Subjects: Penalty rates; enterprise bargaining; Ann Sudmalis.
BEN FORDHAM: Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Defence Industry, Leader of the House, and Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities, Tourism, Regional Development and everything else that he can possibly think of. Albo, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day. Good to be with you.
FORDHAM: Hello Christopher.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon Ben.
FORDHAM: You both sound spritely at the moment.
PYNE: Well we are, we’re young.
ALBANESE: Why not? It’s my birthday yesterday – tomorrow.
PYNE: (Inaudible) you thought it was yesterday.
FORDHAM: Hang on a moment He’s not sure when his birthday is Christopher.
ALBANESE: Well people have been celebrating all week down here. Christopher is sending presents across…
PYNE: Forty-one, forty-two? A
LBANESE: Thanks mate. See; another present.
FORDHAM: How old are you Albo?
ALBANESE: I am 54 tomorrow and it’s also my 21st birthday of my election to Parliament. I was elected on my birthday.
PYNE: Well I’m younger than you and I’ve been in Parliament for longer.
FORDHAM: I’m sure Christopher has something very special planned for tomorrow.
ALBANESE: I’m sure he does. The Speaker has told me he will be particularly lenient on me tomorrow.
PYNE: I’ll give him a big surprise.
FORDHAM: Now look, it feels to me like the Coalition is already giving up the fight on penalty rates. Labor and the unions are on the attack. The Government seems to be content to just repeat the same thing over and over that Labor set up the Fair Work Commission, Bill Shorten once said that he would accept the umpire’s decision. But the Coalition doesn’t seem to be mounting a case about why penalty rates need to be adjusted. Is that a fair summary, Christopher?
PYNE: Well Ben this is a decision of the Fair Work Commission.
FORDHAM: See what I mean?
PYNE: It’s not our job to embrace the Fair Work Commission’s decision any more than it is to embrace a Reserve Bank of Australia decision with interest rates, or the High Court’s decision about a particular case. The truth here, the only person in the Parliament who has reduced workers’ penalty rates personally is Bill Shorten. He’s the only person who has reduced anyone’s penalty rates. And worse than that, he didn’t do it out of good will. He did it because, in the case of Clean Event, and I used to be a cleaner by the way, in the case of Clean Event, he got for his union, the AWU, membership lists and money from the business which he then used to increase his influence in the Victorian ALP.
FORDHAM: I understand and we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the Clean Event case at the time. Albo, the white flag, are you looking across to the other side of Parliament? Can you see it being waved at the moment on the issue of penalty rates?
ALBANESE: Well the problem that the Government has got is that they’re talking about process because they can’t talk about the impact on people. And we’re talking about the 700,000 people who can’t afford to get the sort of wage cut that this decision is going to result in. People who rely upon it for paying the mortgage, or paying the school fees, or just surviving day to day. And that’s why we’ll continue to talk about the people and the impact of this decision. The Government is caught up in a sort of real process jargon that I don’t think people care about the process as much as they care about the impact on people.
PYNE: Except the massive hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition is that actually he, in at least eight cases, took away the penalty rates of workers that he was supposed to represent and now he’s crying crocodile tears.
FORDHAM: Christopher, with respect, Christopher, I’m now discussing the penalty rates what’s going to be happening right now, 2017, off the back of this recommendation by the Fair Work Commission? I just noticed last night…
PYNE: The Fair Work Commission’s decision will be upheld. It will come into place. It will be implemented, of course it will.
FORDHAM: But you don’t believe in it?
PYNE: Well nobody has said that. The point is…
FORDHAM: Are you going to say now that you believe in it?
PYNE: We support the independent Fair Work – I’m not going to play Labor’s game, Ben.
FORDHAM: No, play my game.
PYNE: I don’t want to play your game. I don’t want to play your game and I’m not going to play Labor’s game.
FORDHAM: So you’re going to introduce something you don’t believe in?
PYNE: Well we’re not introducing it, it’s a decision of the Fair Work Commission, it’s already been introduced. It’s been agreed to by the Fair Work Commission so what Labor wants to do is overturn 116 years of having an independent industrial relations umpire and trying to get us to intervene legislatively…
FORDHAM: Can I just say this. Peta Credlin was on Sky News last night. She made this point. She said, look just say you’ve got a fish and chip shop, that’s struggling to get by because they can’t afford to pay Sunday penalty rates on top of the rent and the power and everything else, but meanwhile down the road at MacDonalds, they don’t pay Sunday penalty rates because of enterprise bargaining agreements and handshake with the union. So why isn’t anyone from the Government out there making that Christopher? Why is it left to a former Government employee, who used to work for the former Prime Minister to make the comment on Paul Murray’s show last night on Sky News.
