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Transcript of doorstop interview: 18 may 2007: Howard Government WorkChoices advertising campaign; AWAs.

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Deputy Labor Leader

Shadow Minister for Employment & Industrial Relations Shadow Minister for Social Inclusion


ISSUES: Howard Government WorkChoices advertising campaign, AWAs

JULIA GILLARD: The Prime Minister, Mr Howard has today announced that his government is going to have an advertising campaign starting this weekend for its unfair industrial relations laws. And in making that announcement, John Howard made it perfectly clear that this campaign is a propaganda campaign to counter the claims of his political opponents. This is party political propaganda, pure and simple. This is an old and tired government that is now going to desperately claw money out of the purses and wallets of hard working Australians to fund an advertising campaign to save its political skin.

Mr Howard’s done this before. He ripped $55 million off Australian taxpayers’ for a deceitful round of ads about his so-called WorkChoices laws. Those advertisements told people that conditions like penalty rates and shift loadings would be protected by law. But the reality is people have those conditions ripped off them under Mr Howard’s laws. Indeed leaked information shows most workers who enter into an Australian Workplace Agreement have conditions like penalty rates, overtime and public holiday payments ripped off them. Those advertisements were deceitful. This round of advertisements will be equally deceitful.

Apparently the slogan is going to be ‘Know where you stand’. When Australians watch these advertisements this weekend they should be thinking to themselves, I know when I am being ripped off. Because the money spent on these ads could have gone to improving local schools or local hospitals rather than support a

desperate government’s political campaign. And Australians, when they look at those ads should remember the arrogance of this government. Mr Howard won’t even tell Australian taxpayers’ how much money he is going to rip off them. This is an advertising campaign without a budget, it is just going to roll week after week. Tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money spent to protect his political hide and he won’t even tell the taxpayers’ involved how much of their

money is going to be wasted. This is arrogant off the Richter scale. This is desperation. This is an affront to hard working Australians. And people should remember that when they see these deceitful ads start this weekend.

JOURNALIST: Aren’t these ads though just to inform people about the new Fairness Test?

JULIA GILLARD: It is impossible to have advertisements to inform people about the new so-called fairness test. Mr Hockey conceded last week it hadn’t even been written yet. Last Thursday, Mr Hockey the relevant Minister, said he couldn’t even speculate on the contents of the Fairness Test. The Government now has a new so-called fairness test, out there applying and it hasn’t even been written yet and now it is purporting to advertise to explain it. Well this is just deceit and politics and desperation.

The Howard Government has got advice from it’s pollsters that the word WorkChoices and its industrial relations laws are toxic in the community. Australians want to vote against these laws. And so desperately, they are now trying to cobble together something that they can advertise to try and claw back politically. That is all this is about and no one should be confused. And just answer this simple question Mr Howard, how is it you can have an advertising campaign when you don’t even have a piece of legislation in the Parliament? Shouldn’t a responsible government write the laws first? And that is not what

this government has done.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the fact Qantas is now calling on your party to provide more details about the changes to the AWAs? They are saying the aviation industry should now be informed about that.

JULIA GILLARD: We have written to Qantas in the past and I will be talking to Qantas later this month, we have had that appointment for a long period of time. This is a continuing process of consultation and we will meet with Qantas and have discussions directly. There are absolutely no problems with doing that and it has been planned for a considerable period.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard can I just clarify a couple more points regarding the policy that you have on AWAs and just a simple straight forward question. If

[inaudible] are on AWAs who think or individuals who think they are who think they are being ripped off will you provide the statutory mechanism to get off those AWAs [inaudible].

JULIA GILLARD: All of these questions were asked and answered fully yesterday….

JOURNALIST: Well can you answer it again today?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes I can answer it again today. What we said yesterday is we are of course consulting about AWA transitional arrangements. That consultation will take several more weeks. We want to get that policy right, we want to make sure it’s legally right, it’s the product of consultation, that it

balances people’s needs for fairness with businesses needs for certainty and when that policy is finalised it will be announced. So can I say to you, whilst questions about Labor’s policies are always questions I am happy to answer, the problem for employers and working Australians today is that the Howard Government has supposedly re-written the industrial relations laws in a way that is impacting upon them and yet the details of those laws aren’t even available yet. The travesty here…

JOURNALIST: If you can’t…

JULIA GILLARD: The travesty here is that we have got a government that went out and made a desperate announcement, trying to look like it was changing its deeply unfair WorkChoices laws, clearly the result of polling, it’s pollsters have told it that WorkChoices is a dirty word and now it is ripping tens of millions of

taxpayers’ dollars off hard working Australians for a party political propaganda campaign.

JOURNALIST: On a related question if you can’t answer that question perhaps you can answer this one.

