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Transcript of doorstop interview: Employment Law Centre, Perth: 8 June 2010: Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan; visit to Employment Law Centre of WA; Building the Education Revolution; Resources Super Profit Tax; Batchelor Institute.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP 

Deputy Prime Minister 

Minister for Education 

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations 


ISSUES: Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan; Visit to Employment Law Centre of WA; Building the Education Revolution; Resources Super Profit Tax; Batchelor Institute.

JULIA GILLARD: Firstly, can I express my condolences to the families of the two soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. This is obviously tragic news. I’m sure the Australian nation as a whole will mourn the loss of these Australians and of course, there are two families now who are grieving intensely and so to those two families can I pass my personal condolences, the condolences of the Rudd Government and I’m sure everyone in the nation is sending them their heartfelt thoughts and prayers during this incredibly difficult time.

Here in Western Australia today I have a series of commitments but I’ve started the day here at the Employment Law Centre, which is the only free employment advice service in Western Australia. And this morning I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some working Australians who have been provided with advice from this centre, including Australians who have needed to take an unfair dismissal claim because they lost their jobs and they needed to go to an independent umpire.

Of course it’s this very process that is at risk under Tony Abbott. During the life of the Rudd Government we were obviously elected with an ambitious agenda and we’ve delivered things of importance to working families, including the end of Work Choices and the introduction of our Fair Work system.

Mr Abbott is threatening to reintroduce Work Choices. He’s not going to call it that, and he’s not going to be upfront about his intentions. But he’s made it crystal clear in carefully scripted remarks that if he is elected as Prime Minister he will reintroduce the things that made Work Choices what it was - individual statutory employment agreements that could rip the safety net away, take away basic conditions like penalty rates as well as taking away the ability to have an unfair dismissal claim if you’re sacked unfairly for no reason at all.

Now this is really important to working families’ basic cost of living pressures, who rely on their weekly pay packet in order to pay the mortgage and meet all of the bills of the family.

Those working Australians need to know that they can go to work and have a decent safety net at work and that their working conditions can’t be stripped away and they need to know

that they can’t be sacked at the drop of a hat with no reason and no remedy. These are the things that Mr Abbott wants to introduce to the country. This is Work Choices back again lock, stock and barrel.

So it’s been good this morning to be able to talk to these working Australians who have got their own accounts about what it’s like to be unfairly dismissed and to need the help of the independent umpire.

JOURNALIST: The Courier Mail has a story today on BER about millions of dollars being spent on schools that are actually closed. What do you make of that?

JULIA GILLARD: I’ve seen that story and can I make it very clear: our Building the Education Revolution guidelines are crystal clear. If a school is going to close then funds will not be spent on that school. Which schools close is obviously a matter for state governments. The schools referred to in that article, the Building the Education Revolution projects, are on hold as the state government works with local communities to determine the future of those schools.

So Building the Education Revolution money is not there to be invested in schools that are going to close.

JOURNALIST: So should that money have been allocated to those schools in the first place?

JULIA GILLARD: Clearly when a school community may face closure, there’s a process to work through. I believe that process should be a consultative process. It’s a big thing for a local community to see its school close, but Building the Education Revolution projects need to be on hold whilst that process happens and these projects are on hold.

Can I say more broadly about Building the Education Revolution, of course when the global financial crisis threatened this country, we did what had to be done to support Australian jobs. That included providing economic stimulus, particularly through Building the Education Revolution - 24,000 projects, 9500 schools, projects there to benefit schools and to support Australian jobs. And Building the Education Revolution has supported Australian jobs and in many schools around the country is providing projects that are exactly what the school community wants and are value for money.

To the extent that there are problems, we’ve responded. I want to see value for money in Australian schools. That’s why I’ve created the Building the Education Revolution Implementation Taskforce.

But there is a risk here and the risk is Mr Abbott. Just like Mr Abbott and his extreme policies to reintroduce Work Choices are a risk to working families, Mr Abbott’s made it clear he’s a risk to schools. If he’s elected he’ll cut the Building the Education Revolution money so schools miss out. He’ll stop our Trades Training Centres in schools program, including ripping money out of the hands of schools that have been promised it. And he will stop investing in computers in schools so 120,000 kids around the country will miss out on that computer.

Now we believe there’s nothing more important to the nation’s future than what’s happening in schools today - modern buildings, Trade Training Centres to give kids real skills that they’ll need for a real job, and computers so they’re learning with the learning tool of the 21st century. Mr Abbott’s a risk to all of that.

