E & EO
SUBJECTS: The Australian Building and Construction Commission, Tony Abbott in the United States, the Republic, Eric Abetz and same sex marriage plebiscite, Senate cross-bench, industrial relations peace.
MINISTER: I was pleased that the Royal Commission endorsed the Government’s position in relation to the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission – I have been speaking with some of the cross benchers and I will continue to negotiate with them and obviously explain the Government’s case in relation to the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Some cross benchers have approached the government and they have requested that they be able to view copies of, or should I say, view the confidential reports from the Royal Commission. They have stated that they would like to view those reports as part of their deliberations on the Bill and the Government has agreed to that requests.
JOURNALIST: Have they seen them now?
MINISTER: Not at this stage, because obviously, nobody has been in Canberra, they haven’t been in Canberra and that is something we will be facilitating.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott’s is speaking to a pro family group in the United States and some of your colleagues have come out today and have supported his right to do. Where do you stand by way of free speech?
MINISTER: I would hope that any politician in Australia could exercise their right to free speech. Tony Abbott as the former Prime Minister obviously, the speeches that he gives are going to get a little more scrutiny than say a speech a backbencher would give. But certainly,Tony’s views on these subjects are very well known and I support his right to give these speeches.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Republic, apparently the Prime Minister said a push for a Republic would happen at the end of the Queen’s reign but do you fear, or suspect that Australians could embrace the monarchy more after the Queen’s reign as we look towards a potential King William?
MINISTER: Well I always find it fascinating that at this time of the year, is that we have Australia Day, and on Australia Day we can almost all put money in relation to the topic that is going to be discussed, it’s normally the Republic – it’s discussed for a few days and then it dies down. Is it a first order issue for me? No it is not, is it a first order issue for the Government? No. Is it a first order issue for the person in the street that I talk to? No. I am committed to doing what I am doing to stimulate jobs growth in Australia to get more people into work – that is what I am focused on. The issue of the Republic is not something I am focused on.
JOURNALIST: Your senate colleague Eric Abetz spoke today about rights in relation to a plebiscite – is that a first order issue that you speak about?
MINISTER: Certainly the Government has made a commitment, that we will take the question of same sex marriage to a plebiscite and ask the Australian people to cast their vote, certainly that would obviously be bought towards the parliament, I would expect the parliament to abide by the will of the Australian people, regardless of what that decision is but at the end of the day, If an individual member, and Senator Abetz is well known, well known for his opposition to same sex marriage, and if at that time, we haven’t had the question yet, we haven’t had the plebiscite and we haven’t had the vote, if at that time, he felt at that time he could not support the decision of the Australian people, he should exercise his conscience but from my perspective, I would expect the Parliament to respect the will of the Australian people, and again, regardless of what that decision is, because the decision may well be that the Australian people don’t support same sex marriage.
JOURNALIST: Back on the ABCC what do you believe are the outstanding problems that the cross benchers have with this – what’s your understanding of the blockage there?
MINISTER: One of the issues is, why are targeting a specific industry and the way I have explained it is, this is an industry and that the Cole Commission and the Heydon Royal Commission have recognised as being very very unique in relation to non – compliance with workplace laws, this is an industry that does need a specialist regulator. The fact that we have already had the ABCC and under the ABCC we did see a reduction in the number of days lost due to industrial action and we did see enhanced productivity, this certainly says to me that there are benefits to be gained from this type of regulator. Can I also make the point that in relation to the ABCC the Commonwealth Government Building Code is also dependent upon the passage of the ABCC legislation, and the Building Code is a very very swift and if an employer fails to comply with the building code, they do not get government work, it is very very strict, it doesn’t apply to unions, it only applies to employers, so this is not just about the CFMEU, this is about compliance with workplace laws, laws that the rest of us have to comply with within our workplaces, I have to comply with the law every day you have to comply with the law every day. Why is it that a particular industry is able to get away with non-compliance of the law? Please say that’s not good enough – and as I said, our commitment remains to the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
JOURNALIST: Do you find it astounding that companies are willing to pay for industrial peace – the Heydon Report found…..
MINISTER: I find it absolutely astounding that in Australia that we have had a situation whereby the laws have allowed this to occur, no one, one in Australia should ever have to pay for industrial peace and no particular union should ever have the power to turn industrial peace on or turn industrial peace off –and that is one thing that we have been very very clear about – in particular in relation to corrupting benefits. We are going to criminalise the payment of a corrupting benefit and the receipt of it, we are not targeting unions here we are targeting the system, the system has enabled a number of these scenarios to occur, the system needs to change and I challenge Bill Shorten and Brendan O’Connor to come out and say why they are still prepared to support a system that ultimately betrays the workers and the Australian people we are going to fix that system and I challenge them to stand next to us and to proclaim unity in relation to fairness and transparency in Australian workplaces. Thank you very much.