to me in Melbourne a bit earlier.

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