Browsing articles in "Workplace Relations"
Aug 24, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

DOORSTOP BRISBANE

TRANSCRIPT OF MINISTER BILL SHORTEN

DOORSTOP
BRISBANE

24 AUGUST 2013

 

E & O E – PROOF ONLY

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Subjects: Better Schools; Industrial Relations.

_____________________________________________________________

 

BILL SHORTEN: It’s great to be here at the Queensland Teacher’s Union Council meeting. There’s hundreds of teachers and some parents here as well, who are greatly interested in making sure that their children at Government schools in Queensland get the best start in life. Clearly, there is great support for Labor’s positive plans on education. Everyone knows that one of the things you get with a Labor Government, and a re-elected Rudd Labor Government, is better support for our schools so every child can achieve their individual potential.

 

TEACHERS: Hear, hear.

 

SHORTEN: Very popular here, our education changes. And everyone clearly recognises that if you’re a teacher or parent of school children in Queensland, and you think education’s an important political issue, you would vote Labor.

 

Happy to take any questions.

 

JOURNALIST: You would’ve seen the polls out today. What’s going wrong with Labor’s campaign?

 

SHORTEN: There’s 14 days to go. Labor’s got the positive message. We believe, fundamentally though, that the Opposition needs to stop playing hide and seek, where they hide their costings, the Australian people have to seek out whether or not the Opposition can pay for their promises, and the prize if you never get found is the Government of Australia. So I think the Opposition’s got a good deal of explaining to do. We’re seeing some cracks emerge. They’ve flagged that they want to start interfering in people’s wage rises, if it doesn’t suit the Coalition – if they think workers are getting paid too much, they’ll step in and stop that. We see that the Opposition’s proposing an unaffordable, unsustainable parental leave scheme. And we’ve also seen, most recently, the proposition that the Opposition, if elected, would start handing out money to fishermen in South East Asia so they could upgrade their fishing boats.

 

JOURNALIST: But Mr Rudd could lose his own seat – surely that’s an indication that Labor’s campaign is in dire straits?

 

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Kevin Rudd, I believe, will be re-elected as the Member for Griffith, and I believe stands a reasonable chance of becoming the next Prime Minister of Australia. This election, for people in his electorate, and throughout Queensland, and throughout Australia, should be about good jobs which are reasonably remunerated in enterprises that are doing well.

 

This election should be about better schools so every child gets the best start in life. This election should be about making sure that we have more funding for healthcare, not less, as the Coalition would do. This election should be all about making sure that people have more money to retire on, more money in retirement, and not less, which would be the consequence of the Opposition’s policies putting more taxes onto superannuation.

 

JOURNALIST: Minister, Tony Abbott says he doesn’t believe the polls – does Labor believe the polls? Do you believe the polls?

 

SHORTEN: I believe in the Australian people. I believe the Australian people do care about the quality of the schools that they send their kids to. I do believe that Australian self-funded retirees are concerned about the impact of Tony Abbott’s new tax on corporations affecting their superannuation. I believe Australians fundamentally don’t like this idea that if the Coalition were elected they’d send a three star general to the end of a jetty to buy second hand boats from people in South East Asia.

 

JOURNALIST: Given the polls, do you think it was worth changing leaders?

 

SHORTEN: The electorate has responded positively to Kevin Rudd as Leader. All that we can expect, I think, from the Labor Party, is that we are competitive in this election and we make our case to the people. This election will not be decided by newspapers or by opinion polls. It will be decided by the will of 15 million people voting in this election on September 7th.

 

JOURNALIST: The Financial Review is reporting that you had discussions with Mr Rudd a week before Gillard lost – Ms Gillard lost the leadership. Is that true?

 

SHORTEN: Oh listen, I’m not going to rake over those issues. They were canvassed at the time. It’s a matter of record that I supported Prime Minister Rudd, that I supported Kevin Rudd to return. And the reason why Labor is supporting Kevin Rudd is that we want the future of Australia to be a positive one. We understand that interest rates have fallen significantly under Labor, which has meant that a family with a mortgage of $300,000 is $6000 a year better off now than they were previously, under the Howard Government. We understand that our schools and the education of our young children cannot be left or taken for granted – the best way to help our kids to reach adult life with some resilience and life skills and the opportunity for a good job is to put in more resources to provide them with personalised support. It is the positive agenda which Kevin Rudd represents which is why Labor is now competitive at this election.

 

JOURNALIST: I think what the newspaper report is suggesting is that your support fell from Ms Gillard a lot sooner than you publicly supported Mr Rudd – is that true?

 

SHORTEN: Guys, I’m not going to rehash over the leadership change. What I am going to do is just say to all Australians that Labor has a positive plan for your schools. We know that. That’s why the Liberals are at sixes and sevens about whether they support it or don’t they support it. We know that we’ve got a positive plan for healthcare. And we know Australians are concerned about the inability of the Opposition to spell out their costings. And I also know that Australians are concerned at this election about why the Opposition’s proposing to review the whole industrial relations system, and not rule out attacking penalty rates. And why is the Opposition proposing to review our taxation system, potentially increasing our GST, and not ruling that out?

