JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the PM appears to be backing away from his support for Dyson Heydon, saying that the commission must continue but not mentioning Heydon specifically. Do you think that Mr Heydon will go?
SHORTEN: I don’t know what Mr Heydon will decide tomorrow but clearly the royal commission is now in a shambolic and politicised state. I and Labor have said that ever since Mr Abbott set up a royal commission to investigate his political opponents that it would end in tears. Now I think Mr Abbott has put Mr Heydon in a very, very unenviable position. Mr Abbott should have acted to resolved this matter before now. But furthermore, I think today’s reports in The Australian newspaper are most concerning. They do reveal the possibility that evidence by the royal commission and the Royal Commissioner and Counsel Assisting has not been disclosed or has not been disclosed until today’s report. I think it is now time – on top of all the other issues – that Counsel Assisting and the Commissioner explain and answer these very serious questions about whether or not further evidence which has now been revealed in The Australianshould have been disclosed earlier.
JOURNALIST: What are the implications do you think of whether this was, you know whether this should have been disclosed earlier? What’s the possible implications?
SHORTEN: I think there are questions to answer here by the Commissioner and indeed Counsel Assisting now who is embroiled in this matter: did Mr Stoljar tip off Mr Heydon? These are questions which the commission is going to have to answer. I think today’s report is quite a new and dramatic development. But furthermore, this royal commission really has turned out to be a political shambles and a mess of some amazing proportions. Labor has never believed that the royal commission was necessary if you want to stamp down on crime in workplaces. Labor believes that the police and agencies who investigate these matters should be given greater support to do it but we haven’t needed a two year multi-million dollar exercise to do this. I think that the power’s already there for actions to be chased down and in the meantime this royal commission I think, it doesn’t matter how you vote, is increasingly looking like a shambles.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you going to take some form of IR reform in regards to construction sites to the election? You alluded to it yesterday in a speech but we’re just looking for some specifics.
SHORTEN: Certainly Labor will have a policy – sensible policy on industrial relations before the next election. What I said yesterday at the national summit organised by The Australian Financial Review and The Australian is that we need to be – there needs to be a national focus, a united national effort to lift productivity and to lift growth in this country. A Labor administration that I lead, if we were privileged to be elected, will look at several areas which a Labor Government would work on to improve productivity, to improve growth, to improve the output of goods and services and jobs to make sure that we are a fairer country and to make sure that the quality of our life as it goes along is improving.
Now we would do that by improving universities, not making it more expensive for kids to go to university. We would tackle climate change which is going to provide us opportunities in the future; I cannot believe the Government and Mr Abbott keep refusing to talk about renewable energy. They treat it as if it’s the enemy not the solution, and of course workplace relations along with education and health, taxation and infrastructure are important areas.
When it comes to workplace relations, I’ve got over 20 years of experience in the real world, and I understand that workplaces work best when you have cooperation and harmony. Now, periodically, you’ve got a Government and we have one at the moment in power, which is very ideological, they’re very extreme people in this Government. They get hung up when workers get wage rises, they seem to think somehow that’s not the way to go. They want to swing the pendulum of workplace relations where employees have very little security and very little say over their work. Now I happen to think that in construction and major projects there is opportunity with this – that’s contrasted with this current government who always wants to fight with unions – to build cooperation and I think there are measures which we can talk about for the next election. I think there is a greater role to encourage women into construction. There’s a greater role to make sure that our apprenticeship is working so that apprentices aren’t dropping out and that they’re getting quality training. I think there is an opportunity to improve the access to apprenticeship and training for adult apprentices. Safety and construction is always a constant battle so we’ve got to make sure that we have safer worksites. We’ve also got to make sure that when there are industrial arrangements in place that they’re respected. Now that’s the way you do things, it’s not – this country, we’re only 24 million people. we can’t constantly be fighting each other. Mr Abbott wakes up in the morning and you get a sense that he’s looking for someone new to have a fight with. That is not the future of workplace relations. Thanks, everyone.