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ABC News Breakfast -

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PRESENTER: Returning to Canberra now and the Senate has passed the government's Fair Work Bill in
the early hours of this morning but a standoff still looms because the government says it won't
accept the amendments made from the Upper House.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The Prime Minister spoke a short time ago and he said the government has a clear
mandate to implement the original legislation.

KEVIN RUDD (archive tape): It's quite clear that the government has a mandate to provide proper
protection from unfair dismissals for Australian workers. Let me very clear about what we took to
the people at the last election. We said that an employee who is employed by an employer who
employs fewer than fifteen employees must have been in employment for 12 months, that's the exact
provision that we took to the Australian people. We are absolutely clear cut about the fifteen cut
off. Why is that important because if you were to accept the amendments which were put through the
Senate last night it would leave another half a million Australians out there without effective
protection from unfair dismissal?our mandate's clear. Mr Turnbull as leader of the opposition only
three months ago said he accepted our mandate, that's why we believe it is absolutely right to do
this.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaking on AM just a short time ago. Well Michael
Keenan is the opposition spokesman on employment and workplace relations, and he joins us now from
Canberra.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Michael Keenan good morning.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Good morning Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The Prime Minister went on to say almost immediately after that, that it will send
this bill straight back to the Senate, it will not accept this amendment. So what will you do in
the Upper House?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, can I say that I find that extraordinary, the Senate last night unanimously
voted to kill WorkChoices which is something that Kevin Rudd has consistently said that he would
liked to seen happened, now that the Senate has done that he is saying that when it comes back to
the House today they're are going to reject the death of WorkChoices because they don't believe
that Australian small business can be defined by 20 or 15 people.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: No he is just going to reject your amendment, but let's be clear he's going to
reject your amendment.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well he just talked about the amendment of changing the definition of small
business to 20 people from the governments preferred position of 15. Now if he believes that's a
big enough reason to reject the death of WorkChoices, something he's consistently said he wanted
then I find that rather extraordinary and I think the Australian people will find that rather
extraordinary as well to sort of let his whole industrial relations agenda flounder on what is a
relatively insignificant issue.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Alright well putting extraordinary to one side, what will you do when it comes
back to the Upper House?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, we believe it is important that you define a small business in a sensible
way, the reality is if you define it with 15 people then that means that you're basically missing
out on a lot of small businesses in Australia. What we need to do is have a more sensible
definition and we actually wanted 25 but the Senate ultimately decided on 20 with the support of
the Independent senators. So we accept that and we believe that that is a better definition of
small business than 15.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So you'll stick with that? When it comes back with the amendment deleted, you'll
knock this back?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Absolutely and can I tell you why it's because if you walk into any small business
around Australia, they will tell you that these laws give them cause of concern when it comes to
employing people, now the government says that jobs is their number one priority but then they go
around and put in legislation like this which is actually going to destroy jobs and extraordinarily
they're going to provide a disincentive for small business to create jobs, so that's why we think
this is important and that's why we will be insisting that we have a more reasonable definition of
small business.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But I just wonder how then you'd go out and make the argument to the community in
a time of such economic uncertainty that potentially 500 000 Australian workers now won't get the
protection of unfair dismissal laws, at a time when you can't give workers enough protection,
what's the argument against that?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, I would put it another way, I mean why would you do anything in what is very
difficult economic times that discourages small business from employing more people. The big issue
now ...

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: That's a furphy argument if a business is doing well, if there are customers lined
up outside the door, if they're manufacturing good goods people will turn up and buy it and they'll
need to employ more people.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, Virginia can I suggest you walk into any small business in Australia and put
that question to them about what they believe about these laws and I know from my own experience
that they will say that these unfair dismissal laws are a worry for them when they come to
employing people. Now why would you make it more difficult more difficult for the Australian
business sector to employ more people at a time when jobs is the number one crisis facing the
country.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It's interesting we know the opposition has been beating up the government over
its stimulus package, the $42 billion package. According to the IMF today its urging governments
right around the world to keep stimulating their local economies, to keep spending and to spend
their way through this. What's your view on that?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well nobody's arguing that we need to do something to stimulate the economy, what
we were saying is that we would do it at a lesser level and also we would spend it on more higher
quality things I mean ...

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Just to jump in here just to be clear about the question, if the IMF is urging all
these governments to do that then, would you as a general principle be on board with further
spending further stimulation by the federal government?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, I think we need to. First of all, they've stimulated the economy twice in a
very big way and what we've seen for the first cash splash is that it failed completely to do what
the government said it was going to do, now our concern about this second cash splash and I think
we need to be clear that this is not money that the government has, this is money the government is
putting on the credit card so they're borrowing money to do this and I think that the things that
they've decided to spend this money on are not the right priorities for Australia here at the
moment.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Just returning to the issue of the bill coming back to the Senate, I neglected to
ask you whether the opposition might be prepared down the track for a double dissolution election
are you.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well I think it will be pretty extraordinary to go to the Australian people on the
issue of whether a small business is defined by 20 people or 15 people. now that would be Kevin
Rudd and Julia Gillard putting their pride and their egos against any sort of sensible policy
outcome and if they want to do that I suppose that is a matter for them but do the Australian
people really want an election over whether a small business is defined by 15 or 20 people.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: No the Australian people believe they've already voted on that one.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, can I say and we totally respect the mandate that the Australian people gave
to the government on industrial relations.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You do really? They gave it on the basis of 15 not to go around in circles here.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, Virginia if might let me finish. Well I think with all due respect I mean the
problem with the government is that they are saying that the 15 people is somehow set in stone
because it was in their policy, yet in other areas of the policy they've done things that they
promised, they explicitly promised that they wouldn't actually do and in other areas they've gone
well beyond the policy they put to the people prior to the last election, so this idea that this
policy is come down and is set in stone and can't be changed is really just political posturing.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well, just very quickly do you have a feeling about what's going to happen in
Queensland tomorrow?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, I mean I'd be very much hoping that Queensland will follow the example of my
home state in Western Australia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Oh yeah I know your hoping but what do your figures tell you, what did your
internal polling tell you?

MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, look I'm not privy to internal Liberal party polling in Queensland. I can
only see what the public polling tells me which is that it's an extraordinary close race. But I
find it hard to believe that Queenslanders would go back to a government that has managed in the
midst of an economic boom to mismanage that state so badly.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Good to talk to you Mr Keenan, thanks so much.

MICHAEL KEENAN: Thank you Virginia.