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Transcript of interview with Julie Doyle: ABC News 24: 19 June 2014:



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THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS MEMBER FOR GORTON

E&OE TRANSCRIPT TV INTERVIEW ABC NEWS 24 CAPITAL HILL THURSDAY, 19 JUNE 2014

SUBJECT/S: High Court decision on School Chaplaincy program; Changes to Newstart for young people.

JULIE DOYLE: Brendan O'Connor, thanks for coming in. Let's start today with the news that the High Court has ruled in favour of the challenge to the Commonwealth’s funding of school chaplains. It’s found the funding was unlawful. Labor tried to shore this up when the original ruling came can down in 2012 by bringing in new legislation. Does this show now that that legislation just wasn’t up to the job?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Well we'll have to look at the detail of the reasoning of the High Court to find that the payments for the school chaplaincy program was unlawful, unconstitutional. But clearly as I can see from what I've read so far, the High Court has concluded that the Commonwealth doesn't have a heads of power upon which to make such a payment.

I understand the Prime Minister is considering the Government's options. The Opposition will work with the Government in order to ensure that the long standing capacity of the Commonwealth to provide payments is something we can do in the future.

DOYLE: The Government has said now, today that it did warn at the time that it didn’t believe that Labor's legislation would meet the High Court's requirement. Why didn't Labor take that on board?

O’CONNOR: I heard that's what Mr Andrews’ said. I don't recall any precise advice given as to the best approach to take. The fact is that we responded. I think it doesn't sound particularly bipartisan today but it was a bipartisan approach to ensure the efficacy of Commonwealth payments and I think a long standing tradition of payments from the Commonwealth to such bodies as schools. I think it's now incumbent on the Government to examine the decision and the Opposition stands ready to work with the Government to ensure that the Commonwealth can act and provide payments in such a way in the future.

DOLYE: Will you ensure that there's no delay as far as you're concerned there, helping the Government get this legislation in place?

O’CONNOR: We're not an Opposition for Opposition's sake. Bill Shorten has always said we want to work with the Government constructively when we can in the national interest. I think this is one such case where we would examine and absorb the contents of the decision and contribute to fixing this particular matter.

DOYLE: More broadly, just why should the Commonwealth fund the school chaplains in public schools in the first place?

O’CONNOR: There's a whole question about that. The Labor Party when in Government said that if we were going to have such a program we should allow for, for example, welfare workers. We did allow for secular officers if you like that could provide support and advice to students. We could see a role there.This Government of course has reversed that decision and limited the role of such program to people that hold religious office, and we think that's too narrowly constrained or confined. But that was the decision of course of this Government.

DOYLE: Just on areas in your portfolio now, the Government introduced the proposed changes yesterday into the House of Representatives for Newstart for young people. Now, Labor has said that it's opposed to these changes but is there any room for negotiation when it comes to these issues?

O’CONNOR: These Newstart arrangements are very unfair and harsh on all job seekers under the age of 30. They expect young job seekers under the age of 30 to have no support whatsoever when they look for work. These job seekers could be looking for work for every day, every week, every month for six months and not receive one cent from the Commonwealth. And at the same time the Commonwealth is asking for those same job seekers who receive no support whatsoever to undertake - to look for work,

40 jobs a month. So they're tearing up the principle of mutual obligation. They are ruining the compact between the Commonwealth and jobseekers by providing no support whatsoever. And yet is still expecting jobseekers to fulfil their obligations, their side of the in bargain. Well, we think that’s unfair.

DOYLE: So there's nothing then in these changes that you would support? There's no room there for any negotiation?

O’CONNOR: We oppose the measure that’s in the Budget. The Government has said nothing about any alternative plan that they have. This is a harsh measure which will lead to homelessness, which will lead to crime, lead to self-harm. It is a recipe for disaster for those young job seekers who will find themselves on the margins of society and of course ultimately relying on their families and other Government agencies because they'll be in really dire straits.

DOYLE: Brendan O'Connor we'll leave it there. Thank you very much.

O’CONNOR: Thank you.

ENDS

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