Release type: Transcript


Press Conference, Mural Hall, Parliament House, Canberra


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/(S); Governments legislative agenda for 2016, Australian Building and Construction Commission, Tony Abbott.

MINISTER CASH: As you would be aware tomorrow the parliament resumes. One of the first orders of business for the Turnbull government will be to reintroduce legislation for the Australian Building and Construction Commission

It is without a doubt now following the endorsement by the Heydon Royal Commission of the Government’s position, that we need to ensure that the building and construction industry within Australia is able to operate lawfully. For too long now, men and women in the building and construction industry have gone to work and have been subjected to bullying tactics and intimidation. This is the third biggest employer in Australia. Given that Justice Jessup just last year in finding against the CFMEU in relation to action it had taken, had to say, it is just unbelievable, ‘has there ever been a worse case of a recidivist in relation to the history of the common law’, I think clearly says to Australians, there is a problem and we need to sort it out.

Earlier today, Mr O’Connor and Mr Shorten gave a press conference in relation to what they say is the Labor party’s position on the protection of workers’ rights.

I say to Mr Shorten and Mr O’Connor, if you are dinkum about protecting workers rights, stand with the Government tomorrow in relation to the protection of workers’ rights within the building and construction industry because that is what the ABCC legislation is all about. I also note that Mr O’Connor and Mr Shorten talked about increasing penalties for employers that do the wrong thing. Again, tomorrow is their chance to stand alongside the government and support the government’s proposal to increase penalties in relation to breaches of industrial workplace laws in the building and construction commission.

In relation to Labor’s announcement on protecting workers rights, I am glad that they are finally playing catch up with the government. This government has made its position on the exploitation of workers, whether they be foreign workers or domestic workers, very clear, exploitation is not tolerated and that is why last year when I was the assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, I established a Ministerial Working Group in relation to Vulnerable Visa Holders, I am working alongside Peter Dutton, Kelly O’Dwyer and Michael Keenan. This is a whole of Government approach to tackling the exploitation of workers. I also established with the then Minister Scott Morrison, Taskforce Cadena, Taskforce Cadena is specifically designed to tackle the exploitation of foreign workers. We have also taken a number of other steps to protect workers in Australia and overseas. Last year we criminalised making a payment for a migration outcome. We also cleaned up the working holiday visa programme to ensure that those people who are applying for a second year under their working holiday visa, have to show that they have been paid lawfully by their employer. So in relation to the announcements this morning by Mr O’Connor and Mr Shorten – it is an 11th hour attempt, to deflect and distract and deter from the very serious issue that is going to confront them tomorrow. Will they stand alongside the Government and support lawful behaviour in the building and construction industry or, will they continue to support their mates in the CFMEU.

JOURNALIST: Minister, will you show members of Labor and the Greens Members of the Parliament – the confidential volumes of the Heydon Royal Commission? Are you playing politics with it?

MINISTER CASH: The answer is no and no. You would be aware that the confidential volumes of the Heydon Royal Commission are subject to a non-publication order – the Government has…[interrupted]

JOURNALIST: So how can you show it to some and not to others….

MINISTER CASH:…that does not mean that the Government is not able to show it is [inaudible] the Government has very strict criteria in relation to who it shows the reports. The reason that we will not be providing it to Labor or the Greens is A) they have called for the document to be provided widely. We will not do that. The confidential volumes have been made confidential for good reason, there are the names of some witnesses, we need to protect the identities of those witnesses; we also need to ensure that we do not basically compromised ongoing police investigation. At the end of the day its very simple, Labor and the Greens have made their position in relation to the ABCC and the Registered Organisations very clear for a number of years, they do not support that legislation, why then do they need to look at the confidential volumes, quite frankly is beyond me. Will they suddenly say that they may change their position and support the government, I don’t think so. The cross-benchers who have asked to see the confidential volumes, again under the strict confidentiality provisions, have indicated they want to see them to assist in their deliberations.

JOURNALIST: When will the cross bench senators actually see these reports?

MINISTER CASH: I am facilitating that this week.

JOURNALIST: Will it be a redacted version?

MINISTER CASH: It will not be a redacted version.

JOURNALIST: Senator Cash, the ABCC legislation may end up being a double dissolution trigger for you, I understand that you will be able to keep that and possibly use it after the budget in June / July – is that something that you consider doing?

