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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 29 April 2008: Workplace relations; training places; maternity leave; union picnic days; 'boys club' and mining sector.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister 29 April, 2008


Door Stop, 10.15am Tuesday,29 April 2008, Sydney

Workplace relations, training places, maternity leave, union picnic days, 'boys club' and mining sector


Today I have, once again, reaffirmed the Government's commitments to delivering on its pre-election

promises to the Australian people in workplace relations. We promised the Australian people a new, simple,

fair and balanced workplace relations system and that's what we are going to deliver.

We promised the Australian people an end to Work Choices and, of course, the hated Australian Workplace

Agreements were at the heart at Work Choices, and with our legislation earlier this year, we ran a stake

through the heart of Work Choices.

Now, we are consulting with business, with unions, with community groups about delivering the balance of

our industrial relations system. It will be true to our election commitments. It will have simple, modern

awards, a safety net you can rely on that can never be stripped away; a fair bargaining system; an ability to

take an unfair dismissal claim, but a system that doesn't tie business up in red tape.

These are all important commitments, we're continuing to consult on them, and we will deliver that legislation

and the new workplace relations system Australians voted for last November.

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Are you disappointed by the number of people that have taken up the productivity skills program: only 40 out

of the 20,000 places you announced last month?


On this question of skills, can I be clear, we are working as hard as we can to fix a skills crisis that has been 11

years in the making. For 11 long years, the former Liberal Government didn't invest in the skills of the

Australian people. That's meant that there's a skills crisis now, and we are working hard to address that skills

crisis. A skills crisis, 11 long years in the making, isn't going to be fixed overnight. But we are delivering

20,000 productivity places, new training places.

I'm pleased to see that more than 70 registered training organisations offering more than 250 different

qualifications from more than 300 sites have already stepped up to the plate and said, they want to be

involved in delivering these 20,000 training places.

These are the first of a huge 450,000 training place investment to address the skills crisis in this country. So

we're working hard, we're working fast to try and address a crisis 11 long years in the making by the former

Liberal Government.


But it is going more slowly than you'd hoped for isn't it?


Well, we delivered the 20,000 training places as promised in April. We've had more than 70 registered

training organisations say they want to be involved in the delivery of the places. They have the ability to offer

over 250 different sorts of qualifications from more than 300 sites. So the program is rolling out, the first

20,000 being rolled out urgently, because the long skills crisis developed by the former government is being

urgently attended to by the Rudd Labor Government.


Another matter, there's new figures showing that the percentage of female workers eligible for maternity leave is falling. What can the Government do to address this?


Well, I think it's important, when it comes to maternity leave, that, number one, we have a fair and balanced

workplace relations system. We know the evidence under Work Choices was that women did it toughest under

Australian Workplace Agreements. We know that they did it tough on questions of pay, where the weekly and

hourly rates of pay of women on Australian Workplace Agreements were far less than the weekly and hourly

rates of pay of women on collective agreements. And we know from the information that finally made it out

into the public domain about Australian Workplace Agreements, information that the former government

sought to suppress, that Australian Workplace Agreements were not facilitating family-friendly arrangements.

A fair, simple, decent workplace relations system will be one that can facilitate family-friendly arrangements.

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We will make sure our new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, is dedicated to the task of spreading best

practice when it comes to family-friendly arrangements. And, of course, the Government has asked the

Productivity Commission to inquire into, and to make recommendations, about paid parental leave in the

community and, particularly, paid maternity leave.


The peak New South Wales union body today is launching a campaign for 26 weeks paid maternity leave.

Would you support that and do you think it's affordable?


Well, the reason we asked the Productivity Commission to inquire into matters such as this, is because we're

very interested in the answer. And we know that there were problems for people getting family-friendly

arrangements under the extreme industrial relations laws of the former government. We know that some

businesses do offer paid maternity leave. We want to see a spread of paid maternity leave. We want to see

more women assisted, but we want to find the right way to do that, so that it works for individuals and it

works for business. That's why we've asked the Productivity Commission to report and we'll be interested to

get that report when it's available.