PYNE: Well I don’t watch Sky television at night. I’ve got other things to do. But the reality is the Fair Work Commission spent five years on a reference from Bill Shorten, producing this 500 page report. They are very (inaudible)…
FORDHAM: Why is the Government not out there pushing this case? Are you afraid of it? I mean is that the story?
PYNE: The Government is very firmly of the view that the Fair Work Commission should be treated as the independent umpire and the truth is they believe, and I agree with them, that this will mean that there are more jobs, there will be more jobs in the economy…
FORDHAM: There you go.
PYNE: There will be more hours worked by people over the weekend…
FORDHAM: There you go. Now you’re starting to campaign on it.
PYNE: No, all that will happen after this change is that penalty rates will be paid the same on Sunday as they are on Saturday.
FORDHAM: Yes I know. We’re finally starting to hear someone in the Government talking up what these changes mean to people.
PYNE: Well the Fair Work Commission has obviously done the work which convinces them to reduce penalty rates in four awards out of 122, which they believe will create jobs and create more wealth in the community and the truth is every one of the people that made this decision was a Labor appointee of the former Labor Government.
ALBANESE: Back to process again. The fact is that this will result in a reduction in living standards and for the poorest people. People don’t go out and work on Sundays; they don’t go out and work on Sundays for the fun of it. They do it because they need to, because they need that income. To compare it with enterprise bargaining, where you have a whole range of agreements and trade-offs essentially; so you have rollover of income; so you have an increase essentially in the income of people at other times in order to trade off a reduction in the penalty rates, is absurd. What you have here is no trade off. You just have a straight cut to people’s wages.
FORDHAM: I understand that. What I am suggesting Albo, is I think it would be an easier argument to sell to say if wages increased in real terms of other parts of the week or across the week in full, then people wouldn’t be as concerned about the changes on Sunday. But there needs to be an acknowledgement that we are no longer living in a society where people work Monday to Friday and you deserve a gold star if you work on Sunday. And I’ve had emails this week from people who say I can’t get the Sunday shift because it’s the most prized shift of the week and the people who get it won’t let it go and there’s an unfair balance here within this workplace – those who are getting the Sunday rates and those who are not.
ALBANESE: Sundays are different Ben. You show doesn’t go on a Sunday. Parliament doesn’t sit in a Sunday.
PYNE: More’s the pity.
ALBANESE: We don’t live in a society whereby it’s just work, work, work seven days.
FORDHAM: I’m sorry. If you want to use me as an a example, Albo, if you want to use me as an example, I received a call from Channel Nine late last year saying would you like to fill in for Peter Overton reading the six o’clock news for a little while? I said sure and they said here are the dates – Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve – and I wrote them down and I thought all right, well, I am not in a position to complain – that’s when the work’s on and I will do it.
ALBANESE: With respect, you as well as myself and Christopher earn a lot more …
ALBANESE: … than most people, than most people who are earning penalty rates needing it to survive.
ALBANESE: And that’s the problem here. That’s what the Government is ducking from – the substance of the debate because they know about the real impact on real people.
FORDHAM: All right, well, make wages higher across the board for other parts of the week and even things up I suppose for people working on Sunday.
ALBANESE: That’s what happens with enterprise bargaining.
PYNE: Well I can’t work out why it’s OK for Bill Shorten to trade away other people’s penalty rates, but it’s not all right for the Fair Work Commission to spend five years, come up with a 500-page report, put out a decision which they believe will create more jobs and more hours of work and more wealth in the community, but it’s OK for Labor to criticise the Fair Work Commission’s decision and overturn a 117 years of …
FORDHAM: OK Ding, ding, ding, ding. I’m calling the bell on this, Very quick one, Was there a Liberal MP who cried in Question Time today?
PYNE: I’m not aware of that, no.
ALBANESE: Not that I saw.
PYNE: No, I didn’t see that.
FORDHAM: A Liberal MP has cried in Parliament after coming under constant attack in Question Time from Labor over penalty rates. Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis.
PYNE: I sit in front of Ann so I wouldn’t have seen.
ALBANESE: I sit across and I didn’t see it either.
FORDHAM: Yes you are right you do sit her in front of her because I am just seeing the photos on the Sydney Morning Herald blog and she’s just wiping away the tears from her face and obviously you’re in front of her, so you wouldn’t have seen it Christopher. But anyway …
ALBANESE: Well there was no sustained attack on anyone. She got a mention I think in one question about comments that she has made about the penalty rate issue.
FORDHAM: At the end of the day it’s a tough business. You’ve got to be up to job. I’ll talk to both of you soon. Thank you very much Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.