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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations: Australian Maritime Museum, Sydney: 28 October 2005: Howard Government's Award Review Taskforce; ALP Business Forum.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

28 October 2005




SMITH: Kevin Andrews is out there announcing the Government wants to simplify and rationalise Awards. People shouldn’t be fooled by this. This is nothing more, nothing less than the Government out there stripping away employees’ conditions and entitlements.

This is entirely consistent with what the Government’s been doing across the board in its extreme industrial relations changes; reducing wages, removing conditions and removing entitlements.

Don’t be fooled by talk like rationalisation or simplification. It’s all about the Government wanting to further reduce entitlements and reduce conditions. Removing things like penalty rates, overtime, shift allowances, leave loadings and payment for public holidays. It’s just the Government again on about reducing wages and reducing conditions.

JOURNALIST: ….with the Business leaders?

SMITH: Yes, I’ve just come from our Forum with the Business community. I must say I’m very pleased with the way it’s been going and the way it’s gone. It’s been very successful. It’s been a very good conversation about wanting to make sure we’ve got good economic growth in Australia. Wanting to make sure that we create wealth. Wanting to make sure that we are a prosperous society. From Labor’s point of view wanting to make sure that that prosperity is shared fairly by all. So it’s been a very good couple of days.

JOURNALIST: Are you prepared to do what business wants you to do? Heather Ridout in particular has been critical over your …. wanting to go back to the future.

SMITH: I think it is fair to say that there are things about which we agree and things about which we disagree. I’m happy to leave it up to the individuals concerned to let their own points of view be known publicly. There are some things in which Business agrees with our approach, and some things which they don’t. The most important thing is to have the conversation.

The most important thing is to make it clear that what Labor is on about is economic growth, about a prosperous society and about making sure we’ve got the right environment for being an internationally competitive economy and being productive, but also making sure that all Australians can share fairly in that economy, in that society and in that prosperity.

The Government’s industrial relations changes are nothing more, nothing less than an attack upon employees’ wages, entitlements and conditions. Particularly at the lower end of the scale and particularly, the most vulnerable in our society and in our workforce.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you’ll be able to win back business confidence it you don’t do what they want?

SMITH: It’s not a matter of doing what anyone wants. It’s a matter of standing up and saying we believe that Australia has to have a strong economy, but we’ve also got to be a good society. That’s what Labor is on about. Creating wealth but making sure people, Australians, have the chance of sharing fairly in that prosperity and that economy. So there are things about which we agree and things about which we disagree.

The important thing is people understand what Labor’s principles, policies and approach are, and it’s been a very good conversation in that respect over the last couple of days.


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on 0414 364 651