Ms Gillard, you've been reported as saying that you consider union picnic days as unlawful strike action. Can

you explain the basis of those comments [indistinct] on them?


Yes, the question we were asked is if people left work, effectively without leave, and without any entitlement

for a day off, whether it be a union picnic day or any other day, what would that constitute. Well obviously, if

people absent themselves from work without leave and without reason, then that can constitute, unlawful

industrial action.

What we've said more broadly, on the question of public holidays, is public holidays will be protected by the

national employment standards. The public holidays that are protected include the days that people would

expect, days like Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, Australia Day, the days

that the community has come to expect as public holidays. It will also protect gazetted public holidays that

apply to a particular region of the country. For example, Melbourne Cup Day or even race days in a country


So our National Employment Standards are there to protect the public holidays that Australians have come to

expect and rely on. Of course, Work Choices meant it was possible for those public holidays to be ripped away

without any or any proper compensation.


Minister, one other topic, there's [indistinct] study out this morning showing 50 per cent of workers, male and

female, think it's a boys club out there [indistinct].


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Well, we've got to keep working on changing culture at work. Women at work, I think, from time to time, still

find obstacles. Obviously, the survey today is showing that men recognise that there can be obstacles in the

way. We want to make sure that workplaces are thinking about what they can do to be genuinely inclusive of

women, and also thinking about what they can do to be genuinely inclusive of families.

In the modern age, it is both working men and working women who are concerned about work-life balance,

and who want to be able to talk to their employer about better and flexible arrangements at work that can help

them put work and family life together. We know the old industrial relations system, the Work Choices

system, the views of the former Liberal government were all about conflict at work and stripping away the

safety net. It wasn't a conducive environment for people sitting down and making the best possible

arrangements. We want to make sure, with a fair and balanced system, there's a good environment for people

to have that conversation.


Is your office a boys' club…


That report by the Eequal Opportunity Agency was sponsored by a recruitment company. Can you be

confident your agency is sufficiently independent...


[Interrupts] I'm sorry, can you start that again.


Oh, I'm sorry.


I missed the first bit and then...


That report by the Equal Opportunity Agency was sponsored by a recruitment company. In fact, I think it's the

Hays company. Can the a... can you be assured the company is sufficient - sorry, that research in the agency is

sufficiently independent, if it's accepting its private sector sponsorships?


Look, I am responding to the survey as I've seen it reported today.


It's your agency, Minister.


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Is your office a boys' club…


You haven't [indistinct] sufficiently independent if your executive sponsorship [indistinct]...


I'm responding to the survey as I've seen it reported today.


Ms Gillard, do you think your office is a boys' club?


[Laughs] No. Of course, the Rudd Labor Government has within its number a historically high number of

women ministers. Obviously, it's my great privilege to serve as the first female Deputy Prime Minister of this

country. We have in Cabinet and in the ministry women working hard on some of the most important jobs for

the nation.

My colleague, Penny Wong, working on the issue of climate change and water, and to make a major statement

today. My colleague Jenny Macklin working on the vital questions for families and for Indigenous Australians.

My colleague Tanya Plibersek working on the question of housing. And so the list goes on and on. Women are

there working at the heart of the Rudd Labor Government. It's the first time we've had a woman as Deputy

Prime Minister. It's the first time we're going to have a woman as Governor-General. These are both moments

in time, moments in history, and I think that they mean Australian women have looked at the Rudd Labor

Government and seen their face reflected in the Government.


Minister, it's been suggested that the Government's been negotiating with the mining sector to get greater

flexibility to some of their workplace agreements. Why isn't this [indistinct] some other businesses shouldn't it

be as well?


We are talking to all industries and representatives of business right across the board, as we consult about our

substantive workplace relations legislation. So yes, the mining industry is involved in discussions on our

substantive workplace relations legislation, as are manufacturing industries, the media industry, small business, retailers, you name it, every industry segment we've been in discussion and dialogue with.


So the mining sector won't be getting any special concessions compared to other businesses?


We are talking to all industries. We are obviously putting together a fair and balanced industrial relations

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system that will apply to everyone.


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