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Nick Minchin

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
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Nick Minchin

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Coalition Response in the Senate to the Rudd Government's Fair Work Bill - Interview with Fran KellyEmail this pageBack

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Printer Friendly Version

TRANSCRIPT
NICK MINCHIN INTERVIEW WITH FRAN KELLY
ABC RADIO NATIONAL
WEDNESDAY 11 MARCH 2009


FRAN KELLY:
The Opposition Leader in the Senate, Nick Minchin, joins us now in our Parliament House studio. Senator Minchin, good morning.

NICK MINCHIN:
Good morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY:
Senator Minchin, Kevin Rudd says youíre addicted to Work Choices. Does the Liberal Party need a harm minimisation program?

NICK MINCHIN:
Oh well, thatís just political spin from Mr Rudd. Mr Rudd canít stop being just a partisan politician. He seems incapable of being the genuine Prime Minister of the country. We have got the message from the last election. We understand that the electorate rejected our industrial relations policies at the last election. We accept that broadly speaking the Government has a mandate for the policy it took to the last election. But to the extent that its Fair Work Bill goes beyond the policy they took to the last election, we are proposing amendments to remove those parts of that Bill, particularly to the extent that those parts of the Bill for which they donít have a mandate are not about Fair Work Ė theyíre about extending union power.

FRAN KELLY:
Well, just on that. I mean, youíve put up a list of amendments, five or six I think it is. But one of those is about unfair dismissals. That was very clearly the ground that Labor campaigned on in the last election campaign.

NICK MINCHIN:
That is true, and weíre pleased that the Labor Party recognises that small business should be immunised from the deleterious impact of the Keating Governmentís legislation on unfair dismissal, which is actually a disincentive to small business to employ people. So at least the Labor Party recognises the need for that immunisation. What weíre arguing about is the threshold at which the immunisation should operate, and we do think that somewhat more than the 15 head count which Labor has as its threshold is realistic. I meanÖ

FRAN KELLY:
How much more do you think?

NICK MINCHIN:
We want to negotiate with both the Government and the minor parties on that. I mean the Australian Bureau of Statistics, for example, defines a small business as having at least 20 employees so the Government is not even acknowledging its own Bureauís definition of small business in its proposal. So what weíre saying to the Government is, look, if the Government comes and talks to us about our amendments and is willing to agree to our amendments, weíre prepared to support their bill. The Government can have this bill with our amendmentsÖ

FRAN KELLY:
And if it doesnít agree to your amendments? Thatís what the discussionís focused on now. If it doesnít agree with yours, will the Coalition vote against this bill?

NICK MINCHIN:
Well, we will be seeking to get majority support for our amendments in the Senate with or without the Governmentís support. If the Senate, without Government support, agrees to our amendments then we would pass the bill with those amendments. If the Government then rejected the bill as amended in the House of Representatives and reintroduced it immediately into the Senate, we would insist on those amendments. So the ball will be in the Governmentís court. The Government can have this bill and even with these amendments it will get 95 per cent of what it wants. So the debate can be over now. The Government can have 95 per cent of what it wants without these measures which go well beyond its mandate and simply extend union power to march into businesses all over the country and demand to look at non-Union membersí records and matters of that sort. If they get rid of those obnoxious proposals and have a realistic approach to unfair dismissals, they can have this legislation and then itíll be out and passed by the end of next week.

FRAN KELLY:
And if the Government doesnít come on board with your amendments, are these amendments deal breakers or will you allow ultimately the Government to get its bill through even if you believe itís a bad bill, it will cost jobs?

NICK MINCHIN:
Well, as we said, if the Senate Ė without the Government Ė supports these amendments and the Government rejects them, weíd insist on them. If the Senate doesnít support our amendments, then we reserve our position on our final vote on the bill at the end of next week because we donít know at this stage what the final bill will look like. We donít know what the Government amendments are. We donít know what amendments the Government might negotiate with the Greens and Senator Harradine, Senator Fielding Ė Iím sorry, thatís showing my age, Senator Fielding and Senator Xenophon. The bill could be worse as a result of those negotiations than it currently is. So we quite properly reserve our position on the final vote on the bill if our amendments donít get up because we have no idea what the final bill might look like.

FRAN KELLY:
Itís thirteen to eight on Breakfast. Our guest this morning is Senator Nick Minchin. Senator, you were in the Party Room meeting yesterday when there was an exchange between Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull. Whatís your view of what happened?

NICK MINCHIN:
Well, Fran, Iím one of those funny old fashioned people who thinks you shouldnít talk about what goes on in the Party Room and frankly Iím somewhat disappointed at the briefing thatís taken place about our Party Room. I regard it as sacrosanct chamber and what is said in there should stay in there. All Iíd say is that the reports this morning of what occurred are exaggerated in the extreme. An extraordinary amount of journalistic hyperbole has been applied to the treatment of what is alleged to have occurred. I thought it was a very good meeting where the Shadow Cabinetís unanimous view of how to deal with industrial relations was accepted by the Party Room with Peter Costelloís support and the support of, you know, the Party Room. Thatís the position weíre taking into the Senate.

FRAN KELLY:
Well, youíre right, there is some large degree of briefing going on to the media and thereís some, let me just ask you about one report suggests that Peter Costello gave a very strong speech in the Party Room and said that the Coalition should insist on its amendments to the IR bill and that Laborís mandate theory was a load of nonsense given it had respected Coalition mandates over the years. Do you agree with that?

NICK MINCHIN:
Well, Peter, like other members of our esteemed Party Room, do make very good speeches. Itís a privilege to be in the Party Room to hear good speeches of that kind. Peter agrees with the Shadow Cabinet position which I just outlined to you that if the Senate accepts our amendments and the Government rejects them, then of course we will be insisting on those amendments if the Government were to immediately reintroduce the legislation.

FRAN KELLY:
Do you agree with Malcolm Turnbull when he suggested in the Party Room that it would be good if Peter Costello was giving these, contributing these views from the front bench?

NICK MINCHIN:
Well, Malcolm Turnbullís public offer to Peter to serve on the front bench is well known. But Peterís position that heís not in a position where heís willing to serve on the front bench at the moment is also well known. Those are the facts of political life in our party. And as Iíve said publicly before, Peter after his extraordinary service and very long service on the frontbench being Treasurer, very long serving Deputy Leader, has the absolute right to decide to serve as the Member for Higgins and serve our Party and his constituents as the Member for Higgins.

FRAN KELLY:
Are there public tensions, or tensions between your Party Room or disagreement perhaps within your Party Room between Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull? Are these damaging for your Party, because it keeps you being the story, not the Government?

NICK MINCHIN:
Only to the extent that the media salaciously insist on trying to play up what I believe are not differences and as I said, Peter in my view supported the Shadow Cabinet recommendation. Peter is an extraordinary asset to the Coalition, a strong supporter of our position, a great defender of our remarkable record in Government which is increasingly looking stellar compared to this Governmentís hopeless mismanagement of the economy and its disregard for the employment consequences of all that itís doing. So I completely reject the mediaís salacious treatment of the matters that occurred in the Party Room yesterday.

FRAN KELLY:
Nick Minchin, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.

NICK MINCHIN:
My pleasure.

FRAN KELLY:
Senator Nick Minchin, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

(ENDS)

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