Subjects: Cyclone Debbie and weather conditions in Queensland; CFMEU and ACTU robocalls; political polling.
Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
Not too good in your home state at the moment and the target of things now is the South Eastern section, particularly the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Well Ray, just a quick update as I understand it in relation to schools; the closure does relate in the South East corner from Agnes Waters, as I understand it, down to the New South Wales border; not only for State schools, but for Independent and Catholic schools is my understanding. So no doubt the Department of Education will give that update, but that's my understanding of the situation.
Okay. I just had a phone call from someone in Brisbane about…as I suggested for supervision they're asking teachers to come in just in case children are left there so they can supervise the kids before mum and dad can pick them up or get them this afternoon as the case may be.
That's a good thing. Look, I think all of us in the South East corner need to be concerned about road flooding and the rest of it, but most of our concern at the moment is still with people up in Bowen. I think some of the outlying communities will still be out of contact, there will still be people there that haven't been able to confirm the safety of relatives or friends within some of those communities and I just want to give a big shout out again to the ADF, the police, the emergency service workers – they really do us proud at these times – and yes, we are worried about the flooding event in the South East corner and as that heads South from Central Queensland from Northern Queensland, but there is still a hell of a lot of work to do and a lot of people to help out up in Mackay and the surrounding areas.
As has been predicted over the past week, I'm getting a leak out of Cabinet in New South Wales; it's now apparent that Mick Fuller on the retirement of Andrew Scipione will be the new New South Wales Police Commissioner. I don't know Assistant Commissioner Fuller. I'll get to know him obviously in the coming weeks, but it looks like he has been confirmed by Cabinet as the New South Wales Police Commissioner. They met this morning about an hour ago and that's what is being leaked to us at the moment.
Now, another matter I wanted to sort of try to understand; you've been accused, or you have accused Labor of trying to intimidate MPs of misleading Australians by connecting the Government's new building code to the prospect of more foreign 457 visa holders. Now can you explain that in simple terms to our listeners what their trying to get at?
Well there is a campaign at the moment Ray which is being run by the CFMEU and by the Labor Party and they had robocalls – these automated calls that go into you know annoying people of a night time – and yesterday they were going into Cathy McGowan's electorate, the Member for Indi and clearly they were trying to intimidate her into voting a particular way in the House of Representatives.
Now, Labor gave it away because before the ads had even run, they had this issue listed on the Notice Paper and basically it's the CFMEU flexing its muscle within the union movement. I mean people will remember that Bill Shorten was really struggling to get up his boats policy of turn-backs and regional processing centres and it was at the eleventh hour at the Labor Party Conference that the CFMEU moved its delegates, its votes, to support Shorten and so they got that policy through by the skin of their teeth.
Now, I think the reality is it demonstrates yet again, as we saw in the Royal Commission, just how deep the claws of the CFMEU are into the Labor Party. I think Bill Shorten owes the Labor Party a lot and I think it unsettles people because as we know, at the moment there are 110 CFMEU members around the country who are currently before the courts, as I understand it, on over a thousand charges and Bill Shorten has not had one word of criticism.
And the difficulty is that you know the CFMEU going onto building sites, stopping concrete pours, bringing their own sub-contractors onto working sites – it increases the cost of building by about 30 per cent for units across the country in aged care homes, in road building, in relation to hospitals and the like – it's a lawlessness that we've tried to tidy up and we did that with the introduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and Labor's trying to do a bit of bidding for the union movement, the CFEMU at the moment, but I don't think they are going to intimidate people like Cathy McGowan and other Independents into voting a particular way because they know the difference between right and wrong, but somehow it seems that Bill Shorten and Labor have lost their moral compass.
Now Sally McManus who we spoke about last week continues to repeat its okay for unions to break the law, which brings me to the front page of The Australian Financial Review. The militant construction union has been blasted for subverting the rule of law and quote; 'bringing the union movement into disrepute in a scathing Federal Court judgement that dramatically increases penalties for a workers blockade at Perth Airport.
