SUBJECTS: Leaked video of Bill Shorten speaking to Queensland coal workers; Bill Shorten's comments about the Australian industrial relations laws; the Fair Work Act; government handling of the leaked information from Michaelia Cash’s office regarding the AW office raids.
LAURA JAYES: I’ll give you an idea of exactly the words that Bill Shorten has used. It’s in a new video that has emerged from the Opposition leader, promising to tear up Australia’s industrial relations laws as we just heard there from James. Mr Shorten was addressing Queensland coal mine workers who were striking in October of last year. The Labor leader described the nation’s industrial laws as, quote: cancer.
BILL SHORTEN: But we now have a situation where the laws of this land are being distorted, where they are being mutated, where they’re being metastasised like a cancer to undermine your existing conditions. We will change laws if we form a government or when we form a government.
LAURA JAYES: Joining me now live is Minister for Small and Family Business, Craig Laundy. He joins me here in the studio. What’s wrong with these comments?
MINISTER LAUNDY: And I’m also the Minister for the Workplace too…
LAURA JAYES: Minister for the Workplace.
MINISTER LAUNDY: … so this is absolutely in my patch, Laura. And look, these comments are wrong across the board on a few different fronts, but sadly this is symptomatic of what we’re seeing with the modern Labor Party. Firstly, the dispute that he’s talking about, you know, in the last couple of weeks there’s now been a suspension of the lockout, an agreement that the picket will be dismantled and that over the next three weeks, the boys will head back into the mine. And over the last three weeks, you know, my style of managing this is to meet with both sides, have open and frank discussions, urge them into bargain in good faith and reach a consensus. The alternate is to head to the picket line and throw fuel on the fire. You know, that was- quite obviously, there’s a rat in the rank, as that was- he suspected he was alone and amongst friends that he could trust, and that wasn’t for public consumption. It’s been leaked, obviously somewhere down the line.
LAURA JAYES: But what’s wrong with these comments? Let’s get to the nub of it.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Well, saying that he’s going to rip up- and to a captive audience, and this is the latest instance of this, he’s saying- telling that audience what they want to hear, and then he comes down here and says other things. And this is what he’s most, largely, responsible for. He’s just running around the country, telling people what they want to hear. Now, his actual term, the Fair Work Act, which came through the Fair Work Bill, is cancer. Now, what he’s conveniently forgetting here – and the Labor Party are forgetting – is that the Fair Work Act is their Act. It was implemented by them between 2007 and 2009, and I quote from his second reading speech. This is Bill Shorten, the same one that said to these workers: it’s cancer, we’re going to rip it up and we’re going to re-write it. “The Fair Work bill proposes to restore fairness in the workplace. This legislation aims to create workplaces where our children will do better, not worse, than we used to…”
LAURA JAYES: Okay, that’s fine.
MINISTER LAUNDY: “… and in which prosperity expands and embraces us all.”
LAURA JAYES: But you’d have to admit that Labor, including Bill Shorten, has expressed some concerns about industrial relations laws in the last…
MINISTER LAUNDY: No, the ACTU has.
LAURA JAYES: In the last five years…
MINISTER LAUNDY: Laura, the ACTU has, and I can document for you…
LAURA JAYES: Okay, but we’ve had Brendan O’Connor who’s been on this program. He said that for example, they want to look at the Fair Work Commission and see the improvements can be made. So they’re not having…
MINISTER LAUNDY: He’s said it every time Laura, within 24 to 48 hours of Sally McManus saying it first. This is the problem, they are completely beholden, because Shorten is so weak, they are completely beholden to the union movement for not just their financial support, for his support on the floor of Parliament. And you are seeing, quite clearly, Sally McManus and her union mates are dictating policy. She says it, O’Connor parrots it within 48 hours, and in that 30 January Press Club speech – lo and behold – there was things like the living wage. You are talking about things that if they went down this path- and last year, suddenly…
LAURA JAYES: But what’s the allegation here? What’s the allegation that’s being made?
MINISTER LAUNDY: No, Laura, supposedly last year was the year of jobs, okay. If they go down the path that they’re talking about, ripping up our industrial relations laws and taking- turning the dial back to the ‘70s, you are talking- we know economic modelling. This is the good thing about where these people operate. Not one number, but they’re consistent. They don’t have a number in any department, okay?
LAURA JAYES: What I want to do…
MINISTER LAUNDY: What would it do? It would decimate the economy wealth.
LAURA JAYES: Allow me to put this to you; I don’t think Bill Shorten’s made any secret of the fact that he thinks there needs to be changes to industrial relations laws. He wasn’t specific in that audio we just played to you. He used…
MINISTER LAUNDY: Well, can I be specific?
LAURA JAYES: He used quite emotive language and, you know, behind closed doors I think you do use these kinds of language to a very- what would you say, a receptive crowd.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Obviously one wasn’t too receptive.
LAURA JAYES: Well, perhaps that. Do you think that’s the motivation for leaking this, to damage Bill Shorten?
MINISTER LAUNDY: I don’t know, but what I can tell you- you want specifics? Apparently, according to the Labor Party, the bargaining system is broken. Yet, in the last 12 months, 3 per cent of terminations – this is the clause that Sally McManus came up with first, that employers are taking the nuclear option by terminating – 3 per cent of the terminations in the last 12 months were contested. Ninety-seven per cent were not. It is a lie. Every bit of these major policy…
LAURA JAYES: But let’s just go back to this. What’s the charge...
MINISTER LAUNDY: Well, let’s deal with that. You wanted to know what I wanted to do? I want to defend the system, firstly and foremost, and if there is to be sensible reform I want to listen to both sides; the union movement and the employer groups, as I’ve proven in the way I’ve handled the Oaky decision and dealing with both parties there. I’ve met with the local CFMEU delegates twice, I’ve met with the company twice, and urged them to bargain in good faith. That is responsible and sensible leadership.
LAURA JAYES: Okay.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Going and throwing- to the picket line and throwing fuel on the flames, and the yelling and screaming at the end, you know, how’s that- why wouldn’t you go as a respected leader of the union movement in this country, and say: listen, what can we do to help, how can we get it resolved?
LAURA JAYES: Was there responsible leadership out of Michaelia Cash’s office when there was clearly a leak to the media about an AWU raid? We’ve just had Senate Estimates confirming that the raids, the AFP’s investigating and the media tip-off could see those responsible get jail time. How’s that responsible leadership?
MINISTER LAUNDY: And the minute that Michaelia found out about that, that person was terminated. And that person, you know, faces the consequences of their actions as they rightly should.
LAURA JAYES: My point is that this is so serious that it could mean jail time for this person. Is the Government taking it that seriously?
MINISTER LAUNDY: It’s not the role of the Government. That’s the role of those that are investigating the allegations. The role of the Government is responsible, economic and fiscal management. You know, in this workplace space, that means a Labor-born and bred system. They implemented it, not us.
LAURA JAYES: Sure. Has Michaelia Cash answered every question openly and upfront, and is she not hiding from the media on this?
MINISTER LAUNDY: I believe she’s answered- yes, she went through Senate Estimates at the end of last year, answered every question. The minute that she found out, it was brought to her attention, the staff member responsible was terminated and the relevant inquiries are now happening and they should take their fit and proper course without political commentary.
LAURA JAYES: Okay. Craig Laundy, I’ve got a feeling we might see a bit more of you in Question Time today. Thanks so much for your time.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Thanks, Laura.