Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Interview with Jon Faine, ABC 774, 24 April 2012

Subjects: Peter Slipper, Toyota job losses

JON FAINE: ...but calling in is Bill Shorten, the Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.  The car industry is in some sort of crisis as you have been hearing this morning.  Bill Shorten’s had years of involvement in the industry. Mr Shorten, good morning to you.

BILL SHORTEN:  Good morning.

JON FAINE: First of all, with Peter Slipper bringing the Government into crisis mode, Tony Abbott says this proves Julia Gillard has no judgement and the Government’s legitimacy is under a cloud.

BILL SHORTEN: Tony Abbott attacking Julia Gillard, that’s hardly news to me. That’s what he does for a living. But the Government’s getting on with business.

JON FAINE: You’re struggling to get on with business while there is this background noise with Mr Slipper who is, as Tony Abbott reminds us, ‘your creature, not his’.

BILL SHORTEN: Ah well, first of all, let’s be very clear, sexual harassment if proven, is completely unacceptable. But it has to be proven. I understand why Tony Abbott is angry with Peter Slipper. It could be about the allegations and he believes them. It could also be the 38 years this fellow was a conservative and then he became an independent the last four months. So what I know is there is a process. Got to get to the truth of that matter. But Mr Abbott’s contributions I think, are of a political nature and you know, he’s negative, and that’s his brand.

JON FAINE: It seems it’s open season on Peter Slipper this morning. Some of the newspapers in fact go so far as to basically, in colloquial terms, to ‘out’ Mr Slipper. Do they?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh well, I’m not going to get into...

JON FAINE: Is it inappropriate?

BILL SHORTEN: Is it inappropriate attacking someone’s sexuality...or making allegations about it?  This is not something I’m interested in. I judge a person by their job, not their sexuality.

JON FAINE: What about media outlets that choose to ‘out’ someone?

BILL SHORTEN: Look, I don’t want to give any more oxygen to the issue. Harassment is a serious issue, it’s a terrible issue, sexual harassment. Beyond that, there’s a civil process underway. Beyond that Mr Abbott is trying to talk about those issues, he doesn’t want to talk about his lack of policies.

JON FAINE: Alright, let’s turn to the car industry if we could Bill Shorten. 1800 Ford workers are about to be given a holiday they don’t want because of a dispute over a rented factory in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. The taxpayers can’t continue to prop up the automotive industry into perpetuity, can they?

BILL SHORTEN: I think this issue at CMI is a bit more complex than a company not using taxpayers money properly. I’ve been speaking to people in the car industry to work that through. We’re looking to have confirmation of a particular company who’s been appointed as voluntary administrator and I’ll be in touch with them.  Part of the issue here and I don’t know all the facts...part of the issue is the car company don’t keep large stocks of inventory. They rely on just-in-time production from tier one and tier two components suppliers. If the components supplier’s are doing it hard financially because of the way the business model of the car industry is set up, where you don’t keep a lot of inventory, all of a sudden, if something goes wrong with a key components supplier you can hit a shortage very quickly.

JON FAINE: Understood. But can the taxpayer continue to prop up three car companies in Australia into perpetuity? I would have thought not. You’re saying ‘not on our watch - we won’t let one of them go to the wall...’

BILL SHORTEN: I don’t believe the taxpayer is propping up the car industry as you put it. I think you’ll find that where there has been government assistance to the big car companies it’s been timely, focussed, assisting with change, so they can build cars for the future, not just the present day.

JON FAINE: You wouldn’t want to give Toyota too much money at the moment would you Bill Shorten? Later this morning there will be a claim made that they specifically targeted shop stewards, health and safety officers, officials from your ex-union in their redundancies last week.

BILL SHORTEN: Well it’s the AMWU not the AWU, but yes, you are right. I said last week publicly that in the first 24 hours that when the redundancies are being implemented, I want to see what the facts were. But I am disturbed at the volume of complaints. I am disturbed at my own anecdotal evidence which I’ve heard about the processes. Toyota may have an explanation about this, or they may not. The union is representing its members and trying to get to the bottom of this.

What I would say make three points here this morning in the interview about the car industry. One, you’ve got this issue of CMI. As I understand, there is a receiver or voluntary administrator currently in the process of being appointed. The Victorian Government’s working through some details. I’ll be in touch with them as soon as we know the identity of the person who’s going to be put in to look after CMI.

The broader point is about taxpayer assistance for the car industry.  The vast bulk of the car industry is funded by the car industry.  But this Government has certainly formed the view—unlike our negative opponents, the Abbott conservatives—that the car industry is worth supporting in Australia.

And the third point about Toyota you made in the way they lay off people, companies lay workers off. Companies are entitled obviously to lay people off. The car industry has been hit by the high Australian dollar which means imports are a lot cheaper but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do business. No one says the company shouldn’t have the right to lay people off but if you’ve got a process which is so scientific that it in fact becomes gibberish to the people who are affected by it, to my way of thinking, that’s not the right way you treat people.

JON FAINE: We will see what happens in court later today. Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.