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Live. VOICE-OVER: At the National

Press Club today the secretary

of the Australian Council of

Trade Unions, Jeff Chase. His

focus today is on the need for

the recovery from last year's

economic downturn to result in

fair outcome for workers,

including better working hours

and income. He'll also discuss

the Henk Potts. Jeff Chase

with the National Press Club

address. (Bell rings)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome

to the National Press Club and today's National Australia Bank

address. We're very pleased today to welcome back Jeff

Chase, the secretary of the

ACTU. Like the Rudd

Government, Jeff Chase was

elected to office in 2007, a

few months ahead of the

Government actually and the

ACTU, of course, played a quite

big role in that election

campaign and since then they've

worked closely with the

Government in the drafting of

the Fair Work Act which has

replaced WorkChoices, which was

in turn, the biggest target of

the ACTU campaign during the

run-up to the election. Last

year, Jeff Chase helped to

broker a new set of Government procurement regulations which

put more emphasis on Australian

jobs and workplace rights and

along similar lines, he's is

titled his address today,

securing jobs and rights for

Australian workers. Please

welcome, Jeff Chase. APPLAUSE

When I last spoke at the

National Press Club two years

ago I was relatively new to the

job of ACTU secretary. The

union movement was fresh from

your Your Rights at Work

campaign. A lot has happened

since that time - the global

financial crisis, the

introduction of the Fair Work

Act, two more changes of

Liberal Party leadership and

now here we are in an election

year and who would have

believed the Liberal Party

would be seeking once again to

resurrect woifs. Much has

changed, but one constant is

that Australian unions remain

determined to oppose

WorkChoices, whether it be Mark

1 or Mark II. I want to

discuss the union movement's

vision for security of jobs and

incomes for all working

Australians. We represent

roughly two million members,

their husbands, wives, partners

and children. The union vision

is a vision for mainstream

Australia. The people we

represent don't have an

ideological agenda like Tony

Abbott, they're not wide-eyed

zealots like Eric Abetz, or

extremists like some of the

leaders of some of our major

employer organisations.

They're just hard-working

Australians who want a better

life. They're not even

particularly political. Most,

in fact, I'm sure would prefer

'Dancing with the Stars' to

'Insiders', no offence to

Barrie Cassidy, but they have

bills to pay, kids to raise and

lives to enjoy and that's why

they choose to be members of a

union. Over the last couple of years, unions have been

thinking about how best we tell

our story and I think that's really quite simple.

Australian unions are working

for a better life. It's what

unions are about and have

always been about - working for

a better life for Australian

workers and their families, a

better life through real paid

increases, paid maternity

leave, equal pay for men and women, improvements to conditions, standards and

safety and a better life for

tomorrow through a fair tax

system, quality education,

health care for all, social

justice and superannuation.

Unions in Australia have always

been the main voice for a more

equal society, and we will

continue to be. We need a

recovery for all. Our starting

point, of course, is the

immediate one which faces the

whole country, how to emerge

from the global economic

downturn with our essentially

egalitarian national values

intact. Obviously, Australia

has come through the crisis

better than most, with lower

than feared unemployment thanks

to a combination of the Federal

Government's successful stimulus package, cooperation

between workers' unions and

employers to keep redundancies

down and the relative

robustness of our financial

systems. Due in part to our compulsory superannuation

system. Global growth is

expected to return. World GDP

is expected to rise close to

trend rates. Everything seems

to have returned to business as

usual. But can we really

afford to return to business as

usual? Where are the sweeping

changes to corporate

responsibility we were

promised? Whatever happened to

the new era of international

cooperation that seems a

distant memory in the aftermath

of Copenhagen and little

practical work has been done it

seems to me about global

financial regulation. My

concern is that working people

were disproportionately asked

to bear the burden of a crisis

they didn't cause and as we

enter recovery, we must ensure

that working people who work

hard to get Australia through

are not left behind. While the

media focus has been on banks

and financial regulation and

interest rates, the real story

of the GFC is that ordinary

people suffered. Even in

Australia, 185,000 more people

were unemployed, low-paid

workers had their wages frozen.

Employees worked harder and

longer days. Some had their

hours cut or took annual and

unpaid leave. The bankers and

traders may have got all the

media coverage, they might have

had to wait longer for their

bonuses and holiday houses, but

the real sacrifices, as always,

were made by every day people

and in true Australian fashion,

in our view it's time to repay

the favour. Businesses now owe

it to their workers to ensure

they share in the benefit of

recovery, and that's particularly the case with respect to minimum wages. In

the view of the ACTU, it's

finally time for a decent rise

in minimum wages. Last year,

the Fair Pay Commission, the

so-called Fair Pay Commission

froze the wages of 1.4 million

working Australians who rely

solely on award minimum wages.

By the end of 2009, this

amounted to a pay cut of

between 10 and 25 bucks a week

for most of Australia's lowest

paid workers. Thankfully, that

was the last decision of the

Fair Pay Commission. The job's

now with the minimum wage panel

of Fair Work Australia. Low

paid workers are resilient and

resourceful. They do it tough

but deserve a fair share.

