3AW – Mornings with Neil Mitchell
25 May 2012
NEIL MITCHELL: Now Bill Shorten, Joe Hockey in our Canberra studio.
The Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning, Neil.
NEIL MITCHELL: Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, good morning.
JOE HOCKEY: Good morning, Neil.
NEIL MITCHELL: Now you’ll both behave yourself because you’re together, I’m in Melbourne and you’ll be uncontrollable, won’t you?
JOE HOCKEY: No.
BILL SHORTEN: Not at all.
NEIL MITCHELL: All right.
JOE HOCKEY: We get on well.
NEIL MITCHELL: That’s what worried me. Joe Hockey, your leader has said today it’s perhaps time we back off Craig Thompson and he should be sort of sent off on holiday or he should leave the parliament. You agree with him I assume?
JOE HOCKEY: Yes, I do.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay, will the Opposition then agree not to exploit the fact that the Government loses his vote?
JOE HOCKEY: Well that’s a ridiculous question because…
NEIL MITCHELL: Why?
JOE HOCKEY: …he is a creature of the Labor Party, he is supporting the Labor Party. We have to deal with the numbers as they stand in the floor of the house. As you know Peter Slipper is not voting at the moment. He was elected by the Liberal Party.
NEIL MITCHELL: But it is complicating things that - Craig Thompson I agree should go off somewhere and get his head together. But it’s complicating things because if he does that the Government loses a vote. You in an act of generosity in the Opposition could say, we'll let him go and we won’t exploit it.
JOE HOCKEY: Well hang on, what do you mean exploit? I mean do you have to have votes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Well give him pair effectively.
JOE HOCKEY: The independents are holding up the Government, they’re not going to change their position are they?
NEIL MITCHELL: So you wouldn’t make that agreement?
JOE HOCKEY: Well I’m not in a position to make any agreement because he’s voting with the Labor Party, he’s choosing to vote with the Labor Party. He owes the Labor Party hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal fees and I expect that’s one of the reasons why he’ll continue to support the Labor Party. And frankly, [laughs], you know, it’s the independents that are holding up the Government and have been since last election.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay well Bill Shorten, do you agree that he should go off and get his head together?
BILL SHORTEN: I do agree that the personal destruction and the attacks need to stop. I do believe that it is not the role of parliament to play judge and jury. I’m pleased that if the Opposition’s realised that they’ve done a - not withstanding anything he has or hasn’t done, the attacks which he’s been subjected to are incredibly destructive.
So I don’t believe that the personal attacks need to continue. But what I also know is that the parliament can’t act as judge and jury. The Fair Work report is a serious substantial report; it had - details all sorts of findings which are gravely disturbing. But they haven’t been subject to cross-examination and you do have to - once you concluded the investigation stage - go to the court stage.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay, but everybody’s saying their concerned for this man’s mental health, what do you do about it? I mean do you think Bill Shorten he should go off on a break?
BILL SHORTEN: Well I do believe that he certainly needs a break from the personal attacks on him. He’s got - I think he said nine different investigations. He’ll have his day in court and I think in the meantime and I’ve sat through, listened carefully to what the Opposition have to say, they can deplore the conduct reported in the HSU but they’re not a - they’re not judge and jury.
And I do think that he’s going to have to answer to a whole lot of people in this court process. He’s going to have to answer to a whole lot of things. And in the meantime I don’t see what dancing on him - I don’t see how that helps him. More importantly, I don’t see how that it helps the standing of parliament.
NEIL MITCHELL: Why don’t we just go to an election? I mean seriously, there are probably tens of thousands of people around this country who are sitting in a position waiting for judgement on something they may or may not have done. This is complicated because of the power he has with that one vote. Either ignore that vote or go to an election.
BILL SHORTEN: Well we don’t live a country where you just go to the election every Saturday. We have terms of office…
NEIL MITCHELL: Would you disagree that the people want an election?
BILL SHORTEN: Do you reckon we want a pattern where we can have a revolving door election every week, every month, when you feel like it? No, I don’t buy that, I think Governments are elected to govern.
I mean what if the Libs were in power and all of a sudden everyone didn’t like something they did and they all said we should have an election. I don’t see the Liberals saying oh gee, we should go and have an election.
NEIL MITCHELL: Joe Hockey?
