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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 7 August 2006: Industrial relations; Labor Party Presidency.

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

E&OE T57/06


SUBJECT: Industrial Relations; Labor Party Presidency

SMITH: Well today there will be any number of Liberal and National Party members who will raise high petrol prices and high interest rates but they don’t want to talk about their extreme industrial relations changes. And we know not many, if any of them, will do that because John Howard is absolutely committed to his extreme changes. He’s made it clear he is not for changing. On the contrary he’s made it clear that if he gets the chance he’ll go even further. So the message that’s ringing out there in the Australian community is not just the burden of high petrol prices, it’s not just the burden of interest rate increases, it’s the burden of their wages being reduced and their conditions and entitlements like penalty rates and overtime and shift allowances being removed or reduced. That’s the message that John Howard needs to pick-up - we know the Industrial Relations changes are about John Howard’s ideology, it’s not about listening to the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister argues that Labor and the unions can’t be believed on IR because the Office of Workplace Services has blown out of the water a few of the cases used in the advertising.

SMITH: Well I think the Office of Workplace Services has been blown out of the water. I notice that Mr Wilson the other day said that he would refuse to make anymore public comments about anything. Well no wonder given that he was exposed for acting in a political and partisan way. The problem for John Howard is that Labor is not running a scare campaign here - Labor is running a fact campaign. And the facts are that John Howard’s legislation will reduce the minimum wage in real terms. The facts are that John Howard’s legislation leaves penalty rates, overtime, shift allowances and the like unprotected. And the facts are that if you’re one of 4 million Australians employed by a company with 100 or fewer employees - you can be sacked, sacked unfairly for no reason or any reason and not have an unfair dismissal remedy. They are the facts and that’s what John Howard and all of the Liberal Party and all of the National Party are handcuffed to from now until the next election.

JOURNALIST: Do you plan to get rid of the Office of Workplace Services?

SMITH: Absolutely. We will not have an inspectorate which is politically tainted. We will have an objective, impartial workplace inspectorate on the model that Labor has long supported at a State and Federal level. But we will not have an agency that has as its role the inspecting of workplaces, to be tainted by politics.

JOURNALIST: Government backbenchers are expected today to say that the Government needs to do a better job of selling its IR laws. Do you think that reveals they’re biting out there?

SMITH: I think you’ll find that is called being lions in the regions and cowards in Canberra. But it’s quite clear that any member who has been out in the electorate for the past 5 or 6 weeks will have had the concern in the Australian community about John Howard’s extreme industrial relations changes ringing in their ears. The problem for the Australian community is that even if one or two mention it today John Howard won’t listen. He’s driven here by 20 or 30 years of political ideology and political zealotry - he’s not listening to the Australian people. The Australian people are saying - interest rates up, petrol prices up, wages and penalty rates down. That is what they are saying.

JOURNALIST: Jackie Kelly last night voiced some fears about Workchoices, is that something Labor will be taking to heart and possibly putting away for the election campaign?

SMITH: I didn’t hear her remarks last night I was on a plane. I’ll read a transcript and take note of them. But Labor has been on about these extreme changes for the whole of this Parliament. We have heard a few whispers from some of the Liberal Party and in the National Party but as I said that’s generally in the realm of lions in the regions and cowards in Canberra.

JOURNALIST: Would Simon Crean make a good Labor Party president?

SMITH: If Simon wants to put his name forward and if he’s elected as one of the Party presidents then that would be a fine thing. He’s a person of standing in the party. I haven’t had the conversation with him, I don’t know whether he’s going to put his name forward. If he does and he’s one of the three elected, then he’d do a good job.

JOURNALIST: Can he work with Mr Beazley?

SMITH: Absolutely. He can work with anyone in the party - that’s Simon’s nature.


Contact: Tom Cameron on 0417 147 932