I want to talk about three things today.
First off, Mr Morrison’s behaviour yesterday was a disgrace. He lied in Question Time, he lied in Parliament, accusing Kevin Rudd of seeking travel exemptions, and then he didn’t have the guts to correct the record. When his lie was found out, instead he sent a letter to the Clerk of the Parliament.
This is classic Scott Morrison. He is loud and proud on the lies, and then he hides the truth. He hides the truth, and it’s all about politics with this guy. So I think this is just an appalling incident from a Prime Minister who continues to besmirch his office.
The second issue I want to talk about is the sports rorts affair. We had the extraordinary findings from the Government-dominated Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit yesterday that found that this entire sports rorts affair, the grants, had questionable legality and clearly did not meet community expectations. For this finding to come from the Government-dominated Committee just shows what a horrible, horrible program this was. $250 million was spent in two separate programs that dudded Australian taxpayers, and dudded sportsmen and women all around the country.
I’ve got many clubs in my area that are crying out for female changing facilities. Garden Suburb Football Club - where half of all of their 500 players are now women when only a decade ago they had a few – their female players have nowhere to change. They have nowhere to change, and their club could have hugely benefited from the money allocated to the sports rorts grants. Instead the money was spent on blatant pork-barrelling to win marginal seats for the Government.
The third issue I wanted to touch on briefly was another report from the Government- dominated Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit on the Major Projects Report from the Australian National Audit Office and Defence that found, called for and recommended an urgent independent audit into the helicopter acquisitions by the Department of Defence. The Department of Defence and this Government has stuffed up many, many helicopter acquisition projects, the latest being the $3.7 billion MRH-90 helicopter project which is running seven years late, where for example the door is too narrow so the troops can’t fire machine guns while people exit the helicopter.
This Government is weak on Defence because it can’t manage projects like this, and it’s remarkable that a Government-dominated Committee has found that. So we need urgent action on Defence to make sure our troops get the equipment they need when they need it.
Happy to answer any questions.
JOURNALIST: Just firstly on Mr Rudd, should Mr Morrison come into Parliament and correct the record and also say sorry on the record in the Parliament?
CONROY: Absolutely. Mr Morrison could have owned up to the fact and just gone into Parliament and spent 30 seconds correcting the record and apologising. Instead, because the guy is a gutless coward, he sent a letter to the Clerk at about eight o’clock last night. That is not befitting the leader of this country. It just shows that he is all about politics. He’s all spin and there’s no substance there.
JOURNALIST: What does sending a letter to the Clerk do? Does it correct the record? What happens?
CONROY: It corrects the record. So in the Standing Orders, if you’ve misled the Parliament, you have an obligation to correct the record as soon as possible, and that was quite obviously a lie the minute it left his mouth. So the easiest thing he could have done was come back into the House after Question Time and spent 30 seconds correcting the record. I am absolutely confident Labor would have facilitated that. Instead he waited until Parliament had basically risen for the night and sent a letter to the Clerk. It was the coward’s way out.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the new part-time industrial relations proposals that are out today that would reduce some overtime rates for part-time workers?
CONROY: Well we haven’t seen the legislation, apparently the legislation won’t even be released until tomorrow. So we will see what’s in the detail but I am very worried about what’s being reported in this legislation. For example, if there’s no true and reasonable path for casuals to become permanent, then this legislation is a failure.
The other part I want to address on that legislation is this so-called ruling out of double dipping by casual workers getting entitlements like sick leave and annual leave. This is really relevant to my region because the test cases where the Federal Court ruled against employers were coal miners, particularly in my region of the Hunter Valley where what was established was that these coal miners weren’t casuals. They were working regular shifts, side-by-side with permanent full-time workers and they were getting paid less. There was no double dipping. They were getting paid less than full-time coal miners, but they weren’t getting annual leave and sick leave. So this is not double dipping. This is a Government attacking the working rights of Australians, particularly coal miners where we’ve got the scourge of labour hire where using false casualisation means that workers in my community are dudded and that must end.
JOURNALIST: But in that particular example, wouldn’t the Government’s new legislation mean that after a year the casuals in that particular mine would have the option if they’re working full-time hours of becoming a permanent employee?
CONROY: No. Well based on the public information we’ve got, and I’ll stress we still don’t have the legislation, that’s how ridiculous this is, but on the public information, what will occur is that the employer has to do it if it’s reasonable. If they decide it’s not reasonable, the worker doesn’t get made permanent. And secondly, if the worker wants to appeal it, instead of going to the Fair Work Commission, they have to pursue it through the Federal Court, and I’m yet to meet a casual worker who’s got tens of thousands of dollars spare to pay for barrister fees. So this is clearly a diminution of workers rights cloaked up in some sort of casual rights.
JOURNALIST: And what do you make of the Government’s plan to allow the CFMEU to break up into individual unions? This has been talked about over the weekend.
CONROY: We’ll have a look at the legislation. It hasn’t gone through Caucus. I’m anticipating we will discuss it today. Look my starting position is if a collective group of workers express their preference to move away from a particular union structure then that should be facilitated as long as it’s not an attack on the collective bargaining and collective rights of Australian workers. But we will see what Caucus comes up with.
Thanks guys, have a good day.