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National Press Club -

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for now. Our next full

bulletin on ABC television is

at 7 o'clock this evening. Up

next is the National Press

Club with A CT U secretary

Geoff Lawrence making his

case for an increase in the

minimum wage. I am Ros

Childs. Thank you for joining

us. Have a great afternoon.

Closed Captions by CSI This program is not subtitled

Jeff Lawrence with today's

National Press Club address.

Ladies and gentlemen,

welcome to the national Press

Club and today's National

Australia Bank address. It's a great pleasure to welcome for

the first time in his current

capacity Jeff Lawrence,

secretary of the Australian

Council of Trade Unions. As

some of you may have just heard

with the ABC introduction, he's

had this position now for just

over six months, but he was a

member of the ACT U executive

before that so it's not

unfamiliar territory. He has

served the union movement for

more than 30 years, most of it

Miscellaneous Workers Union and with the liquor hospitality and

its predecessor. A very large

organisation with 130,000 -

more than 130,000, many of them

in some of the least-paid and

most marginalised vulnerable

jobs in the economy. But Jeff

is regarded as one of the great

innovators of the union

movement, not only for that

union but for the movement of

the whole. He was one of the

architects of the alternative

to WorkChoices which was

developed from 2006 until the

election last year. A lot has

happened since then and he will

tell you more about it today.

Please welcome Jeff Lawrence.

(APPLAUSE)

afternoon everybody. It's a Thanks very much. Good

pleasure to be here for my

first speech to the media since

the federal election. I

appreciate being able to

address the National Press Club

at this early stage of my

leadership of the ACTU, and appreciate the Press Club's

board giving me that

opportunity. I feel I'm

speaking through the members of

the press to the Australian

people, and we in the trade

union movement have been

undertaking an ongoing

dialogue, not just with union

members but with the community.

I also note that John Howard

last week broke his silence

with an address to an audience

of American neo-conservatives

so we both kicked off by

reporting back to those who

tell us what to do! (LAUGHTER)

I took office on 21 August, and

of course, a lot has happened

since that time, and in

particular, I and the other ACTU officers have been working

hard to ensure that the ACTU

and unions have got a plan for

our new environment. Of course,

we've seen lots of changes

already. We've seen able to

take responsibility for the

crimes of the past against

Indigenous Australians. We've

started to address climate

change. We've shown our

compassion for those who seek

refuge, and we've started to

address issues of poverty and

homelessness. Not only that, of

course, we've already started

to create new jobs. I understand Peter Costello has

applied for three of them and

Mark Vaile's already got four,

so that's a start in terms of

job creation. We're a better

country than we were four

months ago, and that process

has only just started. Very

soon we'll celebrate an

important first step towards

the restoration of fairness in

our workplaces with a ban on new Australian Workplace

Agreements, once the transition

Bill is enacted and we hope

that that take place before

Easter. The transition Bill and

the associated move to restart

award modernisation represent

important milestones in the

union's Your Rights at Work

campaign. We campaigned hard

against the Howard Government

and its industrial legislation.

We make no apology for that.

And of course, even before the

legislation was passed, it was

clear that WorkChoices would

have an effect on job security,

on wages and on working conditions, particularly for

the young, the vulnerable and

those in low-skill areas. It

was clear that WorkChoices was

an affront not just to unions

and to workers' rights, but to

deeply held Australian values.

The ethos of the fair go, and

the legal protections that went

with that. And now, of course,

I think it's an accepted view

in the community that

WorkChoices was an affront to

Australian values. It wasn't

necessarily the case in 2005.

That's why we made the decision

to take the facts about

WorkChoices to the Australian

community, because unions knew

that if Australian people were

informed about the effects of

WorkChoices, they would be

appalled. And as we predicted,

of course, it didn't take long

for the examples to come out.

You remember the Cowra Abattoir

workers, the Darrell Lee

chocolate workers who had their

conditions cut just before

Easter, the Mean Fiddler Irish

pub that certainly lived to up

its name and child care worker

Emily O'Connor who is with us

today who has stacked and given

10 minutes to least child care

centre. I thank Emily for coming today and for her

contribution on behalf of all

workers in making all of our workplaces fairer. (APPLAUSE)

Of course, there are many

other people who were affected

by WorkChoices whose story

didn't necessarily feature in

the media. It took great

courage to speak out against

the Howard Government, I want

to salute today all of those

individuals who were brave

enough to do so. From my own

experience, I know the guts it

fakes for a young worker, a

woman in precarious employment

or a person with poor English

to stand up against their boss. Let alone the Federal

Government. You can imagine the

pressure that those people

faced. They were subjected

often to enormous personal

scrutiny and hauled into an

interrogation before government

inspectors. Later, on

occasions, it was found that

their personal details had

actually been given to the

media. So today I do call for a

full inquiry into the misuse of

personal information and and of

public resources in those

Liberal Party inspired attacks

on individuals who had the guts

to speak out against

WorkChoices. There must be a

full audit of the effect of WorkChoices. I welcome the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister

recently has released a first

installment of data about AWA,

and it shows, of course, the

widespread loss of pay and

conditions under WorkChoices.