People, like some of those who

are guests of the National

Press Club today on page 12 -

and I'd ask them to stand and

introduce themselves - they all

make do on award wages and you

might have seen them serving

you coffee at the Qantas Club,

including your office or

securing your workplace. Lucia

has cleaned for Parliament

since the day it opened. She's

outlasted four prime ministers

and who knows how many

Opposition Leaders. She's

raised three children on a

minimum wage. Sometimes she

needed a second job to make

ends meet. With her husband on

a half-pension she'll tell you

how much she looked forward to

a pay increase last year which

never came. It's a security

guard, Adam is grateful he at

least gets paid the minimum

wage. Some contractors, of

course, get less, even though

that's illegal. Adam works at

a number of Canberra's most sensitive locations. He puts

himself on the line for a base

wage of $16 an hour. He, like

many award-dependent workers

depends on overtime to get by.

If Lauren gets the fair

increase that the ACTU will

seek she might be able to

afford to park at the airport

carpark rather than getting a

ride of 2.5 kilometres she has

to do now. You ask these

workers what fair pay means?

They'll tell you it means

respect and if you ask them

what it's like to be on minimum

wages they'll tell you frankly

that it suction. That it's

difficult, and it's tough, so I

challenge anyone to look them

in the eye and tell them they

don't deserve a pay rise.

That's why the first ACTU

submission to the minimum wage

case of Fair Work Australia

will contain a claim of $27 a

week. That includes an element

of catch-up. Our wage claim is

responsible. Australia's

economic outlook is good and

improving. The Reserve Bank is

predicting a return to normal

growth this year. Pressures on

inflation are low. An increase

of $27 a week would have a

negligible impact on the CPI.

In fact, less than one fifth of

1%. Importantly, the case for

a pay increase is strong.

Average ordinary wages

increased by 3% and if you

don't include workers on

minimum wages, wages, in fact,

increased by 4% throughout the

community. Average weekly

earnings rose by $61.10 a week.

At the same time, of course,

low-income earners received

nothing, zero last year. And

so the result is that the

Federal minimum wage is now

$400 less than average weekly

earnings. That's $10 an hour

less. That represents a

mortgage, a holiday, a

serviceable car, the occasional

night out for dinner. In our

view, that's not too much to

ask. Without a catch-up in

minimum wages these low-paid

workers will slip further

behind, further increasing income equality. That's bad

for the economy, it's bad for

workforce participation, it's

bad for productivity growth,

it's bad for women and children

because 60% of workers relied

on award minimum wages are

women. More than that, the

widening pay in equality is bad

for our society. The ACTU's

wage claim is affordable, it's

economically responsible and it

promote s productivity and participation and most

importantly, it's just and it's

fair. We need a strong safety

net in Australia. Our award

system is uniquely Australian,

it's been around for over 100

years. It's ensured that all

workers have secure minimum wages paid according to their

level of skill and a set of

protected conditions. Workers

on minimum wages would be doing

it even tougher without a

strong award safety net. As a

young union official, workers

made it clear to me early on

that some conditions were as

important as a pay increase.

Penalty rates, overtime,

minimum wages, leave loadings.

The award modernisation process

has reduced and number of

awards from 1500 to 122. We

all know that has been a

process that's had its

difficulties. And we don't

agree with all of the decisions

that have been made, but we do

recognise that done well, this

process can protect the safety

net that the award system

represents. After all, it's

important to have a system that

allows workers to know their

right and employers their

obligations. Unions will make

sure that employers don't use

the modernisation of awards as

a vehicle to reduce wages and

conditions. It isn't much to ask after all that employers

keep paying what they do now,

and unions intend to secure

that commitment and more from

employers around the country.

We all know that the workplace

has had a lot of change in

Australia since the 1980s.

People's jobs have become less

secure. Underemployment for

instance grew to almost 8% in

last September with 800,000

workers wanting more hours.

45% of job holders are engaged

as casual workers on fixed term

contracts, or as independent

contractors. One quarter of

all employees in Australia are

casuals. It's true that some

workers prefer that, but lots

don't. Employers are putting

more demand on their workers

and increasingly using casual

workers as hours, it's easier

to reduce. Many employees tend

to keep this situation as the

economic situation improves.

We need to ask whether this is

the sort of workforce we want.

It represents two tiers of

employees. Millions of

families with no paid leave, no

security, no chance to plan for

the future, no capacity to pay

off debts, no hope of buying a

home, no access to training and

promotion and more, is this the

sort of economy and society

that we want. We need a new

deal that fits the needs not

just of our new economy, but of

working Australians and their

families. We need to debate

these issues. The Australian

people need to be part of the

decisions. Not only did the former Coalition government

fail to protect workers'

rights, it closed its eyes.

When they saw workers were

losing conditions they stopped

reporting on it and that was

long before WorkChoices. The

last Australian workplace

industrial relations survey, in

fact, was conducted in 1995.

Peter Reith soon ended it when

he became the minister.

