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E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO INTERVIEW ABC AM AGENDA TUESDAY, 30 APRIL 2019

April 30, 2019

SABRA LANE: Brendan O’Connor thanks for joining AM. First up, your thoughts about the resignation of Steve Dickson?  

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Well, I wasn’t aware that he’d resigned, but I understand given his conduct it was appropriate that he chose to do so. But again it does go to the question of the calibre and character of candidates that Pauline Hanson wants to put into the Parliament.
 
LANE: Just on to Labor’s policy. What is the opposition’s position on supplementing wages in other low paid areas other than childcare?
 
O’CONNOR: Childcare is a special case.  Childcare has been historically underpaid. Childcare educators, more importantly, have got a critical role in ensuring that we educate our young. And if we are going to have 14 years of education, if we are going to have an excellent preschool education in this country, if we are going to compete with the best countries in the world rather than keep going backwards we need to have excellent preschool education. We need to have professional staff to connect to three and four year olds. To do that we need to attract and retain staff. At the moment there is massive churn.
 
LANE: Ok, but the public might be wary about this, given that Bill Shorten has also kept the prospect open of-
 
O’CONNOR: Yes, but I think it’s very important that we first go to the point as to why we need to provide professional investment in this sector. So to me it’s an education question, the best education in the world. Secondly, to be economically competitive. But there’s an equity question too. There is only one decision. The difference between Labor and Liberals is we announce policies before the election. We’ve announced the policy.
 
LANE: Mr Shorten seemed, though, to keep the question open yesterday on whether it would be extended to other sectors. So you are saying now not now, not ever?
 
O’CONNOR: Well, we’re saying we have no plans to do that. This is an exceptional case-
 
LANE: Plans change.
 
O’CONNOR: We have no plans to do that. We announce our policies, Sabra, before elections. We’ve been very upfront, unlike the Liberals who want to hide their industrial relations plans. My point is I think if you look at the reasons why we made decisions around relief for parents, investing in childhood education, extending universal education to three year olds so that we have a comparable education system with the best  education systems in the world.
 
LANE: They’re points that you’ve made earlier.
 
O’CONNOR: Well, they are all critical, they are all connected.  
 
LANE: Direct intervention to increase wages is very much within the union movement’s wish list. Is the public right to be wary about Mr Shorten’s union links?
 
O’CONNOR: We’ve made this decision in the interests of parents, in the interests of children, in the interests of our economy. If people cannot see that, if the Liberals cannot see that if we are going to be economically competitive in a globalised, knowledge based economy, then we need a first class education system.
 
LANE: To the substance of the question, many people have concerns about Mr Shorten’s union ties.
 
O’CONNOR:  Well, I’ve not heard that. In fact, I think people are sick and tired of ad men or merchant bankers wanting to give billions of dollars to the top of end of town. The difference between Labor and the Liberals is that we want to invest in health and education and we’re going to make sure that we do that in the interests of the country. What we won’t be doing is offering billions of dollars to the top end of town.
 
LANE: What are the public to make of the union run blitz in key marginal seats, according to a report out this morning, more than 2,500 volunteers are being deployed?
 
O’CONNOR: Well the unions understandably, have watched their member’s wages go backwards. Wage growth is at its lowest on record in this country, presided over by Scott Morrison.
 
LANE : Sorry, the campaign itself, directing you to the question.
 
O’CONNOR: Well you should talk to the ACTU about that, Sabra. If you’re saying in a democracy, unions don’t have a right to campaign for their members then I have to say that I’m completely bewildered at your view.
 
LANE: Yesterday Clive Palmer said that union leaders had made overtures to him to discuss port access and other arrangements and your brother, Michael O’Connor was among those he mentioned. Were you aware of this and have you discussed this with him since?
 
O’CONNOR:  No idea. Clive Palmer couldn’t lie straight in bed. Clive Palmer is a discredited business man and Scott Morrison has decided to get into bed with Clive Palmer. This is a man who owes $7 million to workers in Townsville and there’s still a $70 million debt that is still owed to the Commonwealth that Scott Morrison should be very concerned about and yet doesn’t seem to be concerned about it at all.
 
LANE: Brendan O’Connor, thank you for talking to AM this morning.
 
O’CONNOR: Thanks Sabra.

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