On the union side, it must be pack knowledgeed that we did

run a tenacious campaign

against WorkChoices, and the

Howard Government. And it's

been acknowledged universally

that that campaign played a

crucial role in the

government's defeat. Union

members contributed to a levy,

they spent money on television advertising, because that was

the best way to get the

information to the greatest

number of people. We talked to

our members, we talked in

workplace, we spoke in

communities. And every time, of

course, we found a Liberal

voter who had actually had something done to them as a

result of AWAs we were

fortified in our position. You

will heb Annette Harris who was

put on an AWA that removed all

her penalty rates for just an

extra 2 cents of hour. To get

rid of WorkChoices we had to

get rid of the Howard

Government. Unions understood that the defeat of the Howard Government was necessary to get

rid of WorkChoices, and to

restore decent values to

Australian life. Our campaign

succeeded because we told the

truth. It reflected what people

knew was happening. Today I

want to a pay a special tribute

to the leadership of the ACTU

pat that time, and to the unity

that unions showed. Unions were

prepared to try new things, we

took lis risks, we took the

debate into the broader

community to make sure that the

democratic process was able to

work. I welcome today the

presence of a number of numbers

of Parliament, new members of

Parliament, who were elected

last year. I also pay tribute

to the leadership of Greg

Combet and Sharan Burrow both

of whom are here today because

their leadership was

outstanding. They had a clear

vision of our goal and they

campaigned tirelessly to

achieve it. So to Greg and to

Sharan, thank you on behalf of

the workers of

Australia. (APPLAUSE)

Of course, there are many

others here who played a vital

role in that campaign. George

Wright, our communication

coordinator, rich Miles, ACTU

assistant secretary and Chris

Wharton, who is not able to be

here today because he is on

another ACTU job, played a

vital role in the campaign. Of

course it's not over yet.

Unions remain determined to

carry on the Your Rights at

Work campaign until we see

WorkChoices buried and decent

rights for working Australians

restored. The ACTU campaign was

not conducted as a favour for

the Labor Party. The government

doesn't owe us anything and

we're not seeking any pay-offs.

Like all Australians, we expect

the government to keep their

promises and I'm confident they

will do their best to do that.

Our main worry, to be honest,

is not the government's

intentions, it's the

possibility of a rear-guard

operation by some employer

organisation and the opposition

to link Labor's IR reforms with

any economic difficulty that

might arise, and you only had

to read today's financial

review to I think see start of

that. Unions will not allow

that to happen. Our campaign

will focus on the key changes

necessary to create fair and

secure workplaces. We oppose

new AWAs. We'll champion the

right of workers to join a

union and be represented by

that union. We'll champion the

right of collective bargaining

that can't be separated from

the right to join a union.

We'll champion the right of

workers to be treated fairly

and to have protection from

unfair dismissal. We'll fight

for the return of an

independent umpire and a strong

safety net of minimum standards

and awards. But of course,

beyond the legislation, unions

continue to focus on our core

job, which is representing

workers and maintaining their

employment conditions and

living standards. Since the

election, unions and the ACTU

have achieved a broad consensus

on a new strategic framework

for our goals and priorities,

which is articulated in our

overall plan. And last week at

the ACTU executive, we added to

our agenda a new set of

campaign objectives for working

Australians. We'll continue to

campaign hard, of course, for

the maintenance of real wages.

But we'll also seek new

community standards in our

workplaces, including in areas

such as improved skills and training commitments. Work and

family measures. Improvements

to job security, including the

regulation of casual

employment. Enhancing the say

of workers in our workplace,

including with respect to the

great challenge of our time,

climate change. And we'll

campaign for better retirement

incomes through a lift in

employer superannuation

contributions from the current

minimum of 9%, where it's been

stuck by the way since 2002, to

12% by 2012 and then another

lift to 15% by 2015. This is

the agenda of Australian

unions, and we are confident

it's the agenda of the Australian people. Paus the

rights and --

because the right and living

standards of many Australian

workers have gone backwards

under the Howard years. We need

to find a better balance for

working Australians and their families and unions are

determined to pursue these

goals. There will, however, be

no new accord. It's not

desirable. Nor is it

achievable. Even if any of the parties involved wanted to go

down this road, we've moved

from a system under the control

of the Industrial Relations

Commission to one which is

based on individual businesses.

One in five workers now are

dependent on minimum award

rates. Only one in five. For

the rest, wages are a matter between employers and employees

and their unions. None of in is

to say that unions have lost

the desire or the ability to

contribute to the broader

economic debate. It's just that

decisions on wage outcomes have

moved from the Cabinet table,

the ACTU executive and the commission to negotiations

between employers and their

unions. That's the system that

we have. That's the system that we are determined to work

within, and that's the system

that is best for Australian

society, and Australian unions.

And when we address these

issues of course unions will

focus on a number of things.

