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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations: Parliament House, Canberra: 23 June 2005: Coalition mutiny over industrial relations changes; resignation of John Anderson.

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

E&OE T61/05



SMITH: A couple of industrial relations issues this morning.

Firstly, we see overnight reports of Senator David Johnston, the Western Australian Liberal Senator, saying that he is deeply concerned about the Government’s industrial relations proposals and that so far as his vote is concerned, anything is possible.

And he’s saying there is a lot of disquiet among Liberal Senators form Western Australian about the Government’s proposals. The Australian Financial Review reports that some of his colleagues, in particular Senator Eggleston, who is previously on the record in Western Australia expressing reservations about these matters, refusing to comment.

So the Coalition mutiny, the Coalition disunity, that we’ve seen over John Howard’s extreme and unfair and divisive industrial relations proposals going further now with Senator Johnston.

This comes on top of Western Australian Liberal Leader Matt Birney, the Queensland National Leader Mr Springborg, and Senator-elect Barnaby Joyce.

The second industrial relations issue, I’m pleased that we saw the back flip yesterday with John Howard saying the 40 hour week won’t be pursued. Let’s hope he now comes good and tells us what’s going to happen with penalty rates, with leave loadings, with allowances, with redundancy pay, and the rest of the allowable matters he has at risk.

JOURNALIST: Are you getting a sense now that perhaps the control of the Senate won’t be quite be the blanket free-for-all some people thought it might be for the Coalition? That John Howard is going to have work hard to convince his own Senators of some of his own legislation.

SMITH: The problem of getting all power under the sun is that you get too close to the sun; you get touched by the sun and your judgement goes. That’s clearly the case so far as industrial relations is concerned. It’s clearly the case so far as the Government’s industrial relations changes are concerned. They are extreme, they are unfair and they are divisive. They are an attack upon the living standards of Australian families. There is no doubt there is considerable disquiet about that and the more the community comes to learn about it, the less they’ll like it.

JOURNALIST: As far as IR goes, Matt Birney, the Liberal Opposition Leader in Western Australia, was urging his Senate colleagues to oppose these changes. Do you think he’s been listened to?

SMITH: It looks like he’s having a bit of success.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says the Liberal Party is a broad church and they are allowed to have a lot of different ideas and they debate it. Unlike the Labor Party, they can work through these things.

SMITH: I’ve never known you lot to complain that you don’t see debate coming from the Labor Party about policy or politics. I’ve never known you to complain.

The Prime Minister might well say that the Liberal Party is a broad church, but we’ve got one of his Senators in Western Australia saying that anything is possible so far as his vote is concerned on industrial relations. There’s grave disquiet amongst his colleagues. So that reflects I think the growing community concern.

JOURNALIST: John Anderson’s decision to retire, apparently for health reasons, but other reasons. Do you think some his other reasons might include some of the stuff like Telstra which is coming through and will be a very difficult issue for the Nationals?

SMITH: I’ve seen those reports that there may be health reasons involved, and if they are of course we respect those.

But you would have seen me in recent times essentially saying it’s time for John Anderson to go. He has outlived his usefulness.

In recent times we’ve seen the Prime Minister take the QANTAS and Singapore Airlines issue out of his hands. We saw the Prime Minister take the infrastructure issue out of his hands in the run up to the COAG meeting. We’ve seen Mr Anderson embroiled in the

‘regional rorts’. So I think it’s appropriate that he goes.

If health reasons are involved, obviously we respect that.

JOURNALIST: If there is a reshuffle, if this his chance to reshuffle his frontbench, are there any other people in your sights?

SMITH: So far as the National Party is concerned, and the earlier question about what does the National Party do now that the Government has majority control in the Senate: if I was in the National Party, and I’m not suggesting that would occur, you’d be lamenting. When you look at John Anderson and Mark Vaile, where have the great National Party figures gone? Where are the Sinclairs, where are the Anthonys, where are the Nixons, where are the Hunts? If I was out there in rural and regional Australia looking at the National Party, I’d be lamenting for those great National Party heroes of old. National Party figures who would stand up to the Liberals from Melbourne and Sydney. We’ve never seen that from John Anderson and you won’t see it from Mark Vaile if he’s the one they choose.


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651