Subjects: Kathy Jackson, penalty rates, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey.
BEN FORDHAM: Speaking of politicians who will remain in politics until their last breath, Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good afternoon to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon, Ben. How you doing, Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: How you going? I think 51 years might be a bit long but maybe Christopher might make it. He went in very young.
PYNE: I did, but I don’t think you want to have us there until our last breath. I think my children might have some views about that.
FORDHAM: I’m just trying to think about it Christopher. You would be coming up to 20 years.
PYNE: I’m over 20.
FORDHAM: Weren’t you 1996?
ALBANESE: I was ’96.
PYNE: I was 25 years old, so it’s 22 years I’m coming up to.
FORDHAM: We could have a record breaker here, Albo.
ALBANESE: I reckon that’s what he’s going for. That’s the only explanation for why you run for Federal Parliament at the age of 25.
PYNE: Well, what about a life of service? That might be a better reason.
FORDHAM: There is that. Look, a little bit of breaking news this afternoon gentlemen. Do you know that Kathy Jackson, the former union boss is having her home raided as we speak?
PYNE: I didn’t know that, no.
ALBANESE: I did, and that’s probably a good thing, although Christopher was pretty supportive of Kathy Jackson a while back.
PYNE: Well, I was very supportive of the role she played as a whistle blower in the union movement for the Health Services Union, because I think that is important, whereas Labor and the union’s response was to turn on her.
ALBANESE: You said she was a hero, and quite clearly, she’s not. She’s been found by a court already of ripping off over a million dollars of members money.
PYNE: Yeah, but I didn’t know that at the time.
ALBANESE: No, I accept that totally, but it just goes to show you’ve got to be careful of who you say is a hero.
PYNE: It’s true. I didn’t know that at the time, or I wouldn’t have said it.
ALBANESE: My view is that where there are bad eggs in the union movement, that they need to face the full force of the law because working people pay their union dues and expect union officials to represent them and that they’re in it for the interests of the members. It’s quite clear that in the HSU’s case, for not just Kathy Jackson of course, but Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson, were in it for themselves.
PYNE: [inaudible] Bill and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
FORDHAM: And Michael Williamson was of course a former boss of the Labor Party, Albo.
ALBANESE: Well, he was a National President of the Labor Party which means you get to chair the meetings and I doubt whether you would have heard of him, at that time.
FORDHAM: No. Not until he was in strife. While we’re talking about workers, I might just segue into penalty rates, because it’s an important battle front and the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are split on what to do with penalty rates and I think this is one of the first major differences to emerge between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. Malcolm Turnbull is hinting at changes to penalty rates. He’s done more than that; he had a number of MPs and ministers who came out supporting that yesterday. Bill Shorten says no, we need to protect these weekend rates and after hours rates as much as we can. So, it’s going to be an interesting one to watch. I might just go to you first if I can Christopher, the need to do something about penalty rates.
PYNE: Well, there’s certainly a need to modernise the economy. Labor’s policy is the hiding under the doona policy and pretending that there’s nothing going on in the rest of the world. Labor is against the China free trade agreement, we don’t know yet whether they’re against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they seem to throw stones at every idea that comes along. A lot of people are saying in the retail sector and across the economy that penalty rates are hurting jobs, hurting workers and the only conversation that we’re having about this at the moment is, if there was to be a change to penalty rates, nobody could be made worse off. No worker could be worse off, but at least we’re having the conversation. Labor’s got no plan other than to say that the Rudd Gillard Government made no mistakes and they want to go back to that era.
FORDHAM: Let me bring in Albo on this for a moment. Albo, I know that a lot of people survive on penalty rates and they’re very important to people, but would it be such a big difference if we were to say look, let’s treat Sundays like Saturdays, because the seven day economy is a fact of life. These days people work whenever the jobs are there. They don’t care if they’re having a weekend during the week, on weekends we’ve all had to shift work, would it be a big deal if you said to people look, we’re going to pay you on Sunday what we would normally pay you on Saturday?
ALBANESE: The truth is that weekends are different, Ben, which is why your program runs Monday to Friday, which is why the AFL Grand Final’s on a Saturday, and the NRL Grand Final is on a Sunday.
FORDHAM: Yeah, but I’m required, if my bosses said to me all of a sudden, mate, you’re working this weekend, guess what? I’m working this weekend!
