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Deputy Prime Minister discusses workplace relations legislation; computers in schools; 'Ralph' magazine; and WorkChoices.



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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister 21 February, 2008

Transcript

Radio Interview,ABC Adelaide,830am Thursday,21 February 2008

New workplace relations laws, computers in schools policy, Ralph magazine, Work Choices propaganda

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Julia Gillard joins us now. Good morning Minister

JULIA GILLARD: Good morning.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: First of all it appears the opposition is running up the white flag on opposing

changes to, or the scrapping of Work Choices and the scrapping of AWAs, Australian Workplace Agreements.

What will be the new landscape, in other words, with those gone, how will Australian workers be covered?

JULIA GILLARD: I can explain that for you. We are going to have a two year transition period but perhaps if I

explain what it will be like when the system is in full operation. You will go to work and you will have some

choices about how you work with your employer to define your employment conditions. You will be able to

make an individual common law contract if you want to. Significantly with a common law contract, you've

always got to get better than the safety net. So you know that you will get our ten National Employment

Standards, guaranteeing your basic conditions. And if you earn $100,000 or less and most people do, then you

will also get a safety net of a modern simple award and your contract can build on those two things but it can't

take any element of them away. Or you can band together with your workmates, if that's what you want to do

and negotiate a collective agreement with your employer and that would be an agreement that applies to all of

you at your enterprise. What will be really different than the Work Choices world is there will be no AWAs, no

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statutory individual employment agreements and consequently nothing in the system that would make it legal

to override the safety net or to take parts of the safety net away.

DAVID BEVAN: And what about unfair dismissal laws? Are they a separate issue?

JULIA GILLARD: Unfair dismissals are going to be dealt with in our next industrial relations bill. The bill

we've got in the Parliament and that the Liberal Party has signalled it will finally vote for is a bill to end the

making of new Australian Workplace Agreements and to start the award modernisation process we need to do

in this two year transition period. Then we are going to bring to the Parliament what we are calling our

substantive bill which will put the rest of the changes in place including an unfair dismissal system where if

someone's been unfairly dismissed at work, treated badly they will have a right to take a claim but

procedurally we want a system that will be simple and quick so businesses don't get bound up in red tape.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Alright, now does that, is the combined effect of that to take us back how far? Before

the Howard era, half way through the Howard era, two years ago?

JULIA GILLARD: It's a different system than any system we've had in the past. It's building on the enterprise

bargaining reforms of the Hawke Keating Government. It's a long time ago now but people might remember

that it was the Hawke-Keating Government that moved us from the age of centralised wage fixing to

bargaining at the workplace level about what your terms and conditions are going to be. So it is building on

that heritage of enterprise bargaining and taking it to the next stage. And it's moving beyond the Howard

because the Howard - Costello Government was all about Australian Workplace Agreements and the great vice

of those agreements is that they could take the safety net away. So for example, even in the Howard

Government's own Work Choices propaganda they had examples like the example of Billy who was a bloke

who got a minimum wage job and lost his penalty rates and his overtime and his shift allowances and his

public holiday pay and his rest breaks and didn't get a cent of compensation for it.

DAVID BEVAN: You're saying that under common law agreements you can't be worse off because of the safety

net. Is the safety net whatever's in the equivalent award? Or is that something that really boils down basic

rights?

JULIA GILLARD: The safety net's in two parts. The first part is the ten legislated National Employment

Standards and every employee in the country will get the benefit of those and they go to basic protections like

annual leave arrangements, public holiday arrangements, sick leave, carers leave those sorts of things. Then

for workers who earn $100,000 or less we think they need a bigger safety net than the ten National

Employment Standards. So they will also be covered by a modern award which is industry specific so you

should expect the award that covers radio journalists will be different from the award that covers someone

who works in the local coffee shop.

DAVID BEVAN: So will the award become the minimum standard?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, the award plus the ten National Employment Standards would be the minimum

standard.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: What's that going to do to inflation, you are going to deliver $30 something billion in

tax cuts, you are effectively going to re-instate an award system which can be inflationary.

JULIA GILLARD: I've certainly talked to employers and business about all these issues, indeed yesterday we

formed a Business Advisory Group to work with us on our workplace relations changes. And when I look at

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what Australian Workplace Agreements have done, they've predominantly hurt people in industries like retail

and hospitality. They've predominantly hurt at risk workers like young workers. And I've never had a business

person say to me that the inflation problem is about whether or not a sixteen year old kid gets decent

treatment in their first part time job. The inflation problem is about making sure that wage rises in a strong

sector of the economy don't flow through to other parts of the economy and under Labor's system that

couldn't happen because the focus is at the workplace level. So if a very productive mine in the North West of

this country bargains and strikes a wage deal, there's no way that'd flow through to any other mining site, let

alone the retail industry or the hospitality industry or anything like that.

