Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Sky News with Kieran Gilbert

Station: Sky News
Presenter: Kieran Gilbert
Date: 25 May 2012

SUBJECT/S:  Craig Thomson, Registered Organisations Act

KIERAN GILBERT: Bill Shorten thanks very much for your time.

BILL SHORTEN: It’s a pleasure.

KIERAN GILBERT: Tony Abbott has suggested that the Prime Minister should allow Craig Thomson to quit parliament and that that would be in his best interest. This is in response to calls that he needs a bit of sympathy for what he is going through at the moment. What do you make of the opposition’s argument there- that it would be better for Craig Thomson’s if he left the parliament?

BILL SHORTEN: I think they’re crocodile tears from Mr Abbott. Anyone who has witnessed the relentless attack, the personal destruction of Mr Thomson by the Liberal Party in the last weeks and months would find this about-face attack belated.

The Government has no time for any of the behaviour that was reported from parts of the HSU – the Health Services Unions. No time at all. The findings of the Fair Work Report are very serious. But they haven’t been tested by cross examination. I think the Liberal Party has demonstrated that it’s not full of Rumpoles of the Bailey on the other side. We need to have these matters tested in court. We owe it to the members of that union. We owe it to the families of the individuals that have been named in the findings. That is where you have the final closure on this matter. But, Mr Abbott has engaged in the personal destruction of Mr Thomson. And, I think when they say, oh well, we’ll let you off the hook if you just disappear from Parliament. That to me, that is a pre-emption of the findings of the court.

KIERAN GILBERT: But what about the government’s position though? Isn’t there a contradiction in the sense that you’ve acted as Judge, well the Prime Minister has to the extent that she has moved him to the cross-bench, suspended him from the Labor party, and you’re still saying that the Fair Work Australia report – the findings in it - aren’t the basis to which to not accept his vote full stop?

BILL SHORTEN: Two points. One is that the findings are not tested in court. I’ve made it very clear as the new Minister for Industrial Relations, when I got the report, that the report’s findings are terrible, but they do have to be cross-examined. There has been no cross-examination. I’m not here to defend individuals. In terms of Mr Thomson’s departure from Labor’s caucus I have no doubt that he and the Prime Minister arrived at the conclusion, that with the controversy, even if untested in the court, sufficient that both the Prime Minister and Mr Thomson believed it was best that he no longer be a member of the Labor Caucus. I think that’s just a bit of respect for the Labor Caucus. But that doesn’t to me, take some admission of guilt or otherwise.

KIERAN GILBERT:  Next week your introducing legislation to try and prevent parts of this ever happening again, tougher fines on unions, and also having the Fair Work Australia organisation empowered to do these investigations quicker. Because, obviously as you’ve said before it was far too long. That’s essentially the crux of this legislation next week isn’t it?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, the rules governing unions and employer organisations are governed by what’s called the Registered Organisations Act. Interestingly, the current rules, which are proven to be deficient, were introduced by the then Minister for Industrial Relations in 2002, one Mr Tony Abbott. So it’s his laws which were proven deficient. We’ll be updating them. We’re consulting with unions and employers today. Four key features; you’ve got to disclose what the top people are getting paid in employer associations and unions. We do want to increase the penalties significantly, so that when mistermeaners are proven, so they are not just the equivalent of a speeding fine in terms of the way they are treated. We also want to see better education for a lot of the volunteers and the people that serve on the committees and management of employer organisations and unions. And yes, clearly, the report has taken too long. So we want to do, is strengthen the ability of the independent regulator to do their job in a more speedy, efficient and effective way.

KIERAN GILBERT: You’re talking about increasing fines and so on, but not criminal penalties. Why is that?

BILL SHORTEN: Well the Registered Organisations Act, by and large, deals with civil matters so yeah we do want to increase the penalties there.

KIERAN GILBERT: But there is no scope for, if there are serious breaches to criminal penalties.

BILL SHORTEN: Good question, I should just clarify. Where someone has committed a criminal penalty they are dealt with elsewhere anyway. So the Registered Organisations Act deals with a stream of activity and the penalties there with civil penalties. If someone has done a criminal act it will be dealt with there.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Shorten thanks for your time.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks very much.

Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Sam Casey 0421 697 660