ABC Afternoon Briefing – Industrial Relations Bill, National Anti-Corruption Commission, Socceroos



Subjects: Industrial Relations Bill, National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022

GRED JENNETT, HOST: All of which brings us to today’s political panel and joining us right here in the studio Labor MP Peter Khalil and Independent MP Kate Chaney both joining us, good to have you here. Kate I might just put a first question to Peter on what is effectively breaking news because Peter Khalil, for those who aren’t familiar, is also chair of the powerful Joint Intelligence and Security Committee here. It has been brought to our attention Peter that the anti-Chinese protester Drew Pavlou who’s you know, run foul of the law in a few different places around the globe was asked to leave, affectively kicked out of parliament houses public cafe earlier today, I think he was here for a range of meetings, possibly including yourself, does this cause you any concern from a public access and civil rights point of view? 

PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, Greg, I just heard the news as I was coming into the studio as well. Just saw the report, so I’m not really sure the facts around this, but I would say that I haven’t met with him yet, but I think this is really a matter for the presiding officers to determine what’s going on. I think it’s with them at the moment the Speaker and the President who have control over security or preside over the security of the House and the Parliament and the Senate. So, I’ll leave that to them. I’m not going to comment on that because I don’t know the facts. 

JENNETT: Drew Pavlou just briefly and finally. I appreciate you are not across all of the detail and you’re seeking further explanations, but he does describe this building as the seat of our democracy, and I’m not even allowed in the public gallery or to sit down and have lunch without being accosted, he says by federal police, I mean on the broader democracy point, does he have one? 

KHALIL: Well, as I alluded to earlier he did, he has met with a number of MPs and senators. I’m very open to meeting with him, as I am to many people that make requests to come and have a chat, but we don’t always have to agree on everything but you hear people out. That’s part of our job. They can express their views and make their representations and he requested a meeting, which hasn’t happened, but you know, we should continue that. I think it’s very important as parliamentarians that we are always open to hearing a wide range of views from people across the community.  

JENNETT: Yeah, I appreciate the fact that this is a developing story and we’re not across all the facts, but why don’t we bring it to a substantive issue of the day Kate Chaney and that is around industrial relations. A key matter on the Governments agenda before this year is out. But from a parliamentary point of view, did you think on the comments we’ve just played, and which were widely reported, that Reserve Bank governor is putting a shot across the Government bows when it comes to wage growth expectations? 

KATE CHANEY, MEMBER FOR CURTIN: I think there is definitely a need to see some wage growth, the growth, especially in those lower paid sectors under the supported bargaining stream and I hope that that is really effective. I have some real concerns about the single interest stream and I think if that wage growth moves to the whole economy then there is a risk we end up in this wage price spiral, so I suppose that’s what the Reserve Bank Governor is pointing to. 

JENNETT: Is there a magic number there, I mean, the figure that Phil Lowe 

spoke about was 7%, ’cause that’s where inflation is at and he’s saying if you went for 7% this year and then 7% next year, you’ll have real problems with inflation. What is it that would cause you alarm say for the small businesses in your own electorate? It’s currently about 3%, but how much tolerance is there for wage growth above that? 

CHANEY: Yeah, I don’t know that there’s a magic number. But I can see that that risk of, you know, wages chasing inflation, inflation chasing wages, and if we can get through this next year the forecast is that inflation will come off a bit and we may be able to prevent this being a longer term and more difficult trend. 

JENNETT: So, we’re having a discussion, or we’re not, but I think David Pocock might be with the government about where this single stream process might kick in, is it payrolls of 15 or 20? What sort of feedback are you getting from smaller businesses in your own electorate? 

CHANEY: I think that a lot of businesses are covered if you move it to 20, and that will be good for small businesses where they can actually find ways to improve productivity and innovate with their employees and do that privately without being dragged into multi employer bargains. I think that is actually ultimately in the interests of wage growth because if wages aren’t connected to productivity, then it’s not sustainable. 

JENNETT: Do you accept that Peter, or perhaps returning more precisely to Reserve Bank Governor Lowe’s point, is your own government at risk of overcooking some of the rhetoric about the needs for wage growth rise? 

