SENATOR MURRAY WATT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR QUEENSLAND RESOURCES
LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
4RFM MORANBAH WITH BRIANNA BAGGOW
THURSDAY, 11 NOVEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Casualisation crisis in Central Qld; Morrison Government spending $400,000 of taxpayers’ funds to back casualisation in High Court; Labor’s same job, same pay policy; Labor’s Buy Australian policy; rebuilding Central Qld manufacturing; more jobs in more industries; hope in politics.
BRIANNA BAGGOW, HOST: Morning Moranbah. Let’s get into the program to have a chat this morning with Senator Murray Watt who is the Labor Senator for Queensland and the Shadow Minister for Queensland Resources. How are you this morning?
MURRAY WATT, LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: I'm really good Brianna, good to talk to you again.
BAGGOW: Yes. Great to have you back on. So you're up here? Well, you know, you're virtually up here for a virtual CQ insecure jobs forum tonight.
WATT: That's right. Unfortunately, I can't be there in person because I'm doing another round of home quarantine after being in Parliament in Canberra. But tonight, I'm holding an online forum that anyone can participate in, talking about the casualisation crisis that we see across Central Queensland. I'm going to be joined by our Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, and also importantly, the Labor candidates all across Central Queensland. So Russell Robertson in Capricornia, in your part of the world, a good coal miner from Moranbah, I know you know him well. And also Shane Hamilton, who's our candidate in Dawson a bit further north, and Matt Burnett our candidate in Flynn a bit further south. So anyone who would like to get involved, if you go to either Russell or my Facebook pages, there's details there about how you can register and that'll be at 7:30 tonight, Thursday night. And you can do it from your lounge room with a XXXX Gold in your hand, if that's what you want to do.
BAGGOW: Is it one of those forums where they'll see your face looking at you, like can you take the option to not be seen?
WATT: Yeah, you can take the option not to be seen. It's going to be run over zoom. So anyone who wants to have their faces shown can do that. But you've always got the option of blanking out your face. Because I know for a lot of people, this is a tough issue and people are worried about losing their jobs if they speak up, especially if they are casuals or labour hire. So there's definitely an option there if people just want to be a little bit confidential, and they can still get to hear what everyone's saying and have their say as well.
BAGGOW: I was just talking to a gentleman just the other day. He's from Emerald. And he's working over here and he works alongside full time employees, and he reckons he's getting about 50 percent less than, you know, what the guy working beside him gets paid. And it's really heartbreaking.
WATT: Absolutely and we’ve got that problem all across Central Queensland. I first really came across it in a big way in the coal mining industry. And as you know, like, it's just rife right across the Central Queensland coal mines. But it's really spilling out into all sorts of industries now as well. We see it in manufacturing, we see it in cleaning, we see it in security guards, in health, hospitality and manufacturing. It's just a cancer that is spreading across Central Queensland. And there's some recent research that the ACTU did that said that there's about 40 percent of jobs in Central Queensland, which are casual, or some other form of insecure work like labour hire or contract. And that makes Central Queensland the second highest rate of casual and insecure work anywhere in the country. And as you say, talking about that guy near Emerald, you know, obviously casuals miss out on the job security, they miss out on the leave entitlements. They often can't get a home loan or a car loan because they haven't got secure work. But in many cases, they actually get paid less than permanent workers. Because a lot of people think that casuals get looked after because they get paid a casual loading. But what we found, especially in mining, is that even when people get paid that casual loading they still end up getting paid less than the permanent workers that they're working right alongside. It's just really unfair. And it's one of the main things that Labor wants to fix if we can win the next federal election.
BAGGOW: So I know like here at the radio station under our award, if I've got an employee working, like a regular pattern of work, I have to put them on permanent, you know, on wages. So how can they get away with it?
WATT: Well that’s certainly what you should be doing Brianna and I'm glad to hear that you do it at tghe radio station. But unfortunately, what we've seen too often, from mining companies, labour hire firms and a whole range of other businesses is that they pretend that someone is a casual, when actually they're a permanent. I know I've met many coal miners in Moranbah, in Middlemount, in Tieri all sorts of places who have been working the same roster, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. And despite the fact that they’re really a permanent employee, they get called a casual. And that's where they miss out on all the benefits, all those benefits of being permanent. So it's just a rort in the law. And unfortunately, what happened recently was that Scott Morrison and his government, backed in by local LNP people like Michelle Landry, they just spent $400,000 in taxpayers’ money backing the labour hire firms in the High Court so that they could keep this casualisation rort and keep paying permanent workers as casuals. It's just wrong.