JOE HOCKEY: Well let’s go back a step. Firstly, he is not at the top of my sympathy list, Craig Thompson. At the top of my sympathy list are the eighty thousand members of the HSU that cleaned bedpans every day to pay their effectively mandatory fees to a union, entrusting union leaders with a duty of care. They’re my number one priority.
And secondly, if you’re asking about who this is hurting, it’s hurting good people in the union movement, it’s hurting good people - and there are good people in the Labor Party. It’s hurting his family, it’s hurting his friends. The process which has gone on for four years, in an agency that Bill yesterday said he has faith in, that’s right isn’t it? You have faith in Fair Work Australia?
BILL SHORTEN: Yep.
JOE HOCKEY: And confidence in Fair Work Australia. They’ve come up with an eleven hundred page document with findings. Not speculation, not allegations, findings.
NEIL MITCHELL: So what should happen now?
JOE HOCKEY: Well what should happen is he should disconnect himself entirely - well Julia Gillard should disconnect him entirely from the Labor Party. Bill says let’s - he’s innocent until proven guilty, well why did Julia Gillard throw him out of caucus but not throw him out of the parliament. Because she’s now saying that the Labor caucus has a higher standard than what the parliament should have.
That’s unacceptable, he should go. And Julia Gillard is the one who is responsible for this. She’s been defending him for four years, now she has to be held accountable for standing by him on an ongoing basis.
NEIL MITCHELL: So are you going to back off Craig Thompson and concentrate on Julia Gillard?
JOE HOCKEY: We are going to continue to prosecute the case that there is - there are very serious issues here. And that for so long as there is a link between the Labor Party, Julia Gillard and Craig Thompson it is unacceptable that our Prime Minister leave the country in this position.
NEIL MITCHELL: We’ll take a call, yes Rod, go ahead Rod.
CALLER ROD: Hi guys, I'm - it’s interesting to listen to what you’re saying but from an average Liberal voter’s point of view which I have been all my life, I think you - your parties are playing politics with not only the man’s health but the family’s wellbeing but also the general populous of Australia. You’re not doing what you should be doing. You’ve lost sight of what you’re there for which is to look after the country.
Let the process proceed and get this thing off the headlines, let it rest and let the law take its course. What he’s done in the past is in the past and he may - he will be challenged from that. So get back to running the country for God’s sake for the average person in this country who far exceeds the eighty thousand members of the HSU that lost their money.
Far exceed what part of the party you can come with.
NEIL MITCHELL: All righty, either of you got a comment on that?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes it’s Bill, I agree with the caller, I agree with partly also what Joe said. I do have - the top of my sympathy is in fact the members of the union. And I should say to begin with not all members of the HSU and not all branches of the HSU should be tarred with this brush. But in terms of the branches which are caught up in this, yes they have been let down by their union administration, there can be no doubt about that.
` But when I hear the Liberals talk about sympathy for health workers, then why is it that they don’t support the Fair Work Act which ensures they have a better chance of getting a pay rise? If they’re fair dinkum about health workers, why did they vote against increasing compulsory superannuation for low paid health workers? Why is it that we want to abolish the fifteen per cent tax paid on super by people who earn less than thirty-seven thousand dollars?
Do they oppose it? I mean…
NEIL MITCHELL: We’re getting into another area…
BILL SHORTEN: No - no.
JOE HOCKEY: Yeah, this is another area. I’m happy you’ve made each of those points but…
BILL SHORTEN: My point is that sometimes when I’ve heard the Libs bang on about we really care about what’s happened, when it comes to looking after a whole lot of issues which effect people who work in the health services industry, they’re remarkably silent on the rest. But I don’t think I am wrong to express some sympathy for Craig Thompson and his family as a human being.
I’m not here to defend individuals, but when is enough personal destruction enough?
JOE HOCKEY: Well I think the issue here at the moment is that he gave a one hour statement to parliament, the Prime Minister continually closed down debate about that one hour statement. We tried to get a proper discussion up, the Government kept closing down that debate. It goes to whether someone is telling a lie.
And this is a fundamental point. This is - I understand where that gentleman’s coming from but Mr Thompson made a one hour statement to parliament, we’re trying to hold him to account for that one hour statement because it totally contradicts an eleven hundred page document that was delivered by this Government.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay well look, we’ve got to take another quick call and then a break, Jeff, go ahead Jeff.
