E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: The government attacking the wages of workers.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Back to local politics now. With me is Richard Marles, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Thanks very much for your time. You were targeting the government again today on the IR bill, specifically on the Helloworld travel company. What is the Labor Party alleging in this case?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, what HelloWorld is clearly demonstrating here is a desire to cut people’s wages as they existed before COVID-19 hit, from here on in- or from March when Jobkeeper comes to an end. Now, the point of that is that it really demonstrates that there is a desire with HelloWorld – but I think we’re going to see it across the workforce – where companies are going to ask their employees to take pay cuts, and they’re going to put pressure here. What the government is doing, in its industrial relations legislation, is to remove the fundamental safety net, the better off test. The whole idea of bargaining is that you bargain up. And so there is a better off test, which means that when agreements are assessed, they’ve got to be better for the employees, that’s being suspended for two years, for agreements, which in turn can apply for two years, and potentially longer if they’re not terminated. And what that means is that this sort of behaviour has the potential to be licenced by the legislation itself.
GILBERT: So at the moment, this approach, would that be legal under the current legislation?
MARLES: Well what that demonstrates- that’s a good question- and what that demonstrates is that there is an intent out there to do this. What is clear, is that if the government is allowed to put its legislation through, then it’s going to licence this exact behaviour. And that’s the issue. Because the government’s out there saying, no one’s going to agree to this. Employers won’t do it. Of course, employers are going do this- or some employers will, in circumstances where you remove the fundamental safety net.
GILBERT: But when you’ve got the travel operator, you know, they’ve been smashed by COVID, obviously, and they are confirming that people will hold on to their full time jobs, is this, sadly, the situation that they’ve got to do to keep people on, given how much tourism – international tourism – is, well, it’s not happening?
MARLES: Well, and that’s a really good argument for why the government needs to have a proper look at how Jobkeeper is transitioned. Jobkeeper needs to be transitioned in a way which is realistic to the circumstances which are out there. And as you rightly say, if you’re talking about travel operators, travel agents, you know, they’re in a difficult situation. But be clear; what we’re talking about now, is that the people who will pay for all this, the people who wear the cost of it will be workers and employees. And that’s what this legislation does. And that’s what that letter demonstrates is the intent out there.
GILBERT: Richard Marles, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, thanks, it was a quick chat. We’re out of time, but we’ll talk to you soon. Appreciate it.
MARLES: Thanks, Kieran.