BAGGOW: So why would that benefit them to do that?
WATT: Well, I think they have a philosophical view that they prefer to back big business over the worker. We've seen that time and time again from this government. This is the frustrating thing, is that they run around Central Queensland saying they care about mining jobs, you know, they all like the dress ups to pretend that they're miners themselves when they've never done a day’s mining work in their lives. But when they get down to Canberra, they always line up with the big businesses who shaft workers, who shaft workers in coal mining, who shaft workers in manufacturing and every other industry. I think it just comes down to the fact that you've got a difference between the parties. Labor's a worker’s party, we’ll always stand up for workers’ rights. But the LNP, the Liberals and Nationals will always back big business. And probably one of the most disappointing things about it actually, is that we've also seen One Nation side with the LNP and with the labour hire firms. You know, they also like to get around Central Queensland saying that they care about miners. But even in the time I've been in the Senate, about five years or so, I've seen One Nation and Pauline Hansen vote with Scott Morrison, so many times, to shaft workers. They supported taking people's penalty rates off them. And they supported this casualisation push, you know, all sorts of ways they actually don't back in coal miners in the way that they pretend that they do.
BAGGOW: Aurizon here gives the benefits. So when you get to say 65, instead of retiring, you can go into like a casual option. So there's definitely room for that in the mining industry. But like you said, like you, you want that security when you're going into a job, that, you know, I either choose to be casual, or I choose to be full time.
WATT: For sure. And we recognise that there are people who want to be a casual, they want to have the flexibility of being a casual. But the problem is that there are so many people who are actually permanent workers and aren't being given the option of being permanent. And it's good to hear that Aurizon’s doing that. And there are some employers that do go out of their way to help people convert from casual to permanent, but unfortunately, it's just not happening enough. And we've got too many labour hire firms who are exploiting loop holes in the law to put people on as casuals when they are really permanents. So I think when Albo was up there with me, he came in and had a chat with you a couple of months ago, what he was talking about is the policy we've got is pretty simple. It's same job, same pay. If you're working as a labour hire person or a casual, if you're working the same job as a permanent worker then you should be getting at least the same pay. It's pretty simple. There's no excuse for why a labour hire or casual miner or any other worker should be getting paid less than a permanent worker. And that's exactly the kind of thing that would change under a Labor government with Albo as the leader.
BAGGOW: So if Labor wins power, they can just change it like that. They can just go this is what we want now, and that's the change?
WATT: Absolutely, we'll be passing laws that make that change. And there's a whole range of other changes that we've said we will put through the parliament, if we're elected, that are about trying to crack down on the rort around casualisation. As I say, you know, if you're a worker who does 10 hours this week, 20 hours the next, you might not work for a couple of weeks, then you come back after that, then you’re probably a casual. But the problem is that there are so many people who work, as I say, the same shift week after week, month after month, and they are a permanent worker. And that's exactly the kind of thing that will change if we're elected with, hopefully, Russell Robertson as the Member for Capricornia.
BAGGOW: Excellent. And you're also talking to me about the Buy Australian policy, which is Labor backing regional manufacturing, which I think is just really exciting for our region.
WATT: For sure, yeah, that's the other thing that might be of interest to your listeners. We released another policy recently, which is all about buying Australian. You know, we all line up to do it when we're going to the shops ourselves but we haven't really seen the federal government under Scott Morrison do enough at the government level. We've worked out that over the last three years, the federal government has spent about $190 billion dollars buying things, whether it be buying things to build roads or bridges or putting on workers to do build those things. They buy computer systems and all sorts of things. Not enough of that money is being spent locally, supporting Aussie made items. And we particularly want to see that used to help revive regional manufacturing. What this policy is about is using the federal government's purchasing power. And they've got to be the biggest customer in the country, whether you're talking about infrastructure or anything else. We want to use that purchasing power to buy Australian, buy local, and also buy from firms that do the right thing by their workers. If you're the biggest customer in town, you've got a bit of say over what your suppliers do. We want to use that power so that it benefits workers and benefits regional communities.