 

JOURNALIST: Minister, last night former Prime Minister Paul Keating described the Coalition as mean little people with no heart. Would you use that description yourself?

 

SHORTEN: I’d use a different – I would use a different description of the Opposition. I’d say dump the three word slogans. Offer us what your positive vision of Australia is. Rule out increasing the GST. Rule out attacking people’s working conditions. And agree to fund education for six years, in the same way Labor has.

 

TEACHERS: Hear, hear.

 

SHORTEN: The Opposition have no organising principle for this election, other than to hand back the mining tax to the richest companies in the world, to do nothing on climate change, and to just simply talk about boats. That isn’t enough to justify running Australia.
Thanks everyone- have a lovely day.

 

ENDS

Aug 8, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

DOORSTOP AMWU VEHICLE BUILDERS’ DELEGATE MEETING

Campaign Transcript

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF MINISTER BILL SHORTEN

DOORSTOP

AMWU VEHICLE BUILDERS’ DELEGATE MEETING

8 AUGUST 2013

 

E & O E – PROOF ONLY

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________

 

Subjects: Auto industry; Workplace Relations; Eric Abetz’s love of boxing; Peter Beattie

_____________________________________________________________

 

BILL SHORTEN:  It’s good to be talking to vehicle industry delegates about Labor’s ongoing commitment to jobs in the auto industry. These employees have been facing tough times, with the high dollar, with a lot of change in industry. They are productive workers. They are leaders in their industry. And very clearly, the future of the car industry rests upon continued, cooperative workplace relations, which has been a hallmark of the vehicle industry for so many years. Union and company engaged, employees working with employers to get the best outcomes for an industry which has got a lot of challenges in front of it.

 

Happy to take questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Just with the offer that Holden management’s putting up next week- does it, do you think it should be accepted?

 

BILL SHORTEN: At the end of the day that’s a matter for the employees at Holden. I’m pleased that the union and the company have reached this point in their negotiations that they feel there’s a proposition to put to the employees. I know that Australian car workers are the equal of any in the world. I know that Australian employees will do whatever they can to keep their businesses going, but they also want to make sure that they don’t get unfairly treated. I trust in the common sense of Australians to identify what’s in their best job security interests, but certainly, it’s a matter for the employees to vote upon.

 

JOURNALIST: Will the idea of a three year pay rise set a precedent, a wider precedent?

 

BILL SHORTEN: I think the car industry’s in a particular set of circumstances. I can’t think of- you know, the circumstances of Holden are pretty well known. I’m not sure that it reflects every industry and every company in Australia, so I’m not sure that it’s a precedent for much else other than the future of that car company.

 

JOURNALIST: Can you explain Holden’s offer? What do you know about it?

 

BILL SHORTEN: Well, I know that Holden’s not proposing to cut conditions, and any pay rise as I understand it would be a sort of an at-risk component in terms of the performance of the company. This is an issue for the employees to weigh up. They work hard every day. They’re being asked to shoulder some of the burden of the high dollar, shoulder some of the burden of Holden’s global approach. But again, industrial relations is not something that happens in a black box out of sight of the public. This is about employees weighing up what they perceive to be in their self-interest. And I certainly believe that Australian employees are capable of making those decisions. I think the union and the company, though, have done a good job to get to the point where the proposition doesn’t see wholesale cuts to existing conditions.

 

BILL SHORTEN: Well, I know that Holden’s not proposing to cut conditions, and any pay rise as I understand it would be a sort of an at-risk component in terms of the performance of the company. This is an issue for the employees to weigh up. They work hard every day. They’re being asked to shoulder some of the burden of the high dollar, shoulder some of the burden of Holden’s global approach. But again, industrial relations is not something that happens in a black box out of sight of the public. This is about employees weighing up what they perceive to be in their self-interest. And I certainly believe that Australian employees are capable of making those decisions. I think the union and the company, though, have done a good job to get to the point where the proposition doesn’t see wholesale cuts to existing conditions.

 

JOURNALIST: How do you welcome Peter Beattie’s foray into federal politics?

 

BILL SHORTEN: Peter Beattie – it’s great news. There’s no question that he has a strong national profile. Peter Beattie’s announcement that he’s running as a Labor candidate is bad news for Tony Abbott, because it shows that Peter Beattie and a lot of other people believe Labor is competitive, and Peter Beattie coming back to politics is, I think, a vote of confidence in Rudd Labor.

 

JOURNALIST: I spoke to Eric Abetz last night, and he’s saying- on the question of debates- well, I’ve had three debates with Bill Shorten and he’s already, he’s won them all.

 

BILL SHORTEN:  He’s said what?

