SUBJECTS: Student climate strike, minimum wage, Christopher Pyne’s last Today Show segment.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon is in the studio with us now and for the last time on our pollies chat the Government’s Christopher Pyne is with us in Adelaide. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Good morning.
KNIGHT: We have a little surprise for you Christopher we won’t reveal all but stay tuned. We have something for you at the end of the segment.
PYNE: It has been seven years or something.
KNIGHT: That’s right, it does need to be marked. But you’ve heard from the students there. Will the government Christopher be swayed by this national strike action today?
PYNE: Well usually strikes are when employees withdraw their labour from an employer so I’m not sure why the students are withdrawing themselves from school. It only damages their education so I think the students should be in school learning about education and getting ahead and gaining knowledge. If they want to do strike action or political activism they should do it outside school hours so I’m not quite sure why they think it is a good idea. Obviously the government is acting on climate change. Climate change is inevitable and has been for the millennia ever since the world was created and we are acting on it. Whether it’s human induced or natural, we accept that climate change is occurring and humans are contributing to it through coal emissions through carbon emissions and as a consequence we are acting on that. Yes we will reach our Kyoto targets and our Paris targets because we are a good global citizen.
KNIGHT: And Joel do you think that the students should be skipping school to strike? Should they be penalised if they do like workers are docked pay?
FITZGIBBON: Well we always encouraged our kids to both have an opinion and to express it and I absolutely support their right to express their opinions today. I think we should be encouraging that sort of thought and even activism and I think it’s a good thing.
KNIGHT: So no problem with you if your kids wanted to go out skip school to strike, you’d be happy with that?
FITZGIBBON: I don’t think that any student is going to miss out on their career because they have missed a few hours of school today, as long as they are safe and their parents know where they are and they are marching and protesting in a respectful way and a responsible way I think that is fine.
KNIGHT: On the topic of pay we know the average minimum wage is making news a lot. Christoper do you think the average minimum wage for Australians is enough?
PYNE: Look the average minimum wage is set by the market and obviously we would like to see wages increasing but that is not a role for the Parliament. The Parliament can’t set a minimum wage. That is a matter for the Fair Work Commission and of course employers bargaining with employees.
KNIGHT: But you can put forward a proposal.
PYNE: We’d like to see wages increase, of course we would and we created an economy which is growing and under Labor of course that would be put at risk. That is not a matter for the parliament. It can’t set a minimum wage and for Labor to claim that it can is a hoax.
KNIGHT: Joel, your response?
FITZGIBBON: Well Deb, Christopher just said it’s someone else’s problem and you know corporate profits are rising five times faster than wages. I see in the Fin Review yesterday that Ferrari sales are up. But for most Australians everything is going up but their wages and it’s just not good enough for Christopher to say it’s someone else’s problem, we believe the parliament does have a role certainly the government -
PYNE: The parliament can’t set a minimum wage.
FITZGIBBON: The government can provide guidance to the Fair Work Commission.
KNIGHT: And you would be prepared to change the legislation to ensure that?
FITZGIBBON: We are absolutely prepared to provide further guidance to the Fair Work Commission to ensure that wages start keeping pace with the cost of living.
KNIGHT: So we talk about an increase in the living wage Joel, but by how much, give us some detail. Do you think the ballpark figure the ACTU is proposing, they want an increase of about $70 a week over two years, is that in the ballpark? We haven’t had any detail from Labor.
FITZGIBBON: The ACTU will do its thing -
KNIGHT: And what will Labor do?
FITZGIBBON: We are saying, back in Bob Hawke’s day the minimum wage was about 70 per cent of the median wage, today it is 50 per cent. That is clearly not good enough.
KNIGHT: So how much do you want?
FITZGIBBON: We are not in the business at the moment of talking about exactly how we would do it or putting numbers on it. What we are saying-
PYNE: Because it is a hoax.
FITZGIBBON: It is not a hoax. What we are saying is that the status quo is not sustainable.
KNIGHT: Many businesses though, not fat cats, we are hearing Bill Shorten talk about fat cats, but many small and medium sized businesses simply can’t afford wage rises. They are saying they will have to lay people off to do it.
FITZGIBBON: Well Deb, there are two sides to the equation; 60 per cent of our economy is consumption, so if people have got more money in their pockets, they are spending more money, typically in small businesses.
PYNE: Labor has not got any idea how to do this.
FITZGIBBON: Unlike the Morrison Government, we are not a one-trick pony. There is another side of the equation here too. There are other ways in which we are determined to grow small business, whether it be through accelerated depreciation, lower energy costs –
PYNE: But how are you going to increase wages?
FITZGIBBON: - giving them the skilled workforce they need to be productive, generally speaking making the economy more productive. These things all matter for small business.
KNIGHT: Well detail is what we need from both frankly. And a wages policy, will the Government come up with a wages policy Christopher?
PYNE: We have a wages policy, it is about growing the economy, it is about supporting small and medium enterprises, it is about reducing their taxation –
FITZGIBBON: Mathias Cormann
PYNE: - so they can increase wages, that is what the Government has been doing -
FITZGIBBON: Mathias Cormann said their wages policy has been one that deliberately keeps wages low.
PYNE: That’s rubbish. You have got no details.
KNIGHT: We will see what comes in the Budget on that. Now Christopher, you are leaving us, you are exiting politics of course at the next election.
PYNE: I am. I am very happy about it.
KNIGHT: Are you?
PYNE: I am.
KNIGHT: You do look pretty chipper I have got to say.
PYNE: Twenty six years it’s a long time Deb. I have enjoyed it.
FITZGIBBON: Can I say, we will miss him. He will be a great loss to parliamentary democracy.
PYNE: Thank you Joel.
FITZGIBBON: We will miss his good humour and his wit and even his skills on the snooker table. He has made a great contribution and it should be recognised.
KNIGHT: Well we thought in light of that, remarkable, you have given up your Friday mornings to duel it out with Albo, not sure if he was too upset to come in here this morning.
PYNE: He is obviously grieving, he had to go to London to avoid being on the show.
KNIGHT: We thought we could present you with a bit of a gift here, which could take pride of place, this photograph of you both to sit on the mantle.
PYNE: Thank you very much, that is very kind, Graham has presented it to me. That’s lovely. I could get you to sign it, you and Georgie get to sign it I think.
KNIGHT: We will miss you and your wit and your repartee. We appreciate you joining us over the course of many years.
PYNE: I have enjoyed it. I have enjoyed it immensely, thank you for having me all these years.
KNIGHT: Good on you Christopher, thank you. And thank you Joel for stepping in.
FITZGIBBON: A pleasure Deb.