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Rudd in IR muddle over no worse off promise -

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Rudd in IR muddle over no worse off promise

Alexandra Kirk reported this story on Friday, February 5, 2010 12:18:00

PETER CAVE: The Federal Government is under fire today over claims its new industrial laws leave
some workers worse off. The Fair Work Act prohibits shifts of less than three hours a day and it's
been reported that as a result a group of young people have lost their after school jobs in rural

The Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard has told The World Today she believes something can
be worked out with the help of Fair Work Australia to save those jobs.

And while the Opposition is happy with the way the first week of Parliament has gone, Tony Abbott
still has a niggling problem with his finance spokesman, the outspoken Nationals Senator Barnaby

From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government's been forced to defend its new industrial laws after a report that
six young people have been sacked from their after school jobs in a hardware store in rural

The teenagers had been working for an hour and a half until just before the store closed. The old
state award stipulated a minimum of two hours. The new national award stipulates a minimum of three
hours for casual workers.

This morning the Prime Minister told Fairfax Radio the news laws are to stop people being

KEVIN RUDD: Why do we object to Work Choices? Because it said you can pull all these things away,
you can give an employer the right to axe your penalty rates, axe your overtime, and frankly give
you an hour's work there, a half an hour work there, and all over the place. That's why we changed
the law.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: His deputy, the Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard, has asked Fair Work
Australia to sort the problem out.

JULIA GILLARD: I'm concerned about these young Australians who want to do some work after school.
We will ensure that the employer gets information from our Fair Work information offices. There
certainly are options under our Fair Work legislation which will work for this employer and these
young people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So can an enterprise agreement then undercut the award conditions?

JULIA GILLARD: No an enterprise agreement can be different from the underlying award, it's got to
leave people better off overall but the essence of making an enterprise agreement is that you make
conditions that are working for your own business, your own workplace. Enterprise agreements offer
flexible options. We'll work right through that.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you think that it is possible for these young people to be able to work an hour
and a half a day rather than three?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I think it's possible that we can work through and make arrangements with this
employer that the employer can use our legislation and the Fair Work system to strike a way of
working that works for the employer and for the young people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In this case you don't think the young people need lose their jobs?

JULIA GILLARD: Well my aim here in having a Fair Work information officer get in contact with the
employer and provide all of the information is obviously to find a solution that works for the
employer and the young people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Kevin Rudd was questioned repeatedly about Labor's pledge, including his own, that
the new laws would not leave workers worse off.

REPORTER: Do you insist that no Australian worker will be worse off under this system?

KEVIN RUDD: What we said from the beginning is we're going to have a fair and balanced system. I'm
not going to be in the position now nor were we then to say that in each individual circumstance
there won't be some variation. You can't do that.

REPORTER: Some people are worse off.

KEVIN RUDD: The award modernisation process is underway, it's complex, it goes to each set of

REPORTER: Is the principle here that workers will not be worse off, because they patently are in
several areas?

KEVIN RUDD: Can I say to you Neil, you asked me this many times before the last election and I said
I can't provide that guarantee and I don't. The simple reason is, the simple reason is that we are
dealing with the fundamentals of the system.

You're always going to have these debates about the detail of individual awards, but if you ask me
to provide a blanket guarantee concerning any, all workers in any individual workplace you can't do
that because everyone's circumstances are different.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But in March 2008 he told Parliament.

KEVIN RUDD: No working families in this country will be worse off as a consequence of the
industrial relations laws that we have advanced here in this Parliament, in contrast to those which
were advanced by those opposite.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You promised workers wouldn't be worse off under your Fair Work Act. It's clear
that in some cases this is going to happen, do you think Fair Work Australia is going to have to
intervene in a lot of other cases to try and make sure that people aren't worse off as a result of
the new laws?

JULIA GILLARD: Look I simply don't accept the premise of your question. We've had one example
reported in today's newspapers where a business and some young people want to strike an arrangement
and I'm going to have our Fair Work information officers work with them.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But the unions have put up other cases, for example where clerical workers are
going to have to, it will be possible for employers to make them work on the weekend for example.

JULIA GILLARD: Well can I say just because we read something in the newspapers doesn't mean that
the claim at the base of it is right.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Buoyed by a lift in the opinion polls this week, Tony Abbott's continuing to pursue
the Government over its proposed compensation for prices going up under its emissions trading

But he's had to over-ride his finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce on how the Coalition plans to fund
its climate policy. Senator Joyce suggested earlier this week, cuts to overseas aid and the public
service. Tony Abbott stepped in and said that wouldn't happen.

TONY ABBOTT: Look Barnaby's on a learning curve. I mean, the thing about Barnaby is he answers
questions truthfully, he says what's on his mind and that's a good thing. Now sometimes he's going
to have to be corrected because he'll get it wrong. But honesty and candour are good things in our

ALEXANDRA KIRK: This morning Barnaby Joyce was at it again, leaving open the option of public
sector cuts.

BARNABY JOYCE: It's just a completely open book. If we do not look at controlling the debt we have
a major problem.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And in doing so he's created a bit more work for his leader today.

PETER CAVE: Alexandra Kirk reporting from Canberra.