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Transcript of press conference: Parramatta: 4 April 2012: Fair Work Australia; Jobs 1001; Employment; Skills; Sports funding



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Transcript of press conference, Parramatta

WED 04 APRIL 2012

Prime Minister

Subject(s): Fair Work Australia; Jobs 1001; Employment; Skills; Sports funding

PM: I’m here with the Member for Parramatta, Julie Owens, with the Member for Chifley, Ed Husic, and with my ministerial colleague Senator Evans, who does very important work for us on skills.

And we’re here today as you can see at Toll, and we’re here because Toll has made an offer to engage 700 more staff over the coming few months to do that extra work in a way that means they are putting on 30 more apprentices.

So this is great news here in Sydney’s West. But it’s part of a bigger picture about jobs and apprenticeships that is happening right around the nation. We’ve got more Australians in work that ever before. We’ve got more Australians in apprenticeships and training places than ever before. Indeed, approximately 60,000 more under the life of this Government.

That’s good news, but we do know the Australian economy is changing, and we know lots of people still need the opportunity to get a job or to get the skills to get a job through an apprenticeship.

So, I’m very pleased to be here today as part of the campaign by News Ltd Community Newspapers to create 1001 new jobs.

Now the great news about this campaign, which was kicked off a while back, is that it is already exceeding its target.

The original aim was to create 1001 new jobs in 101 days. We’re a third of the way in and already the target is being exceeded. More jobs being created. And the contribution of Toll to that target is a remarkable one, with 700 jobs, 30 of them apprenticeships.

This hasn’t just been achieved by big employers like Toll.

The result is being achieved by small businesses stepping forward and saying that they’re prepared to put on an additional one person or two people, or one additional apprentice in their business.

So this is a community effort, it involves local newspapers, it involves local members, local employment services, local training providers, all working together to maximise opportunities in their local communities for work.

So it’s great to be here today to be able to see more jobs being created in the West of Sydney, and congratulations to News Ltd local papers on the work that they are doing in this campaign. I’m very happy to take questions. Did you have a question? No, I’m getting waved at.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Well to take your questions in reverse order, I don’t have a copy of this Fair Work Australia report. Mr Abbott doesn’t have a copy of this Fair Work Australia report. I can understand the strong degree of interest in it, but its release is a question for Fair Work Australia. So you need to direct those questions towards Fair Work Australia.

In relation to your first question, I don’t have anything before me which would cause me to alter from my previous statements of confidence in Mr Thomson.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the ACTU is considering tomorrow whether to kick out the HSU. Jeff Lawrence says that he had a zero-tolerance towards corruption so why can’t you have a zero-tolerance towards corruption for Craig Thomson?

PM: Well the ACTU is making a decision about one of its affiliates and it will take that decision tomorrow. That’s a matter for the ACTU.

On the question of Members of Parliament, in the past when Members of Parliament have been the subject of referrals to the Director of Public Prosecutions, they’ve continued to participate in the life of the Parliament and in the life of their political party.

Indeed, one of Mr Abbott’s Parliamentary Secretaries was in precisely that position, and at the time Prime Minister Howard said proper processes should take their course. That is true here in relation to Mr Thomson.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) seek a copy of that report to perhaps change your view about what’s (inaudible) make an assessment of Mr Thomson?

PM: I understand the strong interest in this report, but the question of its release is a matter for Fair Work Australia, which is independent of Government.

JOURNALIST: Have you, as Prime Minister, asked to see the report?

PM: Fair Work Australia is independent and it needs to make its decisions independently of Government.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Look, Mr Thomson’s public statements, as you would be aware, he has said publicly that he is innocent of these allegations.

JOURNALIST: Have you asked him...

PM: ...I don’t believe any different answers would be supplied in any circumstances. Mr Thomson publicly and privately has said exactly the same thing, and you have access to those statements as well as I do.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if Mr Thomson is charged with criminal offences will you still want him to sit with the Government in Parliament? The Opposition has suggested you should (inaudible).

PM: I’m not going to engage in hypothetical speculation about what might happen, but I do note a member of Mr Abbott’s team was the subject of criminal charges and continued to participate as a Liberal Party member.

JOURNALIST: Should the (inaudible) three or four months Prime Minister, hasn’t this dragged on much too long (inaudible)?

PM: Well once again, you’ll have to put that to Fair Work Australia.

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JOURNALIST: What’s your view, though? You’re Prime Minister.