Workers are facing unprecedented challenges in job

and income security. The

nation owes it to them to know

what's going on. So in our

view, there needs to be a full

examination of the rights of

casual workers and contractors,

reasonable working hours both

underemployment and unpaid

overtime and more supportive

labour market transition

programs for women, aged

workers and other disadvantaged

groups. Unions are looking to

new solutions that balance the

demands of a global economy and

the demands of our society.

Recently, we've been

researching a concept called in

Europe flex security, it's a

model of income protection

based on policies that protect

the income of workers who lose

their job. It allows for the

workforce to adapt to the needs

of business by supporting

people with retraining,

reskilling and reemployment. A

meaningful income security when

they're out of work. The ACTU

has established a proof of

concept for an economically

sustainable, social insurance

scheme that provides meaningful

income support for workers who

lose their jobs. It assists

structural change to better and more quickly transit our

economy, the new and emerging

industries. One of the ways of

delivering this would be

through increasing the super

guarantee with a portion of the

increase set aside that would

go towards income security.

That's one of the options that

we're asking. There are, of

course, many future challenges

that we need to confront. The

overall consequence of the

diminishing rights of working

people is widening inequality

in our society. 10 years ago

the minimum wage was almost 50%

of average male earnings, now

it's 42%. Trade-qualified

workers earn 60% of the average

male earnings a decade ago, now

they earn less than 50%. Over

the last two decades, the

profit share's grown and the

wages share has shrunk. And

working people have made more

and more expenses, or had more

and more expenses pushed from

the Government and employers

onto them. Over the last two

decades, household spending on

education has actually doubled

and spending on health has

risen by a third as a

proportion of the household

budget. Household fixed

expenses now take up 75% of the

household budget compared to

55%, 30 years ago. Nearly half

of Australians expect to use

their credit card in the coming

month for otherwise

unaffordable expenses. A

recent ranking of the 30 OECD

countries in terms of

inequality placed Mexico first.

That might not be that

surprising, but it also placed

Australia sixth worst. Sixth,

Australia. I'm shocked by that

and I know other Australians

will be too. So we need to

review as a nation, how we

ensure that everyone can afford

the basic standards of living,

and these are key issues for

union members and for all

Australian workers. We take

the example of our health

system. A recent poll by the

ACTU shows working Australians

are worried our health system

is getting worse and not

better. They don't like the

shift towards user pays and

they want more Government

funding so that all Australians

have access to quality health

care. When unions help create Medicare and superannuation it

was because working people

deserved not just quality jobs,

but quality lives. It's

therefore important to review

the social wage to decrease

inequity. Dignity in

retirement for all - these are

union priorities, they're

Australian priorities and in

our view, they should be priorities of the national

government. Of course, the

Henk Potts is important in that

regard. We've seen the effect

of income inequality in the US

in the global financial crisis

and I do believe it's time that we reinvigorated the debate on

the social wage. We as a

nation need to create a more

equal society. This means that

we need to ensure that the tax

system is fair and that it

provides a revenue base that

gives us the social wage

Australian people want. Ken

Henry is absolutely right on

this point. Our tax system

shouldn't just be about

reducing income tax at election

time. We need a tax system

that's good for economic efficiency whilst being

fundamentally fair. PAYE

taxpayers can't and shouldn't

minimise their tax unethically

and neither should anyone else.

What's important with respect

to the Henry tax review is not

when it's released, but what

the Rudd Government does with

it. The Henk Potts must be

benchmarked in our view against

the benefits for ordinary

Australians. Government

reforms in tax must look in

particular at three simple

hallmarks of a good system.

Revenue adequacy, fairness and

efficiency. That's why the

ACTU wants the Henk Potts to

recommend tightening up tax

avoidance which is exploited by

a new in our society.

Companies trust and sham

contracting must be in the mix.

Paying decent wages, super and

WorkCover levies, these

shouldn't be optional because

dodgy contracting arrangements

have been put in place. We

need to ensure that our tax

system allows and encourages people to participate in

society by eliminating the high

effective marginal tax rates that discourage part-time

workers, the low-paid, parents

and carers from re-entering the

workforce. The flow-on with

respect to women workers and

the impact of this is

particularly significant. Each

year a person's out of the

workforce we know the dis

advantage increase. Decreasing

future career prospects and

earning capacity, training

development and the level of

savings in superannuation and

the quality of retirement. The

ACTU is committed to redressing

pay and equity. The

significant pay equity case

being run by the Australian

Services Union and other key

community sector unions is

aimed at achieving equal pay

for work, or comparable value

for community workers. Unions

have fought hard as well for

paid maternity leave and we

want to see it implemented as

soon as possible. Our goal is

to see it begin from 1 January

next year in our workplaces.

Paid maternity leave is too

important and it's been

struggled for by unions for too

long for it to be used now as a

wedge political issue, and we

need better superannuation.

Low-income workers can pay more

on tax and savings in super

than the rest of their income.

For 40% of employees who earn

less than 35,000 bucks per

annum, there's no tax incentive

to save in super. No wonder

out of the over $24 billion

spent in superannuation tax

concessions, nearly 40% goes to

the wealthiest 5% of taxpayers.

