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Transcript of joint press conference: 11 December 2009: new national workplace relations system; Liberals' IR extremism; Barnaby Joyce's comments; border security.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion Deputy Prime Minister

11 December, 2009

Joint Transcript

ISSUES: New national workplace relations system; Liberals’ IR extremism; Barnaby Joyce’s comments; Border security.


Joint Transcript with the Hon Cameron Dick MP; the Hon John Robertson MLC; the Hon Paul Caica MP.

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say it’s a great pleasure to be here today with my ministerial colleagues. I’m joined by the Ministers from Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia - Minister Dick from Queensland, Minister Robertson from New South Wales and Minister Caica from South Australia.

What we have just done is sign the final agreements to put in place a uniform workplace relations system for Australia’s private sector.

This has been achieved because of great cooperation between the Federal Government working with state governments. This is delivering a reform in Australia’s national interest. This will be better for small business. Small business in particular will no longer have to worry whether they are in the federal workplace relations system or the state system.

Now, this streamlining delivers to workers around the country in the private sector the new Fair Work system. And of course our Fair Work system was about getting rid of Work Choices. And in the states represented by the ministers today and right around this country, working people, state Labor governments, trade unions, community organisations fought hard to get rid of Work Choices and to achieve this new Fair Work system.

And what we know of course is that the Work Choices debate is back. It is quite clear that Mr Abbott, with Senator Abetz as his workplace relations spokesperson, is determined to bring back Work Choices.

They’re not going to use the name. They’re treating Australians like mugs; they think that they can fool people. But the reality is already they have committed to the two things that

were most hated about Work Choices - individual statutory agreements that can rip away pay and conditions and not allowing good workers to take an unfair dismissal claim if they’ve been unfairly dismissed.

Well, Australia has embraced this Fair Work system. We are saying to Mr Abbott he should come clean with the Australian public. Instead of playing word games about the name Work Choices, he should make it clear that his Liberal Party is committed to reintroducing Work Choices. Australians rejected that scheme once and I’m very confident that they will reject it again.

I’ll just turn to my ministerial colleagues and see if they want to make a statement and then we’ll take any questions. Cameron.

CAMERON DICK: Thanks very much, Julia.

Today is a very important day for Queensland. Yesterday was an historic day for our state. It was the 150th anniversary of our creation as a state and today is another historic day as Queensland commits to the new national Fair Work industrial relations system.

This system is a win-win. It’s a win for Queensland workers as it gives them the protections they need and deserve. At the same time it gives business and industry the certainty and stability industry and business needs to move forward in tough economic times.

I’m very grateful to be here today with the Deputy Prime Minister and acknowledge the ongoing work between the state and the Commonwealth Government, the previous work we’ve done and the ongoing work we’ve done to produce a fairer industrial relations system for Australia.

Our Fair Work bill was passed in Queensland on November the 11th, which is Remembrance Day, and it will be remembered in Queensland as the day that we finally put Work Choices to bed once and for all, that we put it away and that we moved to a system, an industrial relations system that moves forward with fairness. So it’s a very important day for Queensland and we’re pleased to be a part of this new national industrial relations system.

JOHN ROBERTSON: This is an historic day. It’s a day where we finally have a national industrial relations system for the private sector. It’s something that the people of New South Wales have campaigned for, for a long time to see the death of Work Choices. The signing today is really the death knell for Work Choices.

As the Deputy Prime Minister has said, Tony Abbott is seeking to resuscitate Work Choices under another name. What we have today is a massive step forward for the country, for working families to have a national system that builds in a strong and sound safety net with national employment standards, good solid awards for people to deal with, a capacity for people to bargain in and it’s an important and significant step and one that a lot of people put a lot of time into campaigning for to achieve what is a fantastic result, a national industrial relations system for the first time in the history of Australia.

PAUL CAICA: I join with my colleagues in recognising the historic nature of this particular day. Quite simply what has underpinned this going forward is something that could never have occurred under the previous government; that is a level of cooperation between the

states and the Commonwealth, something that was unheard of in those times and all is well going forward.