PM: Well look, I see that the Opposition walks both sides of the street on this question. Some days they chide and try and suggest that the Government has politically interfered in the investigation, on other days they call on the Government to politically interfere and speed the investigation up.

Well the Opposition might walk both sides of the street, I only say the one thing, the same thing. Fair Work Australia is independent and it makes its decisions independently of Government.

JOURNALIST: Now this report is not readily available, it’s a bad look for your Government surely?

PM: Well, this is a matter for Fair Work Australia. Fair Work Australia has made the decision about this matter and will make all future decisions independently of Government.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Look, this is a matter for Fair Work Australia. Of course I became aware yesterday that Fair Work Australia had said publicly that it had a report and that it was forwarding the report to the DPP. It’s all Fair Work Australia’s processes. My reaction was no more than to note the facts.

JOURNALIST: Don’t you agree with the public perception that this looks pretty bad for your Government, wouldn’t you agree, this whole saga?

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: That’s not true. How do you put that allegation?

JOURNALIST: Well I mean, if there is the potential -PM: You just used the word Minister, how do you put that allegation?

JOURNALIST: I said potentially.

PM: Yeah. But you said Minister. How do you put that allegation? So let’s just be a bit clear about the facts here. Yes.

JOURNALIST: The public perception is that this whole saga doesn’t look very good for your Government having Thomson even remotely associated with this. Would you agree?

PM: Well let’s go back to precedents in the Parliament. Mr Abbott has a member of his team who he has asked to serve as a Parliamentary Secretary, who if Mr Abbott was Prime Minister would presumably serve as a Parliamentary Secretary in Government, a member of the Executive, who under the former Howard Government was the subject of referral to the DPP.

Back then Prime Minister John Howard said proper processes should take their course. He continued to participate in the Parliament and in the life of his political party.

So Mr Abbott’s track record, as opposed to the things that he might be saying now, his track record is one where, in the past, when a member of his own party has been the subject of a referral to the DPP he’s viewed it as appropriate for them to continue to participate in the Liberal Party and in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, I’ve got a Western Sydney question for you.

PM: Right, okay well we’ll come to that, yes, so is there any more on this issue and then we’ll move to other issues.

JOURNALIST: There’s been calls from Kathy Jackson, given how long this investigation has taken, for a judicial inquiry into Fair Work Australia. Is that something that you would support considering the length of this?

PM: Look, this is all a matter for Fair Work Australia.

JOURNALIST: My Western Sydney question. During, before the last election you intervened to save Laurie Ferguson in a Western Sydney seat. Would you be intervening to save Craig Thomson in Dobell on the Central Coast?

PM: Look, I’m not dealing with hypothetical questions thank you.

JOURNALIST: How many jobs are going to go (inaudible) Regional Australia (inaudible)?

PM: There’s speculation about jobs in the Department of Regional Australia today. That is speculation, no decisions have been taken.

There’s also material in today’s newspapers about voluntary redundancies in the Climate Change Department. There will be voluntary redundancies in the Climate Change Department.

The big complex policy work about carbon pricing is done, it’s finished. And because carbon pricing is coming into effect, a number of other programs that that Department used to run are being brought to an end.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, yesterday we saw some critical remarks from the Auditor-General about the way the Cabinet functions. Do you take any of those criticisms on board and will you be changing the way things operate in terms of tenders like the Australia Network?

PM: I commented on the Auditor-General report yesterday, and let me say of course this wasn’t a smooth process at every step of the way, but the right decision was made and the right decision was for the ABC to do this work.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Governing Act which makes it independent.

JOURNALIST: Is there a case to be made for that Act to be reformed? Surely Fair Work Australia operates entirely (inaudible) in the public interest.

PM: I believe it’s appropriate for the industrial umpire not to be the subject of dictates from a Government.

I do believe it’s appropriate for the industrial umpire to be independent. I mean would you really want a circumstance where Mr Abbott, if he was ever elected Prime Minister, could issue an edict and tell the industrial umpire to strip penalty rates out of every award in the nation.

I mean we know they’ve done it in the past through Work Choices. Would you really want a position where, if Mr Abbott was ever Prime Minister he could just stand over the industrial umpire and tell them what to do?

Would you really want a situation in a big dispute like for example the Qantas dispute, where the Prime Minister of the day could stand over Fair Work Australia and tell them what to do?

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Fair Work Australia is independent, it’s independent under its legislation in the Parliament and that’s appropriate.

On this report, I understand the strong interest in this report. But the independent umpire is the independent umpire, and it will make its own decisions.

