Minister discusses superannuation policy, election of new leader of the Democrats and the dispute at G&K O'Connor export meat works


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09-04-2001 08:27 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


09-04-2001 08:27 AM




09-04-2001 09:16 AM

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2001-04-09 08:27:12

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CAVE, Peter





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Minister discusses superannuation policy, election of new leader of the Democrats and the dispute at G&K O'Connor export meat works -

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PETER CAVE: Joining us in our Sydney studio is the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, Tony Abbott. He's speaking to Mark Willacy.

MARK WILLACY: Mr Abbott, you're critical of Labor over superannuation, but wasn't it the Howard government which increased compulsory contributions from 5 to 8 per cent and from July it will rise again to 9 per cent?

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, but the last thing that we think should happen is a further increase of 6 per cent funded by employers, and as the Prime Minister said on the weekend, that will cost up to 200,000 jobs. And it's typical of Simon Crean that he should want business to bear these kinds of extra burdens.

MARK WILLACY: But you just heard him rule it out categorically.

TONY ABBOTT: That's not what he was saying on Saturday to Paul Kelly. Now that he's been caught out, so to speak, he's changing his tune. This is just a few backflips on the run. Let there be no mistake about it. Labor does want to increase superannuation contributions to 15 per cent and Labor being Labor the burden will fall on business, which means the burden will fall on jobs.

MARK WILLACY: But the Howard government has increased it by 4 per cent, and under the Prime Minister's own calculations that would have cost more than 100,000 jobs, if you do apply those calculations.

TONY ABBOTT: What happened earlier in this government's term was that superannuation arrangements fundamentally put in place under the former government have come into play, but Labor is obsessed with superannuation and Labor wants contributions to go up to 15 per cent, and that is going to mean added burdens on business which is going to cost jobs.

MARK WILLACY: The Treasurer has described superannuation as the government's next big area of reform. So far you've done nothing much but criticise Labor. Where is your policy?

TONY ABBOTT: That is really a matter for the Treasurer. In due course you'll see that coming out.

MARK WILLACY: If we move on to the election of Natasha Stott Despoja as Democrats leader, surely that puts paid to your workplace relations reforms, such as exempting small business from unfair dismissal laws, and it does give Labor's roll back campaign on the GST a significant boost as well, doesn't it?

TONY ABBOTT: We are happy to work with whoever is Democrat leader, and all we ask is that the proposals that we put forward be considered fairly on their merits. I gather that some Democrats are concerned that, under Meg Lees, the Democrats got too close to the government. Well, I think it's important that the Democrats don't get too close to Labor and just say no to everything that the government's proposing, particularly in the industrial relations area.

MARK WILLACY: Is that your fear?

TONY ABBOTT: It is certainly something that I think the Democrats need to be conscious of.

MARK WILLACY: When it comes to your unfair dismissal laws, Senator Stott Despoja has already said, 'which part of no doesn't Tony Abbott understand?' So you would have to think that negotiations will be fairly tough.

TONY ABBOTT: There are lots of other things that we've got on our agenda as well, such as the Registered Organisations Bill, such as the Transmission of Business Bill. But look, the really interesting thing though, Mark, was Cheryl Kernot's weekend attack on all of the established party leaders, particularly her own leader, Kim Beazley, who she thinks is part of the old male political establishment. She distinguished this from the dream team of Natasha and Aden, and plainly this is a cry coming from the heart of Labor's front bench that Kim Beazley is a dud.

MARK WILLACY: But it's bad news for all of you, not just Kim Beazley.

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, but Labor front benchers attacking the coalition is not news, Labor front benchers attacking Labor's own leadership, that really is news. And the last time it happened we had John Della Bosca attacking Kim Beazley. He was forced to stand down from the Labor Party presidency. If Kim Beazley's got any ticker at all he's going to have to take very stern action against Cheryl Kernot today for accusing him, along with Simon Crean, of being a dud.

MARK WILLACY: If we move on, Channel Nine yesterday aired allegations of intimidation of workers, spying, industrial baseball bat tactics at one of Australia's biggest export meat works, G&K O'Connor. You have at least 700 documents relating to this dispute. Why won't you release them?

TONY ABBOTT: These documents are subject to a freedom of information application, as I understand the situation, and that's being dealt with in the normal way that these things are.

MARK WILLACY: Have you got anything to hide here?

TONY ABBOTT: Absolutely not.

MARK WILLACY: So why not release them?

TONY ABBOTT: My understanding is that my department believes that many of them are commercial in confidence, but the union is perfectly entitled to appeal that decision. This government has absolutely nothing to hide. The union is running around claiming conspiracy. There is absolutely no evidence for that.

MARK WILLACY: Do you, as minister, support the release of them? Your department doesn't, obviously?

TONY ABBOTT: I think that the processes should be allowed to operate, and that's what is happening. Normal processes are being followed.

MARK WILLACY: Tony Abbott, thanks for joining us.


PETER CAVE: The Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business was speaking to Mark Willacy.