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Partial transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastruture and Industrial Relations; Western Australian State Parliament, Perth: Cardinall Pell on the industrial relations changes and Government's advertising campaign.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth E&OE T




SMITH: Some comments on Kevin Andrews on morning television.

Firstly, I welcome very much Cardinal Pell’s intervention. This underlines the point that we are not just looking at a massive attack on the living standards of middle Australian. We are also looking at a massive attack on the values and virtues of that Australian society has held dear for over 100 years. So I welcome Cardinal Pell’s intervention over the weekend.

Secondly, Mr Andrews has confirmed that the Government is proposing a propaganda campaign on its extreme industrial relations changes. He has not denied that that could be a $20 million campaign. There are two simple things which the Minister should ensure are included in this massive propaganda campaign: a guarantee that no individual Australian worker will be worse off as a result of the Government’s changes, a guarantee

they have refused to give day in day out; and secondly, he has disparaging comments to make about the ACTU advertisements, so let’s see a guarantee that no individual Australian employee will end up in the manner depicted by the ACTU’s advertisements.

He has also failed to give a guarantee that the Minimum Wage won’t be reduced in real terms. He’s referred to inflation rate increases so far as the Minimum Wage is concerned but what he didn’t tell the Australian community this morning is that the last time the Howard Government made a submission to the Industrial Relations Commission on the Minimum Wage, it was for a less than inflation increase.

Finally, he conceded that the 100 limit so far as unfair dismissal is concerned was arbitrary and he also conceded that there were differing views around the Cabinet table on that limit. The key issue there is that he conceded that is simply arbitrary and capricious, and in our view an unfair proposal.

He’s also given Matt Birney, the Liberal Leader from Western Australia, the very clear message that Mr Birney’s concerns which have been echoed by Mr Grylls, the WA National Leader, and Mr Springborg, the National Leader in Queensland, will be comprehensively ignored.

JOURNALIST: In relation to the advertising campaign by the Government, will Labor consider their own campaign?

SMITH: That’s the matter for Tim Gartrell. You’d need to address your question to Tim. But clearly what we are going to have is the Howard Government, which has now become Australia’s leading advertiser, will put up a propaganda campaign using taxpayers money. He refused to deny it would be up to a $20 million campaign. If there’s going to be a campaign, let him put a couple of guarantees in those adverts. A guarantee that no individual Australian will be worse off, and a guarantee that no individual Australian employee will end up in the manner depicted by the ACTU advertisements, a guarantee that he’s also failed to give.

JOURNALIST: Mr Andrews says the changes are needed to maintain productivity and job creation.

SMITH: Well that’s just a nonsense. The seventeen academics that came out in the last week or so, lead by Professor Lansbury from Sydney, in an exhaustive academic research on the Government’s proposals made the point that there are no productivity improvements to be gained here, that it unfairly shifts the balance against the employee to the employer, that these proposals are essentially unfair.

I pose a simple question. How do they propose to improve Australia’s productivity by reducing the wage of a cleaner from $20,000 to $18,000? There are no productivity improvements to made here. This is simply an attack on the living standards of Australian working families, an attack on the living standards of middle Australia. It’s about reducing wages, removing conditions, removing entitlements, and either reducing or removing minimum standards on safety nets like the independent umpire.

JOURNALIST: The Minister said that …… ACTU. Do you at least acknowledge that they have kept something that the ACTU wanted?

SMITH: The ACTU will make the point that they had very cursory opportunity to put views to Mr Andrews. It’s also the case that Mr Andrews has failed to meet with his State counterparts since April or May of 2004. So the suggestion that these are proposals which have arisen as a result of consultation is just a nonsense. These are proposals which the Prime Minister has been waiting 30 years to put into place. They are extreme, they are unfair, and they are divisive. When the Australian community appreciates the fundamental principles of the proposals and the fine print, they will come to understand that this is about an attack on their living standards.

JOURNALIST: The Minister they will have a choice of whether they will stay on awards or whether they sign up for an agreement.

SMITH: They won’t have a choice. They mantra chant the notion of choice but what they are on about is forcing people onto individual contracts at a lesser wage with reduced conditions, with reduced entitlements, a reduced no disadvantage test, and a smaller number of allowable matters. All of these things are aimed at reducing the living standards of Australian employees.

JOURNALIST: He says he’s confident of persuading the State Liberals…..

SMITH: Mr Birney has made it clear, Mr Grylls has made it clear, and Mr Springborg has made it clear, that they oppose the Howard Government’s changes. It’s also the case that at the recent Liberal Council meeting in Canberra a weekend or two ago, that the Liberal Council comprehensively rebuffed Mr Howard on these proposals. So far as the State Liberals and Nationals are concerned, particularly in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia, there are very serious concerns about these proposals. And if the State Liberal Parties and the State National Parties are concerned about these proposals, then why wouldn’t the Australian community be extremely

oncerned about them. c


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651