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Doorstop - Brisbane



Subjects: IR de-merger Bill; ACCC report homeloans; cashless welfare

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well good morning everyone. We're announcing today some very important legislation which fixes a very substantial problem that has existed for a very long time in the Fair Work Act of Australia. And that problem is that when members join a union and amalgamate - form a bigger union – the legislation has made it virtually impossible for those same members, should they choose to, to leave the union.

And we want to make sure that people can exercise their freedom of choice and their freedom of association. If a group of members inside a union make a decision that they no longer think that union is acting in the best interests of their members, they can have a ballot and they can choose to leave.

It is a very simple principle, it is a very fair principle. But right now membership of unions and members of unions are being denied the opportunity to leave a union that they no longer believe is acting in the best interests of their members. And next week we'll be introducing legislation to fix that problem. So that, if it is the case, that the mining part of the CFMEU want to leave the CFMEU, that they could have a ballot and they can make that decision and they can go establish their own union and do things the way that they believe are in the best interest of their members.

So it is a simple, principle, proposition that we will be pushing through. But it is designed to give people the freedom of choice and freedom of association to leave a union that they no longer think is acting in the best interest of their membership.

QUESTION: There was a suggestion that this legislation change would may be able to give bosses the ability to change hours and make people do overtime. Is that the case and if it is, is that not …(unclear)

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: So, the Bill I'm talking about today is, is confined to the issue of allowing one part of a union to leave an amalgamated union.

We will also be introducing next week an omnibus bill which fixes a range of known problems in the industrial relations system. One problem that exists at the moment is that there is, in many awards, no capacity to have agreement between an employer and an employee to work extra hours at ordinary wage rates - and so those extra hours never get offered, even if the employee wants to work them. And that is also an issue that we'll be addressing in our omnibus bill legislation.

But today's announcement is about fixing a problem which has meant that good, hard-working members of a union, at the moment, get stuck inside a union that may not be working in their best interests. And we've seen some terrible behaviour from parts of the CFMEU - and yet there are other parts of the CFMEU who work hard on behalf of their members and it would appear that they want to leave that union and they should be given that opportunity.

QUESTION: Minister, a report released today by the ACCC into homeloan funding…..(unclear) recommendations to make sure the process is more transparent. Firstly, what do you make of the findings and secondly, will the Government adopt these recommendations?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: So that's a decision for the Treasurer but I understand that he has that report and will be giving it careful consideration. I think it would be a matter of some obvious concern, not just to the Government, but to people who use major banks behind lines to know that new customers seem to be getting very consistently much better deals than older and existing customers. That's something that we think should be remedied. And the first way in which that can be remedied, is banks offering better services to their customers, but that is an obvious matter of concern.

QUESTION: Also, ….(unclear)…on the Prime Minister's plans to ditch Kyoto carry-over credits…. indicating a shift towards a more ambitious climate policy - is the Government……(unclear)

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well the Prime Minister has made some statements about this and I'm sure that there'll be further announcements from the Prime Minister in due course.

But we beat our Kyoto targets by 459-million tonnes. And our Paris targets are ambitious, but they are a floor not a ceiling And it has always been the Government's position that essentially we are trying everything that we can and using every technology available to meet our Paris targets without having to rely on the fact that we over-performed with respect to our Kyoto targets.

And when you consider Australia's performance in this regard to virtually every other country on Earth, when we have a target, not only do we meet it, our history is that we beat that target.

(plane noise)

When you look at Australia's performance compared to virtually every other country on Earth - when we set targets, both in Kyoto and Paris, our history is that we don't just meet those targets, we beat those targets.

But again, Paris is a floor, it's not a ceiling. And we obviously have ambitions to do as well as we possibly can in this regard.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Can you confirm if the Communications Minister has ….(unclear) consulted you about letter to the ABC…(unclear)

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I've seen that letter and I was provided a copy of it before it went, but I had no substantial input to the letter, that's a letter from the Minister to the Board. But as a courtesy I got to see, I saw the letter.

QUESTION: Linda Burney this morning called the mandatory nature of cashless welfare structurally racist. Can you point to evidence that the program does stack up?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I mean the program has been thoroughly and independently reviewed. And those reviews demonstrate that it actually does considerable work for the people in the communities where it's applied. And that good is measured in greater sales of fresh food and clothing, lower consumption of alcohol, lower rates of gambling. So having an ideological perspective on these types of policies is completely the wrong way to go about assessing. The right way to go about assessing them is to ask the question - are they actually helping individuals' on the ground lead better lives and there's very substantial evidence that the cashless welfare card does that. And in the communities like Ceduna, where it's been applied, you get less gambling, less alcohol, more money spent on fresh food, on clothing and people have their lives improved and particularly the children in those communities.

So I think that is a very ideological view on a policy that's meant to have a practical, and does have a practical, effect, a positive, practical effect on the people in the communities.

QUESTION: (unclear) reviews re cashless welfare

Well there's, there's been several. I can't recall the exact names that have been given to them but they've been independently reviewed, they measure criteria like the sales of alcohol in the communities. And what we have seen is that alcohol sales go down, gambling expenditure goes down, the local stores in those communities find that they have greater sales of fresh food of clothing and all of those are strong indicators that this card actually works to improve people's lives.