CALLER JEFF: Good morning Neil, gentlemen. Bill, could you honestly sit there with your hand on your heart and said that you’ve never - the Labor and yourself have never played gutter politics and attacked someone’s personal being. That is utter garbage. And as a member of the Labor Party I’m going to resign, I resigned from my union this morning. What you are doing is a disgrace and you should get on and govern the country and have an election and give what the people want.
NEIL MITCHELL: What’s your union Jeff?
CALLER JEFF: TWU.
NEIL MITCHELL: And what’s your objection? With the way that Thompson’s being treated is it?
CALLER JEFF: The way the public have been treated with this [unclear], Neil.
BILL SHORTEN: All right well Jeff; I can say that I haven’t engaged in this sort of gutter politics attack which we’ve seen on Thompson. So you - I’ve never met you I don’t think but I’ll tell you right now I certainly haven’t. Also if you’re a member of the TWU you’d probably be aware that this Government passed through safe rates legislation which will see the issues about long distance truck drivers and the low cartage rates they get paid which can comprise their personal safety.
So mate it’s up to you if you want to be in a union or not, but I’m not going to wear the argument that we’re not standing up for truck drivers because we are and our opponents oppose us.
NEIL MITCHELL: All right, I need to take a break but as quickly - from each of you very quickly, if we - if you’re concerned about Craig Thompson’s mental health, is he in a fit state to cast a vote, Bill Shorten?
BILL SHORTEN: Oh, that I don’t know. I know that Mal Washer’s been chatting to him. I’m sure he’s getting his own medical support. I know that individual members of the Labor caucus has been doing some pastoral care with him. And I do appreciate some of the change in tone in the last twenty-four hours. I think it’s a bit belated but I do appreciate an argument which is emerging which says this guy is going to be held to account by more enquiries and more forums than most human beings ever will.
Now some people will say he should be. My point though is that I don’t believe that catcalls from the Opposition are going to add anything to the sum of human knowledge on this debate.
NEIL MITCHELL: Let’s finish…
BILL SHORTEN: Let’s leave it to the judges.
NEIL MITCHELL: Let’s finish the topic on this; we’ll go to a break. Joe Hockey, is he in a fit state to cast a vote?
JOE HOCKEY: Well I don’t know but the fact of the matter is whilst he’s - there’s an umbilical cord between him and the Labor Party, his vote will continue to be influenced by the Labor Party. I mean Julia Gillard is like a python swallowing a football and pretending it’s not there, it is there.
NEIL MITCHELL: What she done?
JOE HOCKEY: You can’t ignore it and it needs to be dealt with.
BILL SHORTEN: Yeah but if he’s - if he’s sick, I know one thing the Libs won’t give him a pair.
JOE HOCKEY: Well mate…
BILL SHORTEN: Will you?
JOE HOCKEY: Well no...
BILL SHORTEN: So it doesn’t matter how sick he is…
JOE HOCKEY: Well he hasn’t applied, we don’t give independants pairs and you know that.
BILL SHORTEN: But if he’s…
JOE HOCKEY: You threw him out of the caucus Bill, you threw him out.
BILL SHORTEN: But Joe you’ve just said that he’s some football in someone's throat, so you’re implying that clearly he votes more than one way than the other…
JOE HOCKEY: No, he votes entirely with the Labor Party. You said that.
BILL SHORTEN: That’s right. So what you’ve said is you don’t give independence pairs, what you’ve also said is you don’t know if he’s sick. All I’m raising is if he was sufficiently ill that he couldn’t carry out his job, would you give him a pair?
JOE HOCKEY: I’m not giving - I’m not getting into the hypothetical - I don’t award pairs. But let me tell you, the people out there are calling for an election. They’ve had a gutful of this…
NEIL MITCHELL: But Joe Hockey, your leader has said that he should be sent off on a holiday. Now that is complicated if you don’t give him a pair.
JOE HOCKEY: Well, well - you know what…
BILL SHORTEN: It’s a false offer.
NEIL MITCHELL: Do you care about him or not?
JOE HOCKEY: They’ll send him on a holiday, provided they can get power.
BILL SHORTEN: Well let me just say this, there have been many instances in the past that are - that are not dissimilar to this. The Labor Party has never held back in going after our people. And I know that Dennis Shanahan’s column in the Australian this morning about the hypocrisy of Tony Windsor on these sorts of things.