First up, the maintenance of

living standards and in any increase in the cost of living

is going to be a relevant

factor there. Secondly, we'll

address the economic

circumstances of the business,

particularly the need for job

security. And thirdly, the relationship between the

employer and their employees.

Is there trust? Is there

consultation? Are individual circumstances, particularly

family circumstances, taken

into account? And today, I want

to reiterate a call for

employers to get on board with

our agenda. There's much to be

gained from building high

trust, high productivity

workplaces that Australian

unions want to create. I want

to spend some time now to

outline some of the priorities

that we hold for the new system

of workplace relations, because

everyone is aware that

discussions about the detail of

the major Bill are just

commencing. We're heading

towards a new era for

Australia's industrial

relations system. It's not a

step backwards; it's a step

forward. We're moving from

institutional structures to a

system based on workplace

rights and responsibilities.

But in doing that, we can't

throw out those aspects of the uniquely Australian system that

have been good for this

country. In particular the

award system, the independent

umpire and the rights that

we've had at work. Australia is

a more equal and therefore

cohesive society because of

that system. But there are new

rights that will be the subject

of discussion this year, and in

particular, the rights of

workers to bargain

collectively, and to exercise

freedom of association are

crucial right, and this is an issue which Australian unions

feel strongly about, and are

absolutely committed to pursue.

Sometimes this discussion is

misrepresented. But if we go

back to some of the important

international rights, they're

things like a prohibition on

forced labour and slavery, an

end to discrimination, a ban on

child labour and the fourth,

the right to freedom of

association. Freedom of

association means the rights of

workers to join and to take

part in a union. It's a right

which is integral to a free and

open society. The right to own

private property, which I

suppose all of us, particularly

the employers, consider to be a fundamental right, is balanced

by the rights of those who will

sell their labour to withdraw

it, and to freely associate in

unions. It's intertwined of

course with the right to join a

union is the right to collectively bargain.

Collective voice and collective

representation are part of

being in a union. Of course,

under the Howard Government's

IR laws, the laws that

currently govern our industrial

system, Australia is the only

country in the developed world

where employers can simply ignore their employees' wish to

be represented by their union

in collective bargaining. It's

true that we do have a

theoretical right to join a

union. But that right's

meaningless unless there is a

right to bargain collectively

and be represented by a union.

It's a different right than,

for example, to be represented

by a bargaining agent. That's

not what unions do. Unions do

act for individuals, but

primarily, unions seek a result

for all workers and an outcome

which is better, fairer, more

democratic, in the interests of

the overall workplace and

industry. So the main objective

of unions is to represent

employees as a collective. And

seek an outcome that addresses

the interests of all of the

workplace. The union is the

vehicle through which the

worker has a say over their

working lives. It is

outstanding that today,

employers have the legal power

to say they won't allow workers

to be represented by a union in collective bargaining.

Currently, in a number of workplaces, and particularly

the one I wanted to refer to

today, the Cochlear plant in Lane Cove, Sydney, employers

are denying their workers the

right to be collectively

represented by their union.

Today, Lily Yin and Luke Mason

are here representing the

workers for Cochlear. Luke and

Lily, could you just stand

up? (APPLAUSE) The Cochlear

workers have taken five

separate ballots, five separate

ballots, each with the same

result. Each in favour of a

collective union agreement, but

despite that, the company

refuses to negotiate. How many

times do these workers have to

tell their employers they want

to be represented by a union

and they want that union to

represent them? The Cochlear

workers, many of whom are

Chinese speaking and from our non-English-speaking backgrounds aren't asking for the world. They're simply

asking to be treated with

respect. They're asking for

their employer to get out of

the way of the exercise of

their free and democratic

choice. And once that choice

has been made, employers must

respect it, and deal in good

faith. Labor's promise to

introduce a system of collective bargaining and

good-faith bargaining is a

remedy for this situation. It's

also outrageous that there's a

special system with draconian

powers for one industry, the

construction industry. What we

need in Australia is a fair

system for all. For all

workers, irrespective of their

industry. As well as that, of

course, bargaining isn't the

only way in which unions do

their job. There has been a lot

of debate in the community

about the economic situation.

We understand that interest

rates and tax rates and the provision of government

services can impact on workers'

lives. And unions by necessity

have a big stake in these

issues. Rising interest rates

put pressure on business, and

on jobs, but slashing the

growth in the economy is not

the way to address that. We do

believe that the Reserve Bank

needs to act with some caution

in the current environment,

particularly given the international uncertainty and

we note that the Reserve Bank

Governor himself has referred

to the need to act with caution

in addressing inflation. So we

are sure that the Reserve Bank

is conscious of its overall responsibility. I accept that

the government doesn't have a

lot of short-term options at

the moment. I do know that many

Australians would rather see

the government addressing areas

of need as an alternative to

tax cuts. On the other hand, it

is important that the

government does deliver on its

election promises in full and

on time, and that includes the

tax cuts. I do believe,

however, there is merit in

encouraging taxpayers to divert

their tax cuts in whole or part

to superannuation, and options

for how best to achieve this

should be effectively

considered. We also believe

that prosperity for Australia

and the addressing of these

economic challenges requires a

concentration on our productive

capacity. There is a need for massive investment in economic and social infrastructure.

