PRIME MINISTER: Well Barnaby and Michaelia and Darren and I are here with Nola and colleagues, supporting the men and women here today who have driven thousands of kilometres, spent thousands of dollars, to come here to Canberra, to tell us, the members of their national Parliament, that this law must be abolished.
This Labor law, this Bill Shorten creation, is keeping these men and women, these family businesses off the roads. Putting them out of business. It was a deal that was done between the Gillard Government – Bill Shorten was the minister – to support the Transport Workers Union and its express purpose, its deliberate purpose, was to put out of business owner-drivers like the men and women here today.
Their passion, their determination, their enterprise, their pioneering spirit, their courage, are the lifeblood of our nation and our economy. Barnaby and I are here with our colleagues, to show them that our parties, our Government is going to back them to the hilt and that’s why we’ll be moving to abolish this tribunal this week. Barnaby?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much Prime Minister. Look every now and then, sometimes a form of forgetfulness -about what the Labor-Green-Independent alliance was like - passes over us all. We think ‘oh well, they were just another government’ and then every now and then something like this pops up just to show you how disastrous they were for our nation. How that Labor-Green-Independent alliance, with all the combinations and permutations, of confusion and disruption to the Australian economy, whether it’s the live cattle trade, whether it’s this form of issue with the owner-drivers, the mum and dad operators, whether it was the debt. It comes back and I was thinking of that as the horns were blasting, driving round and round Parliament House today. I was thinking ‘when have I heard that before?’ I thought – that’s right – it was when the Labor-Green-Independent alliance was in government. It used to sound like that quite often. It was quite often completely confusing.
And this is yet another sense of why you need cogent government, a good government, to be able to get these mum and dad operators back on the road. Because what we want to hear are these rigs moving, with trailers, moving produce. Because that’s the sound of economics. That’s the sound of a nation moving. That’s the sound of jobs. That’s the sound of famers moving cattle. Farmers moving wool. Farmers moving grain. Mines moving minerals. Shops moving produce. That’s the sound we like to hear. That’s the sound we stand behind. We stand behind sane government, sensible government and we’ve got nothing to hide because we didn’t vote for this. We never voted for this. This was voted for by the Labor-Green-Independent alliance and now even with all these people, some of them who have cost them thousands of dollars today to be here, thousands of dollars to come down from Queensland, come down from central New South Wales, come down from Victoria.
Well the question you’ve got to ask now is this: what else does Mr Shorten need? What else does he want? A telegram from the Queen? The Archangel Gabriel to appear to him in a vision tonight, saying ‘Bill, I think you made the wrong decision on that one’? What else do you need Mr Shorten? Because the only thing you’re delivering at the moment, is a very clear vision of what the nation would look like under you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the numbers still aren’t there in the senate for the ABCC. If that goes down and becomes a trigger, are you absolutely determined to go to a double dissolution election, or are there circumstances in which you might opt out.
PRIME MINISTER: We’ve made it very clear. If the Australian Building Construction Commission bill is rejected by the Senate a second time, then there will be a dissolution of both houses and an election of the 2nd of July. Can I just say to you that the ABCC legislation is a critical part of our economic plan. The construction industry is a huge part of our economy. It employs over a million Australians. The lawlessness in the construction sector which has developed and intensified since Labor took the tough cop off the beat, since Labor abolished the ABCC, the lawlessness that has increased and increased. There’s now over 100 officials of the CFMEU as you know, before the courts on over 1,000 charges for breaking industrial law. That lawlessness costs us, costs our economy, billions of dollars every year. So ensuring that the industrial laws prevail, that the rule of law prevails, is a vital economic element in our plan, in our national economic plan, to ensure that our kids and our grandkids have great jobs in the future.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you guarantee that your government will abolish this tribunal before potentially taking the nation to a double dissolution election on July 2?
PRIME MINISTER: Well can I remind you that for this tribunal to be abolished, it needs the vote of both the House and the Senate. So yes we will certainly be presenting a bill to the Senate to abolish the RSRT. As Barnaby was explaining a moment ago, we will be arguing for that to be passed. We are confident that the numbers will emerge for it to be passed. But if they do not, if enough of the crossbenchers don’t support it and if Labor and the Greens continue to oppose the abolition of the RSRT – in other words if Labor and the Greens, if Bill Shorten and Richard Di Natale, continue to want to keep these family businesses off the roads – if they continue, if Labor wants to continue putting family businesses out of business and we can’t get enough of the independents to support it, then the abolition won’t succeed. However, we have a fall back which is that we will have another bill which sets aside the order that affects, directly affects these owner drivers and we do have the numbers from the crossbench to support that at least.
So we are determined to get these family businesses back on the road and one way or another our commitment and our expectation is that we’ll be able to do that. But the pressure, the political pressure really has to be on Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten has got to ask himself how can he live with putting these families out of business? He talks a good game about his plans for Australia. What sort of vision for Australia is it, when tens of thousands of owner-drivers, when tens of thousands of family businesses, are put out of business? What sort of vision is it for Australia that punishes small business, at the expense of their enterprise, puts them at risk, sends their mortgages into default. That’s what Bill Shorten has done and he has the opportunity, as Barnaby says, he could put his hand up and say, we made a blue, let’s abolish the tribunal and it would be gone.
