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Abetz, Smith debate IR changes -

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(generated from captions) and by Stephen Smith, Labor's spokesperson on IR. Tonight he's in our Perth studios.

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The appointment of Ian Harper, why

does the Government feel he is the

most appropriate person for the job?

He has a wonderful blend of

expertise and compassion and nobody

could doubt his credentials in the

area for which he's been chosen and

I think he's going to do a very

I think he's going to do a very good job. He's indicated something which

has been of concern for the

Government for a long time and that

is the need to ensure that our wage

structures also look after those

that are seeking to get into

employment. Just on that point,

employment. Just on that point, what is the Government's understanding

is the Government's understanding of exactly Ian Harper's views on that?

How he sees the relationship

How he sees the relationship between the setting of the minimum wage and

employment levels? I'm not sure

exactly how he sees that other than

I know that there is no doubt he's

got all the qualifications and

expertise that we as a community

could hope for, together with a

compassion that I think will

compassion that I think will provide the right blend and then it's up to

him, under the legislation, to make

determinations which we as a

Government cannot and don't want to

interfere with. So he will be

determining on the basis of his

expertise and expressed compassion

expertise and expressed compassion a system that will ensure that there

is social justice in the wage

is social justice in the wage fixing process in this country. But this

process in this country. But this is central to this new body, is it not,

to consider the effect of minimum

wage settings on that part of the

market that is not in work? I'd be

surprised if you haven't got some

feel at least for where Ian Harper

will come down on this issue.

I don't know where he'll come down

on that issue other than I think

most Australians will say it is a

welcome initiative that those that

aren't in employment are for the

first time actually going to be

considered in the wage fixing

process in the past it's only been

about those that have actually been

in the system and not about those

that want to access the system. And

if we are going to be a socially

just country, then we've got to

ensure that the 5.1% of Australians

that are currently unemployed are

given a fair and equal chance of

getting into employment. Stephen

Smith, how does Labour see this

appointment, Ian haerper, the new

head of the commission? I don't

head of the commission? I don't know Ian Harper personally so I can't

give you a character assessment,

positive or negative. It doesn't

concern me that he doesn't have

labour market expertise. The

labour market expertise. The problem for Professor Harper and any person

who accepts an appointment to the commission is the Government's

public policy objective here is to

drive the minimum wage down in real

terms. The Government has a public

policy view that, if you drive the

minimum wage down, that will minimum wage down, that will somehow magically increase employment else.

Where the problem for the

Where the problem for the Government is there's no credible economic

analysis or experience which shows

that is the case. On the contrary,

for example, in the United States

the minimum wage has gone backwards

in real terms since the late 1990s

and you've had about 3% employment

growth. Here, we've got a greater

increase in the minimum wage in

increase in the minimum wage in real terms and our employment increase

has been greater. But Stephen Smith,

as you know, the Fair Pay

as you know, the Fair Pay Commission that we're going to to see this

that we're going to to see this this country is models on the UK model,

what we've seen there is in fact

what we've seen there is in fact the minimum wage has done up under the

Fair Pay Commission. That is true

Fair Pay Commission. That is true in the UK context, but you also need

the UK context, but you also need to have a look at the Australian

context. It's not true as Eric says

to suggest that somehow over the

last 100 years with the fiming of

the minimum wage the Australian Industrial Relations Commission

hasn't taken into account the

implications for the employed as

well as the unemployed. The

commission's had to take into

account economic circumstances

Generally. What the Government is

trying to do here, it's tried to

pretend there are procedural

difficulties with the commission

difficulties with the commission and somehow there's a brand new mod

somehow there's a brand new mod nell the UK that will be ill yumiating

for us. The Government's objective

is to driver the minimum wage down.

