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Radio 2GB with Ben Fordham



Subjects: ACTU advertising campaign against IR reform; WA Lockdown

BEN FORDHAM: Fordham editorial: You’re going to start seeing a new ad from the unions. It's one of their largest campaigns since WorkChoices. And the focus is proposed industrial relations reforms, which will be debated when Parliament returns today. The Government argues we need more flexibility to drive the post COVID recovery. The unions say the changes will see workers tossed under a bus. And that's the tone they try to strike with their new ad. You have a group of people in high-vis and hard hats and they're standing in the middle of a highway; up the road you see a man in a suit starting up a bus, it revs to life and starts speeding towards the group of workers. The bus gets faster and faster, heading straight for them and they are cowering in fear. As it approaches we get to see inside the bus at who is sitting in the driver's seat. And there we see Scott Morrison with white knuckles on the steering wheel. It's an image of the Prime Minister superimposed to make it look like he's driving the bus and smirking. The ad ends with a screeching sound and a thud. And you don't need to be a genius to understand the message; Scott Morrison driving a bus over workers. We know that shock value works in advertising, but this is one of the most disgusting pieces of advertising I've seen in many years; to depict the PM any politician driving over workers in a bus is appalling. And if it wasn't for Scott Morrison thousands more union workers wouldn't have a job at the moment - they wouldn't be going back to work this year. And for that the unions portray him as a mass murderer. The ad should be condemned today by the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese. But will he have the guts to stand up to the unions? The unions that put their name to this despicable piece of advertising should be ashamed.

Live on the line from lockdown in Canberra, the Industrial Relations Minister and Attorney-General, Christian Porter. Good morning to you, Christian.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, morning, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM: What did you make of the ad?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, look, I think leaving aside the fact that all the claims that it makes are just wrong, like lies, it's just one of the most shameful, insensitive to the families of people who've been the victims of this type of thing happening on roads and disgusting piece of advertising I've seen.

I just think the good people in the union movement should pull it and you know, advertise by all means and debate and argue and this bill's going to be debated and argued and no doubt advertising is part of the kind of leverage and all of that. Fine, that's politics and that's a democracy. But you don't need to do this. And it's the anniversary literally today of a tragic event where children lost their lives in the sort of circumstances depicted in that ad. And it is an advertisement, that’s just shamefully insensitive to people who've been through road traumas and it just should be pulled.

BEN FORDHAM: It's going to be interesting to see how Anthony Albanese reacts to this, and also Sally McManus, the most senior union official in the country. They should be condemning it.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I mean, I think, I've dealt with Sally, and she's a very good person, and I just don't think this was thought through. I think that people get pushed inside their organisation and by the advertisers for maximum outrage and shock value. But to depict the images like this is, just crosses a massive line and it shouldn't happen. You might remember, actually, because I sort of recall there was this terrible piece of advertising depicting Tony Abbott as a Surf Life Saver, watching people drown. That was pulled; that was pulled from the air. And this is actually far worse than that. And it should just go. It's terrible.

BEN FORDHAM: You are in lockdown at the moment because you flew to Canberra from Perth yesterday. So you've missed out on some of the drama back home. But because you were there, you won't be allowed into Parliament House.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: That's quite possible. I think ACT are making a decision this morning. So we'll sort of await further instructions, they may be granting exemptions for Parliament House, I don't know. But yeah, WA is into five days lock down and we were on a plane last night, and I think they had a good debate as to whether or not to turn the plane around, actually, but that didn't happen and we landed. So the rules are the rules and we'll abide by them. But I hope everyone in West Australia gets through it. It's something the rest of the country has obviously endured and have been affected by. So it's just one of those things that we have to sort of go through as we rollout the vaccine.

And Ben, your other comment with respect to ad is completely right. Like, if anyone doubts our commitment to working Australians, look what we as a government and Scott Morrison as a Prime Minister did during COVID, which saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. And they were obviously through JobKeeper, through just rational IR flexibilities that let small businesses stay afloat and let them be connected to their workers. I just think this ad is just a new low point in Australian politics.

BEN FORDHAM: Is the WA Premier Mark McGowan learning a bit of a lesson today? Do you think about being an armchair expert and lecturing others about their response to the virus?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I mean, I've sort of been very consistent in praising your state (NSW) and your state Premier in the way that they have managed the virus. And the fact is that we have all said from the outset that you will have community outbreaks of this virus, like that looks like an inevitability over time. And the question is not whether you have them, the question is how you manage them. And your state has done remarkably well and your state is so important to the Australian economy, as the West Australian state is, so I wish the Premier all the best in managing the outbreak. But the idea that any type of planning or forethought would proceed on the basis that you would never have an outbreak - that would be very wrong. Because you have to manage these things when they arise. So I wish them the best in managing it, but I would say that if you want a lesson in how to manage these things, whether you are in Western Australian Government or anywhere else, you could do a lot worse than look to see how the New South Wales Government has performed, which has been splendidly.

BEN FORDHAM: We'll see if you get that exemption and make it into Parliament House this week. Thanks so much for your time.


BEN FORDHAM: Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter.