Minister Rishworth interviewed on Sunrise


Topic: Victorian state election and IR legislation.

NATALIE BARR, HOST: Joining me now, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. Good morning to both of you. It was a crushing defeat for the Coalition, a primary vote below 30 per cent for the Libs. Barnaby, what do you think went wrong?

BARNABY JOYCE, MP: Well, the National Party had a good election and congratulations to Kim O'Keefe, to Jade Benham, to Martin Cameron and obviously in the Federal election we held our seats and they've increased the size of their party. I think the issue there was that the Teals in Canberra are affecting people's perception of independents in the regions and that's also part of it. So hard work by the National Party in that. For the Liberal Party, well, I don't think they went to the electorate with a clear understanding of their policy structure. If you just upheld representation of something in policy that they already have, you don't get the vote. And a lot of Liberal Party vote went to other alternate right wing parties and this is something that people have to reflect. How can it win?  In the past how did Bjelke-Petersen win? In current, how did McGowan win? because it's a clear policy understanding of exactly where they are and who they are. And I'm sure the Liberal Party will go through that right now.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, there's a lot of soul searching, but Amanda, this is really happening right across the country, isn't it? And if you were a Liberal politician in New South Wales, you would be worried.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I would like to first say a big congratulations to Dan Andrews. I think he put up a really strong campaign. But there's a message there for political parties about putting up a strong, positive agenda. I think the electorate is yearning for a strong agenda, a positive agenda and one that gives a vision going forward. And unfortunately for the Liberal Party in Victoria – and we've seen right across the country – if you're nit picking and you're negative and you're more interested in power than what your agenda is going forward and the positive plans, then people will not reward you at the ballot box.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, good point. So Labor’s industrial laws are set to pass the Senate with support from David Pocock, the Independent. Barnaby, tell us what concerns you have over this bill?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, Senator Pocock really sort of got a big deal, hasn't he? They've gone from 15 to 25, gone up by five, and that's it. Apparently the laws are all right. As enterprise agreements expire and people are going to be starting to shift into these sort of multi-party agreements, which means something's got nothing to do with your workplace, affects your workplace, and this incites further industrial action. It obviously increases the power of the unions and people who basically on their own enterprise, in their own business says, we're all right. Why do we have to go on strike? What's this all about? And then you've got the cost of it. You know, small businesses having to fork out $14,000 as part of the process that this legislation brings in. That was never told to anybody before the election. And that's $14,000 they could put towards their power bill which is going through the roof, rather than to some consultant being charged out. This is where we're getting sort of litigious and we're getting the industrialisation, the union militancy coming into small business, and that's what's wrong with it.

NATALIE BARR: So, Amanda, you know, the unions say this is how people are going to get a pay rise in this country. Big business say strikes are going to follow. You can't force businesses to go into negotiation with their enemies and come out with a result.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well that just shows how the fear campaign has really taken off. Employers and employees aren't enemies. Bargaining processes are really important to get wages moving, to get job security, to get productivity at the workplace. What we've seen is the enterprise bargaining agreements dwindling, and so the system isn't working. In fact, there's many examples where small businesses have wanted to bargain with employees as a group – childcare is one just example. And the system itself hasn't allowed them to do that. So this is really about making it easier. It is about getting wages moving, more secure jobs, pay equity so that women and men are getting paid the same amount. These are sensible laws and it is disappointing the Coalition hasn't come and negotiated and discussed and had a conversation about this. Instead we've seen them running around promoting a scare campaign, which is why they've been irrelevant in the conversation here.

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] no…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's why people like David Pocock have been…

NATALIE BARR: [Interjects] yes Barnaby..

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] you didn’t talk…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: …part of the solution.

NATALIE BARR: Let Barnaby talk.

BARNABY JOYCE: You didn't talk to this. You didn't talk to the Australian people about this before the election. If you want to talk about it, you should have had a conversation with, you should have had a conversation with the Australian people prior to the election. Now you're going to bring this in as very sneaky, very sneaky approach that, you know. The Labor Party before the election was going to reduce power prices. After the election, power prices go through the roof. The Labor Party never said boo about this legislation before the election.  And after the election all of a sudden every small business is open to industrial action by reason of something that's got nothing to do with their business. And employers and employees do talk. And what they're saying is, if we don't have problems at our workplace, why are you going to create one for us and charge us $14,000 to be part of a problem that we never had?

NATALIE BARR: And Amanda, the Business Council is saying you can't make a pavlova out of a dog's breakfast and this legislation is a dog's breakfast. They may not be sworn enemies, but they are rivals. And you are forcing them into negotiation with their rivals. That's what the Business Council are saying.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, actually, there is already the ability to do multi-employer bargaining to get people – where the business opt in or the majority of employees vote to be part of this. But that is a much more constructive way. Enterprise bargaining has always been about constructive workplace agreements, about productivity. About, not necessarily focused on the award, but trying to get some nuance into the workplace. And we are looking at how we encourage in what is already existing, the ability to do that. So to be honest, I think a lot of these concerns are not well founded. And I'll go back to the point about not taking it to the election. Many of these things in the bill were explicitly outlined in the election, around pay – fairer pay for women workers or women dominated industries. And of course, we were very explicit. We wanted to get wages moving again. And it was the Coalition that decried our support for an increase in the minimum wage.

BANABY JOYCE: You didn’t say. You didn't say. You didn’t tell us about this legislation.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well I think you would remember, you obviously weren’t listening, Barnaby…

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] you knew about it, you didn’t…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: … we talked about secure jobs.

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] very sneaky…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We talked about getting wages moving…

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] it's not surprising…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It’s not surprising. We know that you've always wanted to suppress it. That's been a design of your policy.

BARNABY JOYCE: Sneaky. It is not surprising at all.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: But of course we are getting on with the job. We're talking across the Parliament.

BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] You are doing a different job to the one you did before the election…You haven't wanted to be part of what you told the Australian people before the election.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's disappointing you haven’t wanted to be part of the solution, but it’s not surprising.


BARNABY JOYCE: [Interrupts] very sneaky, you’re bringing small business into the problem.

NATALIE BARR: Okay. I think we've given both of you a fair say. We thank you very much and parliament sitting on Saturday. So it'll go through and we'll see what happens. Thank you very much.