JOURNALIST:  He’s said he’s had three debates with Bill Shorten, and Eric-

 

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, Eric’s won them all?

 

JOURNALIST: Yeah, that’s right.

 

BILL SHORTEN:  Oh, I see. I like that.

 

JOURNALIST: He’s saying your request for another debate is like Sonny Liston – it’s a boxing analogy – asking for a rematch with Muhammad Ali, that’s the reply from his office. What do you say?

 

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, my goodness me. I think most of the debates Eric Abetz has about workplace relations with me are done when I’m not present. No competition then, he doesn’t have to worry about what’s said. No, what I think is that if Eric Abetz is convinced that he’s got a popular workplace relations policy, why doesn’t he have a debate publicly where the audience can vote on the issues? I’m happy to submit myself and him to a jury of the public and see what they, see who they trust on workplace relations. So, Eric Abetz is the only person I know who’s entered a competition, refereed his own points, umpired his own outcomes, been goal umpire awarding his own goals.

 

I am happy , for instance, for Sky News, for ABC24, to worm a public debate between Eric Abetz and I and let’s let the public decide rather than Eric Abetz decide if he’s a good fellow or not. In terms of his reference to Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, I’m reminded of what Michael Caton said in that great Australian film The Castle when he heard a remark about- someone read out the price of jousting sticks. I think Michael Caton said tell them they’re joking. Eric Abetz, I’m telling you mate, you’re joking if you think you’ve got a better workplace relations policy.

 

JOURNALIST: Christopher Pyne said today that Kevin Rudd’s relationship with Peter Beattie is quite poor – how do you think, what’s your thoughts on that?

 

BILL SHORTEN: Kevin Rudd and Peter Beattie have both got a better relationship with each other than they do with Christopher Pyne. But if Christopher Pyne is bagging the decision by Peter Beattie to run, then the Liberal Party are out of sorts. This is a quality recruit coming on, and I think this is a gamechanger in the Queensland seat of Forde.

 

JOURNALIST: What sort of leadership potential does Peter Beattie offer if you find yourself in Opposition?

 

BILL SHORTEN:  Peter Beattie is very experienced, and no doubt, if we’re fortunate enough for the Rudd Government to be re-elected, he’ll play a very constructive role in that team.

 

JOURNALIST: And if you find yourself in Opposition?

 

BILL SHORTEN: We’re not countenancing what we do in Opposition. We’re countenancing how we win the next election.

 

Thanks very much everyone.

 

 

 

ENDS

 

8 AUGUST 2013

 

 

MOONEE PONDS


Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111  
www.alp.org.au

 

 

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600

Aug 7, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

UNFAIR INDIVIDUAL CONTRACTS BACK UNDER LIBERALS

Victorian Liberal Treasurer Michael O’Brien has confirmed that unfair individual contracts would be back with a bullet under a federal Liberal government.

Mr O’Brien clearly didn’t get the Tony Abbott small target memo on workplace relations for this election.

According to the Australian Financial Review today, he nominated the re-introduction of individual contracts as an immediate step that should be taken by whichever side wins the Federal Election.

Mr O’Brien said “…it was a retrograde step to see them abolished” and “[t]here are some other issues that from a Victorian point of view we do need to see coming out of this election campaign. One of them is industrial relations reform… We do want to make sure we can get real industrial relations reform.”

–       Liberal Treasurer Michael O’Brien Melbourne 6 August 2013

The Victorian Treasurer has confirmed what Australians already know: Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party cannot be trusted on workplace relations.

At their core, Liberals believe in unfair individual contracts that rip away wages and conditions from employees.

Irrespective of what they say before election day, an Abbott government would change workplace relations laws and bring back unfair individual contracts.

The Liberals didn’t tell the Australian people about WorkChoices before the 2004 election.

And they don’t want to tell people about their plan to bring back unfair individual contracts before September 7.

In 2008 Tony Abbott said WorkChoices was “good for wages, it was good for jobs, and it was good for workers. And let’s never forget that.”

In 2009 Tony Abbott said “workplace reform was one of the greatest achievements of the Howard Government.”

Under WorkChoices, millions of Australian workers lost basic protections and suffered real losses to their take home pay.

Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party cannot be trusted with the wages and conditions of hard working Australians.

The only way to protect rights and entitlements at work is to re-elect a Rudd Labor Government.

Aug 5, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Fair Work Commission Expert Panel Appointments

Minister for Education and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today announced the appointment of six Expert Panel Members for the Fair Work Commission

The Expert Panel Members and will participate in the annual minimum wage review and the assessment of funds to receive default superannuation contributions.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Vicki Allen, Mr Arthur Apted and Mr Stephen Gibbs as Expert Panel Members with high level experience and expertise in the financial services and superannuation fields,” Minister Shorten said.

“I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Sue Richardson, Mr Tim Harcourt, and Mr Anthony Cole as Expert Panel Members with expertise to participate in the conduct of the annual minimum wage review.”

