Release type: Transcript


ABC Radio - Productivity Commission's final report


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


SUBJECT: Productivity Commission report into workplace relations framework
KIM LANDERS: The Employment Minister is Senator Michaelia Cash and she joins us now. Minister good morning.

MINISTER CASH: Good morning.

KIM LANDERS: Why are you so reluctant to take a stand on whether Sunday penalty rates should be changed?

MINISTER CASH: I’m not reluctant to take a stand. The Productivity Commission as you know, this is a report to government, it is not a report by the Government. I announced yesterday that I will be conducting a series of roundtables in early 2016. I’ll be focusing on the Government’s key priorities - in particular of promoting jobs and productivity but also on looking at how we can provide incentives to prevent long-term unemployment, particularly for youth.

KIM LANDERS: So you’re going to do those consultations but you’ve already commissioned this very lengthy report. The Government wrote the terms of reference for the inquiry, so why the hesitation in embracing its recommendations?

MINISTER CASH: Again there’s no hesitation. I want to bring Australians with this government on the journey towards a more productive workplace. This is all about collaboration. I had always said that I would look forward to consultations early in the New Year and that is exactly what we will do.

KIM LANDERS: There’s already a penalty rate case before the Fair Work Commission, wouldn’t it be pretty hard for the Fair Work Commission to ignore the recommendations of the Productivity Commission? Do you think that Sunday penalty cuts are inevitable?

MINISTER CASH: Well look certainly the Productivity Commission themselves found that if there was a decrease in the penalty rate on a Sunday- and I think it’s very important to remember that is the only recommendation is about a weekend penalty rate, that it would deliver a significant number of jobs, in particular in small and medium businesses and this of course ultimately benefits consumers but in particular the unemployed. Those people who currently don’t have a job who then would have a job. Those people who currently don’t have work but want to get into work. The Productivity Commission, as you know, is able to inform itself as it sees fit in relation to the information that it will use to make their decision, and I would assume that the Fair Work Commission would look at the Productivity Commission’s report.

KIM LANDERS: The ACTU is threatening the biggest industrial relations fight since WorkChoices if Sunday penalty rates are cut, are you concerned about seeing a repeat of that WorkChoices campaign that was so effective against John Howard?

MINISTER CASH: Look yet again I’m really disappointed in the ACTU and Labor. They’re basically dealing themselves out of this conversation…

KIM LANDERS: But are you worried about their big campaign, work …

MINISTER CASH: No they they’re dealing themselves out of a conversation in relation to reasonable economic and workplace relations policy. I don’t think any of your listeners would disagree that the workplace of 2015 going forward is very different to the workplace of 20 years ago. We need to ensure that we have a system that reflects that. We need to ensure as a government that we are able to create as many jobs as possible whilst at all times acknowledging that we have a strong safety net…

KIM LANDERS: But when …

MINISTER CASH:   If Labor and the unions want to go down the path of deliberately hijacking this process, let them do that, because I believe Australians are tired of the same old arguments, the same old campaigns. They want a government with vision, they want a government that is going to back them, and they want a government that says it’s all about promoting jobs and productivity.

KIM LANDERS: Well Minister when Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister he talked about having to provide economic leadership; is it going to be politically easier for the Government to duck a fight on industrial relations?

MINISTER CASH: I can assure you we are not ducking a fight on industrial relations. As you know, I will also shortly receive the Heydon Royal Commission report, I will also consider that. This Government will be taking an IR policy or a workplace relations policy to the next election and as we’ve always said, the policy will be presented to the Australian people and they will have an opportunity to vote on that. We will seek their mandate for any future change. This is all about this Government, the Turnbull Government taking Australians with them on the journey towards ensuring that the jobs of tomorrow, the workplaces of tomorrow are adequately supported.

KIM LANDERS: This report also contains criticism of the Fair Work Commission – indeed it recommends that it be stripped of its role of determining the minimum wage and award regulation, and that these tasks be given to a new body which it’s calling the Workplace Standards Commission. What do you think of that recommendation?

MINISTER CASH: As I’ve said, I’m not going to play the rule in, rule out game, because I think all that does is enable people to say she said this, she said that. I’m going to consult widely on these recommendations, but I think that anything that ensures transparency in processes is a good thing.

KIM LANDERS: Well let me ask you about another point in this report then. There has been controversy over the Fair Work Commission’s current vice president, Michael Lawler. This report calls for the appointment of Fair Work commissioners to be overhauled, for fixed terms to be introduced, and external judicial review process. Do you support that?

MINISTER CASH: Well just on Michael Lawler, as you know I have commissioned an independent inquiry into this particular matter, and the independent inquiry will report back to me early next year. Again, there are arguments for and against, and again, that is why we are going to consult with stakeholders across the board. Unions, employees, employers, women’s groups, social welfare groups, to ascertain their position on those key priorities, in particular of promoting jobs and productivity.

KIM LANDERS: You’ve talked a lot about consultation; the Productivity Commission itself consulted widely in the preparation of this report. The Business Council of Australia says that this report gives the Government the basis of a reform road map.

MINISTER CASH: And I would say that absolutely the Productivity Commission consulted widely, over 20 unions participated in this inquiry. I think in excess of 450 individual submissions. So again, this is an evidence-based report, from the people who sit on the Productivity Commission. They are economically robust, they are socially responsible. This is an independent commission, independent of government; that is a good thing. And that is why again, when the unions just come out and dismiss things with the same old rhetoric, the same old arguments without reading the report and carefully considering all of the chapters and the evidence base for the recommendations, again I think Australians see straight through that.

KIM LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM.

MINISTER CASH: Always a pleasure, good on you.

KIM LANDERS: And that is the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.