Minister Shorten interview on the Today show


SUBJECTS: Minister Shorten discusses casual workers, local government spending and flight cancellation in Australian airports

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back to the show. Businesses are firing back at the government's plan to allow casual workers to request permanent contracts after six months into a job. It's a problem this, for small businesses, they say. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten in Canberra, and commentator Scott Emerson in beautiful Brizzy. Morning, guys. Billy, we can't even find workers right now, let alone make it more difficult for employers. They have concerns that will risk productivity, flexibility, and jobs growth. Your response?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: I think it's an overcooked scare campaign, to be honest. I think that when people hear the detail of what's proposed, they'll all take a deep breath and a cup of tea. It'll be okay.

STEFANOVIC: All right. We've got we've got a small business on after 7:00, and she is saying she won't be able to afford sick pay. She says what happens to young uni workers, students even at high school, casuals who can't commit to full time.

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, it's not compulsory to apply for permanent. So those uni students she's worried about will leave her in droves, they don't have to ask. You've got to be there for six months and in regular employment. Like let's just - again, let's look at the perspective. This is not compulsory. It is proposing that after six months, people have got regular work, who are doing regular work day in, day out, where the employer gets the benefit of effectively treating them as permanent workers because they're always turning up to work. They have the option to apply at six months rather than 12 months. Say, hey, I'm here regularly, I want to commit. But I'd also like that reciprocal respect. I'm your reliable employee. If I get sick, perhaps I can get one day sick leave. You know, I actually do think that the key to industrial relations isn't the fine print of the law. It's how you treat people. In the first six months, if the employer thinks that this person's not up to scratch is not the right fit for the business, they don't have to keep rehiring them. But even the Liberals introduced it for 12 months, after 12 months you can apply. So, I think that once people have a look at the detail, they'll realise that this is just about making sure that we've got options for employees so that they're not being effectively double dipped, treated as - oh, go on, sorry.

STEFANOVIC: Scott, there's some concern the unions will have the powers to go business to business to check on the books.

SCOTT EMERSON, 4BC: Look, Bill's an old union boss.

SHORTEN: Not that old!

EMERSON: Of course, he's going to defend this policy. Yeah, well, maybe not that old

SHORTEN: Thank you.

EMERSON: But he's a big union boss, he used to be. And look, the reality I don't know if he's ever run a small business, but I could tell you there's a ton of small businesses out there. I spoke to a few last night and this morning, and I can tell you they're scared about this. Why change it from 12 to 6 months? Bill’s saying, oh, no, don't worry about it. It's the vibe.

SHORTEN: I’m not saying that at all.

EMERSON: Don't worry about the details of that, this is all going to be okay. The reality we know small businesses are doing it terribly tough out there at the moment and they are scared by this policy, and they don't want the unions, you know, beating around their businesses, which is what this will do.

STEFANOVIC: All right. We'll come back to that. Well go on, quickly.

SHORTEN: Karl, you sort of very quickly segued, you asked me about the issue of whether an employee after six months of regular work, has an option. But then you ask Scott a slightly different question, what about unions going in, inspecting the books? There's two stories being conflated here. That second story, there is no legislation. There are not even any words down for this sort of Chicken Little argument being run by some in the conservative media, like, Scott has had an argument with a phantom. It's not real.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, moving on. Yesterday we had the Penrith Council wanting to choof off overseas on a $40,000 per person junk to check out an airport they could do online. That was cancelled through people power in Penrith. Now another Sydney council, according to the Telegraph, could be spending ratepayers money to campaign for the Yes vote. Bill, should councils be meddling that much?

SHORTEN: I think it's okay for a council to have a position on an issue. Ultimately how a council spends its money is up to the ratepayers in that council. That’s a short answer.

STEFANOVIC: Mhm. And would you, would you be happy with that? I mean why don't you just go, why don't you just go fix some potholes?

SHORTEN: Listen, if I wanted to be in local government, I'd have run for council. I'd rather stick my finger in a pencil sharpener than be in local government. So, you know, good luck.

STEFANOVIC: By the way, that's why they can’t really -

SHORTEN: Karl you should run - is Lane Cove, a ritzy area of Sydney?

STEFANOVIC: I'm with you. I'd rather put my knee in a blender. Scott, should councils be sticking to their traditional responsibilities, like fixing potholes, which they don't seem to be able to.

EMERSON: Roads and rubbish. That's what they should be doing. I mean, look, people are doing it tough there, they want their money spent on the things that actually matter to them. They don't want them doing these kinds of things. And it's just outrageous to see this kind of money being spent when it doesn't need to be.

STEFANOVIC: It's not as if they're like laden with cash or anything. It's not as if our rates have gone up. Hello? All right. Come on, Billy.

SHORTEN: I love this outrage factory Scotty, you've got a career in talkback radio,

EMERSON: Mate, you know you want to defend people spending taxpayers’ money. That's what you do all the time.

STEFANOVIC: I agree, I agree.

SHORTEN: No, no. I'll tell you what I actually said I don't have a –

EMERSON: You spend more and more, mate. You see a dollar, you wanna tax it.

SHORTEN: Well, you know who votes for those councillors, the ratepayers. So, leave it with them. It’s called democracy.

EMERSON: I think they'll make their decision pretty clear.

STEFANOVIC: Well, we'll see. Aussies seem to be suffering from a bad case of FOMO, get this, with a surge of bookings for 2024 European summer getaways. But I want to know this this morning. Are they just trying to get out of travelling inside Australia? Last minute cancellations, delays that stretch into the hours and days. Our own airports, I reckon at the moment, are a basket case. Billy It's a real problem.

SHORTEN: Yeah, let's face it. No doubt I'll get another angry missive from the airlines, but it'd be good if a plane could take off on time, when scheduled. The one way I know that a plane will be on time in Australia is if I'm running late for it.

STEFANOVIC: It's true, but it's infuriating for people out there at the moment and the explanations are non-existent. Oh, we've got to wait for staff, we're down to run one runway because of a breeze.

SHORTEN: But let's not blame the actual - I don't blame the flight attendants or the ground crew. You know, I was on a plane out of Melbourne two Sunday nights ago, and I know no one's got sympathy for politicians, we were on the plane, it went out to the runway, then they said, sorry, plane's not working properly. Back you go and come back tomorrow. It reminded me of backpacking and China in the 1990s. Maybe plane’s coming. Maybe it doesn't. Good luck.

STEFANOVIC: What were you doing backpacking in China in the 90s?

SHORTEN: Cultural experience. But don't get, don't have a big -

STEFANOVIC: Oh, there we go. That's going to come back to haunt you!

SHORTEN: Oh, Karl you think backpacking is when your porter takes you from the Amalfi Coast to the airport.

STEFANOVIC: Excuse me? It's three porters. You know I'm not going to the Amalfi Coast without three porters and a private jet.

SHORTEN: Yeah, fair enough.

STEFANOVIC: Good stuff, guys. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.