Ms Allen is currently the Chair of Mirvac Capital Partners Ltd’s Operations and Stronger Super Committee, and Chair of Bridge Housing Limited and its Human Resources and Nominations Committee. She is also a Director for Motor Trades Association of Australia Superannuation Fund Pty Ltd.

Mr Apted established the Sustainable Agriculture Fund and Australian Farms Fund Management Pty Ltd in 2006, which primarily dealt with investment fund targeting. Prior to this, he was a consultant for Atchison Consultants, providing specialist property investment advice to fund managers and was a Manager for the Industry Superannuation Property Trust.

Mr Gibbs currently holds directorships for Hastings Funds Management Ltd and Ecosystems Investment Management Pty Ltd. He is also the Chair for Australian Ethical Investments. He was formerly the CEO of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees and of ARIA (now part of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation).

Professor Richardson was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011 and was previously a part-time member of the former Minimum Wage Panel, a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and a Member of the National Sustainability Council.

Mr Harcourt is currently a J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics at UNSW. Prior to this, he was the Chief Economist for the Australian Trade Commission.

Mr Cole is currently a member of the Board of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, a member of the Advisory Board for the NT Treasury Corporation and a Director of Australian Ethical Investors. He is also the Chairman for the Tasman Transparency Group.

“Each of the new panel members brings diverse and broad experience to their roles,” Minister Shorten said.

“I am confident these appointments will further enhance the experience, integrity and balance of the Fair Work Commission.”

The appointments follow an independent, merit-based selection process conducted by senior representatives of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Australian Public Service Commission in consultation with the Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations and the States and Territories.

Full biographies are attached below.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew Porter 0419 474 39

Superannuation Expert Panel Members

 

Vicki Allen

Ms Allen has completed a Bachelor of Business from the UTS, an MBA from the University of Melbourne, and a Diploma of Financial Services. Ms Allen is currently the Chair of Mirvac Capital Partners Limited’s Operations and Stronger Super Committee, Bridge Housing Limited, and Chairman of Human Resources and Nominations Committee. She is also a Director for Motor Trades Association of Australia Superannuation Fund Pty Ltd. Most recently, Ms Allen has been the Chief Operating Officer for The Trust Company, which is involved with managed investment schemes. She has also been the Business Leader and General/Project Manager for the National Australia Bank, as well as a Fund Manager for Westfield Limited.

Arthur Apted

Mr Apted has completed a Bachelor of Economics from Monash University and a MBA from the University of Melbourne. He also has completed a Diploma of Financial Services, a Certificate of Superannuation and a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance. Since 2006, he established the Sustainable Agriculture Fund and Australian Farms Fund Management Pty Ltd, which primarily dealt with investment fund targeting. Prior to this, he was a consultant for Atchison Consultants, providing specialist property investment advice to fund managers and was a Manager for the Industry Superannuation Property Trust. Between 1977-1985 Mr Apted worked as an Industrial and Research officer for the Australian Railways Union and for three years he was the Senior (and then Principal) Project Officer for Wages Policy for the Victorian Department of Labour. For eight years, he also served as a Ministerial Advisor to the Victorian Minister for Labour, the Honourable Neil Pope. Finally, between 1990-1998, he was the Industrial Officer (and then Senior Industrial Officer) for the ACTU, specialising in financial services and superannuation, as well as the Fund Secretary (CEO) and Director for the Australian Government Employee’s Superannuation Trust and the Executive Director in Investments for the Superannuation Trust of Australia.

Stephen Gibbs

Mr Gibbs has completed a Bachelor of Economics and a Master of Business Administration from Monash University. He currently holds directorships for Hastings Funds Management Limited and Ecosystems Investment Management Pty Ltd. He is also the Chair for Australian Ethical Investments. With respect to his employment history, Mr Gibbs has held the positions of Director and Government & Industry Liaison for the Investor Group on Climate Change, as well as Senior Adviser for Merrill Lynch. Mr Gibbs has had specific experience pertaining to superannuation, when he worked as Chief Executive Officer for Australian Reward Investment Alliance and an Executive Officer for the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees.

 

Minimum Wage Review Expert Panel Members

Sue Richardson

Professor Richardson was awarded a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from the University of Melbourne in 1968 and a PhD from La Trobe University in 1978. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011. Professor Richardson is currently a part-time Member of Fair Work Commission (Minimum Wage Panel), a Fellow for the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and a Member of the National Sustainability Council. She has previously been a part time Commissioner of the Essential Services Commission of South Australia. Professor Richardson has also held a number of academic positions in economics, including Senior Lecturer and Reader for the Department of Economics at the University of Adelaide and Professor and Director for the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University.

Anthony (Tony) Cole

Mr Cole is currently a member of the Board of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, a member of the Advisory Board for the NT Treasury Corporation and a Director of Australian Ethical Investors. He is also the Chairman for the Tasman Transparency Group. Prior to this, Mr Cole was the Head of Management in the Australian Investment Consulting Department for Mercer, as well as an Executive Director of LIFA. Mr Cole has also worked for the Government, where he was the Chairman of the Industry Commission, Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary of the Department of Health and Community Services.

