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Mining industry offers Labor IR compromise -

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Mining industry offers Labor IR compromise

Broadcast: 03/05/2007

Reporter: Narda Gilmore

The stand-off between the Labor party and the mining industry over new industrial relations laws
could be over after a new compromise offered from the miners.

Transcript

LISA MILLAR: The mining industry has offered Labor a compromise which could end their stand off
over Kevin Rudd's workplace plans. Mining companies say they'd be willing to accept a 'no
disadvantage' test to ensure workers on individual workplace agreements aren't worse off. Labor's
deputy leader, Julia Gillard, was tonight reluctant to discuss the proposal, but it has been
welcomed as a new development. However it's not likely to please the unions. From Canberra, Narda
Gilmore reports.

NARDA GILMORE, REPORTER: Mining representatives met Julia Gillard yesterday, but were unable to
resolve the impasse over Labor's IR plans.

CHARLIE LENEGAN, RIO TINTO: We have a long way to go. There was nothing firm that came out of that
meeting.

NARDA GILMORE: The mining industry is railing against Kevin Rudd's promise to throw out John
Howard's WorkChoices laws, particularly individual workplace agreements. They want a system that
allows them to continue to deal directly with their workers, free of union involvement, and tonight
they've offered Labor a possible compromise.

STEVE KNOTT, AUSTRALIAN MINES & METALS ASSOCIATION: The mining industry could live with pre
WorkChoices AWAs. That is, there's a global no disadvantage test against the award. There were 18
minimum conditions that were in those pre WorkChoices AWAs.

NARDA GILMORE: He says it would guarantee workers in the industry would not be worse off. Labor has
proposed a system including common law contracts, but the mining industry insists that wouldn't
work.

STEVE KNOTT, AUSTRALIAN MINES & METALS ASSOCIATION: Quite clearly the common law regime is
subservient to union controlled awards and agreements and they won't work for us, but if we have a
statutory employer employee agreement stream, which is based on the pre WorkChoices AWAs model, we
could live with that.

NARDA GILMORE: Tonight Julia Gillard said she was willing to talk.

JULIA GILLARD, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I don't want to the play media ping pong with this. I have
heard Mr Knott's comments and I will speak to Mr Knott directly about them.

NARDA GILMORE: It's not yet a breakthrough but Labor sources have told the ABC it is a new
development and one worthy of discussion. A compromise with the mining industry would be a welcome
relief for Labor, especially Julia Gillard, who's been under fire over her dealings with business
in the IR debate. Ms Gillard moved to put another controversy behind her today, accepting Liberal
Senator Bill Heffernan's apology over his comments questioning her suitability for leadership
because she's childless. But Kevin Rudd is not about to let the matter slide.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: I don't think Mr Howard grasped how offensive these remarks were to
people right across the country.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: It was wrong. I rang him and told him so in no uncertain terms and
he's apologised.

NARDA GILMORE: But the Labor leader has seized on John Howard's official reaction to Senator
Heffernan's remarks.

JOHN HOWARD (SKY NEWS): People say things all the time and the question of whether they apologise
for them is a matter for them.

NARDA GILMORE: In the end Mr Howard did order an apology. Kevin Rudd says that's not enough.

KEVIN RUDD: Asking Senator Heffernan to apologise is one thing, disciplining Senator Heffernan is
another, and Mr Howard has a responsibility now to act in relation to Senator Heffernan's remarks.

NARDA GILMORE: This afternoon, John Howard had nothing to add. The man at the centre of the
controversy was also keeping his thoughts to himself.

REPORTER: Will you be resigning, Senator? Senator, are you deliberately trying to ignore the media
here?

NARDA GILMORE: While condemning his remarks, his colleagues say the matter has been dealt with.

MICHAEL FERGUSON, LIBERAL MP: Senator Heffernan has done the right thing to apologise because his
comments were out of line.

SENATOR HELEN COONAN, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: I don't think anyone, under any circumstances, would
support those comments he made but I do think that we should move on from this.

NARDA GILMORE: It seems Bill Heffernan agrees. Narda Gilmore, Lateline.