JOURNALIST: Work Choices was pretty popular in Western Australia. What do you think your reception will be at the business leaders’ lunch today?

JULIA GILLARD: I don’t agree with you. I don’t believe that Work Choices was popular in Western Australia. Work Choices enabled basic pay and conditions to be ripped away from people. If we think about someone who works in a restaurant, who relies on penalty rates to make the family budget add up to keep paying the mortgage - don’t think it’s popular when those penalty rates can be stripped away without a dollar of compensation.

If we think about the kind of working people I’ve met this morning, people who rely on their pay packets to pay the bills, I don’t think being able to be dismissed for no reason and getting no remedy was ever popular. And they are Mr Abbott’s policies - he said it in carefully scripted remarks and he said to the Australian people, you can believe him when he’s working off an autocue or written script. He will reintroduce Work Choices.

JOURNALIST: Will the Federal Government be making any changes to the criteria for 457 visas to bring in skilled immigrant workers?

JULIA GILLARD: The Federal Government’s already made changes in our skilled migration program, including the use of temporary visas to bring skilled migrants to this country.

We understand as a Government that there are times when we need skilled migrants to fill gaps in our labour market, but we have already tightened up the system, and we believe the system should be rigorous and tight, and that’s why my colleague, Chris Evans the Minister for Immigration and obviously a Western Australian, has done just that as Minister for Immigration.

JOURNALIST: So you’re not concerned at all about Labor’s election chances because of the mining tax that you’re implementing?

JULIA GILLARD: I’ll take that to be a reference to yesterday’s poll numbers, and can I say the numbers that matter to me and the numbers that matter to the Government are the number of Australians that we’ve assisted with cost of living pressures through the tax cuts we’ve delivered, through our Education Tax Rebate to help with the costs of getting kids to school and our Child Care Tax Rebate to support with the costs of having kids in child care. Those numbers matter to me. The numbers matter to me about what difference we’ve made for the literally millions, more than one million kids, well more than one million kids, who are in our schools around the country, what we’ve done to improve their education. And the numbers matter to me about how we’ve assisted people, working Australians, millions of them, to get a fair go at work through getting rid of Work Choices and introducing our Fair Work system.

JOURNALIST: But you can’t deliver any of those things if you’re not in Government so are you concerned that mining tax might jeopardise your seats in Western Australia?

JULIA GILLARD: On the mining tax, later today I’ll obviously be addressing a lunch hosted by the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and I’m looking forward to it. I understand that we’re in the midst of a passionate debate about the Resources Super Profits Tax.

Now a passionate debate is a good thing. A passionate debate means people have strongly held views that they want to express and debate means that we’re exchanging ideas, so that’s all to the good. But the Government’s determination here is a simple one and it’s to see that Australians around the country, including here in Western Australia, get a fair share when we dig up the mineral wealth in our ground that belongs to all of us and sell it. We can only do that once.

And can I just say, I obviously don’t live in Western Australia, I like it when I get an opportunity to come here. And when I do come here and I’ve talked to people, I’ve talked to lots of Western Australians who have gone to work in the mines, who are directly employed in the resources boom. I’ve also talked to lots of Western Australians who have said, well you know, for me what the boom’s meant is house prices have gone up, rents have gone up and my cost of living has gone up. And what I’d say to every Western Australian, whether they’re employed in the mines or beyond, the resources tax is about making sure everyone in this state gets their fair share and this state gets assistance with the infrastructure it needs because of the resources boom.

JOURNALIST: There’s another story in the papers today, front page story, quoting an unnamed Labor frontbencher, federal frontbencher, who’s criticising the way that the resource tax has been rolled out and the way it’s threatening Labor’s vote. When you have your own colleagues that you sit with in Parliament on the frontbench saying those sort of things, how concerning is that? Should you be listening to those (inaudible)?

JULIA GILLARD: I obviously listen to my colleagues. I don’t listen to (inaudible) newspaper reports. If colleagues have something to say then there are plenty of opportunities to say it, but here in Western Australia where I’ll be visiting with a number of my colleagues. I’m here today with Senator Louise Pratt. I will be obviously visiting a number of my colleagues during the course of being here over the next three days. Having talked to those colleagues, what they say to me is they believe that the mining wealth in our ground in this great state belongs to everyone. And they do want to see people getting a fair share.