KHALIL: Well, the Reserve Bank Governor is entitled to express his views how he wishes, he’s talking about, I think his words were something around, you know, having wages grow to compensate inflation or tied to CPI he was commenting about that. The fact is, ultimately, how much wages rise is dependent upon the Fair Work Commission and the Australian Government, The Labor government has made a commitment and we took it to the election and we are going forward with that to get wages moving and as Kate said, there’s a need for wages growth because it’s about a fair day’s pay, but it’s also about the fact that for nine long years the coalition government suppressed wages, a deliberate part of their policy design if you like to suppress wages for such a long period of time, and that’s why we are actually supporting increases in the minimum wage with the Fair Work Commission submissions which were really important. They’ve already come through, increases in wages for the aged care sector, which is a feminist work sector and this is also about closing the gender pay gap. This has happened already. These are important steps. The Government has made a commitment to the Australian people to get wages moving again. And on this point about inflation. I know there’s a lot of commentary about you know, what could happen in the future. The fact is that largely the contributing factors to the inflationary pressures we are seeing are the global energy crisis, the war in Ukraine that’s causing that, you know issues around supply chain certainty and so on. These are big contributing factors to wages. Wages and wages growth is important for millions of Australian workers out there and we made a commitment to them to get wages moving again. 

JENNETT: No, it is true that wages aren’t yet fueling that inflation. I guess what he was trying to say was, they might. On the threshold though, still being negotiated with David Pocock. Do you think that, uh, you know a larger small business, one with a payroll of say 20 employees or less should be left out of this multi-employer bargaining? 

KHALIL: Whatever number is landed on, it’s part of a negotiation. And that’s the important thing parliamentarians are having that engagement, that discussion, the relevant ministers are engaging with the other place as well, the senators as well to negotiate that. A couple of things are really important to sort of point out though, that the kind of hyperbole or the sky is falling in kind of catastrophizing that we’ve seen from the opposition, and we saw it in that clip earlier. You know, I mean, It’s Angus Taylor’s chicken little, the sky is going to fall in, you know, and they throw out these big numbers and they make assumptions about worst case scenarios. But frankly, there’s already the bill. When we talk about multi-employer bargaining, it already exists, we’re streamlining it and improving it. There’s a negotiation around the threshold numbers for single interest, multi bargaining. But there are also sections of the bill now which are about having individual work forces a vote to not be part of an agreement, to opt out. So, there is are a lot of stuff in there that’s quite good, but you wouldn’t know about if you just listen to the opposition ’cause they’re just catastrophizing the whole thing. 

CHANEY: And I think we have seen some amendments being made, which is which is really good. And there are some great things in there. It’s the fact that it’s all in together with these other more controversial single interest strains that’s raising some concerns. 

JENNETT: Were you a bit blindsided by that Kate? ’cause I know there’s a bit of argument over exactly what had been foreshadowed by the Labor Government, and then outcomes this omnibus bill. There are certainly elements that weren’t. 

CHANEY: That’s right, and we did see quite a different process here to the Anti Corruption Commission Bill and the Climate Change Bill. It was a much shorter time frame and certainly it seemed it was a bit of a surprise to me that the extent of the multi employer bargaining that was included in that and a bit of a mismatch between what I had perceived as being the mandate and what was in there.

KHALIL:  Alright well hold on, we made a commitment to the Australian people to get wages moving. This is a real issue for millions of Australians before Christmas. It might be alright for us as politicians who get a good wage or a good salary not to think so much about it. But for millions of people in across the country, for people, constituents in my electorate, a wage rise actually means something, it helps them keep up with the cost of living, helps them pay the bills, it helps them get, you know, food on the table, get you know, the clothes for their kids. This is real for Australians so that’s why we are moving forward on our commitment in good faith in negotiations, as Kate said, there’s been some good amendments made and I think we can actually get there. 

JENNETT: Well, it may not be the ends I guess, there’s a bit of argument about the means, but let’s go since you mentioned it Kate to the Anti Corruption Commission. This is about to reach its final stage of debate in your Chamber in the House, what still causes you concern? Or do you accept now that the numbers and further changes are beyond your control? 

