Release type: Transcript


ABC AM Radio with Michael Brissenden - Introduction of the ABCC


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment
Minister for Women
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Senator for Western Australia

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Senator Cash, welcome to the program.

MINISTER CASH: Thanks for having me.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: You have now agreed to show one representative of the Greens and Labor the confidential volumes of the trade union royal commission but with certain caveats I understand they can’t take notes, they can’t take advisers in and they can’t talk to anyone about what they see, what’s the point of showing it to them?

MINISTER CASH: There has been a request from the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party that request was made last week to view the confidential report, but it was a very wide ranging request, they wanted basically all members of the Australian parliament and other interested parties. The confidential reports have been made confidential for very good reasons. We have constantly stated, it is there for all to see, basically to protect the identity of the witness and basically to ensure that we don’t prejudice ongoing police investigations.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: How can people make informed decisions about this if for instance they can’t take notes? They can’t take someone in there who might be able to help them understand it, Glen Lazarus for instance, a former rugby league player, says he has had a few knocks in his time and he is not perhaps the sharpest tool in the shed, he might like to have someone in there to help him understand it.

MINISTER CASH: What I will say is this, the case was made post the Cole Royal Commission some 13 or 14 years ago in relation to the nature of the building and construction industry in Australia. I note today a very unusual step by a former commissioner to come out, Commissioner Cole and to again call for the re-establishment for the Australian Building and Construction Industry. Even Julia Gillard when she had the enquiry by Justice Wilcox into the ABCC even her own person said ‘he saw the need for a regulator with strong powers so in terms of [interrupted]

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, your challenge is to get support for this in the senate now this is part of that process and it doesn’t seem that you are actually getting it.

MINISTER CASH: I am working with the cross benchers but it would appear that when it comes to Labor and the Greens I can’t win. I said no last week based on the fact that it was a wide ranging request. We have now looked at how we can get a pathway forward if they really want to see the report, if they are genuine that they need to see this report to actually inform themselves. I don’t believe that they are. They have made their positions pretty clear. At all times the Government has to respect the confidentiality of these volumes. I am not about [interrupted]

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But only yesterday you were saying before you had a change of heart that you wouldn't let them even see a redacted copy of it.

MINISTER CASH: And on the basis of their very wide ranging request. They want it basically released publically. Michael I'm not going to sit here and play games. I believe the case for the ABCC has been made. This is a unique sector in Australia that fails to comply with its workplace laws. You and I go to work every day Michael. We need to comply with the laws in our workplaces. Why is that you have one sector that over years and years now has shown that it will not do that? That costs the Australian economy, it costs people jobs.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But is this report so sensitive that you can't release a redacted version of it?

MINISTER CASH: Basically that is exactly what the issue is and that has been clear by Commissioner Heydon. There are the names of witnesses in the report [interrupted]

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: What if you took all the names out?

MINISTER CASH: Again, I am not going to sit here and argue with you. I believe the case for the ABCC has been made. Kate Carnell said yesterday, just read Volume One of the Heydon Royal Commission in terms of the evidence that is there that is publicly available the industrial unlawfulness in the building and construction sector is not something to be laughed at.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: This is also about the course of politics and how pragmatic you can be in the face of this.

MINISTER CASH: My pragmatism has led me to one member of the Australian Labor Party and one member of the Australian Greens despite the fact that they have fought the re-establishment of the ABCC every step of the way despite the fact that you and I both know deep down that this is not going to change their position. We have agreed [interrupted].

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The people you need to win support are clearly the cross benchers, are you confident you have got their support?

MINISTER CASH: I am working…[interrupted]

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: There are a number of them that are still saying [interrupted]

MINISTER CASH: I am working with them and only four of them have requested to see the report and as I said we are currently facilitating that the broader picture is this, the Cole Royal Commission recommended the establishment of the ABCC and it was established under the former Howard Government. In the six years that is was in operation, the temperature in the building and construction industry went from here down to here and what you saw was industrial lawfulness. This is a good thing. The minute Labor got rid of the ABCC within months you saw the streets of Melbourne and building sites in Melbourne practically shut down.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: This discussion is about the politics of actually getting this bill through, it does seem to be a little all over the shop I am saying at the moment…[interrupted]

MINISTER CASH: I don’t think it is all over the shop at all [interrupted]

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: You haven’t managed to get the support that you need for it.

MINISTER CASH: At this stage I am still working through those issues and to be fair, some of the cross benchers have said last year that they are awaiting the outcome of the Heydon Royal Commission and we now have that there for all to see. The broad picture is this, the Government remains committed for very good reasons in particular the economic interests of Australians, ensuring that there is lawful behaviour within a particular sector within Australia. That has shown that it does not comply with its industrial obligations at law, we remain committed to the re-establishment of the ABCC.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In relation to politics a bit more broadly, the Coalition talking points were leaked shortly after they were delivered to the inboxes of MPs and Senators late last night, clearly there are still some unhappy campers in the ranks, aren’t there?

MINISTER CASH: I have to say, I did see that article this morning and the fact that they think, the report is now “Social media graphics for the Coalition graphic have been leaked.” I don’t think you can leak a social media graphic. The whole point is this, [interrupted] we want our members to be out there talking about jobs and growth, we want our members to be out there telling the good story of this government and if we had a particular member wanting to be out there slightly earlier than the rest of them, talking about it, I don’t know who it was. The good news is that we have a good news story to tell and it is out there and we are ready to tell it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It does suggest that there are still some internal party divisions that are becoming – and that there are continuing problems for the Prime Minister

MINISTER CASH: School is back today as we know Parliament resumes. We know what we need to do we are in an election year and we will continue to do what we have done for the last two years which is put our policies before the people, explain them to them and why they should support them.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It has been five months since Malcolm Turnbull [interrupted]

MINISTER CASH: September last year

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It is clear that there are a group of MPs – Abbott loyalists who will continue to carp in this fashion is that going to be a problem?

MINISTER CASH: I think in politics you always have people that are come from one side pf politics or another side of politics who express an opinion the expression of opinion in politics is something that is healthy. If people respect their opinions, good on them. We as a government know what we need to do and I believe that we as a party know what we need to do. From my position as Employment Minister it is to talk about the good news story with what we are doing as a government to get people into work. It is to talk about how we are creating jobs. I will give you one statistic; in the last twelve months of this government we have created in excess of 301,000 jobs. Compare that to the last month, the last 12 months of the Rudd-Gillard government - 88,000. My job is to get out there.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It's a long way to go until the next election. (Laughter) That's all I can say. Michaelia Cash, thank you very much for joining us.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you this morning, thanks a lot.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.