SUBJECTS: Ensuring Integrity Bill; Labor’s positive policy agenda; Royal Commission into Aged Care; Fairfax poll.
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now is the Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. I want to start with this focus on the unions, that the government’s going to be introducing measures to basically lower the bar for the de-registering of unions. Obviously the CFMEU is in the frame at the moment. What's your reaction to that news this morning?
MICHELLE ROWLAND MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, it's interesting to note that this is continuing their usual path of union bashing, part of the 'Kill Bill' strategy so there's nothing new there. Of course they'd say things like that but the fact is this is a proposal that actually impedes the democratic rights of union members and union officials. It also seeks to impose certain standards about being fit and proper that aren't applied in the private sector.
But I think if this government wants to start talking about benefiting small business, which is what I see they're trying to do today, they could actually start with some policies which go to improving the everyday standards of small business. We've announced, for example, a couple of weeks ago Chris Bowen announced our proposal to have an appeals process within the ATO after we had that scandalous reporting about people being left high and dry, small businesses going out of business. We've had a very popular policy on having independent repairers able to gain access to data in order that they can fix your car without having to go through dealers, and also even things like the NBN. Small businesses incredibly adversely affected by second-rate broadband.
ROWLAND: These are things that we know are important to small business.
GILBERT: But on this union move, do you really want to be seen to be in the corner with the CFMEU right now? Do you want to be seen to be defending the sort of behaviour that we've seen from that particular union in the face of what the government says is this Ensuring Integrity Bill?
ROWLAND: Well the reality is we had the Ensuring Integrity Bill come up something like a year ago and now it's talking about being fast-tracked. They would need to convince the Senate of all these arguments that they are putting forward. If that's the same Bill they're seeking to prosecute, then certainly it's not one that has been fast-tracked, and they will need to convince the Parliament that this does not impede the democratic rights of unions.
GILBERT: On the Royal Commission into Aged Care, does Labor support this move?
ROWLAND: Oh we do. I think it's important to note, Kieran, that we have problems now that need to be addressed. And this is one that I receive on a daily basis in my electorate office and I'm sure many other MPs have the same. There are something like 100,000 people waiting for aged care packages. We know that the standard of care in some cases is falling below those standards. It's something that's very serious and needs to be addressed.
GILBERT: And, I guess, the question that's been asked of the Prime Minister this morning and a similar question could be asking as to why Labor hasn't asked for this previously. Why hasn't this happened sooner given the various quite disturbing claims within this sector?
ROWLAND: Well, I know Bill Shorten made it clear that when someone put this to him as a proposal it's something that he would think about deeply. But I think the other point is this Kieran: there are things that need to be done now. There are things that need to be done in order to address the amount of budget cuts that we've had in this sector. And we've known for a very long time that we're all getting older. Australia is getting older as a population but we haven't had those needs in the aged care sector keep up, whether it's in skills, whether it's the amount of people in the workforce, whether it's in those monitoring standards. So Bill Shorten has made that very clear and Julie Collins our spokesperson has made that very clear for many years, that there are issues now that need to be addressed that should've been addressed some years ago.
GILBERT: And finally on the Fairfax poll, a number of the character traits assessed of the two leaders, Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten, already just a month in and Scott Morrison is ahead of Bill Shorten on a range of those.
ROWLAND: It's a hard job being Opposition Leader, let's make no bones about it. But I think the thing that Bill Shorten has going for him in this contest is that he continues to be under-estimated. He was under-estimated going in to the Super Saturday by-elections, he was under-estimated at the 2016 election and yet here is someone who, along with Tanya Plibersek, has led the most united team in the Parliament. Where we've had this revolving door of leaders and deputy leaders on the other side and we have been united, we have been focused on policy and we are gearing ourselves up for a very tough election campaign which is going to be very close.
GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.