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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations: Parliament House, Perth: 22 February 2005: industrial relations reform, Kim Beazley, Leadership, WA Election.



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

22 February 2005 E&OE

T12/05

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - WESTERN AUSTRALIA PARLIAMENT HOUSE, PERTH, TUESDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2005

SUBJECT: INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS REFORM, KIM BEAZLEY LEADERSHIP, WA ELECTION

SMITH: The Federal Cabinet’s meeting today for a so-called strategy session and they will be addressed by the Governor of the Reserve Bank.

I hope the Governor tells the Cabinet what he told the Parliamentary Committee last week, when he said that Australia and Australians have got to look forward to higher interest rates, lower economic growth and a higher current account deficit. And all that is a direct result of the Government’s economic complacency.

We will see higher interest rates because of the Government’s complacency over its term in office - complacency about skills shortages, complacency about infrastructure bottle necks and complacency about our record trade deficit. But in the face of this what do we see, we see from the Howard Government, not unusually from the Government, we see

the industrial relations distraction, the industrial relations alibi.

This morning we have Kevin Andrews, the Minister, confirming for the first time that when the Government gets control of the Senate after 1 July this year, it will introduce legislation to create a unitary system.

When the Government gets control in July it will then have all the power under the sun. Not being content with getting the Senate out of the way, it wants to get the States out of the way. And then when it has the States out of the way, it will want to get the Industrial Relations Commission, the independent umpire, out of the way. Then it will want to get awards out of the way, and then it will want to get the minimum wage case out of the way.

All of these things will only be divisive, extreme and unfair. And they will all be adverse and bad for Australian employees and their families, who have got nothing to look forward to under this Government other than having their wages reduced, their

entitlements stripped and their safety nets removed.

When it comes to the proposed unitary system it is possible to contemplate having a unitary industrial relations system. The Government is saying that it is proposing to go down the road of using the Corporations power. That won’t give them complete coverage. So we will have a complex system and we will have potentially an inefficient system.

It is actually possible to contemplate a national unitary industrial relations system. The only way you can do that is through cooperation, by being cooperative with the States. But that’s not what they’re on about.

In this area, we know that when it returns to its base, the Howard Government goes to the extreme so far as industrial relations is concerned - Peter Reith with the balaclavas and the Alsatians. They are not interested here in being cooperative. They are not interested in a fair system. Everything they want to do is extreme, unfair and divisive.

JOURNALIST: Do you support a unitary system if the States are on board…

SMITH: I have said it in the past and I’m happy to repeat it, in the abstract, in the hypothetical as a public policy issue, it is possible to contemplate a national unitary system. It’s not a novel policy idea. But if you are going to do that the best way of doing that is by seeking to get a reference from the States. The only way you can do that is by standing up and saying we’re in favour of a fair and cooperative industrial relations system, a system that is fair to Australian employees and their families.

That’s not what they are on about. They are on about pursuing an extreme agenda. They are on about pursuing an extreme ideological view which will take away employees entitlements, which will strip away their wage protections, which will strip away their

safety nets.

They’re about, having got all the power under the sun when they take control of the Senate, of getting the States out of the way, getting the Industrial Relations Commission out of the way, getting the award system out of the way, getting the minimum wage case out of the way, all these safety nets and minimum standards. What they want to do is get these out of the way so they can pursue an extreme agenda. I’m all in favour of sensible

pursuing flexibility in the market place, providing it’s flexibility with fairness, but that’s not what they’re on about.

JOURNALIST: …inaudible…

SMITH: Labor has made it clear that the industrial relations policy that we took to the last election is under review. We are obviously out there interested in any proposals which add flexibility into the system but which do it in a fair way. The Government is not about flexibility with fairness, it is about pursuing an extreme agenda which will

make Australian employees and their families worse off - reduce their wages, strip their entitlements and remove certainty and safety nets from the system.

JOURNALIST: With power in the Senate, they can do what like….

SMITH: This is the point I make. Now they have all the power under the sun, but not being content with getting the Senate out of the way, they now want to get the States out of the way, get the independent umpire out of the way, get the minimum wage case and award safety nets out of the way. And that will only be unfair, extreme and divisive.

JOURNALIST: ..welfare recipients…

SMITH: That matter is being handled by my colleagues Wayne Swan and Penny Wong, and I expect they will be making some detailed comments about that later today.

JOURNALIST: ..Kim Beazley…Newspoll….

SMITH: What Kim has brought to us is political respectability. We were at a very low ebb. I think the most important thing that Kim has brought because of his standing in the community, is political respectability. And that’s the first essential ingredient.

Secondly what we need to do is hold the Government accountable. In the last couple weeks in the Federal Parliament we have been doing that, not just on regional rorts and the misuses and inappropriate use of taxpayer’s money, but also holding them to account on the economy. Making the point that interest rates will go up according the Governor of the Reserve Bank and that is a direct result of the Government’s economic management complacency. So we need to be firstly respectable and we’ve done that. Secondly, we got the hard task of an Opposition and which is to hold the Government to account. That’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve got three years to do that and in the course that time we will also hold ourselves out as an alternative Government. I think we’ve got a good chance of being very competitive when it comes to the next election, and a good chance of victory at the next Federal election but there is plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and then.

JOURNALIST: ….State election….

SMITH: As I said on the weekend, with a week to go people will now focus on the choice and the contrast, and that choice is quite clear. You’ve got a responsible, decent Premier who has done a good job as against Colin Barnett who carries with him handcuffed to the slogan of risk. So they can have a dependable, decent, sensible and responsible Geoff Gallop, or they can have the gambler, the risk taker Colin Barnett. The West Australian community has 4 or 5 days to concentrate on that choice and contrast.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you’re making up ground….

SMITH: I think we have been making up ground all during the Campaign. We started behind but as that contrast comes into play, the contrast between Geoff Gallop and

the risk taker Colin Barnett, I’m confident that by a narrow margin Geoff will prevail. I think that’s in the State’s interest and I think that’s in the Nations interests.

JOURNALIST: What impact on Labor’s Federal scene….

SMITH: It never helps if part of your team doesn’t win. So from a Federal point of view we are very keen to see Geoff prevail. We are very keen to see a Labor State government continuing in Western Australia. At least with Geoff you will know that Western Australia will have a Premier and a Government who will stand up to John Howard. As John Howard takes control of the Senate from July of this year, all the power under the sun, does anyone seriously believe that Colin Barnett will stand up to John Howard when it comes to Western Australian’s interests. Not a chance. It’s quite clearly the case that if you want to depend upon someone responsible and reliable to stand up for the State’s interest, you go for Geoff Gallop. If you want to go for the risk taker who will fold his cards to John Howard when John Howard gets control of the Senate, go for Colin Barnett. When faced with that choice, I’m confident that Geoff will prevail.

JOURNALIST: …bad for Federal Labor…

SMITH: I am of the view that it never helps if a part of your team doesn’t win. Which ever part of your team is out their on the field, effectively in the Grand Final, you want them to win. So it is very important to Federal Labor that we prevail here. I think Geoff’s campaigned very well and I’m confident that in the end when people are faced with that choice they’ll go for Geoff.

Ends

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