Since the Government's been in

office, if the Industrial Relations

Commission had agreed to the

Government's submission, the

Government's submission, the minimum wage would have been reduced in

wage would have been reduced in real terms by 1.5%. John Howard is out

there saying that he's asked to

there saying that he's asked to give a guarantee that no-one is going to

be worst off and he says his

guarantee is his record. But if his

submissions had been agreed to the

minimum would be $50 a week worse

off. The fact is that minimum wage

has increased in real termers of

has increased in real termers of the last decade is not because of John

Howard it's been despite him. He

wants to get through the back door

what he hasn't been able to get

through the front door, which is an

ideological obsession with a faulty

economic analysis that if you slash

wage at the lower end you will

magically increase employment. If

you cut cleaner's wage, somehow you

will magically have two cleaners

employed - that's a nonsense.

What of that point? I completely

reject the assertions that stef

reject the assertions that stef yoen is trying to make. He knows when

is trying to make. He knows when the pay commission was set up in the UK

in 1997 under a Labour Government

in 1997 under a Labour Government it provided justice for low income

earners and a Government that has

clifred 14% real growth in ages for

Australians over the past nine

Australians over the past nine years why on earth would we now in our

10th year all of a sudden decide we

want to reduce wage snits's a

nonsense and the Australian

nonsense and the Australian workers' pay packets speak for themselves

pay packets speak for themselves and that is why the Labour Party's

that is why the Labour Party's lines on this are not cutting through

because every week or fortnight

Australian workers are seeing that

they are better off in their pay

packets and it's a direct result of

the sort of reforms we've

the sort of reforms we've introduced in the past... What of Stephen

Smith's point, though, on the

successive wage cases before the

successive wage cases before the IRC if the Government's voice had been

listened to Australian works would

not have seen those wage rises?

That's a cumulative attempt on the

basis of no decision being made by

the arbitration Commission. It's

the arbitration Commission. It's one of these hypothetical situations

that bare no reality to the

experience of averageworks and

average workers know why they've

been getting increased wages. It's

been the reforms the Howard

Government and indeed that is why

the average worker has been

supporting the Howard Government

because they know that we have been

delivering for them with real wage

increases and real employment

opportunities with an extra 1.7

million Australians now

million Australians now experiencing work because of our policies. Each

time we've tried to introduce any

sort of reform, Stephen Smith and

the Labour Party go on with their

old mantra that it's about cutting

wages and doing workers in the

industry be it tax reform or water

front reform and they've cried wolf

too often too long and I trust the

Australian people won't fall for

their old lines this time. Stephen

Smith? It's not hypothetical. It is

a matter of fact that the

Government's submission to the

Industrial Relations Commission on

the minimum wage since it #k5i78 to

office if they'd been agreed to by

the commission would have seen a

reduction in real terms of the

minimum wage by 1.55%, would see

minimum wage by 1.55%, would see the minimum wage $2,600 a year worse

minimum wage $2,600 a year worse off a year now. On four out of the nine

occasions the Government made a

submission to the commission it was

for a less than inflation increase.

The Government has exhibited over

the nine long years it's been in

office a public policy objective to

reduce the minimum wage in real

terms. It's not a matter of high

Pott cess. It is a - hypothesis. It

is a fact. The Government not

is a fact. The Government not having to be able to persuade the IR

commission, it believe decides in a

policy perspective to take an axe

policy perspective to take an axe to the minimum wage and an axe to the

Industrial Relations Commission

because it can't get through its

arguments because its argument is

based on a faulty economic and

social case case. There's no international experience that sults

it will occur. All you will do is

it will occur. All you will do is to pun punish the nearly 2 million

Australian employees who are

entirely dependent on the minimum

wage to meet what the original

aspiration and ambition of the wage

case was is to be able to provide

for the necessities of life for

for the necessities of life for them and their families. Eric Abetz.