Tim Harcourt

Mr Harcourt has completed a Bachelor of Economics (Honours) from the University of Adelaide, Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota, and the Harvard Trade Union Program from Harvard University. Mr Harcourt is currently a J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics for UNSW. Prior to this, he was the Chief Economist for the Australian Trade Commission. Mr Harcourt has also held the positions of Advocate for the ACTU, Corporate Adviser for Pacific Dunlop, and Associate for the now Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Mr Harcourt is a member of several boards, including the Global Economic Issues Advisory Group and Trade Negotiations Advisory Group, and has a sold a best-selling book on economics.

 

Aug 5, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

GOVERNMENT WELCOMES TELSTRA’S RESPONSE TO PIT REMEDIATION

The Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Anthony Albanese, today welcomed Telstra’s announcement that work on pit remediation for the NBN would recommence on 19 August.

“Telstra has worked constructively with the Government and other stakeholders to put in place a comprehensive program to address the issues posed by the existence of asbestos in parts of its network.”

“Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safely,” said Minister Shorten.

The independent Asbestos Taskforce, established by the Australian Government in June, has agreed on a range of measures to ensure all of Telstra’s work crews are appropriately trained and monitored, and follow correct work safety practices.

The Taskforce is headed by Geoff Fary (Chair, Asbestos Management Review) and its membership includes representatives from Telstra, NBN Co., the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Comcare, industry unions, asbestos community support groups and work, health and safety experts.

“Asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century and remains a persistent threat to Australians,” Mr Shorten said.

“There can be no short cuts when it comes to asbestos,” Mr Albanese said.

“This is a positive development for those sub-contractors who have been awaiting Telstra’s resumption of remediation work.”

If residents or businesses wish to report suspected asbestos containing material, please call the national asbestos hotline on 1800 888 468.

MEDIA CONTACT:               Andrew Porter (Shorten)                    0419 474 392

Adam Sims (Albanese)                       0408 258 457

Jul 31, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

$6.4 million to tackle Australia’s deadly asbestos legacy

Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today announced an additional $6.4 million for the new Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to implement the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management.

The Rudd Labor Government is committed to safe handling and ultimately, the eradication of asbestos containing materials across Australia.

Asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century, remains a persistent threat to Australians.

Sadly, asbestos-related deaths are not expected to peak until 2020, and tragically, it has been estimated that another 30-40,000 people will be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in the next 20 years.

The Government is determined to ensure Australia is a world leader in the safe removal of asbestos containing materials in homes and workplaces.

The creation of an independent, national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency was recommended by the Asbestos Management Review.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency commenced operations on 1 July and will implement the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management.

Developing the National Strategic Plan is part of this Government’s consistent track record of action to tackle the scourge of asbestos.

The aim of the Plan is to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres, in order to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia.

The additional $6.4 million will allow the Agency to develop strategies for awareness raising, conduct research, improve identification techniques and finding and sharing best practice in asbestos management and handling.

For example, asbestos removal pilots will test the action chain from identification to removal to transport, storage and disposal.

The Plan has been developed in consultation with state and territory governments, unions, industry, researchers, community support groups and others.

The Agency will coordinate across all levels of government and stakeholders in the implementation of the Plan. Seven out of the eight state and territory governments are supporting the development of the Plan.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council, with representatives from states and territories, unions, business and community groups, will assist the Agency in its work.

The Agency also manages the first National Asbestos Exposure Register. The register captures the details of members of the community who think they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials (ACMs). It is available at www.asbestossafety.gov.au.

If residents or businesses wish to report suspected ACMs, please call the national asbestos hotline on 1800 888 468.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew Porter 0419 474 392

Jul 26, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Safe Return to Work on Telecommunications Pits the Priority

Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said that it was agreed by all members of the independent Asbestos Taskforce that safe resumption of work on telecommunications pits was a key priority.

Telstra reported to the Taskforce yesterday that it would be seeking approval from its Board to resume work.

Comcare reported to the Taskforce that they are satisfied that appropriate actions are being taken by Telstra to address work health and safety for asbestos related hazards.

We look forward to that occurring as a matter of priority.

Work on telecommunication pits containing ACMs will only resume when training has been completed by employees and contractors.

Fourteen monitors are being recruited around Australia to report to the Taskforce.

The Taskforce also noted the strong response to advertisements for independent monitors.

They will be checking the safe removal and handling of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in telecommunication pits.

The monitors will be verifying that work on the NBN roll out that may involve ACMs is being conducted in a way that ensures the safety of employees, contractors, nearby residents and the general public.

The Taskforce was established by the Australian Government in June to monitor the ongoing activities of Telstra and NBN and prevent exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century, it remains a persistent threat to Australians.