They want to see an outcome where mining companies continue to earn good profits, people who work in mines continue to earn good wages and there is a fairer share for the people of Western Australia. And I say again, resources booms obviously generate lots of wealth and that’s fantastic, but the mineral wealth in our ground can only be dug up and sold once. We need to make sure when it is dug up and sold that we’ve got a lasting legacy for the nation and a fair share. And in this state there are many people who look back at past booms and say to themselves, well, in that boom what did it mean for me? Often it meant increased cost, increased house prices and can I look around my state now and see something lasting from that boom, and often they answer that question is, no.

Well we want to make sure that when Australians reflect back on this mining boom, they can its proceeds in part went to investing in those things that will make a long term difference for the prosperity of the nation and the future of Australian families - better infrastructure, particularly here in Western Australia, reducing the company tax rate and giving breaks to

small businesses so we see balanced economic development right across this state and across the nation.

JOURNALIST: Looking at labour shortages in regional Western Australia, is enough being done to make the area attractive for people to work there?

JULIA GILLARD: I’ll have something to say about skill shortages when I speak at the Western Australia Chamber later today. But we are very focused on skill shortages in this state. I’ve had the opportunity to visit towns like Karratha and I’ve heard the stories about when the past mining boom was at full force. And people are concerned we’re building up to this again, where there were skill shortages, skill shortages that were a capacity constraint on growth in the resources industry and skill shortages that affected community members who couldn’t get a plumber or a tradesperson for those basic jobs at home, who didn’t see chefs in local restaurants, they couldn’t go out for dinner because those people had all gone to work in the mining industry.

Now that kind of skill shortage requires us to have a strategy of investing in a way that matters for resource communities. We’ve been working on that through a resources skills taskforce and in that budget we created a critical skills fund to work with mining communities to make sure we are investing in a way that makes a difference for them and their skill shortages.

JOURNALIST: Rio would argue though that there wouldn’t be a Karratha or a Dampier if it wasn’t for their reinvesting. Do you see any merits to their argument about how damaging the tax will be?

JULIA GILLARD: Obviously this is a debate where there have been lots of claims made. There’s a lot of heat. We’ve seen some of those claims for example, last night we saw Clive Palmer admitting that a claim he had made was not really the full truth. So we’ve seen a lot of claims made. But to companies like Rio, with the Resources Super Profits Tax we want to see companies like Rio making good profits. We want to see them developing and growing, mining our mineral wealth, selling it overseas, making good money from doing so. We want to see the people who work for Rio making good money as they go about what can be very, very hard labour. But we also want to make sure that everyone gets their fair share.

And let’s talk about a place like Karratha. It requires mining to be going well, it requires infrastructure investment in the community to assist with that growth and to make sure that the people there are getting paid a fair share. And I would point again to the fact that the Resources Super Profits Tax will be used for infrastructure investment as well as investing in the long term wealth drivers through a balanced economy, balanced economic development, the company tax reduction and the special measures for small business.

And I should say of course backing in our superannuation increases so that the people of Karratha and elsewhere can retire with decent retirement income.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible). Do you think they need to take a little pain for the nation?

JULIA GILLARD: I wouldn’t agree with any of that. What I would say is that Government’s announced and we are very determined to make sure we have the Resources Super Profits Tax. We’re very determined to do that. We always expected that there would be

vigorous debate and there is being vigorous debate. We always said we would channel that vigorous debate into a consultation process and that’s happening right now.

I expect people to say the things that are on their mind. I expect them to say the things that are on their mind publically and in the consultation process. The only thing I would ask is I think it helps if the things that are said are factual, the things that are said are respectful. And I anticipate today at lunch we’ll have a respectful, factual discussion about the merits of the resources super profits tax and I’m looking forward to it.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any private meetings with any of the business or mining leaders?

JULIA GILLARD: I’m at the lunch today so that will be the discussion.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) were just wondering why the Federal Government considers it important to provide funding for the Batchelor Institute in Darwin?

JULIA GILLARD: We believe it’s very important that the Batchelor Institute is strong. The Batchelor Institute is there to assist Indigenous Australians get on a pathway for work, to make sure they’ve got the real skills they need for jobs. If we’re going to close the gap in this country on life expectancy, we need to close the gap on employment outcomes. We need to make sure Indigenous Australians have the benefits and dignity of work.

To do that we need to make sure they get the skills they need. There have been some difficulties at the Batchelor Institute. We are now investing in a partnership with the university to strengthen the Batchelor Institute.

Thank you.


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