There's a need for an

unprecedented concentration on

training, education and work

force participation. And in

particular, the extension of traineeships and

apprenticeships. All of these

things are goals which the Rudd

Labor Government is committed

to and the ACTU will be

diligent in working with the

government to achieve these

things. But with respect to the

issue of wages, I just wanted

to say a couple of things.

First, it is clear that in

spite of the strong economy,

and labour shortages, wages in

the bargaining sector have not

contributed to inflation. In

fact, the Reserve Bank's latest

figures show that movements in

the wage price index and

collective agreement index

shows that outcomes in the last

year have actually been around the same level as previous

years. It is true that there is

some pressure in Queensland and

Western Australia, but of

course, that relies on the

labour shortages and the

economic circumstances in those

two States. There's also falling productivity, and lack

of investment in education and

skills. So all of those things

need to be addressed when we

look at wages policy. Second -

if there 's to be restraint, it

should be exercised at the top.

I notice that Professor Ian

Harper, in comments a week or

so ago, seemed to be preparing

the groundwork for a lower than

justified minimum wage increase

through his commission. That's

in circumstances when, of

course, he got a personal

increase of $38,000 last year.

47%. Well in excess of any

worker who will be covered by

the decision that his

commission will make. So I'd

ask today whether anyone

expects workers on average

incomes to exercise restraint,

when none is shown by those who

are paid 10 or 20 or 100 times

as much. In the last year we've

had increases in corporate

salaries, chief executive

salaries of in excess of 30%.

So if executives can't lead by

example, and it doesn't look as

if they can, the government

should act. The ACTU today

calls for a halt to the

taxpayer subsidy of these

obscene and often unjustifiable

payments by removing company

tax deductibility for the

balance of salaries over $1

million . This would send a

strong signal that the high

flyers are also expected to do

their bit to rein in inflation

and that the burden shouldn't

fall unfairly on middle-income

families who are struggling to

pay their mortgage or on

minimum-wage workers. And third

- we reject complete ly the

idea that the living standards

of the lowest paid, those

without market strength, should

be sacrificed. I'm yet to see

an economic theer rewhich would

support the proposition that

shop assistants, cleaners or

workers in factories or call

centre, that the reduction in

their wages will do anything to

increase productivity in the

economy nor to restrain inflation. After 30 years of

working for cleaners, child

care workers and hospitality

workers I know just how

important it is to have a

robust safety net of minimum

wages. And I'll always fight to

maintain decent wages and

comprehensive protection for

those with less bargaining

power. And so therefore, I

believe it's time for a decent

rise in the minimum wage. Today

I announce that the ACTU will

seek a pay rise of $26 per week

for the low paid in the

forthcoming Fair Pay Commission

deliberations. This would give

a current federal minimum wage

of $548. The tradesperson

increase, where most people

actually are clustered, would

be in the order of 4.2%, equal

to the current rate of increase

in the wage price index. If

this is taken up over the

period from June 2005 to

October 2008, the federal

minimum wage will have

increased broadly in line with

general wage movements. And

this increase would in fact

have a negligible effect on inflationary pressures. At the

same time of course there's no

doubt that low-income working

households are under

considerable financial pressure

and a wage rise - real wage

rise is necessary. So this is

an exciting time for Australian

unions. In the Your Rights at

Work campaign we stood up for

the interests of all

Australians in opposing

WorkChoices. Our dialogue with

our members and the community,

which started before the

election, has continued. We'll

build on it, defining more clearly our vision for an

Australian society, which is

more equal, more skilled, more

productive, more participatory,

more democratic. The

relationship we want with the

Rudd Government will be founded

on constructive communication.

We'll be active and independent, we'll stand up for Australian workers, we'll

campaign for fairness in Australian workplaces and

society. Today, we call on

employers to cooperatively

engage with us. To move beyond

the mind set of WorkChoices. We

want to forge a new settlement

of workers' rights and

industrial laws that are fit

for the current century as we

strive to create a modern

high-skilled economy. It's an

economy that Australians want

and it's a society that Australian unions will fight

for. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much, Jeff

Lawrence. As usual we have a

period of questions from our

media members. Starting today

with Sid Maris. I'm from the

'Australian'. The government

has again this morning asked

that when looking at wage claims you consider the tax

cuts that are coming in in

July. And that they should be

taken into account when you're

looking at claims. Have you

done that in making your 5%

claim that you've outlined

today? And related to the tax

cuts, the government's actually

got an agenda out to 2013, an

aspirational goal for tax cuts

going forward. From your

comments about superannuation,

is it those later tax cuts and

the reorganisation of tax rates

that you'd like to see them

revisit and maybe direct into

superannuation? Well, Sid, I

think wages tax cuts and

superannuation are separate

issues in our view. There is a

bit of a false premise I think

to your question, that the

claim is actually 5%. It's 5%

at the very bottom and there are very few who are actually

at the very bottom. The claim

is in fact round about 4% for

most workers who are on minimum

wages. So I think really that

there needs to be consideration

of the level of minimum wages.