ALBANESE: Sure, but the programming of 2GB, like other stations, like the way that we live our lives, is different on weekends. I’m all for reform that creates jobs. You can do that. There are examples of enterprise bargaining – sitting down, working out arrangements which make sure that people aren’t worse off. That’s available right now through enterprise bargaining. But if you just take penalty rates away, that is what people rely upon for a living wage in order to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.
FORDHAM: It’s no good though, if it gets to a point Anthony, where people aren’t opening on a Sunday because they can’t afford to pay the penalty rates and then you’ve got a reduction in the amount of work that’s being offered out there.
ALBANESE: Sure, and that’s why you can deal with those things through enterprise bargaining. There was an agreement in South Australia in Christopher’s own state, earlier this year along those lines.
PYNE: It was a fiasco.
FORDHAM: Let me switch it to you, if I can Christopher. Are you guys going to be brave enough to do anything on this? Probably not.
PYNE: Well, the agreement in South Australia gave a half day holiday on New Year’s Eve. Half the shops and restaurants and cafes in South Australia were shut on New Year’s Eve because of the agreement that had been struck between the South Australian Government and the SDA.
FORDHAM: But have you guys really got the ticker, has Malcolm Turnbull got the ticker for a long campaign against Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten and the cashed up union movement against penalty rates? I think not.
PYNE: I think the public are sick of the Labor Party just saying no to everything. I think they’re happy to have the conversation. We haven’t made any hard and fast decisions about it but at least we’re talking about it.
FORDHAM: You’ve been talking about it for two years.
PYNE: We had the National Summit last Thursday. The ACTU and the rest of us down in Canberra. I was there as one of the economic ministers and we decided not to rule anything in or anything out so we could have a proper, mature debate. Now, the first thing that Labor does of course, is come out and say no. Now I think the public are thoroughly sick of Labor’s position on these issues.
ALBANESE: What they’re sick of is your slogans, which is why you knocked off the Prime Minister two weeks ago, Christopher, and you’ve fallen straight back into using slogans.
PYNE: What slogans?
ALBANESE: You came up with all the slogans about the Labor Party. We’re not saying that.
PYNE: You are, you’re against the China Australia free trade agreement.
ALBANESE: Rubbish. We’re not. This is just childish, juvenile politics. Move on Christopher. Move on. The fact is that you have through enterprise bargaining an ability to organise agreements.
PYNE: [inaudible] the restaurants and cafes in Adelaide were shut.
FORDHAM: Righto. Righto. Hey, hey.
PYNE: If you go to Noosa, there was a story last year in The Australian about how the restaurants were shut on Christmas Day in Noosa, because they couldn’t open them, because they couldn’t make a profit. Now, businesses won’t open….
ALBANESE: Come to my electorate on a Saturday or Sunday. Cafes, restaurants, all open, people working.
PYNE: In Habourtown in South Australia yesterday, 12 shops were closed and had signs in their windows saying they were closed because of penalty rates.
FORDHAM: Ok, can I jump in here for just a moment because we are beaten on time. Christopher, the change in leadership at the top of the Liberal Party was just brought up by Anthony Albanese of course, just like you did when the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd stuff was going on. Have you had time to touch base with Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey yet?
PYNE: Anthony’s just jealous because he hasn’t been able to change leadership of the Labor Party. He’s desperate to change leadership of the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: Come on Christopher, answer the question mate.
PYNE: It’s true.
ALBANESE: You’re the one that’s just been through a bloodbath. Have you spoken to Tony?
PYNE: I’ve been in communication with Tony, but I think when these things happen…
ALBANESE: What, did you send him a card?
PYNE: When these things happen, it’s often best to let people…
ALBANESE: Smoke signals?
PYNE: To take their time to recover from what’s happened.
FORDHAM: How have you made contact?
PYNE: Through text messages. My communications with Tony Abbott are really not the business of your listeners.
ALBANESE: What did they say, “sorry”?
FORDHAM: All I want to know is, I’m not going to ask what was written, but did he write back?
PYNE: Of course he did.
FORDHAM: What about Mr Hockey?
PYNE: I haven’t had a chance to talk to Joe yet. Of course, I’ve talked to Joe since the leadership change but I haven’t in the last week or so because he’s been away, I think.
FORDHAM: Gentleman, I’ll talk to you both next week.
FORDHAM: Thank you very much, Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.