February 8, 2024
PETER STEFANOVIC: Now we're joined by the Shadow Home Affairs Minister, James Paterson, for his thoughts on this, plus a few other issues. Yeah, so the IR legislation looks like it's going to go through James, win for Labor? Your thoughts?
JAMES PATERSON: Good morning Pete. Well they were certainly clinking the champagne glasses last night in the ministerial wing here in Parliament House, because the union bosses got more than they could have ever dreamed of. Labor has delivered and much of the crossbench has rolled over. But I suspect this is going to be one of the great pyrrhic victories of Australian politics, when ultimately this just feeds through higher costs to Australian consumers in a cost of living crisis, and puts further pressure on an already weakening labour market and results in fewer jobs for Australians. Really, the complexity and re-regulation and re-empowerment of the union movement in the workplace is not going to create any jobs. It's not going to make our economy more productive. It's just going to make things harder for Australians who are already struggling.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, so one of the key amendments there, it's that one now about, you know, a worker can basically screen a call from the boss. How would that contribute to higher costs?
PATERSON: Well, honestly, Pete, I think this is a bit of a distraction. This is a really a last minute amendment that was tacked on. There's much more substantive things in the bill which significantly expand the rights and powers of unions, who now represent just a tiny fraction of the private sector workforce, and yet are going to wield outsized influence on businesses and be able to storm in and direct businesses to do certain things. Yes, there will be a right not to contact, and there'll be significant fines attached to that, we discovered late last night. Because the government has rammed this through, and has completely truncated the parliamentary process and preventing scrutiny of this bill, that there could be fines of up to $18,000 for employers who innocently contact their employees after hours. I think that's absolutely ridiculous in a modern economy. And frankly, I wonder whether the Labor party in the union movement will be abiding by these restrictions themselves. Are ministers not going to call there staff after hours? Are they not going to contact them on the weekend if there's a media story that needs responding to? I'll be very surprised if that was the case.
STEFANOVIC: It felt like the relationship was quite good between the government and the business community after that job summit a while back, is the business community being cut adrift?
PATERSON: Well, I think the business community naively allowed itself to be used by the government very early on and falsely believed that the government had goodwill towards the business community. That was a silly stunt to participate in, and the consequences of that are now being brought to bear. The Labor Party will always do the bidding of the union bosses. That is what they are here to do. That's what the Labor Party was created for. That's why they're sent to Canberra. That's why the union movement donates tens of millions of dollars to the Labor Party. And if ever forced to choose between the interests of the economy and productivity and jobs and the demands of the union bosses, Labor will choose union bosses every single day of the week. And I think it's about time the business community woke up to that reality.
STEFANOVIC: James, interesting one in the AFR this morning. Richard Marles reportedly at war with his own department. A quote from an unnamed bureaucrat and says he doesn't respect them, and they sure as hell don't respect him. That's not good for the nation.
PATERSON: Pete, this is a deeply concerning story by Andrew Tillett in the AFR today. In our time of greatest strategic peril, we need the Minister for Defence, his department and the ADF working together absolutely seamlessly without any conflict. And yet it seems that they're fighting like cats and dogs. And on the one hand, you have the department saying that Richard Miles has failed to secure the funding that they need to match the circumstances that we face. You also have them saying that he's not even bothering to respond to hundreds of briefs, which are piling up in his office. And he's responded by saying that they're incompetent and they can't deliver what the government has asked them to. I mean, this is a disastrous state of affairs that has happened on Richard Marles' watch as Defence Minister. And really, the Prime Minister needs to step in and sort this out. We can't afford any more drift when it comes to defence, it's far too dangerous.
STEFANOVIC: Defence has lagged on investment for a long time, though. Does this point to a broader issue between, you know, bureaucrats in defence as well as government?
PATERSON: Well, what we need is political leadership Pete. We need a Minister who is willing to make tough decisions, and a Minister who can go to the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet and secure the funding that defence needs to deliver the Defence Strategic Review, which accurately described the circumstances we face. But we know that every time that Richard Marles goes to government and seeks more money, he gets rolled in Cabinet and rolled in ERC by Penny Wong, by Jim Chalmers and by Katy Gallagher. And frankly, we haven't had a weaker Deputy Prime Minister in many years, and that would be okay if he wasn't also the Minister for Defence, if we weren't facing such dire strategic circumstances. Frankly, Richard Marles needs to step up and Albo needs to back him.
STEFANOVIC: All right. James Paterson, good to chat as always.