and their families. Eric Abetz... Maxine, Paul Keating bragged about the fact

the fact that real wages went down

during the Hawke -Keating era at

during the Hawke -Keating era at one stage and John Howard has the proud

boast of being able to tell the

Australian work force that they've

received 14% increase in real terms

in their wages and what's more the

Australian workers know it and that

is why they've been rewarding us at

the ballot box. What do you think

Australian workers know after I

guess having been bombarded this

week with material from the

Government? If radio talkback is

Government? If radio talkback is any guide, then everyone out there is

pretty confused about what all

pretty confused about what all these new law also mean for them on an

individual basis. I think you're

right there is a degree of

right there is a degree of confusion out there. On the one hand we've

out there. On the one hand we've had Institute of Public Affairs and

saying we haven't gone far enough

and the trade union movement saying

we've gone too far, which places

we've gone too far, which places the Government very comfortably in the

middle between the proprotagonists

but Australian workers of course

but Australian workers of course are confused by having been bombarded

with all this information and that

is why we as an Australian

Government have an obligation to

inform the Australian people as to

exactly what their rights and

entitlements and protections will

entitlements and protections will be under our proposals and that is

under our proposals and that is what we've now been doing for nearly a

week and I would like to think that,

as a result of that, the Australian

work force is becoming better

acquainted with what we are

proposing and hopefully as the

proposing and hopefully as the weeks go by they'll become better

go by they'll become better informed and, as a result, the dishonest

and, as a result, the dishonest ACTU campaign will be exposed as exactly

that - dishonest. ╝White╛I am sure

you will get some feedback this

weekend in Hobart. Is the problem

for Labour in all of this is the

party is sounding reactive. Already

this week Kim Beazley had to

literally pull himself back from

saying rollback, which reminded

everyone of the anti-GST campaign.

It's not reactive at all to say we

want for the future to have an

industrial relations system that is

underpinned by fairness that has as

part of its fundamental framework a

commitment to a strong and

independent umpire, a commitment to

sensible minimum standards and

saefity nets, sensible rites for

bargains and sensible rites if

you're unfairly dismissed and a xas

toy to ensure that people aren't

forced on to kcts. And the problem

for the Government is that all of

its measures do precisely the

opposite of a favour and sensible

and fundamental framework I've just

outlined. The problem for the Australian community is the

Government is spending millions and

millions and millions of taxpayers'

dollars, we're told it could be up

to $100 million for a campaign that

could lost for a year - last for a

year, to essentially engage in the

spin and propaganda of a Liberal

Party advertising campaign which

should be paid for by the Liberal

Party and not by the taxpayer.

What's occurring on that front is a

public policy outrage. The

Government knows what it's doing.

It's effectively running a Liberal

Party political propaganda campaign

at great expense to the taxpayer.

And you won't find in those

advertisements the one thing that

might actually help, which is John

Howard looking down the barrel and

saying, "I give a guarantee that no

saying, "I give a guarantee that no idea individual Australian will be

worse off." He won't say that

because of his attack on the

because of his attack on the minimum wage wis will reduce wages and

because of his attack on

entitlements and conditions through

the abolition of the no

the abolition of the no disadvantage test which will also reduce living

standards. Senator, a quick

response? If John Howard were to

appear on the advertisements the

first person to complain would be

Stephen Smith saying you've got

proof they're party political.

proof they're party political. Every government needs to communicate

government needs to communicate with its constituency indicating what it

proposing. I've never heard Stephen

Smith complain about State Labour

Governments doing it. Unless he's

got some values basis on which he

says that it's OK for State Labour

Governments to communicate but not

Federal Liberal governments he's

sounding very hollow. In relation

sounding very hollow. In relation to the no disadvantage test, that has

allowed Australian workers to in

fact trade away all their holiday

pay, all their holidays and sick

pay. Under our proposals, you will

not be able to trade your sick days.