The CFMEU and six of its officials, including former national president Joe McDonald – he's the bloke you always see in the bib and braces – were handed $242,000 in fines yesterday, a 10-fold increase on an earlier court ruling. The full court of the Federal Court – this is the full bench – said the CFMEU's willingness to pay fines rather than obey the law was unacceptable and the union was not entitled to any leniency. So you've got Justice John Dowsett and Steven Rares doing that, but you've got Sally McManus saying keep doing it.
Well she's a modern day communist Ray, old Sally McManus, she's got a few crazy thoughts that belong in a different era of our country's history. I mean she is directing people you know a particular way, she believes that it is okay to operate outside the law. I mean this is Australia in the 21st Century. We want workers' rights to be protected – that's the job of unions, that's fine – but where we have these examples of union bosses taking money from companies, building houses, benefiting their families, taking conditions away from workers in return for money that is paid to the union, this is out and out corrupt behaviour and I can't believe that Bill Shorten stands for it.
Now, Simon Crean tried to call it out. To Kim Beazley's credit he tried to do the same, but it seems because of Mr Shorten's history as the Secretary of the AWU, he seems to think it is okay to sanction this sort of behaviour.
And as I say the CFMEU now, as we're seeing with the Andrews Government in Victoria and as we are seeing with the Palaszczuk Government in Queensland, these people have serious control over the leadership – at a national level it would be an outrage – and I think it would be terrible for small business, terrible for families and as I say, you know people who are going down to buy a unit or trying to get their kids into a home, they know that the building costs in this country are dramatically increased because the CFMEU puts their own preferred tenderers and puts their own preferred subcontractors onto building sites – there are all sorts of financial arrangements that were discovered by the Heydon Royal Commission – and I really think Mr Shorten has to step up and call this out because it is alright to protect workers' rights – all of us support that – but where you have got benefits that are flying back to workers…this is the hypocrisy of Bill Shorten over this penalty rates issue, because we know that the unions have brokered these EBAs with fast food companies, like say McDonald's or KFC, where kids on Sundays are being paid just over $20 an hour and the fish and chip shop, the mum and dad operation next door, is obliged to pay the same – you know 18 year olds on $30 or $35 an hour – and the unions are okay with that because they want to get the 50 members signed up at McDonald's because that helps them with these numbers at Federal Conference and the rest of it, and their power within the union movement, but it is pretty unfair on the small business that can't compete with Coles or Woolies, the small business that can't compete with the fish and chip shop that can't compete with the fast food outlet in the same complex and it is the hypocrisy that I think really annoys people.
Just one final thing, and I've written about this in my column tomorrow in The Daily Telegraph, every time I talk about opinion polls to Ministers in this Government their eyes glaze over and say Ray, the only one that counts is the next election and of course it was one of the predetermined positions of Malcolm Turnbull that his seeking power was on the loss of opinion polls by the Turnbull Government on 30 successive occasions.
Now, if there'd been an election held last Saturday, according to the Ipsos poll, you would have lost Dickson. That would have fallen to Labor. Now, you constantly say as a Government – not you individually, but as a Government – polls don't count. But when do they count? Do they count when Mr Turnbull is the leader or only when Mr Abbott is the leader?
Well Ray, look, I'm in a marginal seat in Dickson. I remember being elected in 2001 in the January and John Howard was gone for all money, all the polls showed me losing Dickson, all of the polls in 2004 showed us losing to Kim Beazley and then to Mark Latham.
You're right, at a particular point in time, if a poll was held on that day, well that's an indication of what the outcome would be, but we are two years away from an election and there is a lot more to come out on Bill Shorten. I think his past is going to catch up with him. I think people are seeing that. There is a real doubt when you talk to people around the country at BBQ's, at shopping centres, you get stopped at airports, wherever; people say look; you are on the right track, there is just something that niggles in the back of my mind about Bill Shorten, whether he is genuine or not and I think that is a real hesitation. I think that will come through in the end.
As a Government, we've got a lot of work to do. There is a big expectation out there. The Government's in enormous debt. We're trying to pay down the debt that was left to us by Rudd and Swan and Gillard. It is not an easy job. We need to make tough decisions – they are not always popular – but if we are guided by making decisions that are in the country's best interest, then I think in the end people respect that and I think they will support us at the ballot box in two years' time.
Okay, we'll talk next week, thanks for your time.
Thanks Ray. All the best mate.