Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Press conference for launch of Ethical Clothing Australia Award Guide, Melbourne, 22 February, 2012

SUBJECT/S:   Launch of Ethical Australia Award Guide

BILL SHORTEN:   I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, the Wurundjeri people.  I'd like to acknowledge their elders past and present.  I'd also like to acknowledge the Homeworkers who are here, Simon McRae, John Condilis, who if he gets bored making jeans can probably just go into public speaking.

 It is good to be here and it is good to be launching this award and in doing that I'm going to look forward to going to see John's factory afterwards if time permits to have a look at that because nobody - jeans has obviously been working very well but it's good to launch this award because it's important and overdue and I'm pleased also that Adam Bandt's here, who's worked on as the local member.

It is good now that a guide to the award can be available in more than one language.  It's long overdue.  It means that employers will know their obligations and workers will know their rights and that good things are made and sold, even in difficult times, that they're sold to customers, they're sold to customers who actually are loyal to local industries.

I believe that the demand for clothing that is made ethically is growing.  That demand is growing and it's sustainable.  Australian manufacturing faces a challenging future but one of the secrets I think for Australian manufacturers is to not only be able to produce things at a certain cost but it's to have strong brand values, to be the product in the shelf in Australia or somewhere else that people go looking for.

I actually believe that having an ethical brand value as part of your brand means that you've got a better chance of competing and distinguishing and diversifying your product from other products in the market.  We know that the decision to buy is now increasingly accompanied by the decision to buy ethically.

We know that many people who come to Australia are aware of this concept and I think it's almost in a secular society, we almost all believe in the religion of the fair go in Australia and that does involve, as Michelle said, the right to a safe workplace, the right to reasonable wages, the right to worthwhile products and indeed the ability to have rights at work.

I think that when we talk about following the award, when we talk about ethical clothing, we're actually talking about respect.  We're talking about respect for ourselves and we're talking about respect for each other.  This is a very - Ethical ClothingAustraliais a very good business union initiative.  They're a not for profit committee, the Government's pleased to be able to support it as an initiative.

I think it is fair to say that when you look at the history of our societies, certainly in the last two hundred years, the role or position of garment workers - in particular many of them tend to be female garment workers - the way which we measure how we're going is partly measured by the way we treat our garment workers.

e see our Homeworkers. It's an important part of the way people earn their living but it is clear to me that a lot of our Homeworkers are migrants who've come to Australia looking for a better go and when they want to be part of the Australian success story, I think that the society to which they're received needs to treat people with respect.

We’ve put in place since Labor was elected the Fair Work Act which has redressed, I believe, some of the unfairnesses from the Howard Government era.  We are also ensuring that Homeworkers have rights and we've got more legislation being debated in Parliament.  But I think that procurement also shores up the rights of people to a fair deal.

It's great that the Defence Materiel Organisation's here.  It's great that if you want to sell something to the Federal Government, it should have the ethical clothing accreditation as part of the deal that you do with the Australian Government.

So I think that today's guide is not just a step forward for Homeworkers.  I think today's guide is not just a step forward for employers to know where they stand.  I think today's guide is not just a step forward for the idea that unions and business can cooperate, which they can.  I think today's guide is not just a step forward for the idea that people should be treated with self - treated with respect.

I also think it's the basis upon whichAustraliacan still even be a manufacturing economy.  It's the basis upon which we will have strong brands globally.  I think that when you look at the sensitivity of some of the large North American brands to - if they've got operations inIndonesiaorChinaand the furore which comes if they find that people are working in substandard conditions, it undermines those brands globally.

I think that what we're seeing here is the positive side of that debate.  What we're seeing here is people saying that if you treat people well, your product will actually be more commercially sustainable. If you treat people right through the production chain and the value chain with the sort of dignity that you yourself would like to receive, it builds confidence in the product.

At the end of the day for me, the issue about workplace relations isn't some sort of remote issue about where the pendulum on regulations stands.  It's really about how you would like your husband or your wife, your son or your daughter, your mother or your father, your brother or your sister, how would you like that person to be treated.

Work is a fundamental part of our lives.  We spend about a third of our adult life working.  It is important that in that condition that we get at least the chance to have some self-respect.  So I think this guide is about a whole lot of things and I'm terribly pleased of the media interest in it.  So thanks very much and well done to everyone.