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September 27, 2016

SUBJECT/S: Same Sex Marriage; Public Service Bargaining Dispute; Newspoll.

KIERAN GILBERT: Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace relations Brendan O’Connor joins us now. Mr O’Connor thanks for your time. I want to ask you about the assessment of some observers of this same sex marriage debate that Labor’s position isn’t so much about the issue as putting pressure on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. What do you say in response to that? 

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, SHADOW MINSITER FOR EMPLYOMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: No, we’ve had a principled position in relation to this matter from the beginning, from the outset. We believe marriage equality is overdue and I think it’s fair to say we want the matter dealt with quickly, with as little conflict as possible and done so by the parliament, which is the place decisions such as these should be made.  

GILBERT: But the fact is, and you’ve been around politics for a long time, that you can’t have these debates removed from the political reality and the reality is Malcolm Turnbull is not going to budge on this, it would be ending his leadership if he did, you know that. 

O’CONNOR: Well never say never. We want the real Malcolm Turnbull to re-emerge. We’re beginning to realise that what we thought was the real Malcolm Turnbull – someone who supported marriage equality, a response to climate change - in fact might have always been the fake Malcolm Turnbull Kieran, because the Malcolm Turnbull we are seeing today is someone who is beholden to the extreme right of the Liberal Party. 

Therefore while we’ve got the Attorney-General willing to meet with Labor representatives yesterday, the true power behind this particular position and the strategy behind it is of course Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott. Until Malcolm Turnbull moves himself into the centre and away from the extreme right I think we’re going to have some real problems, not just with marriage equality but with other areas of public policy.

GILBERT: Let’s talk about the Border Force strike around the country. They’re not doing themselves any favours in terms of their public relations with families heading off on the school holidays, are they?

O’CONNOR: This has been an unmitigated disaster because the Government has failed to sit down and work out issues of conflict with its own workforce for three years.

You know, Kieran, there are Ministers who have received wage increases and yet refused to pay any increase over the last three years to their own workforce. Even the brave men and women in that Agency who have put their lives on the line are not receiving an increase because of the ideological attack upon provisions in the current Enterprise Agreement.

Now what we’ve said is we want the parties to sit down and talk. The union has called for the Fair Work Commission to play a role. I think that’s a very wise step. If indeed Michaelia Cash cannot show any leadership here, if the Prime Minister cannot, and the matter is going on indefinitely let’s make sure this matter is resolved either by the parties sitting down - and for the first time the Minister for Employment actually doing her job and sitting down and resolving this matter - or allowing the independent umpire, Kieran, the Fair Work Commission to sit down and reconcile the differences because for three years we’ve had public servants getting no increases while their Ministers are receiving salary increases.

GILBERT: The Public Service Commissioner has - it seems it’s disappointing what the unions are doing in this regards and says that it’s not helping the situation in any way in terms of these negotiations. Do you understand his frustration in this?

O'CONNOR: Well, John Lloyd comes with ideological baggage. He’s an old right wing warrior. He likes fighting, he likes conflict. And what we’re seeing though Kieran as I say, the Government is seeking to take out of Enterprise Agreements enforceable provisions even such as domestic violence leave, take them out of current Agreements so they’re no longer enforceable. Now that’s being pursued by the Commissioner and by the Minister and clearly by the Prime Minister. There’s no point lauding employers to provide domestic violence leave in the private sector while you are stripping away those rights for your own workforce. No wonder there’s a dispute and let’s see the parties sit down and if the Minister can’t reconcile these differences allow the Fair Work Commission to reconcile these differences.

GILBERT: Finally the Newspoll obviously a long way out from the next time we got to the ballot box, but is it encouraging for Bill Shorten in the early stages of this term?

O'CONNOR: Look it’s a reflection on the dithering division and dysfunction of the Government. And you know we kept saying we wanted to see the real Malcolm Turnbull reappear, I think Kieran we are now seeing the real Malcolm Turnbull and that may well be the reason the polls are reflected in the way they are.

GILBERT: Mr O'Connor as always appreciate your time. Thank you for that.