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Transcript of doorstop interview: Treasury Place, Melbourne: 24 October 2006: \nACTU Congress.



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Hon Kevin Andrews MP

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service 24 October, 2006

Transcript

Doorstop Interview, Treasury Place, Melbourne

ACTU Congress

MINISTER ANDREWS: Ladies and gentlemen, Australians have long suspected Kim Beazley’s strength of character.

Today Kim Beazley had the opportunity to stand up to his union bosses. Kim Beazley chose today to cave in to the

union movement. What Kim Beazley has done is simply said ‘I will go along with whatever you say, regardless of

what it is’. We’ve seen this before in the past. This would be an economic disaster for Australia. Mr Beazley has

shown that he is incapable of standing up against vested interests, he is incapable of standing up for the national

interest and he would be incapable of properly managing the Australian economy.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) collective bargaining proposal will have a stronger role for the Industrial Relations

Commission?

MINISTER ANDREWS: What Kim Beazley plans to do is to reinsert the unions into workplaces in Australia and to

reinsert union fees for workers in Australia. He plans to introduce collective bargaining, he plans to rip up

individual workplace agreements, he plans to say that unions can charge a bargaining fee for workers in Australia.

This is a return to a one-size fits all approach, it’s a return to the 1970s and 1980s. It would be bad for workers, it

would be bad for the economy and it would be bad for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Is Beazley just a union lap-dog?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well, look at the evidence. Mr Beazley went along to the conference in Sydney after

demands that he do something and said he’ll rip up Australian Workplace Agreements. The ACTU comes out with a

blueprint and Mr Beazley goes along today and says ‘I embrace your blueprint’. No question of ifs or buts, no

exceptions. Mr Beazley simply does what the unions want.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried it might be popular?

MINISTER ANDREWS: What will be popular for Australians is this - the creation of more jobs, the continued rise in

wages and the reduction in industrial disputation. The one thing that Kim Beazley won’t address is this - we’ve seen

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200,000 new jobs created in the last six months, we’ve seen wages continue to rise in Australia, and we’ve seen the

lowest level of strikes and disputes ever in the history of the Commonwealth. Those are the things which will be

popular for Australians because they’re about real jobs and real incomes for Australian workers and their families.

JOURNALIST: Will this be a deciding issue at the next election?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well that’s a matter for the Australian people at the next election. I know that a little while

ago there was an indication of matters which people regarded as important in one of the newspaper which had the

last of those matters being industrial relations. But ultimately all Australians will make up their minds according to

the way in which they see the world and they see Australia at the time. But importantly they will make up their

minds on the basis of who has the strength of character to lead Australia. And once again today we’ve seen Kim

Beazley simply cave in to the union movement.

JOURNALIST: The ACTU today links a suicide to your laws. Are your laws forcing people to kill themselves?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Look, I’m not going to comment in any way, politically or otherwise, on somebody’s grief. I

think that’s quite inappropriate and I’m not going to do it.

JOURNALIST: Are your laws hurting people though?

MINISTER ANDREWS: As I said I’m not going to comment directly or indirectly on somebody’s grief.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned by the ACTU plans to have a fresh round of television ads as of November?

MINISTER ANDREWS: What people will judge industrial changes on is the impacts and the effect on them and their

families and the people around them. They will look at the fact that jobs are being created. Let’s face it, in the last

six months, which is the first six months of WorkChoices, we’ve seen 205,000 jobs created in Australia, 184,000 of

those jobs have been full-time jobs. Let me put that in historical perspective - for the previous 20 years the average

job creation in Australia, for the six months of April through to September, was just 75,000. We have seen almost

three times the number of jobs created in Australia in the first six months of WorkChoices. And that’s what

Australians are interested in. Australians want jobs, they want their wages to continue to be rising, they don’t want

industrial disputation, and those three things are being delivered.

JOURNALIST: What would you like to see from the Fair Pay Commission’s first decision on Thursday?

MINISTER ANDREWS: That’s a matter for the Fair Pay Commission. When we established the Fair Pay Commission

we did so by establishing an independent body. We didn’t follow, for example, the practice of the Low Pay

Commission in the UK where they make a recommendation to the government and the government then makes the

final decision. Here we have established an independent body, a body consisting of five people drawn from a variety

of backgrounds, including someone drawn from a business background and someone drawn from a union

background. And we will see their decision when it’s released on Thursday.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) give a decision that’s in line with (inaudible) state tribunals of $20 a week, what impact

will that have on the economy?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well the state tribunals have given various decisions. I think one gave a $17 or $18 and

another gave a $20. That’s ultimately a matter for the Fair Pay Commission and they will work to the criteria which

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the Government has established. One of the things that we’ve been concerned about throughout all these changes is

to ensure that we have increased productivity in our workplace. And if wages are linked to productivity then that’s a

good thing for workers and a good thing for the economy. Where there’s a danger is if wages increase without

corresponding increases in productivity because that can lead into wage inflation and the history of Australia has

seen wage inflation being a precursor to general inflation and that of course has other problems for the Australian

economy.

JOURNALIST: The unions have added millions more to their war chest for fighting the IR laws. Are you scared?

MINISTER ANDREWS: We believe that these changes were made for the national interest. Not for some vested

sectional interest in Australia but for the national interest. And we can see the empirical data already showing that

this is in the national interest. Now the fact that we’ve seen 200,000 extra jobs created in Australia, the fact that

wages in the ABS data are continuing to rise and grow in Australia, the fact that we have the lowest level of industrial

disputation in the history of Australia. So what I’m worried about is doing the right thing for the people of Australia,

doing the right thing for the national interest. If governments continue to do that well then I believe they’ll be

rewarded by the people of Australia.

Thank you.

[ends]

For further information contact:

Brad Burke 0421 586 478