JULIA GILLARD: I did answer the last question.

JOURNALIST: The answer is you don’t know.

JULIA GILLARD: No, the answer is we will announce the policy at the appropriate point, we are consulting on it now. Does anyone have another question?

JOURNALIST: Yes I do. If you are on an AWA and when [inaudible] comes to government, and you like your AWA and it expires in a year or two, will you be able to re-new your AWA with your employer voluntarily, yes or no?

JULIA GLLARD: We have made all of these points perfectly clear. Labor has always said that if workers are on an Australian Workplace Agreement they are happy with, then they will be able to stay on that agreement for the balance of its term. Beyond that they would be transitioning to one of the options in Labor’s very fair and flexible industrial relations system. The range of options include, common law contracts which are individual arrangements but unlike Mr Howard’s Australian Workplace Agreements they can’t shove you down below the award safety net. Too many Australians, indeed leaked statistics tell us that of the people who entered into Australian Workplace Agreements, 44 per cent of them had all 11 protected award conditions stripped away. So even though Mr Howard told them in his last flashy expensive round of advertising that these conditions would be protected by law, in 44 per cent of cases, Australians lost each and every one of those conditions. Penalty rates gone, shift loadings gone, overtime gone, public holiday protections gone. That is not the industrial relations system Australians want, Mr Howard’s polling is telling him that, and that is why we are seeing this desperate measure today all about tricky politics and all about ripping Australian taxpayers’ off.

JOURNALIST: Will individual agreements of a different form still be allowed, other than AWAs?

JULIA GILLARD: Labor’s policy, announced at its national conference, Forward with Fairness provides for common law contracts. I would remind people that if we look at the Australian workforce today, around about 5 per cent of people are on Australian Workplace Agreements; around 30 per cent are on common law contracts. That is a preferred industrial instrument in Australia today. It gives the ability to earn more than the award safety net but it doesn’t push you below the award safety net the way Mr Howard’s Workplace Agreements have pushed far

too many Australians below that award safety net.

JOURNALIST: The Democrats have said that they will go back to the pre-AWAs do you favour that or not?

JULIA GILLARD: I made this perfectly clear yesterday too. Of course minor political parties like the Democrats are free to come up with their own policies, that is a matter for them. But at the next election, Labor will be campaigning for its new fair balanced industrial relations system. That system will not have Australian Workplace Agreements in it. The industrial relations debate is going to be at the centre of the next election campaign. And if a Rudd Labor

Government is formed, if Australians have voted for a Labor industrial relations policy the I would be calling on Senators of whatever political flavour to abide by and respect that mandate. The Australian people would have spoken and I

would be saying that their voice should be respected.

JOURNALIST: How long will the, how long will the [inaudible] go on that you can’t answer today fundamental, fundamental aspects of your policy about AWAs, whether or not you will be able to get out of them if you are on them if

you think they are unfair the lawyers and the voters uncertain as to, if they vote for you, if they can get out of their AWA or not when are you going to be able to answer that question?

JULIA GILLARD: Ok, let’s just remind ourselves of some history. Mr Howard didn’t breathe a word of his plans for extreme industrial relations laws before the last election. He didn’t tell Australians the truth; he hasn’t been telling them the

truth since. The $55 million of taxpayer funded advertisements didn’t tell them the truth and the advertisements going to air this weekend won’t tell them the truth either. In stark contrast Labor has published a substantive industrial

relations policy called Forward with Fairness. That policy is about a fair, flexible and balanced industrial relations system. Mr Howard has gone too far, we want to restore balance in Australian workplaces. We have said we are continuing to consult on the arrangements about transitional provisions from Australian Workplace Agreements. That consultation will take several weeks. But what that means is by the time of the next election, even by the earliest possible date for the next election every Australian will be in a position to know exactly what Labor’s industrial relations laws, including the transitional provisions about Australian Workplace Agreements, mean for them. That is a different standard than the Howard Government ever applied to it self, when it kept Australians in the dark. WorkChoices was the product of deceit before the last election, the Government has deceitfully advertised for it and we are going to see more of that on display this weekend.

JOURNALIST: Do you think for the Opposition unable to say that you are making it up as you are going along you can’t answer something as fundamental you say that is a substantial industrial relations policy [inaudible] some of these key issues before announcing it?

JULIA GILLARD: We have made this process perfectly clear. Our job is to make sure, that on Election Day, when Australians walk into polling places around the country; they know what they are voting for. And Labor will make sure that they know what they are voting for and certainly on industrial relations we will have published full details of every aspect of our industrial relations policy. Mr Howard didn’t show Australians that simple respect at the last election, he is not

showing Australians that simple respect now because what he is going to do is claw their money out of their purses, their wallets to fund his party political propaganda campaign and it is starting this weekend.