A more equitable system is

needed. A number of models

have been suggested by the ACTU

and the industry super network

in this regard and each of them

would better redistribute the

existing tax concession and

they're options which would be

cost neutral to the Government. We expect the Henk Potts and

the Government to take up this

issue in a positive way. And

we also believe that there

needs to be action with respect

to the quantum of superannuation. It needs to be

matched by an increase in the

superannuation guarantee, from

9% to 15% by 2015. Whilst 9%

might be OK for the person who

works 40 years at average

weekly earnings, it isn't

enough for the majority of

people to have a decent

retirement. To achieve that

goal we need to start now.

Unions will bargain in

workplaces to increase super

contributions. In those

industries that are strong,

workers may choose a mixture of

increase to wages and super.

Unions and workers also want to

see the Government act now to

increase the superannuation

guarantee. This needs to be

part of the Government's

response to the intergenerational report to

address our ageing population

and to ensure workers have

dignity in retirement. In

conclusion, I want to say

something about the

relationship with Labor and the challenge that's brought to us

by the Liberal Party's agenda.

Over the last couple of years

there's been a lot of media

attention on union's

relationship to Labor in

government and I expect I'll

get some further questions

about that later. To me, this

isn't the right question. The

question is what's being

delivered for working people

and their families and the

truth is a lot, and unions are

proud of their role in

delivering that. We're proud

of getting rid of WorkChoices,

we're proud of supporting the

stimulus measures, we're proud

of the procurement policy that

supports quality Australian

jobs. We do have a lot of

uncompleted work with this

Government. We want to ensure

that workers have the highest

standard of health and safety

protections coming out of the HS harmonisation process and we

want to ensure building workers

have the same rights as all

other workers by getting rid of

the ABCC. I want to remind the

audience of what these laws

mean. The ABCC can require

someone not suspected of any

crime or wrongdoing, not even

suspected of breaching workplace laws to answer

questions on the threat of

jail. Every political party in

this country should be ashamed

to have these laws remain on

our statute book and there are

other differences with Labor

and I'm sure there will be

others in the future, but we

don't need to look back very

far to remember what the former

Coalition government did to

working people. We in the

union movement haven't

forgotten how the Howard

Government failed Australia,

squandering the boom, failing

to renew our infrastructure,

leaving women behind,

neglecting education and training, undermining the

social wage, and we haven't, of course, forgotten WorkChoices.

I don't need to go, I'm sure,

through the impact of

WorkChoices again. It meant lowering living standards and

it threatened to turn Australia

into the sort of place where

you forfeit your democratic

rights when you enter the

workplace. This is something

we in Australian unions will

never accept. The price, of

course, the Howard Government

paid for that deliberate

decision to attack working

people's rights was richly

deserved. I must say, before

the advent of Tony Abbott as

Liberal leader, I did believe

that WorkChoices was dead.

While the new system might not

deliver everything we want,

there is a significant

difference between the Fair

Work Act, in fact light years,

and WorkChoices, and we will continue to campaign for

further improvements. But I

don't believe that working

Australians will go back to

WorkChoices. To do so would be

to put at risk the very job and income security that Australians value so highly.

But the threat of a return to

WorkChoices is real. Tony

Abbott has said as much, Eric

Abetz has said as much. Their

only commitment is not to use

the word WorkChoices, and

Australian unions are

determined to make the

Australian public aware of

these plans right up to

election day. Australia can't

afford to endlessly rerun the

verdict of history. We have to

look to the future, so instead

of debating the merits of what

happened in 2007, let's start

debating what's happening to

our social fabric and our

social wage now. Australia

does have a big struggle in

front of it. To adjust to a

new economy, an ageing

population and a changing

climate. We have to make that

transition in a way that

deserves who and what we are.

People who want a fair society,

a country that has economic

wealth and the social policies

to provide it. I always

remember when I was a young

official, a cleaner came up to

me after a member's meeting and

told me that the job that I was

doing was very important to her

and, of course, I said to her -

I actually thought it was an

important job - I said "Why is

it particularly so? And she

explained to me that she was

Greek, that she didn't speak

much English and I and the

union were her voice.

Australian unions are the

choice of working people and

their families and we'll

continue to be the voice for a

fairer Australia. Thank you. APPLAUSE

APPLAUSE Thank you very much, Jeff

Chase. We have our usual

period of media questions

today. Some employers in

sectors reliant on minimum

wages have complained they face

rising costs because of the

award modernisation process.