BAGGOW: And so how do we do this without secure electricity, you know, plan for the future? I guess everyone's talking about climate change. That's all that's on the news. How's Labor going to fix our energy supply problem?
WATT: Yeah, well, that is a really big problem, especially throughout regional Queensland. Unfortunately, under this government, we have seen energy prices go up. And, you know, every day you wake up and they've got a new energy plan, because they can't ever kind of work it out between themselves. What we're about, in Labor, is an energy plan that will create more jobs, and will bring down power prices, as well as bringing down emissions. You know, you can't just do one of those things. And if we can be putting in place energy plans that bring down the price of power, then what that'll mean is that we can really rebuild the manufacturing industry across Central Queensland. You know, there's a reason a lot of people have got solar panels on their homes, it's because they bring their power prices down. And we want to do all sorts of things that can bring down power prices for big industrial manufacturers as well. Unfortunately, one of the issues for our manufacturing industry in Australia is that you've had other countries overseas who are just paying basically slave labour wages, and we're never going to compete on that. And we shouldn't compete on low wages. But if we can be bringing down energy costs, for you know, your aluminium producers, your ammonia producers, your cement producers, your sheet metal producers, then that will mean a lot more jobs in Central Queensland because there's so much expertise around manufacturing there at the moment. So if I had to put it in one sentence, what Labor’s about is bringing manufacturing home. We've seen so much offshoring of manufacturing under this government, you know, they closed down our car industry a few years ago, we've seen so many jobs disappear in manufacturing to other countries, we want to see those jobs, blue collar, long term jobs in places like Moranbah and right across Central Queensland.
BAGGOW: And I think that's what everyone wants, isn't it? Like we love living here and I feel like we're very lucky in that there are so many job opportunities here. But if we can bring back all that regional manufacturing, it's just going to make Australia great, isn't it?
WATT: Absolutely because that's the thing about these manufacturing jobs, they tend to be pretty well paid, pretty long term. You know, people get the opportunity to develop their skills and move up the ladder. That's the kind of opportunities we all want to see for our kids. And if we can get that manufacturing industry going again, with policies like what Labor's talking about, getting the federal government to buy Australian, bringing down our energy costs so that our manufacturers can compete, that’ll just mean some of the best times Central Queensland has ever had. Basically what we're about is more jobs, in more industries. We're pretty sick of, you know, certain political parties on the left and on the right say you can only do one thing, or you can do the other thing. You can do both. We want to grab jobs in whatever industry they're in and keep growing them. Because that's the secret to keeping Central Queensland really prosperous and creating so much wealth for the country in the future.
BAGGOW: That's great. You're really encouraged me this morning. I feel like there's no hope in politics at the moment. I've just turned off the news because I'm just like, everything's doom and gloom. I feel like the world's going to end. So I think having chatted with you this morning has really encouraged me to, you know, hope for the future a little bit more.
WATT: Well I’m glad Brianna, we should talk more often! There’s a lot of things to be hopeful about. And, you know, I know what you mean, when I turn on the news it's all doom and gloom, COVID, environment stuff, whatever. There's so many opportunities out there, especially in places like Central Queensland. So you know, frankly, it's one of the reasons why I'm so keen just to be in a Labor Government because I want to see us get in there and get some of these things done, because it'd be a big opportunity for a community like yours.
BAGGOW: Yeah, that's for sure. So you can tune into that virtual CQ insecure jobs forum tonight at 7pm?
WATT: At 7:30 it starts. You can do it wherever you are.
BAGGOW: Excellent and will there be an opportunity for questions during that forum?
WATT: Absolutely. We certainly don’t want to make it an hour of politicians talking. What we want to do is to sort of hear stories from people about how this is affecting them. Because even though we've got some policies in place ready, you can always be making improvements once you learn new things. So we want to hear people's stories and obviously give people an opportunity to hear what Labor wants to do about it. So lots of time for questions.
BAGGOW: Well thank you so much for taking the time to have a chat with us and I hope that all goes well for you.
WATT: Good on you Brianna, lovely to talk to you again.