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ALP says leaked copy of pulped brochure reveals real industrial relations agenda; Prime Minister announces appointment of Ian Harper to head Fair Pay Commission.

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Thursday 13 October 2005

ALP says leaked copy of pulped brochure reveals real industrial relations agenda; Prime Minister announces appointment of Ian Harper to head Fair P ay Commission


MARK COLVIN: The Federal Opposition says a leaked copy of a now pulped colour brochure has revealed the Government's real industrial agenda. 


The brochure was to be sent to every Australian household and business. 


The Labor leader Kim Beazl
ey says the junking of all 60,000 copies means a promise in the original brochure to protect workers wages and conditions is now defunct. 


He says it's now clear the Coalition wants to cut wages, at a time when the cost of living is on the way up. 


As the temperature rises on industrial relations, the Prime Minister has revived his "no ticker" jibe at the Labor leader. 


At the same time - even before any legislation's been passed - Mr Howard's named the man who'll head the new body determining the minimum wage, the Fair Pay Commission. 


From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government's legislation to underpin its workplace changes is yet to materialise. But that hasn't stopped the Prime Minister appointing Professor Ian Harper, from the Melbourne Business School, to head the yet to be created Fair Pay Commission that'll set and adjust the minimum wage. 


JOHN HOWARD: Professor Harper has accepted the Government's invitation, I thank him for that. He's one of Australia's most distinguished academic economists. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: John Howard doesn't accept it's a hasty move.  


JOHN HOWARD: No, I don't think it's premature. I think we're indicating that if the legislation goes through - obviously it's subject to it going through - but I don't think it's premature at all. I think it's an indication to the community that we are very serious about these reforms, that we're very committed to them, we're very confident about them. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Professor Harper says he's not and never has been a member of any political party, and hopes the critics of the Government's workplace changes will want to be part of the process. 


IAN HARPER: And I hope to hear from everybody, all views, people who are unemployed, people who are on low pay, people who employ low paid people, people whose voices, as I say, we don't normally hear on the evening news. 


This commission has been modelled loosely by the Government on the Low Pay Commission in the United Kingdom, and one of the marks of that commission has been its consultation widely within the community, and I'm hoping that we can emulate that here. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But the opposition parties, union movement and churches aren't the only critics. One member of the Government has concerns. 


Fresh from flexing his muscles - crossing the floor on competition policy - Nationals senator, Barnaby Joyce, isn't ruling out being a maverick on the industrial front. 


In a bid to address his reservations, the Government's agreed to a brief Senate inquiry, though the Prime Minister's dismissing Senator Joyce's fear the changes would white ant states' rights. 


JOHN HOWARD: We have overwhelmingly now a national economy, and we should have a national set of laws for a national economy in the 21st Century. I don't think that's an erosion of states' rights. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So is Mr Howard willing to countenance changes to get his industrial manifesto through the Senate? 


JOHN HOWARD: We have thought long and hard about this package. Does that mean that every single last word and comma in the legislation when it's presented will remain unalterable, of course that would be an exercise in foolishness to say that. But don't imagine that this is something that represents an ambit claim. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: In Parliament, Labor's revealed the Government has pulped 60,000 colour brochures selling its workplace changes. Kim Beazley says that was done to allow for a more effective "spin and propaganda campaign". 


KIM BEAZLEY: Prime Minister, isn't it the case that the new cover now reads "A simpler, fairer national workplace relations system for Australia", instead of just "A simpler national workplace relations system for Australia"? 


(sound of shouts from the floor) 


SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Honourable the Prime Minister.  


(sound of shouts from the floor) 


Order! Order! Members on my right.  


JOHN HOWARD: Mr Speaker if I am able, if I am able to further help the leader of the opposition I'll try to do so. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition's released leaked copies showing the phrases "terms and conditions in existing agreements will be protected" and "your existing award conditions protected by law" have both been dropped in the new document. 


KIM BEAZLEY: Doesn't the whole sorry process with these documents demonstrate that the Prime Minister's whole approach to the living standards of Australian families is soft soap on the cover of a knife twisted underneath? 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Four questions on the pulped brochure, and the Prime Minister decided it was time to hit back. 


JOHN HOWARD: I thought at one stage you did represent an alternative leader of the Labor movement in this country, but I've watched him over nine and a half years, he does not, Mr Speaker, have the ticker to articulate… 


(sound of shouts from the floor) 


… Mr Speaker… to articulate an alternative policy to the Australian people. All he ever does is oppose for opposition's sake. 


KIM BEAZLEY: Fairness, Mr Speaker, which has been added as an afterthought in these documents, added as an afterthought in these documents, fairness is not the hallmark of this Government.  


We say the system needs to be fair, the churches say the system needs to be fair, Australians want the system to be fair, even the Government's own advertising gurus say the system should be fair.  


So what does the Government do?  


Instead of putting fairness into the system, it puts fairness into its slogan, and that's where fairness ends. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government's now responded. The Prime Minister's office says an initial print run contained inaccuracies in describing the policy detail. These were corrected and additional information included to specifically clarify all relevant details of the policy. 


MARK COLVIN: Alexandra Kirk.