SUBJECTS: Casualisation in the mining industry.
JESSICA ROUSE: Now the Coalition has been saying that Labor has been the ones holding this up. We will see if we can set the record straight. I’ve got Hunter MP and Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon on the line all the way from Perth. Good morning Joel, how you doing?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Good morning Jess I’m going okay.
ROUSE: Let’s see if we can set the record straight here. Is Labor holding this up?
FITZGIBBON: No that’s rubbish Jess and both Matt Canavan and Michael Johnsen have been very dishonest on this issue and they are playing catch up in both the State and Federal Election campaigns and it is pushing them to be more than mischievous. The fact is the operative word in that bill Matt Canavan is quoting is the right to ask, or the operative words - the right to ask not the right to receive and in fact we are not holding the bill up. It was introduced into the Senate some time ago and it went to a Senate Committee which is very normal for these bills. It hasn’t even been to the House of Representatives and it’s the Government that determines whether it comes to the House of Representatives not the Opposition. They have not presented that bill to the House of Representatives. The Senate Inquiry will end before we go back to the parliament in a couple weeks’ time and we stand ready to debate the bill but the key point here is the unions in their submissions to the Senate Inquiry are opposed to this bill because they believe it’s a backwards step not a forward step in allowing and helping coal miners to make that conversion to permanency.
ROUSE: Let’s talk about where this bill is at just for a moment. From my research after speaking with Matt yesterday it has been introduced and read for a first time and a second reading has been moved and after talking to Matt yesterday basically all they want from Labor it seems is for you guys to say - hey yeah we’ll agree to it, whatever. But as you said there is that difference which may seem quite small but actually, it’s quite large between the bill the Coalition wants to put forward and the one Labor has. You’ve had a policy put together since 2016 so explain to us the big difference between what you want to put forward and what the Coalition wants to put forward.
FITZGIBBON: Jess the Labor Party has been talking about this and has had a policy since 2016. We now have coal miners who have been working in the industry for 11 years but have never been anything other than casual. That has to come to an end. These people have no employment certainty, you can’t do family budgets, you can’t get a loan from the bank because you’re not able to demonstrate to the bank that you have a permanent job. It is outrageous and has to change but what Matt Canavan is proposing actually came in response to a Fair Work Commission determination that went some way to fixing this problem and the Government’s bill is not one designed to help coal miners it’s actually one designed to wind back the determination of the Fair Work Commission so. It’s just the opposite to what Matt Canavan is proposing. The reason he wants to talk about timing in the parliament is that he doesn’t want this bill debated in the parliament before the election because he knows it’s one opposed by the unions because the unions know it is a backwards step not a step forward for coal miners.
ROUSE: Why hasn’t this been brought up in say 2016 when your bill was hanging around and you had the idea. I mean it has been like this for so long which is ridiculous that it has been. There shouldn’t have been this anomaly from the beginning.
FITZGIBBON: Well the thing really came to more public attention last year when there was a court case known as Skene where a Queensland coal miner successfully fought a company on the basis of the extent of time he’d been a casual so from that point it’s finally been made more prominent in our political conversation and that’s a good thing because it’s an issue that needs to be fixed. Whereas the Canavan bill is seeking to do just the opposite. Matt Canavan should get that bill to the House of Representatives when we next sit because when he does we will expose exactly what it does and by the way Jess, as you know, the Government only has the parliament sitting part time. We have only got three days before the next Federal Election and the government every day is coming up with another proposal to be debated in the House during those three days. Budget week by the way is just ridiculous to think that the parliament can deal with all these issues, issues that should have been dealt with many months ago when the parliament should have been sitting.
ROUSE: Yes exactly it would have helped if there wasn’t a whole lot of chaos to deal with in that Canberra bubble.
FITZGIBBON: Well how extraordinary it is that Matt Canavan and others are criticising kids for taking a few hours off to protest when they don’t turn up to parliament themselves?
ROUSE: So you think this whole thing is just an election beat up?
FITZGIBBON: Well it’s worse than an election beat up, it’s a scramble to pretend they are doing something for coal miners at a time when the Nats are in a leadership crisis and at a time when they are looking down the barrel of losing seats like the Upper Hunter in Saturday’s election. Can I just say Jess, Matt Canavan came to the Upper Hunter for one reason only - because they think they are going to lose the state seat of Upper Hunter on Saturday and to make it worse, he came with a lie.
ROUSE: Well we will see what he brings on Friday when he comes back to the Upper Hunter and hopefully a change and something can be done about this bill and hopefully before the next Federal election. Joel thanks for joining us this morning.
FITZGIBBON: A pleasure Jess.