MINISTER CASH: We already have a double dissolution trigger in relation to the Registered Organisations Bill that was rejected by the Senate three times. The ABCC legislation has been rejected once. If it is rejected again, I hope it is not, I hope that I can work with the cross benchers to effective passage of the legislation it will become a double dissolution trigger. Whether or not we call a double dissolution is something for the Prime Minister to decide and to date he says that he expects the Government to run full term and an election to be held later this year.

I have made my position and the Prime Minister has made his positon very clear. These two pieces of legislation are all about transparency within the workplace, we have an overwhelming mandate from the Australian people, following on from the 2013 election, in relation to those two pieces of legislation, we remain committed to them. I believe the Australian people remain committed to them and should we seek a further mandate from the Australian people we will fight on those two pieces of legislation.

JOURNALIST: Minister, are you considering introducing a new form of enterprise contracts as policy heading into the next election?

MINISTER CASH: You will notice today that part of the announcement by Labor was the cherry pick some of the productivity commission’s recommendations in relation to sham contracting and phoenixing. I have said I won’t be cherry picking anything in relation to the productivity commission, they made 69 recommendations. Next week I commence my formal stakeholder roundtables, unions, employers, employee groups will be invited to them to work out where we can get consensus in relations to workplace relations policy and what their thoughts are in relation to the Productivity Commission Report. Unlike Labor I am not going to cherry pick. I am going to have stakeholder discussions and prior to the election the Australian people will see our response in full and they will be able to have a good look at it.

JOURNALIST: There have been reports that part of the broader economic reform package, that as a government you may as a government adopt a new form of enterprise contract agreement that would involve the fair work commission less than is currently in approving contracts- is that something you are considering?

MINISTER CASH: Again we are considering all of the recommendations flowing from the productivity commission review that is but one of the recommendations. In terms of the governments broader picture, whether it is looking at whether that is taxation reform, or industrial relations reform, the broader picture is –what reform is going to help the economy grow, what reform is going to help the economy become more productive and in turn create more jobs for Australians, that’s the prism, from which we are looking at, industrial relations and broader reform,

JOURNALIST: in a broader sense – when do you anticipate that the ABCC bills will get to the senate – obviously it is before the House tomorrow morning.

MINISTER CASH: Well certainly, parliament resumes this week, we then go into estimates, I wouldn’t expect that it would get to the senate before the end of February.

JOURNALIST: Senator Cash – [inaudible] are now refusing to sail the company is now claiming that this is illegal industrial action, are you concerned that the cross benchers may conflate this debate about coastal shipping legislation with your IR legislation?

MINISTER CASH: I would hope that the cross bench are able to sit down with me and discuss each piece of legislation on its own merits. In relation to coastal shipping look at what Labor’s legislation has done to the shipping industry in Australia, it is practically destroyed it. In relation to the broader picture of industrial action, in  relation to the MV Portland, you have a situation there, where despite ruling’s coming from the Fair Work Commission and despite rulings from the Federal Court referring back to the Fair Work Commission in the shipping companies favour, Alcoa’s favour  the MUA refused to heed to those lawful rulings. None of us get to pick and choose, which commission or court rulings we comply with. If a Commission or a court makes a finding, unless we are going to appeal it, we need to comply by it. That is what I hope all parties in relation to the shipping industry do.

JOURNALIST: Minister have you heard that Tony Abbott is staying in Parliament so that he can have another crack at the leadership?

MINISTER CASH: I have not heard that no.

JOURNALIST: Do you think his trip to America will frustrate the Prime Minister?

MINISTER CASH: I believe in freedom of speech. Tony is a former Prime Minister, and as a former Prime Minister, he is going to gets a little more attention that if just a backbencher went along. At the end of the day the Government has a very clear direction. Our direction is all about the Australian people growing the Australian economy. From my perspective as the Employment Minister and the Minister for Women – how do we further increase participation, which is already increasing under this Government. How do we ensure that more jobs are created, you know in the last 12 months of this government, we have created in excess of 301,000 jobs. Compare that the final twelve months of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government – they created just 88,000 jobs. Unemployment in Australia is too high – but it is coming down under this Government. You have all of the trends going in the right direction, I know what my focus needs to be and I am not going to be distracted.