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Gillard reaffirms Opposition's plan to dump W -

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Gillard reaffirms Opposition's plan to dump WorkChoices Act

Broadcast: 11/02/2007

Reporter: Barrie Cassidy

Insiders speaks to Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Gillard.

Transcript

JULIA GILLARD, Deputy Leader of the Opposition: Good morning, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Let's be clear on WorkChoices, if elected you'll throw out the legislation, the
whole lot, and start again.

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, we'll repeal the so called WorkChoices Act and we will have a whole new act. An
act of industrial relations laws that restore the balance in this country. I think the sense in the
Australian community is the pendulum has gone too far, that we've lost balance in our work places,
that there's now too little rights for employees and too much latitude for employers, and we want
to put the pendulum back in the middle.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Will there be any place at all for AWAs, Australian Workplace Agreements?

JULIA GILLARD: No, we will be abolishing Australian Workplace Agreements.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But what happens to the 1 million people who now are signed up on AWAs, what
happens to the status of those agreements?

JULIA GILLARD: We've already said, Barrie, that we will have sensible transitional arrangements.
For those workers who want their AWA to last for the life of the agreement it can. For those
workers who want to move to other industrial instruments they can do that. But of course when we're
talking about Australian Workplace Agreements we've got to remember that a lot of workers are
experiencing these agreements as cutbacks in their pay and conditions. We know from the scanty
figures the Government's given us that more than 60 per cent of workers lost penalty rates, more
than 50 per cent lost shift work loadings, more than 40 per cent lost public holidays, 100 per cent
lost something and it's no surprise that that means for casuals on AWAs they're earning 15 per cent
less and for part timers, predominantly women, they're earning 25 per cent less.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But how many of those people do you really think will want to go through the
process again, scrap what they're on and start again?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think if I was a woman working part time and I was earning 25 per cent less
than a woman performing exactly the same work on another kind of industrial instrument I don't
think I'd be very happy keeping my AWA. Barrie, I think I'd quite like to go to a fairer set of
work arrangements. And that's what we mean about -

BARRIE CASSIDY: But they weren't coerced into going into these arrangements in the first place,
they didn't go in with a blindfold on.

JULIA GILLARD: You can't possibly know that, Barrie. We get stories all the time. I do personally,
Labor members do, trade union officials do, indeed you see them in the media as well, where people
have been told that you can only have the job if you sign an AWA, that you can only have the
promotion if you sign an AWA. And then there is a more coercive element where you're told basically
you can only keep your job if you sign the AWA. And in a world where you can get sacked unfairly if
you work in a firm of less than a hundred for basically no reason at all and have no recourse, if
your boss basically gives a nod and a wink that he'd very much like you to sign the AWA it will be
not many workers that can hold up against that.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So what happens after these contracts run out and for those who are happy to be on
AWAs, what will replace them?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, a third more than 30 per cent of our workforce is currently covered by common
law agreements. They offer a lot of flexibility and they'll be part of Labor's industrial relations
arrangements. Then, of course, you can have very flexible award conditions, you can have very
flexible collective agreements.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So what's the difference between that and AWAs?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, the difference between that and AWAs is we're talking about flexibility off a
fair base rather than flexibility downwards. What I don't want to happen in this country is that a
female worker in a shop, someone working part time as a cleaner, can basically end up seeing their
pay and conditions cut because of agreements like Australian Workplace Agreements. That can
certainly happen now, we know it is happening, and that's the vice that we want to get out of the
system.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Why are they so increasingly popular? In the last three years there's been a 30 per
cent increase and, as I said before, more than a million have signed up.