The Government views the identification and safe removal of asbestos as an absolute priority.

The Taskforce has met on six occasions and is headed by Geoff Fary (Chair, Asbestos Management Review). Its membership includes representatives from Telstra, NBN Co., the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Comcare, industry unions, asbestos community support groups and work, health and safety experts.

The Government established the first National Asbestos Exposure Register in June. The register captures the details of members of the community who think they may have been exposed to ACMs.

The register is managed by ASEA and is available at www.asbestossafety.gov.au.

If residents or businesses wish to report suspected ACMs, please call the national work health and safety regulator, Comcare, on 1800 888 468.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew Porter 0419 474 392

Jul 25, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Government congratulates employer on paid leave for domestic violence

Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today welcomed the inclusion of an entitlement to paid leave for employees suffering from domestic violence in a new enterprise agreement.

Under the agreement struck by Victoria’s Swinburne University and the National Tertiary Education Union, 2872 staff will for the first time have access to additional paid leave of five days a year.

The deal offers greater support to employees suffering domestic violence acknowledges the disturbing prevalence in our community and the need for women in particular to have the financial security of work in such difficult circumstances.

The Minister said it was everyone’s responsibility, but particularly men, to stand up to violence and where ever we can, support those suffering the consequences of such despicable acts.

As reported in The Australian newspaper, the five days’ paid leave could be used to attend medical appointments, legal proceedings or to seek new accommodation.

The agreement follows the Government’s recent changes to the Fair Work Act which extended the right to request flexible work arrangements to those suffering domestic violence.

The Fair Work Act provides a safety net for all employees, including the right to request flexible work arrangements in relation to domestic violence.

It is pleasing to see employers like Swinburne University, working with the National Tertiary Education Union, going beyond that safety net with an entitlement like paid leave for their employees dealing with domestic violence.

Figures revealed recently by the Victorian Police Commissioner show that around half of all assaults in Victoria happen in homes.

Family violence has hit record levels in Victoria, with 50,382 family violence calls to police last year, twelve Victorians – almost all of them women – were killed and more than 16,000 assaults recorded in the home.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberley Gardiner 0427 138 106

Jul 19, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Bullying, Young People and the Law Symposium

 

The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Minister for Workplace Relations

Minister for Education

 

Bullying, Young People and the Law Symposium

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation

 

Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, Victoria University

295 Queen St, Melbourne

 

11am Friday 19 July 2013

 

Acknowledgments

 

I acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land we are on and I pay my respects to their elders, past and present. And to those other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are here today.

 

Introduction

 

Since I got your invitation, I was made Minister for Education, so the workplace bullying I was to speak of now extends to the schoolyard, and to everyone from five to sixty-five, and even beyond.

 

Bullying is one of the few things we all know about. We have been there. It is as vivid in our memories when we were kids as a broken arm or a stay in hospital away from our family.

 

Bullying tortures the souls of our kids at a time when they seek to assert their own identity, their own place in the world. It undermines our children’s confidence not just in themselves, but in those around them, in an environment where being able to seek help and guidance from peers and teachers is essential to learning.

 

It is worse than disempowerment. It can be, in a schoolyard, the end of almost everything.

 

In the workplace, it is nearly as bad with just as serious consequences. According to the Productivity Commission it is costing between six and thirty-six billion a year. Small businesses and big businesses lose that much, probably, by the delays, the inefficiencies, the stupidities and the legal costs it occasions.

 

And it sometimes costs lives. My friends Damien and Rae Panlock know this, and it’s something they found out too late.

 

Their daughter Brodie, aged nineteen, lost to them forever after suffering months of relentless bullying in the cafe she worked at.

 

The staff and the owner were eventually fined over one hundred thousand dollars in total but Brodie isn’t here anymore, and Damien and Rae, bereft of the memories, and the grandchildren they now won’t have, will have to learn to live without them.

 

Money can never compensate, can never restore things to the way they were before.

 

It never should have happened.

 

No parent deserves to go through that. No sister, no brother, no cousin.

 

Bullying and harassment have no place in the Australian workplace, nor in Australia; the home of the fair go.

 

You should be able to go to work, and come home safe.

 

That is the Australian way.

 

Last year about three hundred people and companies gave evidence to a government inquiry on workplace bullying.

 

And it proved workplace bullying to be a hidden pandemic. So many people said, ‘It’s happened to me.’

 

It meant for some, not just psychological injury, and physical injury, and misery in the staff canteen, but the loss of a job and a good and worthwhile career.

 

Workplace bullying reduces employee morale and productivity, increases absenteeism and staff turnover, increases workers’ compensation costs and results in a loss of business reputation.

 

In February 2012, I tabled the Government’s response to the report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment – Workplace Bullying “We just want it to stop”.

 

The Committee made 23 recommendations to prevent bullying in the workplace and help the victims and their employers to respond to it effectively.