We're not in the business of

trading off wages against

superannuation or against tax.

I understand that the

government is committed to its

tax cuts, and clearly we want

to see tax cuts be more

equitable over time. I notice

the report this morning that

indicates that the tax cuts

that have been awarded by the

Howard Government in fact were

quite inequitable, have

actually been skewed towards

higher income earners. So

during the period of the Rudd

Government we'll be arguing for

more equitable treatment of

tax, but we will also be

arguing that superannuation is

an important component of the

measures that the government

should look at. But you'd also

be aware that we're determined

to campaign with respect to

superannuation in bargaining,

and our reason for doing that

is to seek to indicate that

we've got a broader agenda than

just wages. And investment in superannuation by employers

will be an important

contribution to training, to

infrastructure, and ultimately

to investment and productive capacity. Denis Atkins has the

next question. I'm from the

'Courier-Mail'. You said in

your speech that the Reserve

Bank - you warned the Reserve

Bank not to go too far in

trying to slow down the

economy. Do you think the

Reserve Bank's action in recent

months to increase interest

rates has been excessive, and

do you think that they should

stop where they are now? Well,

I absolutely think they should

stop. Look, we have called

previously, prior to the

Reserve's last decision, for

some caution, because clearly,

it's a volatile international

environment. There are a whole

range of forces that are at

play in the economy. And the

Reserve Bank should be very

cautious about what they do and

they should have regard to

their broader responsibility,

which is not just to focus on

inflation, but also, to promote

the productive capacity and

growth in the economy. Mark

Davis has the next question.

I'm from the 'Sydney Morning

Herald'. My question is about

your superannuation campaign.

You've mentioned that unions

will seek to increase employer

contributions to 12% by 2012.

Now, if successful, most likely

outcome of that would be that

those workers who are unionised

and have industrial muscle

would have 12% and the majority

of the work force would be left

on 9%. What strategy do you

have in mind? Will you pursue

strategies to generalise the

12% across the rest of the work

force? And what do you think

the best vehicles for doing

that are, should it be an

increase in the super guarantee

charge legislation, should it

be expanding government

co-contributions or should it

be the measured you have

mentioned to encourage workers

to direct some of their own gross income into

superannuation? We don't have

a fixed view on those issues at

the moment, Mark. ACTU policy

for a long time has had a goal

of a contribution of 15%. What

we haven't done in the past is

actually set a time frame for

that. And we haven't really put

in place a coordinated agenda

for campaigning about that, and

so really, the decision of last

week's ACTU executive was to

say to unions, you should go

out there and talk to your

members about that, and of course, the result of that

discussion is going to vary

from industry to industry,

primarily. I mean, that's the

bargaining system that we have,

but I'm confident that unions

will take up the broad agenda

that we outlined. And that

there will be some results as a

result of bargaining. There've

already been some movements,

Qantas is one that I can think

of where there has been

movements in superannuation and

clearly over time we'll talk to

the government about movements in superannuation, and that

will be part of our ongoing

dialogue. Ben Packham has the

next question. I'm from the

'Herald Sun'. You mentioned in

your speech that the ACTU will

pursue the regulation of casual

work. Will this mean compulsory

transfer to full-time or part

-time work for cash shups and

if so, how hard will you push

on this and have you spoken to

the Rudd Government about it?

Well, the answer to the last

past question is: no. Look, the

rate of casualisation in Australia is one of the highest

in the OECD, and issues of job

security are a major challenge

for Australian workers, and

that does need to be addressed.

There've already been some

attempts to do that in previous

cases before the commission. I

think you'd be aware of that.

We will be having a dialogue

with unions about this. It

impacts differently in different industries and so the

way in which it might be

addressed would be different in

different industries. But we

don't have a blanket proposal

as to how it will be addressed.

There will be a dialogue with

unions. And the way it will be

addressed will depend on each

industry. The next question is

from Stephen Scott. I'm from

the Financial Review. I just

wanted to ask you about how you

see collective bargaining

playing out under Labor's

substantive reforms. Do you

think there is any merit in

arguments by some employers

that there should be limits on

the scope of agreements? And

secondly, what do you think is

the best way to regulate the

payment of wages for workers

who are taking industrial

action? Well, I absolutely

don't think there should be any

limits on the scope of

bargaining. I mean, that's the

clear position of the ACTU. I

noticed the comments by the

employers this morning in the

Financial Review. Actually, I

hope that the consultation process of the legislation

isn't gonna be conducted in the

sort of public way. It's

interesting to made in the

Financial Review about the

employers' deliberations. I

guess we can actually see what

they're on about. But we are

determined to make sure that

that bargaining is about

whatever people want to bargain

about. I mean, if there is a system of collective

bargaining, it should be a free

system. There should be the

ability for unions and

employers to bargain about the

things that are vital to their

enterprises and that's our

position, that is Labor Party

policy, and that's the position

that we'll be pursuing. As to

the question of industrial

action - I think the ability to

take industrial action is an

important right. We all

understand the history of it in

Australia. And we'll be talking

about how that's translated

into the new legislation, but I

would imagine that the concepts

of protected action and so on

will continue. Dennis Peters

has the next wee. I'm from AAP.