Do you think there's merit in

that kind of argument being taken into account when the minimum wage rise is

determined? And a related

question, for those employees

who may be left worse off by

award modernisation, are you

confident that the new system

will allow for full compensation? Dealing with the

minimum wage question first,

our claim here is absolutely

reasonable when you look at the

amount that people have lost

during the period of the Fair

Pay Commission decision, we

believe there needs to be

compensation, maintenance of

real wages. I don't think

there's any substance at all in

an argument that says award

modernisation should be taken

into account , and we'll be

absolutely opposing that sort

of an argument. Can I say with

respect to the award

modernisation issue generally,

as I said in the speech, this

has been a difficult process,

but I think it's a process that

needed to happen and I'd pose

the question to employers and

for that matter to the Liberal Party as to what the

alternative is, and I think

it's very important that the

safety net, minimum standards

be maintained in Australia, and

modernising it and simplifying

it in a way which is easy to

understand and easy to enforce

I think is an absolutely

necessary process that we

needed to go through. We will

make sure to the best of our

ability that people are not

disadvantaged from that, by

that process. The week before

last, the ACTU executive

unanimously endorsed an action

plan to ensure that that

doesn't happen, and the other

point that needs to be borne in

mind here is that the onus is

on employers. The legislation

sets out, and indeed awards,

set out the principle that

people shouldn't have their

take-home pay reduced and the

onus is on employers who might

take action to actually do

that. So we'll be making sure

that that doesn't happen and

there are a number of ways that

we can do that. First off

through bargaining. Secondly,

by utilising the means that are

there in the legislation,

including take-home pay orders

to do that and other aspects of

the system. And so there's an

absolute commitment of unions

to ensure that people are not

worse off as a result of the

process. As someone myself

getting closer to retirement

I've got a question about

superannuation. Not as close as

me, I don't think,

actually! Well, I worry a lot

more. Paul Keating yesterday

suggested that super

contribution should be raised

to 12%, he suggested a 0.5%

increase in contributions every

year for the next 6 years and

making it part of an election

commitment. Do you agree with

Paul Keating's model on

superannuation there, with an

increase in the contributions

? As I said in the speech, I

think it's extremely important

this issue is addressed. I

think there are really two

priorities in super. One is to

make the system more equitable,

and the other is to address the

quantum of contributions.

There's no way that 9% is going

to sustain a sufficient

retirement income for most

people into the future and nor

is it really sufficient for investment in infrastructure. It's crucial that that's addressed and we've had a long-standing policy in that

regard. Last year we set out a

timetable. The ACTU Congress

actually introduced a

proposition this should be a

percentage increase each year,

up to 15% by 2015. How will

that be done? Well, we need to

talk to the Government about

that and there needs to be real

dialogue about this issue. I

think it needs to be done

through a xintion of bargaining

as I said, and through

Government action. How that

takes place obviously we need

to talk about, but we are,

we're absolutely at one with

Paul Keating on this point,

that this is a priority and it

needs to be addressed now.

Jeff Lawrence, Sharan Burrow

was energetic in the last

election campaign and the face

of the union movement, do you

expect her to see out this

election campaign? Well, people

are aware and people can read

the press, including this

morning about changes within

the ACTU. Sharan has already

indicated that she'll be a

candidate for general secretary

of the international trade

union body. That nomination

process will be finalised

towards the end of March. I then expect after that that I

will under the rules, call

nominations for a president and

an election will take place,

casual vacancy election will

take place and then there will

be a President elect. I would

expect that the President elect

and Sharan, whilst she's still

in that role, will play an

active role in any election

campaign as will I. Just

wanted to pick up on some of

the comments you were making

about the need for a

reenergised social wage idea in

the context of Federal Labor's

recent unveilings of part of

their plans for reform of the

health care system. It now

appears that there will still

be some capping of services under this proposal, that

there'll be higher caps if you

like, because they'll be

designed to meet the new national standards for

acceptable waiting times for elective surgery and for

emergency departments but it'll

still be some form of capping. Do you have concerns or reservations about that, or do

you think that's fair enough in

an era where we need to really

control budgetary costs? I

think there's a lot of water to

flow under the bridge in terms

of the finalisation of this

process, including discussions

with the States, of course.

And I would expect that there

will be some settlement about

the sort of resources that are

allocated, although we have

actually just done some polling

and there's no doubt that about

80% of Australians when polled

are supportive of the thrust of

the Government's announcement

so far. So we'd be keen to be

involved in discussions, and I

know that the Prime Minister's

already met with the health

unions in this regard. To work

out some of those issues and

particularly around workforce issues. The recent

announcement about the need for

more doctors, nurses is

something that we're keen to be

involved in. It's hard to be

categorial, but it's important

that unions are involved in the

finalisation of the details of

the package. You said the

union is looking at some models

for a wage insurance scheme,

Flex Security as it's known in

Europe. You mentioned one way

of doing that would be by

increasing the super guarantee.

What portion of that increase would be required do you think

to do that in a reasonable

fashion, and would you see this

sort of wage insurance as

applying just to the lower paid

workers, or applying across the

board to all employees? Look, I

can't really say yes or no to that at the moment. We're

actually modelling what this

might look like. The concept

of Flex Security in the paper

has not actually been endorsed

by the ACTU executive. It's a

concept that's there, a

discussion paper. We've

actually set up a process to

look at the details. I'm sure

there'll be debates about that

issue, including the link with

the supersystem. It's one idea

as to how that might be

delivered. The other area

that's important in this regard

is protection of entitlements.

What happens when people are

made redundant and do they

access their full entitlements?