CHANEY: I think it’s looking pretty good and we should really celebrate where we’ve got to on this. It’s been a long time coming and I think it will really help rebuild trust in our democracy. There are a few things that I would still like to see some changes on, like public hearings is one and lightening that test so that that’s in the discretion of the Commissioner as opposed to having to reach this exceptional circumstances level. But there are amendments still being negotiated. The Governments indicated some willingness to listen to the recommendations of the committee. There’s some protections for journalists in there, they’re still being negotiated and I think we’re gonna end up with a pretty good piece of legislation. 

JENNETT: So all’s well that ends well. I mean, it’s a journey that does sort of come very quickly in the end doesn’t it. 

KHALIL: I will say this, I mean that there will be public hearings under the National Anti Corruption Commission and there will be public findings of corruption and the Commission will have the power under the Bill, the Act, to hold public hearings and it’s really up to them to determine that public interest assessment, if you like. And I think it’s important because it is an independent commission. That’s the whole point. They have to make, to go through those assessments, to make those decisions. They should not be being told when to hold a public hearing and went to do it private. It’s up to them to do so. 

CHANEY: Couldn’t agree more, which is why if was just the public interest test, I think that would be entirely appropriate. The fact that that needs to be met and also the exceptional circumstances test needs to be met, means I think that actually constrains the commission’s ability to make those decisions. 

KHALIL: Why don’t you trust the independence of this commission to make its own decisions in order to make that determination based on their 

CHANEY: I do, which is why I don’t think we need the exceptional circumstances test. 

KHALIL: Almost there though. 

JENNETT: I Have to warn you against taking Kate Chaney on in a debate over the Anti-Corruption Commission because the Teals are full bottle on this one I can assure you, right across all the detail. 

KHALIL:  As are we, this was a commitment made by the leader Anthony Albanese, it was something that we took into the last election. It was a headline piece of our policy, and we’re delivering on it. 

JENNETT: Alright couple of lighter ones to finish off on. For you Kate, this is a natural one, Teal is on the brink apparently of being named Word of the Year, at least by the Australian National Dictionary, if not by the Macquarie Dictionary, that means you become more than a movement. You’ve become, you’ve captured something in the public consciousness. 

CHANEY: Well, I’m a bit of a dictionary nerd, so it’s a real honour to be part of you know something that is such a positive shift in democracy and has excited this level of interest. As you said, that’s the ANU, Macquarie it’s on the short list, but there are lots of other words on the short list to, including bachelors handbag, which I particularly like, the cooked chook. But the fact that we now have a word for Giga fire, which is, a bush fire that burns 100,000 hectares indicates that we do actually need more politicians with a focus on climate change. 

JENNETT: There is something going on. Cooker and eshay are apparently also finalists for Word of the year, and this one I think is more up your ally Peter, I did see you, I’m pretty sure I saw you at the World Cup soccer event on the Senate playing fields this morning. 

KHALIL: I was. 

JENNETT: It didn’t go so well, not for the Socceroos anyway. 

KHALIL: I was devastated Greg, we had such a great start we scored the first goal, we were in the lead for a few minutes and then of course France were too good for the rest of the game. But look, we support the Socceroos they’ve got another big game against Tunisia on Saturday night, I think they’re gonna have a great result and the other great thing about the Socceroos is there’s four African Australians in that squad this is the diversity of Australia really coming through into our, you know, national teams and it’s great to see that Garang Kuol and Awer Mabil got a run in the last 15 minutes. I was really excited about that. 

JENNETT: I was going to say are any of them your own constituents?  

KHALIL: Well no I don’t know, I know Thomas Deng is and he is on the squad as well, he lives in my area, but I’m backing him all the way as we all are and we did have a bit of a kick down there for the the Street Cup. The Big Issue Street Cup and I scored in that as well. 

JENNETT: Thanks for dropping that in. Peter Khalil, Kate Chaney, thanks to both for joining us in a lively discussion today that is it for us on afternoon briefing.