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Opposition Deputy Leader discusses the baby bonus and paid maternity leave.

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This transcript is taken from a recording, and freedom from errors, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

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2UE RADIO, SYDNEY 7 May 2008

JOHN STANLEY: You’re here with John Stanley. This issue of the industrial relations changes which are being driven by Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd and this I think, was one of the issues through last years election campaign where perhaps, perhaps they weren’t pushed hard enough, because ultimately—and they did a very good job of dancing around it—the implication of scrapping the workplace laws you would do better under Labor, and if you’re going to do better under Labor, therefore people will earn more under Labor, than you would under the WorkChoices laws, then plainly that would be inflationary and if it’s inflationary you’ve got wage inflation and that may then feed into higher interest rates and that may then feed into high levels of unemployment.

I’m not sure you need Treasury advice to confirm that, but last April, just after Kevin Rudd spelt out the frame work of the Industrial Relations changes, well before the election, and John Howard was still the Prime Minister, the Treasury gave advice to the then Howard government that these things would happen under those Workplace changes that were being proposed. Now, that advice has turned up in the front page of today’s Australian newspaper, Brendan Nelson is saying that it proves that John Howard was on the right course with his industrial relations changes that he’d made, even though the Opposition now turned it’s back on WorkChoices and rejected a chance when it had the numbers in the Senate to stop the changes to workplace laws going through.

The Deputy Opposition Leader is Julie Bishop, she is also the Workplace Relations Shadow Minister. She is on the line, good afternoon to you.

JULIE BISHOP: Good afternoon.

JOHN STANLEY: Government says that this doesn’t prove anything because it was drawn up before the policy was released, do they have a point?

JULIE BISHOP: No they do not. The Labor government has been caught out and misleading the Australian people, now the Rudd government has been trying to spin an inflation crisis while hiding advice from Treasury that its own policies will drive up inflation. The Treasury advice was based on the key ingredients of the Labor Party policy which is still its policy, it’s focused on the roll back of individual statutory agreements, the reintroduction of the job destroying unfair dismissal laws and the policies that are still Labor policy and Treasury has said in no uncertain terms that Labor’s roll back of Workplace Relations

Reforms will cost jobs, will drive up unemployment, increase prices and increase inflation.

JOHN STANLEY: If you accept that though, why doesn’t the Coalition fight harder to keep WorkChoices if, as you’re arguing now, WorkChoices would be better for the economy than the situation we have now?

JULIE BISHOP: The Coalition has said that we will take to the next election a policy that includes individual statutory agreements with a safety net and we’ve already said that we will fight any attempt to reintroduce the job destroying unfair dismissal laws that are such an impost on small business. Not all of Labor’s policies have been implemented yet and it’s their total agenda that will impact so heavily on inflation. Now, Labor talks about fairness in the workplace there is nothing fair unemployment, and we now know that Labor’s policies will cost jobs.

JOHN STANLEY: Then again, when this was in the Parliament and you’ve still got those numbers in the Senate, why didn’t you fight to keep them?

JULIE BISHOP: We had a majority of one on a good day in the Senate until the 30th of June; Labor wouldn’t have just withheld the Bill until the 1st of July where we no longer have a majority in the Senate. The fact is the government has been elected, and, they claim that they had a mandate to introduce a roll back of workplace reforms, what they didn’t tell the Australian public is that they had Treasury advice that their own policies would drive up inflation. It’s clear that there are going to be more working families who are welfare families under Labor’s industrial relations roll back.

JOHN STANLEY: But wasn’t the Treasury advice to your government? This advice came earlier last year didn’t it?

JULIE BISHOP: The Treasury advice came when Labor revealed the key ingredients of it’s workplace ....

JOHN STANLEY: In April last year?

JULIE BISHOP: That’s right. And we have said all along, we fought an election on it John, we fought an election on it. But Labor and the Union’s ran a $30 million dollar advertising campaign demonising employers across this country, falsely saying that employers would strip away entitlements and would sack people for no reason and they got away with it. The Labor party were elected to government, but they’ve got this Treasury advice and when Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan were asked about the Treasury advice they hid behind the bureaucrats and said ‘oh we can’t release it because the department doesn’t want to’. They had the advice they should have released it.

JOHN STANLEY: But again, doesn’t that put you in a position where what you’re saying is that, the previous workplace laws were better than what we have now?

JULIE BISHOP: We fought an election, John, we fought an election on it. We knew ...

JOHN STANLEY: So WorkChoices is not dead?

JULIE BISHOP: No. What we’ve said is that we will introduce an individual statutory agreement with an appropriate safety net. What we did with WorkChoices is take away the

This transcript is taken from a recording, and freedom from errors, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

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This transcript is taken from a recording, and freedom from errors, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

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safety net initially and that gave rise to the Union campaign. By the time we introduced the fairness test the Labor campaign was in full force and had affected people’s views of Workplace Relations. But if Labor was serious about fighting inflation and they say that

inflation is their number one priority, they were serious about fighting inflation they would drop their roll back of any further workplace relations reforms and build on the reforms of the Howard government that increased employment and kept inflation low.

JOHN STANLEY: Can I ask you one other issue that is around that the general family question, that there be bonuses paid and maternity leave, there’s been a lot of debate of that in the last few days, what’s your view in general terms on the idea of providing some sort of a means test for any of these benefits?

JULIE BISHOP: In general terms the baby bonus was designed to provide support for mothers who were at work or mothers who weren’t at work as they had a child. It was about supporting women who wanted to have children to impact on our fertility rate and it has had that impact. It was all about the social good of increasing our fertility rate. If you try and means test it, I mean, how would you do it? Would you take a form around to a woman in hospital about to give birth and test her pre birth income and assets and spouse’s income and her FBT or would you do it after the birth when she might not be going back to the workforce for six months, one year, three years? I mean it would be an administrative nightmare and I believe the social good of supporting women to have children in this country would be destroyed if you tried to means test it.

JOHN STANLEY: Julie Bishop, we will leave it there, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. Julie Bishop the leader, or the Deputy Leader of the Opp...—or she’d like to be the leader, hope she’s gone—the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations.

I think they are trying to have it both ways but, I think there is something to what…

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