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Minister praises government's economic and industrial relations policies.

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Friday 27 August 2004

Minister praises government's economic and industrial relations policies


MARK COLVIN: So, what does the Government have to pursue if it were to retur n to Parliament as scheduled on Monday, and what would it risk? 


The Minister for Small Business, Joe Hockey, says a revival of the "Children Overboard" controversy would actually work in the Government's favour. 


Mr Hockey is hoping to have a debate about government legislation designed to help small businesses band together to negotiate with big business - an important policy to a very sensitive section of the electorate. 


But will he get the chance? 


Joe Hockey has been speaking about the small business proposals to Matt Brown. 


JOE HOCKEY: The strength of the economy and a freed-up industrial relations system works to the advantage, not just of business, but I think importantly workers. And the massive increase in real wages for workers over the last eight years is a clear indication of the difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. 


MATT BROWN: This has been one of the enduring themes of the Government's pre-election campaign, if you like, this year. Why don't you think the Government's been able to dominate with that kind of message? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well, I think unfortunately there are a lot of people that haven't been focusing on the potential threat to the economy by the Labor Party. 


MATT BROWN: But why do you think they haven't been focusing despite your best efforts? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well, yeah, it's been … it has been from time to time difficult to get cut-through because there's so many other factors in play and more recently, the Olympics. But it's quite clear, Matt, that people are starting to focus on the economy, and are focusing on the importance of industrial relations, and I think that'll very definitely work to our favour as the election comes closer. 


MATT BROWN: So you're keen to get back into Parliament next week? You've got some changes to the trade practices legislation that is designed to help small business. 


JOE HOCKEY: Well, we believe that the new collective bargaining provisions that we're introducing in the Trade Practices Act will be one of the most significant steps forward for small business since 1974. Our belief is that it will empower small business in their relationship with big business. 


MATT BROWN: And to do that you need to come back to Parliament next week? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well that's right. But whether it's next week or after the election, should it be called, it doesn't matter. It's our policy commitment to deliver small business the real benefits of collective bargaining, and that's what we intend to do. 


MATT BROWN: So this doesn't depend on you returning to Parliament next week? 


JOE HOCKEY: Matt, if you're asking me about the timing of the election … 


MATT BROWN: No, I'm asking you whether or not delivering on your promise to small business relies on you getting into Parliament next week to introduce the legislation, or to push the legislation through? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well, what matters for us is putting in place good policy and good legislation which is in the Senate, and whether it's next week or - should an election be called - after the next election, when hopefully we'll be returned - we will deliver on our promises to small business. 


The reason why we are still in government after eight years is because we have focused on the grass roots, and I say that standing in the kitchen of a hotel in the middle of Swan in Western Australia. It is grass roots politics that's going to win us the next election, whenever it is called. 


MATT BROWN: So you're in the marginal seat of Swan. What have you been hearing from people about their concerns, particularly about your own side of politics, given that's a little less easy for you to answer? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well, Matt, I've got to tell you that a lot of the humbug that's been running about lies and mistruths over the last few weeks has washed right away, right over these people. They're not interested in it.  


What they are interested in is what we're proposing to do in our fourth term. They believe that issues such as children in detention centres and Iraq, they are behind us. They are not interested in it. 


MATT BROWN: So the prospect of renewed parliamentary attention on the whole children overboard affair wouldn't bother you? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well my view is that it'd work in our favour. I mean, if the Labor Party wants to keep going over the politics of three years ago, then the Australian people are going to switch off, and that is a clear message I've got in the last three days over here in Western Australia. They're not interested in the past. What they are interested in is our capacity to deliver an ongoing strong economy and better job opportunities over the next three years. 


MATT BROWN: The children overboard issue doesn't make them think about the Prime Minister's credibility? What does it amount to, in your view, to these people you've been speaking to in Swan? 


JOE HOCKEY: Oh, I think people are saying that look, you know, we're getting close to an election, and this is the sort of politics you'd expect in the lead up to an election, where the Opposition will throw any mud it can, and we're not interested in that. They have a very strong instinct, where they are saying they are not interested in political muckraking. What they are interested in is the fundamentals of how they are going to have more money in their pockets. 


MARK COLVIN: Joe Hockey, the Small Business Minister, speaking to Matt Brown.