Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Interview with Denis Walter, 3AW, 7 March 2012

Subject: Nurses dispute

DENIS WALTER: Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten. Good afternoon.

BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon, Denis.

DENIS WALTER: You wanted to talk about the resolution - or the resolution, hopefully, by Thursday of next week, which is the 16th. This is not a federal issue though.

BILL SHORTEN: No. The employment of nurses is done by the State Government but, clearly, there's been a stalemate - each point of view - the nurses, the Government - have had seemingly immovable positions. We've certainly encouraged, in the last couple of weeks, the parties to just - I know there’s history, but you've got to get down and - Victorians expect a settlement.

 And what I was pleased to be informed late yesterday is that whilst the deal isn't done, the proverbial large lady is clearing her throat to sing.

DENIS WALTER: Well, we hope that's the case.


DENIS WALTER: And the nurses wanted an independent - sort of someone to judge, independently, and to make sure that - that was one of the real sticking points.

BILL SHORTEN: I think that's right. Listen, I understand the state Government's got to balance budgets and do all of that. And I'm not - I know they're a different political party to me, but I'm not being smart. I know they've got to do that.

By the same token I think our nurses do a fantastic job. So I have been a little outspoken in the last week and a half, saying it's not a great look to have forty thousand nurses offside.

I don't think they're a bunch of sort of greedy people trying to get their second Rolls Royce or Harley Davidson in the garage. They're just about making ends meet and providing good patient care.

DENIS WALTER: I think everyone is sympathetic to the nurses' position, but also concerned for the wellbeing of patients.

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, that's true. And - but I fundamentally believe, for all the industrial carry on - nurses' first priority, and it has been throughout, is to their patients.

It's a tough situation. If you feel you can't get your point made and they're sort of trapped in an industrial position, how do you make your point and not get run over the top of?

But I do think that it appears that in the last couple of days there's been lots of preparatory talks to resolving the matter. And, certainly, I know that the federal independent umpire, Fair Work Australia, is available to assist.

DENIS WALTER: But, you know, to - disputes within organisations and your own party - these things can go on. But this one's gone for far too long, given the relevance of the work that the nurses do.

BILL SHORTEN: That's right. And I'd certainly form the view at about the 106 day stage that enough's enough. Neither side - I don’t know if you've ever sat in a room with someone and they keep talking, they keep talking. You see the lips moving but you're not being convinced by what you're hearing. And I think this dispute had definitely moved into that territory.

But it does appear, to be fair to the Bailieu Government and, of course, to the nurses' leadership, that they seem to have got through some of the issues in the last couple of days.

Instead of focusing on the metaphoric - the pencil - they've started looking at the whole forest. And I think that perspective is [inaudible].

DENIS WALTER: Did you see the front of The Age today, Bill?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, I did, yes.

DENIS WALTER: Have you got a relative who's done something that might embarrass the family?

BILL SHORTEN: I think from my relatives I'm the embarrassing one.

DENIS WALTER: It's you. It's you.

BILL SHORTEN: I'm sure. I know there's people who have got the surname Shorten; some of whom are not related to me. I think sometimes get free character advice about something I might have said or done on behalf of workers or, you know, the labour debate and - anyway, just - I'm going to use this chance just to say a generic - you know, if you've got the same surname [inaudible]. If you're happy with me, that's good. But if you're unhappy with me, you just tell them you're not related.

DENIS WALTER: Yes. If there are any Shortens out there give us a call - 96900693.

Bill, good to talk to you again.

BILL SHORTEN: No worries. Cheers. Thank you.

DENIS WALTER: Bill Shorten, Minister for Workplace Relations.

And it is great to - Thursday week, the 16th. Hopefully, we're going to have a complete resolution - agreement in this nurses' dispute.