He could do that but he won’t. He won’t because frankly, he is as always, doing the bidding of the big unions in this case, the TWU.
JOURNALIST: Are you happy that the candidate you backed in Mackellar won preselection last night?
PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you for asking me about the Mackellar preselection. The Liberal Party, like the National Party, is a grassroots political organisation and all of us who have the privilege of representing our party at an election, do so with the consent of our party membership. Now the party members in Mackellar have met and as you know they’ve preselected Jason Falinski as their candidate at the next election, which is very disappointing for Bronwyn Bishop, who’s served the Liberal Party as the Member for Mackellar for well over 20 years and before that of course she was a senator. Bronwyn has made an enormous and indelible contribution to Australian public life. She has been a magnificent figure on the national stage as a minister, as a member, as a senator, as the Speaker. Bronwyn is unforgettable. She is dynamic, she’s colourful, she’s charismatic and we thank her on behalf of the Liberal Party, we thank her for her extraordinary service and at the same time of course we welcome and congratulate the newly endorsed candidate Mr Falinski. But we are a grassroots political organisation as is the National Party and these changes occur from time to time.
JOURNALIST: Labor has flagged that it will, it could support the order to freeze pay for truckies. Given that they’ve also flagged that they’re willing to compromise on making sure that owner drivers in future aren’t disaffected you know, adversely affected by this bill, what’s the rush in abolishing the tribunal?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ll make one observation then I’ll ask Michaelia to add to it. Let me say there have been a number of inquiries that have looked at this legislation and at this tribunal and they have all been scathing about it. This attempt to link rates with safety is a spurious one. It always was. This was always simply a recruiting effort for the Transport Workers Union. Now Mr Shorten should own up to that. He is putting his policy, his pet project, this was his project remember. Bill Shorten’s pet project, this legislation, this tribunal is putting tens of thousands of family businesses out of business. As Barnaby said, imagine what it would be like if he got the opportunity to run the country as Prime Minister. Michaelia?
MINISTER CASH: Thank you Prime Minister. Mr Shorten is only supporting a delay because the TWU itself now understands they have made a massive mistake with this pay order. A delay does not do anything for owner-drivers other than to delay the pain. It will reinvigorate on the 1st of January 2017. This tribunal has done nothing in four years other than, of late, destroy the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of owner-drivers in Australia. This Government backs small business. We back enterprise. We back the individual and we stand here today because we back the owner-drivers who have given us a very clear message. This tribunal is got nothing to do with safety. It was nothing more and nothing less than a deal done, as the Prime Minister said, between the former Gillard Government, Bill Shorten and Tony Sheldon, at the behest of the TWU, to bolster the finances and the numbers of the TWU. It does nothing to contribute to safety within the transport system and we are committed to its abolition.
JOURNALIST: Given the fact that the truckies bill would have to go to the House of Reps first, do you guarantee that if the ABCC bill was blocked in the Senate, which it appears likely it will be, that the Senate will continue sitting to deal with the truckies legislation as well, before you call off Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER: We look forward, we are encouraging the Senate to pass the ABCC bill and the Registered Organisations bills. We’re encouraging them to do that. They’ve debated them before. There’s not a lot new to be said about them from the point of view of the senators and they should deal with them quickly. They’ll be presented in the course of this week with a bill to abolish the RSRT and then as a fall back as we said, a bill to suspend the order. But our goal is to abolish the RSRT. As you know that is our objective. But the one thing we don’t want to do is get into a situation where these owner-drivers can’t get back on the road. So our focus is on their welfare. Because they are the small businesses, the enterprising family businesses, that deserve support from government, not being wiped out, which of course is what Bill Shorten’s plan is.
JOURNALIST: So even if the ABCC bill is blocked, the Senate will continue to sit to also look at the road –
PRIME MINISTER: Yes. The answer is yes but the Senate obviously can determine when it sits. We would welcome a quick decision on the ABCC and Registered Organisations. So we’re encourage them to vote for those bills but if the Senate decides to vote them down again, we’d encourage them to do so swiftly. That’s a matter for the Senate of course.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: May I add something to that please. Look really the question you’re asking is, do you believe that the Labor Party will play a game so that mum and dad operators on building sites, whether they’re carpenters, electricians, brick layers, gyprockers, can continue to be bullied on building sites, while at the same time the Labor Party might also allow mum and dad operators on the roads to be bullied by the Transport Workers Union? If that’s the question you’re asking, I say yes that is a distinct possibility the Labor Party could do that. But the answer to both those questions is it’s in the Labor Party’s hands. We are going to try and make sure that all this gets through, ASAP. The questions you’re asking us should really and truly be addressed to Mr Shorten and Senator Di Natale as to what their views are. Because we are not the ones holding this up. They are.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.