 

The Committee recommended the Commonwealth Government encourage state and territory governments to ensure criminal laws are as extensive as Brodie’s law.

 

The Attorney General, Marl Dreyfus has already written to his state and territory counterparts asking them to consider reviewing their criminal laws in relation to bullying.

 

The Committee recommended Safe Work Australia urgently progress the draft work, health and safety Code of Practice on managing the Risk of Workplace Bullying.

 

That draft Code has been released for a period of public comment, which has just closed this week.

 

Public comments are currently being considered by Safe Work, which includes representatives from each state and territory.

 

The Committee recognised that the draft Code provides significant practical guidance to employers and workers about prevention and resolution strategies.

 

I understand the concerns of a quality assurance system for workplace and is a different approach to having a code of practice applying to everybody, no matter the size or type of business.

 

Within a quality assurance framework you would expect each business to develop their own code of practice, appropriate for their organisation, no matter what size and type.

 

They would be expected to implement this and would be audited to ensure it has been effectively implemented and they are dealing with bullying appropriately.

 

The Committee also recommended the Government provide a fast, individual right of recourse to focus on helping people stop and resolve bullying matters quickly and inexpensively.

 

Fair Work Amendment Act 2013

 

In June 2013 the Australian Parliament passed the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013.

 

Regrettably, the legislation did not receive bipartisan support. The Opposition missed an opportunity to stop the negativity.

 

This Act, for the first time in this country’s history, gave jurisdiction to our workplace umpire, the Fair Work Commission to hear and resolve a workplace incidence of bullying.

 

We know that harmony in the workplace means the business does better. An unresolved complaint, if not dealt with, and left to fester, contaminates an entire office, erodes team spirit, and hurts everyone in connection with it.

 

So we’ve made it easier to get to the Commission, and easier for them to deal with it.

 

Under the new laws, bullying is recognised as repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker, or a group of workers of which the individual is a member, that creates a risk to health and safety.

 

Reasonable management action, conducted in a reasonable manner, is completely excluded. These laws are clear and do not prevent performance management and employee discipline.

 

To assist the company to an earlier outcome and a swifter resolution, the Fair Work Commission will be required to commence dealing with a matter within 14 days of an application being made. This may include seeking further information from the parties, conducting a conference to try and resolve the matter, or conducting a hearing.

 

Where a negotiated resolution proves impossible, or difficult, the Fair Work Commission will have the power to make an order to prevent bullying there in the future.

 

A breach of an order made by the Commission will attract a fine of up to $10,200 for an individual or $51 000 for a body corporate.

 

This doesn’t replace existing work health and safety obligations on employers and workers and the work done by work health and safety regulators.

 

It does however shift the focus to stopping and preventing what in some is a human tendency and in some a sadistic pleasure.

 

The Fair Work Commission can dismiss applications and order costs on the grounds that they are frivolous or vexatious or without reasonable prospect of success, despite some recent media commentary to the contrary.

 

And the Fair Work Commission does not have the power to award compensation.

 

To support the Fair Work Commission’s new jurisdiction, the Government provided $21.4 million in the last Budget to support its work to prevent workplace bullying.

 

Bullying in Schools

 

Merely talking about it is, of course, a big step towards its eradication.

 

But we need, I fear, to start where bullying starts – in, and around, our schools.

 

A study by the Queensland University of Technology of over 3000 school students found almost half of young Australians surveyed report being bullied face-to-face, online or both.

 

Bullying in the school grounds is perhaps as old as the concept of school.

 

Yet the digital age has extended its insidious reach well beyond the school gate.

 

Through social media, mobile phones, chat rooms and the internet, it is now possible – quite literally – to be bullied 24 hours a day.

 

  • About 30 per cent of students reported they had been ‘traditionally’ bullied compared to 15 per cent of students who said they had been cyberbullied.

 

  • But cyberbullying victims reported significantly higher levels of social problems, anxiety levels and depression than those who were bullied face-to-face.[1]

 

There is a generation of our kids who are entering school having known only the digital age. From birth, their every move has been photographed and documented through Facebook or YouTube.

 

They have grown up with aps and iPhones, and texts and emails, and they are more connected, more hooked up, more hooked in, than many of us can comprehend.

 

And as the digital age marches on, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the schoolyard bully doesn’t march on with it, and begin to prevail.


Alannah and Madeline Foundation

 

I salute the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and their role in helping to look after children so threatened, and bruised, and sometimes physically hurt.

 

The Australian Government provided $3 million to the Foundation for a national pilot of its eSmart cyber safety initiative to help schools create a culture of the smart, safe and responsible use of digital technologies.

 

E-smart is now in 1,600 schools and its success has meant state governments are also funding this program now.

 

National Safe Schools Framework

 

Federal, state and territory governments are all at work on the problem in schools.