Quite clearly in my state of South Australia and across the nation, employers were supportive of this with respect to the private sector, the unions, the community groups. The only organisation or people that weren’t supportive of this was of course the Liberal Opposition and quite rightly has been mentioned earlier, the only thing that seems to be dead about their view on Work Choices is the word.

JOURNALIST: How robust is this system going to be if there is a future, say, state Liberal government? What’s to stop them just pulling out and fragmenting the system again?

JULIA GILLARD: We have negotiated here a change for the long-term with an inter-governmental agreement. But what I would say is it is always possible for a Liberal Party hell-bent on taking away basic pay and conditions from working Australians to achieve that, and working Australians know that the Liberal Party comes to government promising all things but in government the track record shows you get delivered legislation like Work Choices.

That’s why it’s so important that Mr Abbott come clean with the Australian people and actually tells the Australian people what he intends for workplace relations and it’s Work Choices no matter what he chooses to call it.

JOURNALIST: Is there any hope of getting WA into the system with their current government or have you given up on that front?

JULIA GILLARD: We are continuing to have dialogue with Western Australia and we work well in these meetings with Minister Troy Buswell who is a participant in the Workplace Relations Ministerial Council so our talks with Minister Buswell and Western Australia will continue.

JOURNALIST: I just wanted to ask you what your view was of Barnaby Joyce’s call for the Government to legislate to break up the major banks’ assets?

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say in respect of comments made by Senator Joyce, Senator Joyce is the second most senior economic Shadow Minister in Mr Abbott’s Opposition. Now it seems to me remarkable that the second most senior economic Minister in Mr Abbott’s Opposition could be making such erratic and irresponsible statements.

Now, I understand that the banks aren’t top of the pops with the Australian people but we need to make sure that what is said by national political leaders or people who would ask to be elected as national political leaders is responsible and doesn’t cause fear and problems in Australia’s financial markets. And Senator Joyce’s irresponsible statements about the ability of states to service debt, his irresponsible statements about the circumstances in financial markets in the United States are the sorts of statements that cause community concern and alarm.

Mr Abbott really has to do something about this. He has to repudiate what has been said by Senator Joyce.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there were reports of a boat carrying 60 asylum seekers making it all the way to Christmas Island without being detected. What does that say of our border security?

JULIA GILLARD: We have more border security patrols, more border security presence in our waters to the north than was there under the previous government. We take border security very seriously, we make sure we have patrols in the area and we will continue to do that.

I would note under the previous government, from time to time, there are boats that made it through. That will happen but we have stepped up our border security presence.

JOURNALIST: But you must be concerned by it making all the way there without detection?

JULIA GILLARD: The main issue here that the Government’s dealing with is obviously we are dealing with circumstances of the aftermath of a civil war in Sri Lanka. In the aftermath of the civil war there, obviously people have got on the move. We are dealing with that, we’re dealing with those push factors in our region.

JOURNALIST: Do you maintain the policies are working in spite of this?

JULIA GILLARD: We are obviously dealing with the push factors in our region. What happens, and if you track it over time, what we see is we see the number of people seeking asylum and moving affected by push factors; affected by the war in Afghanistan, now affected by the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

And I would say if the measure is to be the number of boats that arrived, there was no evidence that the policies of the Howard Government were working after they introduced, for example, temporary protection visas, the number of arrivals went up.

JOURNALIST: Will there be any extra measures put into place following this to see that it doesn’t happen again?

JULIA GILLARD: We have substantially invested in an increased border security presence. We have obviously dealt with Australia’s border security issues. We will continue to do that. We believe it’s important to have patrols in our waters in the north and we do.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you on banks, do you think the majors are taking advantage of a lack of competition in the sector?

JULIA GILLARD: We’ve certainly acted to facilitate competition. We’ve done that by supporting the ability of bank customers to change from one bank to another to get a better deal.

And I’m afraid I’m going to have to go to Workplace Relations Ministerial Council. Thank you.