JULIA GILLARD: Oh, Barrie, let's get these statistics in some sort of perspective. 2.4 per cent of
the Australian workforce has Australian Workplace Agreements. That compares to around 30 per cent
on common law agreements, 20 per cent on awards only, 40 per cent on collective agreements. These
are at the margins of our industrial arrangements. But we know that for the workers that have been
subject to them, many of them have lost pay and conditions and that's the Government's own figures.
Interestingly, the Government that beats its chest and says it's so proud of AWAs no longer
publishes these figures. It could give us these figures this week in Senate Estimates, it could let
me and my staff go down and have a look at Australian Workplace Agreements, of course with
individual workers' names taken off, but they could let us in the building for a couple of weeks to
produce our own analysis, but I think you and I know Barrie that they're not that proud of
Australian Workplace Agreements because they don't want you or me or the Australian people to
actually know the true details about them. That's why they're covering them up.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Apart from AWAs there are a lot of non-union collective agreements as well, is that
the biggest concern that you have, that it cuts out the middle man, your powerbase, the trade
unions?

JULIA GILLARD: Oh, certainly not. Labor introduced non union collective agreements into this
country in the 1998 reforms introduced by Laurie Brereton, so I haven't got any problems or dramas
there. They were actually introduced into this country by Labor and any other suggestion is a
rewriting of history.

BARRIE CASSIDY: I notice that Kevin Rudd was quoted at the weekend as saying he'd never really been
that close to a union, is that something he should be boasting about?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, there are all sorts of reasons people join the Labor Party and all sorts of
paths in the Labor Party. I've never worked directly for a union. I did do a lot of union
industrial relations work as a lawyer. There's nothing about coming from a union that necessarily
credentials you to be in the Labor Party. Many people do, many people don't. Kevin's work history
is obviously different to that and he's proud of that work history, and he should be, he's spent a
lot of time serving this nation in very important capacities.

BARRIE CASSIDY: In unfair dismissal laws, they've been abolished for all firms with less than a
hundred employees. Is it your intention there will be no exemptions?

JULIA GILLARD: We are mindful of the requirements of small business when we are dealing with the
issue of unfair dismissals, I want to be talking to small business about this issue as does the
responsible shadow minister with a particular relationship with small business, Craig Emerson. So
we're open to discussing with them their concerns. But, Barrie, the Howard Government never told us
before the last election anything about its new industrial relations agenda, and it certainly
didn't tell us anything about abolishing unfair dismissal rights for people in firms of less than a
hundred. And some of the legal interpretations that have now been put on these laws mean even if
you are in a bigger firm your rights are really quite lean and you can be sacked very easily. Now,
I think people do want a sense of basic fairness at work and that's what we will be trying to
achieve throughout our industrial relations laws, but also in the area of unfair dismissals.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Does that mean you might come up with some sort of arbitrary figure, whether it be
10 or 20 or 30 employees?

JULIA GILLARD: Barrie, I want to be discussing the legitimate concerns of small business. I
certainly understand those concerns include being hauled off to a commission, losing hours of work
when you could've been at your small business actually getting things done. We want to make sure
that we've got a fast system, an efficient system and we will be talking to small business about
its full range of concerns.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Particularly with small business, I just simply ask the question, why would an
employer, any employer, sack somebody for no good reason when they'd then have to turn around and
recruit and train somebody else with the loss of productivity that comes with that?

JULIA GILLARD: Absolutely. And for most employers in this country they would never dream of sacking
someone unfairly for no good reason. Most employers are very good employers and care a lot about
their staff. But when industrial relations laws come into play they tend to come into play for
those hard cases where someone has been treated unfairly. And we do know that unfair dismissals
happen. I know that from my work as a lawyer. I've cited it as an example before but there was a
case my firm dealt with where at a bus depot the boss's dog had bitten a worker, the worker
complained about being bitten and the worker got sacked and the boss didn't bother chaining the dog
up. Now, I think every Australian would go, "Well, that's pretty rough" and for those sorts of
cases we do of course need good laws, good unfair dismissal laws.

