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Transcript of doorstop interview with Stephen Smith: Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Melbourne: 29 September 2006: 457 Visas; Petrol prices; Industrial relations; Newspolls; Kokoda Track; Barry Jones; AFL grand final.

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Subjects: 457 Visas; Petrol Prices; Industrial Relations; Newspolls; Kokoda Track; Barry Jones; AFL Grand Final

BEAZLEY: When is John Howard going to stand up for Aussie jobs? When is he going to stand up for training Australians, young Australians to do the jobs that the economy provides opportunities for? The simple fact of the matter is this: John Howard is subjecting the Australian workforce to a one, two punch. One punch with the industrial relations laws. A second punch with the immigration laws. He is creating a set of circumstances which undermines that fundamental Aussie value - a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. And ensuring that there is reward for effort for Aussie workers.

Now, for all of us we think that an opportunity to work at jobs like these is just the sort of thing we want for our kids. And John Howard should not be undermining us. Not undermining us with these 457 visas.

Now, there’s a second issue out there at the moment and that is the fact there’s been huge jumps, huge jumps in the cost per litre for petrol in Sydney and elsewhere. John Howard has to stop siding with the oil companies every long weekend and start siding with the ordinary Australian consumer. Allowing the watchdog to get some teeth and get stuck into the oil companies when they do

things like this to Australian consumers.

SMITH: Thanks Kim. Well I’ve just come from a meeting with my State colleagues, the State Ministers for Industrial Relations who are here in Melbourne for the Ministerial Council Meeting. The question of 457 visas is on the agenda for the Ministerial Council meeting and I’m sure my State colleagues will me making all the points that Kim and Jenny Macklin and I and Tony Burke have made in the past which is the lax administration of these visas is allowing Australian jobs to be undermined and Australian working conditions to be undercut and undermined. Let alone treating the people who come here on 457 visas very badly indeed.

Secondly, one of the items on the agenda today is a report from the Commonwealth on the agencies that are currently administering the WorkChoices legislation and you’ll see that is a complete regulatory and jurisdictional dogs’ breakfast. Any number of agencies now seeking to advice employers and employees on John Howard’s extreme industrial relations legislation and all we’re finding now are jurisdictional gaps and regulatory dogs’ breakfast which has become, as employers’ have expressed in recent weeks a real burden on them.

One of those burdens is now very seriously in the Occupational Health and Safety area, and the Victorian Finance Minister, John Lenders, has made the point today that given the Commonwealth’s obsession with enabling large corporations to become self insurers under Commonwealth legislation, this is causing jurisdictional gaps and also running the risk of undermining safety in the workplace and also running the risk of having two different systems operating effectively at the same time. You’ll have the example of where a Lin Fox truck can turn up to a Coles supermarket, the Lin Fox truck will be under a self-insurance Commonwealth system and the Coles warehouse will be under a

State-based system.

The only reason that the Howard Government is allowing this to occur is because they have never been serious about firm, Occupational Health and Safety standards. The inspection and the enforcement of Occupational Health and

Safety standards is much more rigorous and effective at the State level than the Commonwealth level and I endorse the approach which Minister Lenders is taking today. There’s a serious issue here which runs the risk of not only adding to the regulatory burden on business but undermining Occupational Health and Safety standards in Australia. Thanks Kim.

JOURNALIST: Do you want to scrap the 457 visas altogether Mr Beazley?

BEAZLEY: The 457 visas have their place but they do not have any place when they’re rorted. The simple fact of the matter is: you’re always going to find a set of circumstances where in extremity you need, in order to get a job done, to get somebody in to do it. But what we’re seeing now is the routine rorting of 457 visas. It’s been turned from an instrument into encouraging the ability of work to be done in Australia into an instrument to be joined with the industrial relations changes to undermine Australian wages and conditions. It’s as simple as that. And what John Howard now knows is that we’re on to him.