JOURNALIST: The man in the hot seat Craig Thomson (inaudible)

PM: Look, you know my reaction is as I’ve put it here. I understand the strong degree of interest in this report. I don’t have it, Mr Abbott doesn’t have it, and how it is released, if it is released, is a question for Fair Work Australia.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: No I said, my words Mark, and I ask you to check them because I did not say that. I said matters in relation to Mr Laming were subject to consideration by the DPP. That is 100% accurate.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Well we’re about to go to that event, and soccer is a great participation sport out here in the West. I’ve got local members with me, Ed and Julie who can tell you all about it.

So this is a mass participation sport, we want to see more kids out there being active on the sporting field. You don’t have to be a budding star, but you have to, you know, we want kids out there playing sport, having a go.

We know as a nation that we face some big health issues with obesity, with inactivity. We know for many kids and young people how seductive it is to sit inside on the computer, Facebook, playing the games, but not get outside, kick a ball, get out with your mates, get some sunshine, get some fresh air.

So I’m all for, across the many great sporting codes in our country, encouraging participation, and encouraging people to strive to be better and better. Soccer’s doing a great job at that here in Sydney’s West.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) Ros Kelly as the Sports Minister, she put money into marginal Labor seats, so surely this is another funding project for a marginal Labor seat?

PM: Well I invite you to look across how we fund sport, and then see if your question stands up to any form of analysis.

JOURNALIST: Can you please comment on why it’s important to get more apprentices involved, especially in transport and logistics?

PM: Thank you for that question, and I certainly can. This is a growing industry. A growing industry in our nation and one in which we’ve got a comparative advantage, as we take our skills to the region in which we live.

I’ve been talking to the Australian community about the spectacular growth in the region in which we live. That is full of possibilities for us. Economic opportunities for us.

We will not only see additional demand for transport and logistics in our own country, as we export the goods that we know that Asia wants to buy from us, we’ll actually see demand for our expertise in transport and logistics directly in the countries in our region.

And so, this is a great opportunity for Australian jobs and Australian people to get the skills they need for jobs that are going to be there for the long term.

So it’s fantastic to be here and to see this announcement of more jobs and more apprenticeships.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Well, you’ve put a million things together and unfortunately none of them’s giving - let’s just do some of the facts, because I think they might help you.

There are more Australians employed today than ever before in our nation’s history. Fact. More Australians employed today than ever before.

Our unemployment is slightly over 5%. Look to America, it’s more than 8%. Look to countries in Europe and you will find places where it’s more than 20%. We’re in that position with more Australians in jobs today than ever before.

We’re in that position with that comparatively low unemployment rate, because we came out of the Global Financial Crisis strong. Because this Government, this Labor Government worked to support jobs.

Now we’re in a situation where our economy is continuing to undergo change. Great opportunities in our region, they’re showing now though the huge resources boom and that’s a fantastic thing. People getting jobs.

But the structural change in our economy is also showing, with the high Australian dollar and some pressure on the shoulders of manufacturing and tourism and other trade-exposed industries.

So during these days of change we’ll keep supporting jobs, and we will be building the future economy that gives people the best chance of prosperity and jobs.

That’s what the NBN’s about, the Clean Energy Future is about, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax is about, sharing the benefits of the boom, and it’s also what the skills package that Minister Evans and I are working on for the forthcoming Council of Australian Governments meeting is all about.

Shaping that future economy, so people here in Sydney’s West and people right around the nation can get the benefits of those future opportunities.

JOURNALIST: Just with jobs and a quick one, in terms of the job cuts in the ACT how will it impact on the economy there? Can they afford to bear much more job cuts (inaudible)?

PM: The Australian Public Service does remarkable things, and the workers in that public service are to be valued and respected. Often they get to be the subject of some fairly lazy criticism in my view, in the court of public opinion. I am a big respecter of the public service. But as a Government, we’ve also got to take some tough choices to generate a Budget surplus for 2012-13.

That’s the right thing to do by our economy now in these days of structural change. It’ll lock in confidence for the future of our economy. It’ll also mean, because you know, the Government’s doing the right thing, we’re taking some of the pressure off and giving room for the Reserve Bank to move on interest rates should it choose to do so. Something very important to families around the nation.

So that means you face some tough choices and how we’re dealing with some matters involving public service employment are one of those tough choices, but it’s all about doing the right thing by the economy, the right thing by managing it in the interests of working families and that’s bringing the Budget to surplus exactly as we promised.

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Okay, thank you very much.

Page 4 of 4 Transcript of press conference, Parramatta | Prime Minister of Australia

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