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Transcript of doorstop interview by the Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial relations, Parliament House, Canberra, 24 May 2005. Subject: Western Australian State Opposition Leader Matt Birney opposed to Howard's industrial relations changes.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

E&OE 24 May 2005




SMITH: Today there’s a major rebuff to John Howard and his industrial relations changes.

We see Matt Birney, the Liberal Leader in Western Australia, saying he is going to argue that Liberals in the national Parliament should oppose John Howard’s proposed industrial relations changes.

So we’ve got six Liberal Senators from Western Australia and the Liberal leader in Western Australia is essentially saying publicly today in Western Australia that Liberals should oppose John Howard’s proposed industrial relations changes.

This comes at a time when Cabinet is considering these changes and there’s speculation that the Party room will consider these changes in the next days and weeks.

So Matt Birney is making the point that I’ve been making. These changes are extreme, they’re divisive and so far as States like Western Australia are concerned, trample not just on the rights of individual employees and their entitlements, but trample on the rights of States like Western Australia.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that John Howard is going to be swayed by a young new Opposition Leader from WA?

SMITH: I’m always pleased to see dissension in the Liberal camp but I’m particularly pleased to see a Liberal State leader talking out when States rights are being trampled on and when individual employees’ rights are being trampled on.

You would have seen yesterday in the House I asked John Howard to guarantee that no individual employee would be worse off as a result of his changes. He refused to give that guarantee. I would have thought it was crystal clear.

Matt Birney is concerned about the rights of Western Australia being trampled on. I’m concerned about the rights of Western Australian employees being trampled on just as I’m concerned about the rights of all Australian employees.

These changes will be unfair, they will be divisive, they will be extreme, they will reduce people’s wages, they will strip their entitlements, and they will remove their safety nets.

John Howard won’t give a guarantee that those things won’t occur and Matt Birney, the Liberal Leader from Western Australia, is out there saying that he’s arguing to his Liberal colleagues from Western Australia in the Parliament, six Senators, that these changes should be opposed.

He’s going to take that opposition to the Liberal State Council and I see Kevin Andrews is so concerned about this that he’s scarpering to Western Australia on the weekend to try and change Matt Birney’s mind and to try and put a view to the Western Australian Liberal Party Conference.

But the cat is out of the bag, this is a major rebuff to John Howard on his extreme industrial relations changes.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t the Prime Minister right that these are the same messages you had since 1996 and yet real wages have risen?

SMITH: I’ve made the point about real wages and wages and productivity on a number of occasions. In Australian society in the last 25 years we saw an historic shift from wages growth to profit growth. That occurred when Labor came to office in 1983

with the Accord and then with the introduction of enterprise bargaining. That saw an historic shift from wages to profit growth. That was one of the things which helped set us up for 14 years of continuous economic growth. It’s the economic growth, 14 years continuous economic growth, which has seen the job opportunities come and the wages opportunities come.

But make no mistake, just ask yourself this simple question: why won’t John Howard give the guarantee that no employee will be worse off? He gave that guarantee in 1996 but he won’t give it now. Why won’t he give it now? Because his policy objective, particularly through the changes he wants to make to the Minimum Wage, his policy objective is to reduce wages in real terms. That’s why he won’t give the guarantee that I asked for yesterday on the floor of the House. That’s why he’s refused to give that guarantee on a number of occasions. It’s why Peter Costello refuses to give the guarantee and why Kevin Andrews has refused to give the guarantee over the last weeks and months.


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651