E & EO……………………
Subjects – Industrial relations, Nauru, leadership spill
CHRIS KENNY: First up, the interview with Michaelia Cash, now the Employment Minister, not so long ago the Assistant Immigration Minister, I caught up with her from Perth literally just a few minutes ago. Michaelia Cash welcome back to Viewpoint.
MINISTER CASH: Always good to be with you Chris.
CHRIS KENNY: Last time we spoke was on the eve of the leadership change, it was the Sunday night before Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister in that leadership challenge, you were pretty coy about what was going on, we sensed that something was happening, so congratulations on both being coy in that interview and on your elevation into cabinet.
MINISTER CASH: Thank you very much.
CHRIS KENNY: Viewpoint of course is a common route to Cabinet in this country at the moment. Let’s talk about your new portfolio of employment and of course that covers industrial relations, the real difference I suppose in narrative under Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister now compared to Tony Abbott is to really try to drive an argument, a debate and presumably some policy around economic innovation, economic growth, productivity, modernising the economy, now if you’re going to do that under the Turnbull Government won’t this invariably mean that you need to deliver some industrial relations reform.
MINISTER CASH: Look absolutely but we’ve also said is any changes to the industrial relations systems are changes that we will take to the people, we will be open about them, we will be transparent about them and we will allow Australians to cast their vote at the next election. But Chris what Australians need to ask themselves in relations to the industrial relations environment is does the current system that we have, is that system going to support the jobs that Australians are going to be performing as we move forward into the next decade, two decades, three decades? Does the current system support innovation; does the current system support flexibility? There are certainly arguments to say that the system does need to be looked at but as I’ve said, in terms of our industrial relations policy, we’ve always said any changes that we are going to make, we would take to the next election and we would allow Australians to cast their vote.
CHRIS KENNY: I suppose that’s the point isn’t it, in the Rudd-Gillard years we saw a re-regulation of the labour market and now of course you’ve had a Coalition government in place for two years, you’re not going to do anything until after the next election. Unemployment is too high, don’t we need to see - in simple terms - what we need to see is getting rid of so much emphasis on the unions at the heart of our labour market system and empowering the individuals more.
MINISTER CASH: It’s not so much getting rid of the unions, it’s all about flexibility, it’s all about innovation and it’s all about productivity. If there is anything that is strangling any one of those elements, then yes we need to have a look at it. Chris I will remind your viewers that in terms of changes to the system, we currently have two Bills which have been voted down by Labor and the Greens in the Senate that if they were to be passed in the next say three weeks - because we have three sitting weeks left - they would fundamentally change the way we do business in Australia and they are of course [interrupted]
CHRIS KENNY: I was going to come to those, I was going to come to those because Malcolm Turnbull has already flagged that industrial relations is likely to be at the heart of the next election campaign, a major issue at the next election campaign, of course unless Labor rolls over on these two issues and they are of course the Registered Organisation Bill which essentially allows more accountability and transparency around the way unions are operated but also the reconfiguration or the reinstatement of the Building and Construction Commission, now one of these is already a double dissolution trigger the other one if Labor continued to reject it will be, do you say that a double dissolution election on these two bills is a possibility?
MINISTER CASH: Well look, certainly what I would like to see is Bill Shorten, who every time he is questioned on industrial relations says the following ‘Labor does not support illegality or corruption’ and then every time he is pressed on the ABCC or the Registered Organisations Commission he fails the test. If Bill Shorten truly wants to be a man who is judged on what he says and then the actions that follow, I will bring that legislation before the Senate the very first Monday in two weeks’ time and he can actually put his words into actions and support getting rid of illegality, getting rid of corruption, better transparency, ensuring that the workers of Australia know where their money is going. All he needs to do is support the restoration of the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Commission, it is as easy as that and we can then see a real step towards more productivity, more jobs, better workplace relations for the employers and the employees of Australia, merely by supporting those two Acts. I can bring them into the Senate, all Mr Shorten has to do is tell me when and I will do that.
CHRIS KENNY: Do you say that if those Bills are passed into law if you could get both of those Bills in place, if you could make them law, that is, have the ABCC up and running again and have this new accountability and transparency measures on unions, would they cut out the sorts of corruption we have seen uncovered in the Trade Union Royal Commission?
MINISTER CASH: Chris what you would see is a very, very good step forward in terms of addressing what we have seen coming out of the Royal Commission. I am not about to pre-empt the findings or the final report of the Heydon Royal Commission but I think what it would show, in particular from the Labor Party is a step of good faith in terms of what they say – ‘Labor does not support illegality, Labor does not support corruption’ - so certainly, ensuring that those two Bills are passed would be a good step forward. Chris I will await the outcome of the Heydon Royal Commission but this is not a Government, the Turnbull Government, that is going to sit back and watch deals be done between employers and unions that are at the expense of the worker and say ‘everything’s alright in the system’, when it’s not. If we need to take further steps to ensure that there is transparency in the system, to ensure that you can’t just bargain away workers penalty rates with no knowledge at all to the worker and then have $25,000 a year paid by the company to the union in question of course was the AWU, if we need to do more to ensure that that does not occur then that is exactly what we will do and quite frankly I think it is what the Australian people will expect of their Government.