 

The overarching entity, the National Safe Schools Framework, is made up of nine key aims for a safe environment for protect student wellbeing and safety. Importantly, it provides:

 

–      an online audit, advice and resource system for all Australian schools

–      examples of how policies on student wellbeing, building resilience and preventing bullying can be put into practice

 

The Safe Schools Hub

 

In addition, a safe school hub provides schools, parents and communities with a single destination for information and resources and counselling on school safe strategies underpinning the National Safe School Framework.
The Government has put up just under $4 million in funding to Education Services Australia, which is a body supported by all levels of government to develop and manage the Hub.

It includes a Safe Schools Toolkit with video case studies and lessons and lectures and interviews designed specifically for teachers, and a Safe School Audit Tool to help schools review, improve, refine and refocus their current approaches.

 

Other initiatives supporting wellbeing

On a broader note, the Australian Government is putting in over $125 million towards a range of cybersafety measures to address online risks.

 

This helps parents and educators protect children from inappropriate material on the internet.

 

These include educational, international cooperation, research and law enforcement measures.

 

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy offer the Cybersafety Help Button provides internet users, particularly children, with central access point for cybersafety advice and information.

 

Better Schools

 

In part, the Government’s Better Schools Plan is about providing a safe environment for every kid by delivering new resources to tackle bullying and help teachers get on top of behaviour management.

 

We want to ensure every Australian student gets the very best start in life, which means they need to feel safe at school, and as much as humanly possible, safe on the way home from school, and safe at home when their phone rings, or when their computer signals an incoming message.

 

We want our kids to leave school and go out into the great world as resilient and balanced young adults.

 

The needs based funding model allows us to better understand what our teachers and principals are going through in the classroom and the playground and the gymnasium and the sporting field.

 

I passionately believe that providing schools and teachers with the tools and support they need will go a long way to preventing bullying in the first place.

 

Conclusion

 

We are all creatures of the past, and we all remember witnessing or being part of things that shameful or confronting in what should have been our golden years.

 

We remember, of course we do, the bullying of the kid who could never quite keep up in class, or make the first 18.

 

Of a person with disability who was left out, sneered at or spoken down to, simply by virtue of having been born with an impairment.

 

Or the colleague who was harassed into retirement because they didn’t, quote, ‘fit in’.

 

In 2013 Australia, it is no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye, or to claim ‘innocent fun’, or ‘kids will be kids’, or ‘we didn’t realise it meant that much to him’, or ‘to her’, or ‘they didn’t have a sense of humour’.

 

The National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, held in March each year, calls on school communities across Australia to ‘take a stand together’ against the bullying and violence, and the stripping down of pride to bone and marrow and nerve ends till it snaps and terrible things happen.

 

I think the response to this initiative shows a good deal. It shows that people do want to take a stand against what we all remember being diminished by, and wounded by.

 

Like most difficult challenges, victory is not measured in miles, it is measured in inches. But the first inch counts, and it starts a movement onwards, to a better place in the heart of humankind.

 

Today is another crucial step forward in that direction.

 

We can and we must put an end to this form of torture, this ignorant, careless hurt of our fellow creatures in our workplaces and, more importantly, in our schools.

 

I very much look forward to working with you in achieving that common goal.

 

Thank you.

Jul 15, 2013
Kieran Barns-Jenkins

Independent Monitoring of Asbestos Removal

Fourteen monitors will be recruited around Australia to report to the independent Asbestos Taskforce, checking the removal and handling of asbestos in Telstra pits.

This initiative, agreed by the Independent Asbestos Taskforce, will verify that work on the NBN rollout that may involve asbestos-containing materials is conducted in a way that ensures the safety of employees, contractors, nearby residents and the general public.

The Taskforce was established by the Australian Government in June to monitor the ongoing activities of Telstra and prevent exposure to asbestos.

Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said “asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century, it remains a persistent threat to Australians”.

“The Government views the identification and safe removal of asbestos as an absolute priority.”

“I welcome the progress made by the taskforce to put in place measures to reduce exposure,” Minister Shorten said.

Telstra and NBN Co have worked with the Taskforce to enhance industry asbestos training packages.

Asbestos awareness training is being rolled out to Telstra employees. All employees, contractors and subcontractors working in Telstra pits will be trained in safe removal and handling of asbestos-containing materials.

Telstra and NBN Co confirmed this week that they are finalising a competency card that employees, contractors and subcontractors will need to carry to certify they are fully trained.

Work on pits containing asbestos-containing materials will resume once that training has been completed.

The taskforce has met on five occasions, and is headed by Geoff Fary (Chair, Asbestos Management Review). Its membership includes representatives from Telstra, NBN Co., the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Comcare, industry unions, asbestos community support groups and work, health and safety experts.

The Government established the first National Asbestos Exposure Register to capture the details of members of the community who think they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials.

The register is managed by ASEA and is available at www.asbestossafety.gov.au.

If residents or businesses wish to report suspected asbestos containing material, please call the national work health and safety regulator, Comcare, on 1800 888 468.

Media Contact: Jessica Lindell 0408 842 604

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