Bill's Transcripts

The Project - Channel 10

03 June 2013



CARRIE BICKMORE: As the NBN asbestos scare spreads to three sites in Queensland, the Federal Government’s set up a task force to make sure contractors aren’t exposed. The task force will be made up of Commonwealth regulators and senior Telstra management.

DAVID THODEY: Every time anything happens about asbestos, we take ownership and responsibility. But the fact is there is asbestos in the infrastructure and we’re going to address it.

CHARLIE PICKERING: Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has made some serious promises today, and he joins us now. Bill, you met today with Telstra. Are you confident that asbestos in these pits is now being treated safely?

BILL SHORTEN: I’m confident that Telstra knows it’s got to lift its standards and pull up its socks. Telstra today, in a meeting with Government ministers, victims’ groups, unions, other stakeholders, said they accept responsibility for what’s gone wrong. They’ve promised to lift standards. But we won’t just rely on Telstra; we will have independent monitoring to make sure that the promises are real.

CARRIE BICKMORE: Does the Government take any responsibility for this, or is it all Telstra’s issue?

BILL SHORTEN: I think fundamentally Telstra are the people who own the infrastructure; they own the pits where this asbestos material is.

COMPERE: Minister, I know how seriously you take the asbestos issue, and you’re now backing a plan to have every house that’s sold or renovated or leased checked for asbestos. Potentially, couldn’t you be creating a bigger problem by having untrained people poking around looking for this stuff?

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, what I’ve actually said in the fine print of the article is that there’s a third of Australia’s houses between 1945 and the mid-80s are estimated to have asbestos. I think that any parent who’s purchasing a house their kids are going to live in is probably going to want to be aware of asbestos. This stuff is deadly.

CHARLIE PICKERING: Now the other big news from your portfolio: we’ve just heard that Australia’s lowest paid workers, 1.5 million of them, will receive an extra $15.80 a week. Business groups say it’s too much; unions say it’s not enough. Have you got any friends left in this one?

BILL SHORTEN: Well when you look at what Labor’s done for working Australians who don’t get a lot of money, this is a system where the independent umpire’s delivered a pay rise. Our minimum wage is the third or fourth highest in the world. I wouldn’t want to be trying to get by on the minimum wage, but we are still doing better in this country than most other places and we should have a strong minimum wage.

CHARLIE PICKERING: Well minister, it’s been a busy day. Thanks for your time.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks guys. Have a nice evening.