In the past few years, a number

of your most successful

campaigners, for example, Greg

Combet and Bill Shorten, have

made their way into Federal

Parliament. Without - with some

concerns from employers,

actually , as to what effect

they might have. What do you

hope from them individually and

perhaps as a group?

Parliament? (LAUGHTER) I ...

(clears throat) ... I know they

will do their jobs as members

of Parliament and as members of

the Labor caucus. That's their

responsibility now. I do think,

actually, it is important that

there are some people who've

gone into the Labor caucus

who've got recent experience

within the trade union

movement. I think that is important. Because there have

been lots and lots of changes

in the union movement in the

last 10 years. The union

movement and the challenges

that confront unions are very

different to those that existed

in the last period of the Labor Government, and it is important

that we do have people of that

background, but they've got

their own job to do and we'll

do ours. Mark Riley. I'm from

the Seven Network. Returning to

the Reserve Bank - isn't it

that the Reserve Bank has been

painted into a corner over the

years by governments in this

direction of maintaining

inflation in a band between 2

and 3%, depending on who you

speak to it it may or may not

have originated with one of

your predecessors Bill Kel tee.

The Reserve Bank uses the

sledgehammer of mortgage rates

when government fails in fiscal

policy. Are you asking the

government now to redirect the

Reserve Bank on what it should

be taking into consideration

when it looks at interest rates

and that the primacy or the

assumed primacy of inflation

should no longer be maintained

and that social impacts of

interest rates should be

primary? No. With we're asking

for is a balanced approach. I

understand that the Reserve

Bank is independent. And that's

going to remain the position.

But unions are entitled to have

their say about the issues that

are being debated in the

community, just like other

members of the community are. I

think the other thing of course

that's happened if you talk

about government failure, the

government failure has been the failure of the Howard

Government to invest in

infrastructure. To invest in

training. All of those things

that are creating the skill

shortages and some of the blockages in the economy,

they're the failure, principally, as a result of

government policies. Past

government policies. Now, it's

true to say that those things

are going to take some time to

address. We want to play our

part in the dialogue about how

those things are addressed. All

we're calling for is for all

party, the government, the

Reserve Bank, to apply balance.

And to have regard to the

importance of growth and equity

in our economy and in our

society. A question from Glenn

Milne. I'm from News Limited's

Sunday publication and the

'Australian'. I'm just turning

to your proposal here for

removing company tax

deductibility for salaries over

$1 million. I just wonder, have

you raised that with the

government? Will you be raising

it with the government? And how

will you be pursuing it? And

secondly, if I might, on

collective bargaining, you're

talking about the need to en

shrine it. Do you think it's

time for a Labor Government to

tackle the idea of a bill of

rights and is collective

bargaining something that

should go into such a bill of

rights? With respect to the

tax suggestion - no, we haven't

specifically raised it with the

government. We'll be talking to

the government about a range of

issues in the lead-up to the

budget. So this will be one of

the things that we'll put on

the table, and no doubt there

will be others. I think the

challenge really at the moment

is to ensure that from our

point of view, as a minimum,

the Labor Government's

commitments are honoured and

that's what we'll be seeking to

ensure. That's our absolute

bottom line, No. 1 priority. As

to other discussions and issues

about bills of right and so on

- I'm sure there will be lots

of things that will take place

in public debate in for the

comes years. I do say that

collective bargaining is

absolutely a fundamental right --

forthcoming years. If there's

anything that we will be

arguing this year, not just

today, but in the public

domain, by whatever means we

can, is the importance of

collective bargaining and what

it means and how it intersects with freedom of association,

the right to join a union. So

it is a fundamental right. So

that extent we will be out

there arguing that case and we

will be arguing it on economic

grounds but also on moral and

values grounds. Misha Schubert. I'm from the 'Age'.

Two questions, if I may, Mr

Lawrence. The first I ask as

the sole female representative

of the IR Writers Club

today. (APPLAUSE) What

strategies do the union

movement have to pursue the

great goal of gender pay

equity, and what thinking have

you done around how to advance

that issue after it's been on

the back-burner for a while?

And secondly, I know you've

talked about the accord days

and how we're not going back,

there but part of that

discussion was unions arguing

strongly for increases in the

social wage, so the great strengthening of the Medicare

and the other great social

institutions that help low-paid

people access Social Services.

What plans do the union

movement have on that front to

try and make the case for an expansion or restoration of

some of those fates? Look, pay

equity obviously is a priority,

as you've indicated, there 's

been a significant decline in

our position there. And

actually, our President Sharan

Burrow in her role as the

President of the ACTU released

a report on Friday which was international women's dhai that

sought to illustrate that. -- International Women's Day. It

is a major issue and of course

one of the things that's been a

particular cause of that has

been WorkChoices. Has been

AWAs. You only need to look at

the industries where AWAs have reduced things like penalty

rates and shift allowances and

so on, they're industries where women predominate by and large.