BARRIE CASSIDY: It's becoming increasingly difficult, isn't it, to maintain that WorkChoices is a
job destroyer when you look at the statistics?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I've never said WorkChoices was a job destroyer. What Labor has said about
WorkChoices consistently is that it was going to eat at the foundations of fairness in our work
places

BARRIE CASSIDY: What, you've never said it was going to cost jobs?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I've never said it was going to cost jobs. What we've said is it was going to
cost fairness and it has cost it fairness. But, Barrie, if I can just spend half a minute talking
about this employment argument. We've got the Prime Minister, Treasurer Costello, the Minister for
Workplace Relations Joe Hockey, all trying to tell us that jobs growth is about the Howard
government's industrial relations laws. Well, haven't these blokes ever heard of the resources
boom? I mean, anybody who looks at the job growth statistics knows that what's driving economic
growth in this country is the resources boom. That's why we're seeing big leaps of employment in
the mining sector. When you actually look at the statistics for small business, the end of the
economy they say is most benefited from their new industrial relations laws, we see just 1 per cent
of growth over the life of the Howard Government sorry, the life of the WorkChoices legislation.
So, we know that this economy and jobs growth in it is being fuelled by the resources boom.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Just on climate change, and the coal industry, and certainly Kevin Rudd has said
that Tim Flannery is wrong when he says the coal industry should be shut down, and Bob Brown has
said the same thing, but is Peter Garrett wrong when he says, as he's quoted in the 'Newcastle
Herald' as saying there should be no automatic expansion of the industry?

JULIA GILLARD: We need to be mining coal, we will be mining coal. Senator Bob Brown's statements
are just plain dumb, really, and should be rejected by anybody in politics who's thinking about
these issues seriously.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Peter Garrett's comments are relevant given he's the minister. He's talking about a
freeze on growth, certainly no growth, he said, ahead of a huge amount of scrutiny.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, what I've heard Peter Garrett talk about is the need for development of clean
coal technology, that's the future, and the people who work in the coal mining industry themselves
know that we need a future that is dealing with climate change. So there's a consensus, if you
like, between us, between those who work in the coal industry, that coal is going to be a big part
of Australia's future, but where our future in coal is going to be different from the past is we've
got to sprint towards the development of clean coal technologies.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Two months in, what's the key difference between Kevin Rudd and Mark Latham?

JULIA GILLARD: Kevin Rudd is a man whose eyes are firmly focused on the next 10 years for this
nation. He's focused on the big picture challenges that we need to deal with if this nation is
going to have the best possible future and particularly the best possible future for Australian
families. That's why we're talking about things like climate change and infrastructure and ending
the blame game. All of these big challenges for the nation. Kevin is a very measured and
responsible person and I think that shows in everything that he does.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Better qualified, better suited than Mark Latham was?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I would like to talk about this experience argument a little bit. I mean, the
Prime Minister when he got desperate in Question Time last week was all about the experience
argument. I mean, the problem for the Prime Minister is if you reduce his argument to its logical
conclusion the only person who has the experience to be prime minister is the man who's been prime
minister. ie the only person in this country who can be prime minister is John Howard. Now, it's a
ridiculous argument. John Howard wasn't prime minister for a day before he was prime minister.
Treasurer Costello wasn't treasurer for a day before the day he became treasurer, and indeed he'd
never served as a government minister before he took up that job. Kevin Rudd is presenting with a
wealth of life experience, and also a wealth of ideas about the future of this country and that's
what's going to credential him for the job.

BARRIE CASSIDY: If it's an experienced team why is there this talk of John Brumby going into
federal politics and perhaps taking a senior economic portfolio?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I've seen that flurry in the Victorian newspapers too and John Brumby has
denied it, denied that there is any move in his head about federal politics. I'm enormously fond of
John Brumby, I worked for him. He's a tremendous contributor in the Victorian government and that's
where he's going to be, as Treasurer in the Victorian Government doing all of the things he does so
well and which Victorians have rewarded the Bracks Labor Government for with such a resounding
election victory.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Julia Gillard thanks for your time this morning.

JULIA GILLARD: Thanks, Barrie.