DAVID BEVAN: The front page of The Australian reports today mining companies have begun preparing for

the demise of Australian Workplace Agreements by coming up with a plan to preserve the contents of the

Howard era individual contracts in a new deal with workers. Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, are you

worried that sections of the mining industry are trying to get around what you are trying to do?

JULIA GILLARD: No I'm not, we've certainly talked to the mining industry. They talked to us before the

election and obviously among sections of the mining industry there was support for Work Choices but we had

all of those conversations we decided we designed a system that meets their needs and the mining industry is

getting on with adjusting with what the new system will be.

DAVID BEVAN: So you're aware of what they are doing and they are doing it with your blessing?

JULIA GILLARD: Well what they are doing is they are intending to negotiate enterprise agreements with their

employees which will be far better than the safety net. I think everybody understands that miners are earning

a lot more than the safety net, that there is good money to be made going mining and that's absolutely fine.

That's about negotiating in your enterprise, it's about giving people better than the safety net and that gets a

big tick from me. What we object to, what Work Choices did, is it enabled parts of the safety net to be stripped

away and people get hurt and get less than the safety net. That's what was wrong and our laws will fix that.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: And could this same device be used when things turn bad, to screw workers?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I wouldn't refer to it as a device, what it is, is collectively bargaining at an enterprise

level, so its one of the foundation stones of our system. It's collectively bargaining directly with the employees

at the enterprise level and giving them better than the safety net. Under Labor's system where ever bargaining

at the enterprise level people always have to come out better off overall than the safety net. So there is no way

whether you strike a collective agreement under Labor or a common law contract, there's nothing in the

system that makes it legal or proper to take parts of the safety net away. And if an employer tried to do that

then the employee should ring up the Workplace Ombudsman to get it fixed because it would be unlawful.

DAVID BEVAN: You're on 891 Mornings with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan talking to Julia Gillard,

who is Deputy Prime Minister, also Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Education. On the

education front, Julia Gillard, should the school children, should the families of Australia feel duded because

there was a very clear impression created during the election campaign, they may argue, that each child would

have a computer from the Rudd Government. Now it looks like they are going to have access to a computer

and there's a big difference, is there not?

JULIA GILLARD: What is happening with our computers in schools policy and it was heralded well before the

election, we weren't going to sit in Canberra and say, you must have this kind of computer, you must have an

Apple Mac with the following designation number on it. We weren't going to do that because we know schools

have already got some computers in some circumstances, so they'll want to get more of the same and schools

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are coming up with different solutions. Some schools do want to put a computer, a standard computer, if I can

use that terminology on every child's desk. Some schools want to give their children laptops. Some schools are

using innovative technology, things called would you believe, thin clients which are little key pads which then

relate to a server which is located elsewhere in the school. And I think we all know that computer technology

changes so quickly that this is a four year program with a billion dollars in it, I don't even want to predict what

the computer people are going to be able to be selling us in four years time.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Will every child have their own computer?

JULIA GILLARD: We are delivering this program to senior secondary students, so its years 9 to 12…

DAVID BEVAN: Will every year 9 to 12 student have their own computer?

JULIA GILLARD: For years 9 to 12 there will be the equivalent to a one to one ratio but I am not telling them

that they have to have it on the desk, they might have a laptop in the draw, they might have a thin client that is

handed out to students to use for particular parts of the classes. They might have technology I don't even know

the names of yet because it hasn't even been invented today but it is in regular distribution by four years time.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Now Julia Gillard, finally, and David and I only read Ralph magazine for the articles

but you have been voted, according to the educated readers of Ralph magazine as the second most sexiest

women on the planet, are you disappointed?

JULIA GILLARD: [Laugh]

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Were you hoping to knock Jennifer Hawkins off the top spot?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I would have to say this whole thing is striking me as absurd rather than anything else.

It was the subject of much humour yesterday in and around my office, all of it at my expense.

DAVID BEVAN: That's, that's harsh isn't it?

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Before you leave us, have you found anymore Work Choices paraphernalia?

JULIA GILLARD: I am not in possession of any more at this moment but you never know what could happen

next. But I am getting some great suggestions about what to do with 100,000 mouse pads that we've got. And

one of the great suggestions has come from the Mental Health Activity and Learning Centre in Mannum, they'd like some to cut up because they use the different colours for making murals and they are making a very

large mural. So I am hoping we will be able to help them out with some mouse pads.

DAVID BEVAN: And you think that'd be a great use for Work Choices mouse pads?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think if they end up cut up that's probably a good result. If they end up as part of

something that I am sure is going to be very beautiful then that seems a very good result indeed.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Julia Gillard, thank you for being a good sport. Thank you for joining us on 891

Mornings.

JULIA GILLARD: Thank you.

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END

Media Contact:

Kimberley Gardiner 0434 159 842

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