As you know the gear scheme is a minimum scheme. We're

looking at this concept of Flex

Security really as a vehicle that we might be able to deal

with a number of issues. The

precise detail we want to work

through and we also want to

talk to the Government about

that. Could I ask you a couple

of questions before we move on,

bearing on things you've

already said. The ob verse of

Steve Scott's question about

award modernisation processes,

there seem to have been more cases than might have been

expected on the workers' side

about people losing wages and

entitlements as a result of

award changes. Is that your

impression? Did you expect the

number of apparent anomalies

that have arisen and are they

being dealt with effectively? The particular

reason for this is we're

bringing awards that often had

different standards in wages

and conditions between the

States together into a natural

structure and that's probably

the main reason for some of

these anomalies. There've been

some decisions of Fair Work

Australia we haven't been

particularly happy about it.

That has happened from time to

time and has happened in the

past, but the fact that it was

a requirement that there be a

phase into national standards I

think was always going to cause

issues because of the

difference s from State to

State in a number of industries

and some of the history around

the State systems as against

the Federal system. Some of

that could have been addressed

a bit better by some of the

decisions of Fair Work

Australia, but I come back to

the point that we are really

where we are and unions are

absolutely determined to make sure that where there is

possible disadvantage arising

from actions of employers, that

that is dealt with and it's

remedied. The other thing

that's arisen in recent times,

last few weeks, in fact, was

the agreement on wages and

conditions for offshore gas platform workers.

Extraordinary wages, but

extraordinary conditions too,

what do you think that does to

the overall perception of the

sort of safety net that awards

are supposed to provide? This

is a result of our collective

bargaining system. We have a

system, an enterprise bargaining system established

by the Keating Government in

1994, something that has been

supported by all parties and

that provides that bargaining

takes place in accordance with

the circumstances of each

industry and that was an

appropriate bargain that was

dealt with. The employers, of

course, and I say this in the

knowledge that Steve is Knot

from Australian Mines and

Metals is over there on table

16. The employers, of course,

want to have it both ways in

terms of this. They actually

opposed there being a role for

arbitration when they don't

like the result of bargaining

they suddenly support

arbitration. I felt I was safe

there Steve, because you don't

get a Right of Reply at least

in this forum. So it comes

down to this, we've got a

bargaining system, we bargain

in accordance with the

circumstances of each industry

and we should be able to

bargain about whatever

employers and employees and

unions agree that they'll

bargain about. I guess you'd

regard it as unusual or

unexpected that somebody would

ask you a question about

politics. Secretary of the

ACTU addressing the National

Press Club in Canberra in an

election year, but one can't

help but note it's a bit of a

season for elections. Without

wanting to pre-empt results

this Saturday, we've got Tasmania and South Australia

this Saturday. We've got Victoria before the end of the

year, we've got NSW inside the

12 months from now, or a

fraction outside the 12 months

from now and somewhere in the

midst of all of that we've got

the big one, the federal

election. I wondered if you

might like to use this

opportunity in a room with some

of your closest mates to give

us a heads up on what the ACTU

might be thinking about and

preparing to do in the way of

campaigning in preparation for

this particularly important

year of politics. At a national

level, we're particularly

focussed on the federal

election, of course. As I've

said already, we do think it's

very important that we explain

to the Australian people that

there is an agenda. On behalf

of the Liberal Party, to go

back to WorkChoices. So

therefore, we have started some

advertising as you would have

seen a week or so ago, which

reminds people of what happened

in 2007 and points out what

Tony Abbott said about this and

we'll continue to do that. I

think it's very important that

we explain these issues to the

Australian people. I make no

apology for that. I know

there's a lot of speculation, particularly in the

'Australian' about the amount

of money that the ACTU's spent

in 2007 and what it might spend

this year. What I can say

about that is we will do

everything we can to make sure

that people know the facts, and

that's our obligation. It's

also an obligation I think for

Australian unions to talk to

their members about politics

and what people think are

important political issues, so

we do have a program of

discussions with union members

about that, to try and find out

what issues people are

concerned about, and that also,

of course, informs the sort of discussions we might have with

the Labor Government. We do

have a program also of

coordination at a State level,

as is well known and has been

publicise ed. We've employed a

number of coordinators who'll

be coordinating marginal seat

activity in the various States and Territories, so there are a

lot of aspects of what we did

in 2007 that I think are really

important, very beneficial for

unions and I wouldn't want to

see them lost and I'm

determined to make sure they're

not lost. Of course the

circumstances are different.

This year we're dealing with

Labor in government, we're

dealing with a broader set of

unions, but unions will be out there talking about those

issues, not just the ACTU, the Australian Nursing Federation

of which, of course, Jed carne

is the general secretary. He's

been out there talking about

aged care. Other unions have

been campaigning on really

important issues and we'll

continue to do that. The

particular focus of the ACTU

will be to talk on the one hand

about the issues that we think

are really important for

working families. And I've

tried to talk about a number of

those in the speech today, but

we are absolutely determined to

make sure that we don't go back

to WorkChoices and we'll do everything we can, everything

within our resources to make

sure that people know that the

clear agenda of the Liberal

Party is to go back to

WorkChoices, and that will

include TV ads, it'll include

other publicity and also new

means of communication that we

utilised. Can I follow up on

that and ask you about those

new means. Your advertising at

the moment is all over the

Internet and on a lot of social

websites as well. Does that

suggest that you place a lot of

importance on new and younger

voters in this election? On

younger voters, new voters, I

notice there are many hundreds

of thousands of new voters

coming onto the roll, but also

on new means of communication.

We've got a new website which

is an interactive website

seeking to use those means of

communication. We'll try a

whole range of new things. I

mean, I'm very much into trying

new things and we'll do that,

but we'll do that on the basis

of the research that we've

undertaken, the feedback that

we get from unions and what we

think will work, but it really

does come down to, I think,

explaining the facts to people.

All of our research shows that Australians when asked the

question - I mean they're

initially perhaps a bit

sceptical - but when reminded

about WorkChoices, the

overwhelming majority of people

think that the Liberal Party

will bring back WorkChoices and

don't actually believe any

assurance that they won't. But

yet there are I think about 30%

of people who aren't aware of

the issue, so it's really

important for us to get out

there and explain that issue to

people, explain the facts.

Actually, all we'll need to do

I'm sure is actually explain to

them what Tony Abbott has said,

what he believes, and what the

Liberal Party policy is. I

think the statistics for union

membership are out next month

or at least pretty soon.

Wondering how you think the

trend has been going and the

longer term trend has been

reasonably negative in terms of

union membership, just in that

context what your strategy is

to try to keep the numbers up

and a specific question. There

was a report recently about

some unions using commission

agents and getting $500 to sign

up new members, I wonder what

your view about that might

be? I'll take the issue of

density first. It's a very

important issue and the ACTU

has got a clear agenda for

growth. We actually think that

growing and strong unions are

really important for Australian

society and, of course,

important for Australian

workers. There's a bit of

misinformation around the place

about this. Actually the last

year, density actually

increased a bit from a bit over

18% to over 19%. Of course

it's true there was a

significant decrease in density

in Australia in the 1980s,

1990s, but actually during the

period - and there was a

decrease in density during the

period of WorkChoices. But

over the last couple of years,

density has actually been

decreasing and the absolute

numbers of union membership has

been increasing. It's common

knowledge that we have got an

agenda to try and change unions

to make sure that we're

addressing all the issues that

confront us. We need to adapt

to the new workforce and some

of the issues that confront

workers, but it's not true to

say that unions have actually

been losing members and there

are a number of unions who are

actually here today who I can

quote to you and undoubtedly

they will even more than me,

who will demonstrate that their

membership has actually been

going up, and certainly as I

say, union density has actually

been going up in the last

couple of years. The second

question of how you organise is

one which is always debated

within unions. I'm absolutely

committed to making sure that

unions put resources into

growth and focus on growth and

try different things and talk

about these issues and one of

the good things that's really

happened within the national

leadership of Australian unions

in the last couple of years has

been much more of a collective

commitment to growth and much

more of a strategic discussion

about how that can be achieved.

The issue that you raise has

actually been picked up by a

few unions. There's a bit of a

discussion at the moment within

the ACTU about the issues that

this arises, or this leads to

and we are dealing with those

issues internally and we'll

have a report that will go to

the July executive that sets

out some guidelines about these

issues. So I think already

issues that are there. We're

dealing with it internally, in

discussions between the ACTU

offices and a whole spectrum of

unions who've got various views

about how you organise and how

you recruit and how you make

unions attractive to people. I

was wondering if you could

explain to me, why you have

been so opposed to Tony

Abbott's paid parental leave

proposals when it seems that

it's very similar to some of

the most generous proposal s

suggested by unions. Do you

think there's scope to improve

the Government's legislation in

any way? There's always scope

to improve things, but look, I

think the major initial

reaction that we had is that we

just don't believe it. That's

the first reaction. Tony

Abbott has got no bona fides on

this point. You only had to

watch 'Four Corners' a couple

of days ago to see his view

about these issues. I think

this is a stunt. The second

point is we want to make sure

there's action on this issue

now and certainly no later than

is proposed by the Government.

We always said that the 18-week

scheme was a minimum, was

something that would be built

upon and something that because

it's a minimum, existing

conditions and those bargained

over and above that would also

apply over and above that. Our

priority is to make sure that

this issue is delivered, it's

enacted, that there aren't

diversions. Of course we would like to see improvements over

time, but the first priority is

to make sure that what's

actually proposed and what's

been supported and what's been

negotiated about is delivered.

I think the other point is this

is an industrial issue. Unions

have been campaigning about

this for decades and now with

inside of it actually being

delivered we have this other

diversion that is brought

forward by someone who clearly

doesn't believe in it. Clearly

doesn't believe in the policy.

So our priority is to make sure

we deliver what's on the table

now. We'll then work by a

whole range of means to ensure

that that's improved. As

Workplace Relations Minister,

Julia Gillard spoke up for the

retail sector with the award

modernisation process. In the

past few days she's said she'll

back the Australian Industry

Group with a Fair Work

Australia decision appeal

because of the union right of entry provisions in the Act

probably weren't adhered to .

So do you feel as minister

Julia Gillard should also speak

up more often on behalf of

workers, especially when it

comes to award modernisation

where the take-home pay orders

may need some Government intervention? Well, look, I

think the minister's been

active on both counts, but in

terms of the two instances you

raised she was wrong on both

occasions and we will be active

in dealing with the first one.

In respect of the other issue

which is on the front page of

this morning's 'Australian',

the ACTU will be interveening

in that case, we'll be opposing

the appeal, we'll be supporting

the union, the NUW and the

national secretary is here

today, to ensure that there is

the ability - which is fundamental principle - to

bargain about issues freely.

What this provides for is the

ability to bargain about right

of entry and that's a

fundamentally important issue,

so the Deputy PM doesn't get it

right all of the time in my

view, and when she doesn't get

it right in our view we'll say

so. So on both of those points

we'll be, as I said we acted

with respect of the first one,

but on the second one we'll be

opposing the appeal and we'll

be supporting the union and the

rights of workers to have

appropriate right of entry provisions. Thank you very

much. APPLAUSE

Thank you very much, Jeff

Chase. It has been a very

active two years since your

last appearance here. I hope

you have a few occasions to

have a celebratory drink in the

near future and that will help

you. Thank you. Closed Captions by CSI

THEME MUSIC Welcome to Talking Heads. We're coming to you tonight from Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre, which is the setting for some of my guest's

most outstanding acting performances. You might remember him as Roger Rogerson in Blue Murder,

or as the bucktoothed Duke in Moulin Rouge. Or perhaps as a mesmerising Hamlet. Richard Roxburgh, it's great to meet you. Pleasure, thank you for having me. Many people might think, why didn't you go straight to Hollywood? You got good looks, great actor... I've always, I suppose, had a... ..an uncomfortable relationship with Hollywood, and it's pursued me, really. I've never felt completely at ease with it.

I can remember in LA, being at a urinal, (LAUGHS) and a guy... Of course! ..turned to me while I was peeing and saying, "Hey dude, you're the dude from MI2! Dude!" and bringing his mates in. He'd run out and called his mates in while I was still there. I find that uncomfortable, curiously enough. They got too close. Yeah, little too close. But a lot of people like it, obviously. Yeah, I think they loved it. Um... Oh, you mean, other actors like it? Yeah. They love to be interrupted in a urinal. Yeah! Midstream. I think, I obviously like to publicise the things that I'm in. But I don't like it if I'm everywhere.

I find it... It freaks me out. What's the film role that you've loved most? With apologies to all the other roles. (LAUGHS) For sheer kind of stupid fun, I would have to say Moulin Rouge. And if there are any shenanigans, my manservant, Warner will deal with it. The think that I've enjoyed the most in acting terms alone was Blue Murder. See you're starting off on the wrong foot, mate. I don't help you. You help me and then, we see what's left over. What so fiercely draws you to acting? There's something about you, there's something that is different about you. Your commitment, it seems. It communicates. Look, honestly, I think it started probably because it was fun. You know, it just was a liberating thing, it was a playful thing. It was a thing that I thought, this is something that I can actually do, that I don't really have to study for too much. That's not true, though. Is it? Well... You study more than anyone. Look, I think it is true. One of your colleagues said your way of going about these sorts of things is a bit like a Rottweiler. Right. (LAUGHS) It's a very positive thing, of course. It's about sinking your teeth into something. Yeah, look it was. I mean... Look, OK. One of the things that acting is kind of famous for, is allowing you to kind of deal with your demons. Mm. God knows how. For me to kind of go into that world psychologically, is, um... It feels kind of... Dangerous thing, terribly exciting thing. Page 121, lines 11 and 12. That is... "If ever you need my life, come and take it." 'You're constantly drawing on your arsenal of experience as an actor. All of the sensed memories you have, the good things that have happened to you and the bad... And the ways that you've reacted.' Why does this feel like the cry of a soul in pain? (Why does my heart die to hear it?) "If ever you need my life, come and take it." 'I grew up first, in a really bland, old house on a hill called Loma Loma, which was the Roxburgh family home. Being the youngest of six children, I think the funding evaporated rather quickly. Albury was a great place to grow up in.

It was a beautiful little town. There was a river, the beautiful Murray River, you'd have beautiful swims in summertime. I was, I think I was a real pain in the arse. I was frustrated by school and there was nothing that really thrilled me, and then I did Death Of A Salesman. And that was my big discovery.' I spent an entire summer holidays with my head stuck in this book, learning these beautiful lines.

"You don't understand this. When I was a boy, 18, 19, I was already on the road and there was a question in my mind as to whether selling had a future for me because in those days, I had a yearning to go to Alaska." 'When I left school, I had no idea what I wanted to go on and do. My brothers all went on to do science in some applied way.

I did economics.' DRUM AND ELECTRIC GUITAR MUSIC 'I was an indolent, slothful and drunken student. I was very intent on th