BEAZLEY: Well, let’s take a look at this particular individual case. 457 Visas as I understand it, are supposed to have a payment for the people who come in under them of $41,000 a year. If you’re not paying that then in fact you

are not conforming to the requirements associated with it and as I understand they’re not paying it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, the Newspoll this morning, mixed news for Labor, leading in the two-party preferred but your own approval rating still fairly low?

BEAZLEY: Well you’re the analysts, you can analyse the Newspolls, all the polls actually, that keep coming out. What I’m always encouraged by, and what I say, and it’s all I say about polls, is that they show we’re contestable. And what those polls that were out there in The Australian today show is that the Labor Party is winning in all the marginal seats. So, I don’t take anything for granted in any of that. The Labor Party has to put out its policies and fight, and that’s what we’re doing.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, an Australian company is proposing a gold mine along the Kokoda Track, do you have a problem with that?

BEAZLEY: Well I’m very concerned about that. Very seriously concerned about that proposition. We already know from our experience at Gallipoli, that what happens when John Howard takes his eye off the ball - he took his eye off the ball in Gallipoli - and actually encouraged, his Ministers encouraged the process where elements, critical elements of the battlefield, were in fact, ruined by changes. We must not see that happen on the Kokoda Trail and it’s very important, we’ll be keeping a very careful watch on what John Howard does to make sure that the Kokoda Track is not wrecked.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley how conservative do you think you are? Barry Jones is saying that you’re the most conservative opposition leader we’ve ever had.

BEAZLEY: I think arguably I’m the most experienced Opposition Leader the Labor Party has ever provided. Look back over my record and that’s going to count for a fair bit in the next election campaign, let me tell you that - as people think of changing from John Howard to us and the more positive proposals we have for this nation. That the first point I’d make about it and the second is this. I listen to middle Australia. I listen to what ordinary Australians round the kitchen table tell me and they’re worried. They’re worried about what’s happening to them about petrol prices. Worried about what’s happening to them about interest rates. Increasingly, deeply worried about whether they’ll get fairness in the workplace and an opportunity to earn the wage they need to pay their mortgage. You see these are the things that worry middle Australia. They worry me too. So I’m going to keep focussed on that, no matter what other people tell me, I ought to be concentrating on.

JOURNALIST: You did seem to take some heart from the Newspoll today, but how do you explain that anomaly between leading in the two party but yourself, sort of ...........

BEAZLEY: One of the wonderful things about being in my position is that I’m a fighter. One of the difficult things about being in your position is that you’re an analyst. So your job is to analyse the polls. Mine is to fight the next election and that’s what I’m doing.

JOURNALIST: But it seems that you did inspect the poll and do a bit of analysis there in the two Party preferred.

BEAZLEY: I did one piece of analysis on that poll, which I’ve done on all the polls over the course of the last 18 months. Do they show the Labor Party as contestable? That’s the only question I ask of the polls, as some sort of benchmark, guideline, for us and they show us as contestable.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Barry Jones’ contribution since he left Parliament been helpful to the Labor Party?

BEAZLEY: Barry Jones is his own man, gets out there and makes his own contribution. My concern is to listen to all Australians, in particular to listen to Middle Australians and the people who build this country. Who are worried about the future of their kids, who are worried about their own circumstances. And what a lot of them are saying to me is this: “Look we know the country is prosperous, we know it’s going okay, but what strikes us is it’s the big end of town which is benefiting and not much is landing on my kitchen table”. Now, people have pretty ordinary concerns but they’re concerns which we in politics need to listen to.

JOURNALIST: There’s a football match on tomorrow, who are you going to back and how close do you think the game will be?

BEAZLEY: Well it’s a tough one for me as a Docker’s supporter I’ve got to tell you. I grit my teeth, I clench my fists and I choke out, Eagles! Eagles to win because blood is thicker than water and therefore that’s the result that we want to see. So, that’s who I’m going for tomorrow. I think they will win.

SMITH: In this gathering, it’s Eagles - two, Sydney Swans - nil.