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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 6 December 2016: Newspoll on economy; Adani; climate change; ABCC Bill; Senator Hinch

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SUBJECT/S: Newspoll on economy; Adani; Climate Change; ABCC Bill; Senator Hinch.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr O’Connor thanks for your time. Newspoll on the economy proving what we all probably assumed anyway that this is what most people are worried about.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLYOMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Absolutely, Kieran. Jobs, I think, is the greatest concern. We’re seeing underemployment at 1.1 million - as high as we’ve ever seen. That’s more than 1 million Australians looking for more work and not being able to find it. You add to that the 700,000-plus Australians unemployed, no wonder people are crying out for a jobs plan.

The jobs and growth slogan of the Prime Minister I don’t think did well in the election campaign. I don’t think people see anything underneath it. And so, of course, the obligation of the Government is to start to articulate where the jobs will come from. Particularly given the fact that almost 100,000 full time jobs were lost in the last year.

GILBERT: We’re seeing a good announcement today, though, up in Queensland just on that front - Adani, this massive project and a bit of a down payment with Annastacia Palaszczuk. That announcement coming later. You’d welcome that?

O’CONNOR: Well again, it is something contrary to what the Government said. We want to see jobs and we’ll look at the announcement because regional Queensland, like many parts of Australia, is struggling. The construction phase of mining is ending or ended in some parts, and we are seeing thousands and thousands of Australians unemployed. That’s why we also have looked to restrict temporary work visas, and the Government has rebuffed our efforts there.

But look, we’ll look at the detail. The Prime Minister did say that they wouldn’t be providing gifts or concessional loans to Adani. Clearly he’s back flipped on that.

GILBERT: Let’s look at the issues of Climate Change. Can you clarify for us, what is Labor’s position on this issue now, before we get to your critique on the Government, I know you will want to have your two bobs worth on that, but is Labor still supporting an Emissions Trading Scheme? Is that still that current policy?

O’CONNOR: Well, we’ve always believed you need a market mechanism, Kieran. And so too, I thought, did Malcolm Turnbull. As we know, he surrendered his position and his principles to take the leadership and went to the election with a direct action policy which really has seen a carbon emissions increase over the time and in our view will not meet the targets, the very modest targets, set down. And there’s no real sort of targets beyond 2020 that are credible in any way.

But what I think what’s most interesting, Kieran, whilst we’ve had that position, just the idea that you might put the words “carbon” and “pricing” in the same sentence you have complete apoplexy by the far right of the Government with of course Cory Bernardi attacking the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers for even looking at or examining the efficacy and effectiveness of the policy.

This again shows how strapped Malcolm Turnbull is to the far right of the party where he can’t even open his mouth on these matters without getting rebuked by his own side. And that’s unfortunate because we would welcome a proper examination of the policy and try to find some bipartisanship so that there’s some certainty over the longer term for this country.

GILBERT: It’s interesting, you’ve referred to Cory Bernardi but it was a similar message, at least in terms of repudiating a Carbon Tax by Christopher Pyne-

O’CONNOR: True enough.

GILBERT: A South Australian Liberal as well, so they’ve both had a similar sort of message I guess. In terms of the approach for you, you would want some bipartisanship, wouldn’t you? It would be better to have this in a post-political world, to some extent. That’s the call from the Australian Industry Group. Innes Willox from the AiG is saying that we need to get beyond the politics of all of this.

O’CONNOR: Well that’s why I said - I mean you’re right, I should have picked the other South Australian. You have one Cabinet Minister slapping down another Cabinet Minister just recently. But that’s why Labor would welcome the efforts by the Government to identify what needs to be done and work with the Opposition on this. But I make the point, as soon as one Minister comes out and says for example we want to examine carbon permits, we want to possibly look at market based approach to some of these matters, they are repudiates by other Cabinet Ministers and attacked by of course by the usual Senator in exile, Cory Bernardi.

GILBERT: Finally, I want to ask you about the building and construction watchdog, it was the legislative win to finish the year for the Government. You say it’s been diminished through the negotiations, but we’ve seen the development over night the key adviser to Derryn Hinch who had been pushing the Government for more compromise, the delay in the requirements for companies to abide by the new building code of two years as opposed to nine months which is what the Government had put forward. That

particular adviser has now quit, the one that had been criticised by members of Government. What’s your take on all of that?

O’CONNOR: Firstly, just on the bill, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment lauded the passing of that legislation. I stood up in the Parliament, I looked the Prime Minister straight in the eye and said you have sold out, you have back flipped, you have done something that your predecessor would never have done. And I think if you look at the commentary now, the analysis from the industry, this bill has been not only weakened but it’s just led to confusion and complications for the building industry and you are seeing more and more critics come out. Including commentators in both national newspapers attacking the complete collapse of a position that the Government took to the election.

In relation to an adviser to a cross bench Senator, I’m very concerned that the efforts by the Government to brief out and attack personally an adviser to a cross bencher in such a savage and naked way has led to the resignation or the termination of employment by such an adviser. I think that’s really unprecedented, I can’t recall too often, when the Government has used its full weight to attack a personal staff member in the way in which the Government has done. I think it’s a great shame that Senator Hinch has been put in a position to consider the resignation of an adviser because of the Government’s efforts to blacken the name of that advisor.

GILBERT: Do you think it’s more the fact that Senator Hinch was all over the shop in terms of the negotiations around not just the building and construction watchdog but the back packer tax which has led to the criticism of their own behaviour as opposed to the Governments led criticism, because they weren’t the only ones who were critical of Derryn Hinch and his advisers.

O’CONNOR: I’ve read the commentary on Senator Hinch, I haven’t agreed with what Senator Hinch has done on most matters, and we don’t agree even in relation to the ABCC Bill on all matters. But I have to say this, Senator Hinch has always had concerns about the retrospective application of the ABCC and he conveyed that to the Government some time ago Kieran.

And by the way, the Government can’t stand up and say this is a magnificent success story the passing of this bill, on one hand, and then go after an individual, a personal staff member on the other as they have done. Either this bill is a success or it isn’t, and if it is why are they attacking a staff member of Derryn Hinch and why are they blaming Senator Hinch when in fact he was more consistent than many other cross benchers during the course of that debate.

GILBERT: Ok, Brendan O’Connor appreciate your time this morning, we’ll talk to you soon.