Now, I would have thought that

Now, I would have thought that would be a welcome reform and indeed the

standard is going to become 10 sick

days per annum whereas in some

awards, especially in the

manufacturing sector, the standard

is only eight days. As a result of

which workers are going to be two

days better off per year with sick

leave as a result of our

enhancements to the system. Now,

enhancements to the system. Now, any fair minded person would have

thought that something like Stephen

Smith would at least welcome those

improvements. If you're enhancing

the system, why scrap the no

disadvantage test? The no

disadvantage test has anowed -

allowed people to trade away their

sick leave entitlements and also

sick leave entitlements and also the totality of their holiday pay. What

we are now saying is in response to

the community that sick days

shouldn't be able to be traded and

only two weeks annual leave can be

traded, thus guaranteeing at least

traded, thus guaranteeing at least a minimum of two weeks holiday per an

ideal. That is trying to get the

balance between work and family and

lifestyle that I think most

Australians are seeking. Senator,

just in the brief time we have left,

an issue that's been in the press

today - the extent to which the

Government appears to be stymying

proper consideration of the new

anti-terrorism laws. As the Jon

Stanhope virtually gazumped the

Government which putting out the

detail on his website. I think that

the Chief Minister of the ACT has

displayed is a degree of erratic

behaviour and immaturity. I

understand the legislation was

passed between the States,

Territories and the Federal

Government on a confidential basis

and so for him to have done that is

to have breached the trust and the

protocol between the Federal and

Territory Government and that will

undoubtedly make relationships very

difficult. But, having said that,

difficult. But, having said that, as I understood it, the States and

Territories had agreed with the

Federal Government in relation to

the sort of legislation that we are

proposing to implement. Stephen

Smith, there is going to be a

one-day inquiry into these

anti-terrorism laws. What does

Labour think is an appropriate time

to consider these new laws? Well,

the Government now that it has all

power under the sun in the Senate

power under the sun in the Senate is treating the Parliament and the

community with contempt - one day

for Telstra, anywhere tr 12 days to

22 days on industrial relations and

one day for anti-terrorism laws.

It's all power under the sun,

arrogance gone to their heads. On

industrial relations, we see the

prospect of a 12-day Senate inquiry

and a 12-month paid political

advertising campaign. Just on their

advert, we showed in the Parliament

this week based on market research

paid for which the taxpayer they

changed some of their materials to

include the word 'Fairer" because

that might slide the thing through

the community more easily. That has

nothing to do with the provision of

information, I also read into the

information, I also read into the Parliament the Minister Kevin

Andrews a speech that he made a

couple of months ago saying that

fairness is not a public policy

criteria that should apply in this

area, endorsing remarks made by the

Business Council. On a public

Business Council. On a public policy point, the Government doesn't

believe that fair seasons a

believe that fair seasons a criteria in this area but they insert the

word fairer on the basis of market

research because they might slide

research because they might slide it through. Their advertisements are

inherently dishonest. It's a

corruption of the process that a're

using taxpayers' money in this way.

On the no disadvantage test, on the

confidential briefing materials

confidential briefing materials that Andrew Robb, the chairman of the

Government's backbench task force

puts out you find smog but contempt

for the no disadvantage test, which

has ensured that overtime, penalty

rates, leaf loadings, annual leave

and the like are traded by Abby

agreement the individual employee

cannot be any worse off than the

conditions in the award. What the

Government is doing is knocking off

that test from 20 conditions to

effectively four. And that is the

area where the Australian community

knows they're not being protected

knows they're not being protected by laws, they're being sold dun down

the river by a one-line pay amount

in an individual contract that

they'll be forced on to because

someone will stand over them and

someone will stand over them and say if they don't sign it they will be

sacked and sacked without a remedy.

There is no escaping the IR detail

tonight. Thank you for your time

Eric Abetz and Stephen Smith.

Thank you. Thank you, Maxine. It's been a slow task rebuilding the Solomon Islands economy after ethnic tensions paralysed the country several years ago. As frightened foreigners pulled out,

businesses were ransacked, vehicles stolen and houses burnt to the ground by two warring factions. A multi-national aid effort has now stabilised the country and foreigners are once again looking for investment opportunities in the resource-rich nation. Papua New Guinea correspondent Steve Marshall toured one gold mine which may be about to be restarted. High in the hills of the Guadalcanal, in the heart of the Solomon Islands the remains of what used to be a thriving gold mine. The next building along is the office block.

It's been destroyed. Lots of money gone. Even the power station, large enough to supply the whole of Honiara has been destroyed.