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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 2 February 2016: the Liberals' Royal Commission; ABCC

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SUBJECT/S: The Liberals’ royal commission; ABCC.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Government says it’s going to provide a briefing through Mark Dreyfus in Labor’s ranks to look at the secret volume, six volumes of the Royal Commission into trade unions, and then it can make a judgement upon the ABCC from that. Is that fair enough? Given we’re talking about witnesses and protecting witnesses?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Look the problem with this Kieran is that it’s been a dog’s breakfast. The Minister started by saying no one would see the report. Then it would be a redacted report to a select few. Then it would be unredacted to a number of independent senators. And now it will go to individuals of political parties. I think the problem - and then of course, if you think back to last year, the Attorney-General said that no one would see the report. This would be the first time that parliamentarians were given a confidential report from the Royal Commission. Never happened with the Cole Royal Commission. So this is a big step. And I think the Government keeps moving the goalposts. And the reason I think that’s happening is that they see everything through the prism of politics. As I say, this has been transactional politics from the start. The Minister has sought to curry favour with individual senators by giving them something she won’t give others. Now this is also remember in defiance of the -

GILBERT: But now saying that Labor, that she’ll brief you -

O’CONNOR: - she’s also been in defiance of the Royal Commission. If you’re going to first ly rely upon the Royal Commissioner’s findings and now repudiate his advice to

keep it confidential. I think that is an issue in and of itself. We’ll respond to the Government as to whether we accept the proposition that, for example, the Leader doesn’t get to see the report. The Deputy Leader doesn’t get to see the report. I don’t get to see the report. We’ll consider that. But I think it’s been a dog’s breakfast from the start because it’s always been motivated by politics, base politics. That’s why they’ve got this wrong. That’s why they keep chopping and changing.

GILBERT: Why is it not motivated by this element, particularly when you have Commissioner Heydon saying that this volume should be kept secret. You can understand why the Government is being careful?

O’CONNOR: But my point is everyday there is a different position by the Government. Everyday. Last year they were not going to give anyone the report. Last week it was going to be redacted. Then it was going to be unredacted for a few. Now it’s going to go to a couple of individuals. Now -

GILBERT: Let’s look at the public knowledge then about what we know. We heard Steve Ciobo before the break saying you should be voting in favour of the Building and Construction Commission, the reinstatement of it, on the basis of what we know. And what we know is that there has been systemic problems with major unions, including the CFMEU.

O’CONNOR: This is almost one of the oldest public policy debates we’ve had in the Parliament. This is an almost decade long debate. The ABCC in this or other forms has been around - the debate, either to have it or not have it - since at least 2005. Labor has never supported bringing in extreme laws in the civil jurisdiction that will be imposed on a set of workers in a way, in this particular way. What we’ve said is if there is serious evidence of crime.

GILBERT: Your brother - I have to mention it obviously, because he’s the National Secretary of the CFMEU - wouldn’t he and those who say they want that union to be operating as it should, wouldn’t they want the Government’s additional support to get rid of bad apples here?

O’CONNOR: You’d have to ask the union what its view is, but I’d be very surprised if anyone wouldn’t want to support stamping out crime anywhere. And I make the point that this is not a position that I take, this is a position that Labor has taken for a decade, and

that is this Kieran: that any evidence of crime should be dealt with by crime fighting agencies.

GILBERT: They haven’t done it. The Royal Commission shows that it hasn’t achieved that -

O’CONNOR: The ABCC is not dealing with criminal law. It is dealing with civil law. If there are criminal offences occurring, and that’s being alleged, if that is the case you have the crime commission which is a standing crime commission that was set up under -

GILBERT: But it has not achieved that, they haven’t achieved the result, as the Royal Commission shows -

O’CONNOR: I have to say that I think the case is overstated. I think there are a lot of allegations. Let’s talk about the Cole Royal Commission. Of all the references that that commissioner made, all of the findings and about the references to prosecutions, tell me how many prosecutions that arose out of the Commission? Criminally? Not one.


O’CONNOR: Not one! So you have to ask the question, is this in fact being overstated? We would argue that it is.

GILBERT: Ok we’ve got to go. Brendan O’Connor, thanks very much for your time. Appreciate it.

O’CONNOR: Thanks Kieran.