Cleaning, security, child care,

hotels. All those areas in the

service sector. So that's one

of the very important early

things that can be done and the

whole emphasis in the

legislation will be on trying

to address that amongst other

things. I do think it is

important, though, that we do

look at how the collective

bargaining system operates,

because in a lot of those

industries, there hasn't been

collective bargaining. There

hasn't been enterprise

bargaining . One of the

challenges is going to be to

devise a bargaining system that

enables people in those

industries an opportunity to

negotiate with their employer

through their union in a way

which can address the needs of

the industry and the

enterprise. So that is a

crucial challenge and we're

absolutely committed to

ensuring that the welfare of

women workers is a prime

objective. As to the social

wage - clearly, we'll be having

our say about that. I do have

to say, though, that of course

a lot of our priority has been

the Your Rights at Work

campaign. That remains our

priority now. Our priority in

the next 6, 12 months is to

make sure that we get the best

industrial system we can

possibly get, and that's gonna

be where our initial resources

will go. We'll be campaigning

about the things that are

important to us. We'll have industry strategies where we

have unions active in trying to

organise particular industries

and workplace and then as part

of that process, we'll be

carrying out a dialogue with

our affiliates and with other

stakeholders about how we try

to address more broad issues.

But I think we feel that we

just need to take this in a

structured way. And we have to

identify our priorities and

where our resources will go,

and the Your Rights at Work

campaign and fair workplaces is

the first step in our

agenda. David Spears. I'm from

Sky News. Just on the minimum

wage - the government is due to

make its commission to the Fair

Pay Commission on Friday. Given

Kevin Rudd has identified

fighting inflation as core

business, would you be

concerned or surprised if the

government didn't nominate its

own figure for what if believes

is a fair increase in the

minimum wage? How important is

it for the government to lay

its cards on the table and not

squib it on the figure it

thinks is reasonable? I think

ultimately it's important for

the government to express its

view, but there's a lot of

water to flow under the bridge

here. The case - it's not

really a case any more, not

quite sure what you call it. A

consultation or something. It

will actually take place really

in the May sort of June period.

The government's got the budget

process to go through, and

weigh up all the other options.

So we'll see where the

government gets to ultimately,

but yes, of course, we do think

that it is absolutely desirable

for the government to indicate

its position. I think it's

their responsibility, but

irrespective of that, we've got

our position, and we'll be

arguing for that as forcefully

as we can. A question from

Jason Katsukis. I'm from the

Sunday age. Do you think the

Reserve Bank board is stacked

in favour of big business and

do you think it's time that a

union voice returned to the

table as we saw with Bill Kel

tee in the 1990s? There is no

way I want to be a member of

the Reserve Bank board, I can

assure you, it would be almost

as bad as being a member of

Parliament, no offence to those

people who are here! But I do

think it's important that there is balance on organisations

like the Reserve Bank board.

It's very important that all

sections of a community are

represented. I just note of

course that the Howard

Government's had 11 years to make appointments to

organisations like the Reserve

Bank board, and some of those,

I recan recall, haven't been

quite as successful as others.

But clearly over time the Labor

Government will make its own

appointments, and I would hope that they're more representative of the

community. Michael Brissenden. I'm from ABC

Television. I can't tell you

how many times people have

asked me, you know, what debt

does the Labor Party owe the

unions for the victory? What

influence are they gonna have

on policy? I'm just wondering

if you could clear that up.

What influence do you have,

what influence do you expect to

have and what influence are you

told you're gonna be given? (LAUGHTER) The answer

to probably all of those is:

not enough, I think. As I said,

this is a different

relationship to the last time that Labor was in government.

It's not a formal acard

relationship. The union

movement --

accord relationship. The union

movement will be independent.

We will be campaigning for the

things that we want. I would

anticipate there will be some

disagreements about issues.

What we want is to have a say,

and to be listened to, and to

have proper mature responsible

areas of - and lines of communication. I'm confident

that will happen. But it is a

different relationship, and

we'll have to work at that

relationship as we go forward,

but primarily, Australian

unions will stand up for

Australian working people.

That's what we'll continue to

do. We'll continue to be

campaigning organisations.

We'll also continue to be

organisations who have a say on

the broader issues that

confront Australia. And I'm

confident that in that role,

we'll be listened to and we'll

be - we'll engage with the

government over those things.

Will we agree on everything?

No. Will, out of that process,

though, Australia be better?