CHRIS KENNY: Okay well the last time we spoke to you a month or so ago, you were also Assistant Minister when it came to immigration matters, so as you know I’ve been to Nauru last week and had a look at what’s been going on up there so I want to follow up a couple of those issues with you. First of all was the issue of ‘Abyan’, not her real name but of course the Somalian refugee who alleges she was raped and she was brought to Australian for a pregnancy termination she delayed on that and was sent back to Nauru. She is back in Nauru now we need to know what is going to happen with her, is she going to get the treatment she requires whatever she decides, do you have any update on that situation for us?
MINISTER CASH: Chris, at all times Minister Dutton and the Australian Government have acted in the best interests of this woman. In the first instance what I would say is that I am very disappointed that her situation was used by the Greens, in particular, Senator Hanson-Young and refugee advocates, just to promote their case against offshore resettlement - nothing more, nothing less.
CHRIS KENNY: Look I’ve had personal experience with that as well and I agree with you on that but what matters now is that Abyan gets the medical and psychological counselling she needs, confirms what treatment she wants and Australian has to provide that surely.
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely, but we have always said that is exactly what we will do, when this particular lady, or particular individual indicated to the Government that she did want to proceed down the path of termination, she was brought to Australia, she was given all of the necessary counselling, she was informed about what the termination would or wouldn’t be etcetera and then she made a decision that she did not want to go through with the procedure.
CHRIS KENNY: Sure, but do we have any update on her condition or the process [interrupted]
MINISTER CASH: I don’t have an update other than what you’ve seen but what I will reiterate is that at all times Peter Dutton and the Australian Government have sought to ensure that she is and has been provided with the appropriate medical attention that she requires and her decisions have been honoured every step of the way.
CHRIS KENNY: Okay the context of this, information I discovered whilst I was in Nauru and it surprised me and I think it will surprise a lot of Australians, that there are 233 asylum seekers and refugees who have been on Nauru and have come back to Australia for medical procedures and have claimed asylum while they were in Australia they remain in Australia fighting in the courts to see whether or not they stay in Australia or back to Nauru that’s obviously the context of what’s gone on here - is this a problem? Is this a problem for the offshore processing regime? That you are having so many people come to Australia for medical treatment then claiming asylum here?
MINISTER CASH: Clearly that’s an issue obviously that you would properly canvass with Minister Dutton but yes it is and it is something that we need to address. At the end of the day when it comes to asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru or Manus the Government has always been of the position that the health care they get is commensurate within reason to the healthcare they would receive in Australia. That has always been the position and you could certainly see from your time there that we have been providing millions of dollars in upgrades to the medical centre at Nauru and there is often criticism in terms of claims there is not adequate birthing facilities. Up to 300 women each year give birth on Nauru and we have always maintained that those services need to be provided and if I could just take you to - because I know you commented on the educational system on Nauru - the Australian Government [interrupted]
CHRIS KENNY: This is a concern that I discovered whilst I was there, we have refugee and asylum seeker children not going to school, choosing not to go to school.
MINISTER CASH: Choosing not to go to school.
CHRIS KENNY: What can Australia do to make sure that they do go to school?
MINISTER CASH: Well again it’s all about investment and for us we are currently investing just over $11 million dollars so that the facilities provided for these children are absolutely up to scratch. So again, when it comes to the Australian Government’s investment in health services and educational services that are provided on Nauru, we ensure that we invest in them so they are commensurate with what you would get if you were in Australia. But Chris at the end of the day, our policy is clear, if you have attempted to come to Australia illegally by boat you will not be settled here, that is our policy, we stand by our policy but at the same time we work with the Government of Nauru to ensure that the facilities that are provided are ones that are commensurate with what you would get in Australia.
CHRIS KENNY: We are running out of time and I do want to finish up with one question out of left field, we saw Joe Hockey of course announce his retirement from politics, from Parliament last week. We haven’t heard from Tony Abbott - do you want to see Tony Abbott remain in the Parliament or do you think it would be better for the Government and the party if he retired.
MINISTER CASH: Look at the end of the day Chris that’s clearly a decision for Tony, but in terms of how many years Tony has left in being a servant of the people, Tony has a sensational future ahead of him. If he wants to spend that serving the people of Warringah in the Parliament then I think that is absolutely fantastic but should he choose to do something else then clearly I will support that. But at the end of the day, he has been a fantastic Prime Minister he was a fantastic leader of the opposition and his decision will be supported I think by all of us in the Parliament whatever that decision may be.
CHRIS KENNY: Such a fantastic Prime Minister that you voted to get rid of him. Thanks very much for joining us.
MINISTER CASH: Look at the end of the day….
CHRIS KENNY: We won’t go over all that again, but thanks very much for joining us again on Viewpoint Michaelia Cash.
MINISTER CASH: Thanks Chris.