Our job is not to try and hold up the Government. Our job is to hold them to account.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay, we’ll take a…
BILL SHORTEN: And we are holding them to account.
NEIL MITCHELL: I apologise. We’ll take a break and come back with some other issues. Bill Shorten and Joe Hockey.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay we’ve only got a few minutes. Bill Shorten and Joe Hockey in our Canberra studio.
Bill Shorten were you ever thrown out of school?
BILL SHORTEN: Do you mean detention or expelled?
NEIL MITCHELL: Suspended or expelled?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Detention?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Why?
BILL SHORTEN: Oh talking too much.
NEIL MITCHELL: No really?
BILL SHORTEN: Yeah. Little did I know that one day I’d be on 3AW.
There might be some of your listeners who still want to give me detention...
NEIL MITCHELL: What about you Joe Hockey, ever suspended?
JOE HOCKEY: No.
NEIL MITCHELL: Oh that took a while.
JOE HOCKEY: Ah...
NEIL MITCHELL: Are you sure?
JOE HOCKEY: Well I’m just reflecting on the Jesuit who’s turning a hundred at the end of this year who used to strap me for every spelling mistake I made.
NEIL MITCHELL: And that’s the worst thing you ever did?
BILL SHORTEN: There’s a rule isn’t there Neil that if you don’t know he doesn’t have to tell you.
JOE HOCKEY: That’s right.
NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah alright. The reason is there’s this policy that’s being tested in New South Wales and I know there’s been a bit of discussion about it. Clubs New South Wales making confidential records - anti-bullying, confidential school records available to schools - to prospective employers.
Now I’ve just been talking to Clubs and they say well if the kids won’t provide them they won’t get a job.
Now Workplace Relations Minister, is it appropriate to do this?
BILL SHORTEN: I’m all for doing work on bullying. That’s why the Government’s helping fund programs to stop cyber-bullying. That’s why I’ve been working with the Panlock family who you know...
NEIL MITCHELL: Yes.
BILL SHORTEN: ...about making sure people don’t get bullied at work.
This is probably not going to be - you know, meet the opinion poll test because everyone says well that’s good we don’t want to have bullies. I’m a little uneasy about kids’ school records being used as their future employment documents.
Now if the schools are agreeing and if the Clubs - I suppose you can’t - not control to see how it goes. But if a kid gets into strife at school, a couple of things I think flow from that. One is if your kid is a bully at school which is unacceptable, well you don’t know what’s happening to them at home, or you don’t know what else has happened to lead to that. So I do believe in giving kids a second chance.
The other thing about it all is that it’s a - I reckon the kids should be given a chance to get work when they leave school.
So let’s see how this trial goes, but I’m just - for once I can’t say I’m completely enthusiastic, but if there’s a trial and there’s people of goodwill well then maybe we’ll have a look at how it goes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah I’m with you. I’m a bit uneasy about it. Joe Hockey do you support it?
JOE HOCKEY: You know I was just thinking Bill gave a pretty good answer.
NEIL MITCHELL: Good grief.
JOE HOCKEY: Yeah I know. I thought it was a good answer. Look I don’t have any problem with an employer trying to find out if someone - how someone behaved at school. I don’t have any issue with that.
When it’s industry-wide I think mmm geez that sort of grates a bit. It means there’s no second chance if that is their industry of choice for a career.
But, you know, the temptation is - and rightly if you were a bully at school you may well be a bully at work and an employer’s got a duty of care to other employees.
So I think Bill’s answer’s pretty much - pretty much right. Let’s have a look at it.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay. I’ll ask you both a question. This week we’ve had the highest number of asylum seekers in one boat in the last two years, a hundred and seventy five. We’ve had three thousand one hundred and eighty-eight people arrive on forty boats.
Where does the Government stand on asylum seekers and where does the Opposition stand because it seems to have disappeared as an issue but the numbers have increased? Bill Shorten?
BILL SHORTEN: Well we still stand that we believe that having a regional solution’s the best way to go. We’ve reached out the hand to the Opposition to try and do something collaboratively, but in the meantime we’ve got people coming on boats.
So I think this is one where it’d be good to have a bipartisan approach as opposed to a point scoring approach.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay. Joe Hockey?