The answer is: yes. Jeff, we

often have school groups here

looking at Canberra and the way

government works. We have one

day, all the way from

Queensland, the Gladstone State

High School. I just warn you

these can be tricky. (LAUGHTER)

They elect one of their number

to ask you a question and

they've done that today and

it's Holly Castles. My name is

Holly Castles from Gladstone

State High School. As a

Parliament-time employee in

central Queensland it appears

that we are very often

pressured into putting work

before our education and our

part-time status is often

insecure. How does the ACTU

plan to address concerns of a

large part-time student work

force? (APPLAUSE)

One way is we need to get

more young people working for

the union movement like you,

think think! We have lots of

strategies to address job

insecurity and in areas like

hospitality and retail, these

are major challenges for

unions. Everybody knows that

the rate of unionisation in

some of these industries isn't

as high as it could be. But

unions are addressing those

issues and we've got lots of

ideas, industrially, as to how

do we pursue those things, but

it is gonna depend upon the

industry that people are

involved in and one of the

things we will be developing is

a youth strategy, 'cause I do

accept that perhaps one of our

deficiencies in the past is we haven't thought hard enough

about how we communicate with

young people. And we're

absolutely committed to

ensuring that that happens. But

primarily, we'll address those

issues through bargaining.

Through collective bargaining.

So it's really important that

we have a bargaining system

which enables people like you

to engage with their union, and

be able to take up those issues

in a pro-active sort of a way,

and so some of those things

will be done through awards but

more and more they will be done through collective

bargaining so the challenge is

to try to make sure we talk to

young people and get more

people involved in unions and

more people involved, more

young people involved in lots

of areas of society, but from

our point of view particularly unions. Back to our media

members and Sid Maris. You were

quite expansive about

collective bargain be and you

were deliberately contrasting it with the idea of it being a

sort of a collective bargaining

agent. You're wanting to

expound a view which is a

little more - a little broader

socially and in a number of

other other areas. Over last 10

years there's been a lot of

debate that some of the

drain-away of union membership

has been because people have

become more individual,

individually minded. Now,

putting aside what pressures

there might've been under the

industrial relations system,

how do you view that debate and

your version of collective

bargaining, how does that work

in a society where maybe people

just do see themselves as more

individually empowered and see

the union side of things as a

step backwards? Well, I don't

accept that individual empowerment and collective

action are mutually exclusive.

I mean, unions are primarily collective organisations. That

doesn't mean that they don't do

things individually, for

individuals. And take up

particular issues. But in the

end, people will join unions if

they feel as if it will make a

difference to their working

lives. If they feel as if

they'll have a say in their workplaces, in their

industries, and ultimately in

society. Unions are different

to the NRMA or to insurance

companies or any other

community organisation. Unions

are something which are quantifiably different and so

therefore, we have to get that

message out, and it does

involve collective action. It's

not just action about wages and

conditions, but if I can

encapsulate it, I think it's

about enabling people to have a

say in their workplace and

ultimately in their

community. Let's have a last

question from Dennis

Peters. Today two of the most

powerful unions in the country

have publicly joined in

opposition to a federal

parliamentary motion

congratulating Israel on 630

years of Statehood. What's the

ACTU version of that? --

60 years of statehood. I think

people are entitled to have

their view about those issues.

It's not something that the

ACTU - of course the ACTU has

policies about a range of

issues but I think individual

unions are entitled to express

their views about those issues,

and that's what they've

done. Thank you very

much. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much, Jeff

Lawrence. I hope over the next

few years, we'll see you back

here reporting on progress on

the things you've talked about

today. We'd like to give you a

package all non-declarable,

they're all well below the

value that you need for that.

Membership, identity, security,

all those things. Thank you very much. Thank

you. (APPLAUSE)

Closed Captions by CSI that cuts through the babble of radio chatter. His week day show is pulling a rapidly-growing audience, too. Not bad for someone who's 80 years old and part of the radio hall of fame. This week's talking head is Bob Rogers. Bob, it's great to meet you. Nice to meet you. Thanks for coming on 'Talking Heads'. What's your secret to being such a great survivor in radio? Probably got something to do with my Depression background, I think. I was determined to be successful. When you got into radio though, you were always able to move with your audience. There must be some clues in that too, about why you've survived so long. I'm an old whore, I suppose. I'm cunning. I don't know. I can't tell you. (Laughs) Some people make a lifestyle out of being nasty to people. You've never done that really, have you? Rupert Murdoch and Frank Packer would say I was nasty to them, because they either sued me or did something. But that... The tall poppies I didn't mind being caustic about. There's a certain kindness about you, perhaps. Now you're going to say I'm a softie. Speak to my wife. Are you a softie? I am now.

Ask my daughters. I cry at the drop of a hat. I get very nostalgic.

One thing that a radio presenter lives on is their voice. You're to radio, in a sense, what Sinatra is to singing. You see, I never saw it that way. All I know is that I project. And my wife, if we're in a restaurant, will always say, "Keep your voice down." Because I do project. I learnt that very early in my life. But I also learnt, when I made my first radio broadcast at 15, my sister heard me, She laughed. She said, "You'll never be an announcer "with a voice like that." And I cried. Aged 15. I'm now back crying again. Bob, let's have a look at you growing up in rural Victoria.

I was born in 1926, on a farm in Donald, on the edge of the Mallee in Victoria. My dad was a soldier settler. I had an older sister. We had two brothers, one either side of me.

My mother was Winifred,