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Transcript of interview with Aaron Stevens: 4RO Breakfast: 19 July 2017: casualisation of the workforce

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SUBJECTS: Casualisation of the workforce.

AARON STEVENS: Joining us on the phone is Brendan O’Connor, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, good morning.


STEVENS: You’re coming to Rockhampton today, particularly to take part in a skills and training forum that’s happening in town. I guess from our point of view we can’t think of any better place to hold this right now.

O’CONNOR: Well that’s right. There’s been major changes in the local economy. People are not getting the full time jobs they need. We need greater investment in areas of training and we need to make sure we put Australian workers first, and not overuse the temporary work visas.

We need to see more permanent work for people, because increasingly people feel they can only get casual work.

STEVENS: Yeah, there is a massive skills shortage. We hear about it all the time in Central Queensland, and yet we’ve got these big projects that are at the end of the tunnel. We can see them, we can smell them, they’re closer. How are we going to deal with those industry jobs when we don’t have the people to fulfil them?

O’CONNOR: I think there are people who are willing to take on work and what we need to do is match the supply of labour with the areas of demand. So we do need to invest in areas where there are job opportunities.

But so often when people do receive a job or get a chance at a job these days they are finding it very difficult, because they are not getting enough work. We’ve got the highest

underemployment numbers in the country since, well, ever. It’s the highest underemployed number we’ve ever had.

We have increasingly precarious employment. Labour hire employees, casualisation - people need full-time jobs, they have full time families. They’ve got mortgages, and they need to pay the bills to look after their families and to deal with cost of living pressures.

Having a good job, not just a part time casual job, is critical for most people.

KIM WALTERS: So why is there such an issue with casualisation?

O’CONNOR: I think it has become difficult for people to consider getting a home loan, or even make an application for a rental property. People are looking at the applicants and asking, ‘Do you have guaranteed employment’, and they can’t put their hands on their heart and say they do.

Now, it is ok to use casual workers, and indeed casual employment is a very important component of the labour market. But for people who need a constant stream of income - for paying the mortgage, or paying for their kids - it’s just not adequate.

We cannot allow all future jobs to be part time or casual.

STEVENS: The forum itself today - what do you hope to achieve from it?

O’CONNOR: The whole point of the Federal Opposition getting around the country is to listen to the concerns that people have, to identify the problems that people are confronting, and then redress those problems by way of policy announcements. So, for example, we have already said we are going to register labour hire companies to stop the kind of abuse of workers that does occur. We are looking at tightening the definition of casual, so you can’t be termed casual if indeed you have permanent work. We are looking at making sure that Australians get opportunities for jobs first, before the reliance upon temporary work visas.

So, these are things that we tend to hear from forums in Northern Queensland and elsewhere for that matter, and they inform our policies. Of course, we will announce them well before the election. We get our ideas, often, from those face to face meetings with constituents.

WALTERS: So, can anyone come along to the forum today, and where can they find you?

O’CONNOR: I’ll pass the details on to your producer, but yes, people are welcome to come and speak to Senator Murray Watts, and I should be in attendance. We will also be talking to an employer who’s not passing on the penalty rate cuts. I just want to give her a plug - Patti Mules, she owns the Fastlane Drive-Thru Coffee service, and she doesn’t want to pass those cuts onto her workers who work on weekends and public holidays, and Labor applauds her for that.

JOURNALIST: Are you hearing a bit of that?

O’CONNOR: Yes, I’m getting around the country, I’m meeting with employers who just don’t want to cut their staff’s real wages, and therefore we applaud their efforts to do that. Of course it’s tempting, perhaps, to cut the wages of your staff, but Patti Mules and many others are deciding not to accept the Fair Work decision. Of course, if Malcolm Turnbull were to support Labor’s Bill in the Parliament, we could stop the effects of the decision ASAP.

JOURNALIST: Alright, we’ll get the details off you about that Skills and Training Forum. We’ll put the details up on our website but thank you for your time this morning

O’CONNOR: Thanks very much Aaron, and thanks Kim.

JOURNALIST:. We hope it’s a productive Forum, and we hope that the meetings that you have with people in Central Queensland are productive, because at the end of the day. we know that we need more workers. We need more people trained up in Central Queensland, and we need to get over this skilled shortage.