JOE HOCKEY: Well the Labor Party says a bipartisan approach on their terms. It was our policy that worked. It was our policy that stopped the boats. We are advocating the same policy today that previously stopped the boats. The Government’s not willing to give it a try...
NEIL MITCHELL: So no room for bipartisanship?
JOE HOCKEY: Nauru and...
NEIL MITCHELL: No, no room for bipartisanship?
JOE HOCKEY: Oh well we’ve tried to offer exactly the same policy that worked previously. They were the ones that changed the policy, then the boats started. Now they’re trying to find - they had an East Timor solution which was a joke before the last election.
They’ve had a whole lot of things. We’re the ones that say you need to have Nauru, you need to have temporary protection visas and where it’s safe you turn the boats around full stop.
That’s what worked, that’ll work again.
BILL SHORTEN: Okay, well we don’t quite accept that Nauru was the disincentive that the Opposition say. Nearly half the people who were processed through Nauru ended up coming to Australia.
Our concern is that when people put to sea in unsafe boats some of them will drown. Imagine if we were - if we knew that a Grand Final at the MCG, a hundred thousand people go - if we knew that at least four thousand of the people leaving that Grand Final wouldn’t get home safely, you’d probably cancel the Grand Final.
We believe in our strategy of a regional solution including Malaysia. That is a far greater deterrent than the sort of - the mixture of policies which Joe just put forward.
But I know that Minister Bowen has always been up for bipartisan discussions and Joe says oh well because the Government won’t immediately agree with everything we think well then there’s no room for change.
I just think we owe it to the people to do it differently.
NEIL MITCHELL: Very quickly Bill Shorten The Australian reports today that the Government’s going to fast track migration for wealthy business people who’ve got five million dollars to invest in Australia.
Is this right?
BILL SHORTEN: I think Minister Bowen’s giving a speech at the Press Club today and in the press reports I saw that we are keen to encourage enterprising innovative migrants to come to Australia.
NEIL MITCHELL: But Wayne Swan won’t like that will he? He doesn’t like rich people.
BILL SHORTEN: I don’t know, let’s not go the old dog whistle...
JOE HOCKEY: It’s not a dog whistle; it’s a matter of fact.
BILL SHORTEN: Oh listen...
JOE HOCKEY: Come on Bill.
BILL SHORTEN: ...if we want to talk about...
JOE HOCKEY: ...you’re embarrassed about Swanny...
BILL SHORTEN: If we want to talk about class warfare, I’ve never seen a clearer picture of it when the Libs said that you can’t - when the Government proposed directly paying the money...
JOE HOCKEY: No, no.
BILL SHORTEN: When the Government proposed directly paying the school kids’ bonus, the four hundred and ten for your little primary school child, into the account of the primary school parent, the concern was we couldn’t trust parents not to spend it on other things...
JOE HOCKEY: And then you criticise us for giving them a non-means tested baby bonus. You can’t have it both ways...
NEIL MITCHELL: Alright.
BILL SHORTEN: Whilst I’m not as close to the mining magnates as the Liberals...
NEIL MITCHELL: That's not a class snipe, is it?
JOE HOCKEY: Of course it’s a class snipe.
BILL SHORTEN: I’m not fussed if I don’t get to go to their birthday parties, that’s life.
JOE HOCKEY: I don’t get invited to their birthday parties.
BILL SHORTEN: Well then Joe most of your colleagues should put you on the list.
JOE HOCKEY: ... how cool.
BILL SHORTEN: You’re a man of the people Joe.
JOE HOCKEY: I am a man of the people.
NEIL MITCHELL: Next time though either of you want to set up an inquiry into the media can you give me a call. You’ve spent four hundred and eighty thousand dollars Bill Shorten on wages for two people inquiring into the media in what was a nonsense report anyway.
Seriously for a, you know, five week inquiry or something, four hundred and eighty grand to Finkelstein and Ricketson. How on earth...
BILL SHORTEN: I will pass - I will pass on your volunteering to Stephen Conroy.
NEIL MITCHELL: Thank you very much for your time.
BILL SHORTEN: That’s alright.
NEIL MITCHELL: Bill Shorten, Joe Hockey thanks.
BILL SHORTEN: Bye bye.
JOE HOCKEY: Pleasure.
- ENDS -
Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Sam Casey 0421 697 660