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Opposition Leader discusses industrial relations; and accident at Beaconsfield Mine.

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2 MAY 2006 E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Industrial Relations/Beaconsfield Mine

MITCHELL: Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley is on the line. Several newspapers, I’ll give you an indication, The Financial Review today - Beazley links IR laws and mine tragedy. Kim Beazley yesterday linked the (inaudible) to

a mining accident to the federal Government’s Industrial Reform saying the trapped miners chances of surviving had been improved by union training programs the Government was trying to eradicate. I’ve been critical of that, I think that’s politicising death and trauma. Mr Beazley good morning.

BEAZLEY: Good morning Neil.

MITCHELL: We all make mistakes, do you regret what you said?


MITCHELL: You stand by it?

BEAZLEY: I absolutely don’t Neil and it’s your interpretation and Kevin Andrews’ interpretation - it isn’t mine.

MITCHELL: Well you said it Mr Beazley.

BEAZLEY: I am not going to, as Greg Combet didn’t this morning either, I do not take a backward step on the subject of the industrial relations changes as they relate to workers’ safety. That’s one of the most evil sections of this Industrial Relations Act. And you’ve got to understand there are dangerous professions in worksites in this country of necessity, mines, often found in the transport industry, manufacturing, in construction. And the fact of the matter is the people who play the major role in making sure that safety is pursued are the trade unions. And many, many training arrangements are put in place by the trade unions and organised by them. What Andrews and this Government has done, I believe evilly, is take these out of workplace relations.

MITCHELL: Mr Beazley, that’s not the point and you know it.

BEAZLEY: Yes it is the point.

MITCHELL: The point here is not the debate over the industrial laws, that’s a legitimate debate to have, the point here is you have directly linked this issue to the position that Brant Webb and Todd Russell find themselves in and the death of the man down there, do you regret linking them?

BEAZLEY: That is not the point Neil, not the point.

MITCHELL: You don’t regret linking them?

BEAZLEY: You take a look at my remarks of yesterday.

MITCHELL: I’ve played them Mr Beazley.

BEAZLEY: I’ve make amply clear the sympathies of the people at the gathering were entirely with the people going through that trauma. And I expressed the gratitude that of course, and this is the information that came out in the papers, that all those concerned were well trained - they had a good background. I’m at an industrial rally and the central issue for trade unionist in this country, a central issue for trade unionists in this country is their workplace safety, their Occupational Health and Safety.

That is directly under attack from the Government, stupidly, evilly, under attack from the Government - I will make that point. Now, I’m well aware, and they’re in our prayers, but there’s still a long way to go for Brant Webb and Todd Russell, they’re not out of the woods yet -there’s a deal of difficulty. The people who are trying to get them out are well trained people and so are they themselves. This is not a question of politicising that - that has been done by Kevin Andrews who’s jumped in on top of it. But that’s fine - that’s his business.

MITCHELL: Sorry, who’s jumped in on top?

BEAZLEY: Kevin Andrews.

MITCHELL: But you didn’t finish your comments there, you didn’t finish them there, you said “they know, they know that if John Howard removes those programs, as he intends to do, then all workers are threatened”. That’s what you said.

BEAZLEY: Every worker in this country knows that.

MITCHELL: But Mr Beazley that is not the point, you were relating this to two men fighting for their lives and a bunch of people working day and night to get them out with the families sitting there in trauma and you are relating a political

issue directly to them. They know, you say, these men who were sitting there just worried about living, they know that the men that are coming to get them are union trained and John Howard wouldn’t have them there. Now that is indecent, by any definition.

BEAZLEY: Mr Mitchell, you have now gone and paraphrased.

MITCHELL: I’ll play the direct quote if you like, I’ll play exactly what you said.

Plays tape of comments.

MITCHELL: That’s what you said Mr Beazley.

BEAZLEY: And they know that too and you ought to as well and so ought your listeners. The simple fact of the matter is Neil that if safety training is removed from the capacity for unions to negotiate into, particularly when they’ve been exclusive providers in the past, into agreements around this country many worksites will be made less safe. I’m not going to back off on this Neil, this is a point that we’re going to make over and over between now and the next election.

MITCHELL: Mr Beazley as you well know I’m happy for you to make that point, I think it’s a good debate to have and I think you have a lot of right on your side in this debate. However, where you are wrong is to link this directly to two men, “they know this, they know this, they know this” you keep saying. They’re sitting there in this tiny little cage struggling for their lives. Their families are there worrying about them, the blokes trying to dig them out. Politics is the last thing on their minds.

BEAZLEY: That’s your interpretation.

MITCHELL: Well how would you interpret it? How else do you interpret it?

BEAZLEY: Well if you want to go into a bit of textual analysis on it.

MITCHELL: Yes please.

BEAZLEY: You know, that’s sitting there in the back of their minds while they, and it’s actually there in their skill set, so if you want to go through that process.

MITCHELL: So it’s sitting there in the back of their minds while they’re trapped, they’re sitting there worrying about John Howard’s laws.

BEAZLEY: They know what to do and the people who are going to dig them out know what to do because they have had years of training. They have had years of training.

MITCHELL: You just said it’s in their minds while they sit there. BEAZLEY: That is something that would give them a sense of confidence. Now if you and if Kevin Andrews were going through the process of interpreting to the nth degree, I’ll interpret it my way if you don’t mind.

MITCHELL: Well there’s no other way to interpret it.

BEAZLEY: The way I want to interpret it Neil is this. That the workforce in this country have got a substantial problem on their hands now as a result of this legislation in relation to this issue. Occupational Health and Safety and all the issues related to safety in places like mines, transport industries, manufacturing industries, construction sites and the like.

MITCHELL: Isn’t Occupational Health and Safety a State issue anyway?

BEAZLEY: No, it’s a State issue in terms of the legislative environment but if you go through the work places in this country you’ll find two things. One - it’s the union people who keep it to the forefront of their minds

MITCHELL: True beyond question.

BEAZLEY: And look at things at things in detail. And the second thing is this: in many places it’s the trade unions who actually write up the schemes to train workers and it features in their agreements. Now if they try to continue to have in their agreements - you can go directly to the Act - they will be subject to fines if they ask their employers for it and their employers will be fined if they grant it.

MITCHELL: So are you saying that these men down at Beaconsfield would be in increased danger under the Howard laws?

BEAZLEY: Any set of workers

MITCHELL: No I’m asking about Beaconsfield - you’re the one who raised Beaconsfield.

BEAZLEY: I’m talking about any set of mining workers.

MITCHELL: Well you raised Beaconsfield.

BEAZLEY: That would include them. Any set of mining workers and that would include them. As time goes by and the Howard laws come into place and they are forbidden to have the unions devise their training schemes and the training schemes that have currently been put in place and tried and tested over the years, that are part of agreements, employers find that they are fined if they keep going in incorporating those within agreements, they will all be placed in much

greater danger and I would have thought that that was a statement of the absolutely bleeding obvious.

MITCHELL: OK. OK and you will not accept in any way that you have linked and politicised what’s happening down in Beaconsfield?

BEAZLEY: No I won’t. The only person who does that is Kevin Andrews.

MITCHELL: OK can I just ask you quickly about another thing - the Newspoll today that shows Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and even Peter Costello are preferred ahead of you as an alternative Prime Minister.

BEAZLEY: Yeah well I’ll say on that what I’ve said on polls in times past: I don’t comment on the polls day to day. But I’ll tell you this, I appreciate every day I’ve got in this job and the opportunity it gives me to fight on the sorts of issues that we’ve been talking about. I know this: that when we come to the time of the next election, there will be as people actually practically work out whether they’re going to switch their vote from Liberal to Labor, one of the questions they’ll ask themselves is: Has the bloke or woman who leads the Labor Party got the experience to do the job? They will know that I have. In the meantime, what my job is, is to fight on the issues which John Howard has exposed.

MITCHELL: What’s going wrong?

BEAZLEY: Well, we’re contestable in every poll as I’ve said I’m not a poll analyst but we’re contestable in every poll including this one. I’ve got to say that many people are telling me and we had thousands out there yesterday in Queensland - it was the biggest Labour Day rally they’d ever had, many of them are telling me and some of them are ex-Liberal voters, that John Howard has changed. Since he’s had that majority in the Senate he’s no longer focused on middle Australia.

MITCHELL: But the polls still shows he’s twice as popular as you, as an alternative to Prime Minister.

BEAZLEY: Yeah well you can go through and you can analyse the polls. I know what my job is. My job is to present an alternative and my job is to hold him accountable. We’ve been doing that on that issue and a whole lot of related issues.

MITCHELL: Well it’s not working - on those polls it’s not working.

BEAZLEY: If you want to go to the polls, at the end of the day people are going to mark their ballot paper Labor or Liberal. And we’ve been contestable for the last six months despite the fact that we were devastated at the last election. And

we still are on those polls that have been out in the last two weeks. They vote

Labor or Liberal when they go to cast their ballot and we have been contestable with them for the last six months.

MITCHELL: Mr Beazley, thank you.

BEAZLEY: Thanks very much Neil.