SUBJECT/S: ABCC, Federal ICAC, double dissolution election, construction industry, CFMEU, transitioning economy, Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
FRAN KELLY: Senator Michaelia Cash is the Workplace Relations Minister in the Turnbull Government; she is in our Parliament House studio, welcome to breakfast.
MINISTER CASH: Thanks for having me Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Well you lost the vote in the Senate, but I have to say no none seemed particular bothered by that – is this the outcome that you wanted all along?
MINISTER CASH: Not at all. As the Employment Minister in particular I would have liked to have seen this legislation passed as it is good policy. When you have an industry in Australia, an industry employing one in 10 Australians that you know is marred with bullying intimidation, violence and thuggery. Fran as a policy maker you need to respond, and I would have liked to have seen the ABCC passed.
You would have seen the statements made in particular by Senators Lazarus, Lambie and Madigan would not compromise on their calls for a Federal ICAC.
FRAN KELLY: They would not compromise but they also said that you would not compromise either and just to sort of paint this picture, when the bill was defeated the first time around in August last year, you lost by only one vote. This time there were 4 cross benchers opposed. This time you lost 36 / 32 so you went backwards, which does suggest your powers of persuasion are a little lacking or your heart wasn’t in it.
MINISTER CASH: Not at all. I am going to disagree with you on both of those counts. The fact that last night I was able to work with the cross bench to abolish Labor’s Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
FRAN KELLY: That was their idea.
MINISTER CASH: Not at all. I had been working on that now for months Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Pretty sure Senator Lazarus would say he was out in front of you on that.
MINISTER CASH: Senator Wacka Williams would say that he well and truly raised that issue before Senator Lazarus. In any event, it is not a competition. We worked as a Senate last night to get mum and dad truck drivers, owner drivers back on the road and get them back in business, doing what they do best. We can negotiate.
Certainly in relation to the ABCC, there were several Senators who made it very clear over the last few months that they did not want to support the ABCC, they put on the table one amendment the Federal ICAC, get rid of the ABCC. We had been very upfront Fran, we would not support that. I’ve negotiated in good faith with all of them. I have had amendments put forward to me by other Senators. When three say a Federal ICAC and it’s made very clear upfront, there will be no Federal ICAC, the vote will be lost. I would have liked to have seen it passed. That is why we are now committed to taking this back to the people.
Remember, this has been our policy since Labor abolished the ABCC in 2012. We will yet again seek another mandate from the Australian people to restore law and order to the building and construction sector in Australia.
FRAN KELLY: Yes that is the whole point of this double dissolution election which is being triggered by this. The PM hasn’t announced it yet but I am sure he will today. He made it pretty clear if the senate voted this down we would head to the polls to a double dissolution election on the 2nd of July. The whole point is to win that election and then pass the ABCC laws. Do you think that’s a pitch that’s going to persuade many voters?
MINISTER CASH: I think that voters understand that you cannot have one in 10 Australians employed by this industry. We want to see this industry grow. I want to see more females enter the industry. I want to see more apprentices go into building and construction. When you are faced with a workplace where you can be intimidated, bullied and subjected to violence, you’re not going to go into that workplace. I think Australians understand the need to clean up the industry. What they also understand is when the CFMEU have a stranglehold over the big contractors and they can basically charge what they like.
It’s the Australian public that pay more for public infrastructure. I say enough is enough. Let’s restore integrity to this fantastic industry in Australia. Let’s see it grow. This is part of our greater economic plan going forward for all Australians, which is grow Australia, grow business and create more jobs for Australians.
FRAN KELLY: What’s the pitch going to be? As you’re going around talking about the need for a tougher cop on the beat on the building and construction commission, Labor presumably are going to be running around the electorate talking about jobs and health and education. What we call the bread and butter issues, do you think that is going to resonate more strongly with voters.
MINISTER CASH: Fran, I think that Australians understand we are a transitioning economy. Particularly in my home state of Western Australia, we understand that we are going from a resources led boom to one that is going to be fuelled by innovation and investment in a far more diverse range of industries. Australians understand that we need to grow those industries so that they do have those jobs for the future.
It is going to be a really clear choice for them. Who do you think is best able to manage the transitioning economy? A Coalition Government with a proven track record in particular when it comes to debt and deficit in this country, or Labor with a proven track record of raising taxes and spending the money of the taxpayer that they just don’t have. It’s as simple as that.
FRAN KELLY: For this to be effective, to get this bill through you’d have to win the election first and then you will have to have the joint sitting of parliament and pass the ABCC legislation which means you would have to have the numbers there in a joint sitting of parliament. At present the polls look a little touchy on that. Are you confident that even if you won, the win would be significant enough that you would have the numbers there?
MINISTER CASH: I am confident that we are the political party that will well and truly ensure that the Australian economy transitions as it should. I am confident…
FRAN KELLY: With respect, that wasn’t the question Minister…I’m wondering if you’re confident you’re going to get the numbers in the Senate and numbers in a joint sitting…
MINISTER CASH: It’s a joint sitting and the numbers will be the numbers. It’s a clear choice for Australians. Do you want jobs and growth or do you want higher taxes or more of your money spent. Australians don’t forget Fran, I was with a group of truckies the other day, and they reminded me of the billion dollars a month the Government was spending to pay off Labor’s debt. That’s just the interest repayments on Labor’s debt.
People remember and Bill Shorten was at the heart of all of those decisions. Whether it was the carbon tax, the mining tax, pink batts, Bill Shorten doing some form of deal with the CFMEU the MUA or the TWU, he features squarely at the centre of all of those deals which have done nothing to build the prosperity of this country.
FRAN KELLY: Have you got your ads ready with Bill Shorten and the unions?
MINISTER CASH: Fran I’ve got a good news story to tell. I’ve got a good news story about jobs and about growth and that’s what I’ll be doing as we go around Australia.
FRAN KELLY: Just very briefly on the truckies you mentioned there, now that the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, the bill to abolish that was voted through last night, what will the Government do to improve safety on the roads, will you spend the $4 million budget from the Tribunal on road safety? Is that a guarantee?
MINISTER CASH: Yes, we have said that we will transfer the $4 million dollars from the Tribunal over to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, that has the support of industry and that is the appropriate body to look at safety within the industry. I have also said, I will go around Australia and I will talk to industry about what more they believe should be done. It’s not just to educate the truck drivers; it’s also to educate the Australian public. Fran one of the statistics that Labor doesn’t want the Australian public to know, is that when it comes to heavy vehicle crashes, 84% of them are not caused by the heavy vehicle. They are caused by the other road user. Education about our roads and the types of vehicles on our roads is so important generally.
FRAN KELLY: We might follow that up on breakfast this week because I’ve certainly read conflicting statements to that. Thank you for that statistic Minister, thanks for joining us.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you, thanks for having me.
FRAN KELLY: Michaelia Cash is the Minister for Workplace Relations.