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Aust.: Interview on Industrial Relations

Hon Kevin Andrews MP

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service

Transcript

Doorstop Interview, Adelaide

Doorstop Interview - Workchoices

ANDREWS:

I’ve just been speaking to the Motor Traders Association in South Australia. Three points that I made to them – the first is that from March of this year the Federal Govt is going to remove the burden of unfair dismissals on small business. The only people who stand against that is Mike Rann and Kim Beazley and the Labor Party, they want this burden on small business. It costs thousands of dollars for small businesses to have to fight unfair dismissal claims that often have no validity, so this is going to be a benefit for business in South Australia. Secondly, Mr Rann could save South Australia $17 million by agreeing to refer his industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth, just as we have in Victoria. We have a Labor government in Victoria who have a single system because of a referral of power. Mr Rann could save that money, which would go to the health and education and roads and police and things that South Australians want in this State, so, that’s something which he should do for South Australians….

REPORTER:

Just picking up on that point, Minister, do you think industrial relations will bear on this State election campaign here in South Australia that’s coming up next month?

ANDREWS:

Well, I think many small businesses in South Australia would be very concerned that Mike Rann is saying I want to keep in place a system of unfair dismissals that’s been widely abused - where small businesses have to pay thousands of dollars in so-called go away money to get rid of a problem that they’re left out of pocket. If Mike Rann is interested in a thriving economy in South Australia he should be interested in the position of small business and he should be joining me and saying that these laws have been abused and they should be changed.

REPORTER:

You’ve made some comments in your speech that the State system is holding the State back and backward and you also made comments about the air warfare destroyer and Mike Rann crediting the State system on winning that – just if you could expand on that.

ANDREWS:

Well, we had Mr Rann last year saying that "when I’m out trying to attract investment to South Australia" - and he specifically mentioned the air warfare destroyer - then I talk about the great industrial relations system in South Australia. Well, that can’t be right because the people employed on this project are employed under the Federal industrial relations system, so, if he’s truthful about it he should say the reason why I’m able to attract some investment to South Australia such as the air warfare destroyer is because of the existence of the Federal industrial relations system, and this makes a mockery of retaining a costly expensive and confusing separate system in South Australia. Mr Rann and the other State leaders know that we should have one system. They should have the courage to stand up to the union bosses and simply say, look, Australia’s got to move on. If we want South Australia to prosper then we should have one single simple system.

REPORTER:

Do you think this is an issue the State Liberals should exploit?

ANDREWS:

Well, the State Liberals will run their own campaign and they’re often different issues in State and Federal campaigns but we have been arguing for more than 12 months now about the advantages of a simple and single national system, we will continue to argue for it. We’ve done what we can under the Constitution to bring it about but there is some more things which the State Labor Govt could do and that would be to hand over the rest of their powers.

REPORTER:

Yesterday in the State Industrial Relations Commission there was a hearing on the wage case and there was an argument from the Commonwealth that it should be delayed until the Fair Pay Commission comes in – what’s the reasoning behind that argument?

ANDREWS:

We’ve made it clear that there will be a new Fair Pay Commission to determine minimum wages and classification wages in the future. A month or so ago this same argument was heard in the Federal Industrial Relations Commission and the Federal Industrial Relations Commission said the it was sensible, because of the new system coming into place, to wait for the first decision of the Fair Pay Commission in Spring of this year. Now, that should flow into State industrial relations systems as well. If it’s sensible at a national level to wait for the Fair Pay Commission then it’s equally sensible at a State level for the same thing to happen.

REPORTER:

And just finally on jobs, you talked about the car industry. The AMWU the other day wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying that there’s been 10,000 manufacturing jobs lost in this State in the last few years, Mitsubishi, Holden, etc, and just the other day about 500 Mitsubishi workers put their hands up for 250 redundancy packages, are these bad signs for the industry?

ANDREWS:

Well, we have great confidence in the car industry in Australia. The Australian Govt provides many millions of dollars worth of assistance to the car industry. We saw last year another record level of sales and we’ve seen record levels of sales for the last five or six years of cars in Australia, so, we remain totally committed to the car industry and we believe it will continue to thrive in Australia.

REPORTER:

But about three quarters of those sales, according to figures, are of imported cars, so is there an argument there for freezing tariff levels at where they are?

ANDREWS:

What there is argument for is for further workplace flexibility in the car industry and other industries. The reality is that in Great Britain a car can be turned off on assembly line every 30 to 40 seconds – that’s much more productive than we’re able to do in Australia and Great Britain is a country that has similar wages and similar conditions to Australia. We have to continue to be productive to compete, that’s why we’ve made changes to industrial relations so that the flexibility will